Multi-Site Video Venues

Churches are going Multi-site.  In fact there is a 90% success rate in the multi-site strategy.  Churches that have found a winning recipe in reaching people for Christ have found that adding another site works.  One of the strategies that churches use in doing multi-site is the idea of a video venue.  Good teaching pastors are hard to find and a good message is the the number one draw that people look for in a church.  Video venues use Video technology to bring one pastor to multiple locations.  Here are a few ways at how to do a video venue.  Each one of them has pros and cons.  You need to find the best one to do for your church and your multi-sites.

Once you have decided what method you would like to go with, we can then think about what type of gear is needed to pull off your multi-site strategy.  So read through the different methods of video venues and your transport method to find what will fit your church best.

The Virtual Video Campus Experience:

In a virtual experience, video is used to create the illusion that the pastor speaking is actually in the room.  People don’t actually have to believe that the pastor is in the room as much as forget that the pastor is “not” in the room.

In a virtual experience, two channels of video are recorded and then played back in sync.  One channel of video is the same as the IMAG that is used at the main campus.  The second channel of video is a life size or just above life size image of the pastor speaking.  This screen will hover on stage to make it look as though the pastor is walking on the stage.

The goal of this experience is to give the congregation a good quality experience.    The focus is deferred from the pastor not being in the room and more focus is put back into the room itself.  The goal is for the pastor to still be able to connect with people in another auditorium without actually being there.

Virtual campus experience at Eagle Brook Church

Challenges with this type of system directly relate to cost.  Because there are two video channels, this ends up being twice as expensive especially since you need decks that can record and play out time code in order to sync both channels.  This also adds a point of failure,  if one deck for any reason doesn’t record correctly or even at all, the experience is no longer true.

Broadcast campuses:

Video venue campuses can also create an experience that is more like watching a TV broadcast.  With a broadcast style production the goal is to connect the viewers to the auditorium that the pastor is in.

A broadcast uses 3+ cameras that are switched back and forth from both wide and tight shots in order to show the pastor and the room they are in.  Camera’s also tend to track with the pastor when they walk from one end of the stage to the other end of the stage.

This option only utilizes one record deck and one playback deck and is half the cost of the virtual experience.

Challenges with this type of experience come from the main location.  It can be very difficult to do this experience well without causing a distraction to those watching.  Bad cuts, and shaky cameras can pull people out of this experience very quickly.  If errors are made, this experience shows those errors the most.  A bigger infrastructure is needed at the main location in order to provide both IMAG and a broadcast experience, more upfront cost may occur.

It can also be more difficult to engage large amount of viewers at a time.  Broadcast camera shots can sometimes remind people of where they are not rather than where they are.  But at the same time if done well, it can allow people to forget where they are.

IMAG at a Video venue:

IMAG at a video venue without a wide virtual shot or a full broadcast experience may be a good cheap way to do a video venue.  It has a simplistic factor to it.  IMAG is easy to produce and easy to watch.

Infrastructure is simple, it involves one camera, a switcher, a graphics box and a record deck.  A high level of quality is very easily attained in this situation.example of a tight IMAG shot

A challenge with an IMAG video venue is that it is difficult to create an experience and fully engage people.  They are not being connected to the main auditorium and it is much more difficult for the pastor to engage a large audience when all they get is a tight IMAG shot.  Overall this type of experience has easy attainable quality but is difficult to connect with a distant audience. A pastor in this situation will come across talking more at an audience than to an audience and will have to work extra hard at breaking that barrier.

Camera work may be a factor but when using a quality broadcast camera with a good tripod and head, smooth camera movements are easily attained.

Putting the pastor on stage:

The last option for video venue is to have a wide shot on the stage of the pastor and no side screens.  Any side screens will only display scripture/ message slides or videos.  There is really no tech involved other than setting up a camera, recording it and then playing it back.  Any media involved will have to be done at the campuses themselves on the fly tracking with the video.

This is the cheapest solution to video venue, it may involve adding a projector to the campus for video playback but this involves no infrastructure to the main campus.

Challenges with this type of video venue involve putting all the media in the campuses hands.  You trust the campuses to bring all media elements in and out at the proper times in a quality manor.  It is very difficult to quality control what is happening at all the campuses.

Engaging an audience is more difficult because this is only allowing those in the front with a good view to see the pastor, there is no 3 dimensions, this is a two dimension image on a thin screen and can be difficult for people sitting at an angle to the stage or in the back to see the pastor.

Week out vs. Week of:

Week out vs. week of is when the campuses see the message.  In a week of situation a video venue watches the same message that is preached at the main campus on the weekend it is preached.  In a week out situation the message is played at the video venues a week after it was given at the main location.

Week of:

An advantage of week of is that the campuses are not missing anything by being at a video campus.  They are part of the same church in a different location getting the same message at the same time.  They can talk with people at that attend the main campus about the message that week and be united.

Challenges with week of are maintaining quality control and expense.  In a week of situation there is usually no time to edit content before it is seen at another venue.  The way it was directed, produced, and presented will be exactly how it is seen.  Because of this, better equipment is needed for recording to make sure it is recorded right the first time without fault.  Back-up equipment is also recommended for redundancy in case a deck would fail.  This will ensure that the week of message is played back.

Week out:

Advantages of week out include, quality control, cost, and service times.  After a weekend the pastor can choose the best message to play at the video campuses and an editor can edit it for quality.  This can then be dubbed for the other campuses and may be able to be played back on less expensive playback devices because of the ability to dub.  Less recording equipment would need to be purchased and back-up decks would not be as important because there is not just the one chance for recording.  Service times could take place at the same time as the first service at the main campus.  No delay would have to be in place.

A challenge would be that the campuses would not be able to hear the message the same week as the people at the main campus.  They would have to wait a week.  This could also pose some difficulty for big weekends such as Christmas and Easter when a unified message may be given across campuses.

Transfer protocols:

One option to consider with a video venue to save money is to purchase one set of record decks and physically transfer the decks from the main location to the remote location in a road case for playback.  This can provide extra wear and tear on the decks and cables when consistently being transferred and plugged into the different systems.  It may also be heavy for one person to constantly transfer from one location to the other but would be a good cost saving solution.

You can find a medium to transfer your message.  This could be through tapes, flash cards, hard drives ect.  There are many different forms of each.  If your church goes with this strategy you will need to find the best option for you.

You can also go live.  Using some form of streaming technology weather through the internet or via a fiber or satellite system you can go live.  This will be at a high price though.

1 Response to Multi-Site Video Venues

  1. Jaron Burkhardt says:

    Our church is looking towards doing a virtual video set up with IMAG on the side screens and a wide shot in the center. We are planning on using Christie M-Series native 1080p projectors (thoughts?). What deck, though, do you recommend using for playing back separate feeds at once? We were looking towards doing a blackmagic studio cam set up (so we could take advantage of the semi-ccu functionality and talkback) and were planning on using blackmagic hyperdecks…I know these can be cued live from the switcher when they are chosen as a source, but I’m not sure if we could play two different decks at the exact same time. Do we need to go with something like a Grass Valley? Thanks for all of your insight!

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