Upgrading Church to HD Video and Projection System, Part 1

The AV upgrade at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lee, Minn., was a huge job involving new cameras, projection, sound gear, and recording.
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The AV upgrade at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lee, Minn., was a huge job involving new cameras, projection, sound gear, and recording.

Upgrading Church to HD Video and Projection System, Part 1

Mar 4, 2010 3:24 PM, By Bennett Liles

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The AV upgrade at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lee, Minn., was a huge job involving new cameras, projection, sound gear, and recording. They called on Graybow Communications Group for the installation, and John Gracyalny and Michael Benedetti are here to give us all the details on how the job went.

SVC: John and Michael, thanks for being with me on the House of Worship podcast. The Graybow Communications did this installation for the Zion Lutheran Church up in Albert Lee, Minn., and this looks like it was a pretty substantial thing with audio and videocameras. But before we get into that, John, what does Graybow Communications do and how long has the company been around?
John Gracyalny: Well, Graybow Communications Group was founded in1996, and really it’s our mission to provide products and services that allow companies to communicate their messages more effectively and more efficiently. We do that by using electronics and presentation and communication technologies. Hopefully these technologies help vendors and employees and customers connect more seamlessly. Really what we do at Graybow is we are committed to adding value by coordination, procurement, and just installation of business and companies in commercial sectored audiovisual equipment. [Timestamp: 1:52]

And when this installation came up, it was the church that wanted to do this, and they called you. And what was their object of doing this upgrade?
Gracyalny: Well, really we had a relationship with Pastor Joel from the church, they had bought, I believe, a projector in the past, and it got to the point where they wanted to install a projector and projection equipment technology into the main church area so that the congregation could view images better from the altar. Sometimes on the sides of the church it was a little bit hard to see that and then also see hymnal references, and just getting the community more involved with the mass that was being sent. So with that, they were doing a little bit of an internal remodel and they had called us to consult on some different technology options, and we started down our process and our process is really to ask the customer what they are looking to get out of technology and then we make a recommendations with what we call a budgetary scope of work. Really what it does is it identifies some potential recommendations that we could do to really enhance what you are looking to get out of audiovisual technology, so we started asking those questions. We went down a path of putting together this general scope of work and things just kind of evolved from there, and then the pastor said that he was really excited to work with us and then one idea led to another and we ended up a wonderful audiovisual installation here. [Timestamp: 3:29]

Yeah, Michael, I noticed that there were some PTZ cameras put in here. That seems to be a kind of a trend among some churches sort of getting into the video. Was this the Vaddio system that you put in?
Michael Benedetti: Yes it was. It was their newest, latest greatest stuff that they just debuted last year, their HD stuff, production view stuff, so the cameras that I opted for were HD-18s. They are high-definition cameras with full pan/tilt/zoom capabilities on them. [Timestamp: 3:59]

OK, and they were going to use those for the services and I guess whatever else they do there. What other events go on there?
Benedetti: Yeah, the idea behind it was to pretty much capture the entire sanctuary or be able to capture it and that would be anything from their regular worship services down to… They occasionally use their sanctuary for social events, children’s recitals; they’ve got Bible study sometime in there that they use the cameras for, and also the idea to be able to actually do stuff like weddings and that sort of thing and be able to project that on the screen. And that would be pretty tough to cover without having the remote capabilities on the cameras to focus in on different areas of the sanctuary. [Timestamp: 4:47]

Yeah, you were talking about the projection system, now do they use that for just graphics or do they do IMAG and all that the kind of fancy stuff?
Benedetti: Well, the main projection system in the sanctuary is used mainly for not so much IMAG—it’s not a terribly large church. I mean they do use it for IMAG to a certain extent, but a lot of what they use it for is for graphics—Sunday bulletin kind of stuff, upcoming events, the hymn lyrics, just general information coming out of what would normally be in the pew books they could now enlarge and put up on the screen so everybody could see it and doesn’t really need to follow along with the book; a lot of computer graphics kind of stuff from PowerPoint onto DVDs. They have inspirational DVDs that they show. They will have like a children’s night or something on a Friday night and show an inspirational DVD, and they do that right there in the sanctuary. [Timestamp: 5:50]

OK, and what kind of projectors are they using for that?
Benedetti: For the projectors in there, I chose the NEC NP4001s and outfitted those with the 10ZL zoom lenses. We opted for front projection on those; those are 4500-ANSI-lumens projectors. We tried desperately to put rear projection in there; that was the initial design. Due to the architectural constraints of that particular house of worship there, it was very difficult to get the projectors where they needed to go in order to successfully do rear projection, so about mid-way through the project we made the decision and we got together with the congregation and the pastor and made the decision to switch it to front projection, which actually worked out pretty well. [Timestamp: 6:44]

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Upgrading Church to HD Video and Projection System, Part 1

Mar 4, 2010 3:24 PM, By Bennett Liles

Yeah, I guess if they were using that for a rainy kind of IMAG or anything really challenging like that, the learning curve on the joystick operation there would be kind of stiff. Did you find any problem training people how to use the Vaddio system?
Benedetti: No, not really. We’re real big on training at Graybow. That’s the important part. I mean it continues on a while past the actual installation. For the training portion of this, we’re kind of privileged to have one of our senior installers—it is a gentleman named Michael Smith—who has an extensive background in video production. So I called upon him to come down to Albert Lee, and he calibrated the whole video system for them. The beautiful thing about the Vaddio system there is that you can do all the presets and the stuff that they would do on a regular basis and set up the shots. He set most of that stuff up with them so most of the main shots that they use on a regular basis are just a matter of pressing a preset button, which Michael set up for them. In terms of controlling the cameras manually with a joystick, it’s pretty user-friendly like any other piece of gear. There is a little learning curve on it, and basically it’s just getting used to the feel of the joystick and iris control, focus, and that sort of thing, but it’s not much different than a videogame. I mean, it’s fairly easy to grasp and use. [Timestamp: 8:17]

Yeah, it seems like that’s going to be a normal extension of what a lot of the people learning this thing are probably already into anyway. I notice you’ve got a Canon XH A1, I believe it is, for a roving camera. How do they use that?
Benedetti: The camera itself is a DV recorder unit so it could be used as a standalone camera. The idea behind that was they wanted a camera that they could take out. They do functions in their parking lot; they do functions downstairs in the fellowship hall and various other places around the facility there. They wanted to be able to capture those on video, so a self-contained unit like that—that they could record directly onto—seemed like a natural fit for them. And then the thought was given to the fact that since we would have this camera—and it’s a beautiful camera; it’s a 3-chip camera keeping a great picture in high definition—the thought was, “Well, can we incorporate that into the sanctuary system as well?” So when I was designing this system, what I did was I set up throughout the sanctuary a number of places where the camera could patch into and that would allow manual operator and, for lack of a better term, say a handheld camera operator to actually rove around the sanctuary and get close-up shots and different kinds of angles that you normally wouldn’t be able to get with pan/tilt/zoom cameras. To do that, it involved custom fabricating of the umbilical cord for camera number one that would be long enough to let the operator move around. So we custom fabricated 50ft. of umbilical cord, and that plugs into five different locations in the sanctuary by component video interface panels that were installed at different locations. Those locations where you could plug this camera into to get different shots include up in the balcony, at the video control center, left front of the sanctuary, right front of the sanctuary, and all the way back at the altar. For example, having the camera patchable at the altar allows a handheld camera operator to actually get in front of the bride and groom at a wedding and shoot video of them. [Timestamp: 10:44]

OK, yeah, I can understand that otherwise you would just be seeing their backs the whole time.
Benedetti: Yeah, exactly, exactly, so this allows them to actually get different kinds of shots. They could take it up in the balcony, get choir shots, get solo shots. As well as the versatility of it being its own self-contained DV recorder, they could actually use it as a second input and grab video onto that DV source there and take it back in when they do their editing, edit that in with what they are recording on the installed cameras—the PTZ cameras, that’s another video source—with their editing software, they could actually take that where they added it all together and create a rather nice DVD of any event they chose to record. [Timestamp: 11:39]

Where is the control room for all this located and what have you got in there?
Benedetti: Well, it’s another kind of challenge there because it’s in a small church, and they really wanted the control to be down on the main floor rather than remote it. So we looked at the sanctuary and the logical place to put it was all the way in the back. This church is kind of interesting in the sense that they don’t have any on-street parking ramps.
Okay, no-parking zones, yeah.
Benedetti: Right, but they have a parking lot, but the parking lot is on the side of the church. So then unlike most churches where the congregation would enter in the front of the church, the front of the church actually faces the street. Since they don’t have any on-street parking and everybody parks on the side parking lot, they very rarely use the front entrance of the church, which is kind of unusual; … The front entrance of the church would actually be the rear of the sanctuary…
Benedetti: So for us to locate our control in the rear of the sanctuary. In most situations, there in a house of worship, anybody entering the church would have to walk past this. In this particular situation, that’s not the case because they enter and exit the sanctuary through a side door, so we put all of the control in the back of the sanctuary and so it’s kind of incognito back there. [Timestamp: 13:08]

Yeah, so why did you particularly chose the Vaddio cameras for this? I mean, there are a lot of PTZ cameras around.
Benedetti: They wanted to go widescreen, high definition. We looked at a bunch of different manufactures and what was out there, and yeah, there is some number of players doing that right now, but what Vaddio offered was within our price point. They had just came out with this new product that was particularly well-suited to low-light situations, and it had an 18X zoom, which for this particular application was pretty awesome. From where I have the cameras located, I have two PTZ cameras there one on each side wall about half way down, and with that 18X zoom, I can come right in to a nice clear head shot of the lectern or pulpit or turn it around and shoot up in the balcony and get a choir soloist, and that is tough to do unless you have those kind of zooming capabilities, which Vaddio offers on their new HD-18s. [Timestamp: 14:19]

Yeah, you mentioned the lighting. What kind of light levels do they have? Do they try to keep it as low-lit as possible? Isn’t it basically lighting for the eye rather than for the cameras?
Benedetti: They try to keep it at a comfortable lighting level for the general congregation. Part of the remodeling that they did in there was … the original design had hanging pendant lights in there, which never really worked very well for them because it was rather dark in there. So the lighting was very uneven with the original pendant lights and it was very spotty; you would have bright spots, you would have dark spots. What they decided to go with was they worked with a local electrical contractor on this—who happens to be a member of their congregation as well—and they came up with these lights, which are I call them like semi-flush-type flood lights, focusable, which means that they could now put these banks of lights up in their cathedral ceiling and aim them to different areas of the sanctuary pretty much evenly light the entire sanctuary in them. The fact that all these lights are on dimmers, they can now control the overall lighting level in the sanctuary unlike they were able to do when they had the original pendant lights in there. So if they were shooting something that was more of a social event, they could raise the lighting levels up. For general worship services, it’s kept at a more traditional lighting level, which doesn’t really pose a problem for these cameras. These particular Vaddio cameras could be ordered as cameras or they can be ordered with the remote CCU, which is the route we decided to go and that gives you all the iris and pedestal functions and stuff you will need to make those kind of adjustments on the fly. [Timestamp: 16:16]

OK, well it sounds like you really had your work cut out for you on this thing. I mean, it sounds like they knew what they wanted but they were going to have to rely on you guys to kind of make it all fit together. In part two, we are going to get more into the details of this. It’s been great having you guys here for part one. And Michael, I hope you will be with me again for part two when we can get more into the details on the cameras. Thanks for being with me.
Benedetti: All right, thank you, Bennett.

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