Technology at St. Anselm
Over the last few months we’ve embarked on a comprehensive overhaul of the technology at St. Anselm. We’ve done this to enable live-streaming of all our services in as simple and streamlined way as possible.
There are three major strings to that work.
- The Sound System
- The Webcam
- The WiFi
Whilst it’s perfectly possible to do these things without the others it really is best to do them together.
The Sound System
Our system is a wireless system that allows control from any network connected device. It’s the Soundcraft U16 which retails at about £380. The unit is installed in an out of the way place and has no controls on it. You connect and configure the sound system using a very simple web-interface. It’s very easy to control and importantly allows up to 4 outputs which can be configured in different ways to your PA system so that you can produce great sound for the webcam independently of the speakers in church. Our sound system produces audio for:
- Speakers in church
- Porch speaker
- Outside speaker socket
Each of these outputs can be independently controlled – allowing for great sound in all places.
We paid in the region of £1k for the install in terms of labour from a sound engineer. The cabling for the system cost about £750 (materials and labour).
We also replaced the speakers in church with new column speakers – these allowed louder playing of music (the previous speakers could not play music) and have hugely improved the quality of the sound when people are using a microphone. We bought HK Column Speakers (4) at just over £3k (expensive but very much worth the money – there are cheaper available) with about another £400 in attachments and wall mounts to match our existing speaker hangers. The amplifiers for those speakers (and the porch & external speakers) cost just over £900. (The porch speaker cost £31). We then placed all this in a steel rack which cost £187.
In total, with labour and other ancillary parts (cables etc) the total cost was £8400.
Day to day control is via a £100 Android Tablet which we put on the altar or the lectern. It’s very subtle and easy to use. You can use the system to play out hymns downloaded from A Church Near You and create playlists etc.
We installed an AXIS Q605. Technically this is an external security camera and was all we could get at the height of the pandemic. Importantly it is PTZ (Pan Tilt Zoom) and has a 40x optical zoom – the optical bit is important – digital zoom will get progressively worse in terms of quality the further you zoom in – and with church buildings that’s less than great. One of the reasons our camera looks so good wherever you point it is because of that 40x optical zoom.
We paid just over £3k for the camera and this is broadly the price range for the top end AXIS PTZs. However, in many churches an AXIS V5925 is a good if not better solution. It has a 30x optical zoom and will work very well in the vast majority of contexts. That retails at just under £2k (you can pick them up for about £1.8k if you’re lucky). They have everything you need in terms of hardware and are easy to configure for sound etc. I have no hesitation in recommending it and have installed it at a friends church recently with great success.
I chose an AXIS camera because it is so simple to control from a tablet or phone – alongside our sound system. You can create preset positions so you can easily control the system yourself – or a non-tech volunteer can easily learn how to change camera positions. Our system is so fast that people genuinely believe we have multiple cameras in church when we only have one.
The AXIS cameras will also run a piece of software called CamStreamer. This software will stream the output of the cameras direct to multiple sources at the same time – directly from the camera itself – you don’t need a separate computer set up. You configure the day/time/duration of the streams and it does it all for you – no complex software, no remembering to turn things on – it all just works.
You don’t have to log onto anything to start it or do anything other than turn up at the service and point the camera in the right direction – that’s it. It’s super easy to use and has the lowest possible requirement for control during the service – this was important for us as during the week we have three services every day and I did not want people in church being distracted by me messing about with tech. At the same time I wanted people watching at home to have the best possible experience. This is the best balance of those things I’ve found.
CamStreamer has a 90 day free trial and then costs $299 for a full licence thereafter.
If you have a smaller church and you don’t need the ability to move your camera you can buy a very cheap AXIS camera like the P1375. That retails at about £650/700 and is more than capable. You can buy lenses for it if you need a long zoom or a very wide shot – they cost about £250 for a good one and is worth the investment. These cameras are even easier to manage than the PTZs because once configured it just does everything itself and you can forget about it.
Importantly these set ups are super simple and easy to use – I can control them myself from the lectern/altar or someone can control them from the congregation – all with a cheap Android tablet. It is also expandable. If we decide to add more cameras and go a bit more clever with the shots – this will seamlessly interact with multiple software and hardware systems like OBS.
Because the sound system relies on a Wi-fi network to access it via a tablet or phone in church we invested in a simple and cheap solution that was also robust. We went with the new tp-link mesh system which is linked with the Omada system for control.
When the cabling went in for the sound system and camera we ran an extra CAT6 network cable to the webcam location in church which allows us to place a EAP620HD Power over Ethernet (PoE) Access Point right in the middle of church. We’ve supplemented that with smaller EAP235-Wall Access Points in the sacristy, organ loft and church hall. This gives us solid coverage at a reasonable price.
All these access points are wired back to an 8 port Gigabit rack mount switch with PoE (TL-SG1008MP).
Once installed we set up two networks using the Omada cloud system and apps – enabling both public and private use of the network for various functions (including our Raspberry PI controlled bell, but that’s another post!)
Costs for the WiFi
- EAP620HD – £170
- EAP235-Wall – £74 (x3)
- 8 Port Gigabit Switch (with PoE) – £92
- Ethernet cables – c£20
Companies I would recommend
During this work I encountered companies I would work with again, and some I wouldn’t. Here are those I would.
- AV instal & supply – CodeAV
- Sound equipment – Gear4Music and StudioSpares
- Webcam setup – Please contact me for details.
- Webcam Purchase – UseIP
- Network equipment – Broadband Buyer
As a warning… do not use the companies recommended by Parish Buying. Every single one massively over quoted me and were clearly taking advantage of us being a church and therefore not being technically minded.
I am very happy for you to get in touch and I will give your quote the once over to make sure you’re not being cheated.