Church Production

A Journey to Digital Content Management

Northwoods Community Church shares its process of making the move to networked storage

By Christian Doering
April 3, 2014 1:10 pm EST

Topics: Tech Tutorial, Video-based,
Tags: data, digital, media, storage,

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The biggest benefit of network storage and content management “is having files and resources just a few clicks away.”

Northwoods Community Church in Peoria, Ill., produces plenty of video for its 4,000+-member congregation every week: an announcement intro, several testimony videos, sermon bumpers and video classes. Sunday services feature a 14x50-foot center screen, plus environmental or architectural projection. Afterwards, recordings go to video venue campuses in Galesburg and Chillicothe, and to the church website (a live stream of the service is now in beta test).

Video Content Creator David Marks manages all this content with two part-time assistants. A recent major upgrade that took video production from a shared tech booth to a dedicated master control room plus three editing suites has certainly helped. But the biggest change, says Marks, has been the upgrade from isolated workstations and single-hard-drive archives with Post-It note labels to a networked digital content storage and management system from EditShare.

Northwoods took a quantum leap into the present with shared network storage, data management and archival backup to tape. “Network storage is great,” Marks says. “But if you don’t have a solution that effectively archives data and retrieves it in a logical manner, you don’t have a true full system answer.”

Northwoods’ new content management system from EditShare includes a 32TB 3U Energy server with the company’s Flow asset management capabilities and Ark file-based ingest and archive-to-tape functions. Marks describes the new streamlined workflow: “We ingest (Panasonic) P2 cards through Final Cut Pro 7 to the Energy server. Our church services are also captured directly through a Blackmagic Decklink Extreme card. The setup allows our three editors simultaneous access to all material for logging and any necessary editing.”

The biggest benefit of network storage and content management “is having files and resources just a few clicks away,” Marks reports. “It’s great to finally have linear tape-open (LTO) tape backup and be able to recall a clip in minutes. Now we have complete integration of every project. And we have a shared administrator space to store software downloads, serial numbers and workflow documents. Complete project organization has greatly improved how we work.”

Church-obtainable technology

As digital technology becomes ever more powerful and affordable, tools that were once available only to large-scale content producers are now within the affordable reach of many small- to medium-sized churches. Moving from networked hard drives to storage area networks (SANs) can improve workflow and productivity. Content management (attaching metadata to raw content, then cataloging it using a searchable relational database) can turbocharge your video production team. The typical Excel file is way beyond the Post-It notes that Northwood was using, but as a “flat file,” it lacks relational capabilities. On the input side, a relational database standardizes information formats, which makes retrieval much faster and easier. The time saved can be put into more polished and creative productions. Searchable archives can be powerful educational tools and support new ministry and revenue streams.

The current video technology landscape is broad and diverse. As you explore it, you’ll want to get familiar with acronyms like JBOD (Just a Bunch Of Disks—my personal fave), SSD (Solid State Disks), RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks), DAS (Direct Attached Storage), NAS (Network Attached Storage), SMB (Server Message Block, aka Samba, a Windows protocol), iSCSI (Internet Small Computer System Interface) and FC (Fiber Channel). Tech evolution has even created nested acronyms like SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) and SES (SCSI Enclosure Services).

Dave Marks’ very thorough research lasted almost a year before Northwoods’ EditShare system arrived on campus. But EditShare is by no means the only affordable player in the content management and storage market. Here are a few places you can start looking for next-generation storage and content management tools. While the following systems have prices that vary significantly based on options and configurations, all are under $100,000, and several companies offer options for less than $10,000. Next page