Technology Spotlight – Grace Fellowship

In Web Articlesby tfwm

By Kae Hester

Grace Fellowship, in York, PA, is in a continual process of developing a culture that glorifies God. images-5-101Our vision is simple; to help people around the world love and pursue God deeply, beginning right here, in York, Pennsylvania. We envision Grace Fellowship being a church with local, regional, national and international impact for the glory of God. We simply want to love and serve Him and one another in ways that really matter in light of eternity.

Part of our vision is to be the smallest large church you’ve ever been part of. This means that we place a high priority on the quality of relationships we have with one another. People matter to God and they matter to us. Since our inception in 1989, we’ve grown not only in size, but also depth, with a thriving community of people who are trying to keep the main thing the main thing – loving God and loving people like never before. Out of the overflow, we are seeing God use us locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, with increasing influence. This influence begins in York during Grace’s two Sunday services at 9:00 and 10:48 a.m. in its 2,000 seat auditorium.

Upgrading Broadcast images-38-110Recently, we made the decision to upgrade our broadcast capabilities at Grace Fellowship. When I first came to Grace, our production team was using an older, antiquated switcher that had been jury-rigged together with connectors and splitters, to meet the needs of our services. The initial switcher was a basic standard definition analogue system with only four inputs, which we had maxed out. From there, several different splitters were being used to switch the signal live, plus there was a second switcher running into the main switcher to increase the number of inputs. This meant we were constantly going back and forth between switchers to pull the video and display scripture. Additionally, we couldn’t do any type of overlays over our IMAG; the entire system was really wacky.

Wants vs Needs

When I started at Grace we looked at our overall wants and needs. It became obvious that not only did we need to make the switch to high definition digital, we also needed to overhaul and simplify the entire workflow of our system. Doing this overhaul would enable volunteers to serve more efficiently and most importantly we would have less technical issues so that God could move without interruption. The best place to start was by finding a new, improved switcher – so that’s where I began my research. images-110-128I quickly came to the conclusion that the best switcher for our needs would be the Blackmagic ATEM Studio 4k, for a variety of reasons. The number one reason was that it would simplify our workflow and give us more than enough input and outputs for our needs. The ATEM enabled us to make the jump to HD, and gave us the ability to more to 4k in the future. Fortunately, the ATEM gives us the ability to grow and expand into the future.

In researching for switchers, I also found a review for Blackmagic Design’s Studio Cameras, written by Ricky Perinchief. (TFWM September 2014 issue). From the review and video he had done, he just struck me as someone who was very knowledgeable, so I called him at NOW Church, and we quickly struck up a relationship. He answered a lot of questions for me, and since he also has his own integration company called Proton Global (which I didn’t know when I first called him), hiring him to help us upgrade our video production at Grace was really a no-brainer.

When we made the switch to the ATEM, we also added three HD Blackmagic Studio cameras as well. They’ve been a great addition to our church, not only because of the quality of the video we are now able to capture, but also because of the way they look. Their great big viewfinders really turned heads with the congregation. In fact, when we started using them, we actually picked up a few new volunteers.

We also added Thunderbolt Ultra Studio 4k, which allows us to now overlay our lyrics on top of our IMAG, and upgraded all our wiring to Canare 3G-SDI cable. As a matter of fact, the entirety of our new video production workflow is all Blackmagic Design gear.

Volunteer-Ready images-153-138Every single piece of equipment in our new system has really allowed our volunteers to instantaneously meet the needs of worship. With just one switcher, there are no more lulls in the service as there used to be when we would move from switcher to switcher. The Thunderbolt Ultra Studio simplifies overlays, making our ability to put lyrics scripture on screen a much easier process. Our new cameras have allowed us to get more creative shots, stay focused on what’s happening on the stage, and keeping our pastor in shot when he’s moving around. The overall quality of the video is just so much better. A bonus is that our volunteers really enjoy the new gear, and feel like we are providing them with the means to do a much better job than they were able to do before, which in turn makes them more passionate and committed to presenting the best worship experience they possibly can.

Upgrading our video production gear has really changed the way our worship is presented, and we will only continue to get better as we add new HD projectors and screens that will enable us to present a true HD experience. We’ve actually put together a wish list of the gear we want. Nevertheless, all our tech purchases are carefully researched and planned out in advance to ensure that everything we add will help us improve how our congregation worships and connects with God.

Kae Hester is the Audio/Video Lead at Grace Fellowship in York, PA.