Fellowship Hi-Crest Church offers low-cost, high-tech studio in Topeka

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Opening new lines of communication is the mission of Studio 104 at Fellowship Hi-Crest Church.

Worship pastor Brail Watson, who is responsible for booking the video and audio recording studio at the church, 455 SE Golf Park Blvd., said the goal was to help Topekans share their stories.

“As a church, we say our mission is to walk with others in communities through the power of Jesus Christ,” he said.

“Video is the most consumed form of media in the world today,” Watson said. “We want to make this accessible to entrepreneurs in our community, artists in our community and people who could use these skills to get better jobs, help with their work and things of that nature.”

Mirror, Inc.a non-profit organization that helps people seeking to reintegrate into society, used the studio to shoot a podcast for “The reframed return”, which focuses on the personal journeys of people who have been released from incarceration.

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Studio is looking to launch a program to educate young people about digital

Hi-Crest Church pastor and digital producer Brail Watson laughs with church member Carolyne Angatia during a singing lesson Wednesday at Studio 104.

Watson said the church is applying for grants to start a program to educate young people about 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 from Hi-Crest, 23% of families don’t even have internet access.

“Access to this type of equipment is necessary to ensure that our young people have the ability to enter the labor market,” he said, adding that the work carried out by the studio “also works as a prototype and revenue generator to help us build and launch this educational program.”

Audiences can use the studio for two hours for $75, which Watson says is a bargain for such a high-quality studio.

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The studio is equipped with the latest in digital production

Pastors Jonathan Sublet, left, and Brail Watson review topics for discussion before recording an episode of their "South by East" Fellowship Hi-Crest Church Studio 104 podcast.

Much of what the studio does is done through MacBook Pro.

“It’s the brains of the studio,” Watson said. “So you can record directly on this laptop.

“You can also edit your video or audio,” he said. “If you made an audio podcast, you can edit it here. If you made a video podcast, you can edit the videos there.

“And there’s also a big-screen Panasonic TV that you can switch the laptop screen to, so you can have a bigger screen for editing and things of that nature.”

Everything is digital now, Watson said.

“And so everything is going fast,” he said. “You don’t really need tape anymore. You don’t need to cut anymore. You get it, all in the info, in some kind of what they call a DOC, a digital audio workstation.

“You have everything you need there, and you do it all on a computer.”

The studio also looks professional

A "On air" The sign lights up outside Fellowship Hi-Crest Church Studio 104 in a podcast episode of "South by East" is recorded Wednesday afternoon.

“There’s a black backdrop that you can project RGB lights onto,” through which red, green and blue are varied to produce thousands of colors, he said. “There’s a green screen background so you can project any type of image you want behind you in video.”

The wild paper, a gray background, absorbs colors and changes appearance as different colors light up, he said.

People using the studio can also record against a brick wall, which is covered in soundproof panels with geometric patterns. It’s the background Watson chose for a video he created featuring the original song “Community.”

Brail Watson’s work reflects his life

Brail Watson talks about what inspired him to share his expertise and build community around Fellowship Hi-Crest Church.

In this song, Watson reflects on his life in Topeka. He collaborated there with Chen Ron, who lives in Israel.

“We connected on the internet – actually on Instagram,” Watson said. “He makes amazing music, loves the music I was making and asked me to work with him.”

Ron shared the instrumental music he had created and Watson provided the lyrics.

Everything was played digitally, by Ron in Israel and by Watson at Studio 401.

“Israel shot his side and then told me the details he needed,” Watson said. “We actually waited until (Ron) was done to shoot the part live so we could shoot it directly in Studio One.”

In the finished product, Ron plays piano and synthesizer keyboard.

The facility also serves as an office and vocal training studio

Watson, who is also a vocal performance coach, can accomplish everything he needs in one place.

“The studio is actually my office as well,” Watson said. “So I gave vocal lessons outside 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, a viola on the church’s praise and worship team, is taking studio singing lessons.

“It’s to perfect what I do,” Angatia said. “I’m just taking the lessons to be better than who I am right now.”

“She’s a strong singer,” Watson said. “I’ve never seen anyone improve as quickly as her.”

“A Work in Process” is Watson’s next project

By creating a take-home recording lesson from Studio 104 at Fellowship Hi-Crest Church, Brail Watson uses what he knows how to produce music to easily record simple daily vocal routines for a church member. .

While not performing his other duties, Watson is working on a new piece titled “A Work in Process.”

“I really dealt with a lot of my own history and my mental health…including the time with the pandemics,” he said. “I believe my music is about expressing what people are going through in their lives and giving them a way to process that.”

Watson focuses on the joys of life, the sorrows of life, and the confusion of life with this project.

“I involved a lot of people from our community in different parts of this album,” he said.

If that, and his family, aren’t enough to keep him busy, Watson has another long-term project to pursue.

“I work a lot around a project called the Ford Centerwhich is a new community center that we are building in the community,” Watson said.

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