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Upgrading Church to HD Video and Projection System, Part 2

Mar 18, 2010 11:07 AM


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Editor’s note: For your convenience, this transcription of the podcast includes timestamps. If you are listening to the podcast and reading its accompanying transcription, you can use the timestamps to jump to any part of the audio podcast by simply dragging the slider on the podcast to the time indicated in the transcription.

The complete AV production upgrade at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lee, Minn., involved the sanctuary, fellowship hall, the north ex, and fireside room with sound, video cameras, recording, and projection. Michael Benedetti of Graybow Communications Group is here to complete the picture of the installation.

OK Michael, last time we got into the Vaddio cameras and the church installation you were doing up in Albert Lee, Minn., and the Zion Lutheran Church obviously knew what they wanted on this. It seems to me like there was a good bit more than just putting in a few cameras involved in this thing. They do DVD duplication, and where did they locate all that equipment that they do the duplication on?
Benedetti: [For] all the duplication and editing, they decided to just rather than have that out in the sanctuary, it wasn’t necessary and it just took up unnecessary space. All of that’s back in the office area, which allows them to go back there and deal with it in their own time in a more private situation. [Timestamp: 1:31]

OK, were there any sort of architectural challenges you had to getting all of the cameras connected—all of the PTZ cameras?
Oh yeah, well not so much the PTZ cameras as going into any older facility like this, particularly one like this where you’re looking at a lot of really nice woodwork and masonry work. It is always a challenge to get a cable from point A to point B. In this particular situation, we worked with a local electrical contractor there and he provided us with most of our conduits, runs and boxes, and everything we needed. We were fortunate in this situation that instead of running cables within the sanctuary itself to get signals from point A to point B, below the sanctuary is what they have they call a fellowship hall, and that particular basement has a dropped ceiling with removable ceiling tiles, so what made it really kind of nice for us was all of our cabling throughout the sanctuary goes through the floor in the sanctuary. We had a number of core drills drilled. All the cable drops down through the sanctuary floor into the basement ceiling and it runs above the dropped ceiling tiles in the basement, so we really kept all the cabling and stuff to a minimum within the sanctuary itself. It just pretty much pops out of the floor and gets to where it needs to go inside conduit, and our electrical contractor took a lot of care in his conduit runs as well as painting them so that they pretty much blended in with any masonry or wood work that they were attached to—that was one of the architectural things that we had to take into consideration. Another one was when it came to hanging the audio system, there were some challenges there because it is an open cathedral ceiling with wood beams, and we were hanging a lot of weight there, so we had to have a bracket custom manufactured that would bridge that gap between the actual structure and our PA cabinets and put them where they needed to go and still make sure that it was safely hung above the congregation. [Timestamp: 3:49]

Yeah, I mean, most churches are relatively old buildings and they are not really built for easily integrating audio and video stuff, but sometimes you have to get really creative doing that stuff.
Yeah, a lot of those churches, they were never built with like the idea of hanging hundreds and hundreds of pounds of speakers from their ceilings. That wasn’t really taken into consideration when this building was built, so we had to take a lot of care in that custom fabrication to make sure that that happened and that it was done safely. [Timestamp: 4:25]

And you’ve got a kind of an interesting video situation there with the PTZ cameras integrated with a roving camera with an operator. All that has to go into a switcher, and I believe you are using the Vaddio ProductionView HD switcher. What kind of capability does that have?
Well, it’s actually a pretty nice unit. It was chosen, again, from price point, what you get bang for the buck. The capabilities of that offers a wide variety of wipes and cuts, which are nice to make those smooth transitions and then have a much more professional looking presentation coming out of your screens as well as the DVDs that they make there. The thing that’s nice about that switcher is it is a digital switcher, but it’s loaded with buttons and knobs. So unlike a lot of the other switchers that are really menu-driven, this particular switcher is operated pretty much from standard tactile buttons and knobs, which when you are dealing with volunteer operators—which is the case with this particular house of worship, they like to feel the knobs—a lot of people get intimidated by menu pages. [Timestamp: 5:39]

Yeah, I know how that is. It’s the same way with control systems in classrooms and things. LCD screens and things like that sometimes tend to scare people. Now this one has a little LCD screen on it. I believe you can go into a little bit of menu stuff. What is normally shown on the little LCD screen on the switcher?
Well, the LCD screen will give you status about what you switch to and that sort of thing, but for the most part that LCD screen just serves as a display mainly for setup—set your resolutions on all your input sources, set your resolutions on your outputs, and that sort of thing. You don’t really pay too much attention to that little LCD screen while you’re actually doing a live presentation; it’s more in the preliminary setup. [Timestamp: 6:31]

I noticed that the unit has what looks like to be a serial port on the back. How can you use that?
The serial port, we didn’t incorporate that into this particular design. You could certainly use a serial port for integrating say a third-party-panel-type scenario if we chose to do that. Again, it’s a nice function to have. You could use that for RS-232 control, but in this particular situation, they were looking for more of a hands-on feel. So the touchpanel didn’t really seem like the way to go on this one, but it’s nice to have that option. [Timestamp: 7:14]

Yeah, it seems like with volunteer operators you would have less learning curve. With the knobs, they can get on there and actually not have to go through a lot of menus and things. So how many staff members does it take to man this system and get everything up and going for say a typical Sunday service?
Depends on how complex they want to get, but on a typical Sunday service, it’s pretty much set up that this system could run with two, maybe three, people. The roving camera generally mounts and lives up on the balcony center, and a shot is set up for that, which usually they would set that up as a cut-away shot. So unless it’s an event that actually warrants having somebody rove with that camera, it serves as a stationary shot to cut to and that could be focused on the lectern or the pulpit or wherever you wanted it to be. That being said, if you’re not having a roving operator, you really only need an operator for the video system and the audio system. It would be kind of tough for one person to do both of those jobs. And again, you might want a third person just to loan hand in computer-generated graphics to the next source that are going to show up there off the computers. That’s a nice thing, but a lot of times a video person can handle that as well. [Timestamp: 8:42]

Yeah, so they just have, I guess, one person go in and kind of turn everything on and get everything powered up, and you’re using volunteers. Now you obviously provided the initial training on all of this stuff. Have you got a thing going now where they maybe have one or two gurus on the crew that can sort of train the newer folks?
Yeah, that’s basically how we did this was we trained a select group of people and they’ll pass it down. They’ve gotten a lot of interests from the younger members of the congregation who think it’s pretty cool. They see the big audio console; they see the remote control cameras, and they want to be part of that. So they seem to be getting more and more volunteers on and a lot of them seem to be younger kids in their teens. They just want to get involved in the technology, which is nice. And what were finding is the people that we’ve trained pass it on to other people and that’s how [they learn], because it is a volunteer staff and so there is going to be times where certain people can’t make it and the more people who know how to use it, the better off they are. [Timestamp: 9:49]

So, what’s been the reaction so far by the staff and the people who kind of wrote the checks and wanted you guys to install this? Have they come out and said, “Wait, you got to come back and change something,” or has everything kind of gone pretty much the way you thought it would?
For the most part, I think we’ve met the expectations of what they thought this system would be. With any system that has this much technology available and stuff, there is always, “Can it do this? Can it do that?” [For] certain things, yeah, we can do that. We can make it do that—nothing major, just minor calibrations and that sort of thing. The system can grow and expand. As it stands right now, they are very, very, very happy with it. One of the key things that the pastor wanted to do was make it more contemporary in there. It’s an older church, an older congregation. They wanted to draw some of the younger people in there and to do that, to have the band, to have the big sound system, to have the cameras, to have the projection screens, and all that going on just makes it a little bit more exciting. It tends to draw in some of the younger members, and that seems to be working for them, so they’re very very happy about that, that the younger kids are raising the technology and actually showing up to see it. [Timestamp: 11:16]

Yeah, as they get their feet wet with it, they’ll kind of tend to get bolder with what they’ll want to do. And that’s only a natural thing, I guess, when they come to you guys and say, “Hey, now we’ve decided we want to do this and do these things at the same time,” which is OK if they want to stretch the system out to do as much as it will do.
Well, that’s the natural progression of these things. As they get more and more comfortable with this system, it’s inevitable that they will probably get back to us and say, “Hey, you know what would be a nice thing to add?” And when we design this system, we always like to keep that in mind—in a design, try and do what I refer to as “open architecture”, which means when the systems installed, you don’t have to go back and rethink the wheel if they ever wanted to add anything to it; you kind of leave your design open knowing that in the future, they may want to add some stuff to it. So you put that into the initial design to make that an easy transition down the line. [Timestamp: 12:18]

All right, Michael Benedetti of Graybow Communications, sounds like you had a great install at Zion Lutheran Church in Albert Lee, Minn., and you’ve got the people kind of into the video age. And these things are always a challenge, but it sounds like you got them kind of pointed in the right direction at least on what they want to do. Thanks a lot for being here and telling us about it.
Well, thank you, Bennett. We really appreciate the opportunity to be a part of this and share on our insight on innovative designs. One thing we do at Graybow is really concentrate on design build, listening to our client’s needs and then providing execution all the way down to the training. So we have one very satisfied client here, and we thank you again for being able to share this project with you.



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