Projection & Video

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YourChurchTech Becomes Authorized VIZIO Dealer

YourChurchTech has signed an agreement to sell Vizio televisions, bringing one of  the most popular and aggressively priced U.S. TV brands to the product lines already offered.  The strategic partnership with the Irvine, California-based manufacturer  comes at a time when houses of worship are looking to add more multimedia options throughout their facilities.VIZIO Logo - Black, White

In the second quarter of 2007, Vizio skyrocketed to the top by becoming the  most shipped brand of flat panel HDTVs in North America, according to the  manufacturer’s website.

In addition to being America’s #1 LCD HDTV Company, Vizio has a strong interest in  participating in categories beyond TV, including audio products and computers.

In September 2012, Vizio’s high-definition televisions won the highest ranking in  customer satisfaction from J.D. Power and Associates

About YourChurchTech

YourChurchTech (www.YourChurchTech.com) is an authorized Vizio partner that serves churches and businesses, that do not have the resources on-hand to manage their IT, audio, video, and lighting needs.  YourChurchTech takes the time to understand their goals and identify solutions that will compliment, empower and add value to their mission.  Questions should be referred to Mike@YourChurchTech.com or call 502.472.4425.

 

How Cool Is Too Cool for Church?

I had to reprint this excellent article regarding the transitioning of worship styles within the church.  Read on for the author’s insights and findings with just two churches and how different the approach should be.  The short-story is know the vision of the church and follow the direction of the pastor.  The techs, especially your volunteer team, must be very involved in the process.  Enjoy!

by Andy McMillan

20621_bannerA few years ago I was attending a church that was in the process of transitioning their musical style. In less than a year they went from a single worship leader/singer, a drummer (that wasn’t mic’d), a bass player that just played out of an amp on stage, and a piano player, to full band with a guy who brought in three different guitars every week, three keyboard players (piano, keys and organ), a drummer with a fully mic’d kit, a percussion player, and 12 background singers on wireless mics. Needless to say the volume more than doubled.

During this same time, the lighting for the services went from no colored lights at all and a bright room, to tons of color and moving lights, and a dark congregation. During that year the church experienced a large congregation shift. Many left the church because they felt what was happening was “over the top”. They felt it was too “showy” and too much like a performance.

Many churches have successfully transitioned their worship style. But how far is too far? How cool is too cool for church?

Every church is unique, so we asked two pastors from two very different church environments for their opinions were on this topic.

Dr. Jeremy D. Sims is the music and high school pastor at Kingwood Church in Alabaster, Alabama. Dr. Sims says, “It isn’t about what is ‘too far’, it is about the vision of the church and the goal of who the church is trying to reach.” He says he’s observed a consistent issue with some church production departments where the techies are more interested in “playing with their toys” than they are concerned with supporting the vision of the church. To further illustrate his point he adds, “I would rather have a mediocre production guy that was excited about the vision of the church, than have an incredible production engineer that was not concerned with the direction the pastor desired.” He made it clear that “too far” is relative to who you are, the background or history of the congregation, and the vision of the senior pastor.

Next we talked to Pastor Jason D. Mayfield, music pastor at Bethany Assembly of God in Adrian, Michigan. His perspective is very different. He says, “There is no such thing as too far or too cool, but there is a such thing as too fast.” Pastor Jason concludes that lighting or video effects or even volume levels in church are never too much. He suggests that church congregations can handle it as long as they are transitioned into it. “It takes time to get any church acclimated to change,” Mayfield says. “If you want moving lights running through haze, then start out with the just moving lights for a while and slowly add haze to the room. If you want your audio to be louder, take time to slowly raise it to where you want it. Don’t just turn it up.” He says that it simply takes time to transition any group of people to what the goal is. He believes it had less to do with what they will tolerate due to their background and more to do with how to transition them to the new way of doing things.

So how far is too far? A single answer could never cover all types of churches. The more important questions are: 1) What are the vision and philosophy of the church? And, 2) How, and how fast should the service transition to fulfill the vision of what the leaders desire?

If the tech staff is properly addressing these two questions, then there may not be such a thing as “too cool”.

After spending almost a decade as a FOH engineer and integration specialist, Andy McMillan left his FOH position and is now student pastor at Turning Point Church in McDonough, Georgia.

Video Streaming 101

With today’s technology it is easy for people to video stream their worship services. Most people that know anything about computers can stream video. But should you jump right in and start streaming video tomorrow with a cheap camera and little preparation? This all depends on how you want your church portrayed to the people who may watch online.Sanctuary 01

You can make your church look great, or you can make your church look bad. If you dive right in with little preparation, it will likely show in your video stream.

Keep in mind that this could be a person’s first impression of your church—watching your video stream online. The first impression you make could impact their decision on whether they watch again, whether they decide to come to your church or, most importantly, it could make or break their decision about the Lord.

So it is very important to put some thought into how you do your video stream. Here are some points to consider as you’re getting started:

1.) Is the lighting in our church conducive for video? 2.) What camera do you need? 3.) Who will run the camera or cameras? 4.) Do you want to stream live? Or should you record, edit and upload? 5.) Should you use a free video streaming site? 6.) Do you need a dedicated internet feed? 7.) Where will your audio feed come from? 8.) What other equipment do you need?

You need to think about all of the above before putting any video of your church online.

For your church to look great, you need to make sure the lighting you will be using when videotaping will achieve the quality/look you want. Are there places that are not lit up; are there shadows?

What camera should you purchase? The camera can be a big factor in how your video looks. Should you use a camera or cameras that will require a person to run? Or should you get a robotic camera system where one person can run multiple cameras from one location? If you use a camera that is operated by a person, you will need a quality tripod so the camera moves smoothly. If you use multiple cameras, how will the operators communicate with each other?

Another important considerations is, do you have to recruit more volunteers? How will you make sure you have people to run things every service?

Keep in mind that it is better not to always use an IMAX view for video—shots of the congregation interacting/worshipping can help to make your video great, and not just so-so.

If you’re thinking of live streaming, here’s a crucial point to keep in mind: The video can only be viewed at the same time as your service—no matter what time zone potential viewers are in. Here are some other important items to consider:

1.) When live streaming, you get what you get. There is little to no editing when streaming live. 2.) Most free streaming sites will put commercials into your live stream. 3.) Can you store the video online so it can be viewed at a later date and time?

The use of a dedicated internet feed and computer is oftentimes the best way to go. This way, the stream is the only thing running on that feed. The more things running on a feed, the slower it can be.

Audio, too, must be considered. A good way to ensure high quality audio for the audio feed is to use an aux send, if possible. This way you can mix what is sent to the video separately from the house mix. In addition, using a microphone to pick up the audience will make it sound more like they are in the church service. When viewers can hear the congregation interacting, your service will seem livelier.

A final item to consider is this: What other equipment will you need? You can get as elaborate as you want or you can keep it simple. Adding DVD recorders, video mixers, and switchers all depends on your church’s needs.

You want the people who view the stream to not be distracted by low quality video, bad editing, or dead spots for a live feed. The main thing is to make sure the focus is on sharing the word of God.

by David Jordan, from Church Production Magazine

Do-it-Yourself A/V Installations: A Recipe for Success or Disaster?

“Should we do this A/V/L install ourselves or hire a contractor?” is a question I’m asked often. Too often, the question comes down to budget. On paper, it looks like hiring a contractor is always a more expensive option, but this is rarely the case when all factors are considered.

20569_bannerThe illusion of cost-savings comes from the fact that most churches (and many companies) don’t factor in the cost of labor for their staff. But there is always a cost, and a wise manager will take that into account.

This isn’t to say that doing a job in-house is always a bad idea; it’s simply a matter of weighing the options and determining the best approach for a particular project.

Here are some guidelines that to use when trying to decide how to proceed.

Do the job in-house when:

1) You Have the Skills In-House.  Some churches have highly skilled tech staffs, and it makes total sense to use that skill set to do the work of an install. The team will be working with the equipment day in and day out anyway, so installing it makes sense. Having people on staff who can lay out cable runs, pull said cable, solder, interconnect and commission systems is a blessing to many larger churches. If you have the skills, by all means, proceed.

2) You Have the Manpower In-House.  Sometimes a church has one or two highly skilled people on staff that could do the install, but is that enough? Depending on the size of the project, more hands may be required. Often, larger churches will have larger tech staffs that can put in significant time on an installation. So again, this makes sense.

3) You Have the Time.  Larger churches with sizable tech staffs have those large staffs because the church is very busy doing ministry. If the project is not extremely time-sensitive, it’s entirely possible that this team can get the job done. Deciding two weeks before Easter that you’d like a new video system may not allow the in-house team enough time to get the job done, however.

4) The Budget is Tight.  Sometimes we have to do installs within a tight budget, and the easiest way to save money is to self-install. Even factoring in the costs that really do exists with self-install, it’s often easier to stomach that bill than paying a contractor.  Sometimes it can even mean the difference between getting the job approved or not.

Note that the order of those criteria is intentional; as hard as it is, budget should really be last in the decision-making process.  If you put budget first, you may not truly consider the other three factors fairly.

Hire a contractor when:

1) You’re Hanging Things Overhead.  Very few churches have tech staff that are truly qualified to hang hundreds (or thousands) of pounds of speakers, projectors, screens or other stuff over people’s heads. And even if you are qualified, why would you want the liability?

2) Time is Tight.  Some projects have very tight timelines and the in-house staff doesn’t have the bandwidth to get it done. This is a perfect contractor job. They can bring in additional installers who do this every day, and will probably do better work in less time.

3) Manpower is Limited.  A solo technical director will probably have a tough time installing a complete A/V/L system by himself. Even if he can pull in some volunteers, it’s going to be a long, hard install. Churches that don’t have professionals on staff will almost always come out ahead when they hire a reputable contractor.

4) The Church Wants to Protect Its Staff.  Some churches are wise enough to know that pushing the staff to the limit all the time will not result in long-term employees who are committed to the organization. Sometimes it’s a smart call to let your highly qualified, fully capable tech staff leave at 5PM while someone else does the install. As a church leader, would you rather have energized, fully-engaged and excited or tired, disengaged and aggravated staff? You make the call.

Sometimes a hybrid approach is best; install what you can and bring in a contractor for the rest. I generally recommend hiring the rigging, because it’s just safer. But pulling cables, installing amp racks, consoles, patch bays and the like can often be easily be handled in-house, especially if the install company has helped with the design, making sure things are well thought out.

This decision-making process is not hard, but it should not be taken lightly. It’s almost never as easy as, “We’ll save so much money…” so be sure to think it through. You may find that at the end of the project, everyone will be better off if the install was handled by professionals. Or maybe not.

written by Mike Sessler, Church Production Weekly

Everyday Remedies for Conflicting Video Standards

imagesCAW25BZ7In 2010, Intel, AMD and PC makers Dell, Lenovo, Samsung, and LG announced that they would phase out VGA connectors (or ports) by 2015. Their reasoning: digital formats such as DisplayPort and HDMI allow for slimmer laptop designs and higher resolution with deeper color than is possible with VGA.
In early 2012, analyst firm NPD In-Stat released a report stating that DVI ports will also disappear from PCs over the next five years, setting the stage for “standardization” on HDMI and DisplayPort. There are several other issues driving the phase-out of VGA and DVI interfaces. One is that VGA does not allow for content protection, so it may be phased out due to digital content license agreements. A more practical issue for manufacturers and users is the size of the connectors: VGA and DVI connectors with thumb screws are difficult and sometimes impossible to accommodate in ultra-slim notebook and netbook designs; connecting and securing these cables to monitors is difficult in confined spaces.

So why do we still need two digital interfaces?
DisplayPort and HDMI are very different technically, and each has a different product focus. HDMI is the de-facto standard in home theater and is used widely on HDTVs, and some PCs and monitors include HDMI to enable connectivity with HDTVs and other consumer electronics gear. DisplayPort is focused on PC, monitor, and projector applications as a replacement for DVI and VGA where high performance is critical, and allows backwards and forwards compatibility over standard cables. The DisplayPort connector is compatible with HDMI signals, enabling product interoperability. And, to make content owners happy, DisplayPort 1.2 supports HDCP v1.3, ensuring that protected content such as Blu-ray disc movies may be easily viewed over a DisplayPort connection that includes HDCP support.
Video connectivity standards seem to change or “evolve” every time a new video source or display technology is introduced. This presents obvious problems for integrating new components into existing systems. The problem is not always the change, since rarely do standards disappear completely. The challenge is juggling multiple standards; old standards must often co-exist with new standards.
Sorting out the connectivity issues is complicated by the fact that it involves different formats, standards, and physical connectors. Before digital, the VGA format (developed by IBM in 1987) was the most common video signal format, and it was considered “standard” although it was never adopted by an official standards-making body. For many years, most PCs output VGA, and displays and other sources accepted it. VGA uses the common DE-15 connector, still seen on many PCs.
That’s all changing with digital video signal formats. For commercial AV applications, the most common digital formats are DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, and SDI. Within each format, there are multiple variants and connector types.
PLAN YOUR CONNECTIONS Whenever possible, try to determine the connector type of all possible sources and displays before any installation project or ad hoc presentation. Check to see if there are matching connectors on installed AV devices (projectors, flat-panels, switchers) and connectivity interfaces (pop-up access panels or wall  plates, etc.). If you’re lucky, the issue is easily resolved with a single format cable of the appropriate length. When that is not possible, there are three courses of action:
1. USE ADAPTERS Adapters provide the simplest solution, but with digital video signal transmission, there can be drawbacks too. For example, don’t expect to get audio from a DVI connector (it’s video only). Also, most adapters are passive devices, and won’t convert from digital to analog, or vice versa.
2. USE AN ACTIVE SIGNAL CONVERSION DEVICE A very common scenario in which connectors present problems are group presentations, where multiple presenters each bring their own laptop. But combining multiple formats is considerably easier than it used to be, by using presentation switchers. A presentation switcher accepts and scales a wide range of video signals to a common, high-resolution output rate.
3. CHECK ALTERNATE INPUTS ON DOWNSTREAM DEVICE Many display devices (like video projectors) offer several input options. Instead of concentrating on making the connection work at the source end, try working backwards and check to see if options are available on the next device in the chain.

By Mark R. Mayfield  On March 04, 2013

Understanding Tech System Total Cost Of Ownership (TCO)

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) sounds like a highly abstract concept. But it’s really not. It’s also something that churches—sadly—tend to miss out on.

TCO is simply a calculation of what a particular product or service is going to cost you during it’s life. It has become popular in automotive circles, with some manufacturers boasting about the fact that while their car might cost a little more to buy, it will cost less to own. At least in theory.

Missing TCO Calcuations TCO can be missed in several ways. Sometimes, a church will buy a particular piece of gear—sometimes a very expensive piece—that will dig into their cash reserves pretty significantly.

Projectors are a great example of this. A really bright, say 15K, projector can cost well over $20,000-50,000. That’s a lot of money.

However, it will also cost somewhere between $2,000 and $6,000 to re-lamp it. And at that brightness level, re-lamping is going to happen every 500-800 hours of use, which is right around a year (at least for us).

So not only did you spend, let’s call it $30K, on a projector, you can figure on another $20K in lamps over the next 5-7 years of life. And we haven’t even talked about filter replacements, electricity costs or service.

Costs on this imaginary projector (that’s not that imaginary) will easily exceed $60K over the life of the unit. Did anyone think about that or did the initial purchase price double as a complete surprise?

Other times, a church will buy the cheapest piece of gear they can find, thinking they are saving money. However, what they find out is that the consumeables cost of that gear is far more expensive than a slightly more expensive piece of gear. Ink jet printers are a classic example here.

But I’ve also seen churches replace older, heavy duty color laser printers with newer “cheaper” ones because the toner cartridges are half the cost of the old ones. What no one noticed was that the new cartridges last about eighth as many pages, which about quadruples the per page costs and aggravates the users who find the printers always out of toner.

Do Your Homework Sometimes it’s hard to choose between two seemingly comparable pieces of equipment. What you need to look at, besides initial cost, is total operating costs.

I’ve compared projectors based on bulb and filter life plus electricity and found brand A to be almost 50 percent less expensive over a 5-year period than brand B. And these are projectors who’s output and picture quality are close enough to being called “the same.”

Rechargeable batteries are another great example. Yes it might cost you a few hundred dollars to get into the game once you figure chargers and the initial stock of batteries. But from that point on, your annual battery costs drop to under $100 to handle replacements.

For us, we went from spending over $1,500/year to about $200; and the only reason I spend that much is because we now have five rooms using rechargeable cells, and the ones in the student rooms go missing more regularly.

It’s Real Stewardship If you want to win friends and influence people, especially your senior leadership, continually present them with plans that demonstrate you know how to make purchases that represent an excellent value over time. Showing them that you’ve done TCO calculations, and have chosen equipment with that in mind will show them you’re serious about leading your department well.

Of course, TCO doesn’t tell the whole story; it’s just one data point. But it’s an important one. You still have to consider usability, whether the product fits your needs and if the volunteers can use it. Still, TCO can often be the tipping point between brand A and brand B. Choosing the one with the lower overall lifetime cost will pay off in more ways that one.

Mike Sessler is the Technical Director at Coast Hills Community Church in Aliso Viejo, CA. He has been involved in live production for over 20 years and is the author of the blog Church Tech Arts. He also hosts a weekly podcast called Church Tech Weekly on the TechArtsNetwork.