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Designers and Technology Meet the New Year

Three key areas where churches' multisite operations and content will benefit from concise design planning.

By Shaun Miller   •  January 17, 2017 9:32 am EST

Tags: architecture, avl design, content delivery, multisite, technology, video,

As churches today embrace the great commission of reaching the world with the gospel, the status quo has changed. In the past, a growing congregation would send out a group to plant another self-sustaining church. With a small budget and a prayer, they hoped they would survive. However, this mindset shift of churches opening “branch locations” under the same name and leadership has a proven success rate.

Coming from a background where I was a production director at a large multisite church, now I have the opportunity to work with churches that are looking to go multisite. I have isolated three key areas for technological advancement in a multisite to look at in 2017.

No. 1: content delivery. In my experience, these are probably the biggest questions church leadership have to answer when it comes to going with a multiple campus model: Do we stream live? Do we show last weekend’s sermon? Does someone hand-deliver a hard drive? All these questions have to be answered, but the great thing is -- and churches are proving this -- there is no right or wrong answer. With today’s technology, there are options to answer all of them and in a budget-conscious way. And these questions are not just for the megachurches with TV studios in them anymore.

Streaming live is the biggest paradox for most churches since it requires the most moving parts. Simply hand delivering a hard drive and moving the file on the computer to play is simple and low stress, until the hard drive gets dropped, the delivery person gets stuck in traffic, and so on. When streaming the service live on a campus or multiple campuses, it doesn’t have to get overly complicated. I recommend churches, under the guidance of their AVL systems designers, look for a third party service to help alleviate the IT issues and stresses, so all they have to do is get their one video signal into the cloud solution for transcoding -- meaning that a hosting company somewhere is handling the conversions and buffering needed to DVR the service for staggered start times. I also recommend that churches have two backup plans. Whether that is an older copy of the message on the hard drive ready to go or a fallback message altogether. Because as good as technology is, it will still fail us at some point.

No. 2: video systems. When I am working with churches that are building video venues, I am always reminding them that their congregation is going to spend at least 50% of the service looking at screens – so their video had better be top-notch. This is not an area to scrimp. That being said, projection and LED technology continue to evolve and improve. From long-life LED walls to laser-powered projectors, the WOW factor can be achieved for a much more manageable budget than in years past. Plus, maintenance costs for these campuses can be drastically reduced by using these new technologies.

No. 3: audio uniformity. I could say I saved the best for last, but then I am biased as a long-time audio engineer. I can never stress this enough to churches and their designers: invest in uniformity. The great thing about today’s audio consoles is that the main brands that churches are using come in several different sizes, but all have similar features and software. This makes training and emergencies go much smoother. As I’ve always told my volunteers, if someone gets deathly ill from eating bad sushi on Saturday night, any one of the other sound people from the other campuses could jump in because the consoles all act the same. Yamaha, Allen and Heath, and Digico to name a few all act this way and allow for incredible flexibility in channel counts depending on the needs of a larger campus vs. a smaller satellite campus.

The year is still new, and I’m still hoping for inexpensive holographic pastor projection, but I doubt that will be this year. In the meantime, we’ll keep using what we have to impact the world.

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