Established in 1932, City Church of Madison, Wisconsin, has a striking modernist exterior and a spacious, 800-seat, modern sanctuary with complete stage and AV production capabilities. For years, City Church has relied on live stage productions supported by multiple large video projection screens, professional lighting and a full pro-audio-quality sound system to engage the congregation. But faced with the expanding scope and vision of the church's AV productions, City Church recently did a substantial systems upgrade by engineering and installing a completely new production workflow built upon Dante audio and the new Dante AV networked video platform (opens in new tab).
“We have always believed in using technology to eliminate distractions and deliver our message in a clear, compelling, and engaging way,” said Nathan Rohde, worship pastor, City Church. “We basically just did a complete overhaul of the entire sanctuary so we can now integrate audio and video seamlessly throughout our church, our education facilities and online.”
Rohde explained that the church needed to advance its capabilities on several fronts. The church had hit the limits of its existing technology. The production quality in the sanctuary needed improving, and full AV content needed to be shared more extensively throughout the church facility. Leadership also wanted a better way to bring the same quality of their live productions to their streaming media services.
"As we researched potential network solutions, we learned about Dante AV and the Dante AV-enabled encoders from Patton. This looked like the direction we needed to go," said Ryan Schaub, a technical volunteer at City Church. "The flexible scalability that an AV-over-IP network system offers is light-years beyond analog cabling. The more we learned about the Dante ecosystem, the more we realized that this is what we needed.”
The Dante platform is a complete AV-over-IP solution that allows audio, video, and control data to be transported over standard 1GB ethernet networks. Supported in more than 3,000 Dante-enabled products from more than 500 manufacturers, Dante replaces point-to-point analog and digital connections with software-based routing, effortlessly sending AV channels anywhere on the network with perfect digital fidelity. Dante AV brings the power of Dante to networked video, providing 4K60 4:4:4 video with ultra-low latency over a 1GB network, and delivers perfect synchronization with Dante audio.
City Church technical director Macky Mikunda and his team converted their entire workflow over to an IP-based Dante AV network. Instead of unplugging and plugging cables into patch bays, they now route all signals using Dante Controller software. What previously took a lot of time to set up, is now done quickly with direct digital network connectivity, rather than chaining systems together and losing signal quality at each step.
Dante AV Patton encoders are used with all of the church's SDI cameras and sanctuary projection screens. The video is distributed over the network with Dante Controller perfectly routing synchronized video and audio. Mikunda is now adding decoders for multiple screens throughout the facility so they can deliver live sound, video and graphics simultaneously to multiple areas throughout the church.
"This was a big change for us. We pulled out almost all of our old analog cabling, upgraded our network switches, and ran a more extensive set of Cat 6 cabling to tie all areas together. We then dialed in our network specifics, set the clock-sync settings and the results have been great,” Mikunda said. “We're now fairly future-proof and will be able to modify or scale our system over the coming years. Ultimately, that saves us a lot of time, money, and frustration while improving the quality of our work.”
Regarding the audio, the church’s former production point-to-point analog system had several limitations. There was a large analog cable snake running from the stage back to patch bays and into the front-of-house mixer. Various analog splitters were used to distribute signals to a limited number of other areas, but everything was essentially isolated to the sanctuary, and all other areas had their own sound systems. Previously, it was a tug of war between the needs of live productions and those of streaming; there was no independent gain or mix control between those two functions, so productions were hard to manage and deliver.
All stage box and snake cabling has been eliminated and replaced with a single Cat 6 network cable. The church was able to keep their existing front-of-house board by simply adding a Dante card to the console, and they kept their existing amplifiers and speakers by using a set of Dante AVIO adapters to distribute audio signals over the network.
Sarah Karlen, the arts and communications pastor for City Church, added that Dante technology and its improvements to productions help make the church more relevant to younger generations. Having a logical and easy-to-use system has been helpful for the church’s many volunteers and students, too.
“Our musicians, technicians and the congregation have all noted that everything looks and sounds better. Bringing together all the equipment and systems into a unified platform allows us to focus on the art of the production, not on the issues and limitations of the cable runs or equipment,” said Karlen. “We're now able to efficiently share our message with more people in a higher quality way, and the Dante platform has made it possible.”