We do an offsite kids camp every year. While the camp that we attend has sound equipment that we can use, this comes at an extra charge and costs half what simply purchasing the equipment outright would cost. However, we would need to have similar equipment for other off-sites anyway. Therefor, we choose to bring our own equipment and build our system every year rather than using the camp’s.
We have three major sources of requirements for sound at camp: Live praise and worship, skits/teachers, and videos. To meet these requirements, we use an all digital sound system that has been designed for ease of portability and rapid setup.
Our sound system is divided to two locations: Front of house (on the stage with the praise team) and back of house (the sound booth.) These two locations are connected with a CAT-6 cable that runs along the ceiling running AES-50.
Back of house (sound booth)
We use two Macs in the sound booth: one for running slides and videos plus one as a dedicated X32 Mix workstation. Both computers have all the needed software installed so that either machine can serve either or both roles. Depending on what else is going on, we usually have one person at each computer, with one person focused on running video while the other focuses on audio. However, a single person can do both jobs from one computer if necessary.
The heart of the audio system is a (sadly discontinued) Behringer X32 Core. This is a 32 channel 1U digital mixer. It can do everything that the full size X32 can do, except that it fits in my car! We control it entirely with software, both X32-Edit on the Macs and X32-Mix on the iPad.
This mixer is physically connected to two devices: The projection Mac (USB via the mixer’s X-USB card) and a Behringer S16 on the stage (via Cat-6/AES 50). The X32 Core does not have any local inputs or outputs, so all sound in and out must travel through either the S16 or the USB card.
We run our own dedicated network for the sound booth, using a router that we bring (currently an old Apple AirPort Extreme.) The X32 Core must be connected via Ethernet to control it (since it has no local controls.) While the two Macs could connect to the X32 over wifi, X32 Edit performs better over Ethernet, so we prefer it. Depending on the camp’s conditions from year to year, often there is no Internet access on the sound booth Ethernet network.
Front of house (stage)
The S16 on the stage serves two roles: First, all the non-computer sound sources plug in to it. This includes mics, instruments, and the receivers for any wireless mics we brought. Its second role is to receive output from the X32 and send it on to the mains and monitors.
We bring two loudspeakers and a subwoofer to use for our main outputs. These are fed from outs 1-3 on the S16. The number of monitors we use varies from year to year. Those start at output 4 on the S16 and go up from there.
We display all video and slides for the campers using ProPresenter. This is run on a Mac in the sound booth. While the camp we attend has a 100 foot HDMI cable running to the (camp supplied) projector, we have found it to often not work with USB-C driven HDMI ports (whether on Apple’s first-party dongle or an OWC USB-C hub.
Instead, to get video from back of house to the projector, we use a technology called HDBase-T. This is a technology that sends an HDMI signal point-to-point over a CAT-6 cable. There are numerous HDBase-T transmitter and receiver devices on the market. We use this entry level set from Comprehensive (which you can find cheaper from 3rd party vendors.)
We try to avoid streaming as much as possible. Instead, we have a shared Dropbox folder and a dedicated Jam Camp Tech Dropbox account for camp. Ahead of time, team members will stage any media we expect to be played at camp in this Dropbox. Both the computers are logged in to the Jam Camp Tech Dropbox account and are allowed to sync before leaving, so all media that we need should be on both computers before we leave.
We do have Internet access at the camp; it’s just not necessarily fast or reliable. Any media we get at the camp (either due to last minute changes or because it’s produced at camp) is placed in the Dropbox folder so that it can sync, just in case the presenting computer goes down and needs to be swapped out.