Elevation Church Production Tour

by | Jul 1, 2019

We toured Elevation’s broadcast site in Ballantyne, NC to see how they stream and produce consistently excellent services across their 19 locations and online.

In this video and post, we discuss:

For Elevation Church, excellence isn’t just an ideal to strive for; it’s a part of their culture. According to Nick Dooley, IT Director, the entire staff holds to the philosophy that “excellence honors God and inspires people.” This can mean anything “from making sure that trash is off the floor to putting the best quality experience together that we can for people.”

With 19 sites and over 25,000 in attendance across North Carolina, Florida, and Toronto, creating an engaging and inviting experience with excellence every week isn’t always easy, but it’s integral to Elevation’s mission “so that people far from God will be raised to life with Christ.” As Zach Kimrey, Technical Director explains, it’s all in an effort to create a distraction-free worship experience where guests can connect with God. “At the end of the day, that’s what we want,” he states, “so we strive to have the gear and the people in a position to make a zero-distraction worship experience.”

Whether a guest is attending Elevation at the broadcast campus, one of the multisite locations, or online, production staff at Elevation make sure that each environment is designed to be as distraction-free and engaging as possible for them.

We toured Elevation’s broadcast site in Ballantyne, NC to see how they stream and produce consistently excellent services across their 19 locations and online.

Auditorium / Front-of-House

Elevation’s worship experience begins in the Auditorium at the Ballantyne location. They utilize 7 Panasonic Varicam LT cameras throughout the room, including mounted on a jib, dolly, and a unique “towercam” angle to achieve their iconic sweeping room and stage shots.

At Front-of-House, a Digico SD10 audio console is used for the auditorium experience and to ensure necessary audio is sent to multisites and online. For multisites, offering flexibility through a customizable mix is key so that each campus can mix for their unique space. Elevation sends 8 channels of audio to these sites, including:

  • Video Left
  • Video Right
  • Sermon Keys (pad)
  • Timecode
  • Click Track
  • Musical Director
  • Pastor’s Mic
  • Worship Leader

Audio Control

The Audio Control Room at Ballantyne was recently designed so that engineers could create the best mix for Elevation’s growing online audience. The room was built to be isolated and controlled, ensuring that online viewers would have a high-quality experience, no matter where they are watching from or what device they are watching on. A Digico SD5 is used to craft an online mix including audio from the Ballantyne auditorium as well as online-only content, such as host segments, and pre/post service elements that are hosted around the campus.

Video Control

In Video Control, two program cuts occur simultaneously. A team is dedicated to what is happening in the room and other campuses through a Ross Acuity 3M/E switcher while another team manages the cut for online audiences. “It’s fun tension to manage,” says Dooley, “as we’re really calling different shots for online versus the room. At any moment in the worship experience, you can have what the campuses get … and then our room may have a different shot … and then online is establishing the room. So as our director is calling shots we’ve got camera ops hearing and following not just what is in the room, but also online, and really trying to make the experience tailored for the person who is on the other side of it.”

Master Control

Master Control is where Elevation keeps their finger on the pulse of what is happening in all of the campus environments. The room is set up as a monitoring station for everything going in and out of Ballantyne. Multiviewers and audio meters are set up for every video source as well as return video feeds from every campus.

Multi-Site Streaming / Distribution

The last step in Elevation’s production process is video delivery to the 18 other multisite locations.

“The challenge that we faced,” Dooley states, “was as we began to set up in different venues and across the way, not every venue we were able to get our own connectivity in, especially our own private network connectivity. We were in a position where we had to figure out how to deliver a live signal over the public internet and have it be reliable and still create the same experience that we wanted people to have, and we weren’t always successful with that.”

After experiencing issues with other platforms, Elevation turned to Living As One.

Living As One’s Multisite Platform is utilized to ensure reliable video delivery and playout with 8 channels of audio to campuses over the public internet, an option that Dooley explains has opened new doors for the church. “The network doesn’t have to be the most reliable robust thing like it used to be, he explains. “In the early days, if we couldn’t get a private connection in, we were really nervous if church would be succesful. And those days seem to be behind us at this point.”

Between Ballantyne and the receiving sites, Elevation utilizes the ability to set cues through the Living As One platform to keep campuses in sync and provide ease of use for volunteers. Kimrey explains, “That it is essentially a DVR built in … that we can set the cue point and they can just hit play … the flexibility of the platform has been great for us.”

As Elevation continues to grow and expand to more locations and campuses, they will continue the focus of creating excellent, distraction-free worship experiences where visitors to connect with God. Key to this, Dooley explains, is learning from others, understanding what you have, and using it well. “What people see when they watch Elevation is really us standing on the shoulders of churches that came before us and helped us,” Dooley says. “We’re just a bunch of guys that love Jesus and want other people to connect with Him doing the best we can with the resources that we’ve been given. And we’re resourced well and we’re thankful for that, but it really is just about taking the idea and vision and supporting it the best you can with the resources that you have.”

Thank you to Nick Dooley and Zach Kimrey for the tour and interview!

Reliable Streaming Ensures Positive Guest Experience for theCHURCHat Battle Creek

In November 2002, a small group from Tulsa, OK came together with an ambitious goal — to form a new church in the Tulsa area that was centrally focused on community. Soon later, theChurchat Battle Creek opened its doors to a capacity crowd in a converted mall. From there, the church grew exponentially, forming 5 new campuses with a combined attendance of over 6,000.

Reliable Streaming for Seacoast Over an Unreliable Connection

Like many others in his field, Rick Russell, Production Director at Seacoast Church, faces a big challenge in streaming church services to the church’s multisite campuses. With 13 physical campuses spread throughout South Carolina, some in rural areas, multisite streaming reliability is critical for Seacoast. Russell explains, “from a leadership perspective . . . our number one most important priority from the production team is to provide the best quality video and playback at our campuses.”

Northwoods Replaces Sneakernet with Resilient Streaming Platform

Previously to the “sneakernet” approach, the church had attempted streaming solutions, usually ending in failure. According to Den Marlin, Worship Pastor at Northwoods, “Our previous solution to running the video on the weekend had a hundred percent failure rate so every weekend we knew it was going to fail at some point and our hope was it would fail during rehearsal where nobody would see, but that wasn’t the case.”

Momentum Church Pairs HEVC/H.265 With RSP for Live Streaming Over Cellular Hotspots

Momentum Church, a multi-campus church in Pensacola, Florida, has successfully transitioned from using pre-recorded video of their Sunday service to live mobile streaming with cellular hotspots. Neither of the two schools where the church’s portable campuses meet was able to provide access to a hardwired internet connection, so Momentum’s technical team deployed a cellular option. “This opens the door for churches everywhere who want to get their message out, but don’t have access to cable or fiber internet,” explains Alex Velarde, a pastor at Momentum.

Streaming Q & A With Woodmen Valley Chapel

Mark Shrimplin, Technical Director, and Mark Steel, Video Technical Coordinator, have been a part of our customer family since January of 2016. Throughout our time getting to know both Marks, we have enjoyed hearing their rich multisite history. Among the pioneers of multisite video streaming since 2002, they were one of the first to make it happen over the public internet, so of course that makes us natural fans of them.

Living As One Multisite Platform

The Multisite Platform is a turnkey streaming solution designed from the ground up to deliver video to remote locations with unprecedented reliability and quality. The complete offering includes Multisite Encoders for realtime video capture, LAN and Cloud distribution for scalable delivery, Multisite Decoders for live/DVR playback, and weekend support.

Multisite Encoders and Decoders ensure zero content loss throughout the entire transmission path, even in the case of a complete internet outage. This means that leveraging the benefits of a public internet connection to reliably distribute video is now possible. When playing back video all content comes from a local solid state hard drive which can buffer live video in advance.

This means that remote playback sites see exactly what has been encoded — no blackouts, no buffering, no jitter. It is also the only complete solution which can stream two synchronized 1080p videos at full resolution. All of this, designed in a way that is simple for volunteers to operate and easy for technical directors to manage.