Displaying hymn lyrics

Conversations around originating a webcast for conference, including cameras and mixers.
craiggsmith
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Displaying hymn lyrics

Postby craiggsmith » Wed Feb 23, 2011 8:34 am

Well, with less than 2 weeks notice my stake presidency suddenly informs me that they have extra money now to get some equipment to improve our stake conference webcast. Here's where I'm at:

  • The FM group is supposed to install network cabling to the satellite cabinet and mount and connect the video camera this week. (Of course, they were supposed to do it last week, and the week before, and last month ....) I bought a small video monitor last time on my own dime; I have yet to get a serial cable.
  • I already had my own audio equipment, and previously purchased some additional mics on my own dime for our roadshows, although I have never used them with a choir. I plan to test them this Sunday at the stake choir practice.
  • To display the hymn lyrics, last time I simply sat by the projector in the cultural hall and switched the input from the camera to my laptop; I figured they could see the conductor anyway, and I figured the other buildings wouldn't need the lyrics as much as fewer people wouldn't have a hymnbook. However, they would like me to investigate other options.
Most of the posts I found regarding displaying hymn lyrics are either very old or very elaborate, and most involve a rather pricey video mixer. Although I'm a fan of hardware over software, I'm wondering if there is a newer consensus recommendation for a cheaper, perhaps software-based video mixer. I guess I should have used the money I spent on the video monitor on a PC video input interface instead.

The camera is to be mounted in the rear corner of the chapel, which is not my preference. But it makes some things easier. Last time one issue was the camera was on a tripod in one location (unguarded), I was by the projector in another, the communicator was in another, and the audio was in yet another, and I went through almost an entire role of gaff tape there was so much cable.

Anyway, given the short time frame I'm a little leery of trying to figure out a video mixing solution for the hymns, and I'm not sure it's really that value-added. But if anyone has any advice it would be welcome. Thanks.
Craig
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South Jordan, UT

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gregwanderson
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Postby gregwanderson » Wed Feb 23, 2011 10:33 am

This webcast stuff has put us in a strange position. There is potential to create a broadcast as polished and professional as General Conference, but only if you have experts in the Stake who are willing to volunteer their experience and probably even their own equipment (on their own dime) to do it. I happen to work in media production. I know I could have provided better equipment and know-how than what was used to bring our Stake Conference to the encoding box. But I do not want to be the busybody who steps on the toes of the person who's "producing" this "broadcast" as their calling in the church. So I will continue to hide my talent "under a bushel" because it feels like to do otherwise could be taken as an insult.

As to the issue of putting lyrics on the screen during hymns... That can either be a great enhancement or a less-than-polished way to emulate how it's done on a General Conference broadcast. At our most recent building-to-buliding broadcast there were plenty of hymnbooks and the hymn numbers were posted on the wall BUT the lights were off (to make it easier to see the projected image) so it was very difficult to read from the books. I'm not sure I would have prefered a "clunky" switch to a print-out on the screen.

My least favorite thing about building-to-building broadcast so far is "clunky" transitions. For example, when they zoom out to show the choir and then zoom back in to show someone speaking at the podium, it's never smooth. Your remote-controled, mounted camera will probably do a better job than our home-movie-style tripod and camcorder. Switching to lyrics will probably be okay for most people but, yes, I cringe when people don't use a proper "video mixer" for a transition like that.

craiggsmith
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Postby craiggsmith » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:49 pm

Good points. I don't know much about video unfortunately but I can relate to what you're saying from an audio perspective. I think often people would be happy to have some help, although sometimes they may be more excited to do it themselves. We do have to remember the callings are opportunities for people to grow. I think it would be the best of both worlds if each stake simply maintained a list of people that would be willing to help. I would gladly accept help for this but I know of no one with this type of equipment.

We must also remember what's most important. It is true that presentation problems can detract from the spirit -- for our first webcast (before I was involved) we had an apostle, and we had video but no sound for most of his talk. But overdoing it can also detract from the spirit (for example if many cameras and monitors are visible in the middle of the congregation). I know many missionaries who could hardly speak the language yet brought many people to the gospel.

We also have to remember that what bothers a professional often does not bother the lay person. I've seen people kill themselves for activities and no one really noticed, and then the person either felt hurt or just burned out. And I realize, for example, that most people couldn't care less if the sound came out of lousy in-ceiling speakers or a Meyer array. They just want to hear it (although certainly the equipment can make a difference there as well). And we have to remember that it's people's donations to the Lord we're spending; we have strict instructions to be very careful with our use of church funds (though I realize in your case you would be providing the equipment).

To me it doesn't really seem worth it to buy an expensive mixer that is only used for 1 song twice a year, especially since most people don't sing anyway (although I think they ought to) and lots of people have the hymns on their phones these days. The easiest solution would be to pick hymns people know, and/or turn up some lights during the hymn singing. But it all depends on cost.

P.S. It would be nice if projectors had a built-in ability to fade from one source to another.
Craig
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michaelfish
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Postby michaelfish » Thu Feb 24, 2011 12:20 am

mrrad wrote:I do not want to be the busybody who steps on the toes of the person who's "producing" this "broadcast" as their calling in the church. So I will continue to hide my talent "under a bushel" because it feels like to do otherwise could be taken as an insult.
Greg, I wish you were in our Stake. We could certainly use someone like you on our technology committee. That being said, have you spoken to the person in charge? In our Stake we have been attempting to cross-train volunteers so we have someone who will know what to do if one of us is ill or out of town. (Personally, we appreciate good attitudes and willingness to be involved rather than a technical know-how and random commitment.)

Does your Stake rely on only a few key individuals? Perhaps suggesting cross training will allow you to show and share your talents? I agree about 'toe-stepping' problems, but little by little, the powers above will appreciate your professional talent and service!

Our STS committee hadn’t thought about multi-camera views or superimposing hymns - until they were shown how professional it looks (once they saw it, they wanted it and budgeted for it). In addition, our Stake President was very concerned about members in remote buildings feeling disconnected. By making our broadcast more professional, it actually added to the spirit and connection for those in the remote buildings.

We help maintain the Spirit by using camera angles that do not have distractions in the background (unaware choir members). Three cameras also allows for more precise close-up composition and wide angles between talks. Smooth dissolves of the choir add ambiance to the music, etc. In addition, superimposing the speaker’s name and calling has helped associate names with faces and finally, superimposing the hymns has eliminated wasted paper and clean-up as well as the need for turning on the lights so people can read. I personally think more people are apt to sing along to words on a screen than reading for a copied piece of paper.

craiggsmith wrote:given the short time frame I'm a little leery of trying to figure out a video mixing solution for the hymns, and I'm not sure it's really that value-added. But if anyone has any advice it would be welcome.
I agree that two weeks is not enough time to get equipment purchased, work out the set-up configuration, learn how to use everything, find people to help and train them, testing, etc. However, I have found that just before a General Authority comes to our stake has always been the best time to make a request for equipment needed.

You may feel a video mixer is an expensive solution, but it doesn’t have to be brand new. I’ve found eBay to be a wonderful source for good, used, inexpensive equipment in great shape. For example, $350 can purchase a Videonics MX-1 mixer which allows multi-camera switching and dissolving (up to 4 cameras) AND superimposing of hymns or names over video. It even corrects for problems and stabilizes video (with the built-in time base corrector). Most everything else needed (but not manditory) could possibly be found from volunteers in the stake (video camera/camcorders, tripods, small TV monitors, a laptop for PowerPoint hymns, etc.)

Since you won’t have enough time to get everything in place for your next conference so may I suggest that you make an appointment and talk with the stake presidency? Explain the benefits of a video mixer mentioned (multi-camera, dissolves, superimposing text) as well as how it will help maintain the spirit. Be sure to mention the need to have additional willing workers on the technology committee (have Greg to move into your Stake...JK). Make a plan for the next conference and secure a budget ($400 to $500 is really not too much to spend for the benefits and results obtained…). Also, use this tech forum to research ideas and find solutions to problems. I’d love to help in any way I can, and I’m sure others would also.

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gregwanderson
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Postby gregwanderson » Thu Feb 24, 2011 10:18 am

In the past, I’ve understood that if someone who wants to play a musical number is hitting too many sour notes, then they’re gently encouraged to keep practicing but, until they’re better prepared, they won’t be allowed to play in Sacrament Meeting. It might detract from the spirit of the meeting. However, that same performance might be perfectly acceptable in a small, remote branch of the church where, otherwise, there would be nobody to perform any music at all.

So, I don’t want to complain about our Stake Conference broadcast because, overall, I still preferred the clunky nature of it all instead of going to an impossibly crowded Stake Center. But it’s difficult to say what does and doesn’t rise to the level of detracting from the spirit of the meeting. For me, of course, the technical details are a flashpoint. For others, who knows?

We just had Stake Conference on Sunday, only half-a-week ago. To be honest, my own “expert abilities” with cameras and audio would have done little to improve what the people saw in our local building. The Stake Clerk who was continuously troubleshooting the reception in our building announced that they were using Beta software and there were problems “in Salt Lake” with the way the stream was being processed.

There were numerous times when the stream paused and someone had to hit “play” again and again on either of the laptop computers used for playback. When the stream was hopelessly frozen, they would switch to the other laptop computer and change the projector input (which they were able to do relatively quickly). This happened several times. But the “new stream” could often be more than a minute ahead of the old one. So almost every talk, song or prayer had either the beginning or the end cut off throughout the meeting. The talk before the “rest hymn” was cut off at the end and we picked up again after the next speaker had already started. So the “rest hymn” was entirely skipped! Video and audio sync problems came and went. And the whole meeting ended at about 5 minutes past noon (but I assume it actually ended on time in the Stake Center).

My point? I still didn’t want to see our whole Stake membership crowded into the Stake Center. Did the numerous glitches detract from the spirit? Or was this a good test of the membership to be patient and not get into fault-finding? There was the potential for, as I stated earlier, a broadcast as polished and professional as General Conference. But there wasn't enough gear to do it and the streaming was not cooperating. I actually found myself wishing that, as with General Conference, I could download a podcast version the next day and really savor the messages. Maybe that will be available someday.

craiggsmith
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Postby craiggsmith » Fri Feb 25, 2011 12:13 am

Committee? I'm all by myself, but I have been thinking of asking for help.

I do think that glitches with the webcast can be seriously distracting. Fortunately my only attempt at this last time went mostly fine except that the image changed to black and white a few minutes before the conference started and while I was out on the phone with the GSD a family let their kids play on the floor around the tripod and they knocked it way off. I never did get an answer on why the image changed to black and white.

I have seen that others have gotten the MX-1 pretty cheap, but that's hit and miss, both on price and quality. I'm pretty leery of used equipment these days unless I can test it out in person first; I have had too many problems with used gear and I don't want to take chances with other people's money. But I guess my main issue is I wasn't planning on using multiple cameras; I was just looking for a solution for the hymns. The stake does have 2 cameras but only one cheap tripod, but I also have 2 cameras and decent tripods. I hadn't really seen the need, but are you saying you watch for when someone in the choir is doing something distracting in the background and then switch to another view? That could be good. With our last broadcast we had an Aaronic Priesthood choir and I was really worried, but I zoomed in pretty tight on the speaker and the kids were pretty good and there were no issues at all. If they just leave a couple seats open in the middle the problem goes away completely. I guess I don't quite understand the other advantages you mention of multiple cameras though. Superimposing names and callings could also be nice, but you don't get that when you're right there in the chapel so I haven't worried about that.

As far as the hymns go, can you even make the font large enough to really read without covering up the whole image anyway? As I think about it, I put several lines on screen at a time (I don't like scrolling text), and for it to be readable in the back it took up the whole screen.

I hate to say this but I have never been very impressed with the General Conference broadcasts. In particular I find it extremely unnerving when they zoom in close on the choir and just sit there so you can see all their facial flaws and mouth contortions.

I did actually do some research and discussed this with the stake presidency last October, but we had no money then and they didn't know if we ever would. We just got budget figured out (thanks to you know what) and unexpectedly apparently have extra. So although I probably can't do something now I definitely won't wait until 2 weeks before the next one to figure it out! I need to get a proposal in right away before the money gets taken for something else. I certainly don't think I could do anything without the help of you all on this forum; I really appreciate the info and advice.

One last comment about talent -- I've never seen anyone denied the opportunity to perform in Sacrament meeting, but I agree that it can be distracting. Nevertheless, our last organist hit more wrong than right notes but they left him in there for years.
Craig
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South Jordan, UT

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Postby russellhltn » Fri Feb 25, 2011 1:59 am

craiggsmith wrote:But I guess my main issue is I wasn't planning on using multiple cameras; [...] I hadn't really seen the need, but are you saying you watch for when someone in the choir is doing something distracting in the background and then switch to another view? That could be good.


I think being able to switch cameras takes some pressure off having to pan and zoom smoothly. The problem with single camera is that you have to move smoothly from the pulpit to the chorister, to the choir, etc. Having two cameras allows you to get the inactive camera set and then switch to it.
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Postby michaelfish » Fri Feb 25, 2011 4:11 am

craiggsmith wrote:Committee? I'm all by myself, but I have been thinking of asking for help.
Help would be good. Especially if you were to get ill, move from the stake, need help setting up or need to send a runner. I'm so thankful for our committee's teamwork!

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Postby Aczlan » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:15 pm

RussellHltn wrote:I think being able to switch cameras takes some pressure off having to pan and zoom smoothly. The problem with single camera is that you have to move smoothly from the pulpit to the chorister, to the choir, etc. Having two cameras allows you to get the inactive camera set and then switch to it.

I agree. Having a remote controlled camera makes it easier to use just one camera, but at times, it would be nice to have a second camera to allow fussing with the shot without making those watching seasick.

Aaron Z

craiggsmith
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Postby craiggsmith » Sat Feb 26, 2011 9:27 am

I see, that makes sense. With a single camera in the center (and since the chorister is in the center) no panning has been necessary, only zooming. I'm hoping the zooming will be a little smoother with the software instead of the remote. Unfortunately I've been so distracted this week with the video mixer idea and working with facilities on building upgrades that I haven't gotten a cable yet though.

One thing I wish we had that general conference does is light only the speaker but darken the choir. I don't think the two podium spots are sufficient for this.
Craig
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South Jordan, UT


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