Production Intercoms, Part 1

by Curt Taipale

Communication between tech teams and the worship team during a service is important for many churches. Waving arms, hand signals, scribbled signs and smart phone texting have their limitations. A more refined way of communicating is to use what is known in the industry as a “production intercom”.

Such a system is designed specifically to aid voice communication between two persons, or from one person (e.g., worship service coordinator) to many (all members of the tech team, or a specific group within that team).

The basic production intercom system comprises a base station and any number of remote stations. The base station provides the voice communication link and distributes power to each of the remote stations. Each of the remote stations can receive the audio signal from the base station and any of the remotes that are connected to the same “channel”.

Most systems offer two discrete channels, while others can expand to multiple channels. Having multiple channels allows you to establish subgroups – like connecting those involved with the audio team on one channel, those on the video team on another channel, and so on. And whoever is at the base station can talk to all at once or just one group at a time.

Let’s say that you have a team of volunteers in place for the service. You have someone mixing the sound, someone controlling the video graphics, a third person operating the lighting, and maybe you have a “stage manager” ensuring that the musicians know when they need to be on the platform. It could be that your bandleader needs to stay in communication with the team as well. You might even have a service coordinator or director to keep the service organized and flowing, communicating to the rest of the team what’s coming up next and who needs to be made aware of last minute changes, and so on. If your tech team includes camera operators, then it is very likely that they are already using a production intercom system.

That is a lot of people who need to be in communication with each other during the service. And of course there are various ways to provide that two-way communication. The problem is trying to communicate quietly and efficiently, without distracting people around you, while surrounded by (probably) loud music.

If your worship music style does not involve loud music, then you might be able to provide this simple communication through the use of inexpensive two-way radios equipped with earbuds. But the moment the sound level starts to rise, the only practical solution is to invest in a good quality intercom system that is designed for use in such environments. If you have never worked with this kind of system, you will wonder how you ever got along without it.

In fact, if your church is preparing to deliver a dramatic presentation for the upcoming Easter services, this might be the time to seriously consider investing in a production intercom system. In the next issue we will talk about the various options including Party-Line Intercoms, IP-based Intercoms, Wireless Intercoms, and Two-Way Radios as an alternative.

Copyright 2015. Taipale Media Systems, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Originally published in the February 2013 issue of TFWM.

Go here to read Production Intercoms, Part 2.