Tribal Trails Tech Talk

"That the Lord has enabled this ministry to happen is amazing" (from Issue #499)

“That the Lord has enabled this ministry to happen is amazing”

In the fall of 1981 the Lord had led Blaine Witherow to serve with NCEM. His first assignment at Headquarters included filling mail orders for Bibles, and duplicating audio-cassettes.

Even though he wasn’t involved in the beginnings of Tribal Trails, he’s now looking back on over 25 years of television ministry.

By early 1982, with his office just across the hall from the Tribal Trails’ studio, it wasn’t long before he was also duplicating video-tapes, then helping maintain video cameras and machines. He must have kept the fact that he was a DeVry Institute of Technology graduate somewhat quiet, because he was much more qualified for Tribal Trails technical tasks than our Mission leaders knew.

Even so, Blaine points out that neither he nor any of our other present Tribal Trails staff have trained specifically for video production. “That the Lord has enabled this ministry to happen is amazing,” says Blaine. “Back then video cameras and players were not household items. It was (and still is) a very specialized field.”

Tribal Trails first used a commercial video format called U-matic. Editing was all “straight-cut,” with nothing fancy like a “fade.” Text for credits had to be printed on paper and then panned with a camera for a “scrolling” effect.

U-matic later gave way to Betacam format, and that’s still what is sent to the various TV stations. Most of the recording is now done in MiniDV (a digital format), explains Blaine. Program editing is done with a computer.

Closed-captioning is a time consuming task, but is required by most stations. “One station said, ‘Add “cc” or we’ll do it for you for $300 per program,’ ” he remembers, “which is as much as the weekly cost of broadcasting on that station!”

The Lord has supplied sufficient equipment over the years, and given wisdom when repairs were needed, Blaine acknowledges. But technology moves on, and so will our need to upgrade.

“High Definition (HD) broadcasting is now being used,” he notes, “and that has meant changing, well, basically everything … cameras, tape decks, switching and editing equipment, monitors … everything except the lights.”

“It’s something we knew we needed to plan for,” he says in a calm sort of way. Blaine knows firsthand the technical challenges in this ministry, and keeps trusting the Lord.

Adapted from our Northern Lights magazine (Issue #499). Note: some of the locations and involvements of our missionaries may have changed since the original publishing of this article.