High-Tech Gear Boosts NRB Growth

Perhaps it’s the bevy of loyal followers, or the power of those well-placed pocketbooks. Perhaps it’s the message itself.

Whatever the reason, the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) has watched its following and its stature grow from a small, grassroots group into a powerful national organization. That growing influence and technical know-how has helped turn more than a few small sanctuaries into sizable, technologically savvy worship halls, replete with broadcast-worthy equipment running behind the scenes.

Targeting who the NRB calls “Christian communicators,” the 2008 NRB Convention and Exposition will take place this year at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville, Tenn., March 8-11. Its mission: to give the burgeoning segment of Christian media the tips and tools necessary to better disseminate a religious message in a largely secular broadcast world.

(click thumbnail)GETTING TECHNICAL

To help accomplish that goal, NRB will return with its Tech Lab, a hands-on demonstration area that allows attendees to test and tweak equipment and make side by side comparisons. The Tech Lab will compare the capabilities of cameras and lenses, video editing gear and graphics systems, all in an effort to ensure that attendees are investing in equipment that meets a facility’s needs.

This year, NRB collaborated with Video Equipment Rentals, a Glendale, Calif.-based equipment provider to religious broadcasters to expand the Tech Lab with “added new presentations and educational sessions designed to help churches, in-church media, smaller stations, networks and producers who are looking for some guidance and direction on equipment and training,” said David Keith, vice president of operations for NRB.

The show will also feature industry-specific labs, including a broadcast production area that will pool exhibitors including Panasonic, Adobe, Sony and Harris near the Tech Lab, Keith said. The Tech Lab will also incorporate Q&A panels, with discussions ranging from how to “Look like a Million Dollars on a Non-profit Budget,” and how to accomplish an all-in-one video production process with a small crew.

The Tech Lab will also address issues that all broadcasters need to consider, such as sorting out HD display formats and determining which standards are best for a Christian media professional’s needs.

In addition to equipment, the lab will also focus on new distribution models available to Christian media broadcasters, how to handle audio field production with a small crew, and the need-to-know differences between LCD and DLP projection technologies.


Unlike most broadcasters, Christian media professionals face a challenging dilemma unique to themselves: working with untrained volunteers. A Tech Lab session will provide practical tips for setting up video switchers, scan converters and DAs to help make live switching situations seamless for volunteer environments.

Yet in many ways, the convention mirrors the challenges of its broadcasting brethren, including understanding how new media technologies can better the bottom line; how to use cell phones, Web streaming and podcasting to deliver a message; and how to archive and deal with media asset management scenarios.

All the sessions and hands-on opportunities within the Tech Lab are designed to help these broadcasters enhance their technical offerings and improve their position in ministry.

“The NRB Tech Lab… makes the NRB Exposition more than just a marketplace of broadcasting, but [also] provides some real take-home value in ways of training and education for attendees,” Keith said. “Our primary emphasis in the lab is on visual media with a focus on the needs of smaller, independent productions. Beyond keeping attendees current on the recent tools available, we also try to give them a few ‘zinger’ ideas on how to make their work stand out from the crowd.”

For churches hoping to pull in new members, technology has offered one answer.

(click thumbnail)The AV system at Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind. rivals those at larger, secular venues.
“We want to reach people of today’s world with the words they understand, the methods they’re used to,” said Jeff Petersen, media and production director for Granger Community Church in Granger, Ind., whose weekly service—with high-end lighting, audio and video technologies—looks more like a rock concert than a church service. “We use nontraditional methods to teach a very traditional message.”

Sessions such as “Broadcast Essentials” and “Taming the Digital Dragon” will focus on the DTV transition. Up for discussion are the benefits of multicasting, the ins-and-outs of IPTV and mobile video, and the fate of low-power TV stations. Other sessions will examine the changing environment for production due to DTV, HD and streaming technologies.

The show will also include a leadership and management course, a training academy, and a 3DV challenge, in which student teams will compete against each other to produce a five-minute video with a compelling and redeeming message in three days.

Eschewing the single-keynote-speaker mold, the 2008 NRB conference will play host to a number of keynote addresses from the likes of animator Phil Vischer, creator of the “VeggieTales” animated children’s program; Simon Swart, executive vice president and general manager of Fox Home Entertainment; Mark Zoradi, Walt Disney Motion Picture Group president; Randy Goodman, president of Lyric Street Records; and media strategist Phil Cooke.

The exposition will also include a sold-out exhibit hall with more than 300 vendors targeting broadcasters, media pastors and Christian program producers. Manufacturers who didn’t attend the show even three years ago are recognizing the powerful market that NRB now represents.

“We have a product that is ideally suited for the video recording and playback requirements of many religious broadcast operations and is also priced right for this market,” said Geoff Stedman, vice president of marketing for Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Omneon, referring to the company’s MediaDeck video server. “While many people think of Omneon as a supplier of video servers for traditional television operators, it is important for us to participate at NRB to show other segments of the market that we have solutions that can also help them.”

NRB also expects to see record crowds at this year’s convention.

“We have high expectations in going back to Nashville [seeing that is] one of our best locations demographic-wise,” Keith said.

Susan Ashworth

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.