Local church broadcasting services, sermons and more online

Crested Butte’s Union Congregational Church (UCC) at Fourth and Maroon has developed an innovative way of getting its services in front of people. A newly installed camera and production system now offers the chance to stream live during a service, or for people to connect anytime after the broadcast and choose from the video archive. As Dave Clayton from the UCC council put it, “Now you can be in the Silver Queen line on a powder morning without missing church.”
Since churches are relationship businesses, Clayton said he is excited about the new video system because it allows the UCC to better connect with its members. In winter months, the typical Sunday service sees about 80 to 100 attendees. That number can increase to almost 250 churchgoers in summer months when Crested Butte gets visitors in from neighboring states. “Many of those people say they love this church and they want to be able to enjoy it from home. That was our initial impetus,” Clayton said.
In addition to broadcasting church services and events, Clayton explained, the system can be used for weddings, concerts, recitals, meetings, basically anything that would have viewers in the cloud. He provided some interesting examples of ways the system could really come in handy.
“If grandma can’t make it to a wedding at 9,000 feet, she can view it online,” Clayton said. The cameras are controlled by remote and can even pan the aisle as the bride and groom approach the altar.
“Or, say an organization like RMBL [Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory] or HCCA [High Country Conservation Advocates] wanted to use the room for a meeting or presentation,” Clayton said. “That could be streamed live and archived for later viewing.” One major benefit of the new system is the video archive. Since broadcasted services are recorded in full and stored for later viewing, you can rewind if you miss something and skip ahead if you only want to see certain parts.
This method of broadcasting sermons and other church services is not exactly new, but the UCC has significantly redefined the approach. Clayton said mega-churches have broadcast services in the past, but they have been in cities and required a designated production staff to run operations. The UCC figured it out for right around $5,000, including the cost of constructing the loft in the back corner of the room where the production studio lives. The three-camera system sends recordings from what Clayton described as “consumer camcorders mounted on remote controlled pan-and-tilt units” and was built entirely from parts collected by the former engineer with website management experience. A couple of generous members of the church covered the $5,000.
“It’s so easy I didn’t even have to get a manual,” Clayton said. “All this stuff was built from parts. It’s probably the fastest computer I’ve ever built, and literally the fastest processor currently available to the public.”
Clayton described the system as a one-person operation that works best with two people. Ideally, one person operates the camera angles and zoom ranges while another rotates between cameras and changes viewpoints. The sound quality is also impressive, and Clayton says the quality is often better heard online than inside the church. The system broadcasts at 720p (high definition), and although it’s not a full 1080p, the video quality is still very good.
The system can handle full-screen graphics, has instant replay options and can even incorporate Twitter feeds into the display screen. If a particular sermon features photographs, the minister can also control a picture-in-a-picture view. For example, UCC does a yearly broadcast with their sister church in southeast Germany. The most recent broadcast displayed what the sister church was doing on the UCC screen, and vice versa. The split-screen option also allowed both sermons to be showed simultaneously on a single screen.
Clayton said the ministers were not originally too thrilled with the idea of a video broadcasting system. “They thought it would deter people from physically attending church services,” he said, “when it actually creates a means for greater attendance. It seems to be working so far.”
Even though still testing and tweaking, Clayton reported 22 views from the first week, which was very much a trial session. The past two weeks, Sunday services were viewed about 50 times each. There are currently two different camera angles set up, with a third going in soon. The UCC should have their video system fully dialed by Easter, glitches and shakes and all. Find live streaming and archived events at http://new.livestream/com/ucc-cb.

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