What to consider when selecting professional audio visual integrators for your church, house of worship, or other organization
You’ve done your research and you know the specific needs of your house of worship. You’ve consulted your annual budget and balanced the needs of your fellowship, but audio visual integrators like Sound Planning understand that hiring a professional sound company for your professional sound system installation can represent an intimidating cost. Design-build integrators like Sound Planning have always understood that bringing the best possible product to the people that need the support most in these troubled times is always the ultimate goal of organizations like yours. Now, You have committed your organization to a professional installation.
Once the critical decision is made, it’s time to focus on getting the best bang for your buck. Now is the time to consider: Where do you go from here?
Here are some quick tips for selecting a professional sound integrator for the installation of your new professional sound system!
1. Seek expertise
Welcome to the AV era, where every person seems to have an opinion about professional sound system installation. Take a peek at your search engine results for questions like ‘audio visual’, ‘AV’, and sound system installation; not only can the number of results feel daunting, but all the well-meaning blog posts in all the world couldn’t provide you with the unity of vision, industry expertise, and customized care of an audio visual /integrator. Organizational and church design-build integrators like Sound Planning don’t just have the answers for you and your organization; they know how to keep it simple and serve your needs completely. With 45 years of experience with house of worship sound systems and design, Sound Planning works to understand your needs for a custom fit.
2. Build strong foundations to help support future growth
Your money is a valuable resource, but so is your organization’s time and your staff and volunteers’ effort. Committing funding to an outside organization for this type of project can be daunting, but audio visual integrators are more than just industry professionals. They have the tools to fully diagnose the full scope of the issues your organization is facing. When choosing a quality audio visual company for your professional sound or AV system installation, consider what else the company brings to the table. Additional services like preliminary acoustic modeling help Sound Planning find any problems at the source. From strong foundations, the sky really is the limit. Understanding what makes each organization space or house of worship unique makes it that much easier to make improvements on your terms. Stop fighting the symptoms; let Sound Planning help you find the source of crystal clear sound and flawless video feeds!
3. Measure twice, cut once
What was good for your grandfather should be good for your organization. The benefit of hiring a professional sound or audio visual company goes beyond outsourcing difficult work; Sound Planning makes sure that the first installation is the only installation. Just like the materials for any home improvement project, high quality equipment loses value fast when it’s not paired thoughtfully with a well designed system. The best way to assure that thoughtful pairing is to put your trust in a high quality team. Your organization is more than the money it spends. As 2022 progresses, make sure that your only preoccupation is how to improve on your current system, not how to fix amateur errors that only mask problems without solving them.
As design-build integrators, Sound Planning will help you get the best bang for your valuable buck; they also work hard to save you time and effort as well. As we all move towards a new (and more stable) normal, let Sound Planning help you make the most of your 2022!
Contact us for a customized quote, click here to get in touch.
Getting our clients up-and-running with a streaming camera setup has been a mostly positive experience. We have many success stories. But that's not what this post is about. This post is to better understand what it takes to produce successful streams.
(the image above is from a video by Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest using cameras, switching and TV carts provided by Sound Planning)
Here are 7 Things Learned about Streaming Successfully:
Defining & Understanding Roles
As the integrator, we are tasked with the design, integration and support of the hardware. In streaming, there are other parties involved that play crucial roles in a successful broadcast.
Sound Planning: Because we are integrating cameras and the related hardware with other components not under our control, we must get support and communications from the other players.
The Local Network (LAN) Integrator needs to coordinate the ISP needs and the related hardware and infrastructure in the building to provide the quality of service needed for a successful stream.
The ISP will need to provide the bandwidth and stability for the streams.
The Streaming Provider must allow for the local team operator(s) to manage the streams, hosting and cataloging etc.
Where to look for Bottlenecks
If the quality of the stream is below where the output settings are. I.E. you are sending 720p/30FPS, but the quality looks like a video from a 2000 flip phone. Finding the point of this quality degradation is key. This is a common issue we get calls to resolve, but sometimes we cannot due to the point that we are in the flow of events.
Video productions vary to large degrees today. You can see handheld phone recordings up to professional cinematic quality on YouTube. Recognizing whether your organization's size and budget meets the level of expectations of the quality is a common occurrence.
Be realistic of the level of staffing, equipment and budget that fits appropriately. There are churches that produce TV studio quality that have a staff to manage it, but they also have a 7-figure AV budget. (That is not an unrealistic number). Sound Planning isn't in the business of outfitting million dollar AV installations, we understand how to maximize production on a realistic budget!
Attending online services shouldn't feel isolated. Make your attendees feel connected with an active chat room and/or a social media page that makes time to connect and engage. Don't leave them online with no interactive aspects.
Finding & Holding Volunteers
This technology does not run itself! Having a team of volunteers requires an active engagement and lots of communications between the clergy, musicians and the video stream team. This will take rehearsals and good documentation. Handing the keys to unprepared team members will leave them unmotivated to return.
When to Staff
There may come a time to pay for a staff or temporary support to manage the streaming and AV needs.
Streaming vs. Recording
Sometimes the best way to get a team up and running to streaming is by starting out recording then uploading the video to the streaming platform. Realtime broadcasting is a stressful endeavor! Recording sessions allows the team to learn the steps to a great broadcast without the failures being exposed. Once these steps are learned you will be ready to successfully stream!
Erik Saari, VP Sales & Systems Design
Nothing like a pandemic to change plans.
Since the beginnings of Sound Planning in the late 1970s, we have served a variety of houses of worship. From Christian, Jewish, Bahai and Jains, we have covered most of the religious bases. Something that we have become known for is what we coined the CLEMPS (Catholic, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Presbyterian and Synagogues). I.E. We serve many traditional spaces with needs for sound, video and technology that have a minimal staff to operate and manage it.
A common occurrence in adding technologies into worship is taking on more than we can handle and then getting frustrated with the outcome. I am here to say that this can be avoided or at least minimized by accepting our limitations in staff and budget and building a system that will succeed with those limitations in mind.
Here are some key things to consider:
The first two bullet points: Adding Cameras and Streaming
If you have not read our last blog post: https://www.soundplanning.com/blog/connection-not-perfection you may wish to. It covers adding cameras, streaming and technologies for video broadcast in a space where this is never been done before. It’s good to know what you are getting into before you are in too deep.
The last two bullet points may not be something that Sound Planning will handle, but I cannot stress enough how important they are to a successful transition to online worship. Having easy links and a clear path to getting your congregants to the video or page are crucial. Getting these links into a social media feed is now a part of life. My suggestion is picking a platform and mastering it before trying to cover the next ones. I.E. if you are posting to YouTube, master YouTube Studio before jumping over to Instagram, Facebook Live, and Vimeo... It is much easier to send links on a Facebook page to your well-managed YouTube page than to have both pages poorly managed.
Do not get caught up in getting followers and likes! Concentrate on the message you have and content that you provide. As somebody that is active on Instagram, it is too easy to get caught in the trappings of this unhelpful behavior. Make it easy to find you and keep posting. Social Media is a stream, don’t be sporadic. By consistently posting even small and short messages, you will gain a following that enjoys adding your news and updates into their daily routine.
Engage with your audience. Do not just post and ghost. It is a social platform, make the folks that responded feel that they are heard too.
That's all for now! I hope that this was helpful.
We have been asked by many to help get churches online streaming their events and services in short order. I wanted to address some of the more important aspects about this for those new to the logistics and aspects of this simple, yet monumental task. I know that simple and monumental seem to contradict each other, and that is intentional. Because getting a phone camera to stream to your Facebook Live page is simple. Getting a 3-camera production video system online is monumental in comparison.
If you are a church that has never had video broadcasting experience, you are in for several realizations to get your service online. One is that the hardware (minus the Mac/PC) must all be setup and tested for the event well in advance. This minimizes a multitude of surprises like cabling and conversion failures.
Once you have a running camera(s) and audio system, the next steps include verifying that you have a streaming provider setup and ready to accept your stream. One pitfall for YouTube Studio users is that you have 24-hour waiting period before you can even attempt a test stream.
Camera and hardware = CHECK
Streaming provider ready = CHECK
How is your outbound bandwidth? A typical stream for Facebook-live is 720p/30fps compressed is about 4000kbps. This is the minimum and it must be solid for a good stream. Make sure that your Internet Service Provider has this for you.
Bandwidth = CHECK
Back to the Mac/PC... Did you get all the updates out of the way before you were going live? Windows 10 is notorious for slowing down a PC without any warning. At this point in time, my laptop is on its 4th restart after updates. (March 19th 9:30AM). I even had the firmware updated! This might happen when you don't want it to if you don't plan for it in advance.
OK, you now have some basic understanding of the hardware and physical requirements. Now to the hard part: The people this requires. Unlike sound systems that can have “automatic mixers” and other technologies that make for a fairly hands-free operation, video production requires people to make decisions in real time. And once the live stream is happening, time seems to compress, and the pressure is on. It’s one thing to record a service edit the sermon and later post the edited video; it’s another to make all these things appear on the far side without errors in real time! You are going to make mistakes.
The goal is about the connection and not the perfection.
A typical broadcast booth has several people to make the broadcast happen:
• Camera Operator(s)
• Broadcast Technician
• Audio Engineer
Are you expecting one person with no experience to: operate the cameras, switch the cameras to the live feed, put up lower-third title graphics, make sure the audio sounds good and prepare for the next shot? If so, this person is going to make mistakes.
The key to success in this is to start as small as you can manage and build upon this. I.E. if you can handle operating the PTZ cameras with some presets and switch to the appropriate camera while the service is happening; stop there and call it a win! Work on this skill for a long while so that you can do it without panic. Only then can you add the next challenges.
Even after all these matters have been addressed and you are feeling confident in your skills; you will still make mistakes! And you know what?! your viewers won’t mind. They will be happy that they could connect. In a world of full of negativity and social and political divides, this is a great time to feel we are part of a community! Even if it happens through a screen.
Now that Phase 6 of the FCC changes have taken place, the Chicago metro area must be ready for the next phase of over the air TV station re-allocations due this summer. What does this mean for wireless microphones?
First a bit of history:
This brings us to today:
October 18, 2019: Chicago metropolitan area TV station reallocation per Phase 6 of the FCC Digital Transition Schedule
This affects several brands of wireless microphone systems that operate in the range of 494-548MHz. Most notably the Shure SLX and BLX bands H5, H8 and H9 which now have no available spectrum to operate in.
Later in 2020: the last Phase of the FCC transition will take place and the only available UHF spectrum will be: TV Channels 16 (482-488MHz), 27 (548-554MHz), 29 (560-566MHz), 31 (572-578MHz) and 36 (602-608MHz)
What does this mean?
If you have wireless mic systems that operate in the range of a TV station you must move it to a new location. If there are no available stations, you must replace it. Wanting to use more than 4 channels of wireless mics on a budget is going to be impossible going forward. This is because only the higher priced models of wireless can operate many channels in a small amount of RF spectrum.
This is bad news for many schools and houses of worship that have come to rely on using 10+ channels of wireless mics for plays and productions. I wish there was a cheap solution to offer, but at this point we are mere pawns in this chess game. The FCC makes the rules, and wireless manufacturers makes changes to accommodate.
Can Sound Planning Help? YES!
We can work with you to provide the options and solutions to get the right wireless systems in place and operational.
For More Information:
A great article from Wired Magazine about this in 2018
How sensor size affects lens optics and aperture
The images below were taken by me (of me) to illustrate how each camera sensor size behaves on the same subject size. [UPDATED 3-2-2020 for color correction] Why am I posting this on a Sound Planning page and not my photography page? Good question! Because when we install web-cameras and broadcast cameras in conference rooms, churches and distance-learning environments, we are dealing with video sensors that are the same type as in a digital camera.
The camera's job is to collect light onto a sensor and the only way to do this is to build a box between the sensor and the lens. The size of the sensor dictates the size of the lens and box. How these render an image is physically related to the size. Since the advent of decent cameras on phones, the need for getting better portraits became a challenge that could not be solved optically. Why? Because the sensor and box were so small to fit on the phone, that no matter how much you wanted to have a shallow depth of field, the phone could not make that happen. With today's new iPhones etc. they can simulate this effect by using a pair of lenses and a lot of digital manipulation to mimic what happens optically.
The effect that is desired is having the subject in focus and the background a beautiful blur. (if you get the small balls of light you get the magic of bokeh). This happens because of the relation of the aperture (lens opening) to the focal length and sensor size. The larger the aperture opening the smaller the "f-stop" number. To get the lens to make a sharp subject while blurring the background requires BOTH a longer focal length and a wide aperture opening or low f-stop.
In the case for the test images below, we are using a full-frame 50mm focal length (lens size) as our benchmark. Please note that the 50mm is based upon the standard of a 35mm film size or full-frame photo sensor. Once we frame the same subject and size using the iPhone and cropped-frame DX sensor, we are not using 50mm lenses. We are using smaller focal lengths do to the smaller sensor. This is called "crop factor".
Using the chart below you can see the 35mm full-frame at the top and the APS-C cropped frame DX below it and way below that you see the iPhone Xs at 1/2.5"
I think that is enough for today, but in the next post I will go into how each manufacturer's conference room camera sensors stack up. You'd be surprised at how small the sensor is on a PTZ camera. Stay Tuned...
While the use of digital mixers has been a common solution for houses of worship and theaters, building a custom digital interface was only a dream until today. Now we can have a mixer that is built-to-order!
Church of the Holy Spirit - Lake Forest
Church of the Holy Spirit in Lake Forest upgraded their system with a Q-SYS touchscreen control system. With the Q-SYS platform, Sound Planning created an interface with only the controls required.
Sound Planning has been installing and training churches on Yamaha, Soundcraft, Behringer and Allen&Heath digital mixing consoles for decades (yes, decades). We believe that some of the newest consoles like the Yamaha TF Series have the best in interface design and abilities. But even the best UI design in mixing consoles requires time to learn and understand. In a mainline church that does not require (or employ) a staff of dedicated AV and/or sound pros; how many cheat-sheets do you need to operate a sophisticated console?
With Q-SYS, Sound Planning will create a custom layout for the most common usage in a traditional worship space. Even the clergy can get it operational! But this doesn't mean that you cannot "get under the hood" if you know what you are doing. We create pages for preamp controls and other functions that trained staff can manage. It's really the best of both worlds. We provide many levels of simple interface and automatic mixing functions, while allowing flexibility of usage for special events.
St. Petronille - Glen Ellyn
St. Petronille Catholic Parish recently added steerable line-array loudspeakers and a Q-SYS touchscreen mixer to their church. It is a dramatic improvement for the parishioners and staff.