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Hillsong Church Handles Congregation Growth with Blackmagic Design

Founded 30 years ago in Sydney, Australia by Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston, Hillsong Church has grown rapidly over the years. The church is now comprised of more than a dozen locations in eleven countries across the globe. In Australia alone, more than 30,000 people attend services weekly.

As a Pentecostal mega church affiliated with the Australian Christian Churches, Hillsong aims to advance God’s Church and Kingdom on Earth.

The days of a single preacher speaking from a wooden pulpit with only his voice are gone. 30,000 people each weekend want to feel part of the sermons, services and church family. One of the best ways to build and serve the growing congregations is to establish an amazing broadcast and AV infrastructure in each campus. 

Hillsong’s requirements include HD broadcasts, live video switching, recording to DVDs and conversion of formats to meet its needs.

“The needs of each of our campuses varies, but in basic terms each campus has a control room which takes signals in and feeds them out to every device that needs a signal,” explained Luke Irvine, Hillsong’s TV Technical Manager. “We use several Blackmagic Design products as a cost effective way to manage the signals around our facilities.”

Hillsong relies on Blackmagic Design’s ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher, ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel and ATEM 1 M/E Production Switcher for broadcast quality video switching, Teranex 2D Processors for conversions, HyperDeck Studios for SSD recording, Compact Videohub routers, an H.264 pro recorder for converting footage to Internet usable files and various mini converters to tie the various broadcast and AV equipment together.

Out with the Old
“When you have a history as long as Hillsong's, you end up with a lot of older equipment that eventually needs to be replaced by newer equipment,” said Irvine.  “We’ve replaced a number of older products with Blackmagic Design products because they are cost effective and so easy to use.”

Irvine has worked with Australian systems integrator Videocraft over the years to make numerous updates to its campuses, including a state of the art control room built for the new Doody Street campus in Alexandria, Australia.

Hillsong runs two production switchers at each of its campuses. One switcher is for the program director who cuts general program feeds that will record and send video down the IP links. The second switcher is for the IMAG director controlling the feeds for the big screens in the venues.

The church’s Southwest campus needs a production switcher to control three main video screens, while linking with other campuses and displaying content on screens that are 5 meters x 9 meters in size. The Southwest campus had previously used an old PC based switcher with multiple formats (composite/SDI) and only one m/e and one aux bus, which ultimately did not have enough performance or inputs/outputs to keep up with Hillsong’s growth.

Today, the Southwest campus uses an ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher and ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel for creating line cuts around sermons to quickly develop DVDs of each service, while still handling live switching for the on campus projector screens and monitors. They also send different video feeds down an IP link to the other Hillsong campuses in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane in order to link parts of the services from each campus together.

ATEM 2 M/E Production Switcher is a three rack unit, 16 source switcher that accepts 16 10-bit HD/SD-SDI inputs and one HDMI input for a total of 16 simultaneous inputs, each with a frame synchronizer. ATEM 2 M/E Broadcast Panel is a powerful broadcast grade panel that puts all of the necessary the control for the switcher at the Hillsong team’s fingertips.

“We love the multi view feature, which allows us to handle the large amount of footage coming into our control room between all of our inputs and outputs,” said Irvine. “On top of that, the Blackmagic Design gear was so cost effective and it much easier for the volunteer crew to operate than what we had previously.”

Unusual Video Formats
“Often we get asked to play back videos from devices that are not commonly used in the broadcast world, like DVD players, handy cams and mobile devices,” said Irvine. “The footage from these are also often in international formats like NTSC or SECAM. We installed the Teranex 2D Processor for standards conversion and it has been working out great.”

Blackmagic Design’s Teranex 2D Processor is a high end broadcast standards converter processor with high performance Thunderbolt I/O technology capture and playback features. It is a single processor model that offers all conversions in 4:2:2 quality in a single channel. It is one rack unit in size with built in power supply, and features SD/HD and 3 Gb/s SDI, HDMI and analog in and out, eight channel AES/EBU, four channel balanced analog input and output as well as consumer HiFi audio input connections.

At Hillsong’s Doody Street location, the team installed two Blackmagic Design Teranex 2D Processors, as well as one at the Brisbane campus.

The Doody Street campus runs in 1080i50, so Luke uses one of the Teranex processors to down convert the 1080i50 signals to HD-SDI. It is then used as a utility framestore or converter for random equipment or requests they receive to plug devices into the system. The other Teranex 2D Processor is used to get random asynchronous sources into the system for switching to screens.

Recording Footage
At the Doody Street campus, Hillsong uses four HyperDeck Studios to record individual ISOs of the cameras for editing the worship service into a television program that is viewed worldwide. For its location record system, Hillsong uses four HyperDeck Studios as a backup to its main software recording system.

The HyperDeck Studio, an SSD video recorder featuring dual SSD slots, automatically continues recording onto the next SSD when one disk fills. It records and plays back uncompressed QuickTime, compressed Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) or compressed Avid DNxHD MXF files.

“The HyperDecks offer an inexpensive and effective way for us to record footage,” said Irvine. “It is really nice to know that even if the software chatted on the main system, we still have the recorded files available.”

A few of the Hillsong campuses also use the Blackmagic Design H.264 Pro Recorders to record services for archive or online broadcast.

“We have so many campuses today and numerous large events to pull off to an extremely high standard,” said Irvine. “Blackmagic Design has helped us grow technologically to meet the needs of our expanding congregation, without having to sacrifice quality. Blackmagic’s products are easy to use and understand, cost effective, and high quality and we are very happy with what they allow us to do.”

Blackmagic Design

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