More and more churches are turning to video as an effective tool that can help share messages with a congregation and achieve attendance goals. But in this day and age of technology, where people have big screens in their living rooms and small screens in their pocket, the images a church projects need to be top notch.
The effects of bad video
According to Nigel Spratling, marketing product manager for Ross Video, poor video quality can be counter-productive. Another problem is dealing with delays in IMAG images, which can lead to a distracted congregation.
Repairs to video equipment can be difficult and even expensive, Spratling said, especially if a church doesn't have a resident expert. In a recent presentation at WFX, Spratling covered common technological hurdles that lead to poor quality, and troubleshooting tips on how to overcome those hurdles.
In this technological age, churches are discovering new ways to share their message, including video.
"Visual representation is a priceless tool for making worship appealing and interesting for congregants," Spratling said. "It also enables the churches to maintain proper attendance and get a message out to the audience more transparently without any sort of hindrances."
He added that the use of video can:
- Enhance the message
- Increase resonance
- Engage the congregation
- Involve the disenfranchised
- Share the worship experience
Spratling said churches should start by looking at what their current video system delivers. Does the system deliver what they expect? If yes, is the system delivering what visitors expect?
"This can be clarified by asking or surveying the visitors if they would like to see a change in the video system," Spratling said. "More than often, visitors expect to see the same resolution videos in the church as they see them at home."
One major reason video systems don't meet expectations is a lack of technical expertise among church staff and volunteers. That's often a result of not having a dedicated tech team. According to Spratling, this leads to poor, dissatisfying picture quality.
"Before even installing an IMAG system, churches should look at it from a technical perspective, clearly define what they expect the result to be and then create a team of volunteers and individuals with a technical background," he said.
An IMAG system shouldn't only be about a church's expectations, it should also consider the expectations of visitors. After all, they're the reason the video system is in place. Spratling said to consider whether the IMAG is only for services and messages, or if the connection is being used for multi-site campuses. "Churches should be clear about each and every aspect of the integration of the system they want installed," he said.
There is a cost to technical know-how, and that should be considered in the church's budget. A dedicated technical team can help with cost by integrating existing equipment with new equipment, and by managing video in a way that delivers the best results. Lack of technical expertise is a major reason churches experience poor visual quality.
"Equipment being handled by unskilled volunteers is bound to generate poor quality," Spratling said.
Other reasons for poor picture quality include:
- Display formats resulting in substandard quality
- Improper use of cameras and lighting
- Failing to integrate equipment and file conversions properly
Another factor is excessive delays in an IMAG system, which Spratling said can occur for the following reasons:
- Lack of technical expertise
- Improper management of signal delays
- Difficulty in identifying the source, which can be a challenge even for expert technicians
- Continuous additions to a functioning system
Are your volunteers confused?
While volunteers often are expected to come to the job with insight, that's not always the case. "Handling video equipment requires technical expertise and training," Spratling said.
He added that many products can't be handled by volunteers and need to be used by experts. Other issues include volunteers not being able to effectively solve problems with the IMAG system, turnover with volunteers, which means ongoing training of new team members, and the increasing complexity of video equipment.
Troubleshooting Your IMAG System
Churches should also be clear about their goals for a video system.
"[Will] the equipment they are going to bring in today be useful tomorrow?" Spratling asked. "As technology advances at a fast pace, it is better to have a future-oriented approach when bringing in equipment."
Second, the volunteers or the team operating the equipment should be aware of all the video, image formats, and resolutions as changing formats that affect the final quality. IMAG might be too expensive for some churches, but it's important to balance cost and performance.
"This is what ultimately defines the goals and helps fulfill expectations," Spratling said, adding that solutions should be volunteer-friendly.
Understanding Picture Formats and Resolutions
Spratling said there are two types of resolutions spatial and temporal. Spatial resolution refers to pixels per picture, temporal defines motion quality.
Consider these examples:
1080 I or P HD: 1920 x 1080 = 2.074 megapixels (125% > 720p)
720 P HD: 1280 x 720 = 0.92 megapixels (160% > SD)
NTSC SD: 720 x 486 = 0.34 megapixels
"These different formats have different resolutions and need to be taken into consideration according to the size of the screen," Spratling said. "Choosing the wrong formats can result in disastrously poor IMAG."
Spratling explained that picture format conversion is necessary in systems that are HD and SD hybrids, and that conversion results in delays. He added that even though new equipment comes with built-in convertors, these should be avoided. He also said that native display formats should be used with cameras, projectors and display devices in order to avoid quality lags.
Spratling offered the following advice:
- Avoid conversions at all costs as it results in poor image quality and signal delays
- Avoid picture processing, which affects quality. Processors with delays of more than one second should be avoided.
Spratling closed with a recommendation in regard to volunteers.
"If your volunteers are unskilled," he said, "try to look for equipment that can be used easily or consider training your volunteers extensively to use the equipment."