Houston’s HOPE CITY Church Supports Sophisticated Outreach to Millennials with Cinematic Video Shot on Panasonic VariCam LT 4K Camcorders
The thousands of youthful congregants of Houston-based HOPE CITY are scattered worldwide, participating in services via Facebook Live and YouTube streaming as well as in-person at multiple weekly worship experiences. The quality of HOPE CITY’s live and residual video production has seen a dramatic uptick since the introduction of Panasonic VariCam LT 4K cinema camcorders early this year.
Under the stewardship of Pastor Jeremy Foster, HOPE CITY is a completely mobile church, with the ministry presenting six weekend worship experiences at its main campus, Houston’s Memorial High School, and two at its secondary campus, Morton Ranch High School in nearby Katy, TX. Dan Rubottom, Media Consultant and Producer for the church, explained that until this year, the video production staff was supporting a swelling membership and increasingly intricate assignments with prosumer-grade cameras and a portable switcher.
“In considering new cameras, we knew we wanted to up the quality to broadcast level and have the ability to acquire in 4K to future-proof our video assets,” Rubottom explained. “At the same time, we wanted a cinematic camera. Working completely portably, we are somewhat limited in our staging in high school theaters: we project to three wide screens at our main campus, but there’s no depth and we wanted the background to fall out of focus.”
“The VariCam LT, with its filmic image handling and array of broadcast controls, was the ideal camera for us,” he added.
HOPE CITY purchased three Varicam LTs from Omega Broadcast (Austin, TX), and put them into production this winter. The church loads in and out each weekend for two Saturday evening and four Sunday morning services held at Memorial High School. These six services all feature live video elements shot on the VariCam LTs and projected onto three 20’ by 30’ screens. One Saturday and two Sunday worship experiences are streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, and during the second and third Sunday services, the pastoral messages are fed live to the Katy campus.
Typically, the three VariCam LTs operate on tripods, two cameras in the center of the stage, one to capture a looser head-to-toe shot of the pastor, the second to capture a tighter, waist-up shot. These LTs are outfitted with a Fujinon 20-120mm T3.5 Cabrio wide-to-telephoto zoom lens and a Fujinon ZK85-300mm T2.9-T4.0 cine-style lens with ENG-type controls, respectively. The third LT operates below the stage for side shots, typically of the band and performers; this is equipped with a Canon 18-80mm T4.4 cinema zoom lens.
Rubottom said that he uses a fiber system to pass an HD-SDI signal to production, which is then routed back to the projectors that feed the screens. A Haivision system is used to send a signal over the internet to the Katy location. A separate line cut is established for the Facebook and YouTube live streams. Each service is recorded in HD externally on an Atomos Shogun recorder. The church recorded its Easter service in 4K, and Rubottom said he expects to shoot in 4K more often over the next few months.
“The improvement in image quality with the LTs has been dramatic,” he said. “The cameras have higher resolution, significantly better dynamic range, and produce more vibrant, lifelike skin tones. We experience no more noise on our large screens, and the LTs are easy to color match.”
“The dual ISOs are phenomenal, and we’ve made ample use of ISO5000 as our concert lighting can create dark areas in the room,” Rubottom continued. “Considering that our staff is comprised almost wholly of rotating volunteers, the LT’s intuitive operation and focus assist features are invaluable.”
“The ability to switch out the LT’s EF mount for a PL mount has been quite useful, as we’re using both types of lenses,” he added. “Also, the LT’s camera build is impressive, and easily withstands our weekly load in/load out schedule.”