The new sanctuary of Lighthouse Church in Panama City, FL, constructed after a hurricane destroyed its previous location a few years ago, offers improved video production infrastructure that incorporates Hitachi Kokusai Z-HD5500 HDTV cameras.
After Hurricane Michael tore through the city in 2018 and destroyed the auditorium, worshipers met in the church’s smaller children’s building until a new space could be developed. A year-long renovation project broke ground in 2020 to convert a former AMC movie theater into a new home: a 37,000-square-foot facility with an 850-seat auditorium, half-court basketball, and a child development center.
The relocation provided the impetus and opportunity for the church to implement a long-awaited upgrade to its video production capabilities. Prior to the hurricane, the church had used mobile phones and consumer-level camcorders, but they weren’t satisfied with the results.
“Our video capabilities were fairly primitive,” explains Juili Bailey, worship leader and creative pastor at Lighthouse Church. “Upgrading them had already been part of our long-term vision, but it hadn’t been a financial priority for us. We were sort of stuck, as we didn’t want to make the investment in upgrading until we could do it the way we wanted to do it. Then the hurricane reset every plan that we had.”
Bailey wanted to ensure that the cameras and other equipment they purchased would meet not only the church’s immediate needs, but also longer-term goals. “Video is a key medium for creating and reinforcing connection between the church and our members, so we wanted to move towards better quality,” she says. “We also wanted the option to broadcast our services on television in the future. We wanted to plan ahead now, as it’s often difficult to backfill and retrofit things later.”
Tennessee-based systems integration firm AVLX designed and installed the video, audio, and lighting systems for the new venue. AVLX recommended Hitachi cameras and the church purchased three Z-HD5500 broadcast cameras that are now stationed on Cartoni tripods in fixed positions within the auditorium.
Lighthouse Church’s new location opened in June 2021 and hosts roughly 1,200 in-person attendees each Sunday. Video acquired by the Hitachi cameras feeds image magnification (IMAG) through Digital Projection 21,000 lumen projectors to the auditorium’s 12-foot by 7-foot Draper TecVision screens and is streamed to online followers via multiple platforms. The Z-HD5500s’ global shutter sensors enable the capture of quality video without visual artifacts such as moiré patterns or flickering in the sanctuary’s LED-rich environment, which is equipped with a 40-foot SquareV Zi3 LED wall as a digital backdrop.
Bailey also notes how easy it was for the all-volunteer crew to learn to operate the cameras. “Honestly, we have been shocked at how well the volunteers have taken to them, and the increase in quality that we got overnight. Our area is more tourism-oriented than high-tech, so we’re not in a place where most people are dealing with technology in their jobs every day. Our technology volunteers were still able to get up to speed very quickly. The cameras have also given our volunteers a morale boost, as they’re putting out a result that they can be proud of and that they feel is a great increase in quality. It makes them excited to come and be on the cameras every week.
“The Hitachi cameras have definitely met our expectations and exceeded them, and we know there’s plenty more that we can do with them,” Bailey concludes. “Our goal is to communicate fluidly and even beautifully. In 2021, video and other forms of technology are essentially the language that people speak. These cameras have allowed us to speak that language very well.”