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Video Distribution in Satellite Worship, Part 2

Sep 15, 2010 11:05 AM, With Bennett Liles

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Yeah, I figure most of them are probably running VGA cables at the low-tech receiving end.
Absolutely, that was, again, one of our challenges. With all of the locations they all had a different model projector; all of them had different inputs so going from SDI to a convertor that allowed us to do anything from composite to component RGB, [which] was very helpful and again, we sorted that out when they all came in for their training. [Timestamp: 7:27]

And I understand that they’ve added multilanguage feeds. How did that go and what did they use for that?
Well, it’s interesting. We deployed all of this stuff, and they were real happy with the results, and about four weeks into what I would of called normal operating process, they called us and said, “We need to do …”—and this was a Monday morning they called us and said, “This Sunday we need to do a broadcast to 70,000 locations around the world in three languages and we need to be ready to go right away.” Naturally that was one of those phone calls that you love to get and you hate to get at the same time. But what we did then was deploy a larger Digital Rapids box, the StreamZ 2600, which allows us to do two separate video channels simultaneously and four channels of audio per video channel so what we did was create a number of profiles that allowed us to send out the video with the video is pretty much all the same. It was their program content, but the audio changed depending on the language, and we did it in both or in English, Korean, and Japanese simultaneously. [Timestamp: 8:36]

Well, this is great that they can do that nowadays with the equipment that really figures out a lot of stuff that it used to take teams of engineers to set up back in the earlier days of live TV when maybe less than half a dozen of the absolute biggest churches with full-time people could afford to do this kind of thing and this is really empowering a lot of people to do this. It’s really fantastic the way it works.
Yeah, it makes for a very simple delivery device and [with] the Digital Rapids encoder you can add any number of profiles to do different audio sources or do Flash and Windows Media and QuickTime all simultaneously. So it’s very easy to build those profiles around different needs for the end users, and on the end user side, they just simply log in to which language they wanted; they got the video and the associated language automatically. [Timestamp: 9:27]

And with the services covering that much of the globe by video, there are obviously going to be some time coordination issues.
Obviously with having a world-wide distribution, the time zones are not conducive for a live worship for some of the folks that are either in the Far East or on the eastern side of Europe. The hours get quite a bit tangled up, so what we do is we record the service live, it immediately gets uploaded automatically to their Acme service so that it can be played out, [or] as far as the smaller campuses, be played out through any browser that supports Flash. With the Streambox device, Streambox also has a software decoder so that if that can be loaded onto any machine, they can download that content to a local machine and then play it out at will. So that’s a very effective way to deliver that very high quality, broadcast-quality, content to really any location at any time. [Timestamp: 10:24]

Well, I’m sure they’re super thrilled to have this capability. Now what was the biggest challenge you had in the installation? Was there anything that really was a formidable, like having to get it done in a hurry or having architectural situations at the receiving end?
One of the biggest challenges was [that] it’s a very old building, the New Yorker Hotel, based in mid-town Manhattan, so things tend to move slowly there as far as upgrading the bandwidth they needed. The Streambox works on a unicast topology so that every location is another. We’re doing it about a 2.5Mbps stream to each of the decoders so rather than a multicast where that’s just a single 2.5Meg stream going out, with the unicast server, every single receiving device adds another 2.5Mbps load. So we had to bring a 50Mbps circuit in right away, which took a little bit of time and was quite a bit of hoops to jump through to get that in. Also the timeline, they had a very definite time. There was a special event that they were trying to hit, and it was difficult to get all of the equipment in place—bring all of the folks in to set up the decoders and then distribute them. [Timestamp: 11:35]

Well, it sounds like you jumped through all the hoops and they didn’t have that many technical hurdles to get by. What was the reaction from the people in the church after the streaming was started and they had a chance to see the results?
When we first brought everybody to their main campus from the remote sites, there was a lot of gnashing of teeth for the folks there; they’d had a bad experience there for a while and they sort of looked at us as just another solution that they were going to have to sell to people on Sunday morning and say, “Well, yeah I know it was great last week, but this week it was rough.” And I’ve got a number of calls since saying, “Gosh, this is just such a breath of fresh air that we’re able to enjoy the service and enjoy all of the aspects of it without worrying about the screen going black all of the sudden.” [Timestamp: 12:18]

So once you had it in there and they started using it, did you have to go back and make any tweaks or changes in the original installation or maybe do a little re-training or anything?
We have because they added the multilanguage component. The TouchStream device is a great device, but taps out with a limited amount of inputs. The larger StreamZ Box is more effective for them in the long term as they’ve added multiple languages. We’ve also increased their bandwidth because the quality has gotten very good; they’re seeing a lot of growth within their world-wide congregation of people that want to watch, so we’ve had to move them up a tier as far as their weekly usage for bandwidth and just looking at adding more decoders as the campuses grow from the small 40- to 70-person congregations. When they go over 100 or 150, they’re then asking us to add additional encoders. So obviously we’re adding more bandwidth at the head-end looking at a gigabyte pipe coming in so that there’s a very, very high cap on their amount of encoders and decoders to add and then also with the multilanguage component as well. [Timestamp: 13:32]

Well, I know this is especially great for churches, and the technical part of it’s getting simpler and cheaper to do all the time. Do you see a lot of other churches expressing an interest in doing this?
I’ve been involved in multisite churches for a good number of years; my home church, Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., was one of the first to adopt this live multisite topology, and there’s literally hundreds and thousands of churches throughout the world now that are doing, at the very least, live streaming, but quite often they are gathering different subsets of people all over the country for worship, and I think it’s a great trend; it’s very effective. One of the big barriers for a lot of churches is that cost of that point-to-point connectivity; many of them can’t afford that high cost of building a large wide-area network. Through the streaming devices from Digital Rapids or from Streambox being able to push that through the public Internet, [those products] make that much more accessible for a smaller or midsize church to be able to get into this sort of application for them. And I think it’s a very effective way for them to grow. [Timestamp: 14:40]

Yeah, with a lot of them using volunteer tech people and just one or two local gurus to teach everybody, but the equipment has gotten where it’s very easy to train people on it and get good results. I think this is really empowering a lot of churches. Neil Morrison, director of Systems Integrations with LMG Systems Integration, and it’s certainly been great having you here Neil to tell us about it.
My pleasure Bennett and likewise for me; it’s an exciting new world as these technologies grow and grow and become more effective and easier to get at. I love that a lot of these [churches are] able to use the public Internet and that being such a barrier for many churches, and I work with lots and lots of churches that they’ll look at some of these high-end churches and think “That’s great; we’d love to do that, but we can’t afford this $6-7,000 a month fee for a wide-area network,” and this just allows them to be able to jump into this multisite game without the extreme investment.

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