Gateway Church Ups Productions With All-DiGiCo Console Infrastructure

They do things big in Texas, and Gateway Church is no exception. Founded in 2000 by Pastor Robert Morris, Gateway is a Bible-based, evangelistic church that has experienced unprecedented growth over the past two decades. Today, with eight campuses around the state and another in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Gateway meets as one church in many locations with more than 30,000 people attending each weekend, and it plans on continuing to open several more locations in the coming year.

The church’s technology ministry sought strategies to manage its AV at this scale, and a key element has been the decision to use DiGiCo audio consoles in every location, offering a consistent user interface to the world’s best digital audio technology for its small army of staff and volunteer technicians and engineers. As part of that same strategy, Gateway’s 4,000-seat broadcast location in Southlake updated all three of its DiGiCo SD7 consoles — used at front of house, monitors, and broadcast — with the latest Quantum engine upgrade.

Quantum7, developed with seventh-generation FPGA devices that further expand audio processing power, offers DiGiCo users an unrivaled amount of additional power and flexibility. The upgrades were purposely timed to prepare for Gateway Church’s three major annual events: The Gateway Conference in October; and two Christmas stage productions — Christmas City, USA, a holiday musical (performances of which were simulcast to all Gateway campuses during weekend services), and Candlelight Christmas Service the weekend before Christmas.

“We typically plan out our strategic upgrades to be done by summer, because we know we have the events coming up in the fall and close to Christmas,” says Brandon Conn, Senior Audio Specialist, Live Production. “We actually began the upgrade process with Quantum7 in February and just had the latest firmware added in September.” And the difference in performance, he says, has been nothing short of amazing.

“With the new Stadius 32-bit Mic Pre-Amps, the vocal clarity has improved dramatically, and it was very good before the Quantum7 upgrade,” he notes. “The worship pastor’s vocal presence is so transparent, it’s as though you’re standing right next to the source.” That, adds Conn, has very practical benefits, as well. “It’s a real improvement in dynamic range on the microphones with the extra bits, so we find that we don’t have to push the pre-amps as much to achieve intelligibility, and that in turn helps with gain structure.” Conn adds that all consoles share the Gain Tracking feature during events, which assures each has plenty of headroom and automatically optimizes trim. They also allow all monitor engineers to manage gain during the rehearsals.

Among the Quantum7 features they’ve applied so far is Nodal Processing, which applies processing to any node on the auxiliary section of the console, allowing engineers to send unique processing on each send from a single or multiple channels, affording a level of creativity that allows users to tailor and deliver dedicated mixes that were simply not possible before Quantum7. “Our monitor engineers especially like the Nodal Processing feature for how it lets them customize the mix for each group of musicians,” he says.

Another feature, part of the latest update to Quantum7 in 2019, is Mustard, a new set of algorithms and options for channel strip processing that offer enhanced flexibility and choice, and make full use of the Quantum engine’s new seventh-generation FPGA infrastructure. The Mustard channel can be used in conjunction with the standard SD processing to add pre-amp, filters, EQ, gate and a selection of compressor types to any existing channel strip. “We’ve had that in place for the last two months and it’s been cool to insert it on vocal channels, where it really warms up the vocals,” he says. “You really do notice the change in tone with Mustard.”

Conn also points out that the layout flexibility of the consoles are perfectly matched for churches that combine staff and volunteer mixers. “We set up a standardized workflow for all the consoles, which helps us maintain consistency for the staff and volunteers,” he explains.

Gateway Church has a DiGiCo SD7, SD8, SD9, or SD10 in every main auditorium, and in all of its eight locations where kids worship services happen there are SD9, SD11, or S21 consoles. “Having a consistent work surface everywhere means our engineers can fill in at any location at any time,” says Conn. “It’s an easy work surface to understand and learn, and most of our operators are flying solo within three or four weeks after training. We’ve standardized to DiGiCo, and it’s been a good decision.”