AV Technology: How is AV/IT convergence playing out in your facility?
Ricky Perinchief: Last year, we finished up a huge remodel of our auditorium, creating more of a theatrical/concert hall feel like we have always wanted.
During that time, we completed major upgrades to our technology: we upgraded our FOH gear and installed 7.1-surround sound, bought three new projectors and the Pro Presenter stage display module to make one seamless image on the stage wall. We also added some LED bars, new crowd lighting with dimmer packs, and more intelligent lighting fixtures on-stage. After that was complete, we purchased and installed a 13-camera HD system, complete with a combination of Blackmagic Cinema, Pocket, and Studio cameras and GoPro Hero 3+ Black’s; all connected to the new Blackmagic ATEM 4K 2 M/E switcher.
The system features a jib, wireless steadicam, and an invention of our own—a wireless track system that combines a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera and Paralinx Arrow HD transmitter with a custom-built camera car that utilities remote control car technology. It’s on a long track in the center of the room suspended from the ceiling, going from the back of the room to the front of the stage; giving a unique aerial view of the worship service. GoPros are used to provide POV angles of the drums, keyboards, and guitars.
What AV/IT problems have you solved recently?
Ricky Perinchief: With all of these new toys—many of which rely on WiFi or networking to work properly—we were forced to upgrade our network infrastructure. This meant getting new wireless routers for the campus, including external systems that cover the parking, playground, ball field, and basketball courts. We also ran gigabit to all tech computers on campus.
Nowadays it seems like if the network or WiFi is down, everything is down; even the kids' check-in system or processing tithe and offerings.
The main project before we launched live streaming earlier this summer was negotiating with our city utilities company to run fiber optic to our campus, even though we are a couple of miles outside the city limits. We ended up signing a multiyear contract and did not have to pay any install fees for them to run the fiber. It took months for permitting and install, but once completed we were lightning fast.
When the fiber was up, we launched our live streaming services through livestream. com providing mobile, medium, and HD streams. All services are archived, including our world-renowned praise and worship—live audio mix and all—and we are pretty proud of the production both visually and audibly.
In our research, we found the majority of churches either don’t archive their worship at all, embarrass themselves with a bad broadcast audio mix, or have to do a lot of post mixing to make it presentable enough. Ours is completely live and raw, yet gives the viewer a true sense of our worship experience with a high standard of excellence.
Volunteers are also on-hand to chat live with viewers around the world, answering questions, taking prayer requests, or just encouraging them in their faith as they watch. You don’t have to physically be in church anymore to be a part of NOW Church. This has caused people from our own city, across the country, and in other nations to log in and experience church in a creative and interactive way. And if they missed it for some reason, they can watch the archive in its entirety, anytime and anywhere at www.NOWchurch.tv.
What types of new tech or products do you want to learn more about?
Ricky Perinchief: Filmmaking is a big thing for me personally. I see myself as a story teller.
Being in broadcasting and television specifically for nearly 17 years, I see the industry shifting. I see the tools getting more affordable for independent filmmakers.
We are planning to shoot our first music video next month with our Blackmagic Cinema cameras and are also looking to do more documentary type features and short films, incorporating those talented individuals in our church who are passionate about the arts, acting, and technology.
What AV/IT do you hope to buy in the near future?
Ricky Perinchief: Currently, I’d have to say our weakest link is lighting. In fact our lighting director, Dan McKenrick, is flying down soon to help us eliminate shadows and refocus our existing lighting. We also plan to add more lights in the near future and re-do our stage design. Our lighting console is a couple of generations behind, so upgrading that is a big need.
I’m also a firm believer in upgrading all forms of technology more often. I’m always looking at ways to improve and upgrade. Too many times in my opinion, people tend to hang on to technology for way too long; for years, until it’s outdated or worthless. I try to stay ahead of the game, first by shopping for the lowest prices when acquiring new equipment, storing the original product packaging and taking really good care of our equipment.
Months later, I constantly reevaluate selling our equipment online since it’s like-new condition and upgrading. We take the profits of the sale and upgrade to something newer and more up to date for usually just a little more money, sometimes even breaking even. It’s a matter of finding that sweet spot in the depreciation of a product. Plus, warranties start over, which means we rarely have to worry about repair bills.
Where are tech manufacturers getting it wrong or missing opportunities?
Ricky Perinchief: There is a lot of misinformation out there about certain products. A lot of times, manufacturers don’t give proper instructions for install or integration, leaving a lot for the blogosphere and forums to fill in the blanks. I think if more manufacturers provided more user-friendly literature or did video tutorials, trying a little harder to communicate with their customers, things would be so much easier.
Some manufacturers market a product with certain features that may not be ready for primetime or they are too vague in their explanations which tend to cause confusion. Over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people—especially churches—get taken advantage by dealers and/or manufacturers who make false promises. I think it’s best when they under-promise and over-deliver. Honesty, integrity, without the typical public relations spin is a way to earn and keep their trust. Clear communication is key.
What is the biggest obstacle to collaboration? What are your collaboration strategies?
Ricky Perinchief: A lot of times, especially in church life, it’s hard to truly recognize the gifts and talents of the people around you. Just attending a church or volunteering in a department, you might not get the chance to connect with other members enough to know what they do for a living, or what experiences they’ve had in their lives that you would have never guessed in a million years.
For us, working on our custom wireless track system has been a huge area of collaboration. Who would have ever imagined one of our guitar players used to be a professional RC car racer and even built his own cars. We brought him in to help us design our first generation camera car for the track system.
Then once that was up and working, another young man in our church comes up to me after service one day and starts inquiring about the track system. He tells me he just graduated from Florida State University with his engineering degree and built a robot for his master thesis. He then comes on board to help us with our second-generation track system, that will be iPad controlled via WiFi, with a four-times faster motor than our first generation, complete with a pan and tilt head for more precise movements—all with the ability to save the camera move as a preset on the iPad. Once we perfect it, we believe it will be a great tool we can market to churches, educational facilities, performing arts centers, and concert halls. None of this would be possible if we hadn’t got to know these incredibly talented individuals who were right under our nose and collaborated with them on this cool idea.
Another area of collaboration for us as a church is expanding our social media presence. We need to do a better job of reaching the millennials and provide more targeted and constant content. As a tech crew, we are starting to incorporate more behind the scenes and tutorial videos to help answer questions and show how we do certain things; especially since we are looked at as outside-the-box thinkers both creatively and technically, yet keeping the budgets lean and mean without sacrificing excellence. People don’t see the hours of frustration we put into integrating technologies or troubleshooting issues, but if we can be a help to others and be a resource for them, it’s all worth it.
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