Budgets are a bummer, and coming out of a global pandemic means they are tight. When your HOW customers could use an upgrade on six or seven key pieces to their system but only have the budget for three, which do you recommend and why? Here are the first three — in order of most importance — that you should replace.
Networking and Internet
When installing at a House of Worship, a necessary prerequisite is a reliable network and internet connection.
In my early days as an AV tech in my local church, I recall having to locally download every element of a service’s content prior to the start of the service: graphics, audio files, lyric sheets, videos and others. And with the less-than-ideal internet speeds associated with living in a small, rural town, preparation for a service could take hours. This workflow, albeit necessary, was all done because there was no enterprise network installed in the church’s worship spaces; the only internet connection was in the office, which was pretty hard to get access to on the weekend as a volunteer. This limited the creativity of the worship team and added unnecessary stress for volunteers and staff. As experienced integrators and end users, we all know that nothing ever goes exactly as expected. So having to prepare in advance for a service without any flexibility to grab another lower third template or moving background on the fly meant for a muted experience for worshipers.
AV-over-IP solutions and their growing acceptance in unique spaces further underscores the need for a powerful enterprise network. Many houses of worship feature a traditional and unique architecture that tunes nicely with limited cabling — something that AV-over-IP can assist with. But without an enterprise network, it’s back to running SDI and XLR to your signal endpoints.
If an assistive audio solution is on the punch list for needed upgrades, you should consider prioritizing it over other systems. As I have discussed before, it is required by law under the Americans with Disabilities Act that an assistive listening system be offered in any public space with amplified sound. Further, the average age of a religious-identifying American is 52, which is a decent 20 years older than the average American. While we would all like to avoid admitting it, our hearing gets worse with age.
In addition, having to mix for an assistive audio device means you are also optimizing your mix for playback in a non-live setting, such as a live stream or recording. You’ll be setting techs up for success to knock out two birds with one stone.
Now that an overwhelming majority of HOWs are livestreaming their services (not to mention the growing success of multisite locations), providing an engaging broadcast is critical to maintaining membership and building community. Single-camera shows are certainly no longer hitting the mark for congregation members or viewers. Our expectations have been set high on the basis that almost every person with a smartphone can be a professional content producer, if they are creative enough.
Investing in a robust video switcher, especially one with streaming capabilities, will show extreme value for minimized effort. The uniqueness of showing feeds from each multisite location during the pre-service gathering or incorporating a simple back-and-forth switch between a wide-angle and close-up shot of a pastor sharing a message is often understated. A powerful video switching tool (and the professional-looking, high-quality feeds to back it up) will take your HOW customer to the top.
The next time you are working with a budget-conscious customer that still wants to differentiate and make a splash, try your hand at recommending these: a reliable foundation in a solid network and internet connection, an assistive listening solution and a powerful video switching system.