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Ross Video Team Feb 8, 2021

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Living Live Podcast: The Impacts of COVID-19 on the Worship Production Industry


Worship is an act that congregants partake in together – but, in the age of COVID-19, that gathering looks very different.

Though two vaccines have received emergency approval in the United States and some areas may allow for in-person worship, much of the world’s congregating is still being done via remote means.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a tremendous impact on the worship producers trying to balance an impactful experience with this new normal, and Ross Video Business Development Manager, Worship Production Jeremy Bagwell joined host Tyler Kern on this episode of Living Live! to explore how the worship production industry is adapting and looking ahead at its future.

Bagwell was working for a large church at the outset of the pandemic, meaning he saw firsthand how much it immediately impacted the worship experience.

“I think one of the most challenging parts was just the decision-making process,” he said. “Just the pace of decision-making changed. It was almost hourly that things were changing. It was fascinating.”

However, the industry has risen to occasion and found solutions, from pre-recording to live broadcast and more. Now, moving forward, much of the way worship is conducted has evolved for good.

“I think streaming online is definitely one of those things [that isn’t going away],” Bagwell said. “At the end of the day, you think about the vulnerable folks. … Those folks are not going to come attend an in-person service for a long time. There’s an expectation set that, whether you’re the 100-person church or the 10,000-person church, there’s going to be some type of web stream.”

AUTHOR: Tyler Kern
CONTRIBUTORS: Jeremy Bagwell

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Podcast Transcript

 

Tyler Kern:

COVID-19 has prevented us from gathering together for large in-person events, the way that we were used to before the pandemic. In few places, it felt the effects of that more than in houses of worship, where the weekly in-person gatherings are an integral part of their purpose and mission. And today we asked the question, how has COVID-19 changed the house of worship going forward? And joining me to answer that question is Jeremy Bagwell. Jeremy, thank you so much for joining me.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Hey, glad to be here. I'm excited about the conversation.

Tyler Kern:

I am as well. Jeremy is the business development manager for Worship Production at Ross Video. And he's going to be walking through this conversation with us because Jeremy, there is so much to talk about when it comes to this area. But first and foremost, you worked at a large church at the beginning of this pandemic. Can you tell me about that experience. Some of the things you saw, some of the conversations that were taking place at being a part of that church.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Man, it was a fascinating to say the least challenging. I work for North Point Community Church, which is just outside of Atlanta, large multi-campus church. And I remember that day when we had a staff meeting and it was like, "Hey, we're not going to meet in person." And then all of a sudden we're scrambling to figure out what we're going to do, how we're going to do it. Originally we're like, "Oh, we're a couple of weeks into this and then we'll be back." And then as time went on, things quickly changed. I think one of the most challenging parts was just the decision making process.

Jeremy Bagwell:

I mean, for me, I was a production director, making decisions about live production. And then all of a sudden we're thrust into a position where we're like, "Maybe we prerecord this thing and we run it on Sunday on the web, maybe we do it live." And then all the decisions then bubble up to a central place. And so I know my boss was being hit left and right with decisions and we're waiting on decisions. So just the pace of decision making changed, it was almost like hourly things were changing. So yeah, it was really fascinating. I think every church large and small felt the crunch of like, "What do we do now?" And it's been fun seeing how it's played out. People have risen to the occasion and made it work. So does that answer your question? I don't know.

Tyler Kern:

Yeah. I think so because you're right in pointing out just the various decisions that had to be made. The decision to, "Are we going to prerecord this or are we going to go live? How are we going to stream?" There were so many decisions to make. How did you walk through that process? And what did that look like for you specifically? Because those conversations I'm sure were difficult conversations to have, and there are positives and negatives on both sides.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Yeah. I think it was... We did it collectively as a team for the most part. And we walked through the pros and cons of like, "Okay, if we're here on Sunday, do we have volunteers? Do we wear a mask? Do we sanitize?" So many things that we've never really had to think through before. We landed at a place where we were like, "Okay, if we can prerecord this thing, but it still feels live, then that's what we should do." If it's live, it needs to be really live and must be a big value for the reason why we do it live on the web. So as we thought through our worship service flow and thought like, "Okay, here's what we're doing, here's a programming." It made sense to do a pre-record because you could not really tell a difference whether it was live or prerecorded.

Jeremy Bagwell:

So the experience on the other side of the screen was like, "Okay, this is what we do." Because we've been broadcasting on the web for a long time. So it allowed us to really utilize our assets, our people and gear the right way, doing a prerecord. So when we just start laying it all out and ask the question like, "What is the difference if we bring... Because obviously bringing people in on a early Sunday morning during those early COVID times, the intensity is a little ramped up. And you get one shot to get it right. So for us, it's like, "Okay, well we can take a day, record some songs and record a service and then pass it off to an editor." And our editors, all of a sudden became very busy. But pass off editor, get it edited, then play it. So it made sense for us to do prerecord for those reasons.

Tyler Kern:

Yes. So that was the decision that you made. And I think it was beneficial that you were already streaming services beforehand, but for a lot of churches, this wasn't something that was taking place. Or maybe it was, but just on a much, much smaller scale. And then all of a sudden you can't hold in-person events, and so streaming became a much bigger emphasis for a lot of these churches. What are the challenges in going from not streaming at all, or streaming on a small scale, up to ramping up to your entire production and everything that you do is now streaming and all of your members are now remote. What are some challenges associated with that process for churches?

Jeremy Bagwell:

Oh man. A lot of challenges. So a church right down the road that I grew up at, I know them really well. They didn't have any cameras, they didn't have a video switcher. They had really no way of getting it to the web. And so they scrambled real quick and decided from... Thankfully they were financially at a place where they could invest some money, which obviously we'll start there. Money is a big problem a lot of times. And so they were at a place where they could buy a couple of cameras and a video switcher. Some folks jumped in and we said, "Okay, we can help get you going." But other churches decided like, "Hey, I'm going to use my iPhone and use Facebook live." In fact, a lot of churches don't even stream to their website. They do Facebook live or YouTube live or these free sources.

Jeremy Bagwell:

So, there's so many churches, a 100 people or less all the way scaling up to 20,000 and so everything in between. And so at the end of the day, it comes to like, "What is your resources? What can you execute?" And in my opinion, what really, really matters is the content, it's the stuff that people are there to engage with and grow with and be challenged by. So the content really matters. We just want to be able to distribute that content clearly, so there's no distractions.

Jeremy Bagwell:

So I think every church has to wrestle around with their values. Like, "Okay, what is the value for me? Is it having a great camera shot and all that stuff." Or is it, "Can I just run it on my phone and be okay with it?" So everybody's going to land a little bit differently when it comes to that stuff. But yeah, challenges are immense and we don't even start on lighting because at the end of the day, if you don't have good light, you don't have good video. So we'll just leave that there for now.

Tyler Kern:

That's a great point. And when I think about COVID-19 and the pandemic and what has gone on over the last year, one of the biggest curiosities and things that I think about I guess is, how have things changed that won't go back to the way they were before? I think a lot of people wonder that when it comes to the office setting, "Will I ever go back into an office the same way that I did before?" Different questions like that. "Will I ever actually go to the grocery store to buy groceries or will I always have it delivered now?" So I think there are questions about, "Hey, what types of things has the pandemic changed that won't ever go back to the way they were before?" And I wonder the same thing with houses of worship and with churches. What sorts of things do you think have evolved during this time, or made a necessary adjustment during this time. Maybe now that the cat's out of the bag, we're never going to get it back in.

Jeremy Bagwell:

I think streaming online is definitely one of those things, because at the end of the day, you think about the vulnerable folks. The folks that like, "Okay, COVID-19 is a big deal." And those folks are not going to come attend the in-person service for a long time. And so there's an expectation now, set with no matter if you're the 100 person church or the 10,000 person church, that there's going to be some type of web stream, some type of way to get the church content some way to feel like you're part of a church body and our membership, that's going to have to exist for a good long time. I don't know if it will really ever go away. I think it just... To be honest, pre COVID-19, everybody had some theories about online engagement, had some theories about ways of doing church online. And what is the online church look like.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Well, COVID-19 just thrust us into this experiment and said, "Okay, Hey, we're going to figure it out. And we're going to see how it goes." And I think we've learned a lot of things like having a web stream or putting your content on the web matters. And I think people engage with it and it's going to happen. And I think you're just going to have to have it, whether it's five people online or whether it's a 100,000 people online viewing it. It's just going to become part of your thing that you do, no matter what size church you are. Which means your budgets change, which means operationally now you have video system that you got to maintain, you've got some subscription services you've got to deal with. And so, your 2021 budget is different in production now, than it was previously. And then that brings up a whole bunch of decision-making things that whoever the production person is, has to make some of those decisions. But yeah. Does that answer your question?

Tyler Kern:

Yeah. And you took us to an interesting place and that is talking about budgets for 2021, and production directors and people who are in leadership positions, making decisions as far as what decisions do we make with equipment, with software, with technology, things along those lines. How do we evolve with the understanding that online streaming will be a thing forward moving. And I think that these are always tricky conversations to have between church leadership and production directors, because there can be an element of not speaking the same language.

Tyler Kern:

Production director, trying to convey why this is important in church leadership, maybe not understanding terminology and what exactly that person is trying to communicate. I know that's a circumstance I've seen play out in the past. And just wondering if you have any advice for people who are in that circumstance. Production directors who are trying to convey the importance of new equipment, new technology ways that will enable them to better stream online in the future. Any tips for speaking the same language as church leadership and trying to understand one another.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Yeah. It's a soap box issue for me because I've been doing this thing for 14 years in total, I work full time in church production. So I've been part of, a lot of these conversations, been privy to dealing with it and also been on the side of asking my boss for a budget and then him going to the leadership. So let's back up and start from a long time ago. At the end of the day, what was happening is people gathered and took place in teaching and this collective community of a body of believers fellowshipping together. And then as we fast forward, the span of time over the last thousands of years, our societies had developed. And so what once was a church needed low technology, now fast forward in 2021, the church needs high technology to function.

Jeremy Bagwell:

And for me, this is just me, nobody else's opinion, not of Ross video, none of the churches I've ever worked for. But in my opinion, it's been great to see this advancement of technology in churches, but what hasn't necessarily also advanced is the... And this is, I mean, there's some churches that do this well, others that don't do it well, but thinking through, our church needs technology to survive. I think that's a really hard thing for a church leadership to wrestle around with because we believe in a higher power anyway. And so when we say, "Hey, we need technology to survive." That's a tough pill for them to swallow, but it's a reality in a lot of ways, because at the end of the day, what is most important is that content and the teaching and the gathering together. And so technology exists to make all that happen.

Jeremy Bagwell:

So when you think about that, you think about, "Okay, so what type of technology do we need to make it happen?" And I think there just has to be real wrestling around with some of the values when it comes to that stuff. Do we want this really awesome broadcast scale gear that doesn't fail and it works and then it also has a great volunteer experience and we engage volunteers to make it happen? And so when you start wrestle around with those values, then you begin to see it bubbling up. Now here's how it happened in real life. For me, my production team wrestled around with those values. We came to a place where like, "Here's what we value." But the budget didn't reflect those values. And so what you have to do is then push the conversation up. And it's not about, we want the best gear, but here's some of the values of the reasons why we're making those decisions.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Here's what we see as church progressing over the past thousand years or so. Here's what it looks like now. And here's the ways that we feel like we can utilize our technology. So I think it's just a mutual conversation that you have and say, "Hey, let's just deal with what reality is." And then if the budget's not there let's work towards 2022 having the budget. So we realized overnight, you're not going to come up with another million dollars. Production guys know that, we're aware of that. So when we asked for things. But leadership loves seeing you make a plan for the future. And so instead of us asking the leadership to make the plan, we say, "Hey, over the next five years, if we can do X amount of dollars per year, sock it away, then we'll be able to buy the system that we really need three, five years from now or whatever it may be."

Jeremy Bagwell:

So being able to have those conversations and making sure that you're on the same insync with the same values is really important. And I think if you can really just help people understand, the migration that we've been on from low technology to high technology to make church happen. Yeah, that's my soap box. At the end of the day, the church production managers are the heroes of our story. Because at the end of the day, we have this Sunday experience and they hold up this incredible thing and message that they feel personally responsible for and it's their profession. And so there's this high buy-in, high commitment and yeah, it's very challenging time. So that's why I always say those guys are our heroes.

Tyler Kern:

Absolutely. And so Jeremy, take me up to where you are now. So you're now working at Ross Video. How are you still enabling the worship experience, enabling the gathering of houses of worship? But from the other side, now working with Ross Video, tell me a little bit about your role now and what you hope to achieve.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Yeah. I am really, really excited. I love Ross Video. I was a Ross' Video user for a long time, part of the reason why I got the job. But business development for us at Ross Video. And this is the way I like to phrase it to people is that, I championed the cause of church for Ross, which is not the other way around. At the end of the day, what I felt [inaudible 00:15:23] 14 years with manufacturers sometimes don't get a worship production market. A lot of times I feel like, "Oh, it's products and services that are from the news market or from the sports market. And we're just fitting it into the church market." So for me, business development at Ross is, "Hey, we want to have products and services and solutions that fit the church market, both price point and functionality."

Jeremy Bagwell:

We want to be on the forefront of making sure that your volunteer experience is awesome. We want to support you. And we want to help you create the very best services you can. At the end of the day, our products don't do the creativity again. Our end users, folks sitting around a table in a creative meeting. That's where creativity comes from. We want to provide live production solutions that maximizes your opportunity for creativity. So I think it's just... I'm excited because I get to influence those things. I know the conversations I've had with our product teams and with our sales teams and ways that we're able to champion the cause of church for Ross. So I'm really excited about it. I'm looking forward to what the future holds. Yeah. I could talk a long time about that so I can keep going.

Tyler Kern:

Well, I know from previous conversations and previous episodes of this show that Ross has a lot of tools like dashboard and things like that, that can be really, really beneficial in house of worship settings. What types of tools that Ross provide, are you particularly excited about bringing more into the house of worship market that you think will be really beneficial for them?

Jeremy Bagwell:

So this is the way I say it for anybody that... I'm going to give a subtle shout out to my favorite restaurant was the Chick-fil-A. So if you know Chick-fil-A... So here's what dashboard is to the church market dashboard is what Chick-fil-A sauce is to Chick-fil-A. It is the secret sauce. If you've ever had Chick-fil-A sauce, you're like, "Oh man, that's good." So dashboard is that. And dashboard's free. It's a control software that allows you to control Ross devices, allows you to control third-party devices. It's amazing. What I found is a lot of people don't understand the power of dashboard. Don't understand what dashboard does, the power of it, and that you for free can be a really powerful dashboard user and really a developer. Developer is a big, heavy word, but at the end of the day, you can do it.

Jeremy Bagwell:

And Ross has a bunch of tutorials. In fact, we just released a series of tutorials that helps you build what I would have wanted. When I was a church production manager, a dashboard panel that controls a whole bunch of different devices. So we released a bunch of tutorials to help you build that panel. So you'll see over time, we really, really or I personally really want to help create more dashboard [Tinkercad 00:18:22] as I like to call it. So not developers, but Tinkercad. And you're going to have some incredible stuff come from that. Great ways to make help volunteers control things. Great ways for you to what I say is get out of the ditch when your service goes sideways and something production-wise messes up, you can have a panel that gets switched back to the right source or make sure the recordings are recording and things like that. So, yeah, dashboard is a big initiative of dashboard team's all about it. And I think you're going to see some fun stuff come from it.

Tyler Kern:

Well, like Jeremy mentioned, there are a ton of resources on Ross' videos website, where you can find more tutorials and information about products and that sort of thing. If you want to learn more and also you can just contact Jeremy as well. And I'm sure he'd be happy to walk you through any questions you have Jeremy Bagwell, business development manager of Worship Production at Ross Video. Jeremy, thank you so much for joining me today.

Jeremy Bagwell:

Oh man. Thanks for having me. I'm looking forward to what happens. Yeah. And I really look forward to post COVID world too. It'll be fun getting out and seeing everybody and seeing what we come up with.

Tyler Kern:

It is going to be an exciting time and I can't wait for that as well. And everyone thank you so much for tuning into this episode. We appreciate it very much. We'll be back soon with more from Ross' video, but until then I've been your host today. Tyler Kern. Thanks for watching.

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