But what about those houses of worship that want to do simple video blogs or create customized videos, above and beyond the recording of the main services? Fortunately, Adobe has re-branded a product that it picked up when it acquired Serious Magic, and the product is due to ship sometime this fall.
The product, Adobe Visual Communicator 3, which has been available as a beta on labs.adobe.com for several months, is a teleprompter/green screen/mini-video switcher/recording system in a box. It displays the text that the person recording is to speak in a teleprompter style, scrolling the text on the Windows machine that records the content. Alongside the scrolling text, a vertical timeline of sorts allows placement of a series of markers that can transition to pre-recorded video clips, graphics and—with Visual Communicator 3—up to three cameras. Similar to a professional television studio, users can preview up to three cameras at once while recording.
Originally conceived as a way to rapidly create newscasts, Visual Communicator has seen significant traction in the educational space. During a preview of Visual Communicator 3 with Michelle Gallina, who moved from Serious Magic to the role of product marketing manager for Adobe’s version of Visual Communicator, Gallina addressed the use of the product in education.
“One of our focus areas is education,” said Gallina, “and we’ve found many young students are interested in broadcast as a possible career. Schools weren’t able to afford expensive broadcast studios, but had become big fans of previous versions of Visual Communicator.”
Religious education could prove to be an additional market in which the new version does well. Gallina demonstrated a new feature called “Coach” that is a series of step-by-step tutorial wizards that help the novice user set up their own recording, including drag-and-drop animated templates. This ease of use might allow ministry teams to easily record video versions of key announcements, ministers to record welcome greetings for events they are unable to attend, and missionaries to use the software to send periodic updates from their remote locations.
For those concerned about recording against a cluttered backdrop, the product makes use of some of the key features of Ultra, Adobe’s industrial-strength keying software (also acquired from Serious Magic last fall, and now available in the Windows version of Adobe Production Premium). But the new version now requires users to BYOGS—bring your own green screen—as Adobe will not be shipping the hardware green screen that Serious Magic used to bundle with the Visual Communicator product. The reason they’ve eliminated the green screen is twofold. First, Adobe is a software company and doesn’t want to be in the business of handling hardware issues. Second, Visual Communicator 3 adds features from a previous version that retailed around $800 (the top-of-the-line edition of a program that used to ship in three different versions), but Adobe has dropped the new version’s price to less than $400, making the inclusion of the hardware green screen harder to accomplish at an acceptable profit margin. Adobe says it will point users to reliable green screen resources.
The three-camera switching option, while not meant to replace a full production switcher, can be set up for interview-style recordings, although it would probably be best to have a technical assistant on hand for the first few multi-camera sessions. This feature may prove especially useful for houses of worship that host debates on key current events or controversial topics.
Several additional ways that a product like this could be used for houses of worship involve using the web to distribute content recorded with Visual Communicator. The new version not only outputs the recordings to standard file formats that can be used for DVD but also now integrates Flash Video output. The integration of Flash Video capabilities allows users to create presentations that can either be recorded for later streaming or—for the more adventurous scripted recordings—can be streamed live in the FLV format using Flash Media Server software, an additional piece of software that Adobe sells.
In summary, a product like Visual Communicator 3 has the ability to provide houses of worship with a cost-effective way to get their message out beyond the walls of their building. It also allows those uncomfortable with live recordings to record their portion multiple times, while providing flexibility in live streaming and recording for those houses of worship that have already made the leap to streaming media on their websites.
Tim Siglin, co-founder of Transitions, Inc. is a contributing editor to Streaming Media and EventDV and regular columnist for EventDV’s Amen Corner.