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Keeping the Economic Faith: Houses of Worship Roundtable

Oct 9, 2009 12:00 PM, By Dan Daley

Six industry experts weigh in on the current and future HOW market.

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Are HOWs moving toward HD video at any cost, or is cost keeping them at the SD level?

Westra: The high cost of HD was a hindrance even before the drop in the economy, and I expect that status to continue.

Carlson: Cost is an issue, and it’s a slow process, though we are seeing some churches now moving to HD video. But the process will require more education. As soon as you say “HD,” people expect a videoconferencing camera to look like ESPN HD. They have to understand that HD, like a lot of technologies, is always a good-better-best proposition.

Budd: Our market is fairly conservative, so we find this happening with a few of our more innovative clients, but it is generally quite limited at this time.

Dempsey: Our video upgrades and new installations are all proposed HD. For various reasons, including budget, some stay at or go with SD.

Thrasher: They’re moving to HD, but not at any cost. Churches remain very cost-conscious. That said, in five years there won’t be any SD video equipment out there to buy anymore, so they have to move forward. Fortunately, costs are coming down.

Are midlevel HOWs leveraging lower-cost technologies to try to reach parity with larger HOWs? Any examples of how that’s been successful?

Westra: Our experience is that the technical systems investment is a function of the denomination and the culture, plus what other similar churches are in the same area. Some denominations want the cheapest solutions irrespective of size, and place no priority upon media technology. Others are foolishly wasteful, buying expensive products that they don’t need and have no chance of using properly. On some recent projects, at our advice, churches have opted to invest in proper acoustics and proper basic systems, which would be costly to upgrade later, but used smaller mixers and scaled back monitor systems initially—as these areas can be upgraded later conveniently and cost effectively.

Carlson: Churches try to mimic what they see elsewhere, yes. [Christian music artist] Lincoln Brewster came to a church with a full production crew, and they transformed the stage with lighting and custom banners. After that, the church bought its own plotter to cut custom vinyl for banners and added LED lighting. There are more and more solutions that are affordable enough to let that happen.

Budd: Largely, we find this being done at the more basic level. For example, purchasing lower-cost high-brightness video projectors.

Dempsey: They are trying to, but usually with limited success. There is no substitute for using the right equipment for the application. Trying to save money on a dimmer projector or smaller display most often is a waste of funds. We usually recommend that the client raises funds for the right solution rather than compromising performance and being disappointed.

Now that the white spaces issue has been more or less settled for the time being, how are your HOW clients reacting? Are they changing out their old wireless systems yet? Has it even been an issue for them? Is this an opportunity for integrators? (Editor’s Note: Listen to “The Latest on Wireless Mic Systems” webcast to learn more about the white space issue.)

Westra: We notified many existing clients of the change, and a few upgraded, some were already compliant by luck, and some did not care. Those that did upgrade, purchased relatively inexpensive replacements. [The newest] systems automatically use wireless products that are compliant.

Carlson: We’ve done a number of installs that have upgraded from 700MHz wireless. Manufacturers’ rebate programs have helped that. But one of the problems is the FCC’s own database is not really complete, so neither are those provided by manufacturers. There are contingencies for certain entities to still stay on the old spectrum and sometimes churches bump into that. The dust hasn’t settled yet.

Budd: Some have been changing out their systems, especially if they are already heading toward the end of their useful life. However, there is very much a wait-and-see attitude out there. If it’s still working, why fix it until it breaks? However, we have had a good response to the wireless microphone manufacturer rebate programs that have been offered for upgrades to compliant frequencies. Those incentives have been sufficient to tip the balance in favor of upgrading for several churches that might not have otherwise done so.

Dempsey: Immediately it has not had much impact, but we expect it to. Because it’s not been much of a problem yet, clients are slow to react to upgrading. It will definitely become an issue, though, and will present opportunities for integrators.

Thrasher: We’re seeing a lot of incremental replacement. Churches don’t have the money to replace entire wireless systems, so they’re doing a few here and few there. But more importantly, I think they’re gun-shy about whether the white spaces issue has been fully resolved going forward. They’re realizing that wireless isn’t a 10-year investment anymore. So they’re tending to buy cheaper in case they have to buy again sooner than they thought.

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