Is VHS The Most Popular Format in your Meetinghouse Library?

Discussions on how emerging technology can assist the distribution of media content through mobile, kiosks, Internet, social networks, etc.
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Is VHS The Most Popular Format in your Meetinghouse Library?

Postby jgottfredson » Sun Dec 27, 2009 5:24 pm

I am incredibly frustrated by the fact that the most popular video format in our meetinghouse library is VHS tapes.

There is nothing more frustrating than having to fast forward through a 120min VHS cassette to find a 5min clip for your Sunday school class, and then find that the 10yr old VHS player and equally as old VHS cassette cannot track properly. Then even more frustrating is searching through hundreds of un-cataloged prints for the one related to your lesson.

I used to work for the Church in the audiovisual department and remember one employee who diligently authored DVD's of all the Churches media. However, my Stake will not replace the VHS tapes for reasons of tech fear and budget.

I now work for an audio-visual and IT consulting firm as a Sr. Designer and everyday we attempt to specify solutions for K-12 and universities for media storage and retrieval. Unfortunately the solutions out there are cost prohibitive and ridden with copyright and content protection problems. Although, those that have successfully adopted a solution, have found it to be the single greatest improvement to their audio-visual workflow. Additionally, the cost benefit overtime so far has been excellent. Some organizations have gone as low tech as a client running YouTube connected to a display, and as high tech as a full blown IPTV/webcast/podcast solution capturing and distributing everything.

It seems that since the church owns all its IP (intellectual property), that digital media solution would be cost effective and simple to create as a custom application. Here is my concept:

VAS- Visual Aid Server

1. Each meetinghouse library gets a VAS and a wireless network. The server is synchronized with Church HQ to get new content (Broadband or Dial-up:eek:). This avoids bandwidth constraints of internet streaming media, internet outages, and ensures the best quality video.

2. Each DVD/VHS player is replaced with an inexpensive "Media Player" client. There are plenty of these devices out there that play HD content over wi-fi for around $200. The player would include a customized and ultra simple GUI (IR remote driven) to access content. i.e. the member selects the manual, lesson number, and volia all media (Photos, Prints, Music, Videos, Etc.) associated with the lesson are ready to play.

3. Members who are scared of technology, or those looking for a specific clip can request the librarian to preset the client from a workstation in the library.

4. Members who are advanced can use the ward/stake website to create customized presentations from all church media, or upload their own media (videos, powerpoint, etc). Subsequently these custom presentations would be synchronized to the local meetinghouse for retrieval from any client.

5. Players would be able to access web-casting streams.

This concept would provide a simple, and cost effective means for members to quickly access visual aids that are up-to-date and of the best quality. The fact that the Church already has most its IP available in digital form.

Any Takers?

Jason Gottfredson

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Postby njpomeroy » Sun Dec 27, 2009 10:43 pm

You're proposing a 21st century solution to an organization that is technologically still trying to come to grips with the late 1990s.

I personally love the idea; it's forward thinking and scalable, but I'm pessimistic about the chances for success or adoption. For example, my meeting house still has 14" TV/VCR combos that half the people over 50 still can't work successfully. There's no wireless in any building in the stake, and I think our stake is loathe to install it and pay for it. Even if it was in a building, the walls are concrete cinderblock, a good wireless connection in the building would be as rare as hen's teeth.

Inspired by your idea, here's something that might be 1/2-way do-able:
1. Buy a set of set-top media players like Seagate's FreeAgent Theater HD ($130), which plays media directly from a(n externally enclosed) laptop hard drive via a GUI menu and remote, hooked up to existing meetinghouse TVs.
2. The church puts all their media in nifty cross-referenced folders etc on the hard drives: organized as you suggest by lesson, subject, whatnot.
3. The hard drives are updated yearly (or as needed) and available for purchase via Distribution by wards for the cost of the drive ($~80)+ shipping - a rebate for returning the old disk, if desired.

The drives plug in directly into the set top box and lives there, so no messing about with networks.
The content is updated as often as the ward wants to buy it, and if they want they can keep "old versions" in the library to be checked out by members, if desired.
The video player unit is simple enough, if it's the only thing hooked up to the TV, and has a digital video out for the time when the ward TVs are replaced by digital versions.

Here is my only real concern about the feasibility of this idea: You stated "I used to work for the Church in the audiovisual department and remember one employee who diligently authored DVD's of all the Churches media."
I don't see them releasing any of the older, existing media. The stuff that is in the meetinghouse libraries, anyway.

There is a great deal of church media that I own (some film strips, but VHS tapes mostly) that is simply *unavailable* to me as a member on DVD. I would *gladly* re-buy all my church media if it were available as DVDs. I keep checking back with distribution to see if I can and am generally disappointed. To be fair, a couple of older titles have come to DVD in recent years, but my home collection is still full of VHS tapes, and I am loathe to break the trivial copyright enforcement on the tapes to burn my own DVDs.

Like I said, I'll expect the church to come out of the 1990s and into the early 21st century in about 2020.

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Postby heyring » Mon Dec 28, 2009 3:57 pm

All excellent ideas..

But I believe that the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" concept is in full effect.

Us tech savvy members will just have to be patient I'm afraid.

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Postby russellhltn » Mon Dec 28, 2009 5:28 pm

heyring wrote:But I believe that the "needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few" concept is in full effect.

I think chicken and egg is in play.

The church never engages technology for technology's sake. Before the church goes to that kind of effort, they're going to want to know that enough teachers can make effective use of it to improve teaching with the spirit. But then until some units set something up, there will never be any evidence of what effect it will have.

The progression I'd expect to see:
1) Individual teachers starts using media clips - perhaps with their own equipment.
2) Other teachers follow
3) Local units will spend their own money setting up effective systems.
4) If the evidence shows that it's effective, CHQ will take interest and fund it.

At the same time equipment becomes cheaper and more common, members become more comfortable with it which spurs items 1 & 2.

As it stands now, a teacher could probably set up something themselves with little more then a iPod and a video cable. The advantage of the iPod is one can set it up at home well ahead of time to see what clips will work and to get everything ready.

As it stands now, I rarely see media used in the classroom outside of a Institute class. If the church installs the equipment now, it might well sit idle.

But for things to progress, all that needs to happen is for the right teacher to be called.

I think it's great that we have a place to get together to brainstorm ideas, but I'd never expect the church to fund something unless it's clear that it's a wise use of limited funds in fulfilling the goals of the church.
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