church misc technology

Tips For Shooting Videos

You may have noticed a growing trend in churches to use video as a tool, to not only help their audiences receive their message, but to also put video on other mediums such as DVDs and the web. In this blog I am going to go through the steps on using your video system to its full potential.

Every church is different in size and budget.  Because video cameras range from $300 to $4,000 I am not going to cover which is the right camera for your church in this blog.

Video for Sermons:

Many churches use video for their sermons and/or to film small video segments or movies for their services. First I will discuss setting up for your sermons then I will give you some tips on shooting those fun movies. Whether you have one, two or three cameras does not matter. You can accomplish the same thing with one camera as you can with two or three,

1. Single Camera Setup:video tips blog pic of center camera

Let’s start with a single camera layout. This layout is very simple and is the center of every church video layout. Place the camera in the very center of the room so that it is directly in front of where the sermons are given. Many churches have a center aisle that makes a perfect line for you. Start at the back of the room with your camera on. (pic 1) Have someone in position where the sermons are given. If you have the ability to use manual focus, use it! Auto focus is great, but it only focuses on the object right in the center of the picture. So, if the pastor likes to use their hands a lot, the camera will try and focus in on their hands every time they pass the center of the picture causing the picture to wave in and out of focus – Not so good on the stomach!

Video tips blog framing picNext, zoom the camera in all the way on the person so you can see the person’s eye and focus on it. If you can’t get all the way to the eye just focus as best you can. Then zoom out so the person is framed in from their waist to about and two inches above their head. (Pic 2) Most cameras now come with what is called a digital zoom. When the lens can’t zoom in any further the digital zoom kicks in. This feature is nice, but can cause problems with the focus and the steadiness of the camera. If you see that you are using the digital zoom, try moving the camera closer until you no longer have to use the digital zoom.   Then refocus. If the pastor tends to move around a lot, zoom out a little to give yourself a little more room.

This is the flaw of the one camera set up. You are limited to one area, unless you have someone working the camera that can zoom out when you move about. That’s not the prettiest solution, but it will work until you can get to a two camera setup.

By putting the camera in the center you’re giving your audience a bigger picture of what’s going on. They will be able to see your emotion and feel your words all the way to the back of the room. Communication is not only in word, but in body language! Now that your audience will be able to both hear and see your language better they will be less likely to drift off or wonder during the sermon.

2. Multi-Camera setup:

The two and three camera setups are the same, only the two camera setup has one less camera. You will want to place your second and third cameras off to the side. If you have wings or a balcony these would be the perfect area for them. These additional cameras are considered the motion cameras. When the speaker moves from your center camera frame the shot would dissolve from the one camera center to one of the two on the sides. You can either have the shot wide and stationary or you can have a tighter shot and have someone move the camera as you walk. Three cameras are really only necessary if you have a big stage and tend to stand on one side for a little while and then move to the other. You would then dissolve to the other camera on the closer wing.


Now for the segments, movies, shorts or whatever you like to call them. These are the most fun to do and yet they quickly show your audience if you know what you’re doing. If they think you know what you’re doing, they will take your video more seriously and will focus on the message and not the quality of the video.

1. Use a Tripod

I can not stress this enough. No matter how steady you think your hand is, it’s not steady enough. If your movie looks like you were bouncing on a trampoline, your audience will not be able to concentrate on the meaning of the video and they will be less likely to look forward to another video. Tripods are cheap and well worth it. Most moving shots can be done by panning (moving left to right) the camera with the action. If you have to do a moving shot, find a wheelchair or something with soft tires that you can put the tripod on and move it with the action.

2. Set the White Balance

This is when you match the light where you’re at with the white of the camera. This is very important because all light is different. Outdoor light is blue, indoor light is red/orange depending on the bulb, and florescence’s are green (yuck) and very hard to work in…unless your going for that Shrek or Hulk look. White balancing (WB) is easy and most cameras have an auto white balance. If you have the option to turn the auto white balance off, I would recommend it. The auto WB is like the auto focus, it often gets confused on what to judge the white on. For example: if you’re inside filming, the light will be a red/orange, but, if there is a window, some blue light is coming in and your auto WB is now confused. To manually set the white balance, hold up an all white piece of paper right in the center where the main source of light is. Zoom in all the way so that all you see is white and then press your white balance button. If you are indoors try to cover as many of the windows as you can or film at night.

3. Setup Lighting

If your outdoors you won’t use any lights because the space is so open your light just kind of fades before it hits anything. Yes, in Hollywood they do use lights outside but their lights are very expensive.  Lighting outside is possible, but not practical for most churches. If you film indoors and you have some lights, don’t just fire all the lights up and point them at the person. Turn on one light at a time until you get the right amount of light.  Also, start with the background and then move to the person.

Try not to just flood the place with lights. Highlight using slashes, small pops of light, or shine the light through something to create a cool shadow. Shadows are normal and will always be there. Look around you now…shadows are everywhere! If a shadow seems really strong try pulling your light back a little or turning the light off the object a little.
If you don’t have any lights just use the lights in the building. Most buildings have enough lighting to light your shot evenly. There won’t be as much contrast to the background but your shot will still look good.

General Guidelines to go by when filming:

If you have a camera where you can manually control the settings here are some quick tips. (Your camera may not have some of these manual features or may be strictly auto which is still okay.)

  1. Leave the gain on 0. Changing the gain will brighten the picture some but it will also make the picture grainy and harder to see.
  2. Changing your iris is okay. The smaller the number the brighter it will get. Just remember that if you the lower the number, background lights might get blown out (turn all white/bright) making it harder to see.
  3. Set your F-stop at 1/60. This is a good speed that will capture everything without looking glitchy.
  4. Always white balance! (matching the white of the room to the white of the camera)

In the next blog we will discuss editing techniques and putting your videos/sermons up on the web.

Do you use video in your church?  If so, how do you use video?  Do you have any additional tips about shooting video or ideas for what to put on the videos?  Leave your comments below:

About the author

Jon Harrison


  • I love it.Please pray with me that God may bless me with a video camera.I don’t have one.I hope I could do plenty with it.
    Thank you.

  • Friedbeef,

    I am unsure what your referring to. Are you talking about editing the video after it is shot? The White Balance is critical because it can change the color of your picture. you usually want to what balance right before you start filming to make sure the lighting and color is correct. You can white balance any time before you file but the last WB is the key because it will give you the truest color because your shot is already lit. If your outside you will want to WB about ever hour in the mid day and ever 1/2 hour as the sun is setting/rising because the light is change drastically during that time.

    If you are talking about tweaking during the editing process your are only limited by your editing system. Most color can be corrected and light and dark shots can be corrected as well. But the brighter the shot the harder to darken and the darker the shot the harder to brighten without making the shot look grainy.

    If I have missed your question entirely please let me know.

    In His Service,

    Jon Harrison

  • this is so interesting, i’m learning a lot, i pray to god that i get a video camera i can do a lot with it

  • Hi, I use an old Magnabox camera that I was given to video Sermons at our Church.. Its in the back corner on a raised floor. Nothing fancy and it uses VHS tapes,, so it makes a pretty good picture.. I tried using a HI8 camera but had trouble with the camera cutting off during the sermons so I dumped it and went back to the old VHS type camera.. It has a better picture for Copies. I give copies to any one requesting a copy and rest homes and such. I do the copying at home, and I resently I got a DVD player that will copy but have not had any request for DVD copies. Mostly these people still have the old VHS tape players. I would like to try a digital camea for better quality picture. I have seen some Churchs with remote camera in roof and computors and such which is expensive. I have looked at local stores for Vedio cameras but most of these people dont know what they are selling, not much help. What type of Digital camera would be best for church use for using on trypod that is simple and not to costly. Thanks. Oh, I get good quality during daytime recording but bad at night. Lights kill my camera , adjusting seems not to help. Thanks…

  • Can you tell me if the disc protection feature causes me not to down load the video to edit it. It will play but I can't down load it to my editing programs.

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