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Media Ministries

Oct 19, 2011 2:24 PM, By Cynthia Wisehart

Case Studies in Media Capture and Distribution

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Live Streaming Basics

International House of Prayer uses a Utah Scientific Utah-400 router

IHOP’s setup boasts a broadcast facility built around a Utah Scientifi c UTAH-400 v-144 router. IHOP broadcasts live from its 24/7 Prayer Room (picture right). Photo by: Becky Pratts

The move to digital routing and master control has naturally made switching feeds much easier to accomplish—important in part because IHOP employs a combination of paid, trainee, and volunteer technicians. “In all, about 10 people have been trained on the equipment,” Burch says. We now have an easy-to-understand graphical user interface (GUI) telling us where the signals are going at any given moment. And we can preset the system so that a single mouse click switches multiple circuits. Compared with the days of manually pulling and placing plugs, it’s a dramatic improvement in our onscreen presentation and service reliability.”

Tangibly, Burch can measure the return on the broadcast upgrade in terms of viewers. “Through our partnership with GOD TV and a terrestrial broadcaster serving Asia, we have extended our reach to regular viewers into more than 170 nations around the world. The influence of our professional-looking media product can also be seen in the 200 international applicants to the new-look International House of Prayer University (IHOPU) that opened at our new campus last year. Of course, that success isn’t entirely attributable to broadcast itself, but we have learned from our students and other viewers that professional packaging for a compelling message makes every aspect of our ministry look more appealing.”

IHOP-KC has grown exponentially since it was founded in 1999, and its fast growth continues, with more than 1,000 staff serving the ministry. It became necessary for the media center to keep pace with the growth in facilities and requirements, so Burch says it was important that the center was built with expansion in mind. “For example, we continually fi nd ourselves in need of more digital media storage capacity, and our latest investment is a Nexsan SATABeast SATA array for ultra-high capacity backup storage,” Burch says. “The Utah Scientific router’s capacity can be scaled up with the simple addition of cards. Today, we have some 40 sources for it, including VoIP inter-site feeds, cameras, servers and edit suites, and more are on the way.”

IHOP recently added a second smaller UTAH-400 router running in HD to support the seven lecture rooms installed at IHOPU. The key to both these installations was understanding the role that media would play in the ministry and congregant experience, which in turn shaped the technical approach. In the case of Celebration Church, the desire was to bring multiple sites together with a shared element—the lead pastor—but to allow each of the sites to control how that experience would be integrated at their site, both contextually and technically. For IHOP, the mission drove the technology toward a more traditional broadcast production workflow, but one that could easily integrate with web-based distribution.

Live Streaming Basics

As one of the most veteran suppliers of streaming options for worship applications, Digital Rapids has a good summary tutorial on factors to consider for media ministry, in particular live streaming. The paper includes basics of live streaming, technical considerations, and common mistakes. It will help you understand how encoding for streaming works and how to start to making decisions about whether to specify a content delivery network (CDN) or not, upload vs. download speeds, how to evaluate a network for streaming load, tradeoffs between resolution and bitrate, and an introduction to other distribution factors such as DVD and mobile.

For example, the choice between whether or not to use a CDN comes down to numbers that can rapidly grow, depending on the number of viewing locations to be reached. The amount of bandwidth needed is essentially the sum of all the individual viewing bandwidths—the bit rate of the stream times the number of viewers. So a 750Kbps bit rate to 100 viewers produces 75,000Kbps (75Mbps) far greater than the upload speeds of the majority of Internet connections.

For insight to this and the other equations that help determine a quality streaming experience, read Live Streaming Basics.

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