In the past, adding video to a house of worship installation was complex and expensive – reserved almost exclusively for the “megachurch.” Further, video has traditionally required a wholly different technical infrastructure when compared to its audio counterpart.
This meant the most common integrations in the majority of houses of worship stayed firmly in the pro audio space.
Luckily, the world has changed! The introduction of AV-over-IP alters the equation in a fundamental way in regards to cost, complexity and labor requirements. The result: video is now a much more practical consideration for those in the house of worship installation market.
However, key to any expansion into new types of media is the technology. It must be sufficiently easy for volunteers to grasp, flexible enough to accommodate changes, and cost-effective to deploy.
Getting Started with AVoIP in House of Worship Projects
A key to modern video systems everywhere is the rapid expansion of AV-over-IP technology. Put simply, AV-over-IP is the use of standard computer networks to distribute audio and video signals in real-time between endpoints.
This change has profound implications beyond simply replacing cables.
The use of standard networking means the end of point-to-point connections between devices, replaced by infinitely flexible software controllers that allow any device to connect to any other without moving any physical connectors at all.
It means the end of specialized, bespoke cables and connectors that carry only one signal type, replaced by lightweight commodity Ethernet cables that simultaneously carry hundreds or even thousands of different signal types, including control and metadata.
AV-over-IP provides a streamlined and cost-effective platform upon which AV systems are designed and deployed. A generic network is capable of dealing with nearly any AV traffic and does not need to be vendor or technology specific.
Audio networking is already very well established, with thousands of installations in use carrying millions of channels of pure, digital audio. Video is a more recent arrival, and rides upon precisely the same infrastructure and technology.
A Couple of Warnings
While some AV-over-IP technologies are vendor-specific, others use a different business model and are available across many brands.
All employ similar underlying methods such as Precision Time Protocol (IEEE1588 PTP) and means to accommodate bursts of heavy traffic. All (with some exceptions) will work with nearly any off-the-shelf networking gear.
To be successful, it is critical for integrators to select networked gear that suits their needs for deploying on a straight-forward switched network. It’s easy to start small with audio-only networking, replacing only a few components before jumping into an end-to-end network solution.
Video is more complex, not only due to bandwidth requirements, but also because video in such integrations is almost always compressed in order to “fit” into a 1 Gbps network.
Compression schemes (codecs) must match at both transmitter and receiver if they are to work, and the variety of compression schemes available can make this a more complex choice. As AV-over-IP matures, the number of codecs in use is likely to drop as only a few are well optimized for real-time usage.
For now, users must make a careful selection to ensure matching codecs.
Offering AVoIP to the House of Worship Market
The combination of utilizing standard infrastructure and non-proprietary networking solutions is the great democratizer of AV technology for all markets, especially the house of worship installation vertical.
No longer do integrators need to price in extended labor hours or costly cable runs. The result is an opportunity for deeper, more involved integrations across more clients.
But to effectively offer a full AV solution requires both an understanding of the benefits and the technology.
Worship attendees are surely there to listen, but there is much more to any service than words alone convey. Being able to see a worship leader “up close” increases the impact and clarity of any message.
While this is traditionally a consideration in larger house of worship installations, the benefit of even a quality screen in a small-to-medium sized congregation should not be overlooked.
An engaged audience can also be achieved through a sense of “style” embedded in the approach. Adding media can create a powerful presentation that combines words, images and video content.
Further, the house of worship installation market often offers one of the most diverse presentations in the live presentation space: spoken word, vocal performances, and live music each play common roles.
Implementing an AV system that not only powers these core competencies – but also allows for variety through flexible audio and video options allows for more creativity to be realized.
The Correct Technology
As discussed above, the writing has been on the proverbial wall for quite some time: in a world of digital media, the distribution of signals in AV systems is finally migrating to purely digital paths. There is no better, more efficient or cost-effective system for moving digital data around than a modern, wired IP network.
AV managers in houses of worship need to know that investments in solid IP infrastructure – CAT5E or CAT6 cabling, high quality switches and routers – are investments that are safe and secure no matter what specific solutions they choose today.
For those without AV managers, they will rely on the integrator for this advice – and potentially, for the layout of such a system.
The selling point here is that AV-over-IP solutions from nearly every vendor work over the same network equipment using standards-based foundations. This will serve the customer well for years to come.
For those houses of worship already using audio networking, adding video products that run alongside audio over the same network is a relatively easy choice to make in comparison to re-wiring an entire building.
Many of these video products use the same software and the same workflows at their audio counterparts, making the job of training users and volunteers easier than ever.
In summary, the very same qualities of ease of use, ease of installation, and high-quality results that have driven the use of audio-over-IP in house of worship installations are coming to video. This time, it will seem familiar.