Fender Player Series Guitars and Basses

Fender Player Series Guitars and Basses | Learn More: fender.com

Fender has had a big year. Much time has been spent updating most of their product lines while also launching a new line of effects pedals and acoustic guitars. Though that seems like a lot, maybe they have saved the best til now as some of their best selling guitars just got better.

A new level of quality that also needed a new name, “The Player Series.” For those familiar with Fender products, this would be the replacement of their MIM (made in Mexico) series, which is a pretty good step above their entry level ‘Squire’ series and somewhere slightly below what their American series was before it too received an update. This update to the entire line of guitars and basses has brought improvements to the pickups and internal components, added a fret, and has freshened the pallet of colors to once again establish Fender as the industry leader in style and sound. Guitars like the often imitated Stratocaster and Telecaster or basses like the Precision Bass and Jazz Bass (P Bass and J Bass for short) are the top choice of many of today’s top music makers. This is no more true than within the worship community as you’d be hard pressed to find any well-known worship team where there isn’t at least one if not all of their musicians playing a Fender product.

Specifically, I reviewed the Telecaster HH in the very cool Tide Pool finish, which straight out of the box played great and sounded amazing. Telecasters, or ‘Tele’ for short, are arguably the “it” guitar at the moment (not that I want to argue and maybe it’s really a tie between the Telecaster and an arch top semi-hollow body). This style of guitar is marked by an unmistakable thin sound found in so many modern recordings and features a slightly wider ‘C’ shape neck that I found very easy to play. I was also pleasantly surprised by the quality of intonation (how the notes at each fret were in tune) that is pretty tight up to the 12th fret.

In the traditional configuration, a Telecaster has two single coil pickups that have recently been updated from ceramic to Alnico (type of metal). The HH model that I reviewed, however, differs from the original in that it comes with two Humbucker pickups (two coils put together that, as the name implies, helps buck or eliminate the hum) which can actually be split into single coil pickups by pulling up on the tone knob. This option allows you to get a much wider spectrum of sounds from the same guitar, from thick sounds to thin sounds quickly and easily.

So whether you want to keep it traditional, want to get the latest colors, need a left-handed version, or want the flexibility of the HH versions the new Player Series from Fender has a lot to choose from. You can check them out online at fender.com or head over to your local retailer and be ready to fall in love (metaphorically speaking).

Pros: Great quality for the price with the legendary sound and style included.

Cons: If I’m getting picky, the intonation wanders a bit above the 12th fret, which is somewhat to be expected for guitars at this price point so if that matters to you consider stepping up a level to the American Professional Series. Also, a case of any kind is not included.

Bottom Line: These are the instruments that are shaping the current sound of worship music at a price most people can afford.

Universal Audio Live Rack 2

Universal Audio Live Rack 2 | Learn More: uaudio.com/uad-accelerators/uad2-live-rac

What Is It: An external processor to run studio-quality plug-ins live

They say in order to move forward in the field of sound you have to go back. That’s because almost all advanced sound is either based on vintage gear or is a modernized technique of processed developed by legendary producers and engineers. When you start to peel back the layers of time you will notice a few names being repeated over and over, one of them would be that of Universal Audio. A company that has long been at the forefront in the world of audio.

While many people offer a version of equipment like the LA-2A and the 1176, they were the ones that actually invented them. This is a level of gear that until recently I didn’t know much about and didn’t realize how important it was to getting a great sound. Look at most any picture of a big recording studio and you’ll see racks and racks of them and with each unit costing in the low thousands of dollars (even today) it was a big part of what made recording studios desirable to work in and put a big roadblock to their use in a live setting.

Renting a studio with expensive gear has faded into the sunset with the advent of plug-ins (smaller programs that you can add to recording software). These digital counterparts can be quickly added to your project as many times as you need for a fraction of the price and once again Universal Audio is a leader in the field. While this modernization greatly improves the home studio, the digitization of a physical unit now created a new barrier to using them live, which was the processing power of your soundboard. Not everyone realizes that digital soundboards are actually computers with knobs and while they offer many similar features to high-end audio units (e.g., compression, eq, and effects) they are not as good. So rather than purchasing a new soundboard, there is now a way to add the processing power you need to allow you to run the same software used by so many top producers today.

The Live Rack 2 by Universal Audio is a relatively easy to use rack mount unit that is essentially a computer that is designed to process audio really fast. This allows you to run a large number of high-quality plugins without experiencing any lag in timing, something known as latency. To control which plug-ins are being used and to switch between settings you will need an actual computer to act as the interface to run a very light and simple program while the Live Rack 2 handles all the heavy lifting. For those who are already Universal Audio users and are familiar with vintage gear, this will be a breeze as it closely resembles their console program. Users will also be delighted to find that licensing works on all Universal Audio units so you don’t have to purchase separately for each device. If, however, you are not familiar with Universal Audio plug-ins (UAD for short) or vintage gear then this can be a bit of a steep learning curve and even though it’s offered at a fraction of what it used to cost there might be some sticker shock as high-end gear is not known for being cheap.

Connection to your soundboard is made through a MADI connection, no that’s not a typo, it’s MADI not MIDI. This is a network protocol that is lighting fast and is standard on high-end soundboards like DigiCo and SoundCraft but not so standard on most of the soundboards used by the average church. Behringer users get off easy as an interface card is relatively affordable, however those with a Yamaha can expect to pay quite a bit, and others are simply not available. This connection sends the signals from your soundboard to the unit and then returns the processed sound almost instantaneously.

One of the key features that this system allows is live pitch correction via a plugin by the industry-leading company Antares, which is included with both product price points. By selecting key, voice range, and effect intensity you can really help bend notes back to where you hoped they were going in the first place. This, of course, is just one of the many benefits as almost the entire arsenal of UAD plugins are compatible with Live Rack allowing you to dial in custom settings for each track and subgroup. While the physical unit is the same for both options, the first price point includes a limited but very useful assortment of plug-ins or if you want to go ‘all in’ the full version put all their tools at your fingertips. It is also possible to add plug-ins individually without the bundled discount. Demos of plug-ins are available so you can see what it does and know how it interacts with your gear.

Pros: This is pretty exciting stuff for people who are familiar with this kind of equipment because it really does sound better and based on relative price it’s a pretty good deal.

Cons: They are working on it but you can’t use the same computer for running LiveRack as you do for other Universal Audio products. One plug-in that is currently missing is a multi-band compressor as the one they have is mostly for mastering and is not compatible with LiveRack. For those who are not familiar or are just getting started it can seem pretty expensive and may take some education to reap the full benefits.

Bottom Line: Top notch gear

Alesis SamplePad Pro and SamplePad 4

Alesis SamplePad Pro and SamplePad 4 | Learn More: https://www.alesis.com/

Review By: Steve Reed

What is it? A very compact and programmable electronic drum set/trigger pad

As the sonic landscape of music continues to include sounds from both acoustic and electronic drums, many drummers are looking for ways to get the sounds of their favorite recordings into a live venue. Enter a drum pad, these are those flat boxes (positioned next to a regular drum set) that are used pretty heavily by many of today’s artists. Designed to take the beating of being hit by a stick, these drum pads allow you to use the preloaded sounds included with your purchase, load your own via an SD card slot, or simply trigger sound by connecting to a computer via MIDI.

While essentially being a very compact electronic drum set, these pads can be placed alongside an acoustic drum set or even be used independently, giving you the features of an electronic drum set without the form of a drum set (a configuration that was even used by Christian artist/writer Ryan Stevenson at the National Worship Leader Conference this year).

While drum pads have been around for awhile, there has always been a bit of a barrier for most people. Namely, the one about the price. With many manufactures asking around $800, most people have not been ready to make the leap. However, with the new line of drum pads from manufacturing legend Alesis, that has changed. Offered at a fraction of the cost and loaded up with features, their flagship model, The SamplePad Pro comes with 200 sounds and has 8 pads that can be extended by additional pads and even allows you to connect a high hat and kick drum trigger, giving you the ability to potentially have a complete electronic drum set. It’s younger brother the SamplePad 4 only has 4 pads and only 25 sounds but it is a great option for those who don’t need the full drum set capabilities.

Each model allows you to load your own samples (pre-recorded sounds) via an SD card slot and gives you extensive control over pad settings from volume to pad sensitivity. Also available within the unit is the ability to adjust the pitch on each pad to get higher and lower sounds as well as add some light reverb. The SamplePad Pro even allows you to load up 2 samples per pad so that when you hit the pad softly it triggers an independent sound from when you hit it hard (a feature usually only found in advanced drum sample packs). The interface is simple but intuitive and I was quickly able to get the sounds I was looking for. Separate headphone controls allow for silent practice and an auxiliary in with volume control allows you to play along with your favorite music.

Maybe the biggest negative for these pads is that the custom samples take a few seconds per megabyte to load, which depending on how big your files are or how you structure the layout of your pad can take some time to be ready to use. This would be challenging if you needed to switch sounds quickly between songs. There are, of course, some workarounds. The first being to buy a fast SD card, as they are all not the same speed (look for a 10 on the label). The next is to lower your file sizes by eliminating silence or downsampling (lowering your audio quality) which seems a crime but in a live environment, it will probably go unnoticed. The last way is to avoid using the SD card feature altogether and to pair the drum pad with your computer by using such programs as AbletonLive and MainStage via MIDI. This allows your computer to handle all of the processing work and yet retain the primary benefits of the drum pad, which is that you can hit it with a stick.

Pros: You can’t beat the price and the ability to expand and customize is sure to meet the needs of a vast majority of musicians. For those who were already planning to use programs like AbletonLive or MainStage, this is a no-brainer.

Cons: A little slow to load for heavy users

Bottom Line: Priced right and full of possibilities

Valhalla DSP Plugins: Shimmer, VintageVerb, UberMod and SpaceModulator

Valhalla DSP Plugins: Shimmer, VintageVerb, UberMod and SpaceModulator | Learn More: valhalladsp.com

Reverb has reached new heights of popularity in the worship community with Shimmer being the most trendy variety. It’s a sound that contains an octave effect that adds massively reverberated notes above what you are already playing. This is often used in ‘pad’ sounds for keyboards and even by electric guitar players.

There are several ways to accomplish this sound, from standalone keyboards and pedals but increasingly this effect is being done in a live environment by computers running software like MainStage, Ableton, GigPerformer or in the studio with software plugins for the standard offerings of DAW’s (Digital Audio Workstation) such as Logic, ProTools, and Ableton. But of all of the available reverb units in the world, which one should you choose? Where I live, that’s the kind of thing we talk about over coffee or before service, which is where I had started hearing the buzz about Valhalla from several producers here in Nashville. But it wasn’t until I then noticed that Peter James, the main sound designer for Hillsong, had a Valhalla plugin as the only additional one required for his patches for MainStage, that I knew it would be worth a listen. Since then I have seen it in many other places and can understand what all the noise is all about.

To those unfamiliar with plugins or the specific ways that reverb can be controlled, these programs can be a bit overwhelming as they are designed to give you extensive control over your sound. Thankfully, there are quite a few presets that will spark your creativity and several 3rd party sound designers, such as the aforementioned Peter James, offer low-cost settings you can download, sometimes even for specific songs. In addition to the ValhallaShimmer, the VintageVerb stands out as a great choice for those looking for a classic ‘verb’ or if you are looking to push the boundaries of the sonic landscape, then check out UberMod and SpaceModulator.

Demos are available so you can test it out before you purchase at valhalladsp.com.

Pros: Relatively low cost and current popularity

Cons: Lots of knobs but lots of presets

Bottom Line: It is what some of the top professionals are using

UE 6 PRO

UE 6 PRO | The UE 6 PRO design includes two dynamic drivers for midrange and bass, along with the original True Tone Drivers for high-frequency response. It gives a natural and true reproduction of rhythm and percussion.

Function: Custom IEM

Price: $699 (click here to buy)

Overview: It was a hot, sweaty day in July that I stood in line at my local music store to purchase my first pair of professional in-ear monitors: a pair of off-brand, universal headphones with two balanced armatures, one for low end, and one for highs with a simple crossover. They sounded terrible and fit uncomfortably, but the feeling of bringing my own IEM to a gig made me feel like a pro! That day was over a decade ago, and as an owner of a dozen IEM since then, it’s astounding to see how far custom in-ear monitors have come over the last few years. With the UE 6 PRO, Ultimate Ears has created one of the most beautiful sounding custom IEM I’ve ever heard, finding the perfect line between silky highs and powerful, thunderous low end.

Features: On paper, the UE 6 PRO seems like a fairly standard configuration of 3 drivers, a 3-way crossover and triple-bore sound channels, but the magic comes in the tuning of the ears and the hybrid in-ear design. The UE 6 PRO features 2 dynamic drivers for bass/midrange and one True Tone balanced armature (that we loved so much in the UERR!) for top end. The dynamic driver for bass allows the frequency response to go all the way down to 5Hz, giving you plenty of sub with only 3 drivers. Also included is Ultimate Ears brand new IPX cable system, a waterproof new cable system designed to handle sweat, makeup, hairspray, and humidity, and be flexible and reliable to handle use every day.

Sound: Straight out of the box the UE 6 PRO sounds absolutely gorgeous and is hands down the best custom IEM I’ve ever owned. Without getting into all the tech talk, the reason the UE 6 PRO sounds so good is because the dynamic drivers for bass and midrange sound incredibly natural and warm and allow you to “feel” like there’s a wall of full stack amps behind you. The UE True Tone balanced armature gives you the beautiful, open high end that’s crystal clear. The UE 6 PRO are absolutely perfect for the rhythm section, and even as a keyboard player, they’ve become my new go-to for live, loud-stage applications.

More: Thunderous bass + crystal clear open highs = beautiful sounding ears.

M-Audio MIDI Controller Keyboard

M-Audio MIDI Controller Keyboard | Learn More: http://www.m-audio.com/products/view/code-49

Review by Steve Reed

What Is It: Piano keyboard that only works with a computer or other MIDI equipment.

While it looks like a digital piano, the Code 49 by M-Audio is actually a top of line MIDI controller. What’s the difference? The answer is similar to the difference between laptop and desktop computers. The traditional ‘all-in-one’ digital keyboard that has the piano keys, the sounds, the buttons, and all the outputs in one stand-alone unit can be compared to a laptop computer where everything is permanently connected. Whereas a MIDI controller is much like buying a desktop computer where you purchase the typing keyboard separately from your screen/s and tower. Then just like how a typing keyboard for a desktop computer doesn’t do anything on its own, a MIDI controller piano keyboard only works when you plug it into a computer.

While it is possible to connect any MIDI compatible piano keyboard to your computer, the Code 49 has been optimized for this task and gives you complete control over your sound. While you might expect to have to pay a lot for these kinds of features, interestingly enough because this style of equipment only does one part of the process really well and leaves the rest to other pieces of gear, it is comparatively inexpensive ($299.00).

The Code 49 connects to and is powered by your computer via an included standard USB cable (think printer cable). This unit also features the traditional round multi-pin MIDI connectors for connection to older gear or to pass midi signals through. Upon connecting your device, your computer should recognize it as a keyboard, but if not a small and free piece of software known as a ‘driver’ can be installed to bridge the gap. When you turn on the keyboard you will probably notice a lot of lights that can all be customized to your liking or even turned off via a free program available for download at the M-Audio website. This program also allows every knob, fader, and key to be changed to emit whatever MIDI message you desire. While most people may never mess with this level of customization it is a nice feature as many computer programs for music have features only accessed by specialized MIDI signals known as ‘CC messages’ (knowing that will help you impress your friends at your next social gathering).

This specific keyboard is specially designed for those who want to have a lot of control over their sound, which explains the vast number of buttons and faders which can all be assigned to do what you’d like within programs such as MainStage, AbeltonLive, or any recording program. Most people, however, use the vertical faders to adjust the volumes of the different layers of a sound patch, such as a pad or strings sound in relation to a piano. These controls then allow you to dynamically change the sounds you are using as the song progresses rather than switching between sounds.

Also included are drum pads (for use with fingers only) that can be assigned to trigger sounds, launch loops, or change settings. And if that wasn’t enough you also have an XY controller which responds to the touch of your finger and is typically used to dynamically switch or ‘morph’ between two sounds or settings in real time.

Available in both black and white models, this keyboard is very stylish and modern. The action of the keys is pretty basic (semi-weighted) but feels good and the keys are after-touch pressure sensitive. For those looking for a more traditional hammer action piano feel there are several other M-Audio midi controller keyboards that would better suit those desires. The 49 in Code 49 stands for how many piano keys are on the keyboard and we found that to be a sufficient number to cover the synth and piano parts of most modern worship songs. However, if you typically find yourself using a wider spread of keyboard real estate you might take a look at the 61 key option. M-Audio also has many controllers that don’t have as many buttons if that’s overwhelming to you.

Pros: Quality construction with an extreme level of versatility and control. Presets are great for multiple pianist sharing equipment to quickly recall personal preference settings.

Cons: The lights are pretty bright which can be shocking at first. Though you can’t turn them down you can change them to softer colors and off is an option. A sustain pedal is not included.

Bottom Line: If you want to control your keyboard and synthesizer sounds, this is one of the best.

Paige Capo

Paige Capo | Learn More: paige-capo.myshopify.com

Capo’s are a metaphorical lifesaver for many guitar players, they allow you to play open chords in different keys and can keep you from having to play the often dreaded barre chords. However, most capos have a problem, they bend the strings. This unfortunate side effect causes the guitar to play out of tune. This is, of course, unless you place them perfectly behind the fret or take the time to re-tune your guitar after putting it on.

I’ve had the same capo for most of my adult life so I, like many people, had just learned to live with the consequences and became meticulous about my placement, would check my tuning, and had to avoid using them on an electric guitar and simply gave up trying to use one with lighter gauge strings. Thankfully there is a better way. Though it took some time, I began to notice that many musicians were not using the same capo I was and of all of the capo options out there in the world, the one that I started to see used fairly often was the Paige capo. A capo that has a simple but clever design that allows you to easily apply even and direct pressure to the strings so that your guitar stays in tune! Hallelujah.

There are a few ways to use this capo, the first being the most surprising as they are actually designed not to come off your guitar. That’s because the capo can be discreetly tucked behind the nut (the top fret by the headstock where the tuning pegs are) which allows you to always have your capo ready. You simply slide it to the fret you want and tighten it with a few twists. I found this to be a two-hand operation, but even with adding in an extra extremity it was still faster than my previous process. Though it is not the recommended method you can, of course, take the capo off, which only requires a slight squeeze on the side which releases the bar to swing open.

Several different models are available for different instruments and even for different neck shapes. They are readily available at most music stores or online retailers and are competitively priced.

Bottom Line: If you play guitar you should know about this.

Izotope RX Advanced: Audio Restoration   

Izotope RX Advanced: Audio Restoration | Learn More: izotope.com/rx

Three letters, one word…”Wow!” I also regularly used the phrase, “You’ve got to be kidding me,” while discovering the enormous capabilities of this relatively unknown software. Izotope RX is designed to not only enhance audio but also to fix problems. But not just any problems, many of these were the kind of issues that I previously thought were unfixable. Things like wind blowing on the microphone, loud clicks and pops, distortion from clipping, mouth noises, background sounds, and even breaths can all be removed in one click modules that usually start with the phrase,

“De-” (e.g., De-click, De-rustle, De-hum, De-wind, De-plosive, De-ess, etc.).

By just using these modules I have saved hundreds of hours of time. I was used to going through podcasts and vocal performances to manually turn down the breaths and was trying to eliminate mouth smacks with painstakingly tedious volume automation. All that has been replaced by one key command, about three clicks, and 1 minute of processing. Much time has also been saved by not having to re-record projects that had problems. Each time I ran into some trouble I would say, “I wonder if RX could fix this?” and sure enough it could.

One such problem was the microphone bleed that happens when two people are speaking near each other, as unless you isolate the individuals each microphone picks up the other

person, which causes an unpleasant sound and creates challenges when you want to edit. By using the De-bleed feature you simply have the software analyze the two audio sources and it can separate them apart.

This process leaves you with clean audio that sounds like you recorded them separately with all the benefits of the personal interaction you can only get from being in the same room.

In addition to the modules that operate in their standalone program, I also made heavy use of the RX real-time plugins that can take care of problems as they happen. The main plug-in being a background noise eliminator, which is essentially a dynamic expander, that through compression makes the loud parts louder and the quiet parts quieter. It has made a world of difference in the quality of my projects. These are also the kind of filters you can run audio through as you’re live-streaming or recording your sermons.

Now if that were not enough, there is actually another method of restoring audio that gets as granular as you need as this software has the ability to break audio apart and display the information graphically by volume and pitch. This allows you to physically see the problems you’d like to fix. In one of their demonstrations they showed an audio file where someone in the crowd had whistled loudly during a performance, a few clicks later it was gone and you can’t tell it was ever there.

There are a few ways to purchase this software to fit your specific needs and your budget, with each level adding more features. The top level is the RX Post Production Suite that also includes a lot of other programs designed to help you mix, maximize sound output, and analyze/meter your audio to perfection. It also includes a year’s worth of access to their training so you get the most out of your investment. Check out izotope.com/rx to see which level is right for you.

Pros: Industry leading tools to help you improve your audio

Cons: ach DAW (digital audio workstation) interacts with this software differently. Some can be accessed through the program itself and others have shortcut keys to export files to be worked on and then automatically update. That’s not a problem but it’s just something to get used to. The RX loudness control, however, does not work in all DAW platforms, so just check their requirements before you purchase.

Bottom Line: This is amazing

iRig Stomp I/O

 

What is it? MIDI Controller and Recording/Live Performance Interface for Guitars or Vocals

I have been looking for a product like this for quite some time. Mostly because just like many producers/worship leaders I have been looking for ways to get the sounds used in the studio into a live venue. Being an amp and pedal kind of guy myself, I was surprised when I heard several top producers tell me that they haven’t used a real amp in years to make a record. That revelation has launched me into a new direction in the studio but I still found myself standing on the other side of a technical gap to practically use those same sounds live. I say practically because there have been ways to get it done before, but it was always clunky and required a lot of patching with special cables and several pieces of external gear. What I wanted was something simple, well built, and in a perfect world it would be designed to do what I was looking to do. Well, that’s just what I found in one of the most versatile products I have seen in a while, the iRig Stomp I/O.

Primarily designed to work with either a guitar or a vocal this unit is actually an interface, which means a lot of things, but mainly that’s important because of its’ ability to transfer audio both to and from a computer, tablet, or smartphone in one cable. This not only simplifies the cabling required, but it also unlocks an important feature, which is that you can use this unit to record any instrument that uses a 1/4 inch cable or that you could mic into any DAW (digital audio workstation) such as GarageBand, Logic, ProTools, Ableton etc. A feature which is almost worth the price of admission by itself.

The real focus of this unit, however, is to allow a computer, windows tablet/iPad, or iPhone to handle the processing of the audio while well-built foot switches allow you to control sounds via preset MIDI commands. The ingenious designers at IK Multimedia even made a way for you to place your devices on the unit itself and to even pass along power so you can charge your battery while you’re rocking out.

With so many options, it will be up to you which way you’ll use it. You can choose to use the included software or another of your choosing. A vocalist could connect their microphone to the unit and then dial in their sound with an array of compressors and effects such as delays, pitch shifters, and reverb that they can dynamically be controlled with their feet while they sing.

While this is also true for any instrument that uses a 1/4 inch cable, this unit specializes in the electric guitar. The controls are laid out in the familiar pattern of each switch initially selecting a different patch which then can be controlled in more detail by entering the ‘stomp box’ mode which allows the 4 switches to control individual pedals within the sound. Tap tempo is available by pressing and holding the 4th switch, a tuner on the 3rd, there is even a looper function and you can uniquely assign the expression pedal to do what you wish Volume, Wah, or even control some other parameter. It is important to note, however, that these features react a little differently depending on which program you choose to use with your iRig Stomp I/O but there is certainly a lot to work with.

This unit works seamlessly with programs like MainStage, GarageBand, and more but also included with your purchase is a lot of software divided up by purpose and platform, meaning that there are separate programs for just the voice and another for the guitar and both work on Mac or PC. There is also a separate program to use for tablet and/or iPhone users for both the electric guitar and vocals. Make sure to check out the required specifications to see if your device is compatible as not all are.

Pros: Versatile gear that is well constructed and well thought out.

Cons: Included software is a mixed bag of some quality sounds that have a lot of in-app purchases of officially licensed gear (Mac users will find this to be a duplicate of the unofficially licensed gear included for free in GarageBand and MainStage) and while new sounds are being added regularly the reverb section is pretty light on options for the worship guitarist. Lastly, purchases on the computer platform do not transfer to the tablet/phone platform and vice versa so just be aware.

Bottom Line: A pretty solid bridge between the two worlds of live and studio.

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE  iRig Stomp I/O

Lights, Camera, Worship: Ministries Turning to a Mix of Cinematic and HDR Technology Options as Production Values Increase

by Craig Harper

The singers are lit and miked, it’s a packed house and the cameras are rolling, when the pastor says, “let’s try that again.”  Pastor? While this might sound like something a director would say while recording a concert or live event, it’s increasingly becoming a more common scenario at many ministries.

Gone are the days when it was good enough to simply record a service with one fixed camera pointed at the pastor. Churches are now producing more live events and special services, and streaming services on the web to reach more people across the country and the world.

At the larger churches, audiences and A/V systems are on the scale of the biggest stadium concert tours, bringing with it a whole new set of production challenges and opportunities, for example, IMAG and multi-camera set-ups.

Churches need to deliver content to more platforms and in higher quality, and the increasing accessibility of more affordable and capable production technology is making it easier to do this than ever before.

When churches buy new technology they need to think about more than its ease of use and durability. They have to consider image quality and how it can help them achieve the right “look” they need.

The keyword for any ministry is options, and a company like Sony has the most comprehensive mix of technology options to fit any size room or application. Churches are implementing any, or a mix of, these options — from full-frame mirrorless alpha cameras or the compact RX0 for specialized POV shots to compact handheld 35mm camcorders like the FS7 or FS5 up to the F55 and new VENICE camera, the same cameras used to shoot big-budget movies and TV shows.

It could be a mix of models like F55s with an HDC series studio camera to combine a beautiful Super35 “film” look with 2/3–inch lenses, as well as fiber connectivity, seamless gen lock and many other features.

Many churches have been using the HDC-4000 series cameras. The reason churches like Lakewood have chosen the HDC-4000 series cameras is the ability to produce 4K HDR and HD SDR simultaneously, and they support both S-log3 and HLG workflows for HDR to provide a unique look.

One ministry, Lake Pointe Church uses Sony’s 4K cameras — from the FS7 and FS5 camcorders to the full-frame 7S and 7S II interchangeable lens cameras — in nearly every aspect of the ministry’s video production to capture services and events and handle the streaming, reaching 3,000 people online.

Chip Acker, Video Director at Lake Pointe Church, noted that since the organization is focused on video production and streaming, it’s important to have high-quality, easy-to-learn equipment that can be used and maintained by the church’s volunteer staff.

Acker continued, “Pairing the right gear with our wide range of production styles gives us the best options for our church. The variety of Sony products that we own allow us to put the right gear into action with any of our production requests and it also helps us save money over the long-term.”

These are just some examples of churches employing a mix of different cameras to spread their messages effectively and wider. And it’s not just limited to cameras.

Sony offers wireless microphone technology and high-res audio systems to keep the audio sounding as good as the video looks. Churches can also satisfy their entire workflow with Sony’s intelligent media services, which offer flexible and cost effective workflow solutions ranging from editing, storage and archive to cloud collaboration, asset management and distribution. In addition, beyond the sanctuary, it’s more common to see laser projectors or the latest “active learning” solutions in classrooms and collaborative worship spaces.

Churches needs will never stop growing. Sony’s family of options will keep pace, ready to meet, and exceed churches needs today, and tomorrow.

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