Snell & Wilcox Press

A little while ago Snell asked if we would answer some questions about our new Kahuna so they could craft a press piece about our install. we eagerly agreed, because the Kahuna is amazing, and we love it. here are the questions and answers. They will pull from these for their release. I thought it might be interesting, so here you go:

Please describe your production facility and the type of productions you do for the church including worship services and other programs.

For almost 50 years First Baptist Orlando has been extending our ministry through broadcast television. Currently, we have 3 weekend services with full video support. We do a “broadcast” cut, which streams live on the web, that we later edit for our two TV programs. We also do a separate cut for Image Magnification.

In addition our 5500 seat worship center has hosted a lot of different kinds of events. From concerts to conferences, we find that flexibility is key for us to accommodate the needs of these events. Many have really stretched our ingenuity.

As we looked ahead to the future, and completing the transition to HD video production, we wanted to make sure we could not only do anything a conference might ask, but also be able to integrate media into our services to a greater degree. The decision about new switcher is a major factor in that.

How were you handling production switching before, and what were the issues with the old system?

We had two separate switchers. We cut for broadcast on a Grass Valley 200. It was a workhorse, and lasted for almost 2 decades, but pieces and parts began to fail. The equipment began to compromise the production. At one point one the internal fan broke, and we placed a small fan on the front of the mainframe so we could keep working. It was time to replace it.

For IMAG we had a 10 input Snell Golden Dave SD SDI switcher. It was a great switcher, but with somewhat limited capability when compared to where we wanted to go. Obviously it would not be able to go with us through transition to HD video.

What were the drivers that led you to purchase the Kahuna? Was an HD upgrade part of the decision?

To be honest, I was opposed to Snell products, and the Kahuna, when we first started looking at what production switcher to buy. I assumed that we would be able to get more capability for less money from a competitor. Then I went to a trade show, and a friend (Dana Meeks) dragged me over to the Snell booth. I walked away from that presentation impressed with the abilities of the Kahuna, but still unconvinced we should go that way. When we explored actual costs, with real numbers, we were very surprised.

Ultimately, we found that the capabilities of the Kahuna were the best fit for our needs. Being in a process of transition from SD analog to HD, the options the Kahuna offered for conversion were a huge factor for us. We were able to get one with enough features to accommodate the needs of the events we host, as well as enhance the technological parts of the worship services we produce every weekend.

What model (# of M/Es) of Kahuna did you purchase?

We have a 3ME Kahuna with 2 control panels (compact 2ME and compact 1ME) and an Aux panel

How is the Kahuna used in your operation? Are you using it to mix SD sources into HD productions?

We run the Kahuna as 1 physical switcher, instead of breaking the two panels off into separate MEs. In normal operation we still do a separate broadcast cut and IMAG cut. But by having access to all 3 MEs we can do more. For example, lately, we have been doing a lot with multiple video feeds directed to different locations. Using a macro we can load, switch and fire three separate video feeds to three different screens. Not something we do every day, but we like the flexibility.

In a place where we rely on volunteer labor to accomplish our weekly service production, we love the ease of programming the Kahuna to perform complicated switches with the touch of a button. Recently we needed to do one switch which would required a volunteer to hit 12 buttons in the right sequence, within about 3 seconds. The Kahuna allowed us to very quickly and simply preset that entire switch to one button stroke.

We also use the multiple auxes and outputs to deliver different signals to various video confidence monitors and screens. In many ways we use it like a router.

Please describe a typical workflow, such as that of a worship service, and how the Kahuna comes into play. How many feeds do you typically mix?

In a given weekend service, we cut 5 cameras, 2-3 graphic sources, and up to 4 video playback sources. 2 of our graphic sources are keyable. We also have a logo or 2 stored on the Kahuna. We are just scratching the surface of what we can do.

Generally, IMAG has control of ME 1&2, with 2 as the main output to the screens. Broadcast switches ME3. Depending on what is going on, IMAG may take the ME3 cut, or do a separate cut, and we may split off ME1 to another source. Broadcast calls most of the camera shots with IMAG following, but IMAG can grab one for a specific need. There is a lot of communication between the two directors.

What have been the overall benefits of the Kahuna to: your operation? The church? The congregation?

Installing the Kahuna was the first major step toward a complete HD transition. The production switcher forms the cornerstone of the system. With this in place, I know that we are ready to move forward.

In the meantime, we can do more that every before. We talk about leveraging technology to create an environment where people can meet God, and the Kahuna gives us more capability to do that. The benefits of this directly impact the people in the pew and at home watching on TV. We can not only continue to facilitate the ministry of the church through video, but enhance and extend it in ways we have never been able to before.

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10 Billion Songs

Today iTunes reached the 10 billionth downloaded song.

Is it going too far to say that iTunes saved the music business? By offering relatively cheap music that can be downloaded easily, iTunes offered a legal alternative to music piracy. iTunes allowed people access to individual songs for a dollar, rather than forcing them to buy an entire CD for full price. or if you want the full CD, $10 for a CD was a more reasonable cost than the $15+ that those discs of actual plastic cost. Before the iTunes store I remember reading multiple articles about the demise of the music business, and how poor the model was. It’s not such a hot topic anymore.

At the very least, iTunes (and the iPod line) has had a huge impact on how we consume music.

How Many iPads Will Sell?

The other day MacRumors reported that a ChangeWave survey shows that the demand for the iPad is actually higher than for the original iPhone. Out of 3200 asked, 13% said they were likely to buy an iPad. 4% more than the 9% when the iPhone was announced in 2007.

Does this mean that the iPad will sell the millions that the iPhone has? I don’t know, but at least initially the sales should be strong. The device’s continued sales and mass appeal will, in my opinion, be a result of the apps that are created for it. If people make useful apps, the iPad will have staying power.

Toyota & Brand

I drive a 1998 Toyota Camry. You know, from back when they were quality cars? Seriously, its a great car. Except for the sensor on the exhaust system that makes my check engine light come on, nothing but normal maintenance required.

For years (decades?) Toyota was synonymous with build quality. Safe, reliable cars. People paid more for them. Today, not so much. What a difference a few weeks and multiple very public recalls make.

I’ll admit, when I first hear about the gas pedal recall, I was not really concerned. The news asked all the local Toyota dealers if they had any incidents, and none had. In a city Orlando’s size, that’s saying something. Then the brakes for the Prius. And the shaft on the Tacoma. Now the steering on the Corolla.

After the first recall Toyota started running ads talking about their commitment to fixing the issue. Good move, or it would have been if there hadn’t been so many other recalls. Now I see the ads and wonder at their sincerity. Fix the problems and then tell me it’s fixed. It does not instill confidence for me to see an advertisement that says Toyota is fixing the safety issues on day and then to hear about more and more issues that need to be fixed.

A series of quality issues with their product has eroded the trust in the Toyota brand.

What can we learn from this?

Don’t rest on your reputation. It’s obvious now that some serious production issues have been brooding in the company. There was a time when the reputation of Toyota meant you would pay more for a used one. The last time we looked at a used Toyota van I had a conversation with the sales guy who flat out told me that they could charge more for it simply because it was a Toyota. And, had it been in our price range, we might have bought it at that price because of the brand name. Now, I would pay more for a Honda or Ford.

If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you can’t stop moving forward. And you definitely cannot let the quality slip. The name Toyota only stays synonymous with quality if the quality of the product remains high. As an outsider it seems obvious that Toyota relaxed their standards. I don’t know what happened in the company, but four major, public recalls in a matter of weeks points to some significant issues.

I have no doubt that Toyota will very soon e churning out automobiles of amazing quality again. but I don’t know how long it wil take for them to rebuild their reputation.

Prison Ministry with Joe Gibbs

Today, after a breakfast featuring Game Plan for Life author Joe Gibbs, we loaded up and headed over the the Central Florida Reception Center. It’s a prison facility when inmates come in for a few weeks and then are processed out to facilities where they complete their sentences. During the breakfast, where Gibbs spoke to about 1000 people, out tech team took a truck with audio and musical gear out to the prison. We were working in conjunction with John Watson and 4Given Ministries.

Gibbs, 3-time Superbowl winner and 3-time Sprint Cup winner, was to finish speaking at the breakfast, sign a few autographs, and then come to the prison, where he would speak to the inmates following music led by Doug Pierce and Socrates Perez.

After a lengthy screening process, they were cleared, and it began to rain. Plan A was to set up on the basketball courts in the yard. Plan B was to set up under the yard’s pavilion, if it threatened rain. Plan C was to set up inside the chapel. Plan C was a last resort in case of rain because the chapel only seated about 200, while the yard would have anywhere from 750-1500 inmates. It was raining pretty hard, so the tech team began to set up in the chapel.

But once inside, the wether began to clear. They did not know that because they were inside without windows. By the time I got there with my boss and our staff writer, there was no rain. We quickly discussed whether it was possible to move the gear outside. That is not an easy task. It was a ground stacked D&B line array with a Yamaha M7CL, monitors, cables, power and a full band. But the tech team (Dave, Derrick, and Simon) set to work. We all, including inmates, grabbed gear and hustled out to the pavilion. Quickly set up and plugged in.

The band got about a 3 minute sound check, and they started to play. The mix took shape during the first couple of songs. The guys in the yard really got into the music. In a little while, Gibbs arrived and spoke to the crowd. The weather, as seen right, stayed overcast but the rain held off.

At the end of the message, the crowd was led through a simple prayer of salvation. Many indicated their commitment, but it wouldn’t be until a later chapel service that we would find out who made decisions. 300 inmates came to the afternoon chapel and 175 of those indicated they had asked Jesus into their hearts during the event! Many have asked to be baptized.

I liked the breakfast event. It was great to see a sold out room with many who are not associated with our church in attendance, but nothing compared to seeing people who have made some serious mistakes be told that God forgives, and salvation can be theirs. If I had to choose, I would go to the prison every time.

Things I Would Like for the iPad

Dear Developer,

As you are aware, Apple announced the iPad last week. It’s a new kind of tablet device that builds on the iPod Touch/iPhone interface. There are some things I would like for you to develop for it:

Apps I would like:

Boardgames- I would like to see some board games that fill the screen. Monopoly, Sorry, and other games that don’t require secrecy to play (like card games or scrabble do) could be developed. The iPad could become a staple of family entertainment.

Accessories I would like:

Headrest Mount- I want to be able to hang the iPad off the headrest in my car. I want to be able to watch any of the massive collection of videos I have available in my iTunes while driving. I don’t have a DVD player, so this would be much better than trying to let my kids watch my iPod. If you are really inventive, and the software allows it as hinted by some developers, you could devise a second mirrored screen for the other headrest.

Scanner- While I don’t really need one, I would like some sort of scanner. If the iPhone camera can scan barcodes and allow apps to catalogue or check prices, you can figure out how to do something similar. It will take the iPad more firmly into the business world as small businesses can use it to do inventory, etc…

If you take an idea from here, all I ask is for a free version of the final product.

Making the Kahuna Work With Macros

Yesterday we put the Snell & Wilcox Kahuna through some work. For the first time we really used it’s capabilities during a service.

It was Missionsfest weekend, and we had four different video streams to show. And the video on the side screens was different than the one on the center screen. We loaded the 8 videos (4 streams) onto our Gras Valley Turbos. The Kahuna can completely control playback from the Turbos. So, once everything was loaded we tested playback. It worked like a charm. But during the rehearsal we realized that there were way too many button pushes for us to be comfortable. We had to load and cue each clip in he right player. Put each ME into the right preview,and switch and play the videos at the same time. That already meant that we had to do a macro, so we decided to make the macros count.

We programmed each set of videos to be loaded and played by a specific macro command, and then programmed one macro to switch to the appropriate Turbo for each ME. That meant that each video could be loaded and played by two button pushes, rather than a dozen or so. This level of automation really helped make this past weekend’s services simple, while allowing us to use tech to enhance the worship service.

I know that automation isn’t something exclusive to Snell, but coming from a Grass Valley 200 to the Kahuna is such a light year move forward it still amazes me.