Announcing UUC Technology Upgrades

Spherical white ceiling-mounted microphone; ceiling speaker in background
Ceiling-mounted microphone (spherical) and speaker (flush)

Byron Krystad, Director of Operations

The direction of UUC’s programming has transformed over the last two years in response to new demands for both in person and remote participation. To support our new reality, we have made the investment to vastly improved the audio and visual systems installed during the major building construction project. In recent months groups meeting at the church have benefitted from these systems in action. As programming returns to the church over the coming year, more members will encounter these upgrades, so I want to take a moment to introduce them to everyone.

Large wall-mounted screen

To stay connected, many of us have tolerated Zoom meetings with the limited visibility cameras, noisy microphones, awkward headsets, and other less than ideal technology that impacts effective participation. Most of us have wanted to be remote but still have an experience that is closer to actually being in the room. We’ve also wanted it to be easier to set up equipment. The result of several months of careful design and planning, technology improvements in the church are going to address these needs.

Starting over the summer, two members of staff and two volunteers selected and worked with Streamline Solutions, a respected audio/video vendor. Together we created a two-phase plan. Phase 1 focused on the classrooms and meeting spaces of the first floor. The basic requirement was to prepare the rooms for seamless and easy-to-use remote participation in on-site gatherings. After observing the members’ successes and struggles with the available technology used early in the pandemic for online collaboration, Streamline recommended included the following: 

Wall-mounted tracking video camera near ceiling
Video camera with tracking capabilities
  • Ceiling-mounted projectors in large rooms and large LED screens in smaller rooms for high-quality video for on-site participants
  • In-room microphones to capture all voices in the space clearly and distinctly for remote participants 
  • In-room speakers for clear and evenly distributed sound for the benefit of on-site participants 
  • Wall-mounted motion-sensing cameras that capture not only the key presenter in the room but also the faces of the on-site participants as they are speaking, for the benefit of remote participants 
  • Dedicated computers in most classrooms or meeting spaces to support remote collaboration through Zoom or any other web-based meeting software 
  • Easy-to-use controls for starting the system and switching between the in-room computer or the organizer’s own computer 

These remote participation setups are available now in Knatvold, Dix, King, Channing, Servetus, and the administrative conference room. 

Mobile "Zoom cart" with large screen, speakers, etc. mounted on a base with wheels
Mobile “Zoom cart”

To complement the fixed room installations, a mobile “Zoom cart” is available for use in other rooms such as Emerson, Frazee or Fahs Mann. The cart supports easy remote collaboration on demand. Note: Both Frazee and Fahs Mann have projectors, screens, and speakers for traditional presentations in the room using an organizer’s own computer, but not microphones or cameras and supporting equipment for remote participation. 

The team is preparing to launch the design and detailed planning for phase 2 AV upgrades in the Chapel and Nathan Johnson Hall for an improved experience by everyone. Over half of Sunday Service participants watch the livestream from Seattle and beyond. Investment to improve the quality and capacity of the online worship experience is important and the goal of the upgrades. Transforming Nathan Johnson Hall, our crucial social center, to an in person and remote collaborative space will be a bigger challenge than the classrooms. We look forward to starting the designs in January 2022 so they are available for use by the summer, unless the supply chain for the equipment prevents it.

I would like to thank our office manager Jessica Monahan for establishing the requirements and reviews, but more importantly for corralling the project as a whole and being Streamline’s point person for their installation work over many weeks in October and November. She remains a key resource for introducing staff and members to the new system and troubleshooting specific issues as they arise. I’d also like to thank members Lee Anne Warner and Kevin Clark for their invaluable help reviewing vendors, requirements, and proposals during this project. Wisdom from their experiences both within and outside the church were very important contributions. Finally, we thank everyone at UUC for their patience as we work carefully at keeping pace with the continuous evolution of our programming and technology.

If you have questions about these projects or inputs about the systems in progress, please be in touch with Jessica Monahan or me at the church office. 

Byron Krystad 
UUC Director of Operations 
November 30, 2021