Elevation Church, a multi-site church and member of the Southern Baptist Convention with its main campus in Charlotte, NC, has recently upgraded to Panasonic VariCam LT cameras and the CineLive system for live production of its weekend worship services.
Elevation’s ministry reaches over 25,000 weekly attendees at its 17 locations, as well as a growing online and TV audience each week. Simulcasts of one Saturday and two Sunday services allow its sixteen satellite locations, as well as the livestreaming audience online, to sync up for one shared worship service.
According to Zach Kimrey, Technical Director for Elevation Ballantyne (the church’s broadcast location), live transmission of weekly services was formerly handled by Panasonic’s AK-HC3500 studio camera systems.
“We’d had a successful run of close to a decade with the HC3500s, but it was time to upgrade to cameras that would position us for eventual 4K production,” he said. “We did a competitive shoot-out, and the VariCam LT displayed truer colors than any other camera. That, coupled with our comfort level with the Panasonic team, significantly influenced our decision.”
Kimrey explained that eight VariCam LTs are positioned throughout the church’s sanctuary, which seats 1750 congregants: cameras 1 and 2 in front of the house for wide and tight shots; camera 3 in a “towercam” configuration that flies on a 100-foot track extending from the back to the front of the worship space; cameras 4 and 5 used handheld on stage; camera 6 on a 24-foot Jimmy jib in the back; and cameras 7 and 8 typically utilized in the lobby or outside the church to produce cut-aways with a pastor who leads the live online service.
The VariCam LTs are outfitted with a variety of Fujinon Cabrio S35 lenses including the ZK12x25 (25-300), ZK4.7x19 (19-90), ZK3.5x85 (85-300), ZK2.5x14 (14-35) and XK6x20 (20-120).
Using a DTS fiber system, the cameras are connected to the control room, where they are connected to Panasonic AK-HRP1000 Remote Operating Panels. The VariCam LT and HRP1000 combination is referred to as CineLive, and allows complete control and shading of the camera from the control room.
Elevation Church utilizes preset Scene Files with live shading for instant precision adjustments of the VariCam LTs on the fly. While the CineLive system is capable of internal recording and 4K output, Elevation Church is mostly utilizing an HD output to interface with its LED video walls and livestreaming service.
During services at Elevation Ballantyne, images are displayed on 9-foot by 16-foot LED walls. Beyond live transmissions, all services are recorded on external hard drives. The church’s TV team edits the footage down to a 28-minute version that airs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network as a teaching and ministry program, “Elevation with Steven Furtick” (Furtick is the church’s senior pastor).
The VariCam LT features a large Super 35mm sensor to capture a more cinematic image, with a great sense of depth and wide field of view. The unique large sensor technology also provides accurate and pleasing colors and Panasonic’s pioneering Dual Native ISO technology for enhanced sensitivity. Elevation Broadcast Video Producer Chelsea Gribble cited the VariCam LT’s cinematic image handling as the key factor in the church broadcasts’ “new fresh look and feel of a concert film.”
“The VariCam LT displays great dynamic range: as an example, our operators can now expose for wide shots of the audience without blowing out the stage,” Gribble said. “The camera’s color science is definitely the most true to our environment, with vibrant rendition of the blues and purples we tend to use a lot, as well as excellent skin tones.”
Technical Director Kimrey added, “The dual ISOs are so beneficial — we make constant use of ISO5000 because our musical performances are typically low-lit with deep colors. Having that extreme low light capability at our fingertips gives our director exactly the exposure she’s looking for.”
The CineLive system allows all major control and imaging matching of the cameras to happen in the control room. An engineer can even remotely navigate the camera menus without the camera operator knowing. The CineLive system also feeds tally, return video and a callback from the control room to the camera for two-way communications.
Kimrey noted that Elevation’s camera operators are 100% volunteers. “The LT’s intuitive operative and focus assist features have really helped us out,” he said. “Our congregations are remarking on a noticeable difference in their worship experiences. The LTs were definitely the right decision for us -- we love the cameras and they are performing with zero issues.”
For more information about Elevation Church, visit elevationchurch.org.
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