Visionary Solutions Enables New Willow Creek Community Church AV Network

Willow Creek Community ChurchWith eight locations in the Chicago metropolitan area, Willow Creek Community Church has a wide reach. Its new North Shore campus opened just in time to celebrate Christmas 2016. The new campus is served by an extensive AV network that relies on Visionary Solutions E4000 PacketAV 4K-Encoders and D4000 PacketAV 4K-Decoders, which provide ultra-high-definition video over IP, with extremely low latency.“We designed a huge AV-IT network that connects the audio, video, lighting, and control equipment and provides video distribution throughout the campus,” offers Senior Design Consultant Peter Fitton of Clark, the Alpharetta, Georgia, firm that designed and installed the system.  “This is the biggest network we’ve ever built for a project like this. We deployed 28 Visionary Solutions D4000 decoders, each of which feeds a television monitor, and 5 E4000 encoders. As a result, 5 channels of content can be routed to any of 28 TVs throughout the facility.”Latency was a major concern when planning the project. “Latency issues have kept us away from doing IP delivery of video in the past,” Fitton remarks. “For example, the North Shore campus has TVs directly outside the auditorium, so when you’re standing in the lobby, and the doors are open, you can hear the music and whatever is going on in the auditorium. If the live sound is not synchronized with the TVs, that creates problems. In addition, the building is a single story, and it’s entirely round. From the inside of the auditorium, you can look through the courtyard and into the windows on the other side of the building and see the hallway, which has TVs. People potentially could see those TVs through the windows, so we could not have latency there either.”In the past, Fitton’s team would have distributed baseband video over coax to every television because even a modulated solution is not fast enough for HD video. For Willow Creek, though, it made more sense to create one big network that could handle everything-if it could be done with low enough latency.

“When I discovered Visionary Solutions encoders and decoders, I was intrigued and impressed,” Fitton recalls. “We did a lot of testing in our office, and we were very excited and happy with the results. There was no noticeable latency, the setup was really easy, and the cost per end point was comparable to what we were paying to do a straight baseband video solution-but we realized a lot of savings in the cabling. We used switches we had already deployed for the extensive audio network, and for the first time ever, we did an installation where there’s no coax, only network cable.”

Fitton’s job was made much easier by a great relationship with the client and early planning. “We were brought into the project early on,” he confirms. “The architect had done his drawings but they hadn’t broken ground yet. So we were able to work with Willow Creek throughout the process. We designed the audio, video, and lighting systems and the AV network, including systems for the main auditorium, student auditorium, and five children’s spaces. We used Dante distribution throughout the entire facility, which saves money because it’s on the same network as the Visionary Solutions gear, and we didn’t have to run individual lines for every analog input and output.”

The integrated AV-IT network required the Clark team to work closely with Willow Creek Community Church’s IT department. “Normally we leave almost all of IT up to the client’s IT team,” Fitton observes. “On this project, because we were deploying such a substantial network, I wanted to share space with IT in the network closets. Fortunately, Willow Creek has a great IT department who were willing to work with us. We’ve worked with them before at the main campus, and we have a good relationship. Before construction, they agreed to our plan to deploy a building-wide AV-IT network. They took a trunk line from our main network switch in order to manage Internet access, security, and connectivity to the rest of the building. IT also installed a building-wide fiber infrastructure to connect their switches, and they pulled extra strands to ensure we had the fiber we needed. It was a very good experience.”

The benefits of the Visionary Solution-equipped network are many, Fitton notes. “One thing that’s really powerful is that I can drop an encoder or decoder off of any switch. So if the client wants to feed a channel from a student room, for example, we don’t have to run a line; I can just drop an encoder in the room, and the feed will be on the network. This works anywhere we have a network connection. It shows up on the control computer immediately and is ready to go.”

The new AV network has been everything hoped for. “We and the Willow Creek Community Church people are very happy with the solution and specifically with the Visionary Solutions gear,” Fitton reports. “Latency is extremely low, the network delivers plenty of functionality, and the equipment is very reliable -and we did it all within the client’s budget.”