Northland Features First Worship Facility Installation of Meyer Sound Constellation
Northland, A Church Distributed has been a pioneer in building a networked, multi-campus church. With four central Florida locations and the total number of weekly worshippers of over 12,000, Northland decided to build a new 3,300-seat facility to accommodate the congregants, replacing the original space in Longwood that was previously converted from a roller rink. Known for leveraging digital AV technology to unite the worshippers in the different sanctuaries, Northland adopted the most advanced technologies in the new building to create a supportive environment for the worshippers. The result is a highly sophisticated sound system featuring Meyer Sound loudspeakers and the company's groundbreaking Constellation electroacoustic architecture system, the first installed in a worship facility.
In designing the new sanctuary, Northland wanted to create a worship space that would facilitate intelligibility for the sermons, power for the musical instruments, and a flexible system that would accommodate the ministry's wide variety of presentations. It was also critical for Northland to maintain the aural perception of a close-knit congregation in the larger space by having a system that would enhance a sense of community and encourage participation of the attendees.
"A congregation isn't passive like the audience in a theater or concert hall. Worshippers play a vital, active role. We needed to create an environment that connects them to each other and supports their participation," says Tim Tracey, Northland's Executive Director of Worship. "Constellation was the solution to all our concerns."
Part of Meyer Sound's LCS Series of innovative digital audio products, Constellation incorporates the physical acoustics of a space with powerful technology and expert services to create flexible acoustical environments. It is a fully integrated turnkey solution based upon the company's patented VRAS technology that combines rigorous design, calibration, and certification methodologies with a flexible hardware and software package. Each Constellation system is designed from the ground up to match the specific needs and circumstances of the venue in which it is installed.
Constellation gives venues the ability to modify their room acoustics at the press of a button, allowing them to host a wide range of events and provide the acoustics most appropriate for them, while remaining invisible to the audience. For houses of worship, Constellation allows congregants to feel immersed in their environment and inspires them to join in.
"Constellation really encourages congregational singing, far more than any of us anticipated," comments Tracey. "During the first service in the new room, those of us on stage were overwhelmed by the increased participation in congregational singing, compared to the old building. We could tell that they were hearing each other, and that encouraged them to sing out."
The Northland Constellation system was designed by Sierra Madre, Calif.-based Platt Design Group and installed by the Burbank office of Electrosonic Systems, Inc. The system encompasses MS-Constellation processors, MS-VRAS processors, Mic-Omni Constellation microphones, as well as the company's most compact and versatile loudspeaker models including UPJ-1P compact VariO loudspeakers, UPM-1P ultra-compact wide coverage loudspeakers, and MM-4 miniature wide-range loudspeakers. The system is programmed with three settings corresponding to physical spaces with reverberation times of 1.7, 2.2 and 3.0 seconds. Together with "off", for a dry characteristic, this affords four choices to adapt the room to different musical styles and either presentational or congregational sing-along selections.
For acapella groups, the church's 60-voice choir, and quieter ballad-style numbers, Constellation is engaged to envelop the congregation with acoustical ambience. The same rich ambience will also be used to good effect when Northland hosts performances by the Florida Youth Symphony Orchestra. For most rock-style worship songs, however, Constellation is turned off, allowing the MILO-based Meyer Sound loudspeaker system to function in the least reverberant setting.
Independent of the Constellation system, the sound reinforcement setup utilizes a total of 36 Meyer Sound self-powered loudspeakers to provide intelligible, uniform, wide-bandwidth coverage with extreme headroom reserves. It includes 16 MILOs in the center, two CQ-1 full-range wide coverage loudspeakers, six UPJ-1Ps, four UPM-1Ps, two CQ-2 full-range narrow coverage loudspeakers, and six M3D-Sub directional subwoofers. System processing and drive are supplied by a pair of Galileo loudspeaker management systems. The final system was tuned using SIM 3 Audio Analyzer.
Senior Audio Engineer at Northland, Todd Herrbach, who is also a veteran sound mixer, finds Constellation's subtle effects on listeners both intriguing and amusing. When asked to demonstrate the system, Herrbach usually turns it on before the visitors come in the room. "They walk around, talk and clap, then ask me to turn it on, assuming that what they are hearing is the sound of the physical room. I tell them that Constellation is already on, and then I turn it off. They immediately hear the difference," says Herrbach. "You can't miss the way it feels."
Herrbach acknowledges that it's always a challenge mixing a wide variety of musical styles in one acoustical space, let alone four potential acoustical spaces. Still, he looks forward to the creative potential offered by Constellation. "It gives me a level of environmental control that I've never had before. It's a creative tool that will offer a lot of potential for years to come. It'll be exciting as we dive into it even more."
Tracey cites one specific example of how Constellation can heighten the emotional impact of music: "We were rehearsing a bluegrass gospel song, Bill Monroe's 'Get Up John,' at first just using the main PA. Then we flipped on Constellation, and it was amazing. All of a sudden there was more air in the acoustic instruments and in the vocals. Instantly we had an acoustical environment that was just right for high-energy bluegrass."
After six years of speculating, Tracey is relieved to find that Constellation really creates acoustics that fully support worship participation. "It's remarkable as an affective tool," he observes. "It's subtle. You can't just look at a chart and see what happens. You have to experience it to understand why it's so powerful."
Constellation is the first successful integrated system that uses components with the linearity and consistency to produce uncolored sound, and at the same time, providing optimal acoustics for different types of programming. Besides Northland, A Church Distributed, multipurpose venues like University of California Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall and Westfield High School in Houston, Texas, have also been equipped with Constellation, enabling them to host a variety of presentations and enhance the experiences of performers and audience alike.