The APi Sound & Visual team will be exhibiting on stands A11 and A15 at the CRE Midlands from 8 to 9 November 2023 at Cranmore Park in Solihull, Birmingham.
Join hundreds of local church leaders, officers and anyone involved in Christian work and ministry in this one-stop shop for church supplies, resources and ideas.
This will be a great opportunity to ask Andy and the team any questions you might have and gain free expert knowledge and advice.
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
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
So unsurprisingly any works to update the sound system and add an installed camera, streaming and projection system were examined in fine detail by the DAC to ensure that the impact on the aesthetics was minimal.
Burford is a very attractive Cotswold town which brings in tourists throughout the year and because of the church's strong links to King Henry VIII, the church has a large number of visitors who stop in while exploring the town. This meant that any audio-visual equipment - especially the projection system - had to be as discreet as possible so that it would not impede on the grandeur of the space.
Being a large evangelical Anglican congregation, the church decided that it was more inclusive to turn 90 degrees so that they could gather in a more relaxed theatre-style layout of chairs. However, for more traditional services such as funerals and remembrance Sunday they still need to be able to switch back to the original layout.
This was achieved by adding a 3rd loudspeaker so that with a simple switch the audio orientation can be changed.
The audio system is based on our favourite Allen and Heath digital desk, offering a handy touch screen plus full wireless control via iPad. This is a great step up from their existing digital desk with its microscopic screen and fairly daunting control app. A 4-channel digital amplifier gave us a good choice of equalisation options, limiting and crossover adjustment allowing their existing subwoofers to be included in the new arrangement.
Two remote HD pan tilt zoom (PTZ) cameras were installed in locations which suited both church orientations and were controlled by our own ultra-simple button control pad with backlit displays behind each button allowing the functions to change over various pages of options.
In addition to camera control, this unit also controls the video switching and streaming unit removing the need to understand a potentially baffling array of additional controls. So streaming to YouTube is just a matter of a single button push, with a monitor screen displaying both camera images, the outgoing image and the sound levels.
We set up the audio processing so that the sound was optimised for listening on a device with smaller speakers such as a tablet or laptop, compressing the music and speech to deliver a comfortable consistent level.
The projection system was successfully installed using two winch-down projection screens, which were able to lift up into the aisle above the archway when not in use. This was important as this side of the church is what you see first when entering the church through the main door, so it was crucial that these screens could disappear from view.
Two laser projectors were installed in the arches on the opposing side of the nave to price a clear and bright image onto the large screens, allowing the congregation to see regardless of where they sit in the nave.
The projectors were suspended just below the top of the arches, to remain as hidden as possible. The on/off control of the projectors was also programmed into the customised streaming control interface, giving the church a central control panel for both the streaming and visual systems in the church.
On the day the system was handed over we received this message from our customer, “Trial run this afternoon with band practice. All very good and epic sound. iPad App is very easy to use and so great to be able to wander around the church with it”.