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  • Writer's pictureMatthew Losey

Implement Audio, Video, and Lighting Over IP in Churches: Static/Dynamic, Pros/Cons | How-to #13

Updated: May 2, 2023

Sometimes it really stinks to run new cables in the ceiling, under the concrete floor, or behind walls. It is tempting to want to bypass that additional work by shooting the silver bullet of running (better yet reutilizing!) a few ethernet cables to solve all your problems. While salesmen can be very convincing on how easy it is to implement each of these systems, I can tell you from experience, it’s never easy and it's never simple. You will find yourself beating your head against a wall many times for many late and inconvenient hours. I also have nothing to sell you or gain from sharing this with you (except for my book which is a lot less costly). Let’s get down to business.


Audio Over IP

Audio over IP is a method of transmitting audio signals over a network using IP-based protocols. This allows for the creation of complex audio networks that can span large distances, making it a popular choice for broadcast and live sound applications among churches. One of the main benefits of audio over IP is its flexibility, as it can be configured and reconfigured to meet changing requirements. Additionally, it provides high-quality, low-latency audio, making it ideal for live sound reinforcement and broadcasting. For example, within a single Ethernet Gigabit network cable, you can have 512 paths of audio within a Dante environment. If you wanted to do that in a typical analog scenario, you would need 512 individual balanced cable runs which would quickly become impractical, expensive, and physically restrictive.

To implement AoIP, specialized hardware, and software are needed, such as audio interfaces and network switches with built-in AoIP support. Many different protocols are used for AoIP, including Dante, AES67, and Waves Soundgrid, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Dante, for example, is widely adopted in the industry and offers plug-and-play simplicity, and is probably one of the most popular among churches in the last 10 years or so.

Video Over IP

You guessed it, video over IP is the process of transmitting video signals over an IP network instead of traditional video cabling like SDI and HDMI. This allows for greater flexibility in the distribution of video signals, as well as more efficient use of network resources. One popular protocol used for video over IP is Network Device Interface (NDI), which was developed by NewTek. NDI allows for low-latency video transmission and enables seamless integration with other NDI-compatible devices. It also supports multicast and unicast transmission modes, making it suitable for use in large-scale video distribution systems. NDI has become a popular protocol among churches for live-streaming services and events from point to point. While this promises greater flexibility, a primarily network-based video infrastructure for more than 6-8 video feeds can quickly become impractically expensive for the average church. It would be more reliable and inexpensive to run a robust series of Fiber and SDI cabling for video feeds.

Another widely used protocol for video over IP is Real-Time Transport Protocol (RTP) and its derivative, Real-Time Messaging Protocol (RTMP). These protocols enable real-time transmission of audio and video data to the internet from your local network environment. They are widely supported by video streaming platforms such as YouTube and Facebook, and can be used to transmit live streams of church services and events to a global audience. SRT (Secure Reliable Transport) is another popular protocol that enables secure and reliable video transmission over unpredictable networks. It incorporates a range of features such as error correction, encryption, and low-latency streaming, making it ideal for video streaming applications in challenging network environments. Each of these options have become increasingly popular among churches that need to transmit high-quality video signals over the internet to remote audiences.

Lighting Control/DMX Over IP

The next consideration is to select the right protocols and equipment for the specific needs of the church. Different protocols and equipment may be better suited for different types of audio, video, and lighting control applications. For example, while NDI may be suitable for video over IP in one church, RTMP might be more appropriate for another. Art-net might work for the church down the road but sACN might be better for yours. It's crucial to research and select the protocols and equipment that best align with the church's goals, budget, and infrastructure. feedback of lighting data. sACN, or Streaming ACN, is a protocol that also enables the transmission of DMX lighting data over Ethernet networks. It is designed to provide a more efficient and reliable method of transmitting large amounts of lighting data, and supports up to 63,999 universes on one ethernet cable.

In the context of churches, these protocols can be used to simplify lighting control and improve the experience during worship services, and other church events. While they require a significant amount of time to understand before implementation, it is still beneficial to consider using them when the need for more than two DMX universes arises. With just two regular DMX universes, a single ethernet cable can be run and spliced to operate two 5 volt communication systems over 1000 feet of cable. If there is a need to expand an existing environment, or if additional lines cannot be run, or if lighting control is required in a different environment, DMX over IP becomes a more viable option.

Static vs Dynamic IPs

In the context of audio, video, and DMX over IP for churches, the use of static IPs provides several advantages. One significant benefit is increased stability and consistency in network communication, as static IPs remain fixed and do not change over time. This helps to avoid conflicts or duplicate addresses in the network, which can cause communication issues and downtime. Additionally, static IPs are particularly useful for devices that require a fixed address for remote management, monitoring, or control, which is often the case in audio and video environments. Lastly, the best case in my opinion is the amount of downtime you will have after a restart. In the event you have to restart a piece of equipment, you need it back up as soon as possible. When you restart that piece of hardware, you can wait as long as a minute or two for the network to handshake itself into the network. Depending on your IP address lease time, you might not get another one. But if it is set to static, you can be connected near instantaneously one the device is powered back up.

However, there are also some drawbacks to consider when using static IPs. Configuring static IPs can be a time-consuming process that requires manual setup for each device in the network, which can be particularly challenging in larger setups. Not to mention, all the excel sheet coordination that must take place. In the case of network changes, such as adding or removing devices, static IPs may need to be reconfigured manually, which can be inconvenient and time-consuming and take coordination with your IT team. Another issue to consider is address space exhaustion, particularly in smaller, less professional networks, which can make it difficult to assign unique addresses to all devices. Lastly, you may not have an IT team at your church or one that is educated and practiced on the matter of IP based audio, video and lighting. A properly set up network is incredibly powerful. Just as equal and opposite is one set up poorly. It can be devastating for clicks, pops, blackouts, and loss of control. There is the potential for pure chaos.


Get Your Ducks in a Row

Before your church moves to an audio, video, or lighting control over IP network, there are a few necessary considerations that need to be taken into account. First, it's important to assess the current network infrastructure, and IT staff, including the capacity and bandwidth of the network, to ensure that it can handle the additional traffic and data required by audio, video, and lighting control over IP. This may involve upgrading network hardware, such as switches and routers, to support higher speeds and capacity. Make sure you have network switches listed on each of the device’s compatibility lists. It's also important to consider network security, particularly for audio and video content, and ensure that appropriate measures are in place to prevent unauthorized access, disconnection and stream takeover.

The next consideration is to select the right protocols and equipment for the specific needs of the church. Different protocols and equipment may be better suited for different types of audio, video, and lighting control applications. For example, while NDI may be suitable for video over IP in one church, RTMP might be more appropriate for another. Artnet might work for the church down the road but sACN might be better for yours. It's crucial to research and select the protocols and equipment that best align with the church's goals, budget, and infrastructure.

Lastly, it's important to train and equip the staff and volunteers who will be responsible for managing and operating the audio, video, and lighting control over IP network. This involves providing appropriate training and resources to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge required to manage the network effectively and troubleshoot issues when they arise. It's also important to have a backup plan in case of system failures, including redundant equipment and failover mechanisms to prevent downtime during church events.

Conclusion (TLDR)

  • AVL-over-IP is cool but not always practical

  • AVL-over-IP is difficult to implement without professionals

  • Analog solutions can provide more consistent results

  • Count up all your devices and streams before implementing and choosing a solution

  • Consult your IT team before you buy anything or you could saturate your network and burn out switches

  • Research the AVL-over-IP solution extensively

  • Only use supported hardware or there will be no support

Happy networking!



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