by Robert Kelm, Family Harvest Church's Media and IT Systems Engineer
When it comes to creating A/V for a house of worship, making sure everything is pitch perfect can be a challenge. Learn three key tips that will help you create the best audio and visual performance to date.
1. Keep it clean.
When designing A/V for Houses of Worship it is important to keep in mind that the works presented are a digital representation of your tenet. When selecting equipment, it is an absolute must that the equipment is simple enough to be utilized by anyone with a modicum of training. Since the end user will normally be an unpaid volunteer who wasn't on-site for the initial install and training, the interface needs to be clean and simple, not complicated and cluttered.
An example is our choice of presentation software. We currently use RenewedVision's ProPresenter 5 http://www.renewedvision.com/propresenter.php for the majority of our videoplayback for it's clean, clear, unobtrusive interface. Training volunteers to point and click on a clean interface ensures that there's no panic when the speaker asks for something out of the pre-programmed presentation.
Our staff has used other presentation software packages in the past, and the interface has progressively become more and more cluttered. Functions that were easy to find with one version became obscured and hidden in a later "update". ProPresenter has progressively added features and enhanced stability without drastic changes to the interface. It was a seamless transition from one version to the next.
2. Know your equipment and budget.
Thanks to advances in technology what was impossible to do 10 years ago can now be done with a laptop and camera. 10 years ago, we were broadcasting a 4 by 3 320 x 240 pixel 15 fps service on the internet. Today, we broadcast "internet HD" 16 x 9 in multiple bit rates and sizes using the same cameras.
How? How did we seamlessly switch internet broadcasting formats from analog SD 4 by 3 to broadcasting digital "internet HD" in 16 x 9? Our predecessor bought cameras wisely. He replaced aged Sony M7's with D35WS cameras with SDI output cards and lenses capable of switching from 4 by 3 to 16 by 9 when the rest of our infrastructure could ingest it.
What cost $350K in 2001 dollars to do would have cost nearly $468K to do in today's dollars. http://www.dollartimes.com/inflation/inflation.php?amount=350000&year=2001
Looking towards the future, we had to make several choices regarding the future and direction of our department:
Do we continue to pour $2,000 down a hole every time we have an equipment issue requiring repairs? Is our infrastructure able to handle higher bandwidth? Do we take the time to identify and isolate the portions of the infrastructure that needs replacement? Do we want to go full HD?
Part of creating an equipment list involved counting the cost like the scripture says: "But don't begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?"
Our own needs were such that we needed to support a mix of BetacamSP & DVCAM archives as well as full HD computer sources and to have a system that could handle those signals, process / scale them to a common format, and do it as cleanly as possible. After a thorough search of the internet, Blackmagic Design was the obvious choice.
We chose Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher, ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel, HyperDeck Studio Pro and HyperDeck Shuttle SSD recorders, two SmartView Duo monitors, SmartView HD monitor, Compact Videohub router for SDI digital routing and a mix of SDI to analog, HDMI to SDI ans analog to SDI Mini Converters and Broadcast Converters from the same vendor and installed the same in a few days while removing obsolete equipment. The cost of upgrading the critical potions of our production system was less than $50,000, and the new components also provided us with several broadcast ready backups of every service for editing & possible use in our television program.
We performed thorough testing of the new equipment and went live with it without telling anyone the start date. The very first service we used the equipment the visuals were so clean and sharp that our volunteers that weren't serving in service asked if we had just gone HD.
3. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask questions - and be willing to answer questions too!
Dustin Blay, FHC’s media department director, is great at networking and contacting other houses of worship and finding people who work on set design, lighting design and asking them the questions of what works and what doesn't. I'm also not afraid to ask for the engineer in charge of "making it work" to ask questions as well. We've also made ourselves available to talk about what we've found that works, which content delivery portals we've used, and what our own experiences have taught us.
If you see a cool looking video, a nice looking set, neat lighting effects, or something that you think would look good, don't be afraid to call or email that house of worship that made it and ask them questions. The only bad question there is, is the one that you don't ask.
When we designed our equipment list, we submitted it to another peer to review it to make sure that the system we were designing would work for us, and the components we selected would work together.
By asking questions of our peers and vendors, we've already mapped out the next two upgrade phases for what we want to do in the main sanctuary. We are also keeping abreast of technology advances so when the budget for the upgrades becomes available, we can purchase new projection systems and screens in preparation for the HD cameras & lenses purchase without having to change our current production infrastructure.