Sidmouth is a charming town on the Devon coast, with a pebble beach and a bustling town centre. The parish church sits at the heart of the town, just off the high street and is used regularly for community events, such as the annual folk festival.
APi Sound and Visual were called in as the church was in dire need of a new sound system, which had not been sufficiently invested in when it was put in 20 years ago. This led to a serious lack of clarity due to poorly positioned loudspeakers and a system that could no longer keep up with the requirements of the church.
With the Nave stretching 20 metres front to back and 17 metres wide, with an open-style layout, the new sound system needed to cover a large area, whilst remaining as discreet as possible. Flexibility was another key factor for the new audio equipment, with the church being used by a number of different groups for a variety of events throughout the year. This meant that, although speech was the primary use for the new sound system, it needed to be adept at reproducing full-range music from CDs and other music sources when required.
As with any audio-visual installation in a church or heritage building, great care was taken by APi both during the design process and installation to ensure the fabric of the building was disturbed as little as possible.
APi’s Stephen Neath designed the system and speaks about the challenges faced in the design and implementation phases. “With the space being so large and the central columns not suitable for positioning loudspeakers on, I decided on a column speaker with a wide coverage, so that they could sit on the outside walls but still cover the centre pews.”
The client was treated to a demonstration of the selected equipment before the final go-ahead was given by the church council. This also gave Stephen a chance to test his proposal and ensure the coverage would be as even as he hoped. “A demonstration is both great for the client, but also a useful exercise for us as engineers, as we have the chance to test the products we are recommending in the space before it gets installed.” He adds “It gives both parties confidence - I know I’ve designed a system which will deliver, and the client gets to hear a preview of what is to come.”
Other areas of the church were covered by smaller columns, which were fitted lower down the walls than the previous speakers, to decrease the distance between the loudspeakers and the listening height. Choir microphones were installed in the chancel to give an ambient feed into the existing live-streaming setup and give the choir a boost in volume in the church.
“As with any sound system, you have to find the sweet spot between performance, visual impact of the installation and ease of use for the customer”.
“But with our years of experience installing into church and heritage buildings, I feel we are always able to get this balance right and deliver exactly what the customer is hoping for.”
A digital mixer with both physical and app-based control was installed, to give the church the option to operate the system in whichever way suited them best. A subwoofer complimented the column loudspeakers, giving warm depth to music and speech that had been lacking with the old sound system. Cables were painted in and run at a high level wherever possible to minimise the visual impact of the installation.
“I am really pleased with the quality and intelligibility of the sound we have been able to achieve”, says Stephen. “You can go anywhere in the church and hear exactly what is happening, with a consistency to the level and tone of the sound.” At the end of the installation, the sound system was fine-tuned by APi’s engineers to minimise feedback issues and ensure optimum audio quality. “The difference is night and day!” states Stephen. Within a few days of completion, the client received a detailed walkthrough document which can be kept at the operating position and be referred to when required.
“When you have to point the speakers out to people during the training session, then we know we have chosen the right product to blend into the environment!”
APi Communications Ltd, Unit 9, Sandpiper Court, Harrington Lane, Exeter, Devon, EX4 8NS
You will be installing bespoke audio-visual systems for a variety of customers of which at least 80% are in the church market, with the remaining 20% split between the Education, visitor attraction and commercial sectors. You will be working with a well-established engineering team based in Exeter with a mixture of local work and travelling to areas typically Southern England, Wales, London and Home Counties. You will be expected to stay away whilst on jobs typically more than 2 hours from Exeter and this will involve periods of being away from home.
This role may suit someone who already has extensive experience in the audio-visual sector or someone who has practical or technical skills from a related field. You must be able to work in a team and be keen to learn new skills from experienced staff but also be able to complete tasks independently.
A clean driving licence is essential and all candidates will have to pass an enhanced DBS check to remain in the post due to regular work in the education sector.
Good health - The role is a physical one whilst on site and often requires working at height, manual handling of equipment and fixing to walls and ceilings.
Strong IT skills - especially in networking and streaming are desirable, with an interest in gaining some programming knowledge.
Construction/practical skills - in the course of a project it is often necessary to use metal and woodworking skills.
A large part of installations involves running cabling to equipment, so an eye for detail will be necessary to ensure this is completed to a high standard.
Problem-solver who is able to work flexibly.
Confident and listening communicator.
The confidence to deal with customers is essential and skills in managing customer expectations will often be required.
We welcome applications from people who have experience in the electrical installation trade or have held a position in a practical discipline.
Experience in live sound and video distribution plus basic networking and a general interest in technology.
We use the Google Ecosystem for all our internal systems, so familiarity with Google Drive would be beneficial.
Ladywell Convent is the home of the Franciscan Missionaries of the Divine Motherhood (FMDM), who are an International Religious Congregation of Catholic women who travel across the world helping others through their love and compassion.
Ladywell is one of their largest properties, based near Guildford in Surrey and is surrounded by a beautiful area of gardens and green space, which attracts visitors for retreats and conferences. At the heart of the building is a large chapel, with an incredible hand-built mosaic on the front wall which has been beautifully cleaned and restored in the last decade.
Ladywell's size has increased over the years, but the chapel has always been at the heart of the building, acting as the focal point for prayer and reflection.
APi Sound and Visual were contacted to provide a quotation for a new audio-visual system, with sound and live streaming on top of the agenda. With a domed ceiling and hard surfaces all around, the chapel is a very reverberant space, meaning the new sound system needed to be designed very carefully to be capable of providing clear and intelligible speech throughout.
Any live streaming system had to be simple to operate but be of high quality, for it to be viewed by other Sisters across the globe. “An important factor of the design process is always finding out from the client how much they want to interact with the system on a day-to-day basis”, says APi’s managing director Andy Pidsley. “For this project, it was clear that minimal interaction was desired, but it would still be useful to have physical controls when required for things like microphone level adjustment.”
One unique factor which had to be considered when designing the live streaming system was that the client wanted the camera to always be streaming to their website, so it could be viewed at any time across the world. This meant APi had to be sure that the streaming equipment they installed would be reliable enough to cope with this demand.
APi decided on Audac ultra-slim loudspeakers, distributed throughout the chapel and positioned close to the seating positions around the outside of the space. This ensured that sound did not have to travel far to reach the listeners, which in turn reduced the amount of reverberation the sound system would create.
The sound system could be controlled either by the wall-mounted control panel (pictured below) or through the iPad app which was customised by APi’s engineers to make user interaction as simple as possible. This gave the users a choice of how they felt most comfortable operating the system.
The constant stream demand of the camera meant APi had to test and implement a unique setup for the camera, which reboots it at midnight every night to ensure there are no issues during the day. This PTZ (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) camera gives a variety of shots which can be used during services and a high-quality feed from the sound system is sent to the stream, so those watching online can hear clearly.
APi's custom control interface for moving the camera position was installed in the vestry area, which gives the ability to change the camera view when required during a service.
Ladywell Convent’s main worship area is now a space where services can be heard and understood not only by those present in the room but also by the members who join in from all corners of the world.
The camera feed is constantly streamed live to the centre's website, allowing anyone from across the world to watch and take in the peaceful setting of the chapel.
“It is a breathtaking space and I am very pleased we were able to deliver an audio-visual system that both produces the required performance, but also ticks all the boxes for being unobtrusive and not taking away from the architecture of the room”, says Andy.
This was actually the last of a number of projects completed at the convent, with activity and conference rooms also having smaller audio-visual systems installed by the team at APi.
APi Communications Ltd, Unit 9, Sandpiper Court, Harrington Lane, Exeter, Devon, EX4 8NS
St Mary the Virgin is a beautiful, large Grade 1* listed parish church, set in the heart of a bustling town in Oxfordshire. The church’s presence in the town has been steadily growing, and they now have a large regular congregation both in person and online.
As with any large project, APi’s Andy Pidsley had a lot to think about when it came to designing the new audio-visual system.
“The church had a strong idea of what they wanted, which helped me quickly narrow down a lot of the equipment I was going to specify. But there was still a lot of thinking to do about speaker positioning and creating a simple user interface for what is a very complex audio and live streaming system.”
The size of the building was a challenge in itself - cable routes had to be found from one end to the other and loudspeaker positions and types had to be carefully chosen. As with all of the APi’s designs, there was a focus on creating an audio-visual system that would be simple for everyone to operate.
Another consideration was the need to disguise the equipment within the church, with the building’s listed status putting strict rules on what could and could not be done. This ultimately was a big reason for the model of loudspeakers used in the sound system design.
“We decided from an early stage that a demonstration of the loudspeakers would be important, both so that we could make sure they would perform in the space, as well as to give the client an opportunity to see and hear them.”
After a successful demo, the Audac Krya series reinforced their credentials for the installation and a total of 10 ultra-slim line array units were fitted throughout the church, complimented by two compact 12-inch subwoofers.
The live-streaming system was based around three full HD Pan, Tilt, Zoom (PTZ) cameras, which are able to move between preset positions to give the operator almost unlimited shots to send to the live stream. APi’s custom control interface was configured in such a way that live streaming could be operated with minimal effort, with one button to start and stop the streaming and pages to control each camera independently.
“The customised live streaming control surface we have created takes so much stress away for the person operating the system”, states Andy. “Having buttons which are labelled to tell you exactly what they do allows anyone, even someone who has not used the system before, to sit down and be 90% on their way to operating the live streaming system.”
A Yamaha matrix handled all the audio requirements, routing four Sennheiser radio microphone systems, a four-channel floor-mounted input box and four hanging choir microphones to the desired areas of the church. APi’s engineers configured the associated Yamaha iPad app to be personal to the church, making operation as easy as possible from anywhere within the building.
Andy reflects on a job well done;
“this project was the largest of the year for APi Sound and Visual but was a glowing success thanks to the hard work and skill of our engineers, who made sure that the system was easy to operate, sounded fantastic and had the smallest possible visual impact on the church.”
Now the Oxfordshire church has everything it needs to allow both the physical and online congregation to clearly hear and see the message the church is trying to get across. The delicate selection of equipment has resulted in a high-quality audio-visual system without impacting the heritage and grandeur of the building.
In the weeks following the installation of the new audio-visual system, the church has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the congregation (and not the sound system!). The customer was delighted with the outcome and stated that “Our expectations have been vastly exceeded”, adding that working with APi “felt like a partnership”.