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Amen Corner: Reflecting on the Year to Come
Posted Jan 3, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

As 2006 closes out and 2007 begins, the annual 4EVER Group conference will take place in Jacksonville, Florida. This multi-day event, in which EventDV magazine participates as a media partner, provides an ideal gathering place for event videographers, and the timing is also right for a gathering of event videographers who choose to start the new year out learning from one another, making key contacts, and strategizing about the year to come. It's especially timely for a bit of vacation and reflection for those who have combined their typical December holiday schedule with shooting a few winter weddings and assisting in the video work at their local house of worship.

Two other shows take place in early January that are of interest to the event videography crowd: Macworld Expo and the Consumer Electronic Show (CES). Unfortunately, this year all three events take place at the same time. I'd contemplated a travel schedule that put me in Las Vegas at CES 2007 for one day, San Francisco for two days at Macworld, and then an overnight flight to Jacksonville for the tail end of Video 07. While it's not too far off my normal travel schedule, I imagine it's not possible for most event videographers to keep up the same pace, so I'll spend a bit of time in the February or March column bringing readers up to speed on what comes out of the Las Vegas and San Francisco events.

Starting in February, we'll also be providing case studies and examples of houses of worship that are using video effectively to enhance their ministries.

This month, I'm going to answer a question that came in from a reader last year after I wrote about the challenges faced by smaller houses of worship deciding whether to use video or not. The reader asked about budgeting for a single camera and small editing solution for those smaller houses of worship that cannot afford the staffing (volunteer or otherwise) to run a multi-camera solution with projectors or high-resolution monitors.

There are two ways of thinking through a very low-cost solution. First, for those who choose to use video recording as a way to step up from the traditional tape ministry, and perhaps generate a DVD of the sermon or presentation, I'm happy to report that the cost of entry has fallen in the past few months. If only one camera is going to be used, I highly recommend a high-definition camera since these cameras have better sharpness and color saturation and the output of the camera can be used—in a pinch—to create a pseudo-zoom and pan effect in Motion or After Effects and most NLEs if the content is going to be output in standard definition.

The cost of a single-camera high-definition solution has dropped as Sony and Panasonic announced in mid-2006 and—just in time for the 2006 holiday shopping season—rolled out their first high-definition cameras based on H.264, the advanced video codec that, according to Sony and Panasonic, provides a 50-70% increase in picture quality over other high-definition camera formats at a slightly lower bit rate. You heard right: better quality and lower bit rate, which translates into more video per tape, hard disk, or DVD/HD disc.

The trick here is that H.264 is a compression technique that tends to be three or four times the quality of MPEG-2, and is being rolled out as one of the three primary codecs used in the next-generation HD DVD and Blu-ray players (and PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 game consoles with HD DVD add-on) that became available during the 2006 Christmas holiday shopping season.

Sony and Panasonic's version is called AVC-HD (for Advanced Video Codec-High Definition) and has already been launched in camcorders that record in MiniDVD or hard drive-based cameras that retail for around $1,400 but can be found at street prices as low as $1,100 at the time of this writing (November 2006). The video quality is stunning and will work quite nicely for church videographers working in small sanctuaries. Announcements of video editing software capable of handling AVC-HD should have been made by the time this article is published, as Apple and others already have standard H.264 editing capabilities. All in all, this would probably put the price of entry at around $3,800 including a camera, iMac, and editing software, assuming audio is taken directly off the soundboard. That's a lot of money for some houses of worship, but almost half of what would have been paid last year at this time.

Second, there are those small houses of worship who may just want to stream the service to those who are unable to attend. This content might be archived but would not be modified in any way. For this scenario, I would recommend an inexpensive Pentium 4 or Celeron desktop—the kind that costs $450-600 including a monitor—and an inexpensive streaming card from Hauppauge or Viewcast. This type of package with a standard-definition camera would cost approximately $1,600, while a comparable package with an AVC-HD camera would run approximately $2,400. Don't forget to choose to archive to the local hard disk so that the service can also be put on to a DVD after recording, as the quality of the streamed content is much lower (400Kbps for streaming vs. roughly 6000Kbps for DVD content).

For those of you fortunate enough to take a brief break and attend Video 07 in Jacksonville, use the time well and reflect on what the year will bring. And don't forget to apply the skills you learn there to help your local house of worship.

Tim Siglin, co-founder of Transitions, Inc., is a contributing editor to Streaming Media. He has 18 years of film and video experience and heads a digital media business consultancy in Kingsport, Tennessee.

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