Prophet Samuel Radebe took to the centre of the pitch at Johannesburg's FNB Stadium for an in-the-round Good Friday event from the Revelation Church of God.

Worship events in Africa can often be on the grandest of scales. It is not unusual for tens of thousands of people to gather to hear high-profile preachers or worship bands. This can lead to a huge challenge for a house of worship's technical team, particularly if the service takes place away from its usual venue.

With thousands of expectant worshippers relying on you, it can be a daunting task to be faced with equipment you don't know in an unfamiliar setting. In this situation, one of the most sensible options is to call for assistance. Thankfully there are plenty of people available to help in the form of local rental companies.

This was the situation faced by the Revelation Church of God as it held a Good Friday address from Prophet Samuel Radebe at the FNB Stadium in Soweto. Constructed for the 2010 World Cup and the setting for its opening and final matches, FNB Stadium is a 96,000 seat football ground which has also played host to a number of large concerts and events. As such, Gearhouse South Africa, one of the country's largest rental companies, has been a regular supplier to the venue.

This previous experience was vital to Gearhouse having the opportunity to assist Revelation. The church has hosted similar events at the stadium, but had never been truly happy with the sound. 'Together with L-Acoustics Soundvision prediction software, we showed them how we'd normally do coverage at FNB Stadium,' recalls Gearhouse's Llewellyn Reinecke. 'The church was very excited about it because the previous times they had no coverage up in the upper levels. It's taken us quite some time to perfect that from our side and we can proudly say that we're very happy with the results.'

While Gearhouse has worked at the stadium on many occasions, what made this event particularly unique was the in-the-round setup. The entire field of play was given over to the performance area for dancers, worship bands, the church's choir and, of course, the Prophet himself. Taking pride of place at the centre of this was a large cross-shaped stage which would be the focal point of the action.

'It's a little bit different when we do it in-the-round,' says Mr Reinecke. 'When we do it for concerts in a stadium setup, we have a stage at one end which is the main focus point. The sound originates from there and everyone focuses on the stage. You have quite a different delay time setup versus an in-the-round setup, where essentially your focal point moves to the middle of the field and everything is delayed from there outwards.'

To meet this challenge Gearhouse called on its inventory of L-Acoustics equipment with roofline and ground level systems. 'Up in the roof we had a total of 14 hangs,' explains Mr Reinecke. 'It was divided up with 10 hangs of six Kudo and the other four were Kara with six in each. They have a slightly wider coverage than the Kudo, but essentially we just spaced them evenly in the roof, covering all the way from the top to the bottom quite nicely. Again, the Soundvision software was helpful with this as it showed us exactly how many hangs we needed for the coverage.

'On the ground, we had a total of 14 stacks of K1 around the field,' he continues. 'Normally we do V-Dosc, but we had quite a busy week that week so we upgraded it to K1 for the coverage. It was in stacks of three around the field along with some dV-Dosc for filling a couple of holes in the coverage area here and there.'

Proof of the system's coverage came from the church's technical team which had some members stationed around the stadium to monitor the audio throughout the event. 'When we were working with them we reassured them that we would do proper coverage around the stadium,' recalls Gearhouse's Remember Chaitezvi. 'During the whole event they had eight people walking around on the upper audience levels with two-way radios continuously giving feedback to their team to say that they could hear everything.'

While this system provided the desired coverage, the size and dispersed nature of it meant that the biggest challenge came from cabling. 'Cabling is always a bit of an issue because we need to keep it neat. It can be challenging to keep cable runs neat for an event, especially if there are cameras involved,' explains Mr Reinecke. 'We have a couple of Lake LM44s that we use for signal distribution and we use a fibre optic system with an Extreme X440 10Gb backbone as a redundant system for distributing the audio from front of house, around the field and up into the roof via Dante. That is in excess of 200m of cable run that we need to get up into the top of the roof which is then redistributed by the LA8s and the network cabling. Just walking around the roof once is about a kilometre so it's a lot of cabling up in there.'

A variety of Yamaha consoles including two M7CL for FOH and monitors and an LS9-32 for incidentals were called into action for mixing while the event also relied heavily on a Shure wired and wireless mic package. 'The key thing for us was to make sure that the prophet's mic was working no matter where he went inside the stadium,' recalls Mr Chaitezvi. 'Of the 12 Shure wireless mics we had one dedicated to the Prophet, one for the confessor and one for the poet. The others were for back up and any other part of the entertainment. We were also ready with some receivers in the centre of the stage so if someone started to walk around the stage we would be able to have coverage.'

While technical knowledge and an understanding of the venue was important for the success of the event, Gearhouse also needed to develop an understanding of what the church required and how it could meet those needs. 'I attended some of the church's services so that we would understand even more on the day what they do,' reveals Mr Chaitezvi. 'That gave us vital insight for the event.

'I also got one of the key decision makers to look at what we were doing and be involved with the process so if there was any suggestions for the setup he could ring me and offer advice,' he continues. 'We really gave them the opportunity to contribute.'

With the event a success and the church happy to call on the services of Gearhouse again in the future, Mr Reinecke reflects on what he feels makes for a successful relationship between church and rental company. 'I started off my career in a church many years ago and it can be tricky because you know you're dealing with volunteers who don't always know what they want or need.

Sometimes they have great expectations but struggle to find a company they can trust to deliver this for them efficiently and put their needs above the contractor's own. It's not just about getting the production out there, it's about taking care of the client so you can understand and anticipate what they might require next from you.'

This is good advice for any company working on worship events, and highlights what a house of worship should expect from its external partners.

Story reprinted courtesy Worship AVL magazine , photo courtesy Remember Chaitezvi

May 26, 2016

The Gearhouse Group of Companies