Expanding to Satellite Congregations, Part 1

Sometimes the only option for expansion of a growing church is to reach out electronically to satellite congregations at a distance. 3/06/2010 5:57 AM Eastern

Expanding to Satellite Congregations, Part 1

Mar 6, 2010 10:57 AM, By Bennett Liles

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Sometimes the only option for expansion of a growing church is to reach out electronically to satellite congregations at a distance, and for the Highlands Community Church in Renton, Wash., that was the way to go. They called on Advanced Broadcast Solutions, and Mark Siegel is here to give us the details on how they made it all happen.

Mark, it’s great to have with me again on the House of Worship AV podcast and Advanced Broadcast Solutions did a complete renovation and upgrade of the production facilities at Highland Community Church in Renton, Wash., with PTZ cameras, lighting, and a whole control room for the church.
Mark Seigel: That is correct. We took a church that had been around for a number of years, and they decided that they wanted to address their congregation in a new way, utilizing technology to appeal the future congregation, which was youth, and it’s much easier to communicate with them via technology, so they started doing IMAG and they started doing web streaming and the connecting remote campuses. [Timestamp: 1:32]

And of course that’s a challenge just doing it in one location let alone conveying the services to satellite congregations, but just in case someone missed the podcast when you were on last time, what does Advanced Broadcast Solutions do and how did you come to be involved in this installation job?
Well, Advanced Broadcast Solutions is a systems solutions house based in Seattle, Wash. What I mean by systems solution house is we do systems design, integration, procurement, deployment, and training of audio/video-based systems. We got involved in this project [because] the manager of the communications department was at another church that we had done about a year and a half ago, Calvary Church, and he had moved over and had to deploy a technology solution very quick and called upon us. Obviously, broadening broadcast, an emerging market, is the house of worship market where they do use a lot of technology to deliver a message, and traditional broadcast market has suffered a little bit over the last two years just due to revenues, and the church market seems to be a growing space where people are inclined to grab some of the broadcast-centric technologies and bring them in to capture, let’s just say capture, a greater audience—same thing that television tries to do. [Timestamp: 2:51]

I believe that the church called this their “in-side-out” project. Do you why they called it that? I think, since I’ve talked with the pastor, I think what they were trying to do is they were trying to create messages within inside their house and use technologies to push the message outside of the house. Obviously, how, I will say, churches work and how they survive is through their congregation, and I think what they are trying to do is they are trying to attract—I call it “more tushes to the cushes”—and bring people into the sanctuaries and be involved with that Sunday or the services that the church has to offer. [Timestamp: 3:25]

That phrase sums it up pretty well. I don’t know if you would see that phrase on the church marquee or anything, but…
What? Tush in the cush?
Well, no, it isn’t, but let’s call it what it is. It’s a method of marketing and outreach to bring more people into the church. So they indicate the message that the church—that congregation—wants to have, and that’s the lifestyle and community that they want you to become part of. [Timestamp: 3:50]

Right, that makes sense—getting their message from inside-out, both to the congregation directly there and through multiple locations. Now this was an HD up-grade, which you have done plenty of times.

Did the church leaders there seem to have any specific concerns about going to HD? I mean, about how much it might cost or the technical complexity of it?
There are—as you know our industry—it’s very hard these days to get standard-definition product. It’s getting more difficult, so the cost of high-definition technology is coming down. There are some challenges with doing digital and high-definition solutions. We have this wonderful thing called delay, so for IMAG, image magnification, that’s where you want to, obviously, within sanctuary, you want to take an image and project it, and in Highlands we used—believe it or not—in a very small sanctuary that houses I believe around 450-500 people, we used three very large Christie projectors with huge screens and just tried to make the experience a little bit more, but timing and lip sync and those are some of the technical challenges, and obviously when you are taking that signal and you’re pumping it beyond the sanctuary, that becomes increasingly more difficult because it’s all about bandwidth, and we had to obviously throttle down that HD bandwidth. Initially the client was recording all of their content onto a digital media. It happened to be on P2 cards, a technology developed by Panasonic, and we were using AVC-Intra 50Mb, and they were recording the content onto these P2 cards, taking their mobile display products, and taking that out to the field and playing it back rather than transmitting the signal live. And when we transmit signals live we usually, unfortunately, can’t do it in high def due to bandwidth, and we take it down to standard definition. [Timestamp: 5:42]

Yeah, I would think that recording in a solid-state format, I believe that’s like an array of solid-state cards and…
…then that would be a definite advantage, say, in doing a fast turn around on editing or whatever they have to do.
Yep. Well, they do very little editing. It was just a convenient way for them to record high definition, quickly take the whole record-play device and run it to another sanctuary, or they even have what is known as a “mobile church”, and a mobile church is you shove it all into a trailer and you erect it. It’s like the old days of pitching a tent. It’s much more sophisticated these days though. [Timestamp: 6:23]

Right, a high-tech tent revivals.
That’s correct, with IMAG and sound arrays and music and everything else. [Timestamp: 6:30]

And you put together a control room in the church balcony. Did you have to sacrifice any seats to do that or was there already free space up there for you to use?
Well, fortunately, what we used is the space was already allocated, which was unfortunate because a lot of these churches originally were designed not for having these types of technologies and this number of people in those control spaces, so you’ve got to be careful when you throw lots of weight up in a balcony—that’s one of the challenges that we had. The balcony bounced a little bit, moved a little bit when you get a number of people up on it. [Timestamp: 7:04]

Oh, that could be exciting.
Yes, it was. We had structural engineers in and everything [to try] to reduce some of the movement on the balcony, because when you put cameras in and you put a camera—a PTZ camera—mounted to a balcony, that’s where your control room is and people are moving. Well, you move the balcony, you move the camera. [Timestamp: 7:24]
And the camera position. So that was a challenge that we had to overcome. [Timestamp: 7:28]

Expanding to Satellite Congregations, Part 1

Mar 6, 2010 10:57 AM, By Bennett Liles

So you said they were doing IMAG. Are they doing IMAG with the PTZ cameras?
Mark Siegal: Yes they are.
[In] their sanctuary, all their cameras are PTZ. They have no manned cameras. And they made a decision to that because they needed a more consistent product, and they didn’t have, quite yet, the volunteer base with the knowledge to be able to operate a manned camera. [Timestamp: 7:54]

I would think that would be a challenge to get the volunteers trained on working those PTZ controls and keeping up with a rather maybe an animated pastor out there.
Yeah, they seem to do a pretty good job. That’s all through experience and training, and if one person can control three to five cameras during worship, that’s pretty easy. If you are doing something theatrical that has just passed, [such as] Easter Sunday, and they’re doing their large, large theatrical performance on-stage, you’re better off using manned cameras because you can follow action obviously much better. [Timestamp: 8:25]

So what all did you have to design this control room for them to be able to do up there? Were they doing things like disc duplication or postproduction or any kind of things like that?
Yeah, we basically started from ground zero. They started out like most churches do: They had a camcorder and a single projector and they weren’t really even doing IMAG. What they were doing is they were doing worship—whether it be song, show, or PowerPoint or something—they were just putting text messages [and] graphics up above the pastor to support the message. They weren’t really doing any IMAG, and they were recording it with a camcorder and maybe everyone once in a while they would plug that camcorder into their very cost-effective production switcher to kind of simulate IMAG, but they had so many problems with it because of lip sync—which is a huge issue in IMAG—that they abandoned it. And they just wanted the experience to be that much more in-sanctuary, so they put a significant investment into enhancing the offering in the sanctuary to the people. [Timestamp: 9:27]

And when you said PowerPoint it kind of reminded me of something else: How did you handle the issues, the AC power issues, up in the control room? Did you have to get more power up there?
Of course you did. Of course. It’s not only for that. It’s also for, like I said, we hung three projectors that they’re 220 projectors, and that’s always the case. What we are doing is you are going in and you’re doing a retro fit remodel, and a lot of these facilities that are older were not built to be able to handle the attention to detail with acoustics and lighting. We put lighting grid in here; we put movers and tracker lights in here; we put a lot of other things that they didn’t have before. We probably upped the power service by maybe 100 amps to be able to support the new sound, lighting, and video. The level of the church didn’t require that much power for the video alone. We operate all of the video systems probably sub-4/sub-30 amps. We were able to do all of it in this installation. But yeah, had to bring in the electrical contractor, and that’s a good chunk of the change. [Timestamp: 10:35]

So where do they do their lighting control?
They are doing all of their audio/video lighting and graphic playback all from the balcony. They were not willing to give up seats to be able to place the audio board where it should be, which is down FOH on the main level, not on a balcony, but they were not willing to give up the number of seats that were required to put that on the main level. [Timestamp: 11:01]

Yeah, that’s always a fight that goes on.
Well, that’s where it should be, and audio is important. You have to be able to hear the message—that’s number one. [Timestamp: 11:09]

And I noticed you had a For-A switcher in there. Any particular reason why you went with that one?
There are a number of switchers in the market that fit that bill. Panasonic makes a very nice one, Broadcast Pix makes one, Snell & Wilcox, [and] obviously Sony. One of the considerations was with the For-A is that you have to look at any switcher and you have to pick very carefully the amount of the delay that goes through the switcher because when you are doing IMAG, you can’t have that delay because then you will have a lip sync issue. So that was a consideration, but really no other strong considerations. There are a bunch of switchers out there that all do the same thing. [Timestamp: 11:46]

Mark, this has been great having you here for part one, and in part two we want to get into a little bit about the recording format, the Christie projectors, and a little bit more about how you did the power, but thanks for being here for part one for us.
Thank you.

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