• Travis Middleton

Church AV Solutions: The Complete Equipment Guide


Church AV Solutions: The Complete Equipment Guide

Here at Aspen Custom Electronics, we’re experts in designing and building high-performing AV solutions for churches. A big part of the process revolves around equipment selection—we’re constantly evaluating and inspecting tech products (including their reputations, warranties, values, and features) to ensure each client gets exactly what they need. Quality, reliability, and ease of use are all key factors in making the right choice.


But equipment is only one piece of the AV puzzle—the type of project and your budget will influence the technology you use. In this guide, we’ll walk through everything you need to know about church audio visual equipment, including the stages of an AV installation or upgrade and a detailed overview of each individual aspect of your AV setup: speakers, microphones, mixers, live streaming devices, broadcast production systems, video distribution, video displays, and lighting.



Table Of Contents
Stages Of An Installation Or Upgrade Church Audio Visual Equipment: Technology Categories Speakers Microphones Mixers Live Streaming Devices Production Systems Video Distribution Video Displays Lighting

Church AV Solutions: Stages Of An Installation Or Upgrade

Stage 1: Set your goals.


Aside from improving your production quality, you likely have additional goals you’re trying to achieve with your AV installation. Some of these might include:

  • Being able to live stream (increasingly important post COVID-19)

  • Broadcasting to an overflow room

  • Broadcasting video and audio throughout a large room

  • Improving the acoustics for your band or choir

The amount of money you could spend on church audio visual equipment varies greatly depending on your goals, which is why stage one is so important.


Stage 2: Set your budget.


A church serving a congregation of 1,200 people could spend over $600,000 if the goal is to replace all of their equipment and achieve the highest-level production quality.


A smaller church with 300 congregants may only need to spend $60,000 to upgrade their current equipment. Those looking to add one or two features to their production setup—like audio for music or live streaming capabilities—might only spend between $2,000 and $10,000.


Stage 3: Select an integrator.


After determining your budget and goals, look for an AV integrator—a company that designs and installs church AV solutions—to build your system.

When choosing an AV integrator consider the following:

  • Proof of past work with churches of your size

  • Industry certifications

  • Good manufacturing partnerships

  • Good attitude

Need some guidance on your church AV installation? Bring your questions to the experts at Aspen Custom Electronics.


Stage 4: Select equipment and execute.


Once you’ve selected your AV integrator, you’ll dive into designing your AV installation and selecting your equipment:

  • Speakers

  • Microphones

  • Mixers

  • Live streaming devices

  • Video production systems

  • Video distribution

  • Video displays

  • Lighting

Throughout the rest of this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into each equipment category to help you determine the best course of action for your next AV installation.


Church Audio Visual Equipment: Technology Categories


Speakers


Church speakers are used to distribute audio from a stage throughout the main room or overflow rooms.


Speaker Equipment Options


These are the two most common speaker types to choose from:

  • Point source speakers: These are clusters of speakers aimed at different points throughout the room, or staggered for full facility coverage.

  • Line array speakers: These are placed in a vertical column on the side of the room in order to send sound waves uniformly so audio sounds like it’s coming from a single speaker.


Speaker Power Source


While some of your church speakers will be self-powered (which means they’ll need to be plugged into an electrical outlet close to wherever they’re placed), others will need to be wired differently. To prepare:

  • Make sure you have an appropriate amount of power plugs available.

  • Involve an electrician when needed to wire multiple circuits for large speakers.

  • Place speakers, amplifiers, lights, and other equipment on adequately sized circuits.


Speaker Control System


Use a Digital Signal Processor (DSP) to control your speakers. A DSP allows operators to tune equipment or analyze audio in real time to improve sound in the room.


Speaker Placement


Speaker placement depends on room size and acoustics and is critical to provide a good listening experience. Your integrator will be able to offer advice on speaker selection and quantities based on sound mapping software, or EASE plots, and experience. Most speakers are usually suspended from the ceiling, but they can also be ground stacked on the stage in certain situations.


Additional Equipment


Speaker systems may also require the following equipment:

  • Floor wedges: These are placed on-stage to reflect sound back to the pastor/band so they can hear themselves. Wedges are prone to feedback, so in-ear monitors are more popular today.

  • In-ear monitors: These earbuds allow speakers/band members to hear themselves without the possibility of feedback and often provide the performer with individualized control of their audio mix.


Microphones


Microphones are used by those speaking or singing on stage to send audio to speakers.


Microphone Equipment Options


There are two main styles of microphones to choose from, either of which can be wired or wireless:

  • Condenser microphone: These mics offer a bright and crisp sound, but can be more prone to feedback. A good singer will typically sound better on a condenser microphone.

  • Dynamic microphone: These are capable of withstanding high sound pressure levels, and are better for general use.

Nowadays, it’s more popular to use a head-worn microphone than to hold one in your hand and offer more consistency as the microphone is always in the same location relative to the presenter’s mouth. Double ear headsets are preferable to single ear headsets as they offer the user more confidence that the microphone will stay in place. Lapel microphones are worn on your clothing, They are better suited to broadcast applications than live sound.


Before making your final choice, consider a microphone’s pickup pattern. Some reject surrounding noise, which can help out in a live setting.


Microphone Best Practices


Some best practices to keep in mind for the highest quality sound are:

  • If you have a beard, keep the microphone as close to your mouth as you can without touching it.

  • Be mindful of where speakers and floor monitors are located on the stage. If you come too close to them, feedback can occur.

  • If there are many wireless microphones and in-ear monitors, make sure that the system has enough available frequencies to accomodate your needs.


Mixers


Mixers can change the tone and volume of your audio signals, and are sometimes also referred to as a mixing console, audio mixer, or soundboard. They allow you to route and adjust multiple audio signals at once.


Mixer Equipment Options


The first step is determining whether or not you want an analog or digital mixer. From there, you'll need to count how many audio devices will be connected to the system, and make sure the board offers enough capacity.:

  • Channel count: How many sources of audio need to be mixed? Consider the number of performers and musical instruments. Most digital mixers will provide you with the ability to add more channels in the future, but analog consoles have a fixed number of ins and outs.

  • Operator expertise: Someone will be operating your mixer live, so keep in mind their level of comfort and expertise. Digital mixers are more complex, but might be a better option if your system is being operated by a volunteer with a technical background. Digital mixers also offer scene recall which can put the system into a known default state with the press of a button.


Mixer Placement


Your mixer should be located in a place where its operator can directly hear the performance. Here are some basic best practices for placement:

  • Don’t put it backstage or in a corner.

  • Do put it in a place where you can see and hear clearly

  • Do ensure the location has a wiring path to mics and speakers that is out of the way of foot traffic.


Live Streaming Devices


The equipment you use to live stream your performance is completely different from the equipment you use to project sound and video in the room. Sound mixed for the room itself will not sound the same online.


Live Streaming Services


The first step is to choose your live streaming platform. Social media networks like Facebook Live, YouTube, and Instagram.


Live Streaming Appliance


Your live streaming appliances need to be capable of talking to the live streaming service of choice. The following are popular equipment choices that can connect to Facebook Live and many other popular streaming platforms:

  • AJA HELO: This is a single input device that can be plugged into your camera of choice via HDMI. You can customize your streaming settings and stop and start your live stream directly from its interface.

  • Epiphan: This is a multiple camera option equipped with an LCD screen to preview and switch back and forth between cameras.

  • Tricaster: These systems provide broadcast level capabilities that allow for multiple cameras, multiple feeds, image and text overlays as well as remote camera control.

  • Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cameras: This is a more advanced setup with multiple cameras controlled by a remote control joystick.


Live Streaming Audio Mix


Due to room acoustics, the audio mixed for the room will sound vastly different than it will on-line. To fix this, you’ll need a separate audio feed for your live stream versus your in-person audio. A dedicated live stream mix will offer the best results.


Internet Bandwidth


Adequate internet bandwidth for a Facebook Live 1080p live stream is 4 MB at minimum, but we recommend 5–10 MB to be safe.


Additional Equipment


Your live stream setup may also require the following equipment:

  • Mixer: This is a dedicated audio console. You’d need one person to work the mixer for the in-person production, and one for the live stream.

  • Headphones: This is for the person working the live stream mixer, because they’ll need to block out noise in the room when mixing.


Production Systems


Production systems are your all-in-one solutions, including a live stream switch, titler, media streamer, recorder, and storage device. As more churches look for solutions to live stream post COVID-19, we consider this a good investment.


Production Equipment


We recommend NewTek TriCaster. This system allows you to decide which camera or image is sent at which time, the ability to preview what’s coming next, a view for the operator to see all cameras at once, and much more.


It can also mix audio and video so that you can display different audio and video on your live stream than what you might want to display in an overflow room or on screens on the walls. On the livestream you might want to see the preacher, whereas in the room, you might want to display lyrics, the band, or something else entirely.


It also provides the capability to control images from a remote location, such as a production suite elsewhere in the building.


Graphic Overlays


Video production systems allow you to create graphic overlays, such as displaying the name and title of your speaker, your logo or church’s name, lyrics to songs, and much more.


Video Distribution


Video distribution equipment allows you to send video signals from a centralized location to all of the displays throughout your facility.


Video Distribution Equipment


The following types of video distribution equipment are most commonly used by churches with AV systems in place:

  • HDbaseT: This extends an HDMI signal from a video camera over a CAT-5 or CAT-6 cable.

  • HDMI Matrix Switch: These switches allow you to display different video feeds on different displays. An HDMI matrix switch can come in multiples of four (4, 8, 16, 32, 64, etc.) however, after 16 inputs or outputs, it might be best to consider an AV-Over-IP solution.

  • AV over IP: This allows you to encode video onto a data network, use the network to transport it, and then decode it on the display using standard ethernet cable in most cases. Using AV over IP, you can send as many video inputs to as many video outputs as you want. For example, you might need to send video from multiple sources to six displays. Using AV over IP, you can do that.

We recommend EvertzAV. Their AV over IP video routing system allows you to transmit video over copper or fiber, which provides flexibility for larger systems.


Video Displays


Video displays are television screens, video walls, monitors, projectors, or any other type of technology that allows your audience to view the video you're producing.


Video Display Size


Choose a projector, flat screen TV, or video wall that will suit the space. 75-85-inch flat screen displays offer a good value for their size. If you’re looking for a solution for a very large space, a video projector or video wall might be a better option.


Video Display Equipment


The following types of equipment are commonly used by churches to display video:

  • Commercial Displays: This is a traditional TV seen in most commercial environments. Look for a brightness warranty.

  • Projector and screen: This is a basic setup using a projector and a large empty space on the wall covered by a projector screen to project a video feed.

  • LCD Video wall: This is typically a group of LCD televisions in a 2x2 or 3x3 grid. In this case, you’d mount the TVs next to each other, making one image out of four or nine TVs.

  • Direct View LED Video Wall: These are typically made of large, direct-view LED screens that can be custom purchased in any size, configuration, or shape you want. This is a more expensive option. Direct View LED walls offer larger screen sizes with no gap at the seams. If people will be located close to the screen, look for video walls TVs with a less than a 3mm pixel pitch.


Lighting


Lighting sets the mood for your production, and can make or break your production quality. Front and back lighting for your stage helps speakers look their best. Proper stage lighting is also important for broadcasted video to look professional.


Lighting Equipment


The following types of lighting are common in churches with AV systems in place:

  • LED PAR Can lights: Otherwise known as flood lights, these are available in up to three shades of white or RGBs that can mix red, green, and blue light to make whatever color you want.

  • Fresnel lights: These can be custom aimed, focused, and adjusted for beam size. These stage lights have trap doors to direct how the light is shaped.

  • Intelligent lights: These are lights with motors that can be adjusted remotely, and can include custom shapes, like logos, to be projected within the lightbeam.

  • House lights: These are the lights that are typically already in place, and should be considered when purchasing the rest of your lighting. Make sure they are bright enough for your congregation to be able to read without straining their eyes.


Additional Equipment


To enhance your lighting, consider a hazer machine. Hazer machines put a thin level of fog in the air, to make it easier to view lasers or the path of light in the air.


Final Thoughts


If budget is an issue, audio should be prioritized over video. You can always address video upgrades in a later stage. Though video you communicate, audio is where the fundamental transmission of information occurs.

Imagine watching a video podcast with bad audio, or more commonly, a YouTube livestream with fancy video and a muted mic. Without good audio, you aren’t effectively communicating. Check out this video for a good demonstration of audio versus video quality.


Work with Aspen Custom Electronics to high-quality sound and picture


Achieving high production quality while staying within your budget isn't always an easy task—even with the help of a written guide like this one!


Aspen Custom Electronics has extensive experience in church AV solutions, and has worked with churches like Ponca City First United Methodist Church and Countryside Church to help bring their visions to life. (Check out our projects page to see more of what we do!)


Enhancing connections between people is always at the forefront of our work, so we make sure every sermon—whether in-person or online—is just as impactful as you intended it to be. Contact us for more information.