By Jim Bask
As a value-added reseller of video production and live streaming equipment, we have been providing production tools to houses of worship for almost 30 years…just a bit longer than Religious Product News has been your go-to resource.
I am happy to write about how much church AV has changed in the past two decades, but I’ll warn you now – this article is going to be much more heavily focused on the changes in the past three years, as we have seen church market grow and change at an unprecedented rate.
When we first started reaching readers of RPN, our products were aimed at wedding and event videographers who could help bring revenue into the church by offering their services for these special events.
These technological early adopters influenced some of the more modern churches that started to incorporate advanced audio systems, stage lighting, IMAG projection and even closed-circuit broadcasts to the family room, overflow rooms and parochial classrooms.
As the costs for these technologies decreased, the adoption increased, and worship AV systems were no longer reserved for large congregations. Soon, every church would find their tech-savvy parishioner who would help design an AV system that would help add to the regular services, special events, community outreach and more.
In the past 10 years, even the most traditional churches started investing in renovations that would incorporate new technology to better serve their guests who came to worship.
In 2020, that priority was turned on its head as churches were affected by a pandemic and needed to quickly install and rely upon technology to reach their congregations at home.
Adding an encoder to take their output from their existing switcher to stream services to YouTube, ChurchStreaming.tv and other CDNs became a necessity. We could not keep enough Robotic PTZ (Pan/Tilt/Zoom) cameras that did not require a dedicated camera operator in stock.
Many churches upgraded to a new, more modern production switcher that was capable of streaming muti camera productions loaded with graphics, images, Picture-In-Picture, transitions, effects and more. We started to take panicked calls from technical directors and pastors from across the country who knew they had to set something up fast and that they needed to reach their audience by Sunday.
We have had the pleasure of helping churches of all sizes find the live production and streaming solution that fits their needs and their budget. We even work with a nationwide network of system integrators and installers who can work with your church locally to spec out the system that meets all of the challenges in your specific building.
As we have seen many churches build their production systems, there have been some technologies in the last few years alone that have been very well-received in this market:
Robotic PTZ Cameras
Robotic PTZ Cameras can be easily mounted on a tripod, wall bracket or ceiling mount and can be easily blended into the environment to not affect the aesthetics of the church. These cameras are controlled by a remote operator, and a single operator can easily control multiple cameras and even set scenes with predetermined movements.
Does your presentation move from an altar to a speaker’s podium or from a stage to a choir? You can easily set the scenes that you use most often to make the production tasks quick and easy. This is especially important if you rely on volunteer resources to help with productions and do not have a dedicated technical or production team.
Turnkey Live Production Systems
Turnkey Live Production systems combine the hardware and software you need to switch multiple cameras; add titles, graphics or even song lyrics; output to a projection system or overflow rooms and stream to your audience online. This was critical when stay-at-home orders were in place or when churches were faced with limited capacity seating.
Live production systems allowed churches to stream to their congregation at home and are continually used to bring your message to those who are bedridden, unhealthy or unable to travel. Live production systems are also a great way to promote community involvement by broadcasting special events and sharing news with the community on social media platforms like Facebook Live.
NDI / AV over IP
AV over IP technology like NDI had been one of the greatest advancements in media production in houses of worship. NDI technology means that each camera can now be installed with a single Cat6 cable that provides power from a POE switch, control and the video signal. This means that more cameras can be installed quickly and easily, and they can be added to historical buildings, hard-to-reach places, and even remote locations throughout a larger church campus.
Once NDI cameras and production systems are placed on the network, they also become available everywhere else on the network, making AV over IP the perfect solution for IMAG projection, overflow rooms and other locations.
In the past two decades, we have seen readers of Religious Product News invest in technology to improve their message inside of the church and then in outreach to their congregations at home. We are looking forward to the next two decades when churches continue to use new technologies. We have already started to see churches design systems that allow them to bring in remote guests into their services.
One of the advantages of the live production systems available now is that they integrate many different technologies to bring in guests from anywhere in the world. A simple Zoom or Teams call can be easily integrated into a production environment, and you can even have your technical producer off-site in a remote location producing the show.
We are also starting to see churches extend their video streaming out in the field using cellular bonding to stream video from a mission trip or other remote location.
The limits are based only on creativity, and we look forward to seeing the advancements made.
Jim Bask is the vice president of marketing for Broadfield, www.braodfield.com, which can you help find the right integrator for your church.