‘The Journey’ – A Live Music and Stories Event

The Vision

I was tasked to help bring to life a vision that a few guys had for a music event which brings out our churches history with songs, and stories why those songs came to be.
At first I was a little reticent as I didn’t want it just to be a nostalgic throwback, but Rob, Chris, and Aidan assured me it would reflect how God uses everyday people to shape his church. And they were right as the time together was deep and inspiring. It’s well worth a watch.

Choosing Kit

These days you can get a good looking image for comparatively little money, and I’d had plenty of experience with using Sony’s A7 series mirrorless kit whilst working for Upbeat Image. These full frame cameras give you a lovely shallow depth of field and hold up well in low light – two essentials for recording the event. I was able to borrow a couple of these cameras (thanks Viv) and only had to hire a small amount. All the kit I used was able to record at 50 frames per second in full HD, as YouTube now supports that feature and makes for smoother playback compared to 25fps.

Kit List

  • 2x A7S – one on a moving gimbal, one on a tripod
  • 1x A7R – handheld with inbuilt image stabilisation
  • 1x GH3 – wide angle view
  • 2x GoPro – drums
  • 1x JVC camcorder – for a live feed to Chris in the engineers recording lounge

Working out how to set up the Came-TV mini2 gimbal with a little help from YouTube

Filming

During the event the audio recording was being handled by Chris, who was monitoring it in a separate lounge adjacent to the main room. Viv was roaming about on a tablet doing monitor mixes for the musicians.

I was aiming for an intimate feel with the filming, so it’s like you’re there among the people. The gimbal was important to achieve this so I could take the viewer around the room in a smooth way. When it came to the event it was hard not to get into the music and just concentrate on filming. Songs like A New Revolution especially!

The Cameras

Simon’s interview. My wife Anna was on the main camera for interviews and singers. This was an A7S with 70-200mm f2.8 lens which is brilliant for head shots

Anna had an external monitor with focus zoom so she could tell what was in focus, as it’s hard recording in HD to get such a shallow depth of field right

David was on the A7R with a 50mm f0.95 lens, perfect for getting artistic shots

David also captured the testimonies from a different angle

I was using the gimbal with an A7S and a wide angle 21mm f2 lens. Try using one for 3 hours!

The Panasonic GH3 was at the back getting a wide angle shot of the whole room

1st GoPro stuck on the side of the floor tom

2nd GoPro overhead

One of my favourite songs from the event:

Editing

There was a lot to work through – over 350GB of data! The files from the cameras were sorted into folders named after who operated the camera, and then backed up twice.
Due to David and myself moving about it was hard to edit keeping us both out of shot. But I just about managed it, though there are plenty of times you see one of us!
The pace of the edit depended on the tempo of the song, so slow songs had shots which lingered on the singers more, and fast songs had quicker cuts. Once I had done an initial edit of a track I sent it to our sound engineer Chris so that he could mix with video, and bring out certain instruments when they appeared on screen if need be. Once he had mixed the music he sent me a high quality file which I then aligned to the right place in the timeline.

The hardest part was the difficulty I had trying to colour grade the five different types of cameras so they matched! I got there in the end but still a lot to learn with this skill.

To add the finishing touches Aidan came up with some superb graphics to introduce each song and testimony. They were created in Cinema 4D and exported as a PNG sequence with alpha channel so I could just put over the top of the footage in the edit.

The best thing was that the event itself carried depth and meaning. Hearing the stories of why each song came to be, and then singing it give it significance and meaning. The worship songs near the end really lifted off as people were fully relaxed and able to blank out the cameras and mics.

Improvements

I’d make some changes to improve the filming. For starters I’d have only one moving camera with the rest on tripods or monopods to minimise crew in shot. I’d plan the event in more detail to work out who is singing beforehand and make sure one camera is on them the whole time. It would be better with a larger room so we can film looking past people onto the musicians, and have the foreground and background interest. Here’s to next time!

How to Live Stream a Church Event Over 3G / 4G in the UK

Update (26/5/15) I have found a solution that is rock solid – see bottom of the page for details.
The Church that I’m part of has national events every couple of months for people from all around the country. It isn’t practical for everyone to travel long distances so I looked into ways of doing a video live stream of the event so they can watch from home.
After 6 months of frustration I found a setup that works in both remote locations and city centres. There might be someone out there who wants to know so here’s what works for me – the details of the parts I use are at the end of this post.

Livestreaming from

Successfully live streaming a Church event inside a marquee, in a field, in the middle of the English countryside.

Testing

We already do IMAG (3 video camera mix) so what I needed to do was take a feed from the BlackMagic ATEM mixer and broadcast it online. Our events are often in unusual locations – a tent in a field in the countryside, on Trafalgar Square, in sports halls – so a stable broadband connection isn’t possible. I first tried streaming with a 3G router and PC software (using a HDMI capture card) and it would cut out frequently. You have to bear in mind that the congregation will all have mobile phones and if you’re in a remote location this can overload the 3G cell tower you’re connected to and cause unstable 3G dropouts.

Using the PC software also led to complications – you have to keep the PC updated, it can crash, takes up a lot of room, not very energy efficient etc. So I found a small piece of hardware called the LiveStream Broadcaster that does all the encoding and uploading. This ties you into the LiveStream service but the end user interface is professional and wasn’t too expensive.

As 4G mobile connections were being rolled out across the country I checked to see where there is 4G coverage on EE’s map – and our marquee field was just in range of one of their 4G towers.

EE's 4G coverage checker - our event field was just in range.

EE’s 4G coverage checker – our event field was just in range.

I did a couple of tests with the Broadcaster and an unlocked 4G modem I got off eBay and it seemed to connect OK.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

However using the Broadcaster’s USB slot for the 4G modem led to difficulties and it would sometimes reboot or not connect to EE. So I hunted around and found a 4G router that would take the USB dongle, and from there on I didn’t have any connection issues. Even when the marquee was filled with a thousand people (all probably connecting to one cell tower) there was no drop outs over 4G.

Insulation tape

Live streaming from Trafalgar Square in London. JVC GY-HM600 video camera with HDMI out to the LiveStream Broadcaster. The 4G router was held with insulation tape to the roof of the gazebo just above the camera. Very professional.

Final Solution

BlackMagic ATEM video mixer  ­->  HDMI 720p50 (audio embedded) ­ ->  Livestream Broadcaster  ­->  Ethernet  ­->  TP-­Link 4G router  ->  4G dongle

­ I chose the Adaptive Medium setting (678kbs at ­768 x 432) as this uses around 300MB an hour. This is the best setting for image clarity vs data usage. I could up the quality but the chances of dropouts are higher, and the data use increases.

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events so far -

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events we’ve held so far which are saved for repeat viewing.

Stats: So far we’ve had 6,600 views and 127 followers from the 5 events. People have accessed the video streams from 45 different countries.

Parts and Costing

  • EE 4G SIM + 6GB data (£17) ­ eBay
  • HUAWEI E398 4G USB dongle (£55) ­ eBay
JC router

A live stream from inside the Northampton Jesus Centre. Still haven’t got round to making the setup look tidy. That’s next years project.

There has been plenty of positive feedback about live streaming as people have been grateful to be able to watch the meetings and feel a part. It’s also helped many of our overseas friends and church members stay connected.

Update (26/5/15)
I have tried some new kit which has proved to be rock solid, even in remote areas with weaker 4G signal.

The 4G box in position in the marquee - with only one cable providing power and network

The 4G box in position up a pole in the marquee – with one cable providing both power and network.

I created a waterproof box that houses all the kit which can then be hoisted up in the air, and only needs one Cat5 cable back to the technical area. Inside the box is a dedicated 4G router which takes a full sized SIM card, and a POE splitter to power it. This has enabled me to put the 4G box right at the top of a marquee pole by pulley and rope and the signal strength is much better than at ground level.

Inside the box - a Dlink router, POE splitter, and securing points for the Cat5 cable.

Inside the box – a Dlink router with 4G aerials going down, a POE splitter, and securing points for the Cat5 cable. The electronics are held in place with velco to secure it and also reposition if need be. I custom drilled the holes for the cable and the aerials.

Revised Parts and Costing

  • Dlink 4G LTE DWR-921/B router with dedicated 4G aerials (£150)
  • Waterproof box (£30)
  • Grey Cat5 50m cable (£30)
  • TP-Link TL-POE150S Power injector (£23)
  • TP-Link TL-POE10R PoE splitter (£9)

I ran a whole weekend with this kit on a remote field in a marquee without any drop outs. That’s over 12 hours of streaming.

Over 3 1/2 hours running.

Over 3 1/2 hours running. The low bit rate was a black screen at this point when the meeting ended. It was running throughout at adaptive medium (600kbps average).

If you have any questions about the setup or details on how you’ve done it then please let me know in the comments below.

Impromptu Live Lounge Music Session

A piano, and a floor. Simple.

A piano, and a floor. Simple.

We have just had a new floor laid in the lounge where I live (22mm White Oak) and it turned the room into an amazing reverb chamber, as all the furniture had been moved outside so the sound bounced around for an eternity.
On Friday night after a while of clapping in there (to see how long it echoed for) I rang up Nayf to see if he wanted to wheel in a piano and have a little jam (not on toast – more the musical type). Obviously he was.

Where the piano originated from. No wonder it sounded good.

The inscription on the piano – 100 years of belting out songs.

And the result was three hours of cacophonous noise which grew from two people (singing “O Lord My God”) to eleven by the time we finished at midnight. These are a selection of a few hymns we played.

The candle lighting was not an attempt at being romantic – it was to help people that were self concious (myself included) and it worked. I found it immensely hard to play the trumpet again but if people couldn’t see me then they couldn’t hear my struggles with the darn thing…
I love that people have musical talents that suddenly appear – who knew that Lucy could play the flute, Georgia could play the cello, Fred could sing (haha), and after years of gathering dust I’d play the trumpet again? The house that I live in is called Anthem, and I believe that it is a prophetic name – not just to make music but understanding that the real art in music is listening to what other people are playing, or singing, and adding your ability sensitively. And that in turn applies by being sensitive to the people you spend your lives with.

One of the best bits for me was not the music, but it was hearing that a lady in her seventies was worshipping along with us in the room above. Not that she had any choice of sleeping mind you with that racket going on…