How a Tornado-Damaged Church Completely Revamped Its Space in Just 14 Months

Woodlawn Church stuck with Meyer Sound for its rebuild, with its new space featuring Meyer Sound speakers, an Allen & Heath digital mixer, Panasonic displays, Christie projectors and Da-Lite screens.

CI Staff
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About 14 months after having their sanctuary seriously damaged by a tornado that tore off the structure’s roof, Woodlawn Church reopened in their revamped space in February.

Having looked to Harrisburg, N.C.-based WAVE for their audio and video needs in previous years, it was only about six months after the tornado that work began on rebuilding the space, with WAVE completing its work about six months later, explains Woodlawn FOH mixer Mick Name, noting that “we were only out of the church for a little more than a year. It didn’t take long for them to complete the (AVL install) project.”

For a church with an estimated 1,500 members, Paul Henderson, the executive director of Acoustics/Broadcast Video Design for WAVE, notes that the end result was a church that “looks nothing like it did before,” with those changes including being forced to replace its Meyer Sound M’elodie system, “which was a total loss,” with a new Meyer Sound Leopard system, featuring 12 compact line array speakers.

GALLERY: Click here for photos of Woodlawn’s revamped space

“They left the design up to us, since we have a long-term relationship with them,” notes Henderson. “We have experience with the Leopard system and they were willing to go back with Meyer.” Name concurred, adding, “I think that was the one choice (for a new speaker system in the sanctuary) … we were going to stick with (Meyer).”

When Woodlawn’s congregants first experienced the many changes to the sanctuary, Name says, “Everybody was really surprised at what the sanctuary could look like with the overall redesign. Before, lighting could not be fully used, where we are now able to use the lighting the way it is supposed to be used, without getting so many complaints. They also like the idea of one big screen, and the sound difference is night and day. Most of the comments, though, are about the difference in sound.”

Aside from the Leopard system install, the space also featured adding a number of other Meyer Sound speakers, a pair of UPA-2P compact narrow coverage speakers, while the balcony included a pair of Mina compact line array speakers and nine UP-4XP ultracompact speakers. One of the few elements able to be saved from the prior install were four Meyer Sound 700HP subwoofers.

Aside from the speaker additions, Woodlawn also installed a new digital mixer, an Allen & Heath S5000 for FOH, while also upgrading their video with new Panasonic displays, Christie projectors and Da-Lite screens.

“It was a pretty steep upgrade, as their original projection system was dated,” says Henderson. Among the major changes included moving from an analog mixer at the front of house to the S5000.

As noted by Name, “It has revamped how we do sound. It’s so much easier to communicate with the singers, where the singers now have in-ear monitors, and we can talk to them individually. It has made for a much better experience.”

Aside from mixer, Name commended a number of other changes made to the worship space.

“Before we had split screens, with one to the left and one to the right. Now we have one in the middle (allowing the congregation to be more focused on worship),” says Name. In addition, the media room was moved in the revamp.
“All our cameras now focus on the singers and the director, and the director’s mic cues them to the next fly-in. That has changed the way the way the people look at our sanctuary. There is room now for a console and two cameras, and everything else is behind closed doors. It really changed how our church functions when we worship and come together.”

Aside from Henderson, Armando Fullwood, Executive Director at WAVE, also worked closely on the Woodlawn project. With WAVE’s team having formulated the sanctuary’s acoustic design, Fullwood has continued doing some mixing work in the space, as recently as three weeks ago.

“With the new room shape, we were able to facilitate changes, to have the congregation hear themselves sing to each other,” says Fullwood. “It’s a pretty phenomenal sounding room. I mixed the room (previously with the M’elodie system), and with the new acoustic design and the Leopard rig. With the clarity of the PA and the linearity of the PA, the more you drive it, the better it sounds.”

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Even though the install work was completed in February, Henderson explains that WAVE continues to work closely with the church, to help them with concerns along the way.

“We were there to make sure that (the installed equipment) worked, and our business partner helped them again with some training and some tweaking on the mixing consoles,” notes Henderson. “We don’t leave them to jump into the deep end, we lead them through the process.”

Of the various pieces of equipment that were a part of the install, the Allen & Heath console was the biggest hurdle for the staff and volunteers, notes Name.

“Analog to digital has been the biggest transition, as all of our sound techs were used to analog, so going to digital was quite a challenge,” he says.

With the transition having been made, though, Name emphasized one of the biggest benefits with the recently installed equipment is that, “We aren’t dealing with worrying about things whether they will work or not, because (the equipment in the past was) eight years old. We can now focus on the things that we need to focus on.”

This article was originally posted on CI sister site, worshiptechdirector.com.