– Ben Martens

Remote Control For Church

Somehow I’ve turned into the A/V geek at church. We have a modest setup cobbled together from various donations throughout the years. The problem was that our equipment is up in the balcony so I had to go up there at various points in the service to adjust speaker levels and start/stop the DVD recording. That technically worked fine but was annoying to those who sat around me as I would be coming and going from my seat throughout the service. Here’s the plan that I laid out and recently completed:

1) The first step was to rip out all of the connections and start over. The existing setup was a mishmash of tiny improvements from a half dozen people. Our mixer is a Mackie 1202-VLZ so I dug up the manual and read it cover to cover. The device was capable of a lot more than we were using it for. I rewired everything (removing two unneeded components in the process) and let it sit for a few services to make sure everything was working. That was a huge improvement in itself because now I can sit up there with headphones to individually check any microphone without affecting the output and see the output meter display lights bounce so I know that the proper levels are going to our DVD recorder.

2) The amp we were using was very old and had no remote control. I swapped this out for a newer (but still used) amp that was previously powering the theater room at our house. In addition to having a remote, it also has a display that shows the current volume level. Now I’ve figured out that “42” is the magic number for the volume with an average congregation size.

3) With those pieces in place, I purchased an RF (radio frequency) remote. Normal remotes are IR (infrared) and need to be pointed directly at the receiver. RF radiates in all directions from the remote and even goes through walls. The signals are captured by an RF receiver and translated into IR that the various A/V components can understand. I programmed the remote for five basic functions: volume up, volume down, mute, DVD record, and DVD stop. I can’t adjust individual levels on the various mics, but I can make sure that if there’s a particular noisy child, I can crank up the speakers a little more to compensate. If we’re ever doing a nicer recording like when the choir sings we’ll still need someone up in the balcony to check the levels, but for most services, the remote will work fine.

I tried the whole thing out for the first time last week. Tim kept laughing at me because every time I looked over I had a goofy grin on my face. I couldn’t get over the fact after months of off-and-on work, I was now sitting in a church pew with a remote control! I’ll give this a few weeks to make sure I’m happy with the setup and then I’ll start training the ushers how to do it so I can completely remove myself from the equation.