Dorset Sound & Communications
Sound system design for the 21st Century
The Sound System Operator. The most important factor.
Ultimately, any sound system is only as good as the people operating it. We have found that it is important to determine the technical aptitude of the future operators of any system we install. We want to insure that the system will not be too complex for the operators that will be using it week in and week out. On the other hand we try to make the system flexible to allow growth with experience. As you discover new capabilities your way of doing things will change. You may have never had the ability to play a tape. Now that you can, you may want to incorporate taped instrumental tracks into a choir program.
A consideration to keep in mind is familiarity. As operators use your system they will become familiar with the features of the equipment, become used to watching for cues, become used to normal settings. Their "ear" for the sound and for what constitutes good sound will develop. It is just like a musician or a computer user. What to do in an emergency or when plans change will become second nature. The key is practice. We often recommend practicing at choir rehearsals and Bible studies or with a tape when nobody is around. The worst situation is to throw an inexperienced user into a critical program and expect perfection. It is simply abusive if it can be avoided.
Always consider your available pool of operators. You need to have enough competent operators so that a cold, vacation or transfer will not put you out of business (it is sad to see a huge system and big dreams hinging on one person). Multiple services demand multiple operators. Develop a schedule so the everyone gets to run the system regularly. Remember, familiarity leads to competence. A church with a large system and an active, varied range of programming will require crew of about four people minimum. We suggest recruiting some teens. They do not have set bad habits and they pick up the most complex tasks with ease. It is also a great place to teach responsibility (and maybe even a profession). My parent's church is where I got started as a 16 year old. They need experienced supervision so that your sound system does not devolve into a big "hip-hop" toy or cause damage. Operators must see their job as an opportunity to minister to the congregation. Their ministry is every bit as valid as the music director, the instrumentalist or the choir member. In reality, the effectiveness of the aforementioned ministries may depend on the sound operators’ ministry. Respect your sound man (woman).
Many groups may not need or want to be burdened with the duties of operation. Traditional liturgical style churches are prime candidates. Synagogues often have little more than a maintenance man who can flip the power switch on Shabbat. In such cases the system will be designed as simple as possible (set-and-forget or an automatic mixer) and one or two people will be taught how to turn it on. Remote controls make minor adjustments available. I have designed automatic systems with as many as forty inputs and as few as four. State-of-the-art digital signal processors make automatically regulated operation even more reliable. The DS&C phone number will be close by in case of emergency or malfunction.
Our success and your success are ultimately dependent on your sound operator's success. Initial and ongoing training are integral to the Dorset Sound & Communication philosophy. Please contact us if we can be of assistance.