McDONOUGH, GA – Tabernacle of Praise Church International may be located in the suburbs of Atlanta, but every week it engages worshippers in all 50 states as well as many countries throughout the world through its livestreamed Wednesday Bible Study and Sunday services. Although streaming is nothing new for this house of worship, it has adjusted its lighting strategy, now that it is broadcasting from an empty church in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdown.
“We are a broadcast ministry and like to refer to our online streams as ‘broadcasts,’ because we treat them as such,” said Brad Lyons, the church’s Technical Director. “Because we are a broadcast ministry, our lighting not only serves to create a high energy environment for praise and worship within the sanctuary, which is always filled to capacity, but also to provide exceptional visuals for those watching online. We want them to see every detail clearly.”
Although the objective of Lyons’ lighting has remained the same after the lockdown, having Bible Study and Sunday services take place in an empty room has led him to change his approach. “We want those worshippers to have as much of the experience online as they would have if they were physically worshipping with us in person, empty seats or not,” he said. “Our camera operators are working with more close-up shots now, but showing empty seats is okay—it’s a reminder that you can still have worship no matter where you’re at! The church is a building, but the people are the church.”
Lyons and his team have also adjusted their lighting and design strategy to create a deeper more set-like atmosphere on stage, even adding haze and relying on a greater variety of beam angles to engender a sense of dimension. “Pastor McBride is exceptional at using illustrations and moves around a lot, so we want to take advantage of his dynamic presence by turning the stage into a set for our broadcast,” he said. “We have the freedom to do this, because we don’t have a live audience to consider right now.
“What we’re doing is providing more dimension to make the empty stage seem more inviting,” continued Lyons. “Normally I would have the entire stage lit up with all key lights, no color other than the walls and ceiling. Now we are leaving the room hazed up with light beams hitting different points. During the message I would normally have the houselights on at full – they are now turned off to help create a more dramatic lighting environment for the live video broadcast.”
Although lighting is always critical to enhancing worship services, it becomes even more important when they are videoed, according to Lyons, which is a key reason why he is happy with his collection of CHAUVET Professional Ovation E-190 (with 26 -degree lens tubes), Rogue R2 Spot and Q-Wash 560X fixtures.
“While the human eye might see just as well in low-light situations, a production camera is far more sensitive and requires well-balanced light. This is why our church has made such an investment in the Chauvet brand,” said Lyons. “We have as many as three services on a Sunday; a service Wednesday afternoon and evening; as well as weddings, funerals, community meetings, and of course all of the rehearsals throughout the week. Our Chauvet lights make everything happen!
“While I feel Chauvet makes the best options, you must use the correct types of lighting technology,” he continued. “For example, you have to provide the proper color temperature for key lighting. This is what the Ovation line of LED ellipsoidal fixtures was designed for, to provide other a Warm White (WW) or Cool White (CW) color temperature.’
All video switching, producing, and audio mixing for the Tabernacle of Praise’s broadcast takes place in the church’s video production room, following CDC social distancing guidelines. The church has partnered with BOXCAST to provide a consistent, stable delivery platform.
In our production room we are providing an isolated video and audio mix that is independent of what takes place in the sanctuary, and send an embedded signal over HD-SDI out of our broadcast switcher into an interface provided by BOXCAST,” said Lyons. “We have an advanced account setup that allows us to then stream directly to our webpage and other online destinations including Facebook, YouTube, etc. We’ve been doing this for some time, we are thankful to have the systems and people already in place.”
Although he recognizes that not all churches the same level of infrastructure setup as Tabernacle of Praise, Lyons believes that each of them should consider livestreaming now, and even after the lockdown has passed.
“I must admit it took me a long time to accept that every church should livestream, but now I’m a big advocate of it,” he said. “Why? Because you should be in church! But over the years I realized there were those, who, for whatever reason, couldn’t be there. There are also those who are afraid to go to church. The number one reason someone doesn’t go to church is because no one asked them. Think about that! So, my advice about streaming is no matter the size congregation or the technical ability—do it!”