Multiple Cameras in a Church Service

Video is becoming more and more a part of worship services and church ministry in general. Often the video which is acquired during the service must serve several purposes, and that fact will sometimes mandate some compromises, especially when multiple cameras are involved. Whether you are already into multiple camera origination or just considering, I thought it might be helpful to look at these situations and see how some churches are dealing with them. 

Some of the possible uses for worship service video include recording for broadcast, live internet streaming, storage for streaming on demand, video for overflow room or remote campus, IMAG (image on screen(s) in sanctuary for greater visibility), DVDs for shut-ins, etc.

The greatest conflict arises between the best practices of IMAG and streaming or broadcast. The purpose of IMAG is simply to magnify the image of the main speaker or performer so that those toward the back of a large auditorium can see them clearly. A static close-up will be the best choice. For people watching at home or another venue, this would be quite boring, especially during a lengthy sermon. A good broadcast would include multiple shots from different angles paced according to the action and energy of the event. It would probably include occasional cutaway shots of audience reaction (a major no-no for the IMAG screen).

The church I serve, Next Level Church in Fort Myers, Florida, currently uses three manned cameras along with two fix-mounted GoPro units to provide IMAG, video for overflow (when needed), video preaching in some services (we have eight, including three at a satellite campus), live streaming, and podcast (streaming on demand). Their policy for video directors includes full production creativity for worship time including multiple shots, camera movement, etc. For the message, the policy provides for mostly waist shots of the pastor, but with one wider establishing shot near the beginning of the message, and a head to toe side shot for transitions from seated to standing and vice versa. They use a high table and stool instead of a pulpit.

Another area church, First Assembly of God, uses a separate switcher which places the main centerline camera on the IMAG screens during the sermon, giving the director full creative freedom for the live streaming feed and recording for broadcast.

In short, given your equipment configuration, consider the needs of whoever is watching your video in each situation, and work to maximize the visual interest and minimize the distractions for that audience. If you can’t provide separate feeds, it my involve some compromises.

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