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Houses of Worship are delivering a better video experience to their congregations with HITACHI cameras. Our camera solutions range from small HD box cameras to our top-of-the-line UHD cameras. Church productions overwhelmingly understand the high value of HITACHI cameras in both venue and field production. Our cameras deliver quiet, high resolution pictures for image magnification, recording and streaming delivery to religious assemblies around the world.
See how HITACHI production cameras work for our customers and why they trust HITACHI for their Houses of Worship needs. If you want more information, we’d be happy to have one of our camera technology experts connect with you.
Lighthouse Church is a non-denominational, spirit-filled church in the beach community of Panama City, Florida. Building a new sanctuary and video production infrastructure following the destruction of its previous location by a hurricane, the church selected Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to provide the volunteer-friendly ease of use and inspiring visual quality they sought.
Lighthouse Church’s previous main building was significantly damaged when Hurricane Michael tore through Panama City Beach in 2018, completely destroying its auditorium. Worshipers met in the church’s much smaller children’s building until a new space could be developed. A year-long renovation project broke ground in 2020 to convert a former AMC movie theater into the church’s new home: a 37,000 square foot facility featuring an 850-seat auditorium. The relocation provided the impetus and opportunity for the church to implement a long-awaited upgrade to its video production capabilities. Prior to the hurricane, the church had used mobile phones and consumer-level camcorders, but they were not satisfied with the results.
“Our video capabilities were fairly primitive,” explained Juili Bailey, Worship Leader and Creative Pastor at Lighthouse Church. “Upgrading them had already been part of our long-term vision, but it hadn’t been a financial priority for us. We were sort of stuck, as we didn’t want to make the investment in upgrading until we could do it the way we wanted to do it. Then the hurricane reset every plan that we had.”
Bailey wanted to ensure that the cameras and other equipment they purchased would meet not only the church’s immediate needs, but also longer-term goals. “Video is a key medium for creating and reinforcing connection between the church and our members, so we wanted to move towards better quality,” she said. “We also wanted the option to broadcast our services on television in the future. We wanted to plan ahead now, as it’s often difficult to backfill and retrofit things later. Our goal is to communicate fluidly and even beautifully. In 2021, video and other forms of technology are essentially the language that people speak. These cameras have allowed us to speak that language very well.”
Tennessee-based systems integration firm AVLX designed and installed the video, audio, and lighting systems for Lighthouse Church’s new venue. AVLX recommended Hitachi cameras because of their quality, price/performance value, durability, and volunteer-friendly ease of use. The church purchased three Z-HD5500 broadcast camera systems, which are stationed on Cartoni tripods in fixed positions within the auditorium.
Lighthouse Church’s new location opened in June 2021 and now hosts roughly 1200 in-person attendees each Sunday. Video acquired by the Hitachi cameras feeds image magnification (IMAG) through Digital Projection 21000 lumen projectors to the auditorium’s 12-foot by 7-foot Draper TecVision screens and is streamed to online followers via multiple platforms. The Z-HD5500s’ global shutter sensors enable the capture of flawless video without visual artifacts such as moiré patterns or flickering in the sanctuary’s LED-rich environment, which features a 40-foot SquareV Zi3 LED wall as a digital backdrop.
In addition to significantly improving the video quality of the church’s productions, Bailey also notes how easy it was for the all-volunteer crew to learn to operate the cameras. “Honestly, we have been shocked at how well the volunteers have taken to them, and the increase in quality that we got overnight,” she said. “Our area is more tourism-oriented than high-tech, so we’re not in a place where most people are dealing with technology in their jobs every day. Our technology volunteers were still able to get up to speed very quickly. The cameras have also given our volunteers a morale boost, as they’re putting out a result that they can be proud of and that they feel is a great increase in quality. It makes them excited to come and be on the cameras every week.”
Lighthouse Church looks forward to growing its video operations even further, but is already more than satisfied with the Z-HD5500 cameras. “The Hitachi cameras have definitely met our expectations and exceeded them, and we know there’s plenty more that we can do with them,” summarized Bailey.
Founded in the early 1970s in Salisbury, Maryland, Oak Ridge Baptist Church has adapted to become a forward-thinking, guest-sensitive, mission-minded church with a current membership of nearly 1500 people. Accelerating a planned upgrade of its video production capabilities in response to the impact of the pandemic, the church purchased three Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to elevate the quality of its online streaming experiences.
Since 2004, Oak Ridge had been located in a former “big box” store within a retail shopping center now owned by the church. In 2018, Oak Ridge launched its Build the Dream (BTD) campaign, which included a five-fold growth strategy for the future of the church. Its initiatives were led by the design and build of a new 14,000 square foot, 1000-seat main venue, with video production a key consideration. “We needed a space that allows room for growth of our prime service, but we also wanted the new sanctuary to have high ceilings and a better layout that would enable more camera positions to improve our online presence,” explained Mark Reynolds, executive pastor of business operations at Oak Ridge Baptist Church. “We planned to purchase new cameras as part of that process, but while COVID-19 has delayed the new building until 2022, the pandemic also motivated us to get the cameras much sooner.”
“We were going to upgrade all of our technology for the new building, but all of a sudden we had to put all of our focus online since nobody could attend in person,” said Tim Dennis, Oak Ridge Baptist Church’s global technical pastor. “We wanted to improve our online experience immediately, so we started to make those investments early.”
The church’s leadership also saw the closure as an opportunity to implement the new equipment and train operators without impacting in-person attendees. “The sanctuary being closed was saddening, but it gave us a lot of freedom to make changes without worrying about being fully complete and having the room ready for guests by each Sunday,” explained Dennis. “And for training, we could have multiple people shadowing and participating in what we were doing without impacting seating and guest sightlines.”
Oak Ridge Baptist Church had been using lower-end, robotic cameras but found them to be limiting both visually and operationally. “Our inability to get consistent and reliable movement and shading with those cameras was detrimental to our production,” said Dennis. “They were not the right camera for the high-demand environment that we were using them for. At the same time, the new cameras needed to be volunteer-friendly. We are 95% volunteer-run on Sundays, and the majority of them are not technical by nature.”
Systems integrator Clark AVL recommended Hitachi cameras, and Oak Ridge was comfortable with that suggestion based on other churches’ experiences.
The church purchased three Z-HD5500 cameras in April 2020 and went live with them in June. Initially used only for online streaming during in-person restrictions, the cameras now also provide acquisition for IMAG on the sanctuary’s 11 by 6.5 foot screens – which will be replaced by LED video walls in the new venue – with its own distinct production path. A half hour of each service is also broadcast on the local public access TV station.
Dennis notes that the transition to the new equipment went seamlessly. “The implementation of the new cameras was easy, and bringing our volunteer teams up to speed on operating them was fantastic,” he recalled. “Every single one of our volunteers loves using the Hitachi cameras. They’re simple to use, and the ability to remotely shade them from the control room lets the camera operators focus on looking for the shots.”
The visual results from the Z-HD5500s have also impressed the Oak Ridge team. “The video quality compared to what we had before is ‘next level,’ and the exceptional low-light handling gives us complete control of capturing our environment,” said Dennis. “The Z-HD5500s give us a lot more operational freedom, which enables our volunteers to be successful in their roles.”
While Oak Ridge Baptist Church has further plans for the Z-HD5500s – including a jib and dolly – when they move into the new building, the cameras have already had a significant impact on the church’s online presence and growth. “Many churches feared that online streaming would compete with in-person attendance, but we have found the complete opposite,” said Reynolds. “The opportunity to check us out online first has brought more people through our front door. Upping our online streaming game has been worth the investment, and Hitachi cameras have been a critical part of that.”
Headquartered in Uniondale, New York, the Catholic Faith Network (CFN) is a not-for-profit television organization that uses all forms of media to keep the Catholic community connected to their faith. Looking to upgrade its studio cameras to newer technology, the channel recently purchased three Hitachi SK-HD1800 HDTV production cameras.
CFN is available on Optimum, Verizon FiOS and Charter Spectrum throughout the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut area, plus selected cable and satellite systems nationwide as well as streaming at www.CFNtv.org. CFN’s programming includes live masses, talk shows, and topics ranging from faith and societal issues to health and cooking.
With Catholic Faith Network expanding, CFN senior executive producer Sean Kennedy knew exactly which brand of cameras he wanted to grow with them. “We have been satisfied users of Hitachi cameras for many years,” explained Kennedy. “With our productions expanding and our existing Z-HD5000 models still going strong but over eight years old, we decided to double our roster of cameras by adding the latest and greatest HD technology. We didn’t go up to 4K because we wouldn’t really be able to take advantage of the extra resolution. We broadcast in HD, but some of our carriers even still down-convert our signal to standard definition.”
Bryan Butler, CFN studio and production coordinator, recalled the exceptional reliability, durability, and quality of Hitachi cameras were key technical factors that led CFN to stay with Hitachi for their new purchase. “Before working at CFN, Sean and I both worked for a high school sports network where we used twelve Hitachi cameras on our HD trucks,”. “We compared Hitachi picture quality side-by-side to more expensive alternatives, and nobody could tell the difference. And despite constantly beating up those cameras while producing sports six days a week with many different operators, they withstood everything we threw at them without any issues.”
CFN purchased their new SK-HD1800 cameras in March and setting them up went seamlessly. “We built the three cameras ourselves within 45 minutes from opening the boxes – more than 20 of them, from camera heads to lenses and teleprompters – to fully built,” said Butler. “Local Hitachi staff helped us wire in our new CU-HD1200 CCUs in the control room and commission the cameras. We were all done within two hours and shooting just three hours later.”
The CFN team points to the SK-HD1800’s global shutter sensor as one of their favorite features of the new cameras, and particularly valuable in their LED-intensive environment. Some of CFN’s sets are heavily monitor based -- with a nine-by-nine monitor wall, monitor strip, and large standalone monitor – and also use a mix of generations of LED lighting.
“I do a lot of the set design in terms of lighting, and I’m dealing with a lot of different types of LED fixtures from various manufacturers,” explained TJ Katsoulas, studio manager at CFN. “With earlier camera technologies we could get rolling shutter artifacts from LEDs, so I would manually dial in the shutter to avoid issues such as banding. However, making those adjustments would affect my lighting. Now with the SK-HD1800’s global shutter I don’t need to worry about that, and it’s tremendous how much it has helped me in making my compositions what I want them to be.”
Katsoulas also highlights the SK-HD1800’s enhanced skin tone adjustments and notes that the ability to dial in and preset multiple skin tones has been very helpful when dealing with multiple people on set. “Other standouts from our upgrade include the RU-1500JY remote control units with their amazing LCD touchscreens, and the VF-PBM-307 color viewfinders, which our camera operators love,” he added.
For CFN, buying Hitachi cameras is about more than just quality products. “The support that we get from Hitachi Kokusai is second to none and goes beyond just great customer service,” said Kennedy. “It really is a relationship. They help us with things that aren’t even the cameras themselves, such as lenses and fiber, and work with us to find complementary vendors and products that work well in our environment.
“New studio cameras are a big investment for a not-for-profit organization, but our President and CEO, Monsignor Jim Vlaun, and general manager Joe Perrone were very comfortable with our choice of Hitachi Kokusai based on how they have treated CFN,” continued Kennedy. “You’re not just buying a Hitachi camera – you’re buying a lot more, and for the price, you can’t beat it.”
Inter-denominational Christian church Orchard Hill offers Pittsburgh-area worshippers an exciting, casual, and contemporary experience at its primary Wexford campus and two satellite locations. Overhauling its main sanctuary both architecturally and technologically to reflect a shift in its culture and vision, the church purchased four Z-HD5500 HDTV production cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to deliver the quality and creative flexibility they wanted.
Video has been instrumental at Orchard Hill Church since its founding in the late 1980s. In addition to live image magnification (IMAG), church staff pre-produce video segments that are incorporated into weekend services. “Video has been part of the bread and butter of our church’s culture and our organization, and it has blossomed over the 30 years of development and growth of our church“ said Josh Thomas, technical producer at Orchard Hill. “We have always put a high value on production quality.”
Orchard Hill’s sanctuary had been originally designed as a performance-style space, where churchgoers could watch the services without actively engaging. Recognizing that its culture had shifted over time with attendees wanting to be more involved, the church undertook a major remodeling of the sanctuary – from the layout of its seats to its audio and video systems.
Knowing of other churches very satisfied with Hitachi cameras and trusting the advice of systems integrator Key Code Media, they chose the Z-HD5500s to meet Orchard Hill’s goals. Their ease of use allowed Orchard Hill’s operators to quickly get comfortable with the cameras, which proved critical for the church’s project timing. The cameras were installed at the end of November 2020, just weeks before the church’s biggest event of the year: its live Christmas Eve production, with 11 identical services watched by in-person and online audiences.
“While the Hitachi cameras were a huge jump up in capabilities from what we previously were using, there was almost no learning curve,” said Thomas. “Our volunteers range from middle school students to seniors, and they were able to jump right in. Just knowing that the technology was so solid behind the vision and direction we were trying to execute gave me a lot of confidence.”
In addition to IMAG on the sanctuary’s dual 18 by 10-foot Absen LED screens, video acquired with the Hitachi cameras is distributed to other on-campus buildings; edited for broadcasts on WPGH-TV and WPCB; and shared with satellite campuses through the Resi streaming and hosting service. Resi is also used in conjunction with the Church Online platform for live streaming to Facebook, YouTube, and Orchard Hill’s website.
Thomas applauds the visual fidelity of the Z-HD5500 cameras, as well as the depth of configurability and control that they offer. “Our picture quality has greatly improved,” he said. “Our audience instantly noticed and appreciated the difference. The cameras’ extensive settings also enable creative flexibility vastly beyond what we were capable of doing before in terms of creating an image and an experience. Settings such as knee control also help me fine-tune the picture to accurately represent a variety of skin tones simultaneously, which is important in reflecting the diversity in our community.”
“I feel like having a strong video production element says a lot about the fact that we care about what we’re doing, and that we want it to be well-received,” concluded Ashworth. “The new Hitachi cameras have shown our membership and community that we are being good stewards of the money that we spend on production, and that we want to do it with excellence. They enabled us to up our game, and people noticed.”
The cameras’ compatibility with the church’s existing lenses was crucial in meeting its budget constraints. “Our throw from front-of-house to the stage is 65 to 75 feet, and we couldn’t afford new long lenses right away. “Being able to use our existing lenses was a huge cost savings until we have the budget to upgrade them.”
The Z-HD5500s have already helped Orchard Hill Church successfully re-invent its worship experience, and its team looks forward to further creative gains. “The Z-HD5500s are a huge step forward for us in quality, technology, and capabilities, but it felt like a small step operationally because the transition was so easy,” concluded Thomas. “We’ve only scratched the surface of the creative possibilities, and we’re very excited about our future with the Hitachi cameras.”
Image fidelity, low-light handling and volunteer-friendly ease of use deliver powerful benefits as SK-HD1800 cameras help church navigate pandemic-driven shifts
When Immanuel Baptist Church of Little Rock, Arkansas designed its new on-campus City Center for hosting community and local corporate activities, it purchased three SK-HD1800 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai to enable premium-caliber, in-house video production capabilities. The visual quality of the Hitachi cameras has shone even brighter during the COVID-19 pandemic, elevating the church’s live streaming and IMAG as it moved its services from its primary church building to the new City Center auditorium.
Founded in 1892, Immanuel Baptist’s vision is to be a gospel advancing church, for the gospel, for the city and for the world. Developed in a massively renovated former grocery supermarket on the same campus as Immanuel Baptist’s main church building, the City Center was created for use by community organizations and companies for conferences, training seminars, and special events.
The church has placed a high priority on video ever since it became one of the first to broadcast its worship services live on television in the mid-1970’s, and considered it similarly important for the new venue. “We wanted to have a high-quality production entity in the City Center so that anyone using the facility would feel comfortable that they’re getting top-notch IMAG and live streaming capabilities,” said , the church’s director of communications. “The cameras play a key role in making sure we achieve the level of quality we want, so even though we had a different vendor’s cameras already in our main worship center, we wanted to see if we could do even better here.”
Church staff evaluated cameras from multiple manufacturers at the NAB Show and decided the SK-HD1800 was their best option. “It had better overall image quality, and I was pleasantly surprised by its affordability,” said Ashworth. “I have always loved Hitachi cameras, but when we did our main worship center years ago, our tight budget didn’t allow that class of camera. I was thrilled to find out the SK-HD1800 fit our budget.”
The SK-HD1800’s advanced global shutter technology was also a key factor in the church’s selection. “We were evaluating various LED video walls and looking at different vendors’ cameras shooting with them in the frame, and saw artifact issues such as flickering,” explained Ashworth. “We put the Hitachi camera on the video walls, and it eliminated that problem for us.”
Supplied by systems integrator Edgemont AVL, the SK-HD1800s are deployed in fixed positions and on a recently-added track dolly in the City Center’s 850-seat (pre-COVID) auditorium. In addition to driving IMAG on the room’s 32-foot by 10-foot Primeview video wall and live streaming through a Teradek Trax encoder, the camera feeds can be called up in multiple rooms in the City Center and main building through a fiber network.
Ashworth lauds the image fidelity produced by the SK-HD1800s as noticeably better than the camera systems used in the church’s main sanctuary. “The thing that jumped out to me right off the bat was the clarity of the image,” he said. “It was a sharper, better-looking picture overall. The colors are also truer, and flesh tones look a lot more realistic to me.”
The SK-HD1800’s handling of low-light conditions also earned Ashworth’s admiration, as did its volunteer-friendly ease of use. “Being able to run the cameras in low light without having to bump the gain, yet the noise being basically non-existent, is a big difference from what we were used to,” he said. “Our volunteers also love the SK-HD1800s, as they find them smoother to operate and like the viewfinders better than our other cameras.”
The City Center opened in February 2020, but the quality improvement enabled by the SK-HD1800s came even further to the forefront when the pandemic led Immanuel Baptist to relocate its worship services from its main sanctuary to the City Center for easier social distancing. “Now that we were using the Hitachi cameras for our worship services, we had immediate feedback from people watching our screens and streams that they noticed the quality gain,” Ashworth explained. “That was a particularly huge deal when we needed to jump to 100% online for several weeks. People were always thankful for our online stream, but we never had comments about the quality before. Now, people were commenting that ‘I don’t know what you did, but it sure looks better.’”
That improvement has led the church to discuss raising the quality of video productions in its main worship center once it reopens, and when budget permits, Ashworth would like to replace its cameras with SK-HD1800s. In the meantime, the new Hitachi cameras continue to help the church better engage its followers through challenging times.
“I feel like having a strong video production element says a lot about the fact that we care about what we’re doing, and that we want it to be well-received,” concluded Ashworth. “The new Hitachi cameras have shown our membership and community that we are being good stewards of the money that we spend on production, and that we want to do it with excellence. They enabled us to up our game, and people noticed.”
42 years after being named for its neighborhood within the city of Edmonton, Alberta, the church originally known as Mill Woods Assembly changed its identity to Hope City Church last year to reflect its expansion into new communities. Wanting to maximize the quality of the live video being fed to its new satellite campus, Hope City purchased three Z-HD5500 cameras to capture its Sunday worship services for remote distribution and in-venue image magnification.
A total of roughly 3,400 congregants attend three Sunday morning services at the Mill Woods campus each week, while up to 300 more come to services at the newer Terwilligar location that opened in October 2018. While the Terwilligar site has its own pastor and live music, the centerpieces of its services are time-delayed, live feeds of Lead Pastor Phil Kniesel’s sermons from Mill Woods. Already displeased with the quality limitations of their existing cameras, the launch of the new campus provided the impetus for the church to upgrade.
“Our old cameras didn’t allow us to achieve the quality we wanted, with insufficient low-light capabilities and consumer-grade controls,” said Dan Mandryk, technical director at Hope City Church. “We needed to replace them, and our expansion gave us the big push to get new cameras on board. Video enables us to multiply our presence, allowing us to deliver the same message across campuses while still creating unique experiences at each location. We wanted to go to a broadcast-grade camera because the video feed would essentially stand in for a live pastor, so it must be high-quality.”
Taking note of the accolades that the Z-HD5500 was receiving in trade press, Hope City Church knew they needed to investigate it. “We narrowed our choice to two major brands, and Hitachi Kokusai worked closely with our dealer, Applied Electronics, to put together a package that met our needs at a price that worked for us,” explained Mandryk. “The Hitachi cameras’ ability to integrate with the Ross Dashboard control system was also important, as we are considering adding a Ross switcher in the future."
Hope City’s three Z-HD5500s are now stationed on pedestals in the Mill Woods campus’ 1,235-seat main sanctuary. Mandryk highlights the Z-HD5500s’ ease of use as one of his favorite attributes of the cameras. “The best part has been how volunteer-friendly they are, even though they’re high-end cameras,” he elaborated. “We have operators who have never touched a camera before, and focus is always one of the hardest things for new camera users to master. The Focus Assist feature on the Z-HD5500 has made it so much easier for them, giving them something to check their focus against.”
The exceptional video quality of the Hitachi cameras has also earned praise from the church and its attendees. “The Z-HD5500s deliver an obvious quality boost from our previous cameras,” said Mandryk. “The color reproduction is also fabulous, as we finally see on video exactly what we see in the room. The first day we put them in, our congregants could see the difference, and were excited to see more vibrant colors.”
Mandryk also commends the Hitachi cameras’ handling of lighting conditions at both ends of the spectrum – their sensitivity in low-light situations, as well as their ability to acquire flicker-free images against a mix of LED lighting. “We push the boundaries on lighting, so sometimes we have to get a shot where there’s not a whole lot of light, and the Z-HD5500’s low-light handling is far superior to our old cameras,” he explained. “Conversely, we use a lot of LED lighting of varying quality in our sets – from high-end professional lights all the way down to do-it-yourself LED tape lights in our set pieces – and we’ve never had a problem with these cameras capturing great video.”
Summing up Hope City Church’s satisfaction, Mandryk shares that the Z-HD5500s have fulfilled all their objectives. “The Hitachi cameras have elevated the quality of our visual experiences for our in-person and online congregants, while enabling an exceptional video link to our remote campus.”
80-year-old First Alliance Church (FAC) in Calgary, Alberta produces two distinct live video feeds of their services, each optimized for a particular purpose – image magnification (IMAG) to enrich the worship experience for on-site visitors, and online streaming to reach congregants unable to attend in person. FAC purchased four Z-HD5500 cameras to capture high-quality video for both applications while accurately reproducing the church’s rich LED lighting effects. Approximately 3000 people gather each weekend at FAC Calgary. As part of a major upgrade initiative, the church found the Z-HD5500s to be a perfect fit for their goals and environment.
“When I first saw the Z-HD5500 camera package at the NAB Show, I knew right away that it was exactly what we needed,” said FAC technical director Paul Nadeau-Bonilla. “The cameras are so versatile, we can use them for our current studio-style application in our main sanctuary, as well as for ENG-style video acquisition in the future. The price point was also compelling, but the biggest thing for me was that they work well with LED lighting in the church world. We have some less-expensive LED lights, so we wanted a camera that would provide flicker-free video despite the varying refresh rates of these different fixtures.”
Supplied by systems integrator Applied Electronics, the Hitachi cameras have exceeded Nadeau-Bonilla’s high expectations for their LED lighting reproduction. “I expected the Z-HD5500s would overcome the challenges of the LED lights, but I was even more impressed once we installed them and started using them,” he said. “With our previous system and LED lighting, it drove me nuts that the colors of what you saw in the house and what you saw on the screen didn’t match, particularly in the blue spectrum. Nice mauves or purples would show up as blue on the screen. The Z-HD5500s are so much better and are really great at picking up different tones of LED blue. Now, what you see on stage is what you see on screen as well.”
Under the guidance of video director Russell Moore, the church’s volunteer video team creates separate productions for online streaming and for IMAG. “IMAG is about helping those in the room see what’s happening on stage more clearly; streaming is about conveying the full experience for those not in the room,” Nadeau-Bonilla explained.
“During music and worship, what’s on IMAG is the same as the stream, but during preaching they are different: a close-up shot from the center camera on the side screens, and a combination of close-ups plus wider contextual shots in the stream,” he continued. “The Z-HD5500s and the Fujinon lenses allow us to get in nice and tight on the subject with a really sharp image. The video looks stunning on the side screens – absolutely gorgeous.”
FAC Calgary chose equipment from Ross Video including a Carbonite Black 2S switcher as part of their HD upgrade, and were pleased to discover the tight integration between the Hitachi cameras and the Ross Dashboard open control and monitoring platform. “It’s difficult to find volunteers who like shading, as it’s one of the less glamorous positions on the video crew,” said Nadeau-Bonilla. “The integration allows the director to shade the cameras using Ross Dashboard while also doing his other duties, which is a big asset.”
Most importantly, the new cameras have helped the church meet their goals of improving the visual experience for worshippers both on-site and online. “Our congregants and online viewers have been thrilled to bits with the quality,” summarized Nadeau-Bonilla. “The Z-HD5500s look good and perform really well, so we’re very happy with them.”
As San Jose, California-area WestGate Church expanded beyond its original Saratoga campus to multiple satellite locations, live video became a vital enabler of its ongoing growth. Looking to improve picture quality and production flexibility for its multi-site broadcasts, the church purchased Hitachi Z-HD5500 HDTV studio and field production cameras.
“When I joined the church, we had maxed out our capacity in Saratoga, and had dreams of going multi-site,” said Kevan Long, production director at WestGate Church. “We needed better image capture quality as we expanded to multiple sites,” explained Long.
Low-light handling was a key criterion as the church evaluated new cameras. “We don’t like to flood our stage with lights, preferring to run it a bit on the darker side to give it a warmer feel. “Our previous cameras weren’t great in low-light situations, so we needed ones with better sensors and sensitivity.”
“Hitachi Kokusai as a company has a great reputation, and the video from their cameras looks great,” said Long. “The Z-HD5500’s full frame rate 1080p capability was a factor in our decision, and its 62dB signal-to-noise ratio is pretty amazing. Its new sensor’s ability to handle the challenges of LED lighting at different refresh rates was also very appealing, as our stage and house lighting are almost entirely LED, and we plan to add LED video walls in the future.”
The Z-HD5500s have delivered all the benefits the church was looking for, improving the visual quality of their productions while enabling their on-stage communicators to move about freely. While the church’s video crew was new to broadcast-class cameras, they found the Hitachi cameras easy to learn. “We held a 30-minute group training session on the basic controls, then came early to practice during rehearsals for the first month,” recalled Long. “The transition was pretty seamless.”
Long is completely satisfied with the Z-HD5500s and would love to add more to WestGate Church’s productions. “We couldn’t be happier with the decision we made to go with the Hitachi cameras,” he summarized. “They are vital in our inter-campus content delivery and have made us better as a production team, which in turn has made us better as a ministry in reaching our community.”
Central Community Church in Wichita, Kansas has made video an integral aspect of their worship services for many years. Upgrading their production workflows to high definition in preparation for hosting a national convention, the church chose Z-HD5000 cameras from Hitachi to deliver the superior video quality, price-performance value and ease of use that they wanted.
Close to 2500 congregants attend one of two services at Central Community Church each Sunday morning. The classic worship service offers a choir, orchestra and practical teachings in a traditional style, while the contemporary service features a band and sermon in a more casual tone. Video plays a key role in both of these gatherings.
“Other churches I knew of were really happy with both the Z-HD5000’s price point and the quality that they bring,” said Ben Brandfas, Technical Ministries director at Central Community Church.
While already leaning towards the Z-HD5000, Brandfas did his due diligence and visited another camera vendor at the NAB Show. What he discovered reinforced the HITACHI cameras as the best choice. “My NAB experience was an eye-opener, as Hitachi Kokusai was far more willing to take time showing us the cameras than the other manufacturer,” he explained. “We realized that was indicative of which vendor would give us better customer service. With Hitachi Kokusai, we could talk to real people who truly valued our business.”
Four Z-HD5000s are now used in Central Community Church’s sanctuary, with one on each side of the stage, one in a center-rear position, and the fourth either on-stage or used as another center camera. In addition to the live stream and image magnification (IMAG) on two 16-foot by 9-foot projection screens, video from the HITACHI cameras is also distributed to large displays throughout the campus. Each camera feed is also iso-recorded, with footage incorporated into the church’s yearly Christmas television special.
The quality of the Z-HD5000s has lived up to their stellar reputation. “They’re just a great-looking camera, and they were really ‘plug and play’,” said Brandfas. “We just turned them on, and they looked good right away. A Hitachi technician came out to commission and adjust the cameras, but they looked great right out of the box. People in the congregation have been amazed at how good the screens can look,” Brandfas concluded.
Brandfas also highlighted the cameras’ ease of use as very beneficial for the church’s all-volunteer production crew. “The Z-HD5000s are very volunteer-friendly,” he lauded. “Using the joystick on the RU-1500JY remote control, they can quickly and easily shade the picture, and they needed very little training.
Hitachi Z-HD6000. Photo courtesy of Jacob Bain
First Baptist Church in Texarkana, Texas, has been leveraging the powerful visual engagement and broad reach of television to spread its message and touch followers’ lives for over half a century. When the church upgraded the video production capabilities in their sanctuary, they turned to Hitachi Kokusai to provide the exceptional quality and rich features they needed to further elevate their in-house video experiences and broadcasts.
FBC Texarkana’s television effort started over 55 years ago on the local NBC affiliate, and has grown from a regional broadcast to an international TV, radio and internet ministry. FBC Pastor Jeff Schreve, who joined the church in 2003, founded From His Heart Ministries to expand their television reach. FBC Texarkana’s broadcasts are now seen weekly on stations and networks around the world – including the NRB TV Network in the U.S. and the Hillsong Channel internationally – as well as streamed online.
“We view what we do through television and video as a mission opportunity,” said Jay Budzilowski, director of TV/media at FBC Texarkana. “We don’t want to just put ourselves out there for people to watch; we want to make a difference in people’s lives through this content, and enable more people to be impacted by the gospel.”
With a major overhaul of the church’s 2500-seat worship center scheduled to commence last summer, replacing everything from seating and carpet to speakers and sound boards, FBC Texarkana also planned to upgrade the sanctuary’s video capabilities at the same time, including a new television control room and new equipment.
The FBC Texarkana team researched HITACHI cameras at the recommendation of systems integrator The Field Shop in Little Rock, Arkansas, and found the Z-HD6000 studio camera and DK-H200 compact box camera to be ideal fits. “Our previous cameras were fine for a local church broadcast, but now that we are going international, we needed to make a step up,” explained Budzilowski. “As a church, we always need to find the right balance between quality and what we can spend. The quality of the Z-HD6000s and DK-H200s looked great, and the price point fit what we were trying to accomplish. It just all made sense, and when we fired the HITACHI cameras up the first day, we could immediately see the difference they made.”
Three Z-HD6000s and two DK-H200s in the sanctuary now capture video both for television broadcasts and for image magnification (IMAG), displaying live in-house productions on an 18-foot by 10-foot screen for an average of 1800 congregants attending Sunday morning services.
The visual quality that drew FBC Texarkana to the HITACHI cameras continues to impress their staff and congregation. “The image clarity is outstanding, and the color reproduction is very good,” lauded Budzilowski. “Our attendees definitely appreciate the difference. And unlike our previous cameras, we don’t have to keep adjusting the color balance – we set up the cameras just once, and they’ve looked great ever since.”
Budzilowski also applauds the cameras’ performance in handling lighting challenges. “There are some lower-lit areas of the sanctuary that we like to capture images from,” he explained. “The sensitivity of the HITACHI cameras in low-light conditions is dramatically better than our previous cameras, so we never need to crank the gain up.” Budzilowski concluded: “compared to the alternatives we investigated, our investment in the HITACHI units is paying off.”
As one of the largest churches in the United States, Willow Creek Community Church places a very high value on the power of video to connect with its congregants both within and beyond its campuses. Willow Creek was familiar with Hitachi cameras from the church’s work with mobile production specialist TNDV, who had provided equipment and services for Willow Creek projects. Pleased with the high-quality results of those productions, the church was very comfortable with Hitachi cameras for their HD upgrade.
Eight HITACHI SK-HD1200 portable HD studio and field production cameras plus two HITACHI DK-H100 compact box cameras are now used in Willow Creek’s 7,200-seat main auditorium. Two SK-HD1200s are stationed on tripods behind front-of-house with Fujinon 55x lenses, with an additional SK-HD1200 on a jib. Five more such cameras are deployed flexibly depending on each weekend or event’s particular needs.
“The cameras’ operational versatility is exceptional,” said Darren Niesley, Video Director at Willow Creek. “We can configure them in so many ways, from handheld to full studio kits or tripods on wheels rolling around the front row, and with lenses ranging from standard 22x up to 40x telephoto.”prompter/floor monitor power.
Darren Niesley, Video Director at Willow Creek
Niesley’s satisfaction with the HITACHI cameras spans both visual quality and operational benefits. “Right out of the box the cameras look really good, and are easy to automatically match,” he shared. “And while they offer deep, sophisticated control of all facets of the image, the programmability of the buttons on the RU-1500JY remote control units and the ease of switching between scene files let us make operation simple for our volunteers.”
“Our move to HD with the HITACHI cameras has enabled us to more seamlessly integrate video into our live worship experience,” Niesley summarized. “The image quality is so high, and the cameras are so reliable, that people can just enjoy the program with no distractions.”
When 75-year-old Grace Church of Wooster, Ohio launched its first video initiatives last year, it selected Z-HD5000 HDTV cameras from Hitachi to capture live services and events.
Video Producer Drew Boatner, said; “The dynamic nature of the church’s contemporary venue makes the simple setup and robust durability of the cameras important. Since the venue is used as a gym, we need to set the equipment up and then take it all down again each Sunday. The Z-HD5000’s are small and portable enough that they’re easy for our volunteers to quickly set up and tear down, and they have been incredibly reliable in withstanding our weekly transformations.”
The Z-HD5000’s exceptional ease of use immediately delivered valuable benefits. “I love the HITACHI cameras, as we were able to move quickly to multi-camera productions from having no video operations at all,” said Drew Boatner, video producer at Grace Church. “Our camera operators are volunteers, and none had used a professional camera before. The HITACHI cameras were easy for them to learn, and I can entrust new volunteers to pick them up very quickly.”
“Video is a powerful tool for enabling our ministry to grow both locally and online, and the HITACHI cameras have been crucial in letting us take advantage of the medium,” said Boatner. “Everything starts with the cameras. The Z-HD5000s make Sunday mornings easy for our video crew and create great experiences for all the people who are watching, whether on the web or in the building.”
As the Water of Life Community Church grew, the Church opted for a significant renovation of the main campus, which included construction of a new worship center, children's building, parking structure, and an outdoor gathering area. This project won an Integration Award 2016 award from Commercial Integrator for the Best House of Worship project. Water of Life draws over 8000 worshipers each weekend to its main campus in Fontana, California. Three Z-HD5000 cameras are installed in fixed positions within Water of Life’s main auditorium, which opened in November 2015. A fourth Z-HD5000 is used for both stationary and on-the-shoulder acquisition, regularly moving outside the building to the church’s baptismal space.
“First and foremost, we wanted the video to look good,” said Water of Life Production Manager Joe Chappell, who led the new auditorium project. “The proliferation of video everywhere has increased people’s expectations of quality both on-site and online. All of our fiber infrastructure, our giant screen and our HD streaming – it would all mean nothing if it didn’t start with great quality coming off great cameras.”
“We knew we wanted cameras with 2/3” sensors,” Chappell recounted. “I believe we looked at, touched and demoed every camera in its class on the market, and Hitachi stood out. We then had a chance to compare them hands-on against other cameras when we rented them for an Easter event, and the Z-HD5000 really rose above the rest in quality, flexibility and ease of operation.” As a non-profit organization, budget was also a factor, but the exceptional value of the Z-HD5000 cameras made their superior picture fidelity affordable for the church. “The image quality is amazing, and the price is incredible for what you get,” Chappell said.
The cameras have lived up to the church’s high quality expectations, including adapting easily to dynamically changing conditions. “Our senior pastor, Dan Carroll, often walks off the stage and into the aisles during his sermons, resulting in big lighting and color changes,” Chappell explained. “The Z-HD5000s give us a great image whether he is in the center of the stage, or walking freely around the auditorium. Their sensitivity is great, and their colors are really true.”
Church on the Move continues to redefine the worship environment. With an eye toward increasing appeal to younger generations, and more dynamic, engaging services that heavily rely on professional video production. That effort continues with a recent facility-wide upgrade that includes seven Hitachi Z-HD5000 HDTV cameras.
“Church on the Move is fairly typical of a large church in the Midwest, with a large congregation that fills a spacious sanctuary,” says Andrew Stone, the Production Manager for Church on the Move. Pastor George’s vision to reach out to younger generations has driven Church on the Move to deliver a concert-type experience with live cameras and video, big sound and immersive lighting that remains positive and family-oriented. Hitachi has been a significant part of that sea-change over the past 10 years.”
“I like to put equipment into the hands of my volunteers that gives them a win. Our church tries hard to keep people involved. HITACHI cameras are easy to use so our operators quickly learn to use them, have a positive experience, and then want to come back week after week. In addition, these cameras are rugged and durable, a big advantage with volunteers. Working with HITACHI, I can spend less time worrying about our cameras, and more time focusing on our message.”