Bellevue Baptist Church, based in the community of Cordova near Memphis, has innovated in television broadcasts of its worship services for over 50 years. Now the church is spearheading its transition from SD to full HD file-based production and post with four, dual-channel Cinedeck RXs at the heart of a new, streamlined workflow.
Bellevue Baptist was originally founded in 1903 as a one-room, stone chapel mission on the outskirts of Memphis, following a $1,000 gift from member Fannie Jobe. Today, 110 years later, Bellevue Baptist Church has grown to become one of the largest congregations in the Southern Baptist Convention, with around 30,000 members. The church’s main auditorium, situated on a 377-acre campus, seats 7,000 people as they participate in Sunday worship services, concerts and other special events.
On January 5, 1958, Bellevue became the first church in the world to broadcast worship services using its own television equipment. Under the auspices of pastor Ramsey Pollard the church continued broadcasting services, upgrading to color cameras and equipment in 1970. Bellevue’s broadcasts have since expanded into an international ministry, with distribution via the Internet and throughout the country and worldwide through Christian TV networks, such as TV and radio ministry Love Worth Finding. The various programs are also available on DVD.
In the summer of 2012 the church’s media department made the decision to begin the transition from SD to full file-based HD production and post-production, and harnessed Cinedeck RX recorders as part of this advance.
“We’ve discovered many advantages with the Cinedeck RX, the chief of these being the speed and efficiency of the workflow they enable for editorial,” says video editor Noah Sidhom. “Now we get so much more time to fine-tune the final edit on our programs. Ultimately, we can finish productions to a much higher standard than we have in the past, in a lot less time.”
The users: Noah Sidhom Video editor, Larry Anderson Director of Media Production
Larry Anderson oversees Bellevue’s media department, and directs Sunday broadcasts and a range of special productions. Before coming on staff at Bellevue, he served as the television editor at Love Worth Finding Ministries. He also served for several years as a volunteer in Bellevue’s television ministry. He holds a BA in communication from the University of Memphis.
The challenges: Transitioning from SD to HD workflow, back-up security, and rapid program delivery for Internet and broadcast channels
Larry Anderson, director of Bellevue’s Baptists media department, explains the key issues facing the organization after making the decision to transition from SD to full file-based HD production and post-production:
“We had been using Sony DVCAM and DigiBeta for several years, but they had started to fail on us. Repairs, and the overall costs of keeping that workflow going, were becoming expensive. We realized it was time to take at a fundamental look at our present and future requirements and the best way to gradually introduce a modern, tapeless, HD file-based workflow whilst still maximizing our legacy SD equipment.”
“However, we were more than a little nervous of getting rid of tape, and depending solely on hard drives. So having back-up copies with reliable redundant record of the material was an imperative. Added to this, we were keen to see how we could leverage the speed and power of a file-based workflow to get programs ready for broadcast on the Internet and Christian television networks.”
The solution: Four dual-channel Cinedeck RXs
Accordingly, Anderson and Sidhom, began researching file-based workflows and camera recording systems. Sidhom recalls, “We initially looked at a recorder (KiPro) from an alternative manufacturer. But when we took a close look at the workflow we realized there were significant wrinkles. For example, we still have SD sources and the device we were investigating only recorded in an HD format. This would have meant us having to up-convert all of our footage – which was a non-starter. advanced deck control and ingest solution.
“Even if we had an HD workflow, that other recorder uses fixed, internal SSDs – so after each recording we would have had to unplug the hard drive, reconnect it to the Avid, and then transfer the footage. At that stage the material would not have been in a true native Avid format that we could edit with. So we would still have had transcoding time. All in all, that workflow would have been no more efficient than the tape and disk-based workflows we were already using.
Anderson and Sidhom then discovered Cinedeck RX, got a demo, and say they were immediately impressed by the workflow and capabilities it offered.
“Unlike other recording systems, the RX supports both SD and HD in the same device – perfect for us,” says Sidhom. “Furthermore, it could deliver footage in the Avid native editorial format we needed, and its SAN connectivity provided potential for a highly positive impact on our ability to quickly turnaround finished programs.”
Bellevue Baptist Church duly ordered four dual-channel Cinedeck RXs and pressed them into action. Each of the three 90-minute Sunday services is covered by six Sony EX10 ISO cameras shooting 480i. The output of each ISO is recorded to individual SSD sleds across three RX recorders, while two separate line cuts are recorded on the SSD sleds in fourth RX. All channels are captured as MPEG-IMX, with an MXF OP-Atom wrapper, for Avid Symphony editorial. Each Cinedeck is also connected to record directly to their Avid shared storage, a 24TB Facilis Terrablock SAN, via Gigabit Ethernet. Multiple audio channels are embedded into the SDI-stream and are also recorded by the Cinedeck RX.
This workflow results in dual copies of the media – on Cinedeck SSDs and the SAN – for safety, and enables editorial to commence clean-up of the line cut as soon as services end. Typically, the two 90-minute Sunday morning services are turned around and ready for online Internet distribution within three hours. For TV broadcast, Sidhom and Anderson further finesse the edits of during the early part of the week, and deliver the completed programming complete by the middle of the week.
“The impact of the RXs on our productivity has been huge,” exclaims Anderson. “As soon as we hit stop on the RX, the footage is immediately available on the SAN. All we have to do is drag-and-drop the material into Avid Symphony and we can start editing. What would have taken a full day to ingest footage in the past, now just takes 45 minutes. Also, we can start editing the line-cut of the first Sunday service whilst the second service is still being recorded.”
While this workflow gives additional time for cutting, Sidhom explains an additional advantage for the editorial process. “Traditionally, if we needed to replace or extend a shot, we had to shuttle through tapes and could easily spend ten minutes or more searching for the right material. As all the footage from all of the cameras is delivered directly to the Avid, it’s already there and we can get any shots we need within a couple of mouse clicks,” he says.
As for the protection of the material during production and post, Anderson says, “One of the big attractions with Cinedeck RX is the redundant record. As the RXs connect directly to our SAN, we have the security of having two copies of the media – one on the SSD sled, one on the SAN. We sleep better at night these days knowing the material is in two places. Furthermore, although we finally archive to LTO-tape, we have been able to dispense completely with physical-based media – like videotape and DVDs – making the workflow much more cost-effective over the long term.”
6/1/2019: Bellevue Baptist has since upgraded their RX units to ZX20s.