Spotted at InfoComm 16: Video Walls!

Last week, some of the CCI Solutions team got to spend the week on the surface of the sun—also known as Las Vegas—checking out this year’s InfoComm show. Since we’re not really doing video coverage of the shows any more (too many others doing it, too much work, not enough time…), I thought I’d share with you some of the stuff we saw that was notable. 

Collaboration and Connection

This year, it seemed the themes were getting connected. Quite a few vendors were showing control systems and ways to integrate audio, video, data and control all in a single network. Some of it was quite cool, actually, but as it has limited value for a live production, we didn’t spend much time there. However, if you have multiple campuses with staff spread out all over the place and want ways to bring everyone together into the same virtual room, know that it’s getting easier and cheaper.

4K Everywhere

Like at NAB, 4K resolution is everywhere. We saw a number of 4K video walls from Absen, Leyard and Sony; more than a few projectors; and tons of displays from just about everyone. There are more 4K cameras and ways to process the content every show as well. However, none of us feel 4K IMAG is something anyone really needs—or wants to pay for—so we won’t spend much time there, either. Now we can see some use cases for 4K acquisition, as you can zoom in and pan around a shot if you just can’t be bothered to frame the shot correctly in the first place (sorry, old guy cynicism coming through there). But overall, a lot of people I talked with at the show think 4K is an answer to a question no one is asking, at least for our world. Cinema, now that’s a different kettle of fish. 

The viewing angle of the N2 is pretty amazing.

The viewing angle of the N2 is pretty amazing.

Absen N-series Video Walls

We saw these at NAB, but I haven’t written them up until now. Absen has introduced a new series of wall-mounted video walls known as the N series. There is an N2, N3, N4 and N5. These new walls are lightweight, easy to install and have some really cool features such as wireless monitoring for faults and problems. How would you like to get an email before a power module goes out? We really like these. Like all video walls, the number designation doesn’t exactly equal the dot pitch, but these are closer than most. The N2 is 2.4mm, N3 is 3.2mm, the N4 is actually a spot-on 4mm, and the N5 comes in at 5.14mm. This is much closer than some of the other walls called 3 mil that are 3.9. Most of us would call a 3.9mm dot pitch 4, but marketing people gotta market. The N-series also has an impressive 160° viewing angle, and it’s actually true. We stood right next to it and had no trouble reading the text. The cost is also quite aggressive. Walls have been coming down lately, and we’re now telling people that if you’re looking for a screen over 14’ or so wide or a projector above about 14K lumens, you should at least look at a video wall. www.usabsen.com

Elite Core

Streaming 101

Image Courtesy of  Sebastiaan ter Burg

Image Courtesy of Sebastiaan ter Burg

We talk to a lot of churches that have a desire to stream their services and events online. We recently taught a class on this topic at the North West Ministry Conference, and we thought we would share it with you here.  

So, you want to stream your services over the inter-webs?

Before you just jump in, here are some things you should think about.

Determine the Why

It is funny how many people we talk to that have no idea “why” their church wants to stream. Before you move forward, it is good to ask these questions with your team and leaders:

Does It Need To Be Live?

Would posting on YouTube or Vimeo Sunday afternoon or Monday work just as well? Often, a few hours or even a day delay won’t be a big factor for your audience.

Is it because it’s cool or does it advance the vision of your church?

Many churches fall into the trap of thinking they need to stream live because all the big “cool” churches are doing it. Most of those churches see live streaming as integral to their mission. But that doesn’t mean it’s right for every church. 

Here are (in our opinion) valid reasons to stream live:

  • Keeping services accessible for shut-ins and sick
  • Reaching your community
  • Reaching a larger audience outside your immediate community

Still going to stream live?

Do it well. Today’s connected generation has high standards and a short attention span. A poor live stream will do a lot more damage for your church’s creditability than no stream at all. Plus, you’re competing with all the big players will full staffs and big budgets.  

High quality video is essential. If you’re going for more than archival quality, you’re going to have to spend some money. Quality cameras can range from $5,000-50,000 each. If the camera requires an additional lens, they range from $3,000-50,000 each. If you have more than one camera, you will need a way to switch between them. Switchers range from $2,000-25,000.  Keep in mind you will also need capture cards, encoders, IT infrastructure and fast internet. The cost for those can quickly creep into the thousands of dollars. Live streaming is not a low-budget endeavor.

Camera Shots

Good execution is essential and that starts with camera shots. For speaking only, you can get away with one camera shot, but we recommend at minimum two. Here are some camera shots that work well and can also serve to feed your iMag and ancillary room video feed:

  • 1st front-center shot (above the knee or at waist)
  • 2nd Camera additional front-center (head to toe)
  • 3rd Camera Slash Shot (usually house left/ right)   
  • 4th-5th- Cameras POV on Stage    

Also:

  • Additional Slash or roaming
  • Audience shot
  • Jib shot
  • Dedicated Far-Wide Shot

Proper Lighting

You have to light with video in mind. Proper lighting is more important for video than it is in the room itself. Cameras don’t have the dynamic range our eyes do, so lighting needs to be well-controlled. The great thing about the new high definition cameras is that lighting doesn’t have to be crazy-bright anymore. That being said, color balance is important. The major things are:

  • Color balance front light to 4,000K-5,550K
  • Even front light
  • Good back light
  • Color (which helps with depth)

Good Audio

No matter how great the video looks, if it sounds bad, you will drive your audience away. If you are only streaming the speaking portion you can get away with the board mix, but if you are streaming the entire service with music you will want to explore some of these options:

  • Dedicated matrix mix from main console
  • Broadcast mix of stems from main console
  • Broadcast mix of each channel (split)

* A great execution of this can be found here 

Staffing Needs

Adding this kind of video may require a larger crew. Staff/ Volunteer positions may/will include:

  • Camera Operators (1-6 or more)
  • Video Director
  • Shader (depending on the complexity of your system)
  • Technical Director

IT Infrastructure

This is a BIG ONE. If you are streaming your services, you must have a good IT infrastructure and bandwidth and up-speed is crucial. 

  • For SD, minimum 1 Mbps upload, continuous
  • For HD, minimum 5 Mbps upload, continuous
  • For Multiple Bitrates 8-20 Mbps (don’t recommend)
  • QOS (Quality of Service)—prioritizing streaming traffic

Streaming Company Qualifications:

Here are some, but not all, of the services a streaming provider will offer which you should consider:

  • Weekend customer service hotline
  • Video Player embedded on your site
  • Ad free (you will have to pay for this)
  • Transcode to multiple bitrates (Receiver’s bandwidth is a potential limiting factor)
  • Analytics
  • Player DVR function (record while streaming); archive and playlist ability
  • Geo Blocking (regional availability)
  • Password protection ability for conferences etc.
  • Simulated live
  • Mobile device compatible

Read the Fine Print

Some plans will charge a monthly fee and then add bandwidth usage fees. Unlimited bandwidth may seem good, but it might ultimately be more expensive, so read the fine print and plan accordingly. One more thing; read the fine print.

 Some Streaming Providers you should look at:

     Stream Monkey

     DaCast

     Church Streaming TV

     Stream Spot

     LiveStream (use the paid service)

     UStream (use the paid service)

     YouTube (maybe)

You can also “Roll your own” with CDNs like Akamai but this is not for the meek and with all the providers out there, unless you are an uber-nerd with lots of time on your hands, we don’t recommend it.

Here are some other resources for your perusal:

10 Church Live Streaming Providers to Consider

7 Best Live Streaming Services for your Church

Top live streaming services for Houses of Worship

6 Church Live Streaming Best Practices

Elite Core