Houses of Worship

Prescot Parish Church: The Service Must Go On

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Economic survival has reshaped many careers and businesses during the pandemic. Dating back to 1984, renowned events specialists Adlib have provided the audio, lighting, video and rigging for the most prestigious concerts, festivals, and tours throughout Europe. Having inherited a ‘show must go on’ attitude, the Liverpool-based company turned its hand to ensuring that the Sunday service could go on for a growing number of U.K. houses of worship.

Adlib’s Installation Department has a rich history of suppling systems to event venues, bars, restaurants, hotels, educational establishments, museums, and of course, churches; and swiftly adapted to provide solutions to enable communities to participate online where physical congregation had been prohibited.

“We have seen many churches take a forward-thinking approach and see government-mandated closures as an opportunity to upgrade their in-house systems to provide an even better experience for attendees and remote participants when they can return to worship in person”.

Adlib was requested to tender an AV upgrade proposal for a prominent church within ten miles of their headquarters. Serving the Merseyside town in the borough of Knowsley, Prescot Parish Church was consecrated in 1610, with some features dating back to Anglo-Saxon times.

“When Covid struck, we had to find new ways of becoming a community church,” explains the Reverend Kimberley Mannings. A short-term streaming solution was quickly adopted, but the Reverend and her colleagues quickly came to the realisation that a professional, easy to use video system would be required. “The need for streaming became very strong to get services out to people who could tune in to. We’d been recommended the services of Adlib, so I asked them to look at the church and between us we made a wish list.”

In addition, treasurer and trustee Keith Porter identified the urgent need to replace the loudspeaker system. “Worshippers towards the rear of the church had struggled for years to hear the services within the stone walled, gothic-style architecture,” he comments. “However, as the church is a Grade One listed building, there were severe restrictions with regards to what we could and couldn’t do. Given their experience in listed buildings, Adlib assured us that we could upgrade the audio system without disturbing the architectural features dating back to 1610.”

Having carefully listened to Reverend Kimberley, Keith Porter and the other church officials, Robinson created an AV design. “Following a site visit, it soon became apparent that in addition to wanting to develop a streaming capability that previously didn’t exist, one of the church’s key requirements was a new loudspeaker system,” explains Robinson.  “Because Prescot Parish made a request for a loudspeaker system and a streaming camera system at the same time, Adlib could approach them from a holistic perspective and deliver an integrated solution.”

As is the norm, Robinson was tasked to strike a good balance between price and performance.

Visually, the key component of the streaming system is a Panasonic AW-HN40HW full HD NDI PTZ camera. “One of the key features of a Panasonic PTZ camera is the excellent zoom it provides for a close-up of someone speaking at the opposite end of the church. OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) provides the platform to cut between the camera feeds and the various title and holding slides. Based on the locations where people were likely to regularly speak from, we programmed pre-set positions for the PTZ. These can be easily recalled from an Elgato Stream Deck XL controller, which is used with the Companion software to trigger pre-sets through OBS.”

Despite its discreet size, Adlib installation manager Richard Murphy was faced with the challenge of fixing the PTZ camera to the ornate west wall of the church, which is itself listed in its own right. “There was only one place where a single camera could go and provide the sort of coverage that the church needed,” describes Robinson. “Fortunately, someone in the past had fixed an emergency exit sign to that wall. We designed a bracket, temporarily removed the exit sign and now the bracket shares the same fixings. No damage was caused to the church and the additional element is removeable. We can, do and should use our experience of how similar spaces are used to ensure that something is put in place which future users of a space will come into and be impressed by and satisfied with.”

For the audio system, Robinson dedicated his research to establish the optimum loudspeaker form factor and locations. “One brand immediately stood out as having an appropriate offering whatever conclusion I reached – and that was RCF,” confirms Robinson. “I opted on their mid-range option from the L-Series of the installation products as being the most appropriate. The rising pillars struck me as the ideal place to fix four L2406 fully passive column enclosures. With the church being a listed building, we had to mount the 826mm height enclosures non-destructively using Bandit strapping. We have used this successfully on previous works as it can be threaded around a column, then tightened and used to hold the bracket in place without drilling holes.”

Comprising six 5-inch woofers and four 1-inch tweeters, the three-way models offer 150° x 30° constant directivity. As the 200W RMS-rated columns were specified for speech intelligibility, low frequency extension for live music has been added in the form of four RCF S12 12-inch subwoofers. An additional four RCF Compact M04 coaxial models cater as fills for the front pews maintaining an even dispersion throughout the worship space.

The entire loudspeaker system is driven from a single Linea Research 88C6 DSP amplifier. The seats to the West are tiered, under which there is an accessible void. As the production area was designated to be within one of these seating blocks, it was convenient to install equipment rack including the dbx ZonePro 1261m processor under these seats. The outputs from the Church’s existing mixing console are summed up together with two new DPA 2006C twin diaphragm microphones to provide an ambient feed for the broadcast mix.”

Parish member Susan immediately detected the marked improvement in audio quality. “I help usher people to their seats. Some used to panic as they didn’t want to sit anywhere near the front as they could not hear the service. With the new ‘speakers, this is no longer the case, and they feel comfortable sitting anywhere in the church and being able to hear perfectly. I think the positive impact this has made on a Sunday morning service has taken us by surprise.”

Following five days on site fully installing the AV cabling and equipment, programming was followed by training of the Church’s volunteers. “It’s just remarkably simple and easy to use,” furthers Reverend Kimberley Mannings. “Our volunteers appreciate how straightforward it is to operate when they see what is in front of them. Every aspect of the church that we want to show on video is labelled for which the camera zooms in at the touch of a button. Our current operators aren’t necessarily people who would have had the confidence before to do that. The upgrade is proving to be extremely good value for money and more importantly it is going to be superb asset for the community, both now and into the future.”

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