When faced with shelter-in-place regulations amid the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, Westminster Presbyterian Church, like many churches around the world, decided to shift from in-person gatherings on Sundays to recorded services so churchgoers could watch from home. The initial offerings relied on existing audio and video equipment, which was more than 20 years old. The church’s streaming feed lacked detail, balance and consistent room ambiance, and the lack of intelligibility of the spoken word made it difficult for remote churchgoers to hear the service well.
To help solve this problem last fall, Tony Thurman, Westminster’s director of music, and members of the church’s property committee, initiated talks with Robert Bullington of Front Row Seat Productions, a local AV contractor, to come up with a new sound system. Together, the teams immediately tapped DPA Microphones for its technical expertise and array of reliable, rugged and quality headsets, mics and accessories.
Bullington worked with Gabriel Antonini, business development manager of DPA, to create a masterplan for upgrading the church’s microphones as part of a re-engineered audio system. The goal was to enable Westminster to livestream choral, organ and piano music at the highest quality, providing listeners with fully balanced stereo sound comparable to attending a live service or concert.
“To capture the shape of the space at Westminster, we deployed a wide array of solutions from DPA Microphones,” says Bullington. “Included among these is a pair of DPA 4006A Omnidirectional microphones with a nose cone accessory above the main aisle, spaced equidistant between the front and back of the church. Paired with the 4006A, the nose cone ensured perfect omnidirectional response across all of the frequencies generated by the massive organ, and provided a 360-degree, true-to-source capture.”
In addition, DPA also hung a pair of its 4011C Cardioid Microphones on suspension mounts in an ORTF configuration, aimed at the altar, which enhanced the direct sound of whatever event happened to be in this sweet spot. “That, in combination with the 4006As, achieved a fantastic room balance for the remote listeners, ensuring continued engagement throughout the services,” Bullington adds.
For the 30- to 60-person choir situated just below the organ, Bullington installed DPA’s 4015 Wide Cardioid Microphones, which were hung 10- to 12-feet above finish floor (AFF) and about four- to six-feet above the choir members. The wide polar pattern of these microphones not only captures the vocalists evenly and consistently, but also rejects the organ pipes just above.
“We also flanked the choir in the front with hard left/right 4097 Supercardioid Choir Microphones, which delivered additional focus and clarity to the mix. We also placed a pair of our 4099P CORE Instrument Microphones in the piano with magnet mounts, which blended with the room to provide an accurate tone and gave us the emotional intimacy required for the stream,” says Bullington.
“To prevent silent holes in the mix, Westminster can keep the room microphones live at all times in slightly different scene levels, to ensure a continued audio stream. This way, the audio team can adjust the mic signals as necessary or preferred,” explained Antonini.
Front Row Seat Productions is also currently experimenting with DPA’s miniature lavalier microphones inside DPA concealer mounts. This solution, according to Antonini, will help immensely when the pastors wear robes and other difficult to mic garments. When coupled with any third-party wireless system, it also gives them the ability to roam the church during a sermon.