A question we see asked online pretty often is, “Should our ProPresenter Operator be in our tech booth at front of house (FOH) or in our broadcast room?” I think this question can actually be a tough one to answer. But if we really break down the question, maybe it should be, “How many ProPresenter operators do I need?”
If you go to any big conference with lots of production, or even a concert that is highly produced, with cameras, lyrics, graphics, videos, etc. you’ll find that they aren’t trying to rely on one person to do it all. So, many times in smaller productions like at a high school musical or a small or mid-size church, we still want to look like we’ve got a well put together production. Aiming for a well put together production is a good goal, but we also need to consider what it may take to get to that point.
I’m going to focus on churches for a moment here. When a worship team needs a keyboardist or a drummer what do they do? They recruit more people for their team! For some reason, in the tech world, our first response to a need for people is to try to use less people and automate things more. The problem with this is that we aren’t putting a value on people and instead we are putting our value in technology. The technology we use should be tool, not a replacement for people. What if instead of minimizing the number of people we use, we start recruiting more people. This gives people an opportunity to use their gifting and serve!
The other big concern is, how much can one combination of hardware and software do? If you have all of the money in the world can you output an announcements layer, lower thirds for IMAG, 2 stage screens, a triple widescreen, and go live all from one computer? All while using some mix of 1080p and 4k content? Sure… if you have a $20,000 computer you certainly could accomplish all that and more. But at what cost? Well obviously the $20,000. But even more so it’s at a cost of flexibility. By only having one operator controlling all that (which is too much for one person by the way), you are stuck to a very limited way of displaying all of your content.
Here are some benefits of having more than one computer running ProPresenter and having an operator running each computer.
The more something is automated, the less flexibility you have when push comes to shove. If your band leader decides they want to sing some lyrics spontaneous that weren’t already ready to go, without having a person prepared to handle that, there would be a bunch of blank faces in the audience, feeling lost and not having a great experience. On top of that Separating your ProPresenter operators into multiple positions means that you can better create the looks for each of your different venues. For example, if you want to show specific videos and content on your live stream that are different from your in-person audience, you’re going to be better off having someone who can talk with the video switcher, and plan those moments out.
Instead of building one high performing device and relying on it for everything, save some money! Typically the more you invest in a computer, the lower return on investment you’ll see in the performance. For an example of that, when you add a GPU to a system you’re adding huge increase to video encoding performance, but add on a second GPU and it all of a sudden “double” the performance. If you can purchase 2 computers and run what you need to, you’re likely going to save some, which is always good for the budget!
By separating tasks among multiple people you are creating redundancy. If you have one computer doing your live stream switching, lyrics, announcements, video, and outputting to 8+ screens, if something went wrong, you’d be losing everything that visually creates your production all at one time. Instead, having one person run your live stream content, lyrics, video, etc. and one person running your in-house presentation allows for better redundancy if something were to go wrong.
Having more than one position for your content operators means that you’re providing more opportunities for people to get involved. People are awesome! Why not let them use their giftings and desire to serve? Any chance we can get to let someone join our team and provide new ideas is an opportunity for someone to feel wanted and believe they can make a contribution to moving your production forward.
Some Things To Keep In Mind
If you are in a situation where you are wondering, “Should our ProPresenter Operator be in our tech booth at front of house (FOH) or in our broadcast room?” you may be better off seeing what it may take to recruit some help for your team, to properly dedicate someone to the different needs you have.
By having your live stream operator in the broadcast room, they are better able to communicate with your video switcher and other online techs to create the best online experience.
By having your in-house audience operator in your main audience room, they are better able to be in-tune with the stage talent, knowing where they are headed, while also able to communicate better with your in-house production team for transitions.
Every organization has different needs. Maybe your need is to do everything from one computer. Or maybe you know it’s time to recruit more people for your team. If you need to recruit more volunteers, then start prioritizing that on your team! If you know that you need to make it work from a limited amount of operators, then keep in mind where your limitations are when planning out your production.