CASE STUDY

How St Francis of Assisi Handsworth dealt with COVID-19

Fr Kelly asked if we could help St Francis Church still reach their parishioners at this important time by streaming their services live.

When government guidelines requested that churches shut their doors to help slow the spread of coronavirus this had serious consequences for all faiths. Whilst churches across the country played their part in the stem of the disease it happened at the busiest time of the ecclesiastical year, Easter.

Fr Kelly asked if we could help St Francis Church still reach their parishioners at this important time by streaming their services live.

The requirements for live streaming are not that complicated, you need a quality camera, encoder, a CDN (content delivery network) and most important a reliable resilient internet connection.

The above technical jargon might seem a little gobbledegook to many and all of the above can simply be achieved by using any reasonable quality laptop with additional software like Zoom or Skype.

HOWEVER – These options do have a place, and are predominantly for remote meetings and keeping in touch with friends. There have been some fun creative uses of both Zoom and Skype throughout the country whilst in lockdown. However, as many of you will have experienced-on TV, many of the live links into the mainstream broadcast via laptops and home computers have been very mixed.

The quality of laptops and home computer links can vary enormously from dropping the call/link, freezing or breaking up pictures and with some producing exceedingly bad sound.

The issue is with laptops and computers is their small form pin hole camera and built-in microphones.

To ensure a high quality experience a more dedicated option is needed.

THE SITE VISIT

Problem! – Alas, no internet at the church. We solved this by running a temporary 75m Cat 6A ethernet cable from the church centre next door. The centre's internet connection was used until the church was able to get their own installed.

The installation consists of two Miniature Full-HD (3G/HD-SDI) Marshall Cameras, each with a 12mm lens. These connect to an easy to operate 2-way switcher, this then connects to a DataVideo Streaming Encoder. The DataVideo allows us to schedule service times and maintain GDPR requirements for the use of video within a public space.

GETTING GOOD SOUND

St Francis has an internal sound system installed, we were able to connect into the church amplifier so two lectern mics and a handheld mic provided a clean sound feed to the DataVideo Encoder.

 

We designed a bespoke landing page and the link was made available through the church centre's website and listed through the Archdiocese of Birmingham.

The landing page had the times of service and an option to scroll down and follow the order of service.

Conclusion

Fr Kelly and Deacon Benedict said “It was strange at first delivering our service without a congregation and speaking to the camera, but we soon adapted.”

The reach from streaming over the Easter period and beyond was exceptional, with viewers throughout Ireland, locations in main land UK and even abroad.

Since helping St Francis during the COVID-19 lockdown they have asked us to continue this offering for the many parishioners who cannot make the personal journey into church. This has become a vital comfort for many who still want to partake in the church services.

Moving forward, when lockdown eases and churches re open their doors, streaming will allow families to view baptisms, weddings and funerals for those who cannot make the journey.

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