TGB Goes all Avid
Founded in 1981, Phoenix’s Temple of Greater Beth-El (TGB) has quietly evolved from a small neighborhood church to a major force that embraces technology to reach well beyond its geography. Today the church’s website receives an impressive half a million hits per month, with visitors tuning in from across the globe to experience a wide range of sermons and services, all captured and streamed in high-definition thanks to a state-of-the-art digital audio and video systems from Avid®.
Rivaling many of the world’s most well-known mega-churches and broadcast networks, the Temple of the Greater Beth-El’s all-Avid workflow is the brainchild of John Gibson from EAR Professional Audio/Video, and the church’s audio director Isaac Newman, son of TGB’s founder Bishop Gregory Newman.
Isaac mixes audio for the live service on a VENUE live sound system from Digidesign®, a part of Avid. The VENUE system combines a D-Show® Profile™ control surface with a FOH Rack and Stage Rack processing and I/O. A Digidesign Pro Tools|HD® system is integrated with the VENUE system for capturing the high-resolution multitrack audio. After the service, Isaac moves to an adjacent workstation, where he edits and polishes the audio files using the same Pro Tools|HD system, this time controlled by a Digidesign ICON D-Command® worksurface.
Video is equally high-quality, with three remote-controlled Panasonic AKHC1500G PTZ high definition cameras capturing the services to the Avid Unity MediaNetwork® shared storage system. Isaac edits the files on an Avid Media Composer® system. The tightly integrated audio/video system is networked via high-speed Ethernet, enabling control of almost any aspect from anywhere on the bridge, or even in the auditorium.
Once finished, the audio and video files are compiled to DVD for sale the following weekend, as well uploaded, usually in shorter form, to the website for subscribers.
“With a system like ours, where all the AVID-based technologies are so well integrated, it really makes it easier to maintain a continuity between audio and video, rather than having to treat them as separate worlds,” explains Isaac. “A lot of audio guys approach video as almost an afterthought, and vice versa. Nowadays there’s so much more of a common thread, with both sides of the equation based on non-linear editing. For someone like me, I think that’s made it easier to grasp, and the end result is better sound, better visuals, and a better product overall.”
Isaac points to his early interest in digital technology as an advantage in gaining a quick understanding of the integrated Avid systems. “I’ve got it down to a science. The workflows are so intuitive, the whole thing takes me maybe two to three hours to make DVDs, as well as put together smaller files for the website.” Efficiency is indeed key, as TGB’s ever-growing subscriber base never tires of fresh and compelling content. “We have a subscription service where people can tune in to a live webstream or Skypecast. We’ve got people from all over the place, even people logging in from where they’re stationed in Iraq.”
For Bishop Newman, the investment in new media technology is based on a pragmatic plan. “As our congregation began to grow, we noticed that many of our members were not coming from the immediate surrounding area,” he recounts. “We’ve got members who drive 30 or 40 miles every week, and we kept hearing from others who wanted to come but were either too far away or unable to get transportation. It just made sense for us to invest in ways to expand our message via the Internet, to not just bring people to the church but bring the church to the people.”
From the outset, there was no question that the quality of the church’s online media had to be first-rate. “Certainly we tried to stay within our budget, but our focus was first and foremost on doing things right,” Isaac says. “It was never about whether our setup was bigger or better than someone else’s. It was about creating the best system we could.”