Meadowbrook Church, a non-denominational, multi-cultural, multi-generational church that operates on Sunday, with 4500 attendees in attendance and another 600-700 who stream online, was looking to design a new high definition studio, and they asked Robert Pralle, a broadcasting and video veteran, if he was up to the challenge.
“When researching manufacturers for this project, I took a different approach than usual. When we officially started this in 2012, high definition was just starting to really take over the networks. To see what was out there, I looked into what high definition and standard definition equipment I could find in the used market. The way I looked at it, if companies were trying to offload these particular brands, I didn’t want them. What I couldn’t find was any Ross Video, Sony, or Grass Valley – therefore people didn’t want to get rid of them, even if they were standard definition.”
While he had known about Ross since the seventies, Robert had never had the chance to physically work on a piece of Ross equipment, but he came to this conclusion, “Any manufacturer with that many years in the industry has to be doing something right.”
After eliminating manufacturers, Robert started looking at different criteria: capability, expandability, and price.
“I narrowed in on Ross equipment, specifically because of the preferential price offering. Ross Video was the obvious choice when it came to fair price. Other companies tend to sell their name and their overhead on top of the switcher. Ultimately, a lot of offerings in the market are simply overpriced. I wanted to ensure that Meadowbrook Church had a system that they could grow with. With expandability in mind, I attended InfoComm in Orlando, where Ross happened to be exhibiting their newest switcher – Carbonite.”
Robert got to interact with Carbonite at InfoComm and within minutes realized that this was the switcher they were looking for. Carbonite could provide the ultimate flexibility, upward compatibility, and expandability – exactly what Meadowbrook needed. “With other switcher brands, you’re only able to expand the inputs, which is pretty limited. If you want to substantially increase your capability, you need to purchase an entirely new model of switcher. With Carbonite, I could buy a 1ME switcher and expand it to a 2ME switcher when required.”
Meadowbrook Church had decided they wanted two 1ME Carbonite switchers – one to operate their stage screens from the sound booth and the other to operate an Internet stream from the media room. Robert wanted to cater to the specifications of the church, but also wanted the ability to access both switchers in one central location, as it would allow for a much more efficient layout.
“One switcher is only used for the screens, and the second is the master switcher used for the Internet, the church feeds, and the main feeds. As well, it feeds the screen switcher. With DashBoard, Meadowbrook now has a system and workflow that covers all of their bases in any situation. As I began experimenting and playing with DashBoard, I created some really viable panels. We now have a screen in the middle of the room with the status of both switchers, as well as a DashBoard panel that is a complete layout of the switcher.”
“Keep in mind, I don’t have a software background but I was able to leverage the existing documentation that Ross has written on DashBoard, sample panels that were available, and communicating with the DashBoard community and developers through the forum. Whenever I was stumped, the Ross team was always able to help get me to the next step.”
Meadowbrook Church heavily relies on volunteers, and with DashBoard they have created simple panels that are easy to work with. For their troubleshooting interface they set-up a foolproof system.
“I’ve instructed our team that if there’s ever an issue with one of the switchers, go to the central DashBoard status screen we’ve setup. There are reset buttons, and pressing these will restore the settings of the devices, bringing them back to their pre-configured working conditions to keep broadcast of the service running. This ensures that the service goes off without a hitch. Our instructions to the volunteers are that if any of the buttons on that screen are red, push them! They will turn green, and you’re good to go!”
As things progressed, Robert wanted to expand Meadowbrook’s router, as well as keep everything with one vendor. Because the Ross equipment integrates so well with each other, Meadowbrook integrated a Ross router into DashBoard and into the Carbonite panels.
With DashBoard, Meadowbrook has an easy to understand interface for controlling all of the equipment in the control room – namely the switchers and the router. By putting control for both their 1ME Carbonite switchers into a single Dashboard panel, they’ve built one big switcher out of two smaller ones. This makes it easier for volunteers to broadcast the service, because they can work with the equipment through an intuitive touch screen interface.
“The two 1ME switcher setup was really one of the best decisions we could have made in this sense, because what we’ve wound up with now is two main MEs, eight Mini-MEs, 24 keyers, and eight DVEs and frame synchronizers. We can have all seven of our screens going, using two of our multimedia merges and we still don’t even tap into 50% of our capability. It makes for a truly fantastic multimedia show, which is something Carbonite lends itself very nicely to. With other switcher companies, some don’t have the multiscreen capability or are catered exclusively to live production/TV production, but not necessarily multimedia production.”
“Being a volunteer-operation there are times when we don’t have enough manpower. I’m usually working at the shading station, but the switcher is on the other side of the console. It’s not possible for me to physically reach the switcher when I’m shading. So I have a DashBoard panel that is a complete layout of the switcher at my shade station. This allows me to shade, TD, and direct at the same time if need be. In the event that I’m not on site during a service, I can still access the system remotely in the case of an issue. The off-site monitoring that DashBoard provides has reduced stress on all the staff and volunteers involved.”
“Aside from what we’ve accomplished with the equipment, I have to sum up Ross Video in one word: service. There hasn’t been one instance where I’ve called Ross and not received a reply within the hour. The service has absolutely been the number one selling point. I know if we go down, we’ll have the service and support to get ourselves back up again.”