Welcome to another Tech Talks, a series of blog posts where we sit down with industry experts to talk about important AV issues. This time, we had the opportunity to speak with Chuck Breaux of Assurance AV Solutions. Chuck grew up doing building speaker boxes with his dad (a carpenter), playing in bands, and doing AV. He eventually joined a church as a sound guy and has been helping churches with sound ever since. Among other things, Chuck has made connections with the Louisiana Baptist Association. One of the LBA’s church planters who finds locations for new churches often connects to people to Chuck, who helps put together affordable AV solutions for these churches. His goal is to provide portable AV options that provide quality, usable solutions under $13,000 total cost (including packaging, training, labeling, etc.).
Given Chuck’s expertise in portable AV solutions for churches, I asked him for some tips.
[SKD] Doing AV in a portable church, where there is no built-in AV technology, is a difficult challenge, because you are dealing with an empty room, essentially. What, in your mind, is the minimum solution to do AV effectively for a portable church?
[CB] I think we need a minimum of an 8-channel mixer, whether that’s analog or digital. We need enough inputs for a handheld for someone to make announcements with, or if someone is going to lead prayer, for example. The pastor needs his own mic as well, preferably not a handheld. Preferably, that would be a lapel or headset mic. Typically in church plants, when the praise teams are just starting out, you have someone leading from guitar or piano, so we need something that will handle an acoustic guitar (so a DI box), and something that will work for the keyboard. You need something that will play a track, or if they want to play video announcements, you need to be mindful of that as well. So that typically means a minimum of an 8 or 10 channel mixer. On the output side, I would say two speakers on sticks and one wedge monitor as well, if possible. I would love to give them a sub also, but that’s an upgrade, and if all they are doing is a piano or acoustic guitar, there isn’t a lot of need for a sub when you are just starting out. For video, they will obviously need a projector and screen or a cart-mounted TV that can roll in and out, and lighting obviously doesn’t typically come into play in these situations.
[SKD] What sort of wattage would you recommend for these systems, and do you have any particular speakers that you like for these situations?
[CB] For this kind of stuff, I always go powered. I really like the JBL PRX speakers. The new 700 series has been working well, and I typically stick to the 12” and a horn. That usually works well enough for the rooms (they aren’t typically that big), and they’re dual purpose. We can lay them on the ground and use them as a wedge if needed, and if they have an outside gathering, they can take them outside and plug a microphone directly into it or play some music. I try to find stuff that can be used in several different ways, so that’s why I try to stick with the 12” and a horn. JBL equipment just sounds great and has name recognition as well.
[SKD] What tips can you provide for ease of setup and tear down? I know that there often isn’t a lot of time to get these services up and down, so do you have any tips on how to make that process faster?
[CB] Typically what I do, whether it is a portable church or an install, is I get the cables professionally made in the lengths we need. It’s a pet peeve of mine to not see coiled cables… all that spaghetti stuff. When I get the cables made, I typically get the name of the church printed on the heat shrink, and I also get the duty of what that cable is going to do printed as well. If that cable is going to be used for guitar #1, for example, I get that printed on there. I’ll get the cables labeled for kick drum, snare, toms… what have you. It just makes it really easy, when you tear down, to know where the cable came from.
[SKD] You mentioned subs being a step up. What else would be an upgrade for a church or a way to expand the equipment or make it able to scale?
[CB]: Whenever I’m trying to find a solution for churches, I don’t want to find them a solution for right now. I want to find them something that works for now, but will also work for them in the next 2-3 years minimum. If the minimum we need is an 8 channel board, let’s look at a 16. And if we’re already filling that up and a 16 channel isn’t that far stretched out, let’s look at a 24 channel, because eventually you are going to need it. If you don’t have to buy it again, you’re just saving money in the long run.
[SKD] What about powered speakers? Will they continue to work as a church grows?
[CB]: I recommend powered solutions for rooms meant for 300 people or less. Normally, we can do subs, pole-mount stands, and it’s really quick and easy to setup and tear down. I try to just keep it simple. When we get to larger spaces (or installed situations, obviously), I go with passive speakers and amp racks, but for smaller portable churches, the powered speakers make more sense to me.
A big thanks for Chuck for taking the time to speak with me! It was a great insight into what AV is needed to get those events up and running every week.
Have you dealt with portable AV in house of worship or other, similar environments? What AV equipment do you recommend? Tell us in the comments.