Saddleback Church Converts With Cobalt

The Cobalt Digital 9061 up/down/cross converterLAKE FOREST, CALIF.
Pastor Rick Warren and the congregation of his Saddleback Church here made the decision last year to upgrade their 13-year-old SD video control room for 1080 high-definition operation.


Many factors were involved in this decision, including a need to replace outdated and failing equipment which was producing poor picture quality. However, the driving force behind the upgrade was to support Pastor Warren's commitment to open 10 regional Saddleback Churches by 2010. Every regional campus will have a host pastor and live music, but the teaching message will be a video presentation from the main worship center in Lake Forest. Excellent image quality was a key consideration in the design.

I headed up the project team, which included members of the church's technical operations group, and also TV Magic, a television systems design, integration and sales organization.

We began the task of system design and equipment identification early in 2008. Gear selection was based in large part on reliability and manufacturer support and service. We also looked carefully at signal quality, flexibility, ease of use, and IP connectivity. TV Magic suggested the Cobalt Digital 9000 series of converters and other terminal equipment as meeting all of these requirements and more.

I hadn't participated in a major control room design for more than five years, and to be honest, Cobalt Digital was not my first thought when we began our project. However, after product comparisons and discussions with Cobalt, I came to the conclusion that their gear was the best choice for our project.


The high-definition control room was the first phase of the HD makeover. Several playback sources and most of the displays being used, however, would remain SD until all existing components were replaced. The existing switcher had 10 input sources that were either asynchronous, SD, or both, and these had to be accessible as HD sources for the new switcher. The design used an audio/video matrix switcher to feed four Cobalt 9061 up/down/cross converters with frame syncing to accommodate the 10 "wild" sources.

The 9061s also handle analog, AES and embedded audio on the inputs and outputs, which was a real plus for our plans. At weekend services, the live HD feed generated in the Worship Center control room has to be distributed simultaneously to five SD displays in the Worship Center, and also to 28 SD common area monitors. This is in addition to a large mix of SD monitors and HD monitors located in four on-campus venues and three regional locations. HD feeds also have to be provided for the control room server, XDCAM recorder and a nonlinear edit system. Cobalt d.a.s and 9821 HD/SD downconverters were used for this distribution.

The Cobalt system is monitored and controlled through Dashboard, an IP-based interface, and is accessible on user stations located throughout the operation.

The system design involved a total of eight openGear card frames loaded with a variety of Cobalt Digital products. The decision to go with Cobalt was a good one and now I'm a confirmed Cobalt convert. And what's really important is that Saddleback Church is completely satisfied with the decision to use Cobalt Digital gear.

Dirk Carlson is as a senior online editor with CCI Digital in Burbank, Calif. He is also a member and volunteer at Saddleback Church. Dirk has more than 25 years of video production, post-production and general A/V experience. He may be contacted

For additional information, contact Cobalt Digital at 800-669-1691 or