Opening new pathways of communication is the mission of Fellowship Hi-Crest Church's Studio 104.
Worship pastor Brail Watson, who is in charge of booking the video and audio recording studio at the church, 455 S.E. Golf Park Blvd., said the goal is to help Topekans share their stories.
"As a church, we say that our mission is walking with others in communities through the power of Jesus Christ," he said.
"Video is the most consumed form of media in the world right now," Watson said. "We want to make that accessible to the entrepreneurs in our community, to the artists in our community and to the individuals that could use those skills to get better jobs, help with their jobs and things of that nature."
Mirror, Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps people looking to reintegrate into society, used the studio to shoot a podcast for "Reentry Reframed," which focuses on personal journeys of people who have been released from incarceration.
Studio looking to launch program to digitally educate youths
Watson said the church is applying for grants to launch a program to educate youths on life skills and areas of digital literacy.
"Right now in the state of Kansas, there are 6,800 jobs that require digital-literacy skills," Watson said. "Within a 10-minute drive of Hi-Crest, 23% of families don't even have internet access."
"Access to this type of equipment is necessary to ensure that our youth have the ability to step into the workforce," he said, adding that the work the studio is doing "also functions as a prototype, and a revenue generator to help us build up and launch this educational program."
The public may use the studio for two hours for $75, which Watson said is a steal for a studio of such high quality.
The studio is equipped with the latest in digital production
Much of what the studio accomplishes is done through MacBook Pro.
"That's the brain of the studio," Watson said. "So you can record directly into that laptop computer.
"You can also edit your video or your audio," he said. "If you did an audio podcast, you can edit it there. If you did a video podcast, you can edit the videos there.
"And there's also a large-screen Panasonic TV in there that you can pass the laptop screen to, so you can have a larger screen for editing and things of that nature."
Everything is digital now, Watson said.
"And so it is all quick," he said. "You don't really need tape anymore. You don't need to cut. You just get it, all in the info, in sort of what they call a DOC, a digital audio workstation.
"You have everything you need there, and you just do it all on a computer."
The studio also looks professional
"There is a black backdrop there for you to cast RGB lights," through which red, green and blue are varied to produce thousands of colors, he said. "There's a green screen backdrop so that you can project any type of image that you want behind you on video."
Savage paper, a gray backdrop, is color-absorbent and changes its look as different colors light up, he said.
People who use the studio can also record against a brick wall, which is layered with soundproof paneling in geometric designs. That is the background Watson chose for a video he created featuring the original song "Community."
Brail Watson's work reflects his life
In that song, Watson reflects on his life in Topeka. He collaborated on it with Chen Ron, who lives in Israel.
"We connected over the internet — actually over Instagram," Watson said. "He makes amazing music, loves the music that I was doing and asked me about working with him."
Ron shared instrumental music he had been creating, and Watson provided lyrics.
Everything was performed digitally, by Ron in Israel and by Watson at Studio 401.
"Israel shot on his side and then told me the specifics that he needed," Watson said. "We actually waited until (Ron) was finished to shoot the live portion so that we could shoot it right there in Studio One."
In the finished product Ron plays piano and synthesizer keyboard.
Facility doubles as office and vocal training studio
Watson, who is also a vocal-performance coach, can accomplish everything he needs to in one place.
"The studio is actually also my office," said Watson. "So I have given vocal lessons out of the studio, and when people come to me for vocal lessons, I then record their warm ups for them in the studio, so that they go home with a recording of what I want them to practice."
Carolyne Angatia, an alto in the church's praise and worship team, takes vocal lessons in the studio.
"It is to perfect what I am doing," Angatia said. "I am just taking the lessons to be better than what I am right now."
"She's a strong singer," Watson said. "I've never seen somebody improve as quickly as she has."
'A Work in Process' is Watson's next project
While not performing his other duties, Watson is working on a new piece called "A Work in Process."
"I've really been processing a lot of my own history and mental health ... including the time with pandemics," he said. "I believe that my music is for expressing what people are experiencing in their lives and giving them a way to process that."
Watson is focusing on the joys of life, the sorrows of life and the confusion of life with this project.
"I've been involving a lot of people from our community in different parts of that album," he said.
If that, and his family, are not enough to keep him busy, Watson has another long-term project to pursue.
"I'm doing a lot of work around a project called the Ford Center, which is a new community center that we are constructing in the community," Watson said.
This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: Fellowship Hi-Crest Church offers low-cost, high-tech studio in Topeka