Purposely designed to meet modern convention center standards, the Hillsong Church complex in Sydney, Australia, is a marked contrast to the architecture of traditional cathedrals, combining 21st-century design and functional facilities.

With a current congregation of over 14,000 people, Hillsong Church is considered to be Australia's largest church, and its consistent growth over the years created the need for a larger building to house the crowds of churchgoers every weekend. Besides the 3,500-seat auditorium, it includes a large youth meeting hall, nine lecture theatres, Sunday school rooms and play areas, as well as a children's daycare center. The new auditorium has the ability to broadcast high-quality shows and services with outstanding acoustics, lighting, audiovisual, and data cabling.

The complex boasts a $4 million sound and lighting installation supplied and installed by Lots of Watts of Sydney. Lots of Watts engaged Texas-based consultant Craig Janssen from Acoustic Dimensions to assist in the project. The system at Hillsong is one of the first entirely digital audio systems to be installed in Australia. The digital processing of the audio handles the processing and routing not only for the main speaker system but also for all the ancillary meeting rooms and lecture halls, and interfacing with the other control systems throughout the church.

A split-cluster EAW KF760 line array loudspeaker system was designed to support full-scale concerts. Six boxes are installed on either side consisting of two KF760Ps on top with four KF761Ps beneath them. EAW MQ Series boxes are used for side fill while 13 more are used for delay in the auditorium.

The auditorium can be divided into nine lecture rooms and each of these areas is serviced by a total of 20 EAW MK Series speakers. On the weekend the walls open to make one large auditorium and the MK speakers automatically become integrated into the main PA. Optical sensors make this an automatic function.

Crown IQ amplifiers, with local DSP in each amplifier to service both the amplifier and the speaker it's driving, were used, enabling the operators to monitor all amplifier statistics on computer. All of the audio is routed through a Peavey Media Matrix system. Three Yamaha PM1D digital consoles were chosen — one each for FOH, monitors, and broadcast — with three separate engines.

“The engines are located in the patch room which means that all the audio is together in one room and you're not routing out to FOH and back again,” explained David Watson, Hillsong's production manager. “The main reason we invested in a digital console was its ability to recall settings easily. We can hire out the venue to a rock band and with a couple of hours notice we can recall back to a church mode at the press of a button. For us, consistency is very important.”

Two Soundcraft MH4 40-channel consoles were also purchased for the existing church and the new youth hall that also has a new Soundcraft SM20 monitor console. “The fact that the church has a wireless computer network in all of the venues gives me the ability to adjust the consoles remotely with a Compaq tablet,” added Watson. “It's really cool for doing monitors; I can stand onstage and make any adjustments necessary. I use it all the time for tweaking.”

Hillsong's resident lighting designer Ian Anderson acted as the lighting consultant while the new premises was under construction, and his main consideration was the height of the ceiling, with the distance between the floor and the bars being nearly 40'. Anderson was also looking for a flexible lighting system due to the range of productions held by the church. Consequently, for moving lights Anderson choose 10 Martin MAC 2000s, two MAC 2000 Performances, eight Vari*Lite® VL2402s, and eight VL1000TSs.

“I chose the MAC 2000P specifically for image projection while the MAC 2000s were chosen for stage work,” says Anderson. “They've basically taken the place of PAR cans and profiles; there are no generic fixtures used any more for color or projection. I looked at quite a few moving lights before purchasing the MAC 2000, which was definitely the brightest profile on the market. The quality of the image that they produce is very clean and crisp. I think the VL2402 is the best wash light available, mainly due to its optics and range of colors. The VL1000s were chosen because we do so many television productions and they're also useful for the short 10-minute productions we schedule into services.”

Selecon supplied the bulk of the generic lighting including Arena 2.5kW PCs and fresnels, 1,200W PCs, Auroras, Pacifics, and cyc units. Added to that are ETC Source Four PARs and PARnels as well as 10 DeSisti 5kW fresnels. “I'm a big fan of Selecon, and all our venues have their lights,” said Anderson. “The Pacific is the best profile on the market.”

For auditorium control, Anderson opted for an MA Lighting grandMA, describing the fact that it has many more faders than most moving-light consoles on the market as a big plus. “It's very easy to get around, as all the information is there in front of you,” Anderson says. “We have several operators in the church as well as a lot of college students that use the desk and, although they are not professionals, they've had no problem using the grandMA. I find that after half an hour of tuition they know their way around the desk. This was one of my biggest concerns in the first place — putting in such an intelligent console — but the transition period has been very good.”

Anderson uses all four outputs of the console; the first two are full of dimmer racks and the other two are dedicated to the moving lights. Although the first stream services 496 channels of dimmers, Anderson finds accessing individual dimmers very easy with the grandMA. Dimmers are all LSC ePROs, with 456 channels of 2,500W and 60 channels of 5,000W. Added to this are two LSC five-way Data Splits. The electrical contractors for the building project, Wilcon Electrical, installed the dimmers.

A Pathway Connectivity Pathport DMX distribution system, installed by Sydney company The PA People, gives Anderson four input nodes to supply eight streams of DMX into the Ethernet system as well as 24 output nodes scattered around the building. “I was a little nervous about the whole Ethernet-based system but it hasn't failed at all,” says Anderson. “We're hoping to have the grandMA talking to the Pathport via its Ethernet soon, which should be cool.”

The smaller 800-seat venue built in the basement of the convention center is used for youth activities, and for this Anderson chose four Martin MAC 250s and four MAC 300 fixtures as well as more Selecon fixtures. A Jands Hog 1000 was chosen for control.

The front columns of the church exterior are illuminated by 12 Artistic Licence LED fixtures that are mounted inside the columns. “These are controlled by a Martin LightCorder that has a whole bunch of different programs programmed into it and it just keeps running,” says Anderson. “It's a great device.” Chosen for their color range and brightness were four Studio Due 2,500W CityColors to light the outside of the building on special occasions. Alternatively, they can be used inside the building for color-washing the roof.

The stage in Hillsong's main auditorium incorporates one of the largest projection screens ever built in Australia, flanked by two smaller screens. Anderson was also project manager for the audiovisual components of the installation, carried out by Global Television. “It's full serial digital from the camera chains right through the system up to the two Digital Projection SX28 projectors that are suspended from the roof,” Anderson says. “At 16,000 lumens each, the projectors are very bight. The projection is based around a 48 by 48 digital routing switcher and a 32 by 30 delay analog routing switcher.” The broadcast room has a Media 100 edit suite and a 64-input Grass Valley vision mixer as well as tape machines ranging from digital Betacam to VHS.

There are 40 televisions around the building that are all controlled by an AMX system installed by The PA People. Each television is set up to take in-house feeds as well as digital signals from the commercial networks. The AMX system also controls features such as curtains opening and the raising and lowering of video screens. The nine lecture rooms each have a Hitachi projector and a screen also controlled by the AMX.

The communication system is a Clear-Com Matrix Plus that was necessary as the church uses up to 100 radios every weekend. Anderson designed the system. “We've done several satellite links to our city facility, of which we use the phone lines for production communications between the two buildings,” said Anderson. “We have standard headsets and substations that can plug into the points that are all around the building.”

In the words of the architect Ridley Smith (of NBRS & partners), the new Hillsong Church Convention Center is one of the most significant buildings for the Christian Church in Australia since the construction of Sydney's St Mary's Cathedral in the late 1880s.

Catriona Strom-Forcer can be contacted at cat@catstrom.com.

The main auditorium can be divided into nine lecture rooms, served by EAW speakers and a mix of Martin and Vari-Lite automated lights and Selecon, DeSisti, and ETC theatrical units. The church exterior is lit with Artistic Licence LED units and Studio Due CityColors.

Hillsong has a wireless computer network, giving the production manager the ability to adjust consoles remotely with a PDA. The complex also has a Pathway Connectivity Pathport DMX distribution system. Lighting is controlled by a grandMA console; the dimmers are all LSC ePROs. The main auditorium has one of the largest projection screens ever built in Australia, and the church uses up to 100 radios every weekend.