HD Video Upgrade: FOR-A

Port City Community Church (PC3) moved into their very first permanent facility during the summer of 2008 with a full SD-SDI system in the main auditorium. This was a major upgrade from our existing mobile solution which consisted of all composite video lines that found their way to an old Panasonic MX50 video switcher. The new system at the time was pushed by a Ross Synergy 100 SD switcher with 16 inputs, which at the time gave us room to grow. The initial set up had no multi-viewer, but instead consisted of a video wall of different size monitors for viewing each input. This system served us well over the years until we began to upgrade existing smaller rooms in our building with new HD switchers and projectors. And then as we began to launch new satellite campuses we ran into multiple issues with our original campus, which now is our dedicated broadcast campus.

Before we upgraded our video system at our Wilmington Campus we had three satellite campuses and two other auditoriums on site that were equipped and ran as a full 1080p HD system. Over the years we also had upgraded our entire camera package and computer graphic suites to 1080p as well. At one point we were downgrading seven cameras and four Mac Pros from 1080p to a 480 SD signal before hitting the Ross Synergy. And then before hitting other campuses, auditoriums, recording and other destinations we had to upgrade back to 1080p. The problems that all this caused at times can be discussed in another article in the future. But all of this was solved plus many other incredible additions after we upgraded to a FOR-A HVS–390HS.

For months we had researched many different switchers and had landed on moving forward with the Ross Carbonite series. We had had only one issue during the seven years with the Ross Synergy and the customer service team helped us solve it in less than thirty minutes. Ross is an industry standard and knew what type of product we would be getting. We contacted Next Creative Media who we have worked with on multiple projects over the years that include all three satellite campuses launches. Bob Nahrstadt from Next Creative is a trusted friend of PC3 asked us if we would be willing to demo one more switcher we may not have heard of. So we linked up with Marc Shroyer to demo one of his many FOR-A switchers to walk us through all the options and more importantly why he chose FOR-A. Marc is the go to guy for Hillsong United and Hillsong conferences when they make their way through the U.S., so we trusted what he had to say.

So now that you know our past, let’s talk about a few key features from the FOR-A that made us change our mind from moving forward with anyone else.

Price

We had a budget that we were aiming for and we know that project scope creep can occur and will mostly likely happen once you get into a project. So we were looking to begin with a project quote that would come in under budget. After looking over the many different control surface options we and the additional output and input options we were able to land on exactly what we wanted and stay under budget. We decided to move forward with the HVS–392WOU: 2 M/E 28-button with two additional HVS–30HSDO: HD/SD-SDI Output Cards and two HVS-AUX16A AUX control panels. I will go over a few of the features below, but we were able to do this all for under $33,000. That price gave us room for additional items, one-on-one training session with Marc Shroyer, and one onsite tech to help with the install.

Features

The FOR-A came packed with features that we began to use from day one that we just simply never had before. A simple list of the features include: 16 HD/SD-SDI Inputs, 12 HD/SD-SDI, 2 Down-Converted SD-SDI and 1 HDMI Outputs, Frame Synchronizer on each Input, 4 Channels of Resize Engine, 4 Keyers with 2.5D DVE per M/E, 2 Chroma Keyers per M/E, 2 Independent 16 Channel Multi Viewer Outputs, 4 Still Stores, Redundant Power Supplies.

Those are the main “physical” features that we loved, but there were many other features that helped us make the decision.

Advanced AUX & DVE

The HVS–390HS offers a full powered primary Mix Effects (M/E) like any other broadcast switcher, yet this one also offers what FOR-A calls Advanced AUX technology. Each AUX can cut, mix, wipe, key and move graphics with a DVE. This has opened up the door on utilizing AUX outputs to send to multiple auxiliary screens or confidence monitors. The HVS–390HS also has 8 channels of 2.5D and 4 channels of 3D DVE. All 12 channels are included in the base price. This differed from most at the time because most suppliers required an upgrade beyond the typical 4 DVEs included.

These advanced features allowed for us to adjust the size and location for our alpha channel lyrics coming from one single Mac Pro. Pro Presenter is set up for lyrics to be lower-third/centered. But we wanted to also display these lyrics on a center screen from the same input source. With the AUX and DVE capability we were able to adjust the lyric location to be in the absolute center and decrease the size of the font via a KEY and then send that KEYER to an AUX output. This allowed us to have one signal operator for all lyric content and the timing in in perfect sync.

Web Browser Control Center

Another feature we love is the web browser control surface that comes with the HVS–390HS. After connecting the HVS–390HS to our production network we are able to set up, adjust and operate the HVS–390HS via a simple assigned IP address. This allows us to use a simple web browser to access the system from anywhere in the building if connected to the private network. This works even via wifi which allows us to use our iPads or iPhones to make adjustments. We use this feature often when we are making adjustments in the room and have no one in the video control room which is located on the second floor. The web browser allows us to cut cameras from anywhere on campuses which is a huge help when troubleshooting in other auditoriums within the building. This also allows easy recalling and editing of macros, key-frame sequences and event memories.

Independent Dual Multi-Views

This is a simple one but it was a major upgrade for us after having a monitor wall. The system gives you two independent multi-viewers right out the box with up to 16 windows that can display safety area markers and audio levels.

Frame Synchronizers

The HVS–390HS comes with frame synchronizers on all inputs. We will use a black burst generator and use the reference genlock on all cameras and our two primary Mac Pros, but with the frame synchronizer we are able to add additional inputs without needing to send the devices a reference. This has been a huge help when adding additional laptops from stage or additional cameras such as Go Pros. One thing to note is that if you are passing audio through the SDI line you cannot use initiate the frame synchronizer on that input or you will lose the audio signal. We learned that the hard way.

It has now been about a year and half since we originally upgraded our video system. We continue to find new ways to use the HVS–390HS to our advantage. Overall the system has given us a numerous amount of output configurations and dozens of macros that we did not have on the old Ross Synergy 100. You can find most of the above features from other great companies for the right price point. We went with FOR-A because they were able to deliver a great product that brought along great features we needed for a price that we could fit into our budget.

Listen, Evaluate, and Then Decide

Lately I’ve caught myself in conversations telling others to listenevaluate, and decide a lot. It may be coming across as advice to others because I have been trying to engage in feedback lately with those three words in mind.

Here is what I mean in short form:

Listen

Stop talking and just listen. If you are married you know what I mean here. It’s very hard to do this part, but it is the best thing you can do. So when someone approaches you with feedback you did not solicit go ahead and listen. Don’t justify your decisions. If you solicited the feedback once again don’t start defending your choices. Just listen.

Evaluate

You have now taken the time to actually listen to someone’s opinion. Other’s opinions are very important to improving your art/decisions/product. The thing to remember though is every opinion is just that… an opinion. So once you have taken the time to listen you must take the time to evaluate. You will base the evaluation on many factors that only you can decide on. The key here is to take the time and evaluate what you have heard from others.

Decide

Now that you have listened and evaluated you must decide. And this must be based around vision and values. If you begin making decisions based on wavering vision and values you will continue to make reactionary changes based solely on peoples opinions and not vision. This is extremely hard for church production environments. Lights, video and audio volume can be and should be decided based on vision/values and not just complaints/compliments. It’s difficult in the moments you must make a decision, but no matter what decision you make some peoples opinions will be opposite. And once again with vision you can make your way through those circumstances.

So this week as you create new art, scripts, music, policies, curriculum be sure to listen to others, evaluate what you have heard, and then decide based on your vision and values.

The Story I Never Told | Miss You Chris

Last week I did something I have not done since my older brother Chris past away in a hospital in Bristol, TN. And that thing was talk about it with anyone in detail. Up to last week the only person I have talked to about the week was my wife Kirsten and that was limited in detail. I just don’t verbalize things out loud like, but instead keep it to myself and find personal time to reflect. But that all changed this past week as I finally opened up for the first time and it so happened to in front of a camera as well.

We finished a teaching series where we had been discussing moments when we have an encounter and how it forms and shapes us. (Encounter, Formation, Expression) We were discussing the idea of a possible story to set up our pastor to wrap up the final week. At that moment I felt like this could be the time I finally share my story and my encounter with God during that tragic week in 2009. So I threw out the idea to the team and just how my story could play into the three areas. I then took myself out of the equation/room and let them pressure test my story and decide for themeselves. The team decided they liked the idea and then took it to the next level and pitched the idea up the chain. The project was green-lit and after two interviews and a three day trip to VA the guys put together a very emotional piece.

I have watched it twice and probaly will not watch it again because it’s so personal. But I hope you take a few moments to watch it and can recall an unforgettable encounter yourself.  Then take a moment to look back on how it has formed you into who you are today.

Five Things Not to Do During Annual Reviews

Over the last two weeks I have had the honor of sitting down with some of my staff to conduct annual reviews. This is always a good time because it gives us a chance to look into the future and not so much the past. And to most this unfortunately sounds wrong because they spend the time informing their staff members of how they have not met expectations and how they can improve on that.

Now I have only been in the position to conduct annual reviews for two years now, but I feel like I have learned a lot in these two years. I am still learning and pushing to get better, but there are a few things I have learned.

Here 5 things that may be causing you problems in your annual review:

1. You Don’t Prepare

Be sure to have some type of structure or review/evaluation sheet to use as you prep for the review. Usually your organization has some form of evaluation form, but if not be sure to create your own. Take the evaluation form and be sure to fill it out completely and spend a decent amount of time thinking back over the past year. This is your moment to “officially” pour into your staff. Do not forget to prep.

2. You Don’t Share Your Expectations Throughout the Year

If you do not share your expectations throughout the year, don’t expect the review to go very well. It’s your job as a leader to lead your staff throughout the entire year by sharing with them when they are meeting expectations/job requirements or not. Believe me, your staff would rather you tell them when they begin to move off course and not at the end the year. Trust that your staff wants to do their best and the way for them to do that is by having one-on-one time throughout the year. Do not forget to share your expectations during the year.

3. You Don’t Let Them Respond

I once sat in a review at an old job while in my early years of college and I was not given one moment to respond and ask questions during my review. The review went for the most part real well, but I did have questions about some of the expectations that I was not meeting. Unfortunately I was not able to get much clarity on the topics and left with not much vision or motivation. Be sure as you share both the strengths and the weakness (aka: opportunities for improvement) you let your staff respond, ask questions, disagree, agree, etc. The point here is to be sure there is a conversation happening during the review. Do not forget to let them respond.

4. You Don’t Let Them Share their Thoughts

This I guess could be part 2 of the above point. At the end of each review I have with my staff I now allow for 30–45 mins of time to be theirs. After we go through my thoughts and structure I open up the time for them to share how they feel. It’s their time to let me know how they feel I am doing & our organization. This may seem backwards during a review session, but believe me this is one of the best times you can have to walk out of your office on the same page. Your staff most likely are very passionate and smart people. They are also the people with their so-called “boots on the ground” in their specific areas. So listen when they show signs of worry, stress, hesitation, etc. What I have learned is just because I am higher up the org chart and been around longer does not mean I have the best idea in the room nor the real-time data like someone who works in the trenches each day. This does not mean you automatically take their ideas and run with them. Just be sure to give their thoughts the weight they deserve. They are most likely carrying out the work you will be putting into play. So do not forget to let them share their thoughts.

5. You Don’t Lose the Desk

This is a simple one. Get out from behind your desk. Move to a coffee table, couches, booth, picnic table, etc. Anything will work other than putting a desk in between you and your staff member. I learned this from my boss/mentor Chris Kuhne. The boss’ desk has some type of stigma with it and it’s best to tear down that barrier. Do not forget to find that coffee table.


This is my first time back at writing, so I apologize for the grammar (which I am terrible at), but I did want to start sharing my thoughts. My favorite author John Maxwell says Leadership is influence, and I want to share what I have learned throughout the years with others. I hope you find this article helpful and if so, feel free to share it with a friend.