FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. For a good number of churches, various aspects of upgrades are typically planned out over a series of years.
In the case of Living Faith Church, though, a church averaging between 450 to 500 congregants each Sunday, though, their roadmap included five distinct upgrade phases. Over a total of just nine months.
“It was our intention to be sure that we were moving forward, and not be stagnant as a church."
The final two phases, which were coordinated in June and July of this year, predominantly focused on the addition of environmental projection in the worship space in the approximately 30-year-old church, while also improving lyrics projection and streaming capabilities.
Leading the coordination of each phase were Adam Guess, the church's Media and Sound Director, and Monroe Hill, who works extensively on environmental projection, each part of the church's all-volunteer staff.
The goal of the multiple upgrade phases, explained Hill, was that "it was our intention to be sure that we were moving forward, and not be stagnant as a church."
As Hill elaborated, the church's lead pastor, Steven Curtis, has been in that position for the last four years, taking the reins from his father, who had held that position since 1977. "After he took over, he was being led in a different direction, in terms of attracting a younger demographic."
Regarding the need for change, Guess agreed, adding that "We were just behind the times. We had first talked about changing out the cameras to make the video look better on our live streams, but you couldn't change out just the cameras, without changing the lighting (part of the third phase completed in April)." Once the church changed the lights, he said, the need to replace the cameras became evident. Once the cameras were upgraded, the systems tied to live streaming soon followed, along with all of the backgrounds, "and that's how environmental projection got thrown in."
The last of the five install phases was finished by the third week of July. As noted by Guess, the final two took "about three weeks from start to finish, completed right before our Kid's Crusade," a summer event that includes puppets, refreshments, and giveaways. Between each of the five phases, and over the nine months of work, there were no delays or cancellations of services.
To avoid any potential hurdles during the individual phases, Hill said, "On a weekly basis, the pastor would ask what we could plan over the next week," to which the pair would then lay out install plans for certain gear prior to the next Sunday. "On a Friday or Saturday night, we sometimes might have been nervous, but each time we got it done."
To Hill, the most challenging aspects during any of the five install phases, was in "getting the lighting just right and the white balance right on the cameras," and the overall implementation of the cameras. For Guess, what he found toughest during the final two phases, was the "running of the cables, getting them to their destinations, along with hanging the projectors in the right spot and aligning them." The cabling became an issue, for example, after running nine cables at one time through the roof, only to discover there were some issues with the VGA cable, and then having to pull out the VGA cable, only to have to reinstall it later.
To help the pair along with much of the work at Living Faith, Hill noted that "We had volunteers who are contractors, and we were able to use their expertise. We would ask them, Can you do this?' and they would then be there the next morning at 5 and help to hang things."
The most notable equipment additions during the last two phases were a combination of six Hitachi projectors, two Matrox TripleHead2Go modules, a Kramer presentations switcher/scaler, and a pair of Apple iMacs.
Among that equipment, much of the focus during the fourth phase was to implement environmental projection to the space, as well as a lyrics projection upgrade. The phase moved along rather quickly, noted Hill, in large part to working with Camron Ware, a leading expert in environmental projection.
"With his help, we learned where we needed to put (the equipment)," said Hill. "It probably took just a couple of nights, as we had the lift in place."
The tools installed for a successful environmental projection implementation were three Hitachi CP-WU8700 WUXGA projectors. Paired with the LCD projectors is an iMac controlling the system and one Matrox TripleHead2Go external multi-display adapter. Those projectors, he said, "are shooting from the back of the room, and we built a nice shelf for them. They can't be touched, as they are sitting high enough, so nothing gets in the way."
Such flexibility was crucial, noted Hill, "When we were looking at options, and looking at environmental projection, we wanted to be able to throw up a color, or things like sermon promos, or to make the whole wall look like water. When I threw that idea to the pastor and the board members, they were on board." Guess concurred by noting, "The goal was to create an environment that was inviting, to make you feel, in a way that you couldn't do that solely with lights."
Once the church had implemented environmental projection, though, Hill cautioned about using it excessively.
"We didn't want to overuse it at first, as we did not use any movies for the first few weeks," said Hill. "We did not want to do anything drastic for the first few weeks, and have not heard any complaints since then."
For lyrics projection, a pair of Hitachi CP-WX5505 projectors was installed, each powered by 5,200 lumens, positioned as side projectors for lyrics only. In addition, serving as the center projector is a Hitachi CP-WX8750 projector, powered by 7,500 lumens, handling live shots and lyrics. Working with the trio of projectors is one Matrox TripleHead2Go unit, an iMac, and one Kramer VP-728 presentation switcher/scaler. The Kramer unit is connected to the center projector's output, allowing the Living Faith staff to switch to announcements, displaying with ProPresenter, or to black out the center screen to run live video on the center screen when needed, during baptisms or baby dedications. They are situated above the stage about four or five feet from the ceiling, displaying text in white.
In deciding on Hitachi for their projectors, Hill noted, the church made sure to first set up a demo in the worship space. Thanks to the demo, he explained that the church opted to go with WUXGA projectors to handle the environmental projection, to minimize any potential pixelation issues. "We opted for the top-of-the-line one, in their line. We figured if we can go with WUXGA projectors, let's do it right." As noted by Guess, "We could have gone with a lower-end Hitachi, but if you got to the front rows, you would be able to see pixelation. We didn't want to save $300 on a projector, only to not be happy with the picture."
In deciding to select Hitachi over another brand projector, Hill said, "We have had Hitachi projectors in the past, and their customer service is incredible. We have had a projector go on a Sunday, and then have a new one by the next Wednesday." Among the other noted benefits, were how they are "brilliant and bright, and easy to power up, and easy for anyone to use, if either (he or Adam) are out."
While the church was able to schedule a demo for the projectors, other products included in the final two install phases were not, explained Guess.
"We had the capability to demo a lot of it," he said. The Blackmagic gear for the streaming upgrade, though, including the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel, was not among them. "It was a last-minute change from a (NewTek) TriCaster." The decision was to "crawl before we could walk."
Nonetheless, Hill said, "We want to first learn how to use (the Blackmagic ATEM 1 M/E Broadcast Panel) really well. When (the staff) gets good at that, we can move (the Blackmagic) to the youth department, and then upgrade."
The cameras paired to work with the Blackmagic streaming gear were four JVC cameras, including one PTZ unit. Assisting in the camera selection, Guess noted, was Southwest AV, based in Springfield, Missouri. "They helped me a lot with technical stuff, and what they had put in churches. For the products we were looking at, (a focus was to) put something in that achieves future needs." In oopting to include a PTZ camera among the new cameras, he said, "(The JVC KY-PZ100BU is) the number one PTZ on the market, and it's quiet. With what we were trying to accomplish, and the size of our church (Southwest AV) gave us the recommendation of those cameras, and so far they have been great."
While the church ended up purchasing three JVC GY-HM620 ProHD cameras, to go with the PTZ network camera, Hill and Guess agreed that the church should have bought two of each, since the church is moving to include video announcements as part of its content. To Hill, the PTZ's benefits, beyond not just having to man every camera, were in that the KY-PZ100BU allows them "to adjust the white balance and shutter speed, with all those settings being accessible remotely."
Pertaining to the JVC cameras, Guess added, "We wanted clarity, and previously we had some really old cameras. The clarity is now there, along with the colors everything is spot on."
While the church is currently using Facebook for the streaming of its services, Guess indicated the church is currently looking to alternatives, largely because of limitations that exist with their current streaming setup.
"We (currently) can't do 1080, as we can only do 720, but the cameras have done an incredibly good job with the picture," said Guess. Other concerns with the current system, he noted, involve the Blackmagic production style switcher, for a lack of scaling capabilities. "It has to come in at a certain resolution. If you are running in at 1080 you can't upscale or downscale it."
In deciding to coordinate the five phases of installs without the use of an integrator, Hill explained that option grew out of work he'd previously done with the church.
Dating back a couple decades ago, Hill noted working on their sound system, to which he said, "A bit of trust was built there, after which he and Guess four years ago "worked on their youth facility, so we built further trust."
When it came time to decide on doing this multiphase project, Guess said, "It showed the church that we could do the things that we wanted to do in-house, and that we could save the church on costs."
Once the project was fully complete, Hill and Guess each discussed the high degree of positive feedback from members of the congregation, as well as the staff.
"I have heard from people who said they really love the change once they realized that they were not going to be in a rock concert, and that it would enhance the service. We also have had comments from older members who have said that the lyrics are so much easier to read, or that the projectors are so much brighter," said Hill. For Guess, "The reaction has been nothing but positive. When we were talking to the staff and some of the congregation, and the volunteers who were helping, there were some concerns about bringing in some new things becoming more of a progressive church."
Pertaining to the church's use of environmental projection, Guess added, "Everyone is very pleased with it. We were concerned that it might possibly be distracting, but that has been nothing of the sort. It's been an amazing reception from the congregation, from the oldest to the youngest; they have been incredibly pleased with that.
Over the last couple of months since the completion of the project, Hill noted that thanks in large part to working with Ware, no adjustments with the Hitachi projectors have been necessary, but that with the cameras and streaming systems, "We continue to tweak things on it weekly, as we learn."
Those modifications, Hill, explained, "That can be from anywhere from adjusting white balance to eliminating hot spots." One of the bigger changes, he noted in training the staff, is having them transition from using auto focus to manual focus predominantly. Guess added, "We are learning every service about those cameras including being able to adjust the warmth of the picture or learning the better lighting angles. This will be an ongoing thing for our camera guys and for those who will learn them in the future."