Video Production Schematic

Audio is fairly easy. There are loads of tutorials online, gear is easy to come by – especially used – and almost any church geek can help you get set up in a few hours.

But video is a whole other animal. In fact, it’s probably not even an animal at all. It’s a monster.

I have been asked countless times (no – seriously – I’ve lost count) to share just how we’ve wired New Life’s live video production department. The reason? There’s very little out there on video. And what’s there requires a very steep learning curve, tons of proprietary information, and a skill set that – among other things – necessitates the discipline of monitoring gear that changes monthly. That, and the equipment is expensive enough that you can’t afford to make mistakes.

The other factor is that there’s very little out there for mid-size budgets.

Sure, anyone can plug a home video camera into a computer via firewire and get a livestream.com or ustream.com account for their church. We’ve done that, and it served it’s purpose for a season. But it won’t last long, unless your viewers love when your senior pastor’s message gets interrupted by a 30 second Teen Wolf commercial of a guy groping a girl. (True story).

And on the high end? Well, you don’t even want to know. I followed a lead that my friend in a 5,000 member church gave me for what they use: a Spider box from Vista Systems. Oh, it did everything I wanted, and then some. Even had the name recognition of being used in FoxNews studios, CNN, the NFL, and other major production facilities. And for an entry level price of $53,400 I immediately understood why. “Yeah, I’m going to have to pass on this one,” I politely said and then hung up.

Back to the drawing board.

After joining nearly every video message board, having emails and posts go unanswered (or under answered) for weeks on end, and researching far more than I had time for, I decided no one was going to help me the way I needed, and that I didn’t have the budget to hire a consulting firm (only then to spend more money on the actual gear I needed).

I was going to have to create something from scratch.

The following represents 6 months of work (with even more research before that from my Video Director, Tim Desormo), a lot of sleepless nights, and the inevitable call from my “video savior” Mike Ricks of Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville, FL, who – after seeing one of my final desperate pleas on a message forum along the lines of, “Will someone just please tell me if this schematic I’ve created will work?” – wrote me back and said, “Bro. It will totally work. We’re doing the same thing down here. Call me.”

I’m making this schematic as well as a detailed description below available completely free because, a) this is the Kingdom, and we share our successes as well as our failures, and b) I don’t want others going through the hardships I went through.

Many thanks go to Mike Ricks, Eric Dally (LCM), Jeremy Bielawski (TFH), Dave Bode (Elim), David Seaman (Revive), and my own production team, Tim Desormo, Tammy Desormo, and Joseph Gilchrist. Without your patience and input, we’d still be interrupted by Teen Wolf every Sunday.

NEW LIFE VIDEO SCHEMATIC OVERVIEW

CLICK TO DOWNLOAD HIGH REZ PDF

MAC PRO: Our main hub is an Apple Mac Pro 8 Core tower. We have a cinema display and a wireless keyboard and mouse. It’s hardwired into our router, serviced by Westelcom’s screaming fast fiber optic lines that provide us with amazing 17mbps up and 10mbps down service. Among other video editing and ripping applications, our main use for the system is Wirecast. Tied with it is Desktop Presenter which I’ll discuss under the iMac section.

WIRECAST: Rather than going back to physical hardware (TV monitors, switching consoles, lots of cable, and a $15-$20,000 price tag), I wanted to stay digital, knowing software was easier to upgrade, and I had more than enough power. Wirecast by Telestream was the answer, especially at $400 for the por version. It allows for mixing of multiple shots in multiple layers all in real time, including chromakeying and clear background PNG overlays (that we produce in Photoshop for each series). Even more important than the mixing features is the encoding abilities. Wirecast has the ability to assign our final signal to multiple locations at once, including our in-house projectors, video and audio archiving, online iCampus streams (flash), and our iPhone and iPad streams.

LIGHTCASTMEDIA: Unrelated to Wirecast, LightCastMedia is the largest Christian live-streaming servers in the world (if not the largest), and provides the backend of all our delivery, bandwidth, and storage needs (see LifeChurch.tv). Erik Dally has been an indispensable wealth of knowledge, and represents a company that provides amazing customer service and reliable products.

CAMERAS & VIDEO CARDS: Until we’re ready to make the jump to HD, we’ve been buying up used Cannon GL2’s (broken tape drives, bad mics) and utilizing their great white balance options for low light and their great glass (lenses). We’ve been running BNC cable (available cheap and fast from monoprice.com), but for longer distances – and the eventual conversion to HD – we’re starting to use only cat5 with RCA converters on either end. The video cards that work best and have the least amount of lag are Decklink’s Blackmagic Intensity Pro cards. Each one will run you about $200, but your lag time will be about 13ms. (The only better solution that I know of is the Spider box. Refer to price tag previously mentioned). The Mac Pro can handle up to 3 cards (with one camera per card), and each card comes with the wiring harness that allows for all sorts of marvelous connections concoctions. I ordered ours through B&H Photo out of Manhattan. (Note that each card must be installed and set up one-at-a-time. A fairly simple process, but you’ll bugger it up if you do them all at once).

iMAC: We use a new iMac to run ProPresenter 4 by Renewed Vision. In my opinion it’s the simplest and most straight forward display program on the market, especially if you’re an Apple user. Making the switch for a few of my PC-only users has taken some getting used to, but they are enjoying the OS. (Side note: at New Life we stress that we’re not Mac or PC people – we’re Kingdom people. I’ve seen geek loyalty, which I’m the first to be guilty of, get in the way of friendships and stir up dissension. Make a policy on your team to celebrate the use of technology for the Kingdom regardless of your allegiances. I can truly say I celebrate someone’s new Droid as much as I celebrate someone’s new iPhone). The tricky part here is that – because the Mac Pro can’t except a fourth video card – we had to figure out a way to make Wirecast “see” the iMac as another camera. This is where Desktop Presenter comes in (included with your purchase of Wirecast). This little app lets you select a screen on the originating computer (in our case, a cheap Dell monitor that ProPresenter is sending a full-screen output of it’s master display to), and Wirecast – using it’s internal Desktop Presenter protocol – “senses” the IP address of the sending computer (our iMac) and treats it as a “new shot.” Because we edit the shot on Wirecast to chromakey out green, and logically make all the slides in ProPresenter have a green background, a always have song lyrics displayed over top of camera shots whenever the Media Director (on the iMac) changes slides – all in real time.

AUDIO: The last component is actually sometimes the trickiest to run. Our audio. That’s because we’re using the Mac Pro not only as a receiver for audio coming from our console (which is how our online audience hears the services), but we also play videos in-house from Wirecast – which means if we don’t mute the incoming console feed, we’ll get a feedback loop (as the viewers would hear both the original play-video audio, as well as the audio coming back through the front-of-house console). Like wise, the in-house audience hears a wild looping delay. So making sure our Video Director stays on top of things is key. (It’s one of the biggest jobs we have on a Sunday morning and requires a lot of practice, diligence, and discipline). You’ll also note the implementation of a small powered Mackie 1202 console, which you can pick up super cheap. This has been one of the only solutions we’ve found that conditions the line-level output of the main console into the Mac Pro without frequency oscillation issues or ground hums. It also allows us to use extra outputs or aux sends to power speakers placed thorughout our production suites so we can hear what’s happening in the sanctuary (as we’re all enclosed in glass up top).

As with any church entity, we’re already looking to expand, adding more projectors, better cameras, bigger screens, and more effects. But for now, the guts of our system will stay the same.

I’m happy to try and field any questions you may have, so ask away. If I don’t know, I’ll reach out to someone who will.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.” Proverbs 4:7 ch:

UPDATED – 2013.07.24: Here is a more recent version of the schematic, which still doesn’t fully reflect the entire system we have today (I need more time to document it); our newest schematic should include our new audio mixing system, and the addition of a third, center-screen projector run from a MacBook Pro handling Wirecast and the same lyric feed from the ProPresenter iMac. Hope it helps! • ch:

nlcc video schematic v3

  • David Seaman

    Just a random question/thoughts on the audio… why don’t you have your Allen Heath board set up with sub groups? Such that all audio out (Mics/ instruments, etc) is in say sub group 1,2 (Assuming stereo, simpler if mono) and assigned LR but also use those sub outputs from the board for the computer audio send. Then have the computer input on the Allen Heath on a different subgroup that that is not on 1,2 but still assigned LR for house? This way the computer audio input is not sent out the subgroup 1,2 sends. Maybe not enough subgroups to accomplish that? Just a thought for your audio feedback issue…

    • This is a great suggestion, but one I ruled out early on because it removes my ability to create a custom mix for online viewers. (We’re using Aux Send 10).

      That being said, the minor discrepancies between a proprietary mix and the general house mix may be small enough to go with using the subgroup as a send. At this point the hassle of muting and releasing channels may overrule the mix ability. I will need to experiment; thanks for bringing it up.

      Of course, the best option would be (if analog) to have studio outs (or a splitter box) and have an entirely separate console (as even EQs for mixing to a 1″ average speaker would be powerful); that, or an all digital approach would mean just putting an Aviom or Berhinger PM unit up there (nice!).

      PS :: As per your shutout up top, thanks for all your past and continued help.

      • David Seaman

        Your always welcome! P.S. I forgot to say wow! Totally stealing the PDF! Thanks for taking the time for mapping this all out. This looks like a great way to do it. I’ve heard so many churches that want to do video but don’t have the know how or budget to accomplish it. This looks like a very attainable/ cost effective / elegant solution. Can’t wait to recommend it to people (I’m so used to the $50,000 + budget… 😉 )

        • Glad you feel you can pass it on; means a lot coming from you.

          And yeah…$50,000+

          Yeah…

  • Don Stevens

    Sounds great Chris! I ony hope I can learn it fast. I do well with that kind of stuff, so I am not too worried! Love your guts Man!

  • You are blessed with a gift of technical geniousness, among other talents. I got lost on parts of this post. Lol I’m a show me & I’ll understand it kinda girl, when it comes to tech stuff. Thanks for all you & the production team did & do to make services technically awesome. 🙂

  • Christian Fahey

    Blown away! I had NO idea the level of effort, learning and sweat that goes into NLCC weekly production. Inspiring on a number of different levels. First, simply the mastery of the technology curve by you and the team is no small feat at all. But second, and perhaps more importantly, the level of effort and excellence to have a very wide, relevant, and, frankly, cool platform to reach this generation of souls is stunning. Hats off, C, to you and the team (as well as auxiliary support from your techno peeps around the country)–you’re doing a fabulous job and God is honored!

    • Thanks my friend. Means a lot.

      You know, more and more I realize most people don’t have any idea what goes on back-of-house. And maybe that’s the point (one I kinda’ like, truthfully). They just come experience Jesus.

      I was giving a tour to a worship leader in town – a new friend – and by the time we got to the studio, he said, “Man, I had no idea there was anything this cool here!”

      Letting our systems and people speak for themselves in service of the Lord is one of my small, mostly unnoticed joys.

      • Christian Fahey

        I suspect that one of the most sublime events we will be privileged to participate in is watching God hand out rewards to the “nameless, faceless” unsung heroes who used their talents (largely unseen) to enable others to encounter the living God and a way that changes both their lives and their eternal destinies. Marvelous, just marvelous….

        • Nursery workers, silent mail-in donors, building fund contributors, ministry volunteers of every sort, the list will be endless the next side of glory.

  • Mike Bickford

    Christopher,

    Thank you very much, we are just starting the planning phase at The River and your information will be invaluable to me as I start this project. Thanks again and God bless you and New Life for what you are doing!

    • So glad it’s timely, Mike. Let me know if you have any questions that arise; you’re close enough, consulting is easily played. Blessings!

  • this is some really good information and great job done by you, and thanks for the post thinking to help others, nice thought and good work keep it up…

  • Aaron Tucker

    Thanks Chris! So at what point do you tack backgrounds on to your Pro4 slides? Even during music times, you let Wirecast apply backgrounds on a green screen sent by Pro4? In a separate vein, any thought about changing your schematic if/when Apple dumps the Mac Pro and goes solely iMac?

    • Aaron,

      We don’t use any backgrounds on Pro4 – it only serves as a lyric display agent. We use Wirecast to display all backgrounds (announcement slides, video, title overlays). The only green screening is on the feed coming in from the iMac via Desktop Presenter (displaying Pro4 – all lyric slides have a green background); this slide (shot) is chorma-keyed on Wirecast.

      Our schematic changes whenever we make a device modification; so, yes, if and when an iMac is produced that exceeds our Mac Pro, the schematic would change in kind. (Most recently we’ve replaced our Allen & Heath with a PreSonus 24.4.2).

  • Daniel Israel

    Hi,
    We are a small church and I am quite interested in getting the cheap camera’s like you described. Could you advise on how we can get such? I would be grateful for any help and if you can send a reply to my mail.

    • Daniel,

      We found 2 of ours on ebay with broken tape drives (as those aren’t needed for life feeds) or a broken microphone (also not needed for us as we use the line off the console) for about $500-$600 each. The third we traded for a PC with one of our congregation members.

      I’d look on ebay and Craigslist for cameras with mechanical (but not visual) issues.

  • Hey man thanks for the info. We are looking for this kind of solution.

    Right now we are just using PP4 to main projector and stage display.

    Our issue is we want to start filming the services for video podcast, some live streaming and archive.

    We also want to be able to control the three other HDTV’s in the foyer and nursery all at the same time.

    Pre service we have a video loop with announcements and music and such. On all screens incl main house projector. Then we have a pre service count down type video also going to all screens. Then when the service starts we go to graphics and lyrics on the main house projector, and video feed of the service on the HDTV’s. we are currently not doing IMAG.

    So would wirecast allow me to show pro presenter (in full with graphics) to the main audience and a live video feed to the HDTV’s at the same time. The HDTV’s do not need lyrics. And then when the preach starts to also record video and send it to ustream or like….

    • Hi Lucas,

      Thanks for your questions; sorry for the delay.

      Sounds like you have quite a few different potential applications here. Not sure I understand it all precisely, but think I get the gist.

      First off, you’re only limited in how many receivers (TVs, projectors, etc) that Wirecast can send to by how many times your hardware can split the signal. In other words, almost limitless.

      Secondly, you might want to consider using Apple TVs as sources for your lobby screens.

      So a possible set up might look like:

      Having Wirecast running on your main computer, PP4 coming in from another computer as a shot on Wirecast for your lyrics. This gets piped out to your house projectors. But your Apple TVs, which can run independently of everything based on whatever videos and announcements you want running in the lobby (from their host computer/s), can also pick up the actual broadcast stream coming in from the Internet (as if you were a viewer at home).

      Would love to help you figure this out. I’m sure I’m not getting this right totally so please add info/questions as needed.

      ch:

  • Lucas

    Hey Chris.

    Sorry I haven’t gotten back sooner. Thanks for the reply.

    We have AppleTV at home and we also use Airserver for our pastors iPad during the preach. Only issue I have found with AppleTV is that sometimes the audio cuts out. Then you have to go out to the system preferences and switch the audio between 16 bit and automatic and then it comes back. I like the idea of AppleTV but we ruled it out because of its unreliability.

    We also just moved to a place in town where we are ahead of the growth (housing) boom and thats great for church growth but it sucks for infrastructure and services like internet. Most we can get right now is 5M down and 1M up…which is tough to work with…almost impossible.

    So we want to hardwire everything. As we built the building we put in the wire for it all but we didn’t get video distribution through the company we used for some of the A/V/L because of the afore-mentioned cost issues.

    So here is what we were thinking. We have a Canon XL-H1s camera which we would BNC or Component to a capture card and then into our Mac. This Mac feeds the main projector and the stage display Via USB-HDMi.

    What we are trying to figure out is how to get more outputs.

    1. Output to the main screen – this doesn’t show the live video feed.
    2. Output to the stage display – USB
    3. Output to the monitor that the operator is watching

    then we need

    4. output with live feed to A) overflow TV, b) Foyer TV, c) Nursery TV. This could be mirrored for now but we would like individual control of each TV at some point.

    Do I just get another Video card to provide more outputs and will wirecast see those? we also have a

  • Jeff

    How do you overlay yours words on top of video in wirecast? I’ve been using a separate copy of pro presenter than has a green screen and using desktop presenter over the wifi. However, it lags about 1 slide behind the video/audio…just trying to figure out best way

    • Christopher Hopper

      Hi, Jeff! I’m standing backstage right at the moment, so if this doesn’t make sense, just email me later (christopher@newlifenny.com). We send a lyrics shot with a green background from an iMac running Propresneter over to our Mac Pro running Wirecast via Deaktop Presenter. Then, we put the incoming “shot” from the ProPresenter iMac on its own layer in Wirecast, and then edit that “camera” (right click) and use the built in chroma key function to key out the green. This then sits on our video layer (below). Hope that helps. If not, feel free to reach out to me; I’d love to help.

  • dilbert_3000

    What are you using the capture the video into the Mac Book Pro? As I mentioned in another post, we are moving to Wirecast and interested in staying with Apple instead of a PC.

    • We use Blackmagic Intensity Pro video cards (x3) which come with a dongle that accepts RCA connections to our BNC lines. Once those Blackmagic cards are setup (using the included software that paces the drivers in your System Preference window), Wirecast automatically “sees” them as a “camera” that you can add to any layer.

      Additionally, we’re now using a Blackmagic ATEM to capture all our cameras, and then send that to one of the Blackmagic Intensity Pro cards in our MacPro (so we really aren’t using the two extra cards). This was mandatory as we’re moving into HD and the ATEM is the only piece of hardware that can handle the workload (instead of solely placing it on the MacPro).

      • dilbert_3000

        Thanks for the reply, that is also what I plan, a mini-recorder to capture the HDMI/SDI from a camera, and Intensity Pro for the BRC-300 SD environment camera. I hope to use the desktop presenter to bring the PP5 source into the PC from ether a Mac Book Air, iMac or Mac Book Pro. I don’t know that I can get the SD to work properly on the Air, and the newer iMac uses all Thunderbolt instead of one display port.. We consider the ATEM as well, especially since our new camera is SDI, but our budget is strained with the Wirecast and supporting hardware.

      • dilbert_3000

        Thanks for the reply, that is also what I plan, a mini-recorder to capture the HDMI/SDI from a camera, and Intensity Pro for the BRC-300 SD environment camera. I hope to use the desktop presenter to bring the PP5 source into the PC from ether a Mac Book Air, iMac or Mac Book Pro. I don’t know that I can get the SD to work properly on the Air, and the newer iMac uses all Thunderbolt instead of one display port.. We consider the ATEM as well, especially since our new camera is SDI, but our budget is strained with the Wirecast and supporting hardware.

        • dilbert_3000

          What are you using for audio? I have had great experience with the Tascam US-144 MKII units. I wonder if I hook a Tascam to the PC, Wirecast will keep the audio/video in synch with audio coming from different sources. (I have heard that AES audio can have synch problems in the ATEM)

  • dilbert_3000

    Can you run a Propresenter stage display off a Mac Book Air? Can the USB display adapter for the SD share the port with a mouse?

    • Great questions. I honestly don’t know. We’re about to run stage display off our iMac, which I think a new MBA would be able to do the same. I’ll let you know what I find as we investigate it. My concern, however, for both you and I, is that we’d need a separate GU card to handle the stage display feed vs the actual PP feed.

      • dilbert_3000

        At least with iMac you have multiple USB to choose from whereas the Air will have to share the same USB port for the video and the mouse. We have a MBP that we can use and my migrate to that one instead. I don’t know if an older 2011 Quad core Mac Pro has the horsepower to run Wirecast and produce a stream for the HD displays as well as livestream over the net.

  • Amy Purushotham

    Hi Christopher, at our church we are both broadcasting the service live within the church campus and also are streaming the same. We have one pro presenter license (Mac). The lyrics have to be displayed full screen in the campus while it has to be lower thirds for streaming. Can you kindly suggest us the way to do the same. We have equipments like Panasonic digital video mixer and Blackmagic ATEM television studio equipment.

  • Alex

    Hey Chris, I figured out how to use the chroma key in wirecast to overlay lyrics on live video by making my slides in pro presenter have a green background and white text, but my issue is that I don’t want to display the slides on the church projector with a green background. How do I set it up to have the lyrics with a background or just a black background for the church projector but still be able to use a green background with desktop presenter for wirecast? I’m not sure if I’m conveying my issue well enough, does this make sense?

    • Hi Alex. It sounds like you are trying to serve two different audience (or intended displays), is that correct? In my layout above, Wirecast is serving both online AND in-room projectors with the same feed; the ProPresenter computer isn’t actually serving an destination *except for Wirecast itself.* In other words, ProPresenter is presenting to Wirecast, and Wirecast is presenting to online *and* projectors. The point of this setup is to create live-video in-room (IMAG) and online (web stream). If you want something different for the projectors, then you need either: a.) Another computer running Wirecast pulling the same ProPresenter feed in, or b.) Another computer running ProPresenter to serve the screens. Hope that helps.