In a network-centric world, different techniques and new approaches are critical.
Spiritual institutions of different types and sizes are increasingly using video as part of their communications as a means to expand the impact they have on people’s lives. We’re seeing an evolution among all organizations, including religious ones, with respect to how they create and deliver that video: Things seem to be moving from specialized audio/video infrastructure and wiring to the common IT and IP technologies we all use in all aspects of our everyday lives.
The house-of-worship (HoW) market is currently in a strong position to benefit from this evolution. Indeed, many facilities already have some kind of standard IT (wired or wireless) network on their campus. And, even for those that don’t, it’s worth noting that adding standard IT networking is far less complex and costly than installing dedicated wiring for traditional video and audio distribution.
Using a tried-and-true, IT-based infrastructure for moving media around a network makes for a great foundation, but the next aspect to address is acquiring and producing video and audio to create engaging content.
The Growth Of IP-Native Product
Fortunately, we now see a complement of IP-capable AV solutions. These include cameras, mixers, graphics systems and streaming systems that work within IP for media. There are also converters that will use traditional video inputs and outputs and convert them to IP for transport.
Through these IP-native devices and converter boxes, we can simply put production devices of all types on the network, let them discover each other, and they’ll immediately be ready to transport media back and forth—all with minimal cabling and a significantly reduced cost. This connectivity can be extended across the network to other locations using streaming, even over the public internet.
The ability to create sophisticated productions is no longer limited to large religious facilities that have generous budgets. The diminution of equipment and infrastructure costs, coupled with the rise in functionality, widens the opportunity; this allows a far greater number of organizations to produce video that’s bounded not by technology or budget restrictions, but, rather, only by creative imagination.
An IP-based media protocol can provide multiple-source encoding, transmission and reception of multiple streams of high-quality, low-latency, frame-accurate video, audio and data in real time. There is flexibility for video resolutions, aspect ratios and frame rates with audio, proxy, key, control, tally, custom metadata and precision time stamps. Media sources can be recorded directly to storage as files with time stamps, making multi-camera production and editing fundamentally easier.
Network Device Interface (NDI) has emerged as a technology that offers all these capabilities, while also permitting all types of systems, from many suppliers, to work together. This software standard requires no special hardware of any kind, and it works with existing software applications, computer platforms and network infrastructures to acquire, store and deliver video, audio and data streams. Most importantly, it’s completely free for end users to use.
Workflow Building Blocks
Video production at a HoW can start out quite simply. The first step can be as simple as a camera, a microphone and a streaming encoder. The HoW can mount and control pan/tilt/zoom (PTZ) cameras without an operator. Existing cameras can be converted to IP with simple converters. A basic streaming encoder can be set to stream to a single destination, such as a hosting platform where viewers can connect to see the streaming program in real time.
For more advanced production, multiple cameras can capture more action from different positions and angles. Multiple displays can also be used in sanctuaries; different video can be shown on each one, or content can be uniform across all displays. A common need is image magnification (IMAG) of a camera source to a display, and that content must maintain correct video and audio sync. These aspects require a live-production system for switching, transitions, effects, video-clip playout and managed outputs. A more advanced system also integrates audio mixing, graphics insertion and control of devices such as cameras. With IP, all these functions are easy to accomplish.
Production systems can include streaming capabilities to stream the content out to other destinations. Events can be streamed to social-media platformsor to a website set up by a HoW. Streaming can be used for bidirectional, real-time, multi-site connectivity to enable exciting possibilities like featuring a remote guest speaker or performer. Streaming also maintains involvement for members who are not able to attend in person; they’re empowered to view an event live via their computer or mobile device. These IP streams are recordable and savable for later use, including for on-demand viewing.
The People Make It A Solution
Although infrastructure and equipment are important factors in producing video, it’s critical to make the technology easy even for volunteers to use. The good news is that, with the advent of more IT-based practices and IP transport, it’s becoming easier to create media content. It no longer requires extensive video-production experience to get results people will want to view. The tools and systems for video production and delivery reflect a drive toward an inclusive user experience. Devices have more auto-configuration and auto-discovery functionality, diminishing the technical complexity of connecting various components.
Customized software control panels optimize common tasks and limit the variables to just what is required for a particular production or operator. Control surfaces can even be deployed on touchscreens and tablets, enabling anyone to use them. Production elements such as effects and graphics can be set up with presets and templates to make it fast and easy to make changes or additions.
There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging the truth: Most HoWs don’t have the necessary in-house technical expertise to make the best implementation and equipment choices. Therefore, it’s key for most HoWs to find a reliable and knowledgeable partner to assist them.
All the foregoing changes related to using IT and IP for media have had a significant effect on AV integrators. This new paradigm calls for different techniques and approaches as compared to the traditional means of dealing with facilities’ video and audio needs. A technology partner must have experience using software, computers and networks to acquire, produce and deliver media.
HoWs would be well advised to look at the software and hardware that a potential partner offers and see if it can integrate easily into an IP-based media environment. Also, HoWs should inquire as to which successful projects a partner can point to as a means of proving its expertise. For major projects that will require a build-out of facilities and complex installations, examine the resources the partner brings to bear for design and structural engineering.
For integrators, make sure you’re offering the right equipment and you can intelligently and thoughtfully discuss not just how you’ll install it, but also how you’ll provide long-term support. Successful video deployments in the HoW space depend on building partnerships.
A network of certified technology integrators exists across the country. All of them are familiar with religious organizations’ unique requirements. These integrators can offer affordable and effective consultation and installation services, no matter the size of the project.
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