A portable church setup designed to go in and out of a middle school gym every weekend, Preston Trail McKinney obviously required streamlined equipment for its audio, video, lighting, staging and furniture setups. Given the venue’s limitations, it turned out to be an ideal setting for Martin Audio Wavefront Precision Mini (WPM), the first of many installations for the popular new system in the US.
As described by Clark Senior Design Consultant Peter Fitton, “The church is transported into a middle school gymnasium with a 16ft. x 32ft. stage, a 40ft. rear lighting truss upstage and lighting trusses on both sides of the auditorium about midway through the house that provide front light for the stage and house lighting for the audience area. The video system includes a video playback server, a switcher, an 11ft. tall x 14ft. wide screen in the centre and a 13,000-lumen projector in the back of the room. The school provides seating for 300-350 congregants.
“For the audio,” he continued, “there are eight Martin Audio WPM cabinets a side powered by iKON® amps and five CSX-LIVE 218 subs in a horizontal array in front of the stage on the floor. In terms of the WPM system’s scalable resolution, we opted for one amplifier channel per box to ensure the most accurate coverage and control for the space.”
Another company provides transportation, trailers and cases for the church setup and Clark handle the auditorium. The entire church fits into five 24ft. trailers with video, audio, staging and lighting in two of them.
According to Fitton, Clark chose WPM because it “provided an ideal solution for the gym––basically a big cinderblock room without acoustical treatments, that could provide excellent coverage for the space and control unwanted reverberation. We’ve always had great success with Martin Audio systems, and WPM offers similar advanced technologies in a more cost-effective, passive format.”
Describing the system’s performance, he adds, “the results have been fantastic. When Brad Stephens of Martin Audio and I were there for the initial setup and commissioning, we both knew what to expect from the WPM speakers, but were still surprised at how well they behaved in the space.
“If you walk upstage of the arrays, there’s almost no leakage at all. You can actually hear people in the audience singing toward you who sound louder than anything coming off the back of the PA. The soundfield was tuned in such a way that it hit the back wall about 8ft off the floor, just above head height, and we had none of the reverberation or flutter that you’d expect to hear in this kind of a room. Part of the design from the other company is pipe and drape all the way around the room that runs about 12ft from the floor level up, so we could keep the PA on that and keep it off the cinder block wall altogether and it just created a great sounding room in terms of audio quality and coverage in a challenging space.”
Chris Briley, Technical Director at Preston Trail, who oversees all live production and IT at the church, explains the addition of the McKinney campus: “It’s Preston Trail’s first multi-site campus—we still have the main building with a 1500–1600-seat room but we wanted the opportunity to tell more stories in more spaces. In McKinney’s main auditorium adult space, we have a live video broadcast recorded the night before at the main campus. There is also a full contemporary worship service with an electric band and vocals along with spoken word.
“So, because of the space, we have to keep stage volume down, which is always an issue at our services. We chose the smaller gym at the school because it sounds better. The pipe and drape works to improve acoustics by taming reflections in a square box, plus it also looks better aesthetically.”
One of the surprising things when the line array went up was how well it kept the energy off the walls in that space, he said. “We’re very pleased we chose the WPM system. The coverage is fantastic, front to back and left to right, and it’s not overly exciting the room. First time I mixed on it, the system was so true I realised I’d need effects on the vocals because you could really hear the difference. That was a nice surprise.
“Now I can get the band locked in and we’re on cruise control with plenty of headroom and gain. Another surprise is how flat and quiet it is off the back of the speakers, especially given how wide the dispersion is.”
Summing up, Briley concludes: “The one thing we didn’t want to compromise on was the audio and we chose WPM in close collaboration with Clark and we’re very pleased with it. Everyone has been telling us how great it sounds. Our main campus has fantastic sound quality and we needed to match that with this space. Some of our engineers have even asked to bring the subs back to the main campus!”