Convinced that broadcast technology doesn’t apply to you because you aren’t on your local TV station? Keep reading, and you might find out it’s exactly what you need.
The traditional watch-TV-with-the-kids-on-the-couch broadcast is just one aspect of the broadcasting matrix, and probably not applicable for most churches. There are of course many cases of churches broadcasting locally over-the-air and/or on cable access channels (nationally in the case of mega churches). Worship facilities with a hand in broadcasting are undoubtedly following the broadcast workflow model to some extent, whether in low-power analog, standard-definition digital or high-definition.
A growing number of churches are also utilizing broadcast technology without any intention of being on TV. This is because the production of content for large image-magnification screens, streaming webcasts, cross-town or cross-venue video networking, or general archiving requires the same broadcast technologies and workflow as broadcast television. A better understanding of broadcast equipment, sources, routing, display, and transmission will help you maximize the effectiveness of your workflow regardless of your application.
It all starts with the video sources. The camera is the primary acquisition tool of the broadcaster, and the platform that converts the picture into an electronic signal. Cameras vary in all shapes, sizes, and functionality to best match the application. To acquire a wide shot of the stage, a studio configuration setup requires a tripod, camera body, and proper lens, with rear controls and a viewfinder. Don’t forget to provide a stool for the camera operator!
In contrast, to get the shot of the baptistery, consider an inconspicuous, motorized, Pan-Tilt-Zoom camera that can be remotely controlled. For a close up shot from the stage, picking a handheld camera that allows an operator to roam around is the way to go. It’s important to select the right capture equipment for the application and use.
Sources don’t stop with cameras; other examples include video-playback decks, DVD players, file-based video clip servers or PC software that plays back video files. The graphics computer serves as another source. Presentation software or a web page can also serve as a video source for a special event.
Imagine talking to your missionary in Asia via web camera on Sundays.
All those video signals go somewhere, and in broadcast it’s handled by routing technology. This technology takes in all your sources, and then distributes the signals to an assigned destination. The video switcher and the router itself sit at the core of the routing process. The switcher takes in all the cameras and allows for transitions like cuts and dissolves, compositing titles and graphics on screen, while managing the outputs. Source signals can be directed to any destination when coupled with a routing device.
The record device is one signal destination. This is traditionally in the form of a tape deck, although these have mostly been replaced by hard drives, or servers, in today’s broadcast environment. The record device captures the switcher’s output to a file format or hard drive. It is helpful to carefully consider how the content will be disseminated because the record device will need to support the house codecs and file types, whether for a webcast or the local TV station.
The display category is another destination. Examples of display technology in the control room include video monitors or multiviewers. These allow the operator to see the live video signals (cameras, video playback, switcher outputs), projectors in the auditorium and screens in the lobby. Content on each device can be from a different video signal when channeled through a routing system, so that content on plasmas in the lobby might be different from content on the projectors in the auditorium. Other displays on campus, like TVs in the nursery, may provide a view of the auditorium stage. Other considerations include confidence monitors for stage artists to view song lyrics. All of these displays can be managed through the broadcast infrastructure.
There are a number of significant elements outside of the broadcast video workflow that must be addressed. An intercom system is crucial for directing camera operators. Plenty of hard-wired and IP-based intercom systems exist on the market for facility communications in the broadcast environment.
Lighting might be the most overlooked element of proper video capture. Have you ever wondered why some things on camera look like an awards show and other things look like a city council meeting on cable access? More often than not it’s the lighting as opposed to the video gear. Bad lighting can tank the entire video signal, while good lighting can make inferior cameras look stellar.
Terminal gear is sometimes overlooked but is absolutely critical to signal integrity, and should be part of any broadcast budget. There are an inordinate number of widgets and gizmos to make video magic happen. These include converters to interface presentation graphics to the video switcher, distribution amplifiers for signal distribution, frame sync generators to time video signals, and many possibilities tied to audio processing.
Video without sound is called surveillance; think ahead about how the event audio is eventually coupled with the video signal. An increasing number of options exist to simplify audio processing within the routing platform instead of as a separate function.
Video test and measurement devices verify signal integrity. This includes confirming that the colors are accurate and that the viewer sees the same image being recorded or transmitted. Support equipment like video monitors, patchbays and utility router lead a long list of ancillary devices that helps to connect everything in the workflow.
In a true broadcast model, the video will eventually leave the worship facility after passing through the various workflow stages. Following the traditional, local over-the-air broadcast model, the first stage of the transmission process is to transport the video signal to the TV station, usually via a microwave or line-of-sight link. Hundreds of churches around the US have a microwave transmitter mounted in the bell tower that beams the signal to the local TV station consistently every week. From there, the local TV station beams the signal over the air to TV sets around the market. A local telco or cable company may also pick up the signal for airing over a local access channel.
The role of transmission varies greatly in the new media model. A Cat-5 video overflow signal may connect to the other side of campus so the pastor can see the auditorium in his office. Public IP connections are ideal for networking video to a venue across town or to a worship campus in a different city, as well as establishing a live or archived web stream. Leased lines from a telco provide can enable a simulcast service to another auditorium. Satellite allows the sending or receiving of video to and from a campus in another state. Transmission of the signal today describes how content is delivered to an audience, whether they are in the same physical room, at a distant location or online.
So how do you get started in this broadcast world? Here’s a recommendation: watch TV and take notes. Look at live television events like the news, sports, awards shows, telethons and make notes about what you like and don’t like. Identify the camera shots that compel you to keep watching, and identify the best transitions and the graphics that pop on the screen.
Once this list is in order, find a strategic partner to help process through the resources, gear, and personnel it takes to make those things appear on the screen. Find a consultant to assist in the process, or call a local TV station’s chief engineer to request a site visit. Perhaps help pull cable at the next local telethon in your community.
Most importantly, cultivate a great team and dream and invest with them. Tell them your dreams for broadcast, set goals with them, train them and invest in knowledge. This may include a future transition to HD, which requires another layer of planning and strategy to gradually convert from an analog or SD format.
by Dan Stark
When you’re looking at building a broadcasting system, or any type of video system update, before you embark upon doing this, your team needs to take the time to figure out your short term, mid-term and long term technical goals. You want to be able to design a system that takes care of what you are trying to do overall, or to build a good foundation to ultimately get where you want to be.
Leadership needs to sit down and do some soul searching with the people who are going to be running the equipment. Everyone needs to be on the same page to determine what it is they are trying to accomplish. The entire team needs to think about what they want to achieve in a long term fashion, rather than only concentrating on the immediate project.
Do some Futurecasting
You want to end up installing a system that meets your required goals and also has growth capability. Or, you may want to develop a plan for a system that can be built upon, in stages. You really need to figure out what that long term goal is so you can build that technical footprint, then use that as a road map.
Another integral piece of the puzzle is knowing who the volunteer and technical staff are that are going to be running your equipment. The goal is to design a system that can be successfully operated by those people.
It’s really easy to build a very sophisticated system that can do a whole lot of stuff. If the staff can’t operate it successfully, it’s just a bunch of expensive boxes all wired together.
The skill level of the people will determine how the technology is used. If you have a rudimentary technical staff that doesn’t have a lot of technical chops, they need an easier system to use.
Bottom line: don’t go into the planning stages of this with your eyes half-open. This is a serious investment. You want to do it as well as you can.
Dan Stark has over 28 years experience designing, installing, maintaining and utilizing state-of-the-art production facilities. Stark Raving Solutions is a systems integration firm that provides consulting, design, installation and training for broadcast video, audio, AV and lighting, specializing in houses of worship.