by Tommy Scully
I am lucky enough to be able to visit different churches all around the country on a monthly basis. Resurrection Fellowship (The Rez), located in Loveland, CO, is one of the best facilities I’ve ever been to in regards to their media department and IMAG setup. The Rez’s Pastor Adam Lowry and Joshua Bokelman, Technical and Media Support Tech, were happy to answer some questions about their IMAG setup, the gear they use, and why their volunteer team is integral to their success.
Tommy Scully: Can you describe your current IMAG setup?
Joshua Bokelman: We use two integrated setups; one for broadcast-style recording and web stream, and one for IMAG. The IMAG camera can be used in the recording switcher, and the switched feed from the record system can be sent through the IMAG setup.
TS: Rez uses three PTZ robotic cameras as well as one traditional manned camera. Can you talk a little bit about the process that you use to train volunteers?
JB: PTZ seems less intimidating to many volunteers. Experience with, and exposure to, video game technologies make the process quite natural for a large bulk of our volunteer base. Training is largely observation during normal services, and occasional training nights, and sometimes just in-depth conversations and hands-on during time before or after services.
TS: What factors were involved when deciding what equipment to purchase for IMAG?
JB: We’ve been doing IMAG since we started putting live video on screens in our sanctuary. It was determined very early on that broadcast-switched video was not a good feed for our sanctuary screens, so we adopted using one camera dedicated to a podium-top shot for speaker video onscreen. During worship we continued to use the broadcast-switch feed, allowing for artistic visual presentation to enhance worship. When we upgraded to HD, a high-quality image was important for the dedicated close shot, so we opted for a Sony PMW-350. Budget and quality were the two factors we used in selecting our cameras. For the switching gear, it was budget, consultant recommendations and a lot of research.
TS: Roughly how much did Rez invest financially in the IMAG system you currently have?
Adam Lowry: Our cost-to-date for our current IMAG system is roughly $80,000, which is mainly equipment cost. We purchased in stages as we had the finances to do so, starting with HD cameras that had the ability to work with our SD system, then adding the HD switcher and finally upgrading our projectors.
TS: How hard was it to get your IMAG system setup?
AL: Because we made the choice to piece together our system in a way that we felt would end up saving us tens-of-thousands of dollars, we had an interesting time troubleshooting and finalizing our processes.
For about six months we were adding equipment weekly, which meant our procedures changed weekly as well. This put a strain on both our staff and our volunteers; however, we were lucky enough to keep this contained to our media department and the pastoral staff. More importantly, the church congregation did not feel this stress. As far as they were concerned we were making huge strides in media.
Rez is a church that believes it is very important to remain debt-free, and one of the reasons we were able to make it through this transition without losing any volunteers is because they understood we were being good stewards of our finances by handling the installation process in-house. They knew that this was the only way we could make the jump to HD without going into debt.
TS: If you had to convince your board that it was necessary to begin utilizing IMAG in worship, what would be the top three bullets in your gun?
JB: 1. Reasonably seamless integration into current procedures. Go on long journeys with small steps, both financially and procedurally for your congregation.
2. Quality. Research every option you encounter as much as possible. Don’t jump at a quick-sounding fix; give yourself time to find the correct thing the first time, and do it right. A $15 webcam gives you a picture, a $26,000 Sony gives you video you can be proud of.
3. Benefits. It’s phenomenal to have everyone in the sanctuary see better, but what else does this improve or give us options for? Web stream, in-house video feeds for cry room, selected offices, overflow rooms, and possibilities for an offsite campus are all realities for us.
TS: How have you setup your media/IMAG team to be continually growing and advancing in knowledge?
JB: We try to cross-train staff members and have at least one to two volunteers trained comprehensively on the systems, and also create documents on how to operate everything. It is good to subscribe to technical bulletins for at least the main components of the system; the best way to keep growing is to keep learning. For video that may not necessarily mean doing things different, but keeping an eye on where you are, what you are doing, who you are doing it for, and where the short and long term future will be.
TS: How does your team incorporate creativity and originality in your worship service?
JB: We encourage the exploration of the equipment’s abilities, and development of one’s own skills. Sometimes we watch and discuss other churches and organizations worship recordings and evaluate the merits of different things that are done. We also have found that getting volunteers together to socialize promotes the spread of skills. When we are working during a worship service we try to put skilled directors that are verbally motivated to communicate with less skilled camera people, and we find that often a little bit of encouragement is like watering a flower garden: good things just start blooming. Creativity and motion are probably the two things we encourage most for worship video. For the IMAG times of worship, the clinical closeness of the camera necessity does not leave much room for creativity until the close shot needs to return to music videography, and short brilliances of creativity in transitional periods really make a difference between jumping or flowing between things.
TS: What difference do you notice between the times when you have words with motion backs during worship versus utilizing a video feed with lyric overlays during worship?
AL: We do not use a video feed with lyric overlay in our main services, however, we do provide that service for our online viewers. Before we had the process in place to offer lyrics, we would continually hear that the online viewers felt disconnected from our worship experience. Adding a lower-third lyric operator has allowed our online viewers to enter into worship with the rest of the congregation. We have heard many positive comments about how this helps them to feel like they are worshipping with their family.
TS: How long did the process take to go from concept to a complete system with a 100% volunteer run operation?
JB: For us, it was gradual over many years. We started with TV ministry back in the ’80s, with three staff members and volunteer production crews for the services. As technology advanced, we reached a point where it was merely adding a switch and three feet of wire to add live video to the display systems we were using for computerized lyric display. We improved things gradually until the upgrade to HD, where we re-did everything since none of the old equipment was compatible. So we’ve been volunteer run from the start, walking along with technology for about thirty years.
TS: What’s the difference between documenting an event with cameras and creating an experience with IMAG?
JB: In my opinion, documenting events should never be part of worship. If
you look to cinema, there seems to be a trend to experiential presentation, connecting to the audience on a mental and emotional level. Documenting disconnects the viewer and says, “This is what happened.” Worship, at its nature, is experiential. Creating an experience, whether by IMAG, post-production, or environmental presentation connects us as human beings, not as some disconnected audience. Human beings can live, can love, can connect and care, and can thrive as Jesus encourages us to. And experience is more fun.
You can stream services live at www.rez.org Saturday’s at 5pm and Sunday’s at 8:30 and 10:30 mountain time
To see a complete gearlist from The Rez, click here.
Tommy Scully is the CEO of Scully Media Group, focusing on Church Technology Consultation, Installation, & Education