Questions & Considerations
Questions to guide your planning.
What does your ideal system do?
I find that starting with your ideal out come is a good place to start. Think about outcomes or features, do not think about equipment. Now is the time to dream. Make a wish list. Sometimes you can't do everything you want, sometimes you can. Often the limitation is budget, occasionally it's technology. Ask yourself/you congregation these questions:
- Do you want to record the video?
- Do you want to stream the video?
- Do you want to send the video to other parts of the church building?
- Do you have liturgy or PowerPoint slides that you want to put into the stream?
- Do you imagine having graphics in your stream/recording?
- Do you plan to do any editing of the recorded video?
- How many cameras do you imagine having?
- Do the cameras move? How are they controlled? (Remotely? Manually?)
- Who would you have operating the system?
- How complicated of a system are they able/willing to handle?
- Where does the system live? Is there space for a person or people to run the system there?
Once you have a wish list of things you'd like to do or features you'd like to have, it would be good to prioritize them. Separate them into groups of "must have" and "would be nice".
What do you currently have?
Before figuring out what you need, it's good to take stock of what you have. Sometimes you can use systems or parts of systems that are already in place to save money or time. This can be especially helpful to know before reaching out to someone (like Philip) to ask for help.
- What is your current sound/audio setup?
- Do you have ambient/congregational microphones?
- Where is your current audio mixer/panel/board setup?
- How far away is the current technology from where you want the new technology to be?
- Do you have any video equipment?
- Do you have screens in place?
- If you have TVs or screens, how do you currently feed them content?
- What are the dimensions of the sanctuary?
- Do you have attic, basement, or crawl space to run cabling if needed?
- If you plan to stream, do you have a wired internet connection? Do you have at least 5Mbps upload speeds?
What about budget?
Budget is one of the last questions I typically ask. It's an important factor and often it is one that grounds the conversation in reality. In my mind, it's easier to list all the "wants", give it a price tag, and work (backwards) from there. Video systems are all about tradeoffs and you need to know what the possibilities are before you can start making decisions about what you're willing to trade.
All this said, what about budget?
A minimum budget would likely be in the $2,500-5,000 range. Many of churches I talk to end up closer to the $8,000-12,000 range. It very much depends on what the system needs to do. Again, it's all about tradeoffs.
If you have more than one camera you'll need a way to switch between cameras for your livestream/recording. The two options are hardware switchers and software switchers. With a hardware switch all the cameras will feed into a box and you'll have a physical button to press to change the camera that is showing on the stream/recording. You will then (likely) need to send the out put of this box into a streaming/recording computer. The alternative is to do this with software. With a software switch all the camera feeds will run into a computer and software will be used to change the camera angle shows up on the stream/recording.
- Usually easy to use/learn.
- Can prevent audio-sync issues.
- Good for sending video "live" to other parts of the church.
- One time cost, no update fees.
- Requires extra piece of hardware.
- Doesn't replace the need for a streaming/recording computer.
- Cannot add inputs.
- Not locked in. (Easily change software.)
- Can add inputs.
- Simplified setup, less hardware required.
- Possibly cheaper than hardware.
- Requires beefier computer.
- Lag when sending video through computer.
- Possibly upgrade fees.
- Software crashes and bugs.
The main three types of video systems are HDMI, SDI, and NDI. They all have pros and cons.
HDMI is somewhat universal. Buying and replacing HDMI cabling is easy and relatively cheap. Many cameras have HDMI output and getting HDMI into a computer is also cheap and easy. There are a handful of reliable HDMI switchers on the market.
HDMI can be fickle. Not all cables are created equal. HDMI ports don't hold up to stress well and will sometimes go bad if treated poorly. HDMI cables are typically limited to under 50 ft, with some exceptions. HDMI can cause a frame of lag at times.
HD-SDI is a robust industry standard. It is very reliable. The video runs over coaxial cable with BNC ends. Cable runs can be up to 300 ft. BNC ends lock into place to avoid accidental disconnections. Cabling is cheap. Lag is virtually non-existent.
HD-SDI typically costs more. Cameras and switchers that use SDI will cost more than HDMI equivalents. Cables are not as easy to come by. Video will need to be converted to HDMI if running to a local screen.
NDI is new and exciting technology for PTZ Cameras. It runs over Cat6 cabling which is very affordable and can be easily crimped for custom lengths. NDI allows you to send power and control to a camera via a single Cat6 cable and send video from that camera back over the same line. This means you only need a single cable run to each camera. (Instead of three: power, control, video.) It can run over the network allowing cameras to be spread across large locations and even in different rooms/buildings.
NDI is new. It currently costs more and there isn't a lot of hardware that supports it. You'll need a beefy computer to handle multiple streams of incoming video. Since NDI can use your existing network it can slow down your network if not properly isolated.