Start thinking about meeting both current and future needs rather than simply putting patches on present issues.
HD, 3D, 4K sometimes it is hard to tell which technology is a fad and which is going to be a viable future format for video acquisition and distribution. While some have yet to get on the 3D bandwagon, and while some believe 4K can be limited to very specific applications, it looks fairly certain that high definition (HD) is here to stay.
If your church is uncertain how to proceed in migrating standard definition (SD) systems to high definition ones, consider this your basic primer. Below are five steps for HD migration.
STEP ONE: COMMIT TO HD
This may seem like a no-brainer, but your church must have a compelling reason to upgrade. Do you broadcast video to multiple campuses? Do you post video online? Is your current video system unstable or quickly dying? If one or more reasons compel your church to make a move, decide right now that you cannot remain in SD.
NOTE: It is actually becoming difficult to locate SD gear. Used gear, while not always a bad option, may be the only SD gear moving forward.
Start by replacing gear in a smart way. When a piece of equipment fails (as they tend to do on Sunday morning just 15 minutes prior to the service), replace it with something that is multi-definition. Multi-definition equipment will be able to work in your current SD configuration, but it is not a wasted expense when you do migrate to HD because it will work in that configuration as well. So, when you need an additional camera, you will purchase an HD camera that is able to output SD. Start thinking about meeting both current and future needs rather than simply putting patches on present issues.
STEP TWO: FIND A PARTNER
Unless you had a former career in systems integration (and have kept up with all of the manufacturers' latest offerings), a good systems integrator is key to a successful HD migration. Talk to other ministries in your area to find one that is trusted. Then, develop a relationship. A good integrator will think about things you would have missed on your own. They have relationships with manufacturers that will make the process easier, especially if there are equipment issues down the road.
STEP THREE: DEVELOP A PLAN
Is your church sitting on a big pile of cash, just waiting to spend it on an HD upgrade? If not, then you will want to think about an upgrade that consists of multiple phases.
Does it make more sense for you to upgrade your cameras first and then your switcher and infrastructure? Or would your ministry be better served if the projection was first? Is there wiring that must be upgraded before anything else? Your systems integrator can help to develop a plan that makes the most of what you have and creates the biggest return on investment at each step.
Integrators will also keep latency in mind, which is a risk when making SD/HD conversions in a multi-definition system.
An HD migration can easily reach into hundreds of thousands of dollars if attacked all at once. If, on the other hand, you break it into phases, each phase may be more attainable and easier for senior leadership to swallow.
One note about the plan: it will change. The longer it takes to get started, the more likely a phase will become obsolete. Expect to update equipment lists and prices if you are lucky, the equipment will get better and prices will come down.
STEP FOUR: GET BUY-IN FROM LEADERSHIP
Time to put on your sales hat. From Step One, you will have a list of reasons why you are committed to HD. Now you need to convince leadership that it is important. This is not the time to be argumentative or defensive. Simply state the facts, explain where the church stands and why it can't remain in its current technological state. Then, present your multi-phase migration plan. Be prepared to start cutting the budget for each phase.
STEP FIVE: PREPARE
It can be easy to overlook particular considerations of an upgrade to HD. Try to think of everything. How does an upgrade affect your graphic designers and video production team? Does it have implications for your lighting rig or lighting designer? If you are broadcasting to other campuses via broadband or satellite, will there be bandwidth problems? Answer these questions now and save some headaches later.
Migrating to HD is a real challenge, but it is also exciting once the plan is executed. The results can be amazing.
RYAN A. GEESAMAN is the video production director at LCBC, a multi-site church in Pennsylvania. He is also an adjunct professor at Lancaster Bible College.