Trinity Fellowship Church (TFC), in Amarillo, Texas, enhances its worship experience with large-screen HD video image magniﬁcation of services and sermons in the church’s new 4,000-seat “in the round” sanctuary. Essential to providing this video support are volunteer camera operators from the congregation who must capture tight, steady telephoto shots of dynamic preachers moving about the stage as they speak. Confronted with the challenge of maintaining razor-sharp focus while continually tracking these movements, TFC chose to outﬁt its four HD cameras with XJ86x9.3B AF long-zoom Auto Focus HD lenses with Image Stabilization from Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging.
“Video reinforcement is very important for an in-the-round environment,” explained Michael Wells, executive director of production at TFC. “In this conﬁguration only a quarter of the crowd can see the face of the preacher at any one time. Delivering a ﬁrst-class experience with HD video projection screens became an expectation and a requirement for TFC’s new space, and we planned substantially for our video infrastructure to support the best possible image magniﬁcation.”
“Canon’s Auto Focus technology was the last piece of our production puzzle,” Wells continued. “Canon’s XJ86 AF HD lenses met our speciﬁc criteria, which was to capture a tight image of the preacher from any location. This predicated long-focal-length zoom lenses and image stabilization to get tight shots. Because we’re in the round and the preacher is almost constantly moving toward or away from the cameras, keeping the picture in focus in HD presents tremendous challenges to the production. Our four Canon Auto Focus HD lenses, supplied by Lubbock Audio Visual, Inc., help to ensure a crisp, clear, stable and intimate image on the screens no matter where the preacher is on the stage.”
“By going with the Canon XJ86 AF lens, we’re creating even more of a connection between the congregation and the minister,” Wells explained.
“The extraordinary sharpness of HDTV imaging necessitates more exacting focus,” explained Larry Thorpe, national marketing executive, Broadcast and Communications division, Canon U.S.A. “In answer to this need, Canon developed its unique Auto Focus technology to assist camera operators in sustaining exact focus while simultaneously contending with normal operational considerations of lens-camera framing, panning, and tilting. The situation in TFC proved particularly challenging because of a very creative scene composition that was sought. The stage is totally surrounded by the audience and it was desired to have them deeply defocused and richly colored while the preacher would always remain in sharp focus. This entailed unusually low light levels and operation at maximum aperture of f/2.0 to achieve a depth of ﬁ eld of about three feet. It was essential that the sharp focus be maintained at all times while the preacher moved randomly over the stage. Canon worked in close collaboration with Michael Wells and Jeff Hartman, the church’s video engineer, in a series of tests that ultimately led to a successful optimization of our AF software, helping to ensure the integrity of the auto focus under all operational conditions.”
This Auto Focus technology is available in three lenses in Canon’s DIGISUPER line: the XJ100x9.3B AF and XJ86x9.3B AF long-zoom HD ﬁeld lenses, and the new XJ27x6.5B AF HD studio lens. They feature three modes: Part-Time, which auto-focuses as long as the operator presses a button (handy for quick focus conﬁrmation or instant on-demand follow focus); Full-Time, for situations that entail tracking subjects in rapid motion such as horse, dog, or auto races, as well as full-servo robotic applications; and Off, for traditional fully manual focus operation. Utilizing an adjustable-focus window appearing in the viewﬁnder for camera operators to reference, these optional modes of the Auto Focus technology built into Canon’s HD ﬁeld and studio lenses provide convenient operational advantages never before available in the age of HDTV.
“That was another aspect of what made the Canon XJ86 AF lens a sound investment that pays for itself,” Wells added. “The control quality of the Auto Focus lens makes it easy to execute difﬁcult shots. Auto Focus helps us get the most from our volunteer camera operators, and whether from the push of a button or via full-time tracking mode, it helps ensure a well-focused picture. Because of these lenses, we can have an all-volunteer camera force with no sacriﬁce in quality.”
“By going with the Canon XJ86 AF lens, we’re creating even more of a connection between the congregation and the minister,” Wells explained. “During the musical productions, the detail of the guitarist’s ﬁngers on the strings, or the snare being hit by the stick really comes out. Artistically it’s great to be able to get in with a crisp, close shot of these elements. In addition, the light efﬁciency of these Canon telephoto lenses is remarkable. This allows us to create a more comfortable environment throughout the auditorium without the higher light levels often required for video production.”
At Trinity Fellowship Church, the Auto Focus feature of the Canon XJ86 AF lenses contribute to making every seat a front-row experience. “It’s all about communicating the message to a larger crowd, with the same intimacy of a smaller space,” Wells observed. “The lenses are one of the most important decisions you can make in broadcast technology. Canon was the right choice for us.”
Canon’s Auto Focus technology and its other advanced optical innovations, such as its patented Optical Shift Image Stabilizer feature for capturing rock-solid video images at telephoto distances, are designed to empower camera operators to create the highest quality HDTV images possible. In addition to the special needs of houses of worship, other uses include major sports telecasts, auto races, entertainment events, robotic studio cameras, and many other applications.