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SES Integration Opens Another Elevation Church Campus

Kevin M. Mitchell • InstallationsSeptember 2020 • September 11, 2020

Transforming a Former Kmart in Concord, NC; Low-Ceiling Challenge Met and Conquered

Here’s a bright spot in an otherwise bleak time: things are hopping at SES Integration. “Our team has been busy helping churches streamline projects in emptied auditoriums as well as helping other clients create or improve their broadcast infrastructure for online services,” says Travis Aultman, SES Integration (SESI) client relationship manager. They recently finished an interesting HOW project for Elevation Church’s Concord, NC Campus, which was converted from an abandoned Kmart. The space consists of the main worship area, which seats 600, with a standing-room only capacity of about 1,000. SESI was involved with the design and install of the lobby, control room, auditorium and production for the children’s environments, with SESI director Trey Blair helming the project.

Viewing angles are good from all positions

“Our team has had a great relationship with Elevation Church since they were a church plant meeting in Providence High School in Charlotte,” says Aultman. “We’ve loved serving and supporting their technical needs as they’ve grown from a small mobile church to one of the most influential churches in the world. We’re proud to supply the technical foundation for their creative expression of worship and hopeful message.” The team at SESI has indeed enjoyed a long relationship with Elevation, having worked with them on 19 of their 21 campuses. Elevation was founded in 2006 by Steven Furtick, its pastor. From his first Sunday worship service with 121 people attending at a Charlotte-area high school, Elevation Church’s membership has grown, with weekly attendance reaching 20,000 in-person and services also available through Elevation’s multiple online streaming platforms. The church now has nine locations in the Charlotte area and 17 in all, some as far away as Florida and Canada.

The control room sends the signal out to the church’s wide audience

As Elevation Church has grown since its origins in 2006, so has SESI, also based in the Charlotte area. And although SES Integration was established five years ago, “the core of our team has worked together for 20 years,” Aultman says. “They all migrated over from SES and established SES Integration in 2015.” SESI’s business has grown exponentially since then, and the division has expanded its reach and impact for ministries across the nation.

The stage was kept at a low level to offset the low trim

‡‡         Raising the Bar — with a Lower Ceiling

“I started out doing audio at the age of 12, and have been at it ever since,” sais SESI director Trey Blair. “I started working with Elevation mixing audio for them, and then that relationship grew into being their system integrator. My team and I have worked with them now for over 10 years and cover their audio, video, lighting, acoustics, and architectural lighting controls needs. We stay pretty involved with them through almost all of their projects.”

As with many Elevation campuses, the Concord, NC congregation started out meeting in a high school, and SESI was even there for that, providing the simple portable systems called for in that environment. It’s growth and the opportunity to get a deal on the defunct Kmart in the area led to SESI getting yet another call to help them bring their vision for the new campus to life. “They went in and gutted the building to build out as one of their traditional campuses, but what made this project unique from the start was that it had a lower ceiling then the typical building they renovate,” Blair says. But the SESI team proposed appropriate visuals, a low stage and a new L-Acoustics A15 Series sound system. “This worked out well, timing-wise, because this was a new product from L-Acoustics with a much shorter speaker hang and that was really important. Typically, we have 30 feet of trim, but in this space, we only had 16 feet.” As with other Elevation church campuses, the sound is mixed on a DiGiCo SD9 console.

The outside of the repurposed building

For Elevation’s Concord, NC location, as in other SESI projects, The Light Source’s HL Series Pendant, RGBW architectural light was chosen for house lighting — in this case, 25 of them. “We almost always use those for our house lights, and they can make the house any color we want, which is pretty handy,” Blair says. “We use their extra wide lens to achieve the coverage we need. We have great access to their people, who give us great support, and good support goes a long way for us.” SESI also turned to The Light Source for various clamps and wall hanging devices for the project.

The HL Series Pendant has been around for about eight years, and Elevation’s Concord, NC location was one of the first where it was deployed. “When you look at the Pendant, the first thing you notice is the huge heat sink,” explains The Light Source owner Eric Von Fange. “All that surface area carries the heat so well, you don’t need a fan, which is especially good in a church, because you don’t want to suddenly hear a bunch of fans turn on in the middle of a sermon.” He adds that they feature the Fresnel Lens because it provides the most control on the beams. “They are popular — we’ve sold many thousands through the years.”

While now a house-of-worship installation staple, Von Fange tells a humorous story about their development phase. He had been working with a company in China, and the first prototypes were “beautiful — just wonderful color quality, and everything was just right.” He ordered the 100 needed in that Elevation Church, and the ones that showed up were… well, not quite the same as those first prototypes. “They came in monochromatic and had this orange tint that was just horrible.” But the install deadline had to be met. “Luckily, one of the main colors Elevation uses was orange, so they were fine with it.” But Von Fange sure wasn’t. He would bring in the necessary manufacturing machinery and manufacture his own lights to the quality he wanted them to be, which he still does to this day. After that in-house batch was completed, he called up Elevation and told them he had a much better light he wanted to switch out, which he did free of charge. (In related news, he adds he was just awarded their patent on the LED modules and how they are controlled.)

“We have worked with the people at SES for probably 20 years, and they are capable, smart people who get it,” Von Fange added. “They know a customer’s needs are important and always provide value within the stated budget.”

FOH features DiGiCo and grandMA consoles for sound and lighting

‡‡         Tools, Old and New

At Elevation’s Concord, NC campus, a grandMA on PC Command Wing controls the lighting for church performances, with an ETC Paradigm chosen for the architectural lighting and power controls. The video setup includes a Ross Video NK Router controlled by a RCP18, which is an Ethernet-enabled 18 LCD plus eight fixed button control panel. Switching is handled by a Ross Carbonite production video switcher. Conversion is handled by a mix of Ross and AJA devices. Three AV Stumpfl projection screens are paired with three Panasonic laser projectors to provide a crisp, bright video display for the congregation. The church chose Chauvet Lighting products for this campus and has 48 EPIX strips, 12 of their COLORado Solo Battens, eight Maverick MK2 spots, and eight Maverick washes in the room. The lighting system also includes eight Martin Rush MH 6 WASH CT, four MH6 Wash LED moving heads, and a Martin JEM Compact hazer.

“Because of the low ceiling, there were challenges bringing it all in and hanging it,” Blair says. HVAC is all exposed, but how it’s lit, especially when those house lights go into blue or some other color, is visually hip. The stage curtain had to be fitted to accommodate the speaker hang and the stage while maximizing sightlines. And although the stage is unusually low, it still needed a step unit, which was built by SES’s custom fabrication shop, Fabrineering. “For supporting the lighting for the background, we went with the GLP [Cosmic] U-Torm modular truss. This is a new product that is really flexible.” Described by Blair as an upside-down goalpost, it’s modular for drop positions — helping to place lighting fixtures where they needed to be, while also allowing them to move to new positions as needed. Blair adds that this was the first time SESI using this GLP/Cosmic Truss product, and the auditorium was “a bit of a test site for us and the church, and if it works well, they might roll it out to other sites. It is a bit pricey, but it has a lot more load capability to it.” Another big benefit is its simplicity. “There’s not a lot of knowledge required to put it together, yet it’s really safe,” two things you want in a house of worship where often there are a rotating number of volunteers involved.

“Another important choice that made this install a success was going with the ETC Paradigm Architectural Control and the Sensor IQ Intelligent Breaker System,” he says. The Paradigm is appealing because it’s both powerful and flexible. It offers advanced controls and easy integration with building systems. “We use the Sensor IQ panels to manage all technical power,” Blair adds. “The lobby space is wide open, with one wall dressed up with bright orange paint and a geometric design accented with custom Acclaim LED products. There’s also an 86-inch video display for when they need the lobby for overflow audience. The Paradigm is controlling lighting in this room too.

“Another important piece we put in is the QSC Q-SYS Core 510i, which controls everything throughout the entire building,” Blair adds. “We have centered the control and management of the AV systems throughout the facility around the Q-SYS System and have even gone as far as to make the kids’ spaces run solely on the Q-SYS platform.”

Blair says that, despite the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s been a “crazy busy year for us.” One silver lining to the Covid shutdowns, he adds, is more flexibility with scheduling, since there is less of a need to perform installation work between in-person worship services. “It was somewhat nice to not be super rushed and use that more relaxed schedule to make everything absolutely perfect.” SESI is also working on Elevation’s offices and recording studio in addition to working with a few other houses of worship including Seven Hills Church. “A lot of places are using this time to upgrade, which is smart,” Blair concludes.

Trey Blair

Images courtesy SES Integration (SESI)

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