Photo above (L-R): FBCW Technical Director Joel Hilsden, Lead Production Director Josh Belokonky, and Audio Associate Nick McClure at the church’s DiGiCo Quantum338 monitor mixing console equipped with a new DMI-KLANG module
First Baptist Church Woodstock (FBCW) is no stranger to major undertakings. Spanning three centuries, the church’s current 16,000-member congregation worship in a 7,500-seat worship center in its 435,000-square-foot building on an 80-acre campus in the North Georgia town of Woodstock twice each Sunday. Last year, FBCW notably became the site of the world’s largest permanent installation of L-ISA immersive sound technology, which is paired with DiGiCo Quantum338 consoles at front of house and monitors. Now, the church has embraced immersive mixing in the house and in the ears with its December addition of a DMI–KLANG module, supplied by the church’s integration partner, Diversified.
FBCW’s monitoring landscape is certainly an ambitious one. Every Sunday, there are two completely distinct worship experiences. The first, starting at 9:30am, is choir-driven with a sizable individually mic’d front line backed by a full band and orchestra. After the conclusion of that service, a second 11:00am service begins that is band-driven with a completely different set of songs, musicians, and vocalists.
Nick Geiger, Account Executive, Worship Environments at Diversified, says the move into immersive sound for FBCW’s stage monitoring came about as part of the same conversation that saw the immersive audio move with the PA. “With so many unique audio sources, the need to expand the sound field to hear more distinction between the different voices and instruments is critically important. It was also equally important to maintain the high audio fidelity that the musicians have gotten used to having.” He goes on to say, “With the native integration of the KLANG into their DiGiCo workflow, the changeover was simple and immediately effective.”
According to Geiger, KLANG also brought a practical solution to FBCW’s unique stage monitoring needs. “With the limited time each week to flip the stage, moving 16 of the monitor mixes to KLANG, where those musicians can adjust their own ears without the assistance of a monitor engineer, freed up time for the monitor engineer to focus on the mixes that are sourced from the monitor console. The overall efficiency of getting the stage monitors dialed in has increased tremendously with this change.”
“The church’s monitoring needs are on a scale I haven’t encountered anywhere else,” says Joel Hilsden, FBCW’s Technical Director and the church’s regular monitor engineer. Hilsden is one of three full-time audio professionals on staff there. “Basically, monitoring for the choir is like a FOH mix, with active changes as the music dictates, tailored for the choir’s needs. The monitors themselves are a line-array system hung above the loft for the 150-plus singers each Sunday.”
Each of the two worship services requires up to 20 unique IEM mixes. That’s up to 40 distinct mixes handled by a single engineer each Sunday. Beyond that, vocalists and band are on a rotating schedule, rarely appearing on back-to-back Sundays in either service. The audio team has been utilizing every tool available to provide the kind of consistency that one might expect from a fixed cast or touring band.
“With limited rehearsal time, preparing the monitor console for rehearsals and services is its own challenge,” says Hilsden. “There simply isn’t time to build every mix on the fly from a generic start file. We have always relied heavily on the console’s mix presets to be sure we’re beginning each rehearsal with a familiar personalized starting point for every IEM mix on stage. With our 11:00 band rehearsing mid-week, it’s mission critical that the console recalls everything precisely across all inputs and outputs during our 15-minute set change.”
Hilsden describes the introduction of the DMI–KLANG into their weekly routine as “completely seamless. We thought we’d be adding complexity to our workflow, but since the console is able to store and recall KLANG settings in its mix presets and snapshot system, it functions like part of the console, not an added piece of outboard gear.”
The backline musicians each use an iPad running KLANG:app. For vocalists, the stage manager has a wireless pack assigned to KLANG’s cue output. He walks the stage during rehearsals with the iPad in show mode with cue-link enabled, assisting the 12 vocalists one by one with their IEM mix. “We trust our musicians and stage manager to be able to handle mix changes independently of the engineer, and KLANG gives them full control to do just that. If anyone is struggling, the engineer can quickly step in to help. It’s remarkably efficient.” says Hilsden. “The band talkback microphones, previously dominated by mix change requests, are now just a way for the band to talk to each other about music, rather than mix requests to the engineer.”
“Prior to having KLANG in our setup, we had to pause rehearsals for several minutes at a time to request mix changes,” adds Cliff Duren, FBCW’s Worship Pastor. “Now we’re able to give our full attention to music. The band has full control and the vocal team has access to our stage manager to discretely and quickly get their mixes right without pulling focus or interrupting the flow of rehearsal.”
Beyond personalized control, the benefits of KLANG’s immersive audio engine aren’t lost on the music team. “I’ve been amazed at how much more detail I’m able to hear throughout my mix,” says Trey Tanner, Instrumental Pastor and band/orchestra director for 9:30 worship. “The majority of our Sunday worship involves a choir, full orchestra, worship team, band and soloists. The KLANG system has completely opened up the box and allowed me to place things so specifically that I no longer have to pick and choose what certain things I want to focus on. I can pay attention to everything, all while having a super clear and enjoyable mix.”
“I realized how special it was when I finished building my mix in 3D, went back to the stereo mix I was used to hearing, and wow,” remarks Jake Holman, Lead Director of Music for the 11:00 service. “It’s a night and day difference. So much more clarity! I can finally hear it all, and it sounds so good.”
FBCW’s DMI–KLANG is installed in one of Quantum338’s two DMI slots, connected to an Apple desktop running KLANG software, which is securely hard-wired to the console for Console-Link, connecting to multiple iPads onstage over Wi-Fi.
Holman adds, “The KLANG system required virtually zero training for the band because its operation is so intuitive,” he says. “And everyone has taken to the binaural immersive aspect of it. In fact, we’ve tried giving vocalists the option of setting their own voice centered in the stereo space, where you might assume a singer would prefer to hear themselves, but the overwhelming response has been that it ‘sounds more natural’ in the binaural 3D space centered in front.”
“Overall, what KLANG has done for everyone onstage is to make our rehearsals more efficient while also delivering a clearer, richer, more personalized monitor mix for our band and vocalists,” Hilsden concludes. “There’s a clarity to the sound that can’t be achieved with traditional left-right panning. It really has changed everything for the better! There’s nothing else like it on the market.”
For more info on First Baptist Church Woodstock, visit www.fbcw.org. Diversified can be found online at www.onediversified.com.