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by Dan Hotchkiss

Our church has been recording services for years and putting them on Public Access TV. Then in March 2020, the Covid epidemic pushed us into high gear. Without missing a beat, we put our services online by Zoom, staffed initially by the husbands of our minister and music director. Study groups, choir rehearsals, ministerial office hours, and business meetings went on Zoom as well. Our church is in much better shape today because we did all this.

Streamed worship is one thing; hybrid worship is another. Last spring we started to invite people back to church in person. That was wonderful–but it presented a new challenge for the Stream Team in the sound booth at the back of the sanctuary. In addition to sending worship video out into the world, Stream Teamers simultaneously had to host a Zoom meeting, manage PA and hearing-assist systems in the sanctuary, and run PowerPoint shows containing hymn words, audio, and video. It was exciting!–in fact more exciting than most of us found comfortable. It was time to rethink the whole system for a new, and hopefully post-Covid, era.

ATEM in Action

Enter ATEM–more formally, the Blackmagic ATEM Mini Pro video switcher. ATEM* accepts up to four inputs (we use two cameras and a PowerPoint show) and lets the operator choose which one to stream by pushing a few buttons. The video appears live on our own website and is automatically recorded by YouTube. Early each week, we trim out all but the sermon, which remains available for church shoppers and others to watch.

We’re still in learning mode, but already, life in the sound booth has calmed down considerably. With church open, we have fewer online viewers. Some of them–as before–leave without sticking around for a Zoom gathering that happens after church. We’ll have to see how many people watch in the long run, and how useful having sermons available turns out to be.

If you have questions, you can contact Dan Hotchkiss. He’ll be especially glad to hear from you if you are interested in training as an ATEM operator. If you have suggestions about the overall direction of our worship work, tell Peter Connolly or a member of the Parish Committee.

*In case you’re curious, ATEM is named after the Egyptian god usually spelled Atum, known as “the finisher of worlds.”