Where to look for Audio-Visual (AV) equipment
Parish Buying Service
The Church of England’s Parish Buying Service has started a new category with suppliers of AV equipment to churches. Parishes can register and log in with Parish Buying to access this opportunity. You can also see the range of other products and services available.
Parish Buying offer four Audio-Visual supplier options to choose from. Each company is unique, and their offerings range from installations of permanent equipment, to easy-to-operate portable equipment that you could set up yourself. You can also access guidance to help find the right Audio-Visual solution for your church.
Other places to look
Parishes might wish to explore a wider range of companies. You can search various online directories to find other firms who work in the churches and/or historic buildings sectors:
Advice to parishes on Audio-Visual Systems
A good Audio-Visual System will be value-for-money, suitable for the needs of the congregation, and installed with appropriate sensitivity to the church building.
Due to the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, parishes looking at the Audio-Visual Systems in their church buildings may now be considering the possibility of how they can live-stream services on the internet or record the services for playback afterwards.
The first step to installing a new Audio-Visual system in your church, or upgrading an existing system, is to know what you want and why.
What should your AV system provide?
You may wish to prepare a ‘client brief’, i.e. a clear but succinct description of your needs and constraints.
This should cover a range of topics:
- What is the building’s layout and how is it used? What are your liturgical patterns, for different kinds of current and potential future worship formats? Are there other potential uses in the future, e.g. for church meetings or events, performances (concerts, theatre, etc), lectures? Therefore, what are the key spatial areas to focus on?
- What do you want from your sound reinforcement system (e.g. speech; recorded/amplified/live music; hearing loop; audio feed for a live-stream or recording)?
- What do you need from your visual system (e.g. including online congregation members in church worship; showing the liturgy or words of hymns/songs; playing films or video-clips; presentations in sermons; live-streaming of services)?
- What equipment do you have installed at present, and will it continue to serve your needs in the future? Can it be adapted or incorporated?
- How can you improve accessibility, for example people with visual and/or hearing impairments?
- What is your approximate budget? Have you investigated whether grant-funding might be available to help you?
- Are you looking at a portable system or a fixed installation?
- Who will operate the system and how will they be trained? How/where will it be controlled? How will the system be kept safe from theft?
When you are ready, get help from a professional adviser who understands both what church congregations need and how to work with church buildings (including historic/listed buildings, if relevant). Some churches may benefit from a consultant’s input, but many churches will find it is appropriate to speak to contractors/installers straight away. Do note however that the specification of each solution may be different, which can make it tricky to do ‘like for like’ comparison of different quotations.
Finally, please remember that works in your church building may require a faculty, whether introducing fixed Audio-Visual equipment, or associated works like installing fixed-line phone and broadband, or improving WiFi coverage. Contact your Archdeacon and the DAC for advice. They may also be able to put you in touch with other churches to find out what has been done elsewhere.