The Potter’s House of Dallas – Control Room, Facility Infrastructure and Routing Upgrade

The term Mega Church is widely used but to no church does it apply as it does to the Potter’s House in Dallas, TX.

It is not just a church, it is an institution, an international hub for services, events, outreach, and ministry – all with a single purpose: to enhance the lives of any and all who might hear their message, including its 30,000 members and people from all over the world, with hundreds of thousands participating on-line every week.

Its leader, Bishop TD Jakes is much more than a Pastor.  He is an author, a global humanitarian, a community leader, a truly inspiring and articulate speaker, a visionary who came to Dallas from West Virginia in 1996 and built this sprawling and thriving edifice from nothing.

The Potter House Control Room by Key Code Media

In The Beginning – Where’s The Router?

Of course, broadcast TV and live video production play an important role in numerous Church activities, including IMAG for twice weekly services in the 7600 seat sanctuary and in several satellite campuses, weekly broadcasts hosted by Bishop Jakes which are televised around the world, as well as conferences and other events.  Church investment in technology to support these efforts is substantial.

Starting in mid-2021 the Potter’s House chose to partner with Key Code Media to begin a sweeping revamp and upgrade to facility video technology and systems.  At this point in time, the facility was fully

functional but proper infrastructure systems were either lacking or non-existent.  Much of the campus connectivity was unlabeled and very difficult to manage.

The facility was and remains (for now) 1080i with a Ross Acuity switcher, new Sony triax-based cameras, Mac-based graphics, and playback, and a hodgepodge of things patch-worked together to make it all work.  There was no facility-wide router, although an Evertz EQX system had been purchased but yet to be installed.

Enter Key Code Media.  At first, before our real work began, we spent weeks inspecting, investigating, and inventorying the existing system, understanding current procedures and work-flows, and tracing down as many of those unlabeled connectivity paths as we could.  We then produced and delivered a high-level drawing set depicting the existing environment.

Next came a lengthy and detailed engineering, design, and consulting phase.  Key Code engineers worked closely with Potter’s House engineering staff to re-design the system to accommodate the router and a host of newly purchased items to complete a proper infrastructure system.  The decision was made that all new equipment should be 12G-SDI/4K capable or at least be upgradeable to that.   So we retrofitted the router chassis for that purpose and all newly provided distribution, patch panels, processing, and fiber systems meet these criteria. 

After a presentation of drawings to Potter’s House staff and lots of discussion and revision, our work re-building and re-wiring the main equipment center began.  We wired the new router, using only new Cobalt 12G-SDI capable DAs, adding video and audio patch panels to a system that before had no patch panels at all.  We installed fiber systems to increase connectivity between the router and FOH in the sanctuary and numerous other spaces throughout the campus, added additional fiber systems for remote connectivity, enhanced audio and cable TV systems, incorporated a number of legacy items into the new system.

The Potter House Racks by Key Code Media

A Dynamic Project – More Than Just Infrastructure

But as we worked, we were asked to do more, and it quickly became apparent that this was to be a dynamic project, evolving rapidly well beyond the rack room and facility infrastructure.

Soon we were designing systems to convert the entire multi-building campus from triax to SMPTE fiber, expanding the Vislink wireless video system to extend coverage into important event spaces and areas beyond the sanctuary, and upgrading and enhancing the control room to expand production and monitoring capabilities. 

For the expanded control room we added two Ross Carbonite Ultra production switchers, re-built the monitor wall, installed a new KVM system, and more to enable simultaneous production of multiple events around the campus concurrently.  Key Code’s highly skilled engineers deployed and configured complex hardware and software combinations to support the Evertz VIP-X multi-viewer and tally systems the new three production switcher control room environment required.

The SMPTE fiber conversion was particularly challenging.  56 total camera interconnect locations spread across the sprawling campus patchable to the nine camera CCUs in the main equipment center. Of course, there were numerous difficult long pulls through tight spaces to distant buildings and areas.

Cable home-runs from the 14 interconnects in the most distant remote location were not practical so the design called for a separate patch point here.  From there, tie-lines to the main patch panels, which host all the other interconnects, enable simple connection to the camera CCUs.

This design works great and all 56 camera interconnects are readily and easily available to any of the CCUs.

The design called for thousands of feet of custom cables, connector panels, custom wall boxes, and more.  Our design team carefully and successfully engineered this important piece of the puzzle, our installers executed perfectly, and when the upgrade for the new Sony cameras from triax to SMPTE was complete, all of the necessary infrastructure to support them was in place and fully functional.

Perhaps more troublesome was the Vislink wireless video expansion.  Adding coverage beyond the sanctuary and into the lobby, chapel, and ballroom spaces, plus enabling the two-camera system to function at all times simultaneously in all coverage areas was the task at hand.  This of course required camera paint control along with video transmission.  A challenging proposition.

To accomplish this we added four new antennas and two additional existing yet un-deployed antennas to the current eight antenna system, as well as three new camera control heads. Vislink engineers designed the system, adding the right complement of block-down converters, fiber connectivity, additional receivers and receiver channels, splitters, camera control heads, and ASI packet switches, enabling the required simultaneous operation functionality.

Again, Key Code installers were up to the task with flawless execution of component and connectivity installation.  Then came the hard part.

RF is very finicky, it simply does not behave like base-band video.  It takes a great deal of set-up trial and error to properly tune a system as complex as this one.  Remaining resolute, Key Code technicians, working with remote Vislink engineers, were able to dial it all in. The final result is a perfectly working system providing excellent coverage in all of the necessary places and into unexpected places too, such as far outside into parking lots beyond the main entrance.

But we weren’t done yet.

We also designed and built sophisticated fly-pack systems to support remote live streaming in 4K for off-site conferences and events and multi-camera production for the Church’s burgeoning youth center.  For the entire live and post production LAN infrastructure, we did a complete evaluation, analysis, and recalibration. We installed numerous monitors in the lobby and concourse areas, all of course sourced by the in-house cable TV system but by the router too. To support these displays, and the additional antennas necessary for the wireless video system expansion, we significantly upgraded and expanded facility fiber Infrastructure.

For each system we followed the same rigorous process as for the first: understanding the needs and goals of our client; working with their staff to engineer, design, and document those ideas; and then building, installing, and commissioning systems based on this work.  As expected, we delivered detailed and thorough as-built drawings in CAD and PDF formats once it was all done.

The Potter House Racks by Key Code Media

In Summary

Our journey together has been a long but fruitful one. The Potter’s House now has technology for broadcast TV and live video production commensurate with its statute as an institution of the highest order.  The systems Key Code Media designed and built, those for live production and facility routing, distribution, and connectivity infrastructure, now enable Church staff to easily deliver and handle signal flow to support the host of events they manage every week both in the Church event spaces and in remote locations as well.

But in many ways, the journey is just beginning.  Because of this work and our successful partnership with them, The Potter’s House is now ready to move on to new technologies, more efficient workflows, and the 1080p, HDR, 4K reality that awaits us all.