Willow Creek Community Church
The piece that the team appreciates the most is the ability to edit on the fly. We can be editing during the service, so we can post it to the web or Facebook within minutes after it’s over. It used to take hours.

Brian McAuliffe
CFO, Willow Creek Community Church

Leading Megachurch Relies on StorNext to Move Worship Services Outside the Walls

Willow Creek Community Church, one of the largest churches in the United States, has an institutional mission to build life-changing communities of faith to reach the largest number of congregants.Church leaders recognized that video could extend the church’s message.

“We capture all our services on video, so that we can provide a service to those unable to attend, or who want to see the message again, or to provide resources to small groups to support different activities around the church,” explains Brian McAuliffe, Willow Creek Community Church CFO.

Existing Workflow No Longer up to the Task

But as the storage and workflow system aged, it became difficult to use and manage. “In the old SAN, content from a service was captured on hard drives in the cameras,” explains John Connolly, director of sales and marketing at Key Code Media, the integrator that helped Willow Creek. Drives had to be downloaded before editing could begin, and it could be hours after a service was over before it could be aired. Reusing content meant manually bringing back large files and extracting the portions needed.

Finding the Right Upgrade

Willow Creek decided to replace its workflow system with a new StorNext Pro Studio solution, Reach Engine digital asset management from Levels Beyond, and Telestream Pipeline and Vantage. The Willow Creek StorNext Pro Studio configuration includes StorNext data management software, 100TB of high-performance disk and StorNext AEL500 LTO Archive.

Time to Air Slashed to Minutes

In the new workflow, content from cameras is ingested directly and editors share files during the filming. “The piece that the team appreciates the most is the ability to edit on the fly,” says McAuliffe. “We can be editing during the service, so we can post it to the web or Facebook within minutes after it’s over. It used to take hours.”

Protection and Archive Also Included

As data is ingested or created on disk, StorNext automatically creates multiple copies on tape. One copy acts as an archive while a second can be moved off-site. After data is deleted from disk it remains in the archive.

Reach Engine presents all content—whether on disk or tape—directly to the editing teams. “One of the nicest features of StorNext for speeding up work is its partial-file retrieval feature,” explains Connolly. “Instead of bringing back all of a large video file when all the team needs is a small section, StorNext allows an editor to choose which part of the file to move back to disk. It is faster and saves money on disk space as well.”

System Saves Time and $120,000 a Year

“With the old system, between finding and downloading files, editing them, and moving them around to different sites for the review and approval loop, a typical project could see long delays,” says McAuliffe. “With StorNext, editors download only the content they need. Editors and reviewers have direct, shared access to the files, and the typical production cycle is now much faster.”

Cost savings are also substantial. The boost in efficiency meant that the team recently could forgo hiring of two additional editors. The StorNext system can scale performance and capacity separately, making future growth economical. And the archive’s capacity-on-demand growth means slots are licensed only when needed.

“Overall, we estimate that the StorNext Pro Studio and Levels Beyond solution is saving us $120,000 each year,” McAuliffe says. “We realize that as we go into the future, we are not going to be able to accomplish our goals and reach everyone we want to reach inside this building,”

McAuliffe concludes. “We purposely made the decision to reach out beyond the walls, and the solution that we chose was Quantum and Levels Beyond. It gives us the ability to take our ministry anywhere we want to in the future.”

Products Used

Key Benefits

  • End-to-end workflow solution provides single point of access to all storage and resources, streamlining media production and distribution
  • Direct ingest system lets editors work on content during church services team can air content within minutes of services
  • Integrated media asset management gives editors shared access to files through a common interface, allowing fewer editors to produce more content in less time
  • Streamlined workflow simplifies review and approval cycles by giving multiple users in different locations direct access to work in progress
  • Integrated archive system improves protection of assets, and gives users fast direct access to existing content for reuse
  • The StorNext partial file retrieval feature saves time and money by allowing editors to restore only the portions of archived files needed for a project
  • Increased efficiency saves the organization $120,000 a year

About Willow Creek Community Church

Willow Creek Community Church (or simply Willow Creek Church) is a nondenominational, multi-generational Evangelical Christian megachurch located in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, Illinois. It was founded in 1975 by Bill Hybels, who is currently the senior pastor. The church has three weekend services averaging 26,000 attendees at its South Barrington worship center, making it one of the largest churches in the United States. Willow Creek Church has been a leader in using technology, including video and social media, to expand its ability to reach a broad range of worshippers both in its home region and around the world.