I have been given the opportunity to purchase, design and install video control rooms for IMAG and multi-site purposes. This has become a hobby of mine that I very much enjoy. I have learned a few secrets about designing and/or planning a control room for a House of Worship application, here is where to start:
- Work backwards: Start with your destinations or final output(s). Figure out what type of content needs to go where and what type of signal it will receive. Think big, cut and compromise as you need when looking into the budget, but if you don’t try to plan for it you will never get it.
- Choose a standard. Pick your resolution, signal type (SDI, Component, Composite, VGA) and stick with it. You need to have this figured out before you can really choose gear
- Find the center: If you are using a production switcher or video router for a majority of the outputs, find the one that will fit you best. You may have 2 centers. For instance you may do IMAG with a switcher and then use a high-rez switcher for video set elements.
- Direct in’s and out’s: IMAG facilities require no delay. Design your system with as few hurdles as possible. example: wire cameras directly into the production switcher and if you can wire the projectors directly out of the production switcher. Going through a Looping through a device, going into a router or Distribution Amplifier will only cause more delay.
- Choose broadcast gear: Utilizing broadcast gear will help you to get more life out of your system. Just because it says professional on it doesn’t mean it is. I have found that professional gear is made to be abused. The church market is unique. We can use a piece of gear that was made for one purpose and use it in totally different way, and it has to be reliable, especially if we have a multi-site venues relying on the gear.
- Plan for the future: Add a couple of inputs and outputs that can easily be added to in case you ever get the chance to rent gear or if there are any new requirements that come about. If you can afford a system that is expandable I recommend going this direction, if you can’t i fully understand.
Principals in choosing gear:
- Plan for 10 year or more
- Choose Broadcast quality Gear, avoid consumer and prosumer gear
- Know that resolution does not equal quality
- Be practical and understand Cost vs. reward
- Know that the end Goal is to communicate a message and understand that the gear you choose can either help, or hurt the mission of your Church
- Plan for future expansion, you should be able to add gear, not replace gear
- Facility is just as important as gear, Clean power and proper Cooling and humidity control is important in making your gear last
- Always consider the Audience’s point of view
- Know there is a value in training, even if you are a professional, new gear has a learning curve and proper training will help to get the most out of your gear
10. Don’t tackle a big project by your self. Use a consultant or an integrator to help you in your decisions making
Components of an IMAG system
Here are some of the main components of an IMAG system and a few bullet points about choosing gear:
Projectors and Screens:
- This is the most important part of your system, crappy projectors mean a crappy experience for your attendees, if the experience is bad, don’t even bother with IMAG, it won’t help.
- Be sure to choose a projector with the proper output, good skin tones, low latency, and good processing.
- Screen materials matter, avoid wall paint and sheets
- Read my post “Common myths when upgrading a video system: A projector is a projector
Production Switcher and Router:
- Choose a Broadcast quality production switcher with 1 standard (SDI, RGB, CVS VGA, ) and no latency
- The size of switcher depends on the number of inputs and outputs you have
- This is the heart and soul of your system, this goes down and you have no video
- Routers add Flexibility, if you can swing it, throw one in, small ones (16×16) are pretty inexpensive.
- Studio Cameras vs ENG cameras add ease of use, more control, and will last longer
- Resolution does not equal quality, Find what chipset you need based on your lighting scheme
- Lenses can be very expensive, but very important in order to get in close for IMAG, Budget for the proper lens or move your cameras closer
- Getting the proper tripod is important, poor tripods allow for good cameras to look bad, the proper tripod will give your attendees a good experience, don’t cheap out on tripod support.
- Avoid PTZ cameras, They don’t work well for follow cameras, and are hard to use for music. They work great for on stage PTZ’s but not for room cams.
- A proper engineering monitor with waveform vector scope will help with painting your cameras and monitoring your signal quality.
- Teaching Shaders to use a scope will greatly improve your look
- Poorly colored and shaded cameras will make good gear look bad really quick
- This can be as simple as a Scan converter and as big as a Broadcast level CG
- Fill + Alpha based Graphic systems produce high quality keying and allow for a lot of creativity
- Try not to use the same machine to play videos as you use to run your CG
- Video Servers can be expensive but are much more reliable and offer more options than playing off a PC. If you have a strong Media/ Content creation department, consider adding a video server, especially if they want to gang roll clips of decent length on a regular basis.
- Choose something that is reliable and made for long record times
- Purchase gear with multiple i/O’s including Analog Audio, Time code, Down converted output, FTP transfer, and RS 422 control
- Make sure you can edit with the format that is recorded on the drive or have software that will convert it for you
- Streaming is different than recording, have a specific machine just for live streaming (if you are going to upload later this does not apply)
- Choose a format for archiving
- Redundancy is always good, decks tend to fail, always have a back-up
- Make sure your record decks record in as high of quality as your production
- Terminal Gear is the glue that pulls your system together
- Includes: Test signal generator, Converters, patch bays, and a variety of DA’s
- This is one of the most over looked areas and has a hefty price tag when done right
- If you are running a MIV, consumer TV’s with a converter tend to work great, but make sure you have an engineering monitor to watch your overall quality
- Make sure you have a monitor for everything you need, without proper monitoring you can’t know what’s going on.
- Be sure your monitor system has Tally and wire it up. It helps!
- Give operators in the control room some type of monitoring of what they are doing ex: if your running Pro Presenter it might be nice to have a monitor next to the operator of the actual output complete with Tally (something to consider)
- Monitor placements, numbers, and sizes depend on room layout and design
- Com is extremely important to keep everyone in sync
- Get multiple channels, not everyone wants to hear you calling cameras that also need to be on com every now and again
- Sometimes running com through cameras works great, sometimes it doesn’t, it may not be loud enough. Do tests before committing to com through the Camera
- Purchase comfortable headsets (my favorite is the PH 88)
- Different positions should have different kinds of headsets
- Clean audio is important with video
- Consider getting audience mics to add life to your audio
- Get audio DA’s that have adjustable outputs incase record devices accept audio differently
- Broadcast furniture is extremely expensive, I have had good luck finding a volunteer or attendee that is a cabinet maker to build desk at a reduced rate
- Spend time on the room layout, seek advice, ergonomics are important in helping the operation of you control room
- Make sure you have rack mounts on your desk, or attach small slant racks to your desk for gear such as small monitors, Com, remote panels, ect.
- Room layout can effect gear purchases, plan this early on
- Be sure to have plenty of rack space for future expansion, and consider ceiling height
- Video racks are deeper than standard racks
- Cable, ends, adapters and connectors can add up
- During installs, unexpected things come up leave a cushion
- Plan for power strips, rack power, power conditioners, UPS, rack fans, tie bars, race ways, ladder trays
- Be sure your room has proper Ventilation, no control room with gear should have heat and needs to have constant fans, and cooling in place. Make sure intake and returns are in the proper place
- Be sure there is enough power in the room
- False walls for mounting monitors are kind of nice
- New conduit and cable pulls may be required
- Dimmable canned lights are always a nice addition
- Plan for electrician costs, HVAC costs, and basic construction costs in most any project
*If you would like help with your next purchase or Video upgrade please feel free to contact Me. Or if you are working with an integrator but would like a second opinion I would love to work with you on your next project.
Here are a few photos of the control rooms I have designed and installed:
The EBC Blaine campus is my pride and joy. This was a new construction multi-site campus that was built just 15 minutes from our main campus. Most of the gear came out of the main campus in preparation for more multi-site facilities. I not only designed the control room infrastructure, but I also did about 90% of the wiring my self. This is the first project that I was able to take my time. Most of the time we have had a week to tear apart a control room and get it ready for the next weekend. This project I had 2-3 months, so I took my time and I have been extremely happy with the results.