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Macon Road Baptist Church

Updated: Aug 7, 2019

When the team at Macon Road Baptist Church in Tennessee were planning their new worship and teaching facility, their concept centered on a large and costly stained-glass window and most certainly didn’t involve LED video panels. However, thanks to the input of AV expert Charles Lawing, a last-minute change of plans led to a much more flexible finished project.

Charles Lawing has a long and varied history in audio visual technology. For 36 years he ran a music equipment retail store out of which grew Memphis Sound Lab, the company that has been his focus for the past 13 years. Specializing in churches as well as commercial businesses, Charles has carried out over 600 audio, lighting and video installation projects over the last quarter of a century.

As an existing customer of Memphis Sound Lab, when Macon Road Baptist Church was putting together plans for a large new facility, Charles was a natural choice for the audio, lighting and video requirements. He put together options, designs and costs for a significant audio system and basic stage lighting setup to be installed in the main auditorium that was to be used for Sunday church services as well as for productions staged by the church-run school that is also located on the Campus.

Charles was also asked to quote for a pair of projectors and screens to be installed at either side of a stained glass window that was to fill the central wall behind the stage, however he came up with another idea, “Right from the beginning I told them that there’s a new way of doing video and that’s LED walls. When I explained the benefits, they soon became excited by the idea, but told me that they didn’t have the budget. So, I said why don’t you take the budget from the window and use it to buy the wall. That way if you want a stained-glass window on a Sunday, we can put up a picture of one. And it can be different at Christmas and at Easter! But, to be honest, I really didn’t think they’d go for it!”

The building project went ahead and Memphis Sound Lab installed the audio and lighting system but didn’t hear any more about the video element of the proposal, although – interestingly – the stained-glass window didn’t feature in the final design. Then, just two weeks before the official opening of the new building, his contact at the church came back to Charles to let him know that they’d decided to revisit his suggestion of an LED video wall!

“Two years had passed since I put together the original quote,” explains Charles, “and since then ADJ had released the AV6. I priced the job again and realized that using the AV6 the cost would drop to a third of what it was first going to be and at that moment I thought to myself ‘yes, we can do this!’”

In the end Macon Road Baptist Church purchased 86 AV6 LED panels, 84 to create a huge screen at the front of the auditorium and 2 more to serve as spares. For control, Charles opted for ADJ’s extremely affordable Novastar MCTRL-300 video processor. This takes the video feed from the church’s Pro Presenter setup running on an Apple Mac and sends the signal to the video panels from the control gallery at the back of the room to the stage via a single Cat 5 data cable.

As the team at the church made the decision to invest in the video wall at the last moment, Charles had to work quickly to install it in time for the opening, but there was a potential problem. “As this was a last-minute addition to the project,” he explains, “no thought had been given during the planning phase to how it would be installed. It weighs more than 2000 lbs. so I was concerned about what we were going to hang it from. But I think God was at work as when we lifted the ceiling tiles we found a structural I-beam located exactly above where we wanted to hang the screen!”

With the help of local installation specialists Wyatt Audio, Charles was able to hang the screen using thin wire cables attached directly to the I-beam. This means that the screen appears to be floating in mid-air as the wires are hardly visible when the house lights are down and the stage lights are on.

When everything was ready, the actual installation went extremely smoothly, as Charles explains, “It was really easy to put together the screen. Slotting together and locking the individual panels in place was simple and everything worked perfectly the first time we switched it on. It has also made a big impact on the church services. I was there the first Sunday operating it and there was one prayer time during the service when everyone’s heads were bowed and I called up a moving picture on the screen. It was of a mountain stream, with leaves blowing in the trees and a beautiful sky behind it. When they finished praying and lifted their heads, I heard gasps from across the congregation as they saw it!”

Not only is the video wall making a difference to the church’s services, but it’s also proving useful for the school. It has already been used for various purposes, including to display scenery for plays. The feedback from the church staff has been overwhelmingly positive, especially since – due to the affordability of the ADJ AV6 panel – the cost of the LED screen was significantly less than the planned stained-glass window.

“Even if you buy a very expensive projector, you don’t have the contrast and impact of a video wall. A lot of people may consider it, but not really understand the impact, brightness and beauty of LED wall unless they actually see an installation like this for themselves. In fact I took a call from a representative from another church who saw this screen in action and wants one for their sanctuary! Video walls are usually a big expense, but with ADJ it’s now possible to get a high resolution and great quality system at an affordable price!”

If the Macon Road Baptist Church staff had followed their original plan and installed a stained-glass window, they’d have a beautiful backdrop to their sanctuary. However, by running with Charles’ idea they now have something much more flexible. Their screen is able to provide an endless variety of eye-catching and thought-provoking imagery as well as serving practical uses such as displaying song words, bible readings and sermon visuals. Perhaps LED video walls are the stained-glass windows of the 21st century?

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