After years of research, St. Matthew United Methodist Church undertook a major renovation of its technology systems in 2009, including making the leap from analog to digital installing a DiGiCo SD8 as its main audio console. Continuing its digital progression, the house of worship recently added an SD9 with D-Rack (connected to the SD8 via DiGiCo's Little Red Box), replacing an analog desk at the hub of its video production suite to handle the increased complexity of its productions. Church media consultant Phil Mahder of Training Resources and Ben Shipman, president of AVA Audio Video Associates again assisted in the transition, working with house broadcast engineer DJ Rockwell.
"St. Matthew has been pleased with their SD8 at FOH since they got it 2 years ago," Mahder conveyed. "The production level for their large dramas has made the mixer a must—even their Sunday services have had so much complexity that they are using the potential of the SD8 routinely. Not only do they have a lot of sources on stage, but they also do a rapid and complete changeover between services as they switch music styles. The church has been on local cable for many years, producing a quality product in both content and production value. Since getting the SD8, they have realized that the analog console in the video control room has been a limitation. Although they have remote control over the SD8 from the video station, there were conflicts at times between the goals of the FOH operators and the video operators. When the SD9 was introduced, we all quickly realized that this would be the perfect replacement for the analog console in the video control room, making FOH and video independent and completely digital. With the SD9's affordable price tag, everyone was in agreement."
Ironically, the DiGiCo SD systems were Rockwell's first foray into the digital mixing realm. Growing up at St. Matthew and actively involved in the media ministry for the past 10 years, he's a third generation broadcast engineer with a keen interest in trending technology—particularly as it relates to video production. He found the DiGiCo desks to have a well-thought-out design offering an intuitive ease of use and fantastic sound quality.
"When we originally put the system in, back in 2009, we knew that there would be some more upgrades to come—especially for the video mix," Rockwell said. "We started off mixing for video with an analog console, and then switched to a computer running the SD8 remotely. We were all in agreement that the new SD9 would be ideal for us, and were able to demo one prior to purchase. In fact, I was able to make a demo reel that showed how much it would improve the quality of our videos, which very much helped to convince the committees in charge of granting the funding. The SD9 proved to be the perfect solution for our problem and improved our productions greatly."
Once the console was installed, Rockwell recalled, it was ready to run within an hour. "It sounded great and the processing was seamless. The snapshots were very smooth and easily customizable. St. Matthew is a house of worship that has been into technology for a long time, and we do our best to stay on the cutting edge. We started airing our services on cable more than 25 years ago, and now also stream live. On Sundays, we have three services back-to-back with no time for rehearsals in between and can be as simple as three mics and as extreme as 75-plus inputs. The SD8 and SD9 made these 15- and 20-minute switchovers—from Traditional to Contemporary to Blended with choir and orchestra—possible. Besides our normal worship services, we also put on two technically intensive productions each year, at Easter and Christmas, with a cast, crew, and orchestra of over 300. Having this kind of digital footprint—with all the bells and whistles it affords—is a must-have for what we do."
DiGiCo's Little Red Box (LRB) played an integral role in integrating the SD8 with the SD9. "It allowed us to take the second MADI I/O on the SD8, run it into the LRB—which is then sent to the SD9 over CAT5E. This enables us to send the local inputs on the SD8 to the SD9 using direct outs."
From the crew to the congregation, everyone at the church has been extremely pleased with the SD9. "It's really improved the audio quality of our worship services and productions," Rockwell concluded. "We stream our services live and air them on cable, the quality of which has noticeably improved by our members who watch on line or at home."