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KnowHOW: Live video for all shapes and sizes

KnowHOW: Live video for all shapes and sizes

KnowHOW: Live video for all shapes and sizes

Matt Allard, product marketing manager for NewTek, describes how live video can be implemented for worship facilities and congregations of all size and reach

Video is an integral part of people’s lives – and that extends to the spiritual institutions they worship at. Video holds true value in the house of worship space as it is a powerful means to deliver inspirational messages, and allows organisations to expand their reach while maintaining a personal connection when distributing media around facilities, to multisite locations, or to individuals with remote access using streaming.

At NewTek we’ve seen a number of creative and impressive examples of this taking place, including: a Christian university in Texas that has brought in live video feeds from missionaries located in nearly every time zone to allow for all-inclusive worship services; a church in Kansas broadcasting its services out to satellite locations across the state – locations that were on the verge of shutting their doors as the costs of staffing had grown too cumbersome; a mosque in Kenya that established its own television station to distribute nationwide on the public access feed; and churches around the world that have found ways to add streaming services of their broadcasts over the Internet to bring in followers who are unable to attend – or only attend from afar. While these integrations may seem like costly propositions reserved solely for the megachurches of the world, the above applications fit comfortably in the small-to-medium sized house of worship market thanks to video workflows that have moved to the network.

A networked approach

Many house of worship facilities already have some combination of standard IT wired or wireless network. For those that do not, adding networking is far less complex and costly than installing dedicated wiring for traditional video and audio distribution. These networks are key to making live video both more cost effective and easier to set up and operate than ever before.

As network-based video workflows have graduated from the elementary years of development, the market is now robust enough to offer up network-native cameras, productions systems, graphics systems, and streaming devices that work entirely with IP protocols for video, such as NDI. There are also converters that take traditional video outputs and convert them to NDI feeds.

NDI devices are simply put on the network, quickly discover each other, and are ready to efficiently transport media back and forth with little effort. This connectivity can be extended across the network to other locations using streaming – even over public Internet. Utilising these networks is critical to affordable and effective integration. A networked solution not only removes the costs associated with traditional cabling, it also reduces the complexity of running wires and troubleshooting such systems.

From there, streaming can occur in real time to connect sites, guests, and viewers to a specific event, but can also be used at a later time by congregants by recording the event and saving it as a file that can be put on a local server or on to a cloud-based video hosting platform. Streaming can also be set up with social media platforms or on the organisation’s own website. This expands the reach of the service to those in the congregation who may be unable to attend – and serves as a valuable outreach tool to those considering joining a congregation.

Religious organisations often rely on volunteers to help produce events, and even for those with some dedicated staff, they likely do not have extensive video production experience. The good news is that with the advent of more IT-based practices and IP transport, creating media content is getting easier. The tools and systems are embracing a more inclusive user experience. Devices have more auto configuration and discovery functionality to take the technical complexity out of connecting various components together.

Customised software control panels are put together that optimise common tasks and limit the variables to just what is needed for a particular programme or operator. Control surfaces can even be deployed on touchscreens and tablets. Programme details such as effects and graphics are set up with presets and templates to make it fast and easy to add or change production elements.

As many events are pre-planned, simple programme automation based on written scripts manage the teleprompter, switching sources, effects, video playback, and graphics to run the entire show without having to know about the operation of these systems. Simply put: live video has never been simpler to add to worship.

How to get started

Video production can begin at a basic level. The first step could be as simple as a camera, a microphone, and a streaming encoder. PTZ cameras can be mounted and controlled without an operator. Existing cameras can be converted to IP with simple convertors. A basic streaming encoder can be set to stream to a single destination, such as a hosting platform where viewers can connect to see the streaming programme in real time.

The next steps involve adding multiple cameras to capture more action from multiple positions and then using multiple displays in a sanctuary capable of showing different content on each one or across all of them. A common need is image magnification (IMAG) of a camera source to a display that must be kept in correct video and audio sync. These aspects require a live production system for switching, transitions, effects, video clip playout, and managed outputs. A more advanced system also integrates audio, graphics, and control of devices such as cameras.

To extend streaming capabilities, considerations can be made about including social media platforms, multi-site connectivity for interaction in real time, and the use of an organisational website to set up a channel for members to view live and on-demand video from computers and mobile devices.

If that still sounds like a lot to take on, don’t worry. There are manufacturers and integrators that specialise in getting the house of worship market up and running with live video – no matter how large or small the operation. Solutions exist at entry-level price points that still produce professional-grade video. The key is to find a partner – both on the manufacturer and local integrator level – that will consultatively engage in helping you reach your goals. Seek out manufacturers that can cite past success with the house of worship market. Find local integrators who deal directly with these manufacturers. This ensures not only a quality product but also an assurance that you will have long-term support as you install, learn and operate the system.

By finding the right partners you can set your congregation up for an advanced and improved experience through live video at a price that makes sense and a learning curve that won’t be dauting for those helping to bring the production to life.

This article first appeared in the July-August 2019 edition of Worship AVL. Subscribe at

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