Founded in 1976 and nestled in Denton, Texas, Denton Bible Church is a non-denominational church that was used to attracting 4,000 congregants each Sunday across its three services. As the demand for digital content and streaming grew, Denton Bible Church was looking to replace its outdated camera system with a solution that would be flexible, deliver high-quality content and create a worship environment that would accompany the needs of its congregants, regardless of where they chose to worship. As social distancing measures were put in place due to the pandemic, the need to remotely stream their services became increasingly important.
After participating in several camera shootouts, Denton Bible Church acquired and deployed five Panasonic AW-UE150 4K pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras throughout its sanctuary; two AW-RP150 touchscreen remote camera controllers are used to control the UE150s. To learn more about why the church choose Panasonic, Preston Fuqua, technical director at Denton Bible Church, answered our questions.
What challenges was the church facing that made you turn to AV technology?
Over the last five years, the demand for quality video for Denton Bible Church services and events has drastically increased. We were stuck in an SD/HD environment using a camera system that was 15 years old. We knew we needed a product that was on the leading-edge and offered multiple options to achieve the end result we were looking for.
Why did you choose Panasonic?
We landed on Panasonic’s UE150 PTZ cameras for several reasons. First, because our camera operators are all volunteers, the product had to have the ability and toolset to achieve a professional-looking result, but be simple enough for our volunteers to operate and grow. Secondly, our camera positions that were manned previously, blocked a significant amount of seats behind them, so we wanted a PTZ solution that allowed us to capture the most from those positions without impeding the congregants’ sight lines. Additionally, it needed to be a product that had great service and repair ability. Problems are inevitable, but a company that stands behind their technology was a must for us. And lastly, we needed a mobile solution. Several times a year, we need to relocate some of our cameras for different events taking place around campus. Traditionally, we would have to take large and heavy tripod- mounted cameras around campus, but the option of a lightweight, mobile PTZ really caught my attention. The ability to connect it over IP from anywhere on campus was a game changer.
Can you describe the transition to using PTZ cameras to live stream your services and events?
As the demand for digital content and streaming grew, we took a long look at what we could do with the limited setup we had. It was at that time our search for new cameras began.
After attending several camera shootouts, we decided to go with Panasonic’s AW-UE150 4K PTZ cameras and the AW-RP150 touchscreen remote camera controllers largely because they were the most intuitive to a volunteer Sunday morning camera crew, gave us the ability to jump to 4K/HD resolution and was the most versatile camera in multiple ways. Additionally, the PTZs large 1” sensor and 20X optical zoom allowed us to zoom in two times farther with exceptional image quality. This means congregants can enjoy higher quality streams to fully immerse themselves into their at-home-service as they would in-person. Once UE150s were installed and we saw the images they produced, we were blown away. Regarding the operator’s control on the AW-RP150, the IP control is spot on and exceeds our expectations due to the controller’s ability to manipulate multiple cameras at once and simultaneously output 4K. It was hard to even compare our old set up to the new.
Walk us through a typical Sunday service now that this tech is in place?
The heavy lifting for our cameras are the three Sunday services, along with our midweek events that the church hosts. With our new camera systems in place, our volunteer operators are able to show up prior to service, review the notes for the day and check the configurations on their control surface.
Historically, we’ve needed three camera operators to pull off a service. Now, with the PTZ cameras in place, we only need two operators, enabling us more depth in our volunteer rotations. The new system has been a very versatile tool for us. It allows us to output multiple resolutions, control them via a webpage and capture multiple shots from one camera, which we utilize with the different speakers and panel events that we host.
With a staff made of up volunteers, what UE150 features allow your team to deliver a high-quality live streamed service?
With most PTZs on the market, you will have noticeable harsh camera movements on any tight shot. With Panasonic’s UE150 PTZs, we are able to go well beyond standard optic capacities, yet still maintain an extremely stable and smooth image.
That said, the biggest difference for our volunteers was the camera controllers. When I compared the functionality of different camera controllers, Panasonic’s RP150 controller was more well-equipped and able to be operated by someone who wasn’t a seasoned camera operator. With the addition of the touchscreen monitor, you can manipulate almost any parameter built into the camera. Our camera operators have caught on quickly and really enjoy the ability to customize the user experience as well as the ability to quickly jump between pre-programmed shots and moves.
How has the Panasonic professional camera technology impacted worship services?
Soon after we implemented the new cameras, COVID hit and streaming our services became our priority. After a few changes to our infrastructure, we were up and running with streaming-only services in no time. Once the capabilities were seen by our senior pastor, he started a new weekday series during the shelter-in-place mandate. While it was new and very foreign to him, being able to stream and connect with families in our congregation and beyond during quarantine opened his eyes to a whole new way of doing ministry and teaching. As a result, our online viewership has increased over this time beyond what we had historically seen for in-person attendance for Sunday services.
Looking ahead, what are Denton Bible Church’s plans for future AV technology deployments?
We have absolutely loved our Panasonic cameras so far and have recommended them to several other churches and organizations in the area. Since the initial deployment in August 2019, we have added more UE150 PTZs to some of our smaller venues within the church, which allows us to deliver the same quality image no matter where we are on campus.
Down the road and when it is safe for us to worship in-person, I would like to add a couple manned cameras in our sanctuary.