October 8, 2012 | In: MWPC, Worship Leading

Rebuilding the Church’s A/V System Post-Fire

The last two Saturdays, as well as several evenings last week, were spent over at the church getting the sanctuary ready for re-occupancy from an A/V standpoint after the fire last spring. There is a core group of four adults and two teens, along with several others that are in-and-out giving us a hand. We’re doing this at the same time that the contractors are working on the electrical, the floor, the walls, painting, etc.

Just to get a feel for what all is going into this project, here’s a time-line of what we’ve done so far:

Saturday 9/29: 9:20 AM – 8:00 PM
Un-boxed and got the 8′ motorized projector screen ready for mounting. Thought we had the wrong screen (couldn’t find the right schematic for the electrician) so re-boxed the screen. Found the correct schematic as we were packing stuff back up. Re-un-packed the screen. Worked with electrical contractor to get flex conduit run from the A/V Tech area under the floor to the front so the screen can be raised/lowered from the back of the sanctuary (including punching holes in the dry-wall for the electrical boxes at both ends.)

Simultaneously–unpacked the projector, unpacked the universal projector mount, mated the two together (a great job for a math/engineering minded teenager). Painted the pipe from which the projector will hang from the ceiling beam..

Tested gear that came back from the restoration place marked “good.” Ended up disagreeing with that assessment on several pieces of equipment. There was at least one blown speaker (from a matched pair), and the keyboard still reeked of smoke. Tested the computer for the projection system, and it wouldn’t even POST. Dissasembled/reassembled the machine, re-seating the memory, and, viola, a working computer (Thank God we don’t have to reenter all those song lyrics!)

With the screen in place, and the projector ready to be mounted, up the 14′ ladder I went with projector in hand for a test aiming. Based on that, Ted went up and mounted the hanging bracket and pipe. With high hopes we then slid the mating parts of the projector bracket together, locked them in place and started doing the adjustments on the projector. The picture was HORRIDLY SKEWED. We were far enough off that keystone correction wasn’t workable, and we needed to either move the projector mount or change the angle of the screen (which would mess up the sight-lines.) I was pretty chagrined at myself, as I was now 0 for 2 on getting projectors mounted properly on the first try.

By this time we were all pretty fried, and decided to call it a night before we did something like dropping a projector from the top of the ladder.

In the pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning I was bouncing ideas around in my skull for re-aiming the projector, involving laser pointers and protractors and way-too-much complexity, when I realized that I just needed a laser level shooting out a vertical line from the exact midpoint of the screen to show where the projector should go. After church Ted and I went back into the sanctuary, and I explained, with the help of a normal laser-pointer, how to get the aiming point we were looking for, and he said he’d make it happen. (Ted is a make-things-happen kind of guy!)

*** I’v e not had a chance to update this until Sunday 10/14…we’ve had our first service, and this continues to tell what it took to get there:
Tuesday 10/2
We were out after work getting our church newsletter editor hooked up with FTP to the church website so she could post updates directly. The route home took us by the church so we swung in to see what had happened. We found Ted, one of his sons, and one of the other guys from the church re-hanging the projector…it was closer, but still not quite right. We realized that the projector lens was offset from the center-line by about two inches. Moving the mounting pole over just that little bit more solved the skew issue! Thank You, Ted!

Saturday 10/6 9:30 – 7ish
Spent the day unpacking boxes coming back from the cleaners, getting the speakers hung from the beams and running the cabling to drive the projector and the four speakers. We had to be very careful with the ladders, as the carpet pad was down, but the carpet itself hadn’t yet arrived.

Wednesday 10/10 8:30 – 9:30
I took the day off of work to help out. The carpet had gone in on Monday, except for part of the choir loft, and the chairs were scheduled to arrive at some point during the day. We had to provide our own off-load crew, and the truck had no lift-gate. While we were waiting for the chairs to arrived, I unboxed the various parts of the sound system and did a test cabling in the fellowship hall to see if we had all we needed. Turns out we were good-to-go save for one cable which was on back-order.

Not long after lunch the Semi with the chairs arrived. The church is in a residential neighborhood, with residential streets, so getting the big-rig into our parking lot was a bit of an adventure for the driver. We had rented a small panel truck with a lift-gate and backed it up to the semi, using the lift-gate as a ramp between the two trucks. The chairs were in stacks of 10 at about 20 lbs each, but the rental truck could only handle stacks of seven, so we ended up unwrapping and pulling the top three chairs off of each of the 11 stacks and wheeling them into the rental truck.

After working hours, we had several folks come by the church and we were able to then unload the panel truck and get the chairs totally unwrapped and offloaded. Many hands do, in fact, make light work.

The project for the evening was getting the electrical panels, which had been replaced after the fire, labeled. Walkie-talkie and power probe in hand, we mapped which breakers went to which parts of the building.

Friday 10/12 5:30 – 10:00
The project for the evening was getting the audio snake run from the front of the sanctuary to the back. Getting the snake with its 20 XLR connectors through the floor at the front was fairly simple, but getting them back up through the floor at the back of the sanctuary proved to be a bit more difficult. We finally got them all fished up through the floor with only minor damage to one of the plugs, but it took nearly an hour to do so.

Saturday 10/13 9:30 – 6
We spent the day putting it all together. We had to bring the audio and CAT-5 cables down from their coils near the ceiling and dress them along the pillar to the sound tech area. We then moved all the sound equipment in and onto a table. We’ve got some nice roll-top cabinets on order for the sound board, but they are on back-order, so we had to do a temporary table-top setup for this week. Once we had it all together, I had the chance to finally try out the new speakers, and, thank God, they worked! The whole system sounded wonderful! Next up was getting the projection computer hooked up to the projector…ran into a bit of a VGA vs. DVI issue for the secondary monitor at the projectionist’s spot, but we were able to “borrow” the monitor from the church secretary for this one week…

While I was working on that, my lovely bride was working on getting the chairs into optimal position. Once we had those in place, she and I worked on getting the banners hung at the front, and everyone pitched in vacuuming, dusting and polishing. There came a point where we slowly realized that we were ready. We gathered up our tools, turned off the lights, and waited in anticipation for our first service…

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