Why is it better to have a fixed installation over portable equipment?
It might seem like a silly question, but there is no shame in wondering why you would spend money on having a fixed sound or projection system, rather than having a portable system that you put up when you need it.
First of all, it is worth noting that you may not be able to have a fixed installation in your building if you are a church that meets in a school hall for example. But the majority of the time, an installed audio-visual system is always going to be preferable to a portable one. This article lists the 3 main reasons why.
It speeds things up. REALLY speeds them up.
If you are currently using portable equipment that needs to be set up and taken down each time it is used, consider how much time that takes each week and then multiply that by 52 to give a rough idea of how long you have spent in a year doing this. If it adds up to a lot, then maybe it is worth thinking about a fixed installation.
That projector that you have to mount on a table in exactly the correct place to get the image to fill the projection screen which you are dragging out and pulling up? How about a fixed projector which is turned on by a control panel on the wall, and an electric screen which drops down at the touch of a button on a remote control?
Or that sound system that you have to set up for each service, with the speakers on poles and sending someone to tape down the cables to stop them from being a trip hazard. Do wall-mounted loudspeakers which turn on with the system and a system which has been equalised and balanced already sound better?
Think of all that time you could save on Sundays, having an extra hour (at least) each morning to enjoy a bacon sandwich (other breakfast choices available) before heading to church 15 minutes before the service starts.
By week 20 of setting up your portable system, you will have a good idea of how everything connects together, where everything goes, and how long you need to give yourself before the service starts to get everything ready in time. I imagine you will also have a list of things which have gone wrong before and solutions to each one in case they happen again mid-service.
But there will always be a new issue that you haven’t come across before, which makes running the AV system become stressful all over again. A cable that has been misplaced or not connected to the right input, a table which moves every time you get the projector in just the right place, or even feedback that you have never experienced before.
With an installed audio-visual system, you are going to get the security of everything being the way you left it last week. All the cables will still be connected, the loudspeakers will still be facing in the same direction and the microphones will be set to the correct levels. This means that you have a far more reliable system, one which is not going to throw up unexpected difficulties mid-service (although these do still happen).
Reliability allows you and the people using the system to have more confidence and to be able to focus on the things that really matter, like delivering their presentation or the reading they have been practising all week. You are there to enjoy the service as well remember!
Higher Quality, Lower Footprint
As a rule of thumb, an installed system is going to produce higher quality due to it being designed and tuned to the acoustics of the room. Often, unless you have spent thousands on your portable PA system, the standard of the equipment used in a fixed installation is going to be better, which makes sense considering it is going to need to perform for the next 10 years.
Having a fixed installation means that we can design the system to fit the space, using products which have the correct characteristics to deal with the size, shape or high reverberation of your building. This is not possible with portable equipment, meaning that the sound quality will always be compromised to some extent.
When it comes to projection, you are far likelier to get a clearer, brighter and crisper image from an installation projector than you are with a portable model. Portable projectors are great, but they have been designed to be as compact as possible, which means that they usually give a fairly low lumens output (how bright the light source inside the projector is - see our article about projectors in more detail here).
The other benefit of a fixed installation is the smaller footprint it will have in the building, as the equipment will not be taking up floor space, but mounted on the walls and often almost completely out-of-site when not in use (see our video on the winch-down screen we often use here). We are able to hide cabling and ensure that there is minimal impact on the aesthetics of the space, which is not possible anywhere near the same level as portable equipment.
Hopefully, this has convinced you that a fixed installation has far more pros than cons, but as we said at the beginning of this article, sometimes it is not possible for a number of reasons, in which case portable could be the best solution for you.