Monday, September 24, 2012

Facetime & elevating baptism

I've been quiet for the last few months. Starting a new job tends to take up a lot of time, making things like blogging take a back seat for a while. And being an executive pastor means I'm not as immersed in technology as I was at HDC, but it doesn't mean I've stopped caring or paying attention to what is going on in the tech world.

LEFC does not own a baptisty. Instead of doing baptisms in the auditorium, they are done across the street in the stream. Everyone I've talked to thinks that is "really cool" but there is a big downside: We can only put about 100 or so people on the bank of the stream, and there are around 1000 adults that go to this church.

Baptism is one of the most exciting things in ministry. In baptism we see and hear the testimonies of those whose lives have been changed by Christ! To "hide" this away for only a hundred or so people just seemed wrong, but at the same time, nobody really wants to go away from doing it in the stream because, and I quote, it's "really cool."

For this past weekend's baptism, we decided to try something to bridge the two issues. We did the baptisms in the stream during our service, and then used Apple's FaceTime and two iPads to bring a live feed of the baptisms into the auditorium. The setup went like this:

Sound System for Baptisms by the stream connected via a cable to the iPad's headphone jack (which can also accept audio-in, giving us a direct feed from microphone to sound board to iPad).

iPad 3 mounted to tripod with Fat Gecko mount from B&H.

A second iPad located in our auditorium, connected via a VGA cable & a 1/8inch audio cable to our sound and projection system.

FaceTime to connect the two.

We used FaceTime rather than Skype because the video quality is better, and we needed all the quality we could get.

To get our wireless signal all the way to the stream we used a 200 foot ethernet cable and a similar length extension cord for power to put a wireless switch directly across the street from where we were filming. We ran tests and were getting about 2.5mbps from where we were filming, so we could get decent quality.

At the end of the day it wasn't perfect, but it did the job of putting baptism in front of everyone, rather than just those who are willing to stand at the side of the stream after church. In a weird twist of scheduling, I was out of town, so although I helped design and test the solution, it was setup and run entirely by Kathy (our IT staff) and a few volunteers.

Since we already had the iPads and wireless equipment, our total cost was about $60 for the audio cable and iPad mount, and the marginal cost of a 200 foot ethernet cable. This was a huge win for a very little amount of money. Woohoo!