Panasonic Powers Synagogue Streaming

Paul du Plessis (L) Congregation Beth Israel’s production manager and Joan Gelfond, campus technology director

HOUSTON —Congregation Beth Israel is the oldest Reform Jewish congregation in Texas, celebrating its 160th anniversary this year. Beth Israel is an active and vibrant congregation with a diverse membership and for the past year, we’ve been diversifying that membership further with the live streaming of weekly Shabbat worship services from the synagogue’s sanctuary or chapel.

Our viewers include not only congregation members, but also those in our local community and beyond who want to engage in weekly services, and for reasons of health, distance or lack of transportation, cannot travel to the synagogue. We are available to anyone with an internet connection and an e-mail address.

The professional quality of our broadcasts helps online viewers feel very connected to the service experience. At the heart of the operation is a Panasonic AVHS410 multiformat production switcher. The switcher is fed high-definition video from two Panasonic AW-HE120 remotely-controlled pan/tilt/zoom cameras located in the sanctuary. A director controls the broadcasts, with a separate video producer responsible for streaming and graphics. Our services are streamed over computers, Apple TV/Roku and all mobile devices (Android and Apple).

The HS410 is a compact 1+ ME live switcher that provides nine signal inputs (eight HD-SDI, and one scalable HD DVID.) The unit provides five HD-SDI and one DVI-D output as part of the standard configuration. Option boards can expand this to 13 inputs and/or 10 outputs.

In the video streaming operations at the synagogue, we use a lot of basic switcher functions such as cut and mix, and typically take video from the two HE120s cameras and a character generator. We’ve found the switcher’s downstream keyer to be easily accessible, and when it’s used in conjunction with Pro Presenter software, provides really nice and clearly visible keyed captions. Another HS410 feature that we rely on a lot is the auto mix function. It’s great for setting up automatic transitions and is also very easy to program. The switcher’s “T-bar” is very handy for manual camera transitions. We’ve found that there’s no lag and the end results are quite aesthetically pleasing.

The switcher’s built-in multiviewer function is also very nice too as it provides very clear and highly visible images. Multiviewer screen divisions are assignable into four, five, six, nine, 10 or 16 sections and support time display and audio levels.

Beth Israel’s Shabbat services are archived at Livestream, with a link from our synagogue website. I’m impressed with how often viewers play back our content, and how far-flung our audiences have now become. During the past month alone, we have had international viewership from individuals in 12 different countries.

Our Senior Rabbi, David Lyon, has observed that the Internet is breaking down the barriers for participation and is also redefining the sacred community. For many years, our motto at Congregation Beth Israel has been that Jewish life is relevant, modern and joyful, and with the broadcast-quality video production results that our Panasonic switcher provides, we are able to put the emphasis on “modern.”

Joan Gelfond has been with the Congregation for 24 years, and can be reached

For additional information, contact Panasonic at 877-803-8492 or