— 42 years after being named for its neighborhood within the city of Edmonton, Alberta, the church originally known as Mill Woods Assembly changed its identity to Hope City Church last year to reflect its expansion into new communities. Wanting to maximize the quality of the live video being fed to its new satellite campus, Hope City purchased three Z-HD5500 cameras from Hitachi Kokusai Electric America, Ltd. (Hitachi Kokusai) to capture its Sunday worship services for remote distribution and in-venue image magnification.
A total of roughly 3400 congregants attend three Sunday morning services at the Mill Woods campus each week, while up to 300 more come to services at the newer Terwilligar location that opened in October 2018. While the Terwilligar site has its own pastor and live music, the centerpieces of its services are time-delayed, live feeds of Lead Pastor Phil Kniesel’s sermons from Mill Woods. Already displeased with the quality limitations of their existing cameras, the launch of the new campus provided the impetus for the church to upgrade.
“Our old cameras didn’t allow us to achieve the quality we wanted, with insufficient low-light capabilities and consumer-grade controls,” said Dan Mandryk, technical director at Hope City Church. “We needed to replace them, and our expansion gave us the big push to get new cameras on board. Video enables us to multiply our presence, allowing us to deliver the same message across campuses while still creating unique experiences at each location. We wanted to go to a broadcast-grade camera because the video feed would essentially stand in for a live pastor, so must be high-quality.”
Taking note of the accolades that the Z-HD5500 was receiving in trade press, Hope City Church knew they needed to investigate it. “We narrowed our choice to two major brands, and Hitachi Kokusai worked closely with our dealer, Applied Electronics, to put together a package that met our needs at a price that worked for us,” explained Mandryk. “The Hitachi cameras’ ability to integrate with the Ross Dashboard control system was also important, as we are considering adding a Ross switcher in the future. “
Hope City’s three Z-HD5500s are now stationed on pedestals in the Mill Woods campus’ 1235-seat main sanctuary. In addition to serving the live video link between campuses, the cameras also power IMAG for the auditorium’s two 20-foot-wide, rear-projection side screens and 19-foot-wide center screen. An additional 26-foot screen in an overflow room is used for special events, while services are also streamed live via the Church Online platform and available on-demand on YouTube.
Mandryk highlights the Z-HD5500s’ ease of use as one of his favorite attributes of the cameras. “The best part has been how volunteer-friendly they are, even though they’re high-end cameras,” he elaborated. “We have operators who have never touched a camera before, and focus is always one of the hardest things for new camera users to master. The Focus Assist feature on the Z-HD5500 has made it so much easier for them, giving them something to check their focus against.”
The exceptional video quality of the Hitachi cameras has also earned praise from the church and its attendees. “The Z-HD5500s deliver an obvious quality boost from our previous cameras,” said Mandryk. “The color reproduction is also fabulous, as we finally see on video exactly what we see in the room. The first day we put them in, our congregants could see the difference, and were excited to see more vibrant colors.”
Mandryk also commends the Hitachi cameras’ handling of lighting conditions at both ends of the spectrum – their sensitivity in low-light situations, as well as their ability to acquire flicker-free images against a mix of LED lighting. “We push the boundaries on lighting, so sometimes we have to get a shot where there’s not a whole lot of light, and the Z-HD5500’s low-light handling is far superior to our old cameras,” he explained. “Conversely, we use a lot of LED lighting of varying quality in our sets – from high-end professional lights all the way down to do-it-yourself LED tape lights in our set pieces – and we’ve never had a problem with these cameras capturing great video.”
Summing up Hope City Church’s satisfaction, Mandryk shares that the Z-HD5500s have fulfilled all of their objectives. “The Hitachi cameras have elevated the quality of our visual experiences for our in-person and online congregants, while enabling an exceptional video link to our remote campus.”