By Dan Chung, CMO, Atomos

With the ongoing coronavirus outbreak causing huge pain and disruption across many communities, it is becoming more vital than ever for ministries to be able to care for their congregations. But with varying social distancing rules in operation that have closed many church and chapel doors for large-scale worship around the world, that is becoming an ever more difficult task.

Happily, there is an answer. Video technology has evolved massively over recent years to the point where an entire easy-to-use and broadcast-quality set up can be made possible at budgets that once upon a time would unlikely to have been able to buy a single camera. It might seem that video’s natural home in House of Worship is in the huge mega-churches in the USA and elsewhere; institutions able to fund broadcast operations that are close to being full TV studios inside churches with production galleries and permanent staff to look after them. But the good news is that newer technology allows almost anybody to stream a service with multiple camera angles in high quality live on the internet (or saved it for further editing in the case of ceremonies such as weddings or funerals) at low cost, with little or no staff and with little or no training.

The key lies in the sort of monitor/recorders which have revolutionized the broadcast industry in recent years and made high quality television programs easier to produce than ever. In many respects they are the Swiss Army knife of modern low-cost video production in that they monitor the video, record the video (sometimes in higher quality for archive purposes and/or later editing), and allow the user to switch between different cameras or video sources.

For example, with this sort of multi-purpose device at the heart of your ministry’s set-up you could install four relatively cheap High Definition POV cameras in different places in your church to capture different aspects of the services within it. These are then connected by SDI cables to the monitor/recorder (these are better than using HDMI cables whose signal degrades rapidly with longer cable runs). Once a service is underway, a user then simply has to tap on one of the streams on the screen of the device to switch to it as the ‘program’ output. This feeds the live stream, directing the broadcast as they would a football match or a live concert.

The system can record every camera angle, plus optionally the switched output as well. This is perfect for ceremonies that are being recorded for posterity, such as weddings. An editor can take the video feeds and re-edit at a later stage before the completed record is then distributed in the manner of your choice.

And this is an important point as competition between the likes of YouTube and Facebook has meant that the learning curve of distributing video has been flattened considerably over recent years. Whether for live broadcast or for later consumption, more and more events that would once have been out of the reach of modest budgets can now be broadcast to audience son a local, national, and even global scale.

So, how much are we talking about here? We’ve looked at the numbers, and we estimate that a viable broadcast-quality multi-camera set-up can be installed for around about $5,000. That includes a monitor/recorder, a computer to livestream and edit videos, cabling, and four good quality POV cameras.

It might sound like a lot of money but it’s not only a sound investment to keep your congregation engaged and provide a proper service for weddings and funerals while the current coronavirus outbreak is ongoing, it’s also going to help to plot a route through the confusing period as lockdown restrictions are relaxed or lifted. Behaviors that have adjusted to life under lockdown will take a while to adjust to its lifting, and while some may chose to attend in-person, others (especially the most vunerable) may still prefer to participate from the safety of their own homes. I expect this will be the new normal for quite some time to come.

Video is a powerful way to reach people, both current members of your congregation to keep them engaged and new people who might be searching for wisdom and comfort in these difficult times. Getting a system installed and running that can deliver it to them across social media, YouTube and more in broadcast quality is now easier than ever. And thanks to the high-powered low-cost kit that has been released in recent years, it does not have to break the bank either.