March 29, 2023
4 min read
Modern worship is changing. Houses of worship (HOWs) are increasingly leveraging technology to move beyond traditional in-person-only service to reach remote congregants who want to view at home or gather together in secondary satellite locations to worship. In late 2021, a Pew Research Center survey found 28% of all U.S. adults watched services online or on TV, compared to 26% who attended services in person.
The challenge for HOWs is engaging remote audiences as completely and equally as those in primary worship locations (e.g., the church, synagogue, or mosque). The solution? Using technology to both attract new community members — inside and outside of their walls — and connect existing ones.
What the connected congregation looks like
Many remote worshippers view live services by themselves at home, whether through a web browser or on the TV. Two key concerns for houses of worship regarding this group are the bounce effect and disengagement. The bounce effect is when people click away from the online service after just a few minutes, while disengagement is when people may keep the service playing in the background, but they’re actually focused on doing other things.
Other worshippers may choose to gather at a remote location to view the service together. The location could be a single follower’s home, a community center, or a rented facility. While this remote worship approach may be better at retaining worshippers’ attention, it raises other challenges. One of the biggest logistical challenges is that the remote congregation must set up the appropriate equipment (e.g., projectors and screens) to transform the space into a true secondary place of worship.
In both cases, audio-visual (AV) technology is key to capturing and relaying services such that they create highly engaged and connected congregations that extend far beyond the primary worship location. Judicious investment in the right technology — whether cameras, live streaming software, or projectors — can multiply the effect of each service, enabling religious leaders to resonate better with individuals and the overall community.
Here’s a closer look at three house of worship AV solutions and how they can help create more connected congregations.
Collecting visuals from the primary worship space is a challenge for many houses of worship. Religious leaders are often dynamic in their teaching style; they may walk across the stage or altar and move among the congregation. How can they keep the camera’s focus to ensure remote viewers get the full nuance of their teaching?
Pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras can convert a strong character in the primary worship location into a cinematic presence for remote viewers. The cameras ensure constant coverage of speakers, filming them as they move around the space. Facial tracking software in Panasonic Connect’s PTZ cameras ensures no expression is lost.
PTZ cameras can also be positioned and manipulated to support different camera angles, improving production quality and storytelling. They can be used with shoulder-mounted cameras suitable for dynamic, up-close filming of stage and altar areas. The mobile units offer maximum flexibility and multi-angle coverage that can take in teachers, singers, musicians, and even the congregation — not to mention the grandeur of the architecture. Panasonic Connect’s selection of broadcast-quality, shoulder-mounted cameras supports the right blend of zoom lenses to provide the appropriate depth of field for close-up, intimate moments and wide shots.
2. Production Hardware & Software
It takes skill to turn multiple camera inputs into a single stream that cuts between shots at just the right moment. It also takes an investment in the right back-end production equipment. Look for a solution that allows you to share your faith with unrestricted creativity, whether your congregants are in-person or remote. Your production system should be flexible, enabling you to link to as many sources and external devices as needed to suit your creative vision.
Houses of worship can use a live video production system like Panasonic Connect’s KAIROS to control the delivery of content to multiple screens and streams. A desktop user interface lets operators control shots — mixing, blending, and fading in real time. The system also comes with broadcast control panels for compact use in tight spaces. Additionally, it allows operators to program macros that perform repeated shot mixes, resulting in greater efficiency and allowing for better productivity.
Live streaming equipment enables houses of worship to bridge the gap between in-person and remote congregations. Panasonic Connect offers cameras with a network device interface that streams video images over a local area network to the production suite. Users can purchase a video encoder to take the edited media stream from the production suite and send it via an internet connection to a content distribution network. It is important that the network infrastructure, both inside the house of worship and from the premises to the internet, has sufficient bandwidth and low latency to support video signals.
3. Projectors & Screens
For remote congregations, the AV equipment used affects how people see video and hear audio and, consequently, how they experience the service. While home viewers rely on their own equipment, communities viewing at satellite worship spaces can often justify investments in projectors and screens to ensure remote services are presented as intended. For example, in larger spaces, Panasonic Connect large-venue projectors offer crisp 4K ultra-high resolution to render live video footage in clarity while making text readable from anywhere in the room. The broader projector range also features a selection of lenses for up-close and longer-range projection to suit different spaces.
Ease of setup for this equipment is key, which is why Panasonic Connect offers DIGITAL LINK, a single-cable connection solution for audio, video, and data.
Transforming worship with tech
Investing in quality AV equipment and services can help religious leaders prepare for a modern age of worship that serves more followers in less space. Rather than building and maintaining larger central worship spaces, HOWs can rightsize their physical locations to accommodate fewer in-person followers while serving more people in their own homes or in secondary community spaces.
Adapting to create hybrid physical and remote houses of worship promises to increase the number of followers while bringing congregants the comfort and convenience they want and need. Investing in the right AV solution is a potential multiplier, expanding congregations and religious communities around the house of worship and even farther afield.