Old Production Takes From an Old Guy

Category: Video (Page 3 of 18)

Why Your Online Video Has To Be Good


Image courtesy of  Steve Bowbrick

Image courtesy of Steve Bowbrick

Last time, we touched on the issue of live streaming or not. I am hearing more and more churches that want to live stream their services and I always ask why? I’m not going to rehash that here; go back and read the last post. Today, I want to focus on those that have made the decision to have an online video presence. And I want to tell you why it has to be good. 

The Competition is Fierce

North Point, Life Church, Church on the Move, Willow Creek, Saddleback and dozens more giga-churches stream their services every weekend. And they do a great job. So if someone wants to go online and watch a well-produced online church service, it’s not hard to find one. Now, you don’t necessarily have to go to that extreme; but you had best not simply throw a consumer grade camera up at the back of the room and post the resulting video online. Not only will no one watch it, there could be more harm than just a low view count. 

Who Watches Anyway?

There are several classes of people who watch church services online. The first class is your own congregation; they couldn’t make it that weekend for whatever reason, and wanted to see what the sermon was about. They are probably the most tolerant of poor video quality. But even then, if the shots are grainy, out of focus, or poorly cut together, or if the audio is poor, they won’t last long. It’s a lot harder for most people to just get up and leave a service in the middle if it’s not meeting their expectations; but closing a window online is easy. You have to do a good job to keep people engaged. 

Another class is the church shopper. We’re finding that more and more people check out a church’s website before visiting the first time. And this may seem like a great reason to post videos of your service. And it is. But only if those videos are good. If the video quality—technically or artistically—is subpar, you have probably lost the chance make a personal impression. Poor video tells people you don’t care enough about church to do this well. It tells them that your church is not worthy of their time. For this group, no video is better than bad video. With no video, they have to attend your church at least once to see if they like it. That gives you at least one shot at making it a great experience for them. 

Don’t Do What You Can’t Do Well

A lot of churches will justify poor online video by saying, “We’re just getting started, we don’t have to have it all dialed in at the beginning.” I would suggest another approach. Start small, but start well. A smaller church probably can’t afford to jump right into a 5 camera shoot with a jib and a full broadcast mix. That’s OK. But start off with a single, high-quality, manned camera and just do the sermon. Get that nailed. Make sure your lighting is great, the image quality is excellent and the audio is top-notch. This isn’t that hard, though it’s also not necessarily cheap. 

Later on, you can add additional cameras and a switcher for more visual interest. You can even start adding graphics. Only after that’s fully dialed in should you attempt the music set as that is easily the hardest. Your lighting will need to change, and you’ve got to figure out audio. It’s not impossible, but it is difficult to do well. If you’re a volunteer-run church, plan on spending some money to have professionals come in and help you get that set up. That doesn’t guarantee every weekend will sound amazing, but it’s a good first step. 

It’s a classic walk before you run situation. Start small, but start well. Don’t make the mistake of putting poor video online and thinking that just because it’s there people will watch it. Pastors (hopefully) don’t phone in their sermons because it’s not that big a deal (it is). We shouldn’t be doing a poor job on video simply because it’s online. If anything, being online should mean it’s more important because anyone can see it. Put your best foot forward and do a great job in everything you do. Hey, that sounds scriptural!

  Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Colossians 3:23-24

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To Stream Or Not To Stream


Original image by  Quinn Dombrowski , modified by me.

Original image by Quinn Dombrowski, modified by me.

I’m always fascinated on how I end up having the same conversation with multiple people over the course of a few weeks. Topics rotate, but when one hits, I end up talking about it a lot. In the last two weeks, I’ve had at least four conversations about live streaming church services. I’ll start by saying I’m not categorically opposed to live streaming church services. I can understand why many of the big churches that live stream do just that. What I struggle with is smaller churches, especially those with volunteer tech teams wanting to stream. I always ask the same questions when churches talk to me about streaming. I offer them here for your consideration. 

First Ask, “Why?”

I shouldn’t be, but I am often surprised that many churches have not even asked why they want to stream. Many heard it’s possible, or saw a big church at a conference doing it, or simply have big church envy. But let’s really break it down for a minute and back up a step. What is the purpose of the church service? It seems to me—as a non theologian who never went to seminary—that the church gathers corporately once or more a week to worship together (usually defined as singing, which may or may not be worship; but that’s another post), teaching, the administering of the sacraments and fellowship. At least two of those is hard to accomplish sitting in front of your computer, and one is a marginal experience. Only the teaching portion really translates well. 

So my question is, if we can’t deliver a good experience for 75% of why the church comes together to do, why are we doing this again? For a large church that has the infrastructure, it’s not that much of an incremental cost to stream. But the small church run by volunteers has a harder mountain to climb. Plus, people like to attend small churches (and I’m defining “small” as below about 1,000 on a weekend) because they feel more connected to others there. And watching on the computer makes it hard to be connected. 

Often, people push back and say, “Well, we want to stream for parents who have sick kids or people on vacation.” I’ll tackle the vacation question first. I would be willing to bet that approximately 2% of churchgoers watch a live streamed service of their church while on vacation. And that may be generous. So that’s not really an issue. Now, I understand parents of sick kids might benefit from being able to watch the service at home. But…

Is Live Really Necessary?

I’ve had sick kids at home. And when they’re little, you’re up and down all the time. It’s hard to watch a TV show on a DVR when your kid is sick, let alone a live stream of your church service. Again, I suspect very few people actually do this. In fact, it is likely that it would be far more beneficial to said parents to be able to watch it on YouTube or Vimeo later in the day. They can pause, rewind and skip forward as it suits them. They could even do this later in the evening after the kids finally conk out. If the service was only live, chances are they missed it. 

Live is hard; you need a solid internet connection, a good video feed and a great audio mix to make the experience one worth watching. It’s a lot easier to deliver a good experience after the fact. By recording the service, it’s possible to sweeten the audio, maybe add some graphics and upload it in a format that is easy to view. 

Also, it’s important to ask if video is necessary. A lot of pastors want to video podcast their messages. I’m not sure I understand why. When I listen to sermon podcasts—and the key word is listen—I listen to them on my phone in the car or at the gym. I have never actually watched a sermon, except when doing research on lighting, number of cameras and set design. And even then, I watch 4-5 minutes. Sometimes, audio is a much better option. And that’s easy to do well. 

Does Live Streaming Advance Your Mission or Is It Just Cool?

I always encourage technical artists to tie their ministry back to the mission of their church. In this case, I challenge church leaders to determine of live streaming really advances their mission or it’s just cool. A lot of churches do it, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Does a live stream really help you reach your community? Do you have a way to engage with those watching at home? Do you have a marketing plan to let the world know you’re streaming? How do you follow up and make sure your audience is connected, serving and giving? Can’t answer those questions? Back to the drawing board. 

Again, I’m not against streaming; I’m against doing things we haven’t thought through just because we can. And when I say, “we can” I mean the tech team has to somehow figure it out, often without appropriate resources, training and support. And we haven’t even touched on the quality aspect. But that’s another post (that you can read next time).

Does your church stream? Does it align with your mission or is it an add-on? Let us know in the comments.

Roland

Church Tech Weekly Episode 214: It’s Sunday Already?

One of the most common questions we get at CTA is how to build volunteer teams. We dig deep into that topic tonight with a guy who is really doing a great job with it. Get out the pencil and paper, you’re going to want to take notes…

More…

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What’s the Difference: LCD vs. DLP Pt. 3


Image courtesy of   Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Today we’ll get to our final installment of LCD vs. DLP. We’ve covered some basic design differences, discussed the pros and cons of LCD, so today we’ll tackle the pros and cons of DLP. And I’ll tell you which one you should buy (spoiler alert, I’m not really going to do that; it’s not nearly that clear cut). But first, DLP; what’s good, and what’s not.

DLP Pros

  • High reliability. Because of their sealed optic engine and lack of organic or inorganic panels, they tend to last for a long time and look the same throughout the life span. 
  • No convergence issues. It’s a single chip, so you don’t have to worry about images not lining up. Of course, when you start looking at 3 DLP projectors, convergence becomes a factor again. 
  • No real screen door effect. At a given resolution, the pixel pitch tends to be tighter on a DLP than LCD. Thus, you are less likely to see the pixels. The image tends to look more homogenous. Again, at 1920×1080, these differences are shrinking a lot.
  • Higher apparent output. DLPs have a while slot on the color wheel to boost brightness. Thus, the image may look brighter than an LCD. This is deceptive, however. I’ve seen shootouts of projectors where a 5000 lumen LCD is clearly brighter than a 7000 lumen DLP. I suspect this has more to do with how “lumens” are calculated, however. 

DLP Cons

  • The rainbow effect. I mentioned this last time. Because of the color cycling that happens when the image is produced, some people can see a rainbow of color on the screen. 
  • Color saturation might not be as good as LCD. Again, this has to do with the way the colors are reproduced. There are some DLPs with exceptional color saturation, but they tend to be expensive. Lower cost units are often a little washed out. 
  • No grey. A DLP micro-mirror is either on or off, black or white. There is no grey. To produce a grey, the pixel as to be flashed on and off between black and white many times per second, and this can produce some artifacts. Whether this is a problem or not will depend on your content. 

Does It Matter?

Maybe, maybe not. Again, for many applications, either a DLP or LCD projector could be perfectly acceptable. As I said, I’ve seen some LCD models that look so much better than DLPs it’s not funny. At the same time, I’ve seen some DLPs that are gorgeous. Like many things, it’s more about the price point than the technology. Once you start comparing projectors of comparable (and sufficient) price, the differences become more subtle. 

That’s not to say there aren’t choices to be made. It all depends on the application. For something like environmental projection, you can easily get away with an inexpensive LCD projector. When you start talking about IMAG in a large room, you have to start choosing more carefully. I’m not convinced it’s the underlying technology that has to be the key factor, though. I’ve been to enough NAB’s and InfoComm’s and seen enough LCD and DLP projectors to know either can look great. Often, it comes down to availability, price, suitability, lenses, service and what your dealer carries. The good news is, either technology can be more than good enough. And they keep getting better

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What’s the Difference: LCD vs. DLP Pt. 2


Image courtesy of   Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

Last time, we touched on the basic, underlying technology of LCD and DLP imaging systems. Today, we’ll look at some of the pros and cons. As I said last time, much has been written on this subject and I’m not going to exhaustive here. If you want a very thorough look at this, albeit from a home theater projector perspective, check out this article at Projector Central

LCD Pros

  • LCD projectors are generally less expensive than 1-DLP units at a given brightness. This is a general rule, and there are plenty of exceptions. But if budget is a big concern, look to LCD.
  • LCD generally has better contrast. This is relative, however. Keep in mind, you’re shooting the image onto a white screen. So the blackest the image will ever get is as black as the white screen ever gets. 
  • No rainbow effect. I sometimes notice a slight jitter in DLP images. It’s not always readily apparent, and I’m a trained observer. But LCD images tend to be pretty rock-solid. 
  • Better apparent resolution. Because the pixels are very clearly defined, graphics tend to look sharper on LCD projectors. To some extent, this is academic now that we’re getting up to 1920×1080 chipsets in both technologies, and given the average viewing distances. But there is a difference. 
  • Better color saturation. Because a DLP color wheel typically has a white slot in it to boost brightness, the color saturation can be lower. LCDs behave more like LED lights; the brighter they are the more saturated they get. 

LCD Cons

  • Lifespan of panels. We don’t really know how long the LCD panels will last before they start breaking down. We do know they break down and the colors start to shift. Newer inorganic panels seem to hold up better than older organic designs, but some are projecting the life of an LCD panel to be between 4,000-10,000 hours. That could be 1-3 bulb changes. Of course, a lot of those tests are being done by DLP makers, so… If you are using your projector for a few hours on the weekend, and occasionally during the week, this is probably not an issue. In a big command center where projectors are on 24/7 for years, this is a problem.
  • Dust. The LCD engine is not sealed, so it’s possible dust can get in there. This is less of a problem with pro-grade projectors that have good filtration systems. Still, if you have a dusty environment, be aware of this. 
  • Screen door effect. Because the edges of the pixels are so well defined, you can sometimes see the spaces between them. It looks a bit like viewing the image through a screen door. Again, with higher resolution and tighter pixel pitch, this is less of a problem than it used to be. 
  • Mis-convergence. Because an LCD image is made up of three images of different colors, they have to be lined up perfectly. If they are not, you’ll see fringing of color on vertical or horizontal lines. Again, with newer, pro-level projectors this is less of a problem. But it does show up on budget models.

There’s a look at the LCD. On Friday, we’ll wrap this up with a look at DLP pros and cons, and some concluding thoughts on which one is better.

“Gear

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What’s the Difference: LCD vs. DLP Pt. 1

LCD or DLP? This is a great debate that has raged on for years. Some of the debate is fueled by technology, much more is fueled by marketing. Thankfully, manufacturers in both camps have been steadily improving their respective technologies over the years, and the difference is now smaller than ever. I believe for most applications, the technology inside the projector is now less important than the service, support, price and brightness; and the suitability for the application. But we’ll get to that shortly.

Much has been written about this subject, and rather than attempt to rehash all of that, I’m going to give you an overview of the two technologies along with some links to learn more. Let’s start off with a basic overview of how the two methods produce a picture. In reverse alpha order, LCD first. 

All LCD Projectors are 3 Chip Designs

LCD stands for Liquid Crystal Display. You may see some projectors labeled 3LCD or being touted as having three chips as opposed to 1. The marketing difference compares not to single-chip LCD projectors (there are none), but to single-chip DLPs—the primary competitor to LCDs. Below is an example, albeit a highly simplified one, of how an LCD projector produces an image. 


Image courtesy of  Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

The light from the bulb(s) is split into three parts. It passes through three LCD panels (red, green & blue), and then re-combined. The result is a color image. The LCD panel has millions of pixels that can be open, closed or partially open. When open, light passes through and a color (or white if they’re all open) is produced. 

DLP is all Smoke and Mirrors

Well, technically no smoke. Unless you count the magic smoke that all electronics run on. Let the magic smoke out, and they stop working. But I digress. Below you’ll see an image of a typical single-chip DLP engine. As you can see, it’s a bit more complex. DLP stands for Digital Light Projection, and was developed by Texas Instruments. It’s essentially a chip full of thousands of little mirrors. The mirrors tilt either toward or away from the lens producing light or not. Because it’s a single chip, there is a color wheel in the system to produce the various colors.


Image courtesy of   Christie Digital

Image courtesy of Christie Digital

The technology takes advantage of a phenomenon in our vision called persistence of vision. Our eyes see relatively slowly. And what we see tends to stay there for a little bit. The DLP engine will flash the red portion of the image on the screen and sometime between 1/60th and 1/240th of a second later will then flash the green portion. Then the blue, then back to red. Some projectors event throw in yellow, magenta and cyan for good measure. In that short time frame, the red doesn’t full fade away—at least in our eyes. So when the green and blue parts pop up, we see it as one color. It’s crazy, but it works.

The downside is that some people have faster vision than others and can actually see each color individually. This is called the rainbow effect. It’s less of a problem now than it used to be; companies have sped up the rotation of the wheel to mitigate the effect. But if you can see it, you can’t un-see it, so to speak. 

3-Chip DLP is the Same, Only More

A 3-chip DLP projector is very similar to a single-chip, only there are three; one for red, green and blue. The rainbow effect doesn’t come into play in a 3 DLP design because there is no spinning color wheel. When you look at the above diagram, you can see why 3 DLP designs are so expensive; there’s a lot of stuff going on in there. You do get a good-looking image out of all the complexity, however. 

Does It Matter?

One of the questions I always ask when evaluating competing technologies is, “Does it matter?” When it comes to LCD vs. DLP, for the me the answer is yes. And no. The technology has advanced to a point where at a given price point, either will produce an acceptable image. So to some extent, the answer is no, it doesn’t matter. However, there are pros and cons for each technology, and one may be better suited for your application than the other. We’ll talk about that next time.

Roland

Today’s post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

CTA Review: Livestream HD500 Studio

Streaming video continues to be a hot topic amongst churches, and it’s a topic I get asked about frequently. More and more manufacturers are building turnkey solutions designed to make it easy and we’re back to look at another one. This time, from what is likely the most popular streaming destination for churches, Livestream. 

Livestream recently released a series of products called Livestream Studio. As of this writing, there are four hardware solutions along with the standalone software. We received the mid-range and highly portable HD500 model for testing, though the software is consistent across the line. 

Self-Contained and Portable

The first thing you notice about the HD500 is that it looks like a small desktop PC with a handle on top. It ships with a magical carrying bag from Tom Bihn (seriously, this bag is nice!) What sets the unit apart is that it also has a 17” 1900×1200 LCD screen built into one side, protected by a removable metal cover. Weighing just 15 pounds, it’s easy to carry around, and would certainly qualify as carry-on luggage. 

Inside the box is a six core Intel Core I7 running at 3.2 GHz. An Nvidia GForce GT520 graphics card drives the built-in display, along with an external one that can be set up as a multi-viewer. There is a 2.5” 500 GB hard drive inside, and with 7 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports, you have plenty of ways to add more storage. 

Each of the Livestream Studio systems are built around Blackmagic cards; in this case a Decklink Quad and a Decklink Studio. The Quad gives you 4 HD/SD SDI inputs, and the Studio can be configured for input or output for a local live mix. In output mode, one can mix four cameras (along with internal graphics) to both a stream and local video output. 

The cards support embedded audio on the SDI inputs. The Decklink Studio card will accept analog and AES inputs, or you can use a USB audio interface. The built-in audio mixer in the software allows you to mix sources or have audio follow video. 

Everything you need fits neatly into the carry bag, making this an ideal solution for portable churches even if they don’t want to stream. The latest software update to the Studio software now allows for recording of up to four video streams at once. You can select from iso camera feeds, and a pre-graphics “clean” or post-graphics “dirty” feed. 

Full-Featured Software

Rather than relying on third-party software control, Livestream built their own. It has a clean, modern interface, and is easy to learn. Whenever I test systems like this, I always try to see how far I can get without looking at a manual. With this system, I had multiple inputs configured, was able to switch both a live feed and get a stream running in about 20 minutes. 

For the demo, they also included the Livestream Studio Keyboard. It’s an Apple Extended keyboard, with custom key silk screened icons for every function. In no time at all, I was switching between our four cameras, adding lower thirds, and sending video to my Livestream account. 

I’m not exactly sure why, but the latency from the HD500 to what I saw on my laptop via my Livestream page was a matter of seconds. Most streaming appliances I’ve tested add a good 20-30 seconds of latency; this was more like 2-3. Setting up my account was as simple as entering my username and password, then hitting “Stream.” 

Built-In Multi-Viewer

The built-in screen will display the four camera sources plus preview and program. The source windows are too small for accurate judgments of focus and exposure. But, the system provides both VGA or HDMI port, which allow for a configurable multi-viewer of any size. There are quite a few screen layouts to choose from, and with a simple drag-and-drop interface, you decide what goes in which box. You can even add a clock, a stream window (to verify it’s online) as well as a viewer count. 

Much to my delight, when I plugged the second display in, it was immediately recognized by the system and the multi-view window appeared. I had fully expected to at least re-start the software, if not the OS. In fact, this rather summarizes my experience with this box; everything works pretty much as you’d expect without a lot of fiddling on your part. You can pretty much plug in and go. 

Graphic Options

Livestream Studio features a two-channel graphic engine with some pretty cool features. It’s easy to build lower thirds and full screen graphics in the editor. Where it gets interesting is the dynamic features. The graphic window offers a design mode, where as you might expect, you layout your graphics, text, logos and other features. Once complete, you enter data mode, which allows you to change the content of the text boxes on the fly with minimal trouble. For example, you could build a lower third graphic with dynamic text. Then, create several possible lines of text for different pastors or speakers. Simply clicking the line makes it active. In just a few minutes, you have a full set of graphics for your staff. And there is only one layout to update with new graphics for each new series.

Moreover, the graphics can contain video windows. Thus, you can build complex multi-input picture-in-picture effects that go to air with a single click. What I like about the software is that once everything is set up, it’s easy to operate, and completely visual. While it’s not hard to set up, it would take no time at all to train a volunteer to handle fairly complex graphic overlays. 

Other Cool Features

A new feature called Remote Camera allows you to turn a computer desktop (via network) into an input. Studio will accept network camera feeds from a variety of sources. This includes Google Glass, Android and iOS devices, and Windows PCs.  This could be handy for including sermon notes on the stream or IMAG screens. Even better, imagine the interactivity you could create for special events. You can also pull in content from your Livestream account as another input source. I didn’t get a chance to test this feature, but it may make it possible to stream from one location to another easily. Quality would be my main concern—but, the quality of the stream I sent from the HD500 was quite good.

Each of the four inputs has a scaler available to it, making it easy to mix and match input formats. For my tests, I pulled in a SD SDI feed, a 1080i output from my switcher and another 1080i camera. It converted each source to 1080i as needed without issue, sync’ing everything up in the process. For IMAG systems, everything should be running genlock, and the system allows that. 

Tally is not supported directly, but a recent software update makes Studio compatible with the tally system made by metaSETZ. Tally is often forgotten with these systems, and I’m glad to see it’s available. 

While this unit is obviously made to stream to Livestream, it’s also possible to send video to UStream, or YouTube Live. You can also use any RTMP compatible server or CDN, such as Wowza Media Server, Akamai, Flash Media Server. 

Conclusion

With an MSRP of $8500, the HD500 isn’t inexpensive (though you can find it for considerably less). But, when you consider that you can walk into a venue with a bag on your shoulder and in under 5 minutes be ready to stream, switch and iso record a service, it’s a compelling option. It’s easy to use (I never once consulted a manual or help file to figure anything out), and as far as I could tell, stable. We had no problems streaming a weekend, and the video quality was quite good with minimal latency.

The inclusion of the built-in monitor makes it especially appealing for portable churches. Not having to trudge a monitor in and out each week would be a huge benefit of this system. The system comes with a year of  phone support a one year warranty and software updates are free
.

Roland

Today’s post is brought to you by CCI Solutions. With a reputation for excellence, technical expertise and competitive pricing, CCI Solutions has served churches across the US in their media, equipment, design and installation needs for over 35 years.

CHCC Renovation: The Lobby Video


It's gratifying to know that the video was done before the floor was!

It’s gratifying to know that the video was done before the floor was!

For the last 10-15 years, the Coast Hills lobby has been the home of some really high-tech video. A pair of 27” CRT displays flanked the doors to the sanctuary. They were fed by—wait for it—RF modulated video, originally from the Panasonic MX-50, which was all composite. Yeah, it looked awesome. 

A few years ago, we upgraded to a Ross Crossover Solo, but I didn’t update the video because it kept getting cut from the budget. Thankfully, we had a flood. One of the CRTs was destroyed (Yes!) and the other mysteriously stopped working. Hmmm…

So it was time to update when we re-did the lobby. Somewhat on a lark, I did a Sketchup design of the new lobby to help leadership visualize what was being discussed. In that design, I stuck four 55” flat screens on the side walls, and four 42” flat screens in front of the doors for digital signage. We ultimately trimmed down to two screens on the right of the lobby, but that was it. 


TV Locations Left Side.jpg

Routing Needed

The previous CRTs were fed the same signal from a DA. I wanted to be able to address each screen individually. That meant a matrix switcher. I spent a fair amount of time going back and forth between which one to buy and ultimately decided on a Blackmagic Compact VideoHub, a 40×40 SDI matrix. When I installed it and fired up the software, I immediately regretted it. The software is very flaky and after 3 hours, I never did get VideoHub Control to work. Thankfully, the other VideoHub software works, though only through USB. While it will work, I will not likely use any more of their products. The bitter taste of poor implementation lingers long after the sweetness of the low price is gone. Next time, Ross or For-A.

Anyway, each TV in the lobby—and the building for that matter—is its own destination on the router. That means we can route program, ProPresenter, or any of our four digital signage channels, or any other source to any TV. The wiring is more complex, but the flexibility it provides is pretty great. 

Digital Signage Choices

I looked around at plenty of options for digital signage. We could have used ProPresenter with a couple of Dual Head2Gos; or AppleTVs or even four Mac Minis with Keynote. But I settled on DigitalSignage.com. They provide signage for many restaurants, hotels and other retail venues. It’s not the most elegant user interface, but it is very powerful. There are robust scheduling rules that make it possible to come up with really custom signage for each event during the week. The service is free, and they sell custom-built players. We went with the MediaBox 200, which is basically an Intel NUC with a Core i3 processor and dual HDMI outputs. 

Two of them give us access to four channels of digital signage. It’s all accessible from the web, so it’s easy to manage. The only trouble we had was with our firewall. We had to assign static IPs to each MediaBox and open up those ports so they could communicate with the cloud server unencumbered. 

Again, time will tell if that was a good choice or not, but I can report that their tech support is pretty good and the system does work as advertised once it’s configured correctly. 

Monitor Options

While you can go to Costco or Amazon and buy a cheap display for your lobby, we chose to buy LG commercial grade displays for our install. The cost is about 30%-40% more, but the power supplies are more robust, and the displays are warranted for use in commercial installations. If the display was only going to be used occasionally, or was for a weekend only use, I would likely go consumer grade. But these will be on 10-12 hours a day, 7 days a week, so they need to be robust. They can also be controlled via RS-232 if you like.

As the router is SDI, and the displays take HDMI, we had to convert. I used the Monoprice HD-SDI to HDMI converters for this job. At under $100 each, they are the most budget-friendly options around, and they seem to work just great. I’ve had one around for testing for over a year, and we’ve had no issues with it. My guess is we’ll have the occasional power supply go bad on them, but we’d have to replace all of the 3-4 times before it would have made sense to go with a more expensive option. I don’t think that will happen in the next 5-7 years. But I could be wrong…

So, that’s the lobby. Next time, we’ll talk about the PA and the lobby speakers.

“Gear

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