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MILO Lends Intimacy to Arena Christmas Service
When Northland, a Church Distributed, decided to gather the entire church family – along with a few thousand guests – for a cozy Christmas Eve service, the only nearby venue able to accommodate everybody was the 17,000-seat TD Waterhouse Centre. Best known as home court of the NBA's Orlando Magic, the vast arena was visually "shrunk" into a workably intimate worship space by presenting the program in the round and employing video screens for image magnification. For a sense of closeness in music and spoken word presentations, audio reinforcement was entrusted to a Meyer Sound system based on 88 MILO-family high-power curvilinear array loudspeakers.
Since the church had scant experience in large-scale systems, the production team called on veteran FOH mixer and sound designer Steve McCale to plot the audio requirements. McCale had designed the system for Shania Twain's recent in-the-round arena tour, and his Northland Christmas system utilized the same underlying concept of eight line arrays spaced around the arena bowl. Although McCale specified coverage requirements and power levels, line array makes and models were left open to allow bidding. In evaluating the offers, the church production team tilted toward a Meyer Sound solution, based on experience with systems in the church's own facilities and with a prior arena gathering in 1996.
"Although I had not used the MILOs, I knew that the church had a strong preference for the Meyers," says McCale, "and I felt comfortable with their decision. At the end of the day, I was very pleased. The system went up fast, tuned up beautifully, and did a fabulous job for the event. I was quite impressed."
Equally pleased was Todd Herrbach, a senior audio engineer for the church, who says that the transparent sound of the MILOs helped shrink the perceived size of the venue. "From where I was mixing, it didn't feel like I was in a huge space. I had comments from several people who said it sounded like they were inside a theatre, not an arena."
The bulk of the system was supplied by Blackhawk Audio of Goodlettsville, Tennessee. Blackhawk's Rick Shimer handled the logistics of executing McCale's design, including array configuration using Meyer Sound MAPP Online Professional acoustical prediction software and final system optimization with a SIM 3 audio analyzer. All Meyer Sound cabinets came from Blackhawk's own inventory, except for 28 sub-rentals (24 MILO and four MILO 120 expanded coverage cabinets) from Show Systems of Orlando.
Each of the eight flown arrays comprised nine MILO units with two underhung MILO 120 cabinets to cover front seating areas. A dozen UPA-1P compact wide coverage loudspeakers were deployed as near fills, and twelve UM-1P narrow coverage stage monitors supplemented in-ear systems. Deep bass power came from 16 700-HP ultrahigh-power subwoofers in four flown arrays of four cabinets each, plus eight more 700-HPs positioned on the floor.
With a 5 AM load-in and eight arrays to fly and fire up before an afternoon rehearsal the same day, Blackhawk's Shimer was thankful for the ease of QuickFly rigging and the simplicity of Meyer Sound's self-powered systems.
"We had less than five hours to get everything in the air," recalls Shimer, "so the rigging had to work smoothly. Originally we had scheduled time for tuning before rehearsals, but that went out the window when the electrical service was late. Basically, we just turned the system on and went straight into rehearsal. We did some tuning afterwards that night, and the fact that MAPP Online Pro worked as well as it did certainly made my life a whole lot easier."
To handle the complexity of the production — a 10-piece band, 15 praise singers and a 50-voice choir, plus several speakers — the consoles of choice were Yamaha PM-1Ds for both FOH and monitor duties. Todd Herrbach mixed FOH, with Greg Weiss taking charge of 20-plus in-ear and wedge monitor mixes. All the RF equipment (primarily Sennheiser 5000 Series) was supplied separately by Professional Wireless of Orlando, with technician Jason Eskew corralling frequencies for 24 microphone and 16 in-ear channels.
Following the Christmas Eve gathering, the Northland family resumed its regular Sunday schedule of multiple, concurrent worship services conducted at several different – and much smaller – locations in the Orlando area. For sonic consistency, Meyer Sound systems are used for most of these regular services as well.
"We've never had a reason to look elsewhere," says Herrbach. "Meyer Sound has provided a solution in every building we've used. We trusted Blackhawk Audio with the arena system, and it worked out perfectly. The MILOs performed flawlessly."