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
When it comes to installing an audio-visual system into a building that is nationally significant for being one of the first combined police stations and courtrooms in the country, it is fair to say there is a lot to think about.
Tavistock Guildhall and Court Room is set in the heart of Devon and is now a popular visitor attraction for people who want to get a sense of what it would have been like all those years ago, walking up from the holding cells into the courtroom. As well as inviting visitors, it is still being used as a functioning council building, and it was this use that meant an audio-visual system was required.
APi Sound and Visual were asked to supply and install a full audio, projection and streaming system, bringing the space into the 21st Century, but crucially without impacting the impressive aesthetics of the well-kept interior of the building.
It was clear straight away that one of the most challenging aspects of the installation would be the projection screen, as it needed to be as unobtrusive as possible when not in use. Even once it has been decided that a winch screen would be deployed to allow the screen to be raised out of the way, the curved design of the ceiling in the courtroom made fixing this without leaving brackets exposed very tricky, and there was a large crest which the screen would need to avoid.
Next on the list of challenges to overcome was the cabling that would be required to run between the main control system in the rack cabinet to the equipment spread throughout the room. Two pairs of loudspeakers, a projector, a professional PTZ (pan, tilt, zoom) camera and a hearing loop system would all require cabling, but these would need to be hidden from sight as much as possible.
Lastly, the system would need to be easy to operate, as often it would be a town council member or site volunteer setting up for an event, so a simple control interface would need to be designed, to avoid a complicated on/off procedure before and after each use.
Using our previous experience working with heritage buildings, APi’s skilled engineers fabricated unique brackets and pelmets to encase them, meaning the screen winch mechanism was completely hidden from view and enclosed by something that looked like part of the room’s original design.
The projection system was completed by a high-powered laser projector, which gives almost instant on-time. It is capable of Full HD quality image reproduction, which allows the system’s users to show high-quality content from the DVD player, a laptop, or even the streaming system with this maximised on the projection screen. The option to screen share wirelessly was also included, for times when tablets or other devices may wish to present without being tied to a physical connection point.
The live streaming system was fed by a single PTZ camera, which was connected to a streaming PC in the equipment rack, along with the inputs from the two laptop points and a DVD player installed in the room for ad-hoc connections. This camera could be simply controlled using the customised control interface installed and programmed by our engineers, allowing manual control of the camera, or quick recall of pre-saved positions.
This central control interface also gives simple control of the audio system which consisted of two pairs of ultra-slim line array loudspeakers and a complimentary subwoofer to give a clear, well-rounded sound to both speech and music playback. A total of 12 gooseneck-style wireless microphones were installed which acted in a conference setup during town council meetings, with the ability to set priority on one or more of the microphones if required for the chair of the meeting.
The verdict came back as overwhelmingly positive on completion of the project, with the new technology enhancing the use of the space for meetings and other events by the town council. The equipment is locked up safely in the rack cabinet which is tucked neatly into an unused area of the building but is easily accessible for users who require interaction with the control interface.
Visitors enjoying the history and atmosphere of the courtroom do not have their experience limited by the audio-visual equipment due to the careful selection of products which have a perfect balance between aesthetics and performance, and the expert installation carried out by APi’s team of engineers.
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”.
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”.