Like many churches across the country, Elizabeth Baptist Church, located in Atlanta, Georgia, was hit hard by the pandemic. The church was seeing upwards of 5,000 people in attendance each Sunday for its three services pre-Covid and now sees approximately 800 people sitting in its 1,600-seat auditorium at each service.
This prompted church management and its media department to figure out a new way to reach its congregation. They ended up live streaming services and improving production values with a Telemetrics robotic camera track system and an elevating pedestal at the front of the room to create sweeping pans and dolly shots of the proceedings and creative closeups of audience members live. Congregants wound up loving it and 5-6,000 church members continue to tune in via the Internet each Sunday to this day.
“Covid shifted the church world dramatically,” said Jason Widney, Media Director For Atlanta’s Elizabeth Baptist Church. “We went online on March 15th, 2020, and have been live streaming ever since. In November 2021 people started coming back into the church in person, but not in the numbers we had hoped. So, this live stream really saved our church and allowed people to continue worship with lead paster Dr. Craig L. Oliver, Sr. from the comfort of their homes.”
A veteran of several mega-churches, where audio/video technology play a big part of distributing their message, Widney joined the church in 2019. He brought his production experience to bear at Elizabeth Baptist Church, initially adding several DLSR cameras and operators to cover the empty auditorium. In 2021 the church began upgrading its equipment to include seven Blackmagic Ursa II HD cameras situated around the room—one on a jib, a fixed position, three handhelds and two manned cameras on tripods that can easily move around.
The centerpiece of this production arsenal is a 15-foot Telemetrics TeleGlide® TG4 straight robotic camera track and trolley system with a Televator® elevating pedestal mounted on top, supporting one of the cameras. This track system is programmed to make smooth pans and dolly moves in front of the stage and also operated manually with the control panel for audience reactions and other emotional images. Operated with a Telemetrics RCCP-2A control panel, a single person is used for each service to move the camera as required.
With the Telemetrics robotic camera control system, Widney implemented a much higher standard of production than what the church was used to. The field upgradeable TG4 track frame is constructed of lightweight aluminum components, making it easy to install, while the TG4 features a streamlined trolley and track design that requires minimal space. A Triple Balance System provides for increased stability and the TG4 is fully servo controlled, providing accurate preset positioning and repeatable camera moves.
You really can’t use a manned tripod with a room full of people. That’s what led us to acquire the Telemetrics track specifically.
“When Covid hit, we would iso our cameras and pre-record our services, and then cut it together in postproduction,” he said. “And I would multi-track our audio. At that time I was using DSLRs to shoot the services. We had guys with gimbals, which significantly improved the look of our online feed so much that when we came back to live services in the church, we had to match those production values congregants had been watching online.”
During the pandemic, instead of the TeleGlide system they had a camera on a tripod with wheels to perform dolly shots in front of the main stage.
“But you really can’t use a manned tripod with a room full of people. That’s what led us to acquire the Telemetrics track specifically,” Widney said. “We’ve really dedicated a lot of our efforts to making the online service a compelling experience, as if you were sitting in the church auditorium, and the robotic camera system is a big part of that.”
Now that’s it’s been operating for over a month, Widney added that member feedback has been extremely positive and has led to a significant increase in donations this past year. “Our live in-person numbers have not rebounded since Covid, but online we’re now serving 4-6,000 people online watching 80 percent of our services.”
All of this positivity can be attributed to the improved production value of their online services. And the TeleGlide system is working so well that they are hoping to add another robotic camera in the near future.
“I program shots for the track system that makes it move back and forth at a couple of different paces and framings. And then I have a guy who has experience with robotic cameras, so with the control panel he can manually move the camera head around (or up and down) for audience shots and what’s happening on the stage. It’s a very versatile system and we take full advantage of it to the delight of our church members.”
In the end, by adding new robotic camera technology to what they already had, Widney and his team are able to make the online experience more dynamic. They started using the new camera track system on Sunday, Sept. 21st and have begun training several church volunteers and experienced production personnel to operate it. Only one person is required for each service.
“We’re just getting started with it and learning what the robotics can bring to our services,” he said. “It has improved the look and feel of the services dramatically.
About Telemetrics, Inc.
Founded in 1973, Telemetrics revolutionized television camera control with the development of Triax cable-connected camera control systems, and continues to be a pioneer of innovative camera control systems used in the Studio, Legislative, Military, and Education markets. The company began designing, manufacturing and supporting its own camera robotics systems in 1979, and ceiling and floor camera track systems in 1981. Today, Telemetrics offers the OmniGlide® Robotic Roving Platform, the RoboEye® 4K Pan/Tilt System, the ever-expanding series of Robotic Camera Control Panels, the S5 line of Pan/Tilt heads, the Televator® family of motorized columns, and ceiling- or floor-mounted TeleGlide® track systems. Telemetrics is committed to making the most reliable, durable, and dependable television broadcast robotics ecosystem in the world…products that can be built on for decades, not just years.
About Elizabeth Baptist Church
With locations in Atlanta, Conyers, and Douglasville, Ga., Elizabeth Baptist Church currently serves approximately 2,500 hours of local outreach with creative ministries, which has served over 5,000 people. Globally, Elizabeth has sent out over 40 active missionaries and served over 1,200 men, women and children. The handprint of God, through the footwork of our members, can be seen in Ghana, Haiti, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Romania and South Africa with more to come.