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Pope Francis Mass to be Shown Throughout Philly

Pope Francis’ first mass in Philadelphia on September 26 will be captured with Panasonic remote PTZ cameras and broadcast to video walls outside the church.

CI Staff
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The Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul, mother church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, is set to provide a glorious backdrop for Pope Francis’ first stop on his visit to the city, a special papal mass to be celebrated for the people of the Archdiocese.

Live video feeds of the mid-morning Saturday, September 26 mass for the 2,200 congregants as well as for worldwide viewers will come from several newly-installed Panasonic remote production cameras, including six AW-HE130 integrated 1/3″ pan/tilt/zoom and two AW-HE870 2/3″ 3-CCD multi-purpose units.

With its grand façade, vaulted dome, and main sanctuary that comfortably holds up to 2000 worshipers, the Cathedral Basilica is the largest brownstone structure and one of the most architecturally notable structures in Philadelphia.

Daniel Kearns, technology specialist to the Communications Office of the Archdiocese (and currently Broadcast Engineer, Princeton University), says the Basilica’s prior 4:3 robotic camera system sustained its AV requirement until earlier this year when the papal visit was announced.

Event production company ESM Productions (Philadelphia, PA), assigned to handle all on-Benjamin Franklin Parkway activities during Pope Francis’ stay, understood that the Cathedral Basilica would be a focal point and approached Kearns to determine if his longtime plans to upgrade the robotic cameras to 16:9 HD models could be implemented.

With funding for the project from a church donor in place, Kearns consulted with longtime colleagues Dave Barletta of Cenero (Malvern, PA) and Joe Pagano of RGB Broadcast Video Service (Philadelphia, PA), and chose the Panasonic remote production pan/tilt/zoom cameras, which excelled in side-by-side comparisons.

READ: Philly Police Prepare for High-Stakes Pope Francis Visit

“Our criteria are unique for a large venue,” says Kearns. “We’re not in the entertainment business, our ‘productions’ require a reverent, unobtrusive approach: we don’t want to notice the cameras during the celebration of a mass.”

“Beyond these considerations, the Basilica Cathedral is an historic landmark, the largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania, with vintage lighting and long vistas (approx. 30,490 sq.ft.). The cameras’ technical specifications had to be top-notch.”

Panasonic representatives visited the Basilica Cathedral, and demonstrated that the HE130s—several to be placed in the main sanctuary—would be discreet and that camera movements would not disturb the congregants. Ultimately, four HE130s have been installed in the body of the church, one each on the front left and right pillars, facing the altar; a third on the second left pillar, facing back to take in pews and processions; and the fourth on the last left pillar, looking back at the church entrance and the baptistery.

A fifth HE130 is placed on the right side of the altar, looking back at the congregation; and the sixth is in the choir loft, on top of the organ, looking forward through the church to the altar.

Kearns chose critical placements for the two HE870s, with their bigger, 2/3″ optics, light handling and longer, 20x zoom lensing. One is placed on the left side of the choir loft, trained in the opposite direction on the pulpit and also able to capture the wider shot of processions moving from the rear of the church to the altar. The second HE870 sits on the left side of the altar, looking all the way back through the church to the vestibule at approaching processions, and able to capture sweeping views of the church and its celebrated stained-glass windows.

Kearns also plans to have two, five-pound AJ-PX270 P2 HD camcorders on hand for the papal mass, both outfitted with Paralinx Triton 1:1 wireless transmission systems. “The PX270s have the same chip set as the HE130s, and we can use them on tripods, one in a left side aisle where we have no other camera coverage, and the second in a large side chapel where up to 800 of the communicants will be viewing the mass on two large screens.”

On September 26, Kearns will be operating all the cameras from a new, permanent control room located in the church’s upper sacristy. HD-SDI cabling runs from the cameras back to the master control room, and an IP connection is maintained through a Panasonic AW-RP120 remote camera controller.

Live video coverage of the papal mass will be fed to a multi-box in the church’s parking area, and also over fiber to ESM Productions, who will direct the feed to large video walls outside the church and all along Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The video will also be sent over fiber to the Pennsylvania Convention Center, where feeds will be set up for worldwide media coverage.

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