Saint Philip Church Goes Digital With Dual Allen & Heath iLive Consoles

With both live audio and broadcast mixes to be done, it was essential to find a console that would meet the church's intensive AV needs

With a membership of over 6,000 worshippers, Saint Philip A.M.E. Church in Atlanta has maintained a policy of keeping the audio-video needs up to date. Aided by Atlanta design/installation firm Communications & Entertainment Inc., the church has installed an Allen & Heath iLive-176 at Front of House of the 2,500 seat main Sanctuary and an iLive-80 in the Broadcast room.

“When we were commissioned to redo the sanctuary sound and video systems, their analog console was approaching 10 years old,” notes systems consultant Dave Miller of CEI. “In a digital world, it’s my opinion that you have to be very careful in the selection of a desk. When you’re working with a volunteer church staff, it can make or break the whole project. Fortunately, Saint Philip has a very talented staff, and the perfect console was chosen.”

With both live audio and broadcast mixes to be done, it was essential to find a console that would meet the church’s intensive AV needs while being intuitive enough to ensure a smooth transition to digital. “Based on their needs and capabilities, we recommended the Allen & Heath iLive for both applications,” Miller recalls. “Interestingly, they had asked for another console brand initially, but we really believe in the iLive desk, so we arranged an on-site demonstration. The hands-on experience impressed chief engineer Kel Wright and his staff, and that was key.”

Saint Philip’s multipurpose Family Life Center, the world’s largest African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church facility, hosts a blend of high-energy urban contemporary and traditional gospel music presentations, with multiple keyboards, full drum kit, plus bass and guitars. Vocals are supplied by several praise team soloists, augmented by one of the church’s 10 gospel choir groups of up to 70 voices.

The iLive-176 is installed at front of house in the balcony, connected by Cat5 cable to its iDR10 rack located beneath the choir risers and built into a custom drawer that allows easy accessibility. In addition, an iLive-80 is installed in the media booth to handle the broadcast mix, which is also recorded together with switched video feeds of services for use on local cable and as DVDs.

The iLive-80 runs off an iDR-0 that is connected to the iLive-176’s iDR10 via Cat5. The two consoles are totally independent operationally, but share a single set of inputs with the addition of some audience mics for the broadcast mix.

“That’s one of the huge advantages of the iLive system,” says Miller. “One of the challenges at St. Philip was the lack of conduit running from the stage area to the mix position upstairs. Having all the inputs terminate at the iDR10 rack makes life so much simpler.”

The main iLive-176 console handles the entire live presentation, including the monitor mixes. The system currently uses 48 microphone inputs, with the potential to add many more. The iDR10 houses 16 primary outputs, plus an Aviom module for the monitor system.

The main outputs go to a Biamp Audia processing system, with dedicated signals going to the main center cluster, four subwoofers, and nine delay speakers spread above the balcony.

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The monitor system at Saint Philip is a hybrid, with traditional floor wedges augmenting Aviom personal monitors. The iLive-‘s 1/3 Octave EQs are utilized for the monitor aux sends. Outputs from the iLive-80 are feeding the main broadcast mix, Panasonic DMR-EH50S DVD recorder, a DTT GX6480 Digital Video Recorder, and a cassette tape recorder.

The iLive’s on-board effects processing are well utilized providing reverb and tap delay for solo vocalists and on the broadcast mix to liven it up. Scene recall has also proven to be an important feature for Saint Phillips audio engineers as they back up mixes for every event and load back scenes for each of the services.

Dave Miller of CEI is convinced that the Allen & Heath iLive is a critical component in making the transition to a digital console.  “It’s really a radical change, and people tend to overlook the education aspect. Frankly, clients don’t want to see training as a line item on a bid, but it’s critical to success. With iLive, the learning curve is fast and our callbacks are minimal, which was definitely the case at Saint. Philip. So basically, Allen & Heath iLive saves us time, and saves our customers money. Everybody wins.”

Allen & Heath iLive Website