October 17, 2021 marked a very special day for North Phoenix Baptist Church (opens in new tab) (NPHX Church) in Arizona. 75 years prior to this very significant date, the congregation was founded.
Two decades ago, NPHX Church brought in a team to renovate and update some of the facility's production systems. At the time, budget and technology dictated the use of used 16 foot x 12 foot rear-projection screens in the main worship center with the lamp-based projectors in large booths behind them. When NPHX Church upgraded to widescreen and then HD video, the I-MAG (camera) projection was letterboxed on those screens with a 16 foot x 9 foot image.
Then, 12 years ago, NPHX Church put up a "temporary" center screen for graphics in a six-week sermon series, which then ended up staying in place for the past 12 years.
Audio/Video technologies have come a long way, to say the least, since the end of World War II when congregants first entered NPHX Church. It has even changed significantly during the past 12 years since the church's most recent AV renovations. And now NPHX Church was looking to make its sanctuary a modern show piece for this very special occasion, and beyond.
As luck would have it, they already had a man on staff and a local world-renowned projection screen company just miles away to bring 2021 technologies to church.
Enter NPHX Church production director Donald T. Woodard and Severtson Screens (opens in new tab)of San Tan Valley, Arizona.
Woodard has been a member of NPHX and has been involved as a volunteer and media/production consultant with the Church since his college days in the 1970s. When the COVID-19 pandemic crushed the Live Event production industry, his company DYNAMIC! Productions was one of the victims. His entire corporate client base collapsed. In late 2020, the production director at NPHX moved on and Woodard stepped into that role.
"Coupled with my desire to see our pastor and music team communicate in the most excellent means possible, I began working on revitalizing our stage and I-MAG systems (opens in new tab)shortly after coming on staff," Woodard said. "I developed several design options and presented them to our pastor and our executive team. With the 75th anniversary coming up, we wanted to step up our look and presentation and the team gave me the go-ahead to renovate."
Woodard explained that the NPHX case is somewhat unusual. Woodard has had the great fortune of working all over the world producing and directing live events for clients such as Microsoft, John Deere, Beyond Trust, etc. "I'm particularly familiar with the systems and equipment to put together shows in arenas, ballrooms and theaters," he said. "Then I come into the NPHX Church environment, and one major difference for me is that the production is permanent."
Severtson Corp. started in 1986, literally in founder Ron Severtson (opens in new tab)'s house. The company's first job was with Arizona's own Williams Air Force Base in response to the U.S. Air Force's need to find both a quality optical coating and a uniform application process for the interior of their domed flight simulators. Severtson also created a product that had the reflective properties the Air Force needed for its simulator program to be successful. Demand for Severtson's product soon had the company working for large corporations and military organizations in more than 40 countries. In the early 1990s, a contract with IMAX Corporation (opens in new tab) brought Severtson Corp. into the cinema screen industry. Now, in 2021, Severtson Corp. is a global leader in innovation and quality.
Woodard knew the Severtson Screens story and he had met Severtson's Aaron White when both their companies were at a Business Club America-Phoenix event several years ago. Woodard reached out to White to see if Severtson would be part of the solution on the NPHX project.
"I still utilize the resources of companies like Front of House Productions or DYNAMIC! Productions, and the familiar equipment from companies such as Panasonic, Ross, Hitachi and others," Woodard explained. "We did not need an integration firm for this project. Even though Severtson Screens is an international company with their great products everywhere, we are particularly blessed to have them in our own back yard. For us, it is a bit like living in Freemont, California, and picking up a brand-new Tesla down the street at the factory. Once we knew that Severtson Screens were the surfaces we wanted and they were willing to participate, we had all the players in place."
NPHX Church has a large sanctuary with nearly 4,000 seats. The seating area is nearly 250 feet wide and the furthest seat is almost 200 feet from the screens. The new Severtson Screens replaced 30-year-old, grey 16 foot x 12 foot (4:3) rear-screen mattes. To reach the audience in that large of an area with two screens means that they need to be as large and as bright as possible.
"We knew that we would get the brightness we wanted with the Severtson Deluxe SAT-4K screen surface (opens in new tab)s coupled with the Panasonic 21,000 lumen laser projectors (opens in new tab)," Woodard said. "The 'face' of the old rear-projection boxes is slightly more than 26 feet wide by 18 feet high. We chose a 16:10 aspect ratio (26.5 feet x 16.5 feet) to get as much surface area as we could to intimately communicate details of the gospel to the entire room. The new Severtson Screens have slightly more than three times the image size and are almost four times brighter than the old screens."
"The new screens are great," said Bryan Brown, who oversees NPHX's multi-site ministry. "They are clear, easy-to-read, and can be seen from anywhere in the worship center. And most of all I love how crisp they are. I feel like I am watching him (Pastor Noe Garcia) up-close and personal, even though I am usually far away."
Added Emory Davis, NPHX Pastoral Care: "I think the screens provide a powerful framing for not only the stage but also for the grandness of the worship space as a whole."
"There's a feeling of awe when you first see the spectacular look of an IMAX movie; the quality of that look is not accidental," Woodard said. "At NPHX Church, we may not be portraying shots of outer space or action movies, but we know that people connect visually. When we have a camera shot on our Severtson Screens of a vocalist singing about her faith or of Pastor Noe Garcia sharing the story of how he was saved from a devastating childhood, every person in the room feels it. We picked a great product from an amazing company and every bit of light reflected back to the audience from the screens at NPHX Church helps us share The Light of the Gospel in a dynamic and wonderful way. Every member of the congregation who has spoken with me loves the look of the new screens."