The title for one of the year’s more impressive studio builds currently belongs to Hillsong Church’s new state of the art full production facility in Alexandria, which Videocraft helped design and build. Hillsong TV Technical Manager Luke Irvine explained, “For years our Waterloo campus in Sydney has been growing and we’ve had a great need to expand our facilities to house the increasing numbers of people attending. As a church we have looked at many options to help relieve the pressure and time restraints that we faced with our current building in Waterloo. Before we embarked on this new project, we were running eight services on the weekend to try and accommodate everyone. Thus the decision was made to custom-build an additional venue so the campus could still grow and not be crippled by time and space.”
The venue Hillsong chose was in the neighbouring suburb of Alexandria which was, before construction, an empty warehouse with shop fronts requiring a major construction effort to get it ready for use. Irvine continued, “The warehouse building was converted into a 950 seat auditorium so we knew we had to have a high quality production facility to cater for that many people. That’s why we turned to Videocraft to help us build it.”
Hillsong and Videocraft have had a successful relationship with the church utilising many of the company’s rental services over the last few years. After a personal customer service call from Videocraft’s Shane Jones ignited the project, the church decided to put out an industry-wide RFQ which was particularly well responded to. Once the tenders had been submitted, due to the nature and importance of the project, Hillsong took a good deal of time to study each one with great care before deciding on Videocraft as their equipment partner and systems integrator.
The RFQ, according to Irvine, had some very specific requirements that made it unique from a traditional broadcast facility, but with quality always the overarching feature that had to be factored in. In essence the system revolved around dual Ross Carbonite switchers chosen predominantly due to their flexibility, functionality and cost effectiveness. The Carbonite switchers particularly excel with their onboard format conversion capabilities, built-in high quality multi-viewer and integration with the Ross Dashboard, which also oversees control and diagnostics of all Ross components across the entire system.
Irvine added, “In short our requirements were that the system must be HD, facilitate four cameras, three projection screens and multiple external rooms. The system also had to enable linking to and from all other campuses and keying of song words had to be achieved on five different feeds with different backgrounds and different overlays with ease of use for one volunteer operator. The system had to be cost effective but extremely reliable, easy for volunteers to use on a weekly basis and versatile enough to accommodate for future changes that will happen within the campus. Every source and destination needed to be easily monitored by the relevant volunteer operators and the system had to also be capable of a broadcast TV record for our television programme Hillsong Television – in other words yes, it was quite an extensive set of requirements.”
Irvine said, “Videocraft worked closely with us to find really good solutions to achieve a great result. They where willing to look at all options to give us the best outcome and price. They also gave us pros and cons of equipment and allowed us to make changes as we went along to take advantage of cost savings and usability of the system. Videocraft also worked very hard to fully understand our requirements and workflow – this was key to the success of the system especially in tricky areas like the integration between the keyer cards and switcher. They also had a great attitude even through some of the really challenging construction problems of the building.”
When complete Hillsong’s new production studio included two Ross Carbonite vision switchers, a Ross video router, Sony OLED and LCD monitoring, several TV One scan converters, Blackmagic design Teranex 2D converters and HyperDeck Studios, a GVG T2 Turbo server, Ross OpenGear and mini converters, Sony cameras, Canon lenses, Vinten and Miller tripods and fluid heads and live IP video links between campuses. There were also significant audio, comms, display, rigging and lighting components supplied by others that Videocraft worked with and integrated seamlessly.
Irvine and the Hillsong team were particularly impressed with the quality level and attention to detail of Videocraft’s involvement. He commented, “The Videocraft team were extremely helpful and continually suggested ways of making the system better and more cost effective. They were always professional and impressively took total responsibility for the systems integration, equipment selection, system design and diagrams, installation and labeling all in-house. Videocraft’s willingness to work with us, take our ideas and make them work was a major plus. Also the fact that they could work with very tight budgets and be totally honest about the real cost of things from the very beginning was excellent. Listening, thinking outside the box and working with tight budgets is classic Videocraft. To that end I must say a particular thank you to Andy Liell, Glenn Beaumont and the entire Videocraft team for their outstanding effort and commitment to this project.”
When inspecting Hillsong’s new production facility it’s sometimes a little difficult to believe that only a few short months ago it was a deserted warehouse. Hillsong Project Manager Sebastian Heck said, “We have often had people from other part of the building install project come and admire the cabling work and the neatness of the racks in the Videocraft install. Many of our volunteers comment on the professional look and feel of the control room and how it looks like we are part of a TV broadcast station control room. The song words on screen setup is my personal favourite as it is so easy for the operator to control the five different feeds they need to without them really having to think much about it at all.”