Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Sometimes they get it Right

I have a confession to make. I watched the whole Whitney Houston funeral last weekend. I’m a streaming guy so I tuned in to see how they handled the streaming. I was so drawn by the service itself that I stayed until the end.

Technically speaking it was pretty straightforward. There was a single camera on a tripod in the balcony away from most of the crowd. I assume this was because the church did not want the video to intrude on the atmosphere of the actual service. There was no switching or fading. There were some slow pans from the platform to the band or choir when the situation required but from a production standpoint there was very little done. I think this helped to preserve the character of the service and prevent it from becoming a Hollywood style production. The video feed was distributed from the building to a production system outside and then was apparently shared with the various television and news groups. Each of them then encoded the signal as needed and streamed it or broadcast it. It was interesting the watch the various streams.

I began with the feed from CNN. I also looked at what was being delivered to the television audience via Fox. I finally settled on the feed offered by the local ABC affiliate. They streamed the entire service with no interruptions and no commentary. I personally found the running commentary added by some of the television networks to be annoying and unnecessary. Technically the ABC feed seemed to be the best. From what I could tell it was HTTP streaming and most likely was Flash. The picture quality was excellent and I was able to expend it on my 1080 computer screen without distortion.

The CNN feed was encoded at a fairly low bitrate that did not look good when taken to full screen. They had some freeze up in the beginning and at one point went completely black. Such are the perils of live streaming… the same thing happened on the Super Bowl a few weeks ago.

More important, I think was the impact of the service as a whole. As someone who has been part of sharing live church services over various media for nearly fifty years I was glad to see them just “Do Church” as Marvin Winans said. The public was invited to view a private and relatively intimate service without intruding. I think as a ministry of the church can get bogged down in technicalities. What is on display should not be the technical prowess of the church but rather the spirit and character of a fellowship.

What this funeral demonstrated was the importance of the Church being itself. Don’t let the process get in the way of the purpose.