Using An Auto-Tracking Camera In A Live Church Setting - A Case Study

When I first set out to start live streaming my church services 8 years ago, never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that 8 years later I would be writing about using auto-tracking cameras in that stream.

I am the pastor of Mesquite Worship Center as well as the owner of Church Technology Superstore. My wife and I started Mesquite Worship Center in October of 2019. Since then, even through the pandemic, it has grown to over 50 people who call our church home.

When we started the church, one of our first strategies was to use live streaming to reach our community via Facebook. We started out using a Canon HF R800 camcorder and vMix software. It wasn’t too long until we acquired a PTZOptics 30x SDI camera. This camera served our needs in a lot of ways. However, I am what you would call a “wandering preacher.” I like to move around while I am speaking to people.

This presented the problem of following me while I was speaking. We had presets made, and a joystick controller, but inevitably I would walk out of the shot. I am sure part of the problem was our younger aged volunteer may have gotten distracted by a text message from a cute girl. But that is a different story.

As much as the PTZ Optics camera was a great addition to our live streaming arsenal. I soon set my sights on an auto-tracking camera.

Solving The Wandering Preacher Problem With The HuddleCamHD SimplTrack2

Sometimes being a dealer of church technology products has its perks. I got in contact with Paul Richards the CMO of both PTZOptics and HuddleCamHD. Over the last couple of years I have developed a good relationship with him and we talked about my problem. He suggested I try out the HuddleCamHD SimpleTrack2 and even offered to send me a demo model to try out. Instead I just went ahead and purchased one for our church.

I received the camera a few days later and like with most tech geeks, I took out the camera and set aside the instructions. This was my first mistake. I assumed that if I plugged it in with the USB cable, that it would install the software needed to run the camera. The camera was plug and play but it was not preloaded with the software to set up all the parameters you need to set up. So after spending more time than I should have, I looked and realized I needed to download the software on the HuddleCamHD website.

So after downloading the software, I was ready to go right? Wrong. I still had it plugged into the USB port but not the Cat5 connection. Now to give myself a little break here, I did manage to scrounge up the instruction manual by this time. However it was not specifically clear that you had to run the set up software with this connected. By this time I had spend a couple of hours pulling the hairs out of my bald head and went home for the night.

During the night, I remembered that the YouTube video giving instructions on how to set up this camera talked about the Cat5 connection. I went back the next morning and connected the Cat5 cable to my router and found the camera with the software.  So problem solved right? Wrong!

Once I had things configured according the the video, I thought I was ready. However, when I did my first recording, the camera kept trying to switch back and forth between the zoom lens and the tracking lens. I tried every option I could find in the software but to no avail. I put in a call to the HuddleCamHD support dept. It was 4:30 PM my time (Pacific) and of course they were not in on the East Coast. However, they called me first thing in the morning the next day. I was at home and asked if they would call back in 20 minutes so I could drive to the church. They were more than happy to do so.

I must admit, when I find glitches, I find them. The support person had never seen this issue before. Finally he discovered that it really wasn’t a camera problem but a vMix problem. Vmix was set to a certain video type and the camera operates on another type. Once that was fixed, things were running normally. I was impressed by the level of service that the HuddleCamHD support team gave to this techno-dummy.

But did it solve the wandering preacher problem?

How Does An Auto Tracking Camera Work In A Live Church Enviroment.

It took a while to get this worked out. It will work as long as you use the right tool for the right job. This camera is not designed for multiple people in the tracking zone. It works best when there is one person. This means that you need to set it up taking into consideration for the people that are in your audience that are in between the camera and the speaker.

On our first try, I thought I had blocked out the seats. However, I did not block out the space above the seats where people would be sitting or standing. The camera will follow a lot of things as long as a head is involved.

On our second attempt, I tried to use it with a tightened up tracking zone but with multiple people in the tracking zone on our worship team. It once again got confused as to which person it should track. Unless there is a setting I am unaware of, the camera is designed to track one person only at a time.

Finally we understood that this camera could only be used to track me or another speaker. It could not be used when multiple people are on the platform. Once we understood that, the camera does a brilliant job of solving the wandering preacher problem. I have already had one church in my town ask me about the camera. It is impressive.

As long as you understand that this camera is to be used for one thing, and you want your pastors sermons to be more engaging, then this camera is for you. I am glad we went and stepped up to include the HuddleCamHD SimpleTrack2 in our live streaming toolkit.

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