First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas, has been leveraging the powerful visual engagement and broad reach of television, to spread its message and touch followers' lives for over half a century.
When the church upgraded the video production capabilities in their sanctuary to high definition, they turned to HDTV cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to provide the exceptional quality and rich features they needed to further elevate their in-house video experiences and broadcasts.
FBC Texarkana's television effort started more than 55 years ago on the local NBC affiliate, and has grown from a regional broadcast to an international TV, radio and internet ministry. FBC Pastor Jeff Schreve, who joined the church in 2003, founded From His Heart Ministries to expand their television reach. FBC Texarkana's broadcasts are now seen weekly on stations and networks around the world including the NRB TV Network in the U.S. and the Hillsong Channel internationally as well as streamed online.
"We view what we do through television and video as a mission opportunity," said Jay Budzilowski, director of TV/media at FBC Texarkana. "We don't want to just put ourselves out there for people to watch; we want to make a difference in people's lives through this content, and enable more people to be impacted by the gospel."
With a major overhaul of the church's 2,500-seat worship center scheduled to commence last summer, replacing everything from seating and carpet to speakers and sound boards, FBC Texarkana also planned to upgrade the sanctuary's video capabilities at the same time, including a new television control room and new equipment. However, months before the renovations began, the church's 12-year-old standard-definition cameras started failing, accelerating their purchase plans.
"We knew we were headed towards HD for quite some time, but had been waiting for the right time in our church's budget and operations to do it," said Budzilowski. "We wanted to get current with technology again, and the stations broadcasting our programming had been requesting HD. We wanted the quality of our broadcasts to match or exceed the other programs airing right beside ours."
The FBC Texarkana team researched HITACHI cameras at the recommendation of systems integrator The Field Shop in Little Rock, Arkansas, and found the Z-HD6000 studio camera and DK-H200 compact box camera to be ideal fits. "Our previous cameras were fine for a local church broadcast, but now that we are going international, we needed to make a step up," explained Budzilowski. "As a church, we always need to find the right balance between quality and what we can spend. The quality of the Z-HD6000s and DK-H200s looked great, and the price point fit what we were trying to accomplish. It just all made sense, and when we fired the HITACHI cameras up the first day, we could immediately see the difference they made."
Three Z-HD6000s and two DK-H200s in the sanctuary now capture video both for television broadcasts and for image magnification (IMAG), displaying live in-house productions on an 18-foot by 10-foot screen for an average of 1800 congregants attending Sunday morning services. Two Z-HD6000s at the center-rear of the sanctuary provide tight and wide shots of Pastor Schreve on the stage during sermons, while the third Z-HD6000, mounted on a CamMate 2000 Series jib, captures sweeping shots of the room and its attendees. The DK-H200 box cameras are controlled remotely on Eagle PT-101 pan/tilt heads one at the rear of the room for shots of the crowd engaged in the message, and one on the stage getting front shots of the audience.
The visual quality that drew FBC Texarkana to the HITACHI cameras continues to impress their staff and congregation. "The image clarity is outstanding, and the color reproduction is very good," lauded Budzilowski. "Our attendees definitely appreciate the difference. And unlike our previous cameras, we don't have to keep adjusting the color balance we set up the cameras just once, and they've looked great ever since."
Budzilowski also applauds the cameras' performance in handling lighting challenges. "There are some lower-lit areas of the sanctuary that we like to capture images from," he explained. "The sensitivity of the HITACHI cameras in low-light conditions is dramatically better than our previous cameras, so we never need to crank the gain up."
Overall, the Z-HD6000 and DK-H200 cameras have been key components in the success of the church's HD upgrade. "Coming from a standard definition environment, almost any HD camera would have had a wow' impact, but we had tried other HD options and the HITACHI cameras definitely looked better," Budzilowski concluded. "HD itself was a big jump, but compared to the alternatives we investigated, our investment in the HITACHI units is paying off."