New HD Video System

It has been quite some time since I have written a “real” post about video production. To be honest, I have wanted to write about our new HD video system, but it was coming together in waves, and I wanted to wait until it was totally complete. As of March 27th, it is complete and I will share it with you.

First some background. When I was back in 2009, one of my projects was to revamp how the church’s video was distributed to the church members. We had an old analog Videonics MX-500 and 4 mismatched Canon prosumer camcorders, and a DVD burner. As time progressed, we added a Panasonic HE-100N HD robotic PTZ camera and 5 Kramer TP-551 and TP-552 transmitters to show the HD image to viewers in the halls of our church buildings. We added a newer PT-571 and PT-572 to send the video 300′ down our main hallway for another HDTV, and then we started airing weekly announcements via PowerPoint on those TVs using an Extron 1508N to change between the HD camera and the PowerPoint. I wish I could go into more detail, as I normally would, to explain how difficult and cumbersome it was to make changes and even set up for a regular service or event.

I made these changes to fit our needs at that time, but my ultimate desire was to go digital and no longer use outdated and sometimes unresponsive analog equipment. In the summer of 2011 I came up with a design for an HD system that was completely digital and would utilize the HD equipment we already had, plus adding new gear to give us a much greater presentation and improve just about everything!

Instead of telling you every decision and why, I’ll explain what gear we have and generally what its purpose is.

First, our Canon cameras were replaced with two Sony HXR-NX5U’s. We moved our Camera 1 position from the back of the center aisle to the right side of the auditorium to match Camera 2 on the opposite left side. Our robotic camera now is Camera 1 which hangs above the center aisle under the balcony. All of these cameras are set to 720p and connect to our switcher via HD-SDI cabling.

Our switcher is the Panasonic AW-HS50. It is compact and has 4 HD-SDI inputs plus a DVI input for a computer. It only allows digital inputs and outputs. We run projection during servies and use them frequently for hymns and video presentations. An issue arose when I needed the projection to go to the switcher because our projectors run off a VGA signal. Because VGA is analog it cannot be passively converted to digital DVI. It needs some sort of active processing (power). So I purchased the Kanex Pro VGA-HDMI multiplexer and then used an HDMI-DVI adapter to plug into the switcher.

Out from the switcher goes 3 HD-SDI and a DVI. The DVI is connected to a PC monitor which has a second VGA input we switch to when using the computer. The DVI is out multiview out so all of our ins-and-outs can be seen on one screen rather than the six screens we were using previously. One of the HD-SDI’s goes to our PC via a BlackMagic Decklink SDI capture card which is how we provide live streaming to viewers who cannot make it to the service.

Another HD-SDI runs to our Datavideo HDR-50 HD hard drive recorder. This unit has a loop-out SDI and an HDMI out as well. The loop-out SDI takes whatever signal is coming in to the unit and sends it unmodulated to another HD-SDI out. This same signal is HD like everything else. And thats where a foreseen issue occurred. Our church members order DVDs of our services to watch or share with others. I did not want to buy an HD-SDI DVD recorder because those cost thousands of dollars, and we have a perfectly usable DVD burner already. To solve this, we use the Datavideo DAC-50 (digital to analog converter) to take our HD-SDI signal and make it a composite signal just right for the DVD burner.

The HDMI out of the HDR-50 is also utilized. Our Kramer HD hubs and HD transmitters and receivers all run off HDMI. We were in the midst of a nursery renovation and the nursery workers always miss the service. It was decided we would purchase HDTVs for them to watch while they serve. But if we bought more TVs, we needed more transmitters and receivers, but also a new hub because we were maxed out! We had one Kramer VM8H which had one HDMI input and 8 HDMI outputs. I got the next model up, the VM28H which has 2 HDMI inputs and 8 outputs, and I got 4 new PT-571’s and PT-572+’s for the 4 new HDTVs. The HDMI out from the HDR-50 runs to the VM28H, and goes to 6 transmitters, 1 small HDTV in the booth for a monitor, and the eighth goes to the second VM8H to provide signal to the 4 new transmitters in the nursery.

There is a difference that having the VM28H makes. Because it has 2 HDMI inputs, we can select either our service video coming from the video switcher, or our weekly announcements running off the PC with the push of a button. Now, we did not have an HDMI output from the PC, so another active VGA-HDMI multiplexer was needed (which we already had) to fulfill that purpose.

So in the end, 9 HDTVs, one HD projector, one DVD master, a 720p HD master, and high quality live streaming are now possible from our church. It is a blessing to get this kind of setup, and to even set it up, too! If you need ideas on how to make your HDTVs or CCTV work, feel free to use our example and see if it can help.

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