Piksel Faith: Technology . Video, and Spreading the World
With advances in technology, churches, church services and even the ways sermons are presented have changed dramatically over the last few years. About 10 years ago, First Baptist Orlando, Florida decided to further its mission and use the power of technology to reach a wider audience of followers. This involved using a content delivery network (CDN) to spread the church’s message outside of Florida and, indeed, outside of the US.
However, we discovered PIKSEL FAITH: Technology, Video and Spreading the Word BY DANA MEEKS that dealing with CDN technology ourselves wasn’t as easy as we anticipated, with a number of issues occurring with the stream. As a result, we looked for an external company to help us and this is how we came across Piksel Faith.
Back then, we were new to the streaming video platform arena so were keen to learn as much as we could and scope out our options. By working with Piksel Faith, we discovered exactly what we could do. More than that, when we chose Piksel Faith to be our streaming partner, we did so because it was a faith-based organization that understood our needs, like knowing our need for support over weekends, and the team was so willing to work together with us.
We currently use Piksel’s Digital Enterprise™ platform to stream our sermons to an international audience of more than 2,300 followers, in addition to the 5,000- 7,000 physical visitors to the church. We stream all of our services — that’s four every weekend — to followers across the US, Brazil, Ireland and a few other countries in Europe. More than that, we stream these sermons in English, Portuguese and Spanish, while the English is archived for availability on demand post-event.
Piksel Digital Enterprise
The online video platform is cloud-based, which means it is easy to use, enabling us to upload, manage and share all of our own content. Essentially, what my team and I have in the production area is a robust encoder provided by Piksel Faith. They receive content from the church, via ‑five HD cameras. The signal is switched live within our production center, and the encoder locally encodes the content into the formats needed in order for it to go to different devices, whether that’s a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. From here, it goes up to an Akamai CDN where it is distributed across the world to individual viewers. Thr redundancy offered by the CDN is exceptional and ensures that our message is never interrupted and we rarely, if ever, experience any downtime.
Initially we streamed our sermons in English. Then, about three years ago, we approached the Piksel Faith team about adding languages into the mix.They came back with a solution and quickly implemented it — including upgrading our facilities and so ware here and making our on-site encoder more robust to handle three multiple streams. After this, it was as easy as switching on the system and pressing the buttons.
By offering these additional languages we’re able to reach our followers in their native language, which is really beneficial to us especially after our senior pastor, Dr. David Uth, went on a mission trip to South America.
The ease with which we’re able to do this, plus the responsiveness of Piksel Faith when we suggested adding languages just highlights the wonderful relationship we have with the team. A case in point is the support we receive over the weekend. Five minutes before our first sermon is set to start, I receive an email or a phone call from the support team if they aren’t seeing a transmission. The personalized service and a true understanding of what we’re trying to achieve is really a key differentiator for us.
This of course extends to during the sermons as well — from our equipment on site, to our connection to the Akamai CDN, everything is carefully monitored by the technology and operators at Piksel’s 24/7 Live Support and Monitoring Center. This ensures that the stream is of the right quality, the audio is correct and everything is as it should be.
The service from Piksel Faith also includes viewer support, which means that if they have any issues accessing the content they can call in and speak to live support.
The Viewer Experience
An added benefit for us that is provided by Piksel Digital Enterprise is the analytics and reporting capabilities. Piksel Faith uses both the functionality offered by the platform as well as Google Analytics to feed information back to us about our audience — who is watching, where they are and how long they watch for. Some of these are reported back to us in real time, while we get the more robust data after each streaming event.
The platform also offers us the opportunity to customize the player that followers use to view our content. In this way, First Baptist can really take our brand further. But it’s not just aesthetics that are important; the so ware that the player is built on ensures the quality of the user experience. If a follower experiences broadband or Wi-Fi issues, the player automatically throttles back the signal to make sure that the streaming continues. Once the broadband is back to full strength, the so ware automatically adjusts and the stream returns to normal. Viewers may notice a slight change in quality, but the important thing is that they are able to carry on watching.
The Future of Faith
Along with our efforts to make the most of what technology has to offer us, we’re also working with Piksel Faith on its Streaming Faith website where we will be syndicating our content by continually supplying our edited programs to be included,
Over the last 10 years we’ve been impressed by the technology, the support and the level of collaboration that we’ve experienced with Piksel Faith. As we increase our following and reach a wider international audience, we continue to work closely with Piksel Faith to help us achieve long lasting growth.
DANA MEEKS IS THE AUDIO ENGINEER FOR BROADCAST AND POST PRODUCTION, FIRST BAPTIST ORLANDO.