Vienna, VA - Despite its daunting size, the new 2,400-seat worship center at McLean Bible Church is just the kind of place anyone can feel at home in. Opened last year in response to the diverse needs of a spirited and vibrant congregation, the structure's systems blueprint brings calculated unity to concert-ready sound reinforcement, display, lighting and broadcast technologies.
"One of the biggest challenges encountered while building this room centered around accommodating the different styles of our services," notes McLean Bible Church technical director Dave Schatzman, the systems designer and guiding force behind the project build. "You'll find several worship formats here, ranging from very traditional to contemporary and rock. As a result, we needed to capture our sound with microphones and wireless systems that performed reliably in a choir and orchestral system one moment, then could literally turn around and do the same thing again for a Christian rock concert two hours later."
To meet these requirements, Schatzman's spec called upon 24 channels of Shure wireless including UD24D/Beta 87 systems, as well as hardwired offerings ranging from Shure's subminiature WL50 lavalier mics to SM57, SM81, and premium Beta models like the Beta 52, 57, 58 and 98-S.
"Choosing elements from the Shure line for a space like this has always been attractive to me because of the depth of its range," Schatzman acknowledges. "The Shure catalog carries a very broad product line, and individual models can often be used for many different purposes. The WL50 lavs are equally at home on an instrument or for voice, and the venerable SM57 is perfect for everything from a guitar cabinet to just about anything on a drum kit."
Beyond the 24 wireless microphone channels in use at McLean Bible Church, Schatzman also utilized both wired and wireless PSM 700 systems from Shure to provide personal monitoring onstage. Working admirably to keep stage volumes low and thereby improving the house sound as well, the PSM 700s are used with E5 earphones also provided by Shure.
Including the PSM 700 and UHF wireless systems used in the worship center, Schatzman reports that there are a total of approximately 120 wireless channels spread across the McLean Bible Church campus. Combine this with the fact that the church is located just outside the Washington, D.C. Beltway, and it's easy to see why he sums up the RF hand he was dealt as "horrific" in terms of the potential for interference.
"Not counting the sheer number of RF devices on our own property, the interference here is astounding just from television stations alone," Schatzman points out. "In many cases, one station will be broadcasting both analog and HDTV signals. We're also not very far from the airport, and I don't even want to talk about all of the frequencies in this town allotted to the government."
Working in conjunction with Tim Vear from Shure's Applications Engineering Group, Schatzman and the installation crew sorted out wireless frequencies within the worship center with the aid of Shure's Wireless Workbench software. "Wireless Workbench initially helped us get the system configured and identify faults," Schatzman adds. "Now we use it on a weekly basis to monitor the status of all the mics. We can easily check battery life and other vital signs remotely with the software. That's especially important here, where the environment is the size of a football field, and you often can't easily get to the wireless receivers themselves."
Since its debut, the system has lived up to expectations on all levels and then some, performing without pause in situations large and small. Earlier this year, it was put through its paces during a music conference featuring top Christian acts including Shane and Shane, Marty McCall and Chris Joyner.