Free Chapel Orange County meets in an old two-story office building in Irvine, Calif., and is considered one of the most influential churches in Southern California. It regularly hosts well-known speakers and worship leaders and serves as the West Coast hub for Jentezen Franklin’s TV ministry, Kingdom Connections. But the facility was limited in creating environments representative of its stakeholders’ highly participatory vision since moving into the building eight years prior.
After years of talking and dreaming about giving this space a makeover while increasing its effectiveness, in 2015 Free Chapel formally engaged Mankin Media Systems.
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Free Chapel Values
It was determined early on that a traditional worship center, or theater, with an end stage feel would not suffice. Instead, the stage was designed to feel like pastors are leading “in the round,” enhancing their values of community and participation. This was to be supported by unconventional seating arrangements, using lighting to craft the visual experience, and a large visual canvas to reinforce the content. Mankin Media partnered closely with the architect —Brewster, Crocker & Associates—and relied on advanced modeling, sight-line studies, and collaborative design early in the process to ensure delivery of expectations.
Production technology is a vital tool in the church’s mission to impact its audience and communities. Every Free Chapel campus places a high value on utilizing volunteers, so ease of use and logical workflow in tandem with their other venues was critical.
Mankin crafted the new loudspeaker system and seating plan around six hangs of PA that follow the outline of the stage and structural columns, so dead spots created by the shadows of those columns fall into the aisles. L-Acoustics Kiva main speakers plus SB15 subwoofers provide a warm, punchy character to the room, along with 8XT delay speakers and SB28 subwoofers below the stage. A Digico SD10 console with Optocore based stage racks, Sennheiser wireless mics, and Shure wireless in-ears ensure the PA always sounds its best. Also, the system operates digitally at high-resolution 96kHz.
The video system is based around an Imagine Communications Platinum router —with on-board multi-viewers and audio routing inside the same frame, Hitachi cameras creating images to feed a Ross Carbonite switcher, and multiple Renewed Vision/Apple/Blackmagic Design graphics stations. CreateLED 3.9mm LED walls with Novastar processing are utilized for side screens, a center screen, as well as video set pieces. A Clearcom Matrix Intercom system ensures the crew can communicate effectively during productions.
The theatrical lighting system is completely LED, built around a number of Chauvet fixtures from the Rogue, Colorado and Nexus lines. Lighting plots were especially challenging due to the extremely low trim height over the stage, so fixtures capable of a wide range of beam angles were important so the lighting wouldn’t feel as close to artists on stage as it actually was.
Free Chapel also utilizes the Imagine Communications Selenio platform for two streams of video transmission to and from this campus, and the main broadcast site in Gainesville, Ga.
“Mankin does not take a cookie-cutter approach to integration,” says Brian Smith, Free Chapel’s chief of strategic opportunities. “They understand each project is unique and through their step by step process, they help save us time and money. We feel like we have a real partner helping us expand the Kingdom through technology.”
The project was completed within six weeks in a race to meet the deadline for DIVINE, Free Chapel’s Women’s Conference. Not only was there a major structural renovation and a high-impact production facility going on, but it was also an active facility that remained in full use during weekend services —for which Mankin constructed a portable AV system as a temporary solution.
The overall structural scope included the removal of multiple load bearing columns, moving and removing of walls, expanding the stage, a completely redesigned power grid, a full aesthetic makeover and more. Meanwhile, the Mankin Media team was pulling wire and installing state-of-the-art gear as contractors installed 4,000-plus feet of conduit infrastructure.
The collaboration between Mankin and Free Chapel’s architect allowed Free Chapel’s weekend service experience to be leveraged to the max, turning an unconventional space into an engaging and impactful room.
Mankin Media Equipment Highlights
Digico audio console
Hitachi, Panasonic, Marshall cameras
Ross video switcher
Renewed Vision, Blackmagic Design graphics
LG, Ikegami monitors
Middle Atlantic power, UPS racks