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Av computer for a small church recommendations

Discussion in 'Desktops' started by Will1997, Feb 19, 2012.

  1. Will1997

    Will1997 Member

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    Hello

    So my Church is looking to get a new computer some time in the near future. It'll manage word projection, Power Points, videos, live streams both to and from the computer to the rest of the world, Youtube and the rest of the internet.

    We also want to record the audio from the services and use it for music.

    I only ask because we've had a couple of computers, the first was a laptop which was fine for words, and that was all we used it for. When that started to go on the blink, we inherited a second hand computer which can also manage words and video, but not a lot else. When we plug it into our fairly new Samson MPL 2242, there is a buzz, which I presume is from the interferance from the electricity and ground buzz and such.

    The worship leader has been quoted £600 for a low end computer which meets none of these requirements, so I've taken on this responsibility in the hope that I can get a better deal. I know that in the UK a budget computer can cost around £300-£400.

    Do we need to have a properly insulated sound card, a laptop that we can remove from the power supply or just a good computer?

    We also have plans to screen the Olympics in the summer, which is going to use a lot of bandwidth, and so we'll need a computer that can handle it and other live streams, but not at the same time. We intend on using a hard wired internet connection, but realistically, we want to avoid it as the router will be on the other side of the church through a small corridor, so we may end up using the wireless connection for most of the time, and then use a cable and trunking for broadcasted events.

    We have the projector, a projector preview screen that shows what's on the projector to the operator, and the main screen, and potentially another projector showing a different image to the first. Should we find a computer with several ports, preferably VGA as that's what we have set up and wired throughout the church, powered splitter box or should I get a long signal cable and run the visual signal back from the projector? I currently use an unpowered splitter cable, which severely weakens the signal, and causes bands to run down the screen. I currently have to brighten the projector screen to 100%, but I cannot always be there and there isn't anyone else who will want to bend over a 200 year old balcony and poke a projector on a plank of wood with a bamboo cane

    Slight portability would also be an asset as the church gets rearranged for potentially popular events, meaning that the computer needs to be moved. It is only a few meters, but as it stands with the current computer as it is, it can often be a struggle to ensure that it is all still wired up properly.

    What makes and models do you use, and what would you recommend for our needs?

    We have a widescreen projector screen, but the projector gets confused by it, so if you can think of a way to get a widescreen signal to go over 10-15m in a listed building that has slightly damp and very crumbly plaster, it would be really appreciated. It's a fairly high roofed building, but it is going to be decorated soon so we can move the projector (in theory) when they have all the scaffolding up for that.

    The church doesn't get much money, and so what I'm asking may be a bit of an ask, but I can try

    What makes and models of projector and computer do you use, and what would you recommend for our needs?

    I'll find out to what extent the building is listed and how that impacts on any plans.
  2. brookheather

    brookheather Active Member

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  3. MiiCK90

    MiiCK90 Member

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    Well for £600 you can get one fine pc, it all depends what your wanting exactly, a laptop will be easy for you to be portable, which will come with the VGA + probably a HDMI at the £600 price tag, can you build a desktop if we give you a list of parts to buy? You can build a better pc than you can buy for your money, that's all. If you give a clear instruction on what you want us to do, we will :)

    You only really need an i3 for what your needing, will handle all your streaming and word processing etc, which will save you money to upgrade other areas, if we could build you a desktop for £300, would you want that or would you want us to upgrade it and use the full £600? (trust me £300 would do fine to be honest!)

    I don't know a thing about projectors but I can help with anything pc-wise. I'll link you to some prebuilt laptops and desktops, could also list parts for you to build yourself. Where are you based? (If your not capable yourself someone near your area from this forum could build it for you).

    You don't necessarily need a sound card for what your doing, can use the pc's own sound but you can upgrade if needed, won't need to spend much for your needs though.

    It's easy enough making the desktop portable by adding a wireless card (£10-£60), I use a £15 one in my desktop pc and it works fine.
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  4. MarkE19

    MarkE19 Moderator

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    Even a cheap netbook should be plenty good enough for what you want to use it for. Something like this Acer at £210 - Acer Aspire One D255E Atom N455 1GB RAM 250GB HDD 10.1" Win 7 Starter (LU.SFR0D.035) - dabs.com
    This is a low powered machine, but nothing you want to do with it should be a problem. It has a VGA port for feeding to your PJ and wireless N for receiving the internet from your WiFi router. You can also use its own screen for local monitoring, so can get rid of the VGA splitter to hopefully improve the signal going to the PJ.

    Mark.
  5. Will1997

    Will1997 Member

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    If I could have a list of parts you recommend, my brother should be able to put it together. We want to spend as little as we can, whilst still getting a fairly decent computer that can easily cater for our needs.

    We are currently using a 10m cable to the projector, which has around 3-5m slack. I often experiment with the placement of the computer and projector, and the cables are currently pinned to an old wall the crumbles easily from a fairly high interior balcony, so a wireless system would be great, however, if there are not any that can cover 15m, possibly 20m for more popular/busy events such as Christmas for a secondary screen, it might be unrealistic.

    I'm not entirely certain of the budget. To know I'd have to speak to the treasurer, which I won't be able to do for at least a week.

    If as much is realistically affordable can be made wireless but still very reliable, it would be great.

    There is quite a bit of software we need on it: Specialized song projection software (we already have the licenses and such for this), PowerPoint and other projection software, word processors, basic image editors, notation software (we can get various free licenses and downloads) and
  6. MarkE19

    MarkE19 Moderator

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    Looking on the internet a wireless VGA sender is going to cost from around £100 up. However they all seem to need line of sight from the PC/laptop to PJ with a max range of 10m. Depending on other wireless signals in the church (WiFi, radio mics etc.) you could start to get interference at less distance than that though.
    I'd guess that PowerPoint would have some of the highest system requirements out of the list of programs, but if you post actual programs used I will try to check what is required. But PowerPoint only requires fairly basic system specs, see here - System requirements for Office 2010

    Mark.
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  7. ittimmcc

    ittimmcc New Member

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    Hi Will1997

    We have a similar set up at our church to what you are looking for.
    Currently using a desktop through an av splitter to the pj at the front and an lcd tv in another room, monitor for the operator, with good picture quality on all. The projector is about 20m from the pc and the tv about the same. I would steer clear of wireless - there's a high chance of interference from sound equipment etc.

    We run a Desktop pc with Intel CoreII Duo processor, 2 GB Ram, Win XP Pro, ATI 1GB graphics card and a soundblaster sound card. We had laptop before this but the fixed desktop is much more robust a solution for this type of application.

    This gives us great performance for running Easyworship software for all song projection, power points, YouTube clips and videos. If you haven't tried it, download the free trial it's a great package.

    We record the preach each week on the pc too using 'Audacity' which is a great little free programme, converts to Mp3 and we upload to website for folks to download etc. Simple stereo RCA out from the desk via 3.5mm jack into the mic input very crisp clear sound no interference.

    I have just bought a new desktop from the Dell outlet Store for home for under £300, delivered with Win 7 and 1 year warranty, which would very much suit your purpose. It has i3 processor, 4Gb Ram, 1Tb HDD, nVidia 1gb gfx card (with HDMI, DVI and VGA output which would work well for your needs), on board sound. I added a PCi x1 Wireless N card for under £20. Check the website daily and see what comes up look for Inspiron 620MT or similar.

    Hope this helps, if you need any more tips please get i touch.

    Tim
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    Last edited: Feb 20, 2012
  8. Will1997

    Will1997 Member

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    Going by the price, wireless seems a bit over budget, but if we could get it to cover just the vertical, 3-4m line of sight distance for say <50 pounds, that would be great.

    Google Chrome (YouTube and other video site, live streams from the BBC), Audacity, Song Pro or alternative, and PowerPoint running at the same time.

    Sounds like a good set up. My Church is, by the sound of it, a little bit smaller than yours and we are using a similar hardware system as you, only at a lower specification.

    How are you splitting your signal? Could you give me a link to what you use please? I am using a budget cable splitter and we are paying for it through poor visual quality.

    We only have one wireless microphone. I can't say off the top of my head what frequency it's on, but the interference may build with the potentially wireless internet connection added to the mix.

    I think I may encourage an investment in similar specifications to what you have. May I ask how much that cost, and how much I can get it for in the near future at PC shops and on the internet?

    The Church recently bought a licence to SongPro without much consultation and so, because of the cost, may be reluctant to change when I haven't even begun to use it. I'm still using Words of Worship from I think 2003.

    I've been trying to get Audacity to work with good sound quality without a background buzz, but, due to the lack of plugs on the desk due to foldbacks and speakers and such, I've been either extending it from one of the foldback amps or taking it from the headphone slot, neither of which is very ideal. I'm wanting to record the worship to distribute to congregation who cannot make it to the service for some reason, or who want to listen again for any reason.

    I think I'm going to have to go in on a Saturday afternoon and just re-wire all of it to better accommodate our needs.
  9. MarkE19

    MarkE19 Moderator

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    Chrome system requirements - Google Chrome Help
    Pentium 4 or later (or AMD Equiv.), 128Mb RAM
    Audacity: Windows
    1GHz/2GHz CPU, 2Gb/4Gb RAM - Minimum/Recommended
    Worship Software SongPro
    2GHz dual core CPU or better, 1Gb RAM (recommended 2Gb or more), 256Mb or better video card
    500MHz CPU, 256Mb RAM

    I'm surprised at the resources SongPro requires as it is considerably more than PowerPoint or anything else you want to use.
    So to be able to run all these programs at the same time I would say you need a 2GHz dual core CPU or better and 3Gb RAM - more RAM will make things work a little better but you would need a 64bit version of Windows to be able to make use of >4Gb RAM.
    edit: just checked the system requirements for EasyWorship as recommended by ittimmcc and they are about the same - http://www.easyworship.com/easyworship/techspecs/#SystemRequirements
    2.8GHz C2D/2.66GHz i5/i7 CPU, 2Gb RAM

    Mark.
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    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
  10. Will1997

    Will1997 Member

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    As my Church already has Songpro, it is able to get 200 pounds off the cost of easy worship. Whilst in my opinion, Easy Worship looks more professional, SongPro seems to have more features suited to our needs. Would you suggest we stick with SongPro or get Easy Worship

    How much do you think that a computer of that specification is likely to cost if:
    a) I source all the parts and ask my brother to put it together
    b) I buy it as a ready made computer
    c) I buy a computer with some specifications similar/greater than what you suggested and upgrade the parts that fail to meet them?

    Which do you think is most cost effective?

    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    I have begun to consider having four screens showing 3 outputs, with one being able to switch between the two. I was thinking of having a control screen, projector, worship/preacher screen and a preview screen for the operator. Whilst I understand that SongPro offers a preview feature, I find it helps for anyone behind the operator and the operator himself because if there is a fault, he can easily work out where it and whether it is to do with the software, or, if it is to do with the hardware, where it is likely to be.

    Would this be too much? It may be overboard, but I believe that if we offer the potential for the system to handle it, then, when a fourth screen shows its head, we can plug it in either as a stage screen or a preview screen.

    The stage screen would display any notices/notes/issues to do with the system. It wouldn't have song lyrics, but it may have bible readings and such.

    SongPro offers an iPhone compatibility feature that I am more than likely going to utilize as the worship leader likes to add songs midway in the service which can be a nasty surprise for an unsuspecting operator.

    EDIT

    I think it has high requirements purely because it manages a lot of things: images, videos, hardwired live feeds, PowerPoints, song words, bible readings, multiple outputs and general "eye candy"
    Last edited: Feb 22, 2012
  11. MarkE19

    MarkE19 Moderator

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    Laptop or desktop? You can get these specs for either, so it depends on what you prefer.
    CPU: Intel Core i3 2100 3.10GHz Socket 1155 3MB L3 Cache.. | Ebuyer.com - £89.72
    Motherboard: Asus P8H61-M LE/USB3 Intel H61 Socket 1155 8 Channel.. | Ebuyer.com - £49.73
    Memory: Corsair 4GB (2x2GB) DDR3 1333MHz Memory Kit Unbuffered.. | Ebuyer.com - £18.64
    HDD: Western Digital WD10EARS 1TB Hard Drive SATAII 5400rpm.. | Ebuyer.com - £79.99
    DVD: LiteOn iHAS124 24x DVD±RW DL & RAM SATA.. | Ebuyer.com - £14.99
    Case: Casecom 6788 All Black Case | Ebuyer.com - £27.68
    Power Supply: Corsair 430W V2 CX Series PSU | Ebuyer.com - £34.40
    Windows: Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium w/SP1 - Licence and.. | Ebuyer.com - £70.76

    You can add an extra graphics card if required, but may need a more powerfull power supply for some cards.
    PC: Zoostorm Business Desktop PC - Desktops | Ebuyer.com - £294.20
    You still need to add the cost of Windows as that is not supplied, so an extra £70.76
    This is likely to be more expensive as you could be removing under spec items and needing to buy the repacements - IMO just buy what you need in the first place is best.

    All the above was just a very quick look through 1 site I've used several times. Shopping around could save a fair bit on the above costs. Things like the PC case can be changed to suite and the above just meets the required specs rather than being an actual recommendation on what to get. The PC options also don't include a monitor, so additional cost if that is required, but both prebuilt or home built PC's should be able to run 2 screens, ie monitor and PJ.

    Mark.
  12. Will1997

    Will1997 Member

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    If I lowered the hardrive capacity to say 500GB or 250GB, and then used the extra money in the budget for another VGA/HDMI port, would that be effective? I don't expect we'll be needing that much, and if we do, it will be in at least a year, probably more than two, and so we'll be able to upgrade then.

    I had a look at the Windows 7 package, and I don't think that it comes with Microsoft office, so I've found that on Amazon.co.uk for £84.45 and added that to the costs.

    I've just done a load of maths, and assuming a software cost of £72.20 for the OS, and £68.29 for <a href=http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/offer-listing/B003FO8956/ref=dp_olp_used?ie=UTF8&condition=usedl">Microsoft Office</a>, and using your costing estimates as a guide, a home build computer will cost £524.96, and a ready made machine will cost £435.05

    The winner at the moment is ready made computer, but when I have a lazy afternoon at the weekend, I'll look into the same spec components for less on eBay and Amazon.
  13. MarkE19

    MarkE19 Moderator

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    As the capacity of a HDD gets smaller the price per Gb gets higher. So it is likely that you wont save much by dropping to a 500Gb or smaller HDD. With a quick look around I could save about £5 with a 500Gb vs 1Tb - some places may advertise cheaper but due to the floods in Thailand you may have trouble getting one at the lower prices.
    Windows and Office are 2 separate products, so you would need to buy Office as well if you don't have a copy you can move from the old PC to the new one.
    Without adding Windows & Office to the price as they would be required for both prebuilt or home built.....

    The prebuilt PC I linked to was £294.20
    The sum of all my listed parts for the home build was £315.15 (if my maths is correct :blush: )
    So the difference is only about £20

    Add Windows @£70.76 & Office @£84.45 = £155.21 extra

    You obviously need to shop around to find the best prices for all items as these were just a quick search to show a comparison.
    I'd be cautious buying second hand software as if it is still in use by the seller it could get deactivated by Microsoft if then installed on more than the 3 PC's it is licensed for.

    Mark.
  14. Will1997

    Will1997 Member

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    As a way of saving money and if all the software is compatible, is it worth getting Linux to save money? I have heard that you need to really work at it to keep it running properly. Is this true? I'm fairly good with computers, but not good enough to keep and OS running.
  15. MarkE19

    MarkE19 Moderator

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    Looking at the required specs for SongPro it is only listed as being a Windows program, and is not even compatible with Mac OS-X so I doubt it would work on Linux.
    This is fairly specialised software so I wouldn't expect to find anything like it that would run under Linux.

    Mark.
  16. insx

    insx Member

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    At our church we have an HP laptop with dedicated graphics, 3GB RAM and a triple core processor (I think). It runs MediaShout nicely and pretty much anything else we have thrown at it. In my experience, a lot of audio hum and interference can be caused by laptop power supplies although PTL, we don't get this with the HP.

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