Audio/Visual technology is now one of the top items on the list when new pastors setup churches and in updating established churches. It doesn’t matter the size of the House of Worship (HOW), whether there are 20 members or 20,000, technology is revolutionizing how people engage with each other and consume content. And it’s not just happening on Sundays; many churches are working through the week to produce compelling videos that can help reach the community they serve and generate donations.
Like all businesses, HOW are all about producing quality content as inexpensively as possible, but unlike all businesses, they also have to deal with the realities of the limited capacity of volunteers’ time spent managing the AV workflow when they have their own jobs and businesses to attend to. It is important that whatever hardware and software solutions are adopted, that it be easy and fast for people to learn to use, because quite often volunteers are pulled from the untrained congregation. Members may be intimidated by camera work, directing, editing, projection, sound mixing, etc., but if you are willing to take time out and teach skills and processes, you will find the reliable ones and you just might help someone launch their career in AV!
The five essential elements to a smart AV design for HOW are:
- Ability to easily create multiple types of engaging and timely content
- Ability to distribute content where it needs to be seen
- Serving the community while reaching out to a broader audience
- Creating a flexible, expandable AV system
- And the fifth, of course, is to be able to do all that and still be affordable.
Create multiple types of engaging and timely content
Content being produced by a HOW ranges from announcement and music videos, to still-graphic bulletins, presentation welcoming slides, IMAG (large-scale video projection so those seated far away can see the performers in detail), playbacks, ads, motion backgrounds, podcasts, website, social media and other custom content. One important thing to remember about content creation; it should be engaging but not distracting and taking away from paying attention to the speaker’s message.
Distribute content where it needs to be seen
Once content is ready it needs to be sent out to all the appropriate engagement points. In the sanctuary where services, conferences and large weddings are held, typically there is a large center projector screen with visuals and IMAG, while on the side screens they simulcast lyrics, scriptures, graphics and live cuts. In stadium “mega-churches,” there are typically multiple flat panels or projector screens may be setup as a large video wall above and on both sides of the stage.
Additional places where flat panel displays are typically found include the church lobby, the chapel where funeral services and smaller weddings are held, the fellowship hall where breakfasts, meetings, and workshops are held, overflow rooms where attendees can view the services when the sanctuary is full, classrooms, gymnasium, church library, and outdoors digital signage seen from the street.
Video distribution in HOW typically go over CATx/HDBaseT or Ethernet/IP; possibly fiber. Copper cables are more cost-effective in shorter runs for smaller networks, such as equipment within the same rack or within a 30 meter range. Ethernet/IP is a hot growth area due to its flexibility, products that are easy to install and use, support point-to-point and point-to-multipoint streaming, as well as, distributed matrix switching for small to large configurations. Fiber, on the other hand, is the only sensible choice for long runs, large data needs, and very high speed interconnects, point-to-point.
Serve the community while reaching out to a broader audience
Some HOW’s utilize online audio streaming to create their own online radio station that broadcasts music and worship services, typically using a regular Internet connection for the low-bandwidth streaming. The next step up from there is distributing video to people’s homes. While this can be beneficial to reach people in the community who may not be able to attend services for health reasons and to reach people beyond the community, be aware that there is a downside where people who could attend may not, opting to use streamed services instead.
Churches who want to stream HD and UHD video need a good fiber optic line for both up and down video streams. While there are ways to do it for less, the difficulties associated with poor bandwidth will far outweigh the cost advantages.
Create a flexible, expandable system
A worship AV system that can capture, edit, store and distribute video to all needed end-points can quickly turn into a costly setup. Hardware requirements of a HOW may include: video cameras, projectors, projector screens, interactive whiteboards, indoor digital signage displays, outdoor digital signage, digital signage media player, digital video recorder, lighting fixtures, stage racks, lighting console, sound console, monitor console, monitor hub, microphones, headset mics, handheld audio transmitters, beltpack audio transmitters, wireless audio receivers, speakers, matrix switch, Gigabit Ethernet switch, production switch, reclocking distribution amplifiers, splitters, encoders/decoders, converters, media video-on-demand server, CD/DVD/Blu-ray players, DVD copiers, computers/laptops, converters, and of course, cabling.
Churches also need to invest in software, which may include a professional post-production editing package, a lyric and media presentation package, a digital signage content manager, PowerPoint, mobile apps, an internet broadcasting package, XXXX. Churches that broadcast music and video will also need a CDN (content distribution network) and to consider copyright and royalty payments for copyright owners.
As you can see, a worship AV system can run from several hundred into the millions. In choosing the right equipment and software for a HOW it always comes down to, what is the vision of the church, what sources need to be distributed, how many end-points are required and where, which technologies can help ease the steps involved for volunteers, and what is the overall budget?
Video over IP Encoding/Decoding
Opticomm-EMCORE’s Eclipse HD is a cost-efficient IP video distribution solution perfect for HOW’s. This encoder/decoder system provides visually lossless transmission, processing, switching and routing of HDMI 1.3, 5.1 channel audio, RS-232 data and USB 2.0 HID keyboard/mouse, over a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet network. Eclipse HD allows for connecting and switching any number of HD video sources, up to 1080p/30Hz or 1920×1200. Eclipse HD sends up to 100 meters (328 feet) point-to-point, hundreds of meters point-to-multipoint using copper, or even longer distances by using fiber and stacking Ethernet switches.
Additionally, the Eclipse HD is a fast and easy solution for creating video walls by merging the signals of two or more decoders in the GUI, eliminating the need for expensive video wall processors and software control applications. It provides full cross-point matrix switching capabilities along with remote USB KVM applications.
Alternatively, Opticomm-EMCORE’s HD4 series and HDE / HDD products provide lower bandwidth solutions utilizing H.264/MPEG-4 compression. They produce a professional image quality while operating at lower bandwidth.
The HD4 is an encoder/decoder system for broadcast quality transmission, processing, switching and routing of HDMI 1.4a, analog audio, USB 2.0 HID keyboard/mouse and USB KVM over a dedicated Gigabit Ethernet network. HD4 allows for connecting and switching any number of HD video sources, up to 1080p/60Hz or 1920×1200. Video encoding options include H.264 Baseline, Main and High Profile encoding, as well as unicast or multicast IP streams.
The HDE/HDD is an encoder/decoder system for broadcast quality transmission, processing, switching and routing of HDMI, HD SD-SDI, Component and Composite video, along with AES3 digital audio or stereo analog audio. HDE allows for connecting and switching any number of HD video sources, up to 1080i/60Hz, as well as unicast or multicast IP streams.
Video over CATx/HDBaseT
Opticomm-EMCORE’s GBOX series are a low-cost, throw-down box, 4K (3840×2160/30Hz) distribution solution. The GBX-C-HDMI sends HDMI 1.4b with stereo analog over CATx/HDBaseT point-to-point, or can be connected through the MX-4HDMI-CATX Matrix Switch (4 HDMI sources to 4 remote displays, up to 1080P) or GXD Matrix Switch (up to 8K and beyond) for point-to-multipoint applications.
Video over Fiber
The GBX-F-HDMI-VGA sends HDMI 1.4b, VGA and Component video, with stereo analog over fiber point-to-point, or can be connected through the GXD Matrix Switch (up to 8K and beyond) for point-to-multipoint applications. The fiber SFP+ port handles up to 10 Gbps over multimode fiber up to 300 meters (984 ft.), or singlemode fiber up to 10 km (32,808 ft.).