Baby steps: First step in taking the plunge in doing IMAG.

Some organizations decide to do IMAG out of necessity, that is the stage is a ways a way from the back of the room and people just can’t see.  Other places do it out of style, it adds to the feel of their service.   And lastly some organizations do it, just to do it.  Why can be important but no matter your motive, where do you start?  The answer is to take baby steps.  Some organizations have the ability to invest heavily right off the bat. Great! But reality is most organizations don’t have the knowledge, capital or capacity to jump it, so they need to find a place to start and possibly grow.

What I’m going to describe here is considered single camera IMAG.  That is really the best place to start.  But here is the key, you can’t just put a camera at front of house and call it good.  You could but it will be far from good.

When designing a system or when planning a system I always work backwards, keeping the end product in mind.  Start off with projectors.  You could have the best production gear possible but if you have bad projectors, then it doesn’t matter.  This is what your audience will be watching; this is your end product. So here is what you want to be sure your projectors have in order to be ready for IMAG:

-Low latency

-Proper brightness for your screen size and room size

-Ability to display flesh tones well

-SDI inputs (preferred but not required, you can always adapt)

For more information on purchasing projectors read previous post: “Common myths when upgrading a video system: a projector is a projector.”

The next thing you want to do is look at your lighting.  Be sure that wherever you will have people on camera that you have good, even lighting.  Be sure it is bright with minimal hot spots.  I can’t stress enough how EVEN is important!  If you need to box your people in, do what you can to do so, Bad lighting makes IMAG look Bad!

With single camera IMAG I highly doubt that you will have a camera on the screens at all times, more than likely you will need some type of Character Generator to display lyrics, message slides, ect.  Again, be sure to keep the end in mind.  For example, systems like Pro-Presenter are great, but if you plan to run it on a laptop, make sure you have the proper conversion in place to interface with the switcher you choose.  If you get an SDI switcher, do what you can to get a CG program that will output SDI natively.  You graphics will look better and it will be easier to work with.  Here are a few examples of good CG programs:

-Pro Presenter

-Ross Video Xpression

-Harris Inscriber CG

-Compix Gen CG

Your video switcher is the heart and soul of your system.  This is what every piece of gear has to pass through before hitting your projectors.  I recommend finding a production switcher that you can grow into.  But if you must buy a presentation switcher find one that is seamless, that is: doesn’t fade to black and has the ability to key.  This wouldn’t be a long-term solution but would be more that suitable for single camera IMAG.  Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for switchers:

-No latency

-Simple to use

-Something to grow into

-Native resolution switcher (doesn’t have to scale the image up/down from your sources)

The biggest key to buying a switcher is to buy smart.  Know what your future goal is and get something that will do the job well both now and in the future.  I recommend going with a name brand.

The last piece of the puzzle you need at this point to do single camera IMAG is a camera.  For choosing the right camera be sure to read a previous post “Common myths when upgrading a video system: A camera is a Camera.”  But just as important to buying the right camera is the camera location and the tripod you put it on.  Tripods are expensive so budget accordingly.  Most cameras weigh about 15 – 20lbs. Buy a tripod that has the weight of the camera your using on the low end.  So a 15lb camera you will get a 14.5-30lb tripod head.  Trust me, it will be worth the money.

Camera location is also a big deal.  Since most of you will have volunteers running the camera you don’t want to be 100 feet away with the camera.  Do what you can to be no more than 50-70 feet away from the stage (Use a lens calculator to determine a good distance).  The goal is to avoid shaky camera work, minimizing your distance is the best way to do this.  If you have to take a few seats away to get closer, find a way.  Remember the camera is helping to add seats, not take them away (the higher ups don’t like this argument but I believe it is true).

Not required in a single camera system but you may need to also leave room for a deck or two. Something to record the service on, and if you can I recommend having a deck to play videos off of as well.  Some people use computers to do this using pro video player or an editor like Final cut pro (to record or playback).  They work great but also look at getting a basic broadcast deck like an AJA ki-pro, DVcam or DVCpro decks (or HD equivalents if going HD).  They are much more stable than a computer are great quality and easy to use.

If you are planning for the future you will need to time your system (I recommend doing this for any system you have).  By timing I am referring to Genlock, reference, Black burst, ect.  In short this synchronizes your system in order to make sure everything works together seamlessly.  With out this, processing takes place and in turn adds delay.

So I know most of you are thinking about budget at this point.  First off work with a local dealer for pricing, they can give you a better idea of your direct needs and what it takes.  But to give you a ballpark minus projectors and lighting you are looking at a range from $45,000 to $70,000 for a single IMAG system.  Now, you can do it for less and for much more, it all depends on what you currently have, what you’re planning for the future, and the quality of gear you choose.

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About brhoda

I freelance doing a few different thing in the video and live production market. I worked for a church for 5 years directing services and designing control rooms.
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