After visiting LifeChurch’s Global Command Center our leadership team wanted to build a similar room to evaluate in real-time our remote campuses in Surprise and Scottsdale (opening soon). Below is a quick overview of the technologies that we used to build the room. Special thanks to Zach Gillium at LifeChurch for sharing their lessons learned with us.
The strategy of having a Command Center is to evaluate and assess how the service, especially the campus pastor announcements and communion meditations, are going at each campus. It’s not to have a high-def, crystal clear, multi-camera, broadcast quality view of the service. I like to think of it as virtually leaning against the back wall of the auditorium and taking in the service.
It all starts with a camera. We used an inexpensive Sony HDR-CX160 (price $328). It has decent low-light capabilities and a 30x optical zoom. This camera is no frills, but again we’re going for practical and not broadcast quality. We decided to try using the built in mic on the camera (a recommendation from Zach). This keeps the configuration simple as it doesn’t rely on the soundboard or it’s operator. The audio quality is actually pretty good in this configuration.
The camera is attached to a Teradek Cube 200 encoder (price $1,100). This is by far the most expensive piece of the puzzle. The Teradeks are a breeze to configure and are one of the few encoders that support HD streaming over RTMP. They come in a compact package that can easily be connected to a camera. We mounted ours right to a Davis & Sanford camera mount. We’ve been testing the Teradeks for over 4 months and haven’t had one issue. We currently streaming 720p @ 6Mbps. The image quality is fairly good. We could increase the bitrate, but we’re trying to conserve bandwidth to the campuses (each already has a 25Mbps high quality stream going to the campus for broadcasting the message).
The RTMP stream from the Teradek goes to a Wowza server. The Wowza server redistributes the stream to the various clients (in this case the Command Center room). It also DVRs the services. In the near future will be providing a website where pastors can go back and watch any service.
The Command Center view is provided by a Mac Mini driving a LCD TV. The interface is a jQuery Mobile webpage loaded fullscreen. We use a cool AppleScript program to load the page on start-up full screen (the solution has to be pastor proof). The page shows live video from all three campuses, Peoria, Surprise and soon Scottsdale in large thumbnails. You can easily select which audio to listen to as well as select a campus and watch it full-screen.
Soon we’ll have the DVR interface complete which will work on any computer or mobile device. You’ll also be able to email clips of the sermons for others to watch. We might also look into Wowza’s transcoder features to allow for smaller streams to mobile devices.