Spread across a campus, Oak Creek Assembly of God is one of the largest churches in the Milwaukee, WI area and the largest Spanish-language church in the city. The church has been streaming services for several years, building a wide reach of followers spread across the U.S. and the world. However, when the pandemic struck and drove the majority of its 3,000 congregants to view its streamed services, the need for updated camera equipment in its main sanctuary became clear.
While streaming its 3-4 weekly services at the start of the pandemic, Oak Creek’s 17-year-old streaming technology began experiencing some glitches, making it difficult for the church to deliver a dynamic virtual experience. As a quick fix, the church’s production crews temporarily switched to a consumer-grade phone to capture content as they looked for a long-term solution. Understanding that streaming would be its primary mode of interacting with congregants for some time, the church knew that enhancing its video quality from 480p to 4K internal video and 1080p streaming would be key in creating an engaging virtual worship experience that could rival that of an in-person service.
While Oak Creek sought to enhance the quality of its streamed productions, the church needed a solution that was simple to use. Instead of having a designated technical production crew produce each service, Oak Creek relies on a team of rotating volunteers that take turns producing each service. Thus, any solution the church deployed would need to not only produce high-quality content but do so in a simple way that’s easy to teach, learn and ultimately operate without supervision.
Like many churches, Oak Creek was also working with a fixed budget and, therefore, needed a solution that would also offer longevity and reliability to support them for years to come.
Oak Creek reached out to the local office of Sven, an audio-visual consultant focused on shaping experiences, to find the right streaming solutions for its unique needs. The church was already leveraging some Panasonic visual equipment, including the PT-RZ21K projector to produce engaging visuals for worshippers and the CQ1 professional displays across the building as overflow viewing. Thus, Sven Pro decided to look within the Panasonic family for video streaming solutions to create a cohesive, easy-to-use workflow.
“As a designer, I enjoy the wide array of solutions from Panasonic,” said Josh Thorell of Sven. “The ability to design and install multiple solutions for broadcast, display and projection from the same vendor ensures each piece of the equipment will work together to create a harmonious solution not just for installation but for day-to-day church operations.”
Sven chose to deploy two UC4000 studio cameras to the left and right of the center auditorium stage to capture the wide angle of the large venue. These cameras ensure high picture quality despite the various degrees of lighting used during the worship service. Volunteers can also easily operate the cameras with minimal training time necessary.
Likewise, two UE150 PTZ cameras situated at opposite balconies help cover the remaining distance of the stage, enabling production volunteers to easily capture different angles and shot widths. The handheld CX350 professional camcorder allows onstage camera operation to conduct close-up shots, transmitting a signal from the main sanctuary to the youth room on the opposite side of the campus. Meanwhile, two UE4 cameras enable a drum camera view and wide room view to capture the full audience during meet and greet sessions.
Panasonic video solutions enabled Sven to balance Oak Creek’s desire for the best video equipment with the need to stay within its fixed budget. Understanding the church’s goal to enhance the quality of its streamed sermons, Sven was able to help Oak Creek replicate the engaging nature of its in-person service. Lastly, the deployment of the right mix of camera solutions ensured that volunteers could easily capture different angles and viewpoints to cover the large sanctuary space in a visually dynamic way that’s engaging for viewers.
Ensuring Seamless Operation Through Enhanced Switching
While the multiple cameras deployed in the main sanctuary enable production volunteers to capture multiple angles, it can be challenging to bring these shots together for a cohesive livestream. Sven decided to install the UHS500 production switcher to help streamline the production process, as the church technical director can establish pre-set workflows so volunteers can easily switch between different camera inputs.
“Not only do volunteers have an incredible selection of shots to choose from, but they also have great control over how the footage goes out,” said Sean Anderson, Customer Relationship Manager at Sven. “We set up the system in a way that introductory users can switch between cameras and provide a great viewing experience using pre-set workflows, while technical directors can still play around with the more complicated settings to set up various transitions and shot macros for the UE150 and UE4 cameras.”
The UHS500 also allows the team to output multiple previews to its CQ1 displays, enabling the volunteers to select shots and double-check the quality on large monitors before going live.
Enhancing the quality of streamed services to create an immersive virtual worship experience was a top priority for Oak Creek when streaming became its primary mode of interacting with congregants. Upon the failure of its old camera equipment, the church realized the poor quality of livestreams was creating a distracting experience for congregants as opposed to an engaging one.
Deploying the right combination of cameras from Panasonic – including the UC4000 studio camera, UE150 PTZ camera, CX350 professional camcorder and UE4 camera – now enable production volunteers to capture dynamic shots of their expansive main sanctuary in a simple, streamlined way. Meanwhile, the ability to establish pre-set workflows on the UHS500 production switcher lets them easily combine footage from different cameras to create dynamic content.
Congregants immediately noticed the difference in quality between the church’s original 480p content and its enhanced 4K video and 1080p streaming. “We’ve seen increased viewership, as congregants praise the high-quality, realistic imagery,” said Tanto Husain of Oak Creek Assembly of God. “Making the switch to remote worshipping was challenging for congregants accustomed to the interactive nature of our in-person services. We’re happy to be able to deliver engaging visuals that can help immerse them into the virtual worship experience.”
Sven sees Oak Creek’s experience as an example of what’s to come for other houses of worship. “COVID-19 has taught churches what businesses learned many years ago – the importance of blending blend brick and mortar with a digital offering,” said Isaac Svien, President and CEO of Sven. “However, churches face the challenge of limited staff and must rely on volunteers, who may not have extensive production background. Panasonic solutions make it possible for us to offer churches affordable small scale to full live studio options that allow for simple operation and high-quality, engaging content.”
For more information about Oak Creek Assembly of God, visit https://www.oakcreekag.org/
For more information about Panasonic’s PTZ cameras and remote touchscreen controllers, visit https://na.panasonic.com/us/panasonic-professional-ptz-cameras or contact Panasonic at 877-803-8492. For more information on Sven, visit www.svenpro.com.