Cathedral’s video upgrades will improve livestreaming capabilities

Bishop Spalding celebrates Mass for the 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time in the oratory at the Catholic Pastoral Center in Nashville on Oct. 23. This was the bishop’s last taped Mass to be posted online for people to watch who are unable to attend Mass in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parishes livestream Masses every weekend, including the Cathedral of the Incarnation.  With newly upgraded video equipment installed, the Cathedral will soon offer a better livestream experience of the 11 a.m. Sunday Mass and other events. Photo by Rick Musacchio

The Diocese of Nashville and the Cathedral of the Incarnation have partnered to install new cameras and video equipment to upgrade the livestreaming and recording of Masses, other liturgies and events at the Cathedral.

With the new equipment, the livestreams and recordings will be available on a variety of platforms, said Bill Staley, director of youth, young adult and new evangelization ministries for the diocese. “It will be blasted out through many channels on social media.”

When the new equipment becomes operational before the end of the year, the 11 a.m. Mass on Sundays from the Cathedral will be livestreamed on the diocesan Facebook page, watchmass.com and a new site, cathedralmass.org, Staley said.

Watchmass.com also has links to livestreamed Masses from other parishes in the diocese.

The livestreaming of Cathedral’s 11 a.m. Mass will replace the showing of a recording of the Mass celebrated by Bishop J. Mark Spalding every week. The bishop often celebrates the 11 a.m. Mass at the Cathedral, Staley said, so people will still be able to watch his Masses and hear his homilies. 

Previously, Sunday Masses at the Cathedral have been livestreamed on the parish’s website using one camera, and larger events, such as the ordination of new priests, have required bringing in additional cameras and equipment, Staley said. 

Now, four cameras have been permanently installed, one attached to a column on each side of the nave, one in the sanctuary facing the people, and one in the choir loft at the back of the Cathedral.

“It gives us the ability to cover any liturgy or event,” Staley said. “All the cameras get great angles and we’ll be able to get great coverage of any liturgy in there.”

When Father Eric Fowlkes became pastor of the Cathedral, he called on Doug Blake, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake Church in Hendersonville where Father Fowlkes previously served as pastor, to help set up a new system. 

Blake helped lead the installation of the video system at Our Lady of the Lake.

“We had the benefit of being one of the first ones in the diocese to have livestreaming, at the request of Father Eric, long before COVID,” Blake said. 

Originally, the intent was to make Mass available for people who were homebound or couldn’t get to Mass because they were ill, he explained. With the pandemic and the dispensation from the obligation to attend Mass on Sundays and holy days, livestreaming Masses has become an important way for parishes to provide the liturgy to their members.

The new system at the Cathedral will be modeled on the system at Our Lady of the Lake, although it will include more cameras, Blake said. “This will provide a more professional production.”

“There’s quite a few considerations in designing this,” Blake said. “We took into account the beautiful worship space and tried to be as unobtrusive as possible.”

“We were very careful not to cause any permanent damage to the facility in the installation,” he added. “That was one of the main focuses.”

While the new video equipment is being installed, Blake said, the Cathedral is also revamping its internet capabilities. 

There are also plans to install a dedicated internet line that can be used when livestreaming Masses and events from the Cathedral on various social media platforms, Staley said. He is hoping the line will be installed by Christmas, and until then, the Cathedral will use its existing internet connections.

Included in the project is the installation of computer equipment that the operator will use to control the cameras and any graphics that might be used, Blake said.

The new system will be able to be operated by one person, Blake said. In the past, when large events were livestreamed from the Cathedral, the diocese needed as many as six people to operate the cameras and direct the production, and outside equipment was brought in for the event, he said.

“The operator will be in close proximity to the sanctuary to allow them to receive Communion during Mass,” Blake said.

Several volunteers from the Cathedral and University Catholic, which will also use the system to livestream its liturgies, will be trained as operators, Blake said.