Bending Ground Rules
Bent Tree Bible Fellowship in Carrollton, Texas, chose an out-of-this-world approach to disseminating the Word. They send an encoded digital signal some 22,300 miles to Intelsat’s Galaxy 16 broadcast satellite and back to reach worshippers in a multi-site location just 15 miles away.
Tags: church, multisite, production, project, satelite,
Bent Tree Bible Fellowship had a vision to make its Carrollton, Texas, campus a true, high-quality broadcast facility to deliver the teachings of Senior Pastor Pete Briscoe, along with Bent Tree’s unique contemporary worship experience, to remote campuses.Committed to that vision, Tim Rasmussen, Bent Tree’s director of video and technical art, engaged key industry partners who would help the church design and implement a major broadcast technology upgrade. Its first mission: to reach a remote campus housed in an elementary school located about 15 miles away in Frisco, Texas. Unfortunately, the plan presented a significant obstacle. “While the school building itself had plenty of connectivity,” Rasmussen recalls, “the district’s IT department would not make it available to the church, or allow us to bring in fiber or other connections.” To solve the problem, Rasmussen and the team would have to think outside the box. As it developed, the signal path would run way outside the box—Bent Tree’s encoded digital signal would ultimately travel some 22,300 to Intelsat’s Galaxy 16 broadcast satellite and back to reach worshippers in Frisco.A Winding PathRasmussen is no stranger to contemporary broadcast technologies, including satellite uplinks and IP-based distribution methodologies. His history with broadcast goes back to when he was an 18-year-old working with the basic radio and video technology of the day. He first gained broadcast experience while completing a degree in Radio and Television at the University of Central Florida, which led him to a 17-year run in the broadcast department of The Worship Network based in Tampa Bay, Fla. About 10 years ago, Rasmussen moved with The Worship Network to their new home in Nashville, Tenn., working his way from master control operator (a position responsible for monitoring the quality and accuracy of the on-air product, ensuring that transmission meets government regulations, troubleshooting equipment malfunctions, and preparing programming for playout) to a senior level director of programming and production. Now, overseeing the technical direction at Bent Tree, Rasmussen puts his experience to work for the growing church and its congregation. “It’s my job,” he says, “to keep up with gear, but I’m more interested in what we can actually do with the equipment and, of course, what it means to the ministry at our church.” Rasmussen directs an engaged team of 40-50 technical volunteers. At any one time, about 20 volunteers, including six camera operators, video director, lighting director, audio director, and sound operators, produce a service. “Our volunteers are fantastic people,” he says proudly, “and very giving of their time and talent and dedicated to the church.” Rasmussen says that volunteers at Bent Tree represent a good cross section of outside occupations and experience—people from all walks of life. Occasionally, his volunteers will include IT managers and even some who have a day job in television. “People with industry experience are great in our key positions,” Rasmussen adds, “where they can help train others.”Video with a VisionFor Rasmussen and his volunteers, upgrading video equipment at the home campus in Carrollton to deliver broadcast quality was the first step in its multi-campus strategy. “The old system was installed in 2007,” recalls Rasmussen. “At 720p, it was designed to do just one thing: IMAG. It just made action on stage bigger and we’d been pushing it to do any number of other things; most turned out to require work-arounds.” His first technology partner on the project was Clark of Atlanta. Knowledgeable and experienced with broadcast video (as well as audio and lighting). As both designers and integrators, Clark co-founders Houston and George Clark have a long history with Bent Tree and helped Rasmussen and his team to revamp video at the Carrollton campus and develop a strategy for distribution to reach remote campuses.Especially with a project of this scope, Rasmussen enjoyed the advantages of working with industry partners who are experts at what they do. “Clark is a great integrator who actually listened to me,” he says. “On this project, we worked side-by-side to find solutions that would work.” Houston Clark, a co-founder and principal partner at Clark, attributes the company’s success with Bent Tree’s mission to his company’s policies to hire and maintain experts within their areas of expertise. “While Clark does both design and install, our designers are busy designing and, similarly, our installers are installing. Our project managers only manage the projects. We believe this dedication makes us stronger in all areas.”With the help of Clark engineers and support from Bent Tree’s congregation, Rasmussen and his team focused on a complete renovation of the video facility at Carrollton, gutting the existing control room to redesign the space. They worked closely with Clark Project Manager Derek Warner to install six Grass Valley Focus 70 Live system cameras to capture the action. These cameras feature three Xensium-FT CMOS imagers that are similar to CCD sensors and do not produce any of the rolling shutter artifacts seen with other CMOS-based cameras, such as sensitivity to fast camera movements with short exposure time or sensitivity to short light flashes. An important feature for Rasmussen is that this 1080i camera model is built on many of the same components and mechanical construction as the company’s high-end LDX series. “They provide incredible resolution,” offers Rasmussen. At the heart of the Bent Tree’s new video control room is a Grass Valley Karrera Video Production Center. A software-based platform, Karrera offers multi-format support including 1080p and 4K, as well as offering producers a modular approach to video switching hardware with options to easily upgrade as production needs change. Rasmussen’s needs for Bent Tree took the switcher to 3M/Es, but Karrera systems can expand to 192 inputs, 96 outputs and up to 9 M/Es with six keyers in every full M/E.Bent Tree’s video signals are handled by a Grass Valley NVision hybrid router and displayed with a Kaleido multiviewer. From there, the encoding process for distribution starts with two feeds (one wide shot of the stage and the output of the switcher) to a Cobalt 9223 Dual-Channel 3G/HD/SD MPEG-4 digital encoder card. Cobalt’s 9223 encoders and similar cards utilize the openGear open-architecture platform, allowing easy expansion in a frame with card slots and common power supply. For Bent Tree’s broadcast application, the HD-SDI output is muxed into one IP data stream and routed to a network for distribution to ultimately reach a Cobalt 9220 decoder and a pair of Cobalt 9990-TRX-MPEG Multi-Standard Broadcast Transcoder cards at the remote facility that deliver both a signal containing a wide camera perspective along with the switched program feed for side projection and audio. A Renewed Vision ProVideoServer, an ingest and playout server running on a Mac Pro computer, handles the time slipping and feeds projectors in the remote room.Digital Video & Audio Signal DeliveryWith the source and remote architectures in place and the clock ticking before the first broadcast, Rasmussen and the Clark engineers turned to the issue of delivering a quality digital video and multi-channel audio signal to the Frisco campus. “We looked at a lot of streaming solutions using various content distribution networks (CDNs),” Rasmussen recalls. “But our design for a dual screen experience with center and side screens required two synchronized feeds to the remote campus, making our needs more than basic.” Clark engineers recommended LTN Global Communications to provide a low-latency and very high reliability network transport.
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