This section of the Sound And Light Training (SALT) Manual deals with Video in
the Church. It is written from the prospective of the experience I gained in
researching, specifying, ordering, installing, and operating an "Entry Level
Video System" in Advent Lutheran Church in Boca Raton, Florida (Advent's web
page is at
). I use the term "Entry Level Video System" for two reasons: First, it is
Advent's first experience with video in the Church and second, we chose to go
with consumer grade video equipment rather than semi-professional or Newtork
Television grade equipment to significantly reduce the cost. We installed the
video equipment in the process of doing a Sanctuary renovation which also
included a completely new Sound System and a new Lighting System. As far as
technical equipment goes, the Video System was clearly given third priority
behind Sound and Lighting. Needless to say, money was tight by the time we got
Advent's Sanctuary seats about 400 people. It may be appropriate for Churches
seating from 50 to 500 people to use consumer grade video equipment, but if you
Church seats mort than 500, then I strongly recommend that you use ALL semi-pro
grade equipment or better and that you get a qualified Video Contractor to
Reasons for Video in the Church
If your Church is considering installing Video, the decision should be given
much thought and even more prayer. At Advent, there were MANY who opposed
installation of Video. Some of there reasons to oppose Video in the Church
see no need for more "technology" in the Church
think video will be distracting
video screens will ruin the beauty of the Sanctuary
resist change - want to "keep doing it like we always did"
Members of your Church will certainly have other reasons why they don't want
In the case of Advent, it was Dr. Ron Dingle, the Senior Pastor who was most in
favor of installing Video. He saw and believed in what Video could do to
improve the quality of the Church Service. Advent's reasons for installing
to show Song Words for the Contemporary Service (since we sing songs from many
sources, not just one book)
to show Sermon Notes (though we haven't gotten around to doing that yet)
to show the Pastor during the Sermon
to show bulletin announcements (though we haven't gotten around to doing that
to show close-ups of babies during Baptism (they're sooooo cute!)
to show close-ups of children in the Junior Chior during their performance
to allow the Choir (who face the back of the Pastor) to see the Pastor's face
during the Sermon
to allow Ushers and overflow croud in the Narthex to watch the service
to allow people in the back of the Church or balcony to see the service more
to video tape the Service for archive, duplication, and distribution
to video tape Weddings, Baptisms, and special events
to show video tapes of Missionaries, Church functions, promote upcoming events,
to replace the current overhead projector or slide projector you are using now
with "state of the art" technology
There are other purposes that Video in the Church can serve that Advent is not
to show Christian videos to Youth Groups
to have a family "Movie Night"
to video tape congregational meetings
to allow Sunday School teachers to take home a video tape of the service
to provide a better view of the service in the Cry room
to show the service in an Overflow room on occasions such as Easter and
to show the service on community Cable TV
One more possible use of video that I would like to mention is "teleprompting".
The pastor's personal sermon notes could be displayed on a small video monitor
mounted in the Pulpit (but you need a keyboard to advance pages). If you set a
video monitor on the floor (tilted at an angle) in front of the music group,
they can see the song words the same as the congregation. But, this may be
taking video to the extreme - you be the judge.
Please keep in mind that it is NOT always appropriate to use video in a Church.
The congregation may feel uncomfortable if you show them taking communion on
the big screen! Sometimes things that go on in a Church are very personal,
spiritual, and private. In these cases, video can be seen as intrusive and
offensive. Some examples of events that may be better without the aid of video
a funeral (though I did see video used to show a slide show of the family
picture album at one funeral)
a prayer meeting
an altar call
a healing service
After reading this manual, visit some other Churches in your area that are
currently making use of video. Look to see what kind of screen and projector
they use. Look for their camera locations and what types of cameras they use.
Check out their video mixer. Ask them if they video tape the service. Ask if
they sell copies - (buy a copy!). Ask them about their successes and their
problems. Ask them if they used a professional Video Contractor (and get the
name of the contractor).
What Grade of Equipment is Best for Your Church?
OK, so you talked to the Pastor and you got the Elders together and you took it
to Church Council and you prayed and you PRAYED and God said "Let there be
Video!". Now what are you going to do?
Keep in mind that it is God's money that you are going to be spending to
install Video in the Church. How much should you spend? Although God has more
money than Bill Gates, he may not have given ALL of it to YOUR Church. How
much can your Church afford to spend? Are you just going to install "video" or
are you going to install "VIDEO"?
Basically, the bottom line question this all comes down to is: Are you going
to use consumer grade video equipment, semi-professional grade equipment, or
Network Television grade equipment? For a few thousand dollars, you can
install consumer grade. For a few tens of thousands of dollars you can install
semi-professional grade. For a few hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more)
you can install Network Television grade video equipment.
Usually, the size of your Church will be the greatest factor in determining
what grade of equipment you should use (or can afford). A small Church of less
than 200 people is likely to only be able to afford consumer grade equipment.
A medium size Church of 200 to 500 people may have the option of using either
consumer or semi-pro equipment. A large chruch of 500 people or more should
use at least semi-pro equipment and possibly Network grade equipment if they
ever plan to have their service aired on public TV.
As with anything else, you get what you pay for in video equipment. There is a
noticeable difference in quality and in capabilities between consumer grade
equipment and semi-pro equipment. I think there is a less noticeable
difference in quality and capabilities between semi-pro and Network Television
As I stated back in the intro to this section, the SALT Manual deals with an
"Entry Level Video System" and as such assumes that all consumer grade
equipment will be used.
In one way, Video is much like "chain". A chain is only as good as its weakest
link. Similarly, video is only as good as its weakest component. What this
really means is that ALL of your equipment should be of similar grade.
Video Projector / Video Screen
Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: When you decide to install video in a Church,
some of the first things to concider are "where is the best location for the
screen(s)" and "where will the video projector be located." You must also
decide what size the screen should be, what type of screen surface, and what
type of video projector to use. When we installed video at Advent, these areas
are where we made our biggest mistakes.
We decided that the screen should go on the front wall of the Church which is a
40 foot high, 50 foot wide stained glass wall that is "A" shaped. There is a
huge cross in the center of the front wall, so we chose to place the video
screen on the far left. We had hopes to add another screen on the right when
we could afford it.
The Screen: We ordered the screen through our Sound System contractor (who had
not done much video). When the screen arrived, he installed it, turned on the
motor and rolled it down. Unfortunately, it was somewhat translucent and the
image of the stained glass window was clearly visible through the screen. We
made him take it back and get one that had an opaque backing. That helped, but
the second screen has a silver surface that is too reflective and causes too
The screen is 10 feet wide, 8 feet high and is mounted in a motorized roll-down
box 12 feet up on the stained glass wall. It is mounted on a large structural
member of the stained glass wall and painted to match, so it is actually hardly
noticeable when rolled up. The screen rolls down to about 4 feet off the floor.
We had to use front projection because there was no room for rear projection.
At the time Advent installed video, the most powerful video projector you could
buy for our budget of $3,000 to $4,000 was a "3-gun" unit. Today, you can get
a MUCH more powerful LCD unit for the same price.
Our plan was to hang the projector 12 feet up in the air (even with the top of
the screen) and 15 feet in front of the screen. We planned to have a custom
built metal bracket which would also hold stage lighting and would be somewhat
camoflaged by hanging a banner in front of it. To try out this concept, our
contractor set the "3-gun" projector on a 12 foot scaffold and spent a number
of hours aligning it. Note: "3-gun" video projectors take hours of line-up
and convergence time, but LCD projectors take only minutes to line up!
When the "3-gun" projector was finally aligned, about 11:00 at night, and not
many lights were on in the Sanctuary, it looked pretty good. However, in the
morning when we went to show it to the Pastor, the sun was shining in through
ALL the Church windows and the video image was barely visible. We were VERY
Since all of our Church Services are in the daytime, the "3-gun" video
projector we had purchased was really not very usable and (at that time) there
was no more powerful video projector that we could afford. We never did make
the custom metal bracket to mount it. Instead, we decided to make a 4 foot
tall wooden cart to hold the projector (level with the bottom edge of the
screen) and project from the bottom up instead of from the top down. But we
never used it for a single service.
In hind-sight, we should have returned the projector - even if we had to take a
loss on it. Instead, we kept it, hoping to use it in the fellowship hall for
the Youth Group. We used it a few times, but not enough to justify the cost.
So by now you should be wondering: Did we give up? What did we do? - - - No,
we did not give up. We decided to install a number of conventional TV sets
throughout the Sanctuary instead of one or two BIG screens.
We hung four 27" TVs from the main support beams of the Church, two on each
side, to cover the main floor seating area. We placed two 31" TVs on the left
and right of the front platform (in hind sight, two 60" big screens would have
been better). The choir sits in the very front of the Church and they normally
see the Pastor's back, so we mounted two 27" TVs on either side of the choir
for them to see the service. We hung two 27" TVs for the balcony. Finally,
someone gave us a 54" big-screen TV for the Narthex.
The reason we used mostly 27" TVs is because that is the largest wall-mount
bracket we could find. Mounting brackets for larger TVs usually only come in
ceiling-mount. We hung four of the TVs ourselves and then decided to have our
Sound Contractor hang the Balcony and Choir TVs (they were mounted much higher).
Fortunately, we had just remodeled the Sanctuary and had installed a whole lot
of conduit runs with Video in mind. We did have to bring in an Electricial
Contractor to run electric power to a number of the TVs. We had to use a
number of video amplifiers to distribute the signal to all the TVs.
We are still disappointed that we cound not make a BIG screen work in our
Sanctuary, but we are fairly well pleased with the video coverage we get from
our system of distributed TVs. Over the long term, we would like to replace
the two 31" TVs on either side of the front platform with 60" or even 70"
big-screen TVs. We don't expect to try projection TV again - the ambient light
in our Sanctuary is just too bright.
As you can see from our experience, the choice of location for the screen and
type of video projector is something that needs a lot of thought and
investigation. Here is a list of some things to be taken into consideration:
Does the placement of the screen destroy the beauty of the Sanctuary?
Can one screen be seen by everyone in the congregation or are two or more
Should the screen be fixed and permanent or a motorized roll-down screen?
What kind of surface should the screen have? (there are lots of choices here
and it makes a BIG difference)
Do you have an appropriate place to mount the video projector? Is it at the
right height and right distance from the screen? (the video projector has to be
a certain distance from the screen and even with either the top edge or bottom
edge of the screen)
Should you use rear projection, front projection, self-contained big screen TV,
or tube-type TV screens? (rear projection should be your first choice)
Should you use LCD or "3-gun" type video projector? (the answer is definitely
Is the area where you intend to put the screen dark enough? Do any lights
shine on the screen? Can they be turned off?
Do any windows allow light to shine on or through the screen? Can anything be
done about that?
If your Church is brightly lit by sun shining through the windows, a video
projector may not be bright enough. - - Try before you buy! Most places that
sell video projectors will setup a demonstration in your Church BEFORE you buy!
How big should the screen be? Images of people shown on the screen should be
bigger than life. People in the back need to be able to see images and song
words clearly - even if they don't have 20-20 vision. Keep in mind, not
everyone sees as well as you do!
Is it possible to run power and video cables to where they are needed?
Can the video projector be accessed for repair? (they don't work forever . . .)
There are three basic things to determine when considering video cameras:
How many cameras are needed to cover your Church service and other activities
you want to video?
Where should the camera(s) be placed?
What type of camera is best for each application or location?
At Advent, we chose to start with three cameras. We placed all three in the
balcony inside the sound booth. They are all consumer grade camcorders.
The first camera is a low cost full-size VHS camcorder with a fairly good zoom
lense. This was bought with the intention of leaving it out all the time so
there was always at least one camera ready to use at any service. We chose
full-size VHS for two reasons: 1) low value to a potential thief and 2) so
that it could be borrowed by people to record an event and directly play the
tape in their home VCR.
The second camera is a medium cost compact 8MM camcorder with a flip out view
screen. It was bought with the intention to dedicate it to the "wide" view.
It is usually set up to view the entire front of the Sanctuary. We switch to
this camera whenever transitioning from one activity to another or during
intimate times like communion.
The third camera is a compact high-end Hi8 camcorder with a large flip out view
screen and a fairly good zoom lense. It is our primary camera for close-ups.
At the time it was purchased, it was one of the best consumer grade cameras on
the market. Having a Hi8 format camera also makes it possible for us to play
8MM and Hi8 tapes. Initially, we put this camera away after each service.
However, this got to be a nuissance, so we got a security system which allows
us to alarm each camera and each electronic componet in the sound booth.
If your video system is going to be very basic, you may only need one camera.
With one camera, you could video tape the service for shut-ins or Sunday School
teachers. You could show a close-up of the Pastor during the service. You
could video other portions of the service, but with only one camera, it is
difficult to make a graceful transition from one area to another (e.g. Choir to
If you are more "serious" about video, you really need more than one camera!
As a minimum, you should have one camera for the "wide shots" and one camera
for "close-ups". But keep in mind, multiple cameras REQUIRES a Video Mixer!
If you want to go farther, you may want to consider cameras for some of the
The wide view of the whole front of the Sanctuary
Close-up of the Pastor
Medium view of the Pastor
Separate cameras for the Pulpit, Altar, and Lectern areas
One or more cameras for the choir
View of the organist or choir director
Front view of the Pastor when he is facing away from the congregation
View of the congregation
Center aisle Procession (from the front
Center aisle Recession (from the back)
Hand held camera that can be moved around as needed (but this may be
Assuming you have now decided how many cameras you want, now you have to decide
where to put them.
If you've ever been to a Television Studion to watch the "shooting" of a
program, you have undoubtedly noticed the cameras: they are large, ughly, and
usually block your view of the show. This is hardly appropriate for a Church.
However, with today's technology, a good camera does not have to be large or
ughly and it does not have to block people's view.
With a powerful telephoto lense, a camera can often be located in the back of
the room, rather than the front. If you get a remote control camera, it can be
located almost anywhere and the camera operator can be in the back of the room
or even another room.
Here are a few things to consider when deciding where to locate your camera(s):
Usually you can place at least one of your cameras at the sound booth. You may
want to put two cameras at the sound booth, one for wide shots and one for
close-ups. With the camera operator in the sound booth, they may be able to
help with additional jobs (e.g. video mixing, lighting, sound, or computer
When a camera is located in the back of the room, be sure it is high enough
that its view won't be blocked when people stand up.
Balconies are another great place to put a video camera.
A camera located near the front at the side aisle may get a nice profile view.
A remote control camera would be best here. Look for a place to mount it where
the structure of the Church hides the camera from most of the contregation.
A remote control camera located behind the Altar and off to one side is good
for getting faces of people when they turn away from the congregation (e.g. the
Bride's face) and you may also be able to get a view of the congregation. If
the location is selected carefully, this same camera may be able to get the
Be careful when mounting a camera very high up. It may give an unflattering
view of people if it is aimed down at too steep an angle.
Try to avoid placing a camera, a large tripod, and a camera opreator down front
in the middle of the Church. The distraction this causes is not appropriate
for a Church service. With the cost effective remote control equipment
available today, there should be no need to place camera operators in the
middle of the congregation.
Although most people don't notice the difference, a picture shot from a camera
that is 20 feet from the subject has more "depth" to it than one shot with a
telephoto lense from 100 feet away. It is also easier to keep a camera steady
when it you are closer to the subject. For these reasons, it would be
desirable to have your "Pastor camera" near the front.
Keep in mind that you are doing video in a Sanctuary. Priority should be
placed on making the video cameras and operators as unnoticeable as possible.
Remote control cameras serve this goal best!
Now that you have decided how many cameras and where they will be located, you
need to decide what kind of cameras to use.
Again, I need to remind you that I am writing from the perspective of an "Entry
Level Video System". That means that I am only considering consumer grade
equipment. If your budget allows you to consider semi-pro or higher grade
equipment, they your choices will be much more numerous.
There are three basic catagories of cameras to consider: 1) cameras directly
controlled by a camera operator, 2) remote control cameras, and 3) fixed
First, let's discuss cameras controlled by an operator:
Probably the most cost effective cameras are consumer grade Camcorders. These
cameras have a built in video tape recorder. Depending on the camera, the tape
format may be VHS, VHS-C (compact), 8MM, Hi8, or Digital (with several
different formats). There are litterally hundreds of different models
available with a wide assortment of features.
If you are only using a single camera and you are recording the service on the
tape in the camera (that means NO video mixing), then it may be important to
you what tape format the Camcorder uses. If you want to be able to immediately
give the tape to ONE person, VHS is best because they can play it at home. If
you plan to copy the tape and give it to several people, then you should NOT
use VHS because a copy of a VHS tape looses quality. Instead, you should use
Hi8 or Digital so that the quality of the copy to VHS will be adequate.
If you are using multiple cameras, then you will need to use a Video Mixer and
an external Video Recorder. You will not be recording on the Camcorder's tape,
so the format of the tape makes little difference. However, Hi8 and Digital
Camcorders are smaller and do produce a better quality image.
If you are placing one or more cameras at the sound booth location, you should
select cameras which have a good OPTICAL zoom lense and a LARGE flip-out
Be careful to check the OPTICAL zoom ratio, not the DIGITAL zoom ratio. For
example a camera may have a 360/1 DIGITAL zoom ratio, but only a 12/1 OPTICAL
zoom. When you go beyond the OPTICAL zoom to the DIGITAL zoom, the picture
will begin to get "grainy" or look like mosaic tile.
Cameras with a LARGE flip-out viewfinder are much more comfortable to use than
cameras where you have to put your eye up against the viewfinder. You can also
install a video monitor next to the camera for the camera operator to watch,
but this should not be necessary with a LARGE flip-out viewfinder.
Keep in mind that in order to use a separate video monitor with the camera, you
will need a video amplifier (so you don't double terminate the video signal).
The white balance capability of the camera is also very important. Most
Camcorders have automatic white balance, but when you are using several cameras
and they don't all automatically balance the same. For us, this has been a
problem we have not solved. Many cameras have several different modes of white
balance. Some cameras have ability to manually set white balance, but you need
to know what you are doing, and it takes time every time you power-up.
All Camcoders have auto-focus, but some auto-focus systems work a lot better
than others. We have had some trouble with auto-focus (e.g. on a white or
black robe) and sometimes find it works better if you set the camera for manual
"Steady-Shot" is another good feature to have.
Don't forget that you will also need a tripod for each operator controlled
camera. There are lots of different kinds of tripods and you need to make sure
you get a tripod designed for video cameras. It needs to have enough weight to
be steady. It should have a long handle with a movement that is SMOOTH (no
jerking) and EASY, yet holds the camera solid (no drooping). A good tripod is
worth the money. Don't skimp here!
Second, lets consider remote control cameras:
Since Advent has not yet installed a remote control camera, I do not have any
first hand experience in this area. However, I do have some suggestions.
For remote control cameras, a Camcorder is NOT suitable. Generally, you cannot
control the zoom and focus of a Camcorder remotely.
Security Cameras are probably your most cost effective source for remote
Generally, a remote controlled camera is purchased as several separate units:
the camera, the remote control zoom lense, the motorized pan-tilt unit, a
mounting bracket, and the joy-stick remote control unit.
Some joy-stick remote control units are capable of controlling multiple cameras
and some have multiple memories that can be programmed with frequently used
"shots" (e.g. Pulpit, Altar, and Lectern).
You also need a video monitor at the operator's location for each remote
Variable speed zoom and "smooth" variable speed pan-tilt are important features.
The joy-stick remote control unit should be located near the video mixer so
that the operators of both can communicate well (and maybe share the same video
Third, we'll consider fixed or stationary cameras:
There are relatively few uses for a fixed or stationary camera (e.g. for the
organist or the wide shot of the whole Church) because in most cases your
subject is moving, at least to some degree.
A Camcorder may be used as a fixed camera, but you might have problems with
color balance, especially if the color balance returns to the default setting
It is better to use a Security Camera for a fixed camera. They either maintain
their color balance or have the ability to set it remotely.
When connecting your cameras to the other equipment, keep in mind that the
output from a camera will only drive ONE other device. For example, if the
output of the camera goes to the video mixer, you cannot use a simple splitter
add on a TV monitor. Doing so will degrade (overload) the video signal causing
it to be much darker and probably changing the color balance. To add a TV
monitor, you MUST use a multi-output video amplifier.
Similarly, if you have a long video cable run (e.g. more than 25 feet) between
your camera and your video mixer, you will need a video amplifier. It is
preferable to locate the video amplifier near the camera so the signal is
amplified before going through the long cable rather than putting it near the
Be warned! Low cost video amplifiers sometimes give correspondingly low
performance. They may add noise to the signal or fail after a shorter than
expected time. (I know this from experience!)
If you just can't figure out a way to run a video cable between the desired
location of a camera and the video mixer, you could try using a video
transmitter / receiver. There are a few companies that now make cost effective
video transmitter / receiver units that work just like an FM mike over about
the same distance. At Advent, we use one of these units when we need to put a
camera behind the Altar. The quality isn't perfect, but it is acceptable for
Although consumer grade video cameras can provide good quality pictures
(considering the cost of the camera), there is sometimes a noticeable problem
with white balance on these cameras. Often they have several modes of white
balance, so you need to select the correct mode for your Church's lighting. If
you use a Camcoder as a remote stationary camera and you power it up/down with
the rest of the equipment, it may not power back up in the same white balance
mode - this could be a PROBLEM! Differences in white balance between different
cameras may be especially noticeable if you use several different camera models
Computer Equipment / Song Words
In addition to video cameras, you are likely to want to have a computer in your
With a computer you can add:
Notification to parents to come to their child's class room
PowerPoint slide presentations
Video clips (stored on computer)
Video played from the computer's DVD player
Graphics or scanned photographs
. . . your imagination is the only limit!
There are a several programs you can use on your computer to present the items
listed above. Two that I know of are:
PowerPoint has a lot of capabilities and is an industry standard, but it is not
very user friendly when it comes to keeping a catalog of all your songs and
letting you easily assemble the song list for a particular service.
When preparing your song word or sermon note slides, be sure to use an easy to
read font (e.g. Arial) and make it BIG! Keep in mind that not everyone's eyes
are as good as yours. Put one of your slides on the screen, get someone who's
eyes are not real good, and have them move around the room and tell you how
well they are able to read the slide.
Usually, a slide should contain 4 to 8 lines of text. I think using upper and
lower case makes it easier to read than all upper case. Choose the color of
your text carefully and look at on the screen to see how well it shows up.
Keep your background rather plain, but textures do make the background much
more interesting. Use light colored text with a dark background or dark text
with a light background. Maybe use a different background for each song. A
FEW graphics emphasizing the message of the song may be helpful.
You will probably find it works best if you keep the words for each song in a
separate file. Work with the Music Director and see that you put the verses
and chorus in the right order. Make a separate slide for each time the chorus
is sung - don't expect the computer operator to page back to the first chorus
If you want to show sermon notes on the video screen, there are a lot of very
good Bible programs out there that can make it a easier to import Bible quotes
into your slides. Some of these programs contain illustrations and maps too!
Keep in mind that there are Copy Right issues to be dealt with when you show
song words on a screen, but that is beyond the scope of this article (talk to
your Music Director).
Assuming you are using consumer grade equipment, you will need a computer which
supports "composite video output" or an external "scan converter" to make the
computer's VGA or SVGA video compatible with your other equipment which uses
either composite video (the RCA jacks you see on the back of any VCR) or
S-video (a small multi-pin plug found on Hi8 and SVHS Camcorders and VCRs).
If you use semi-pro equipment, your video projector may be able to directly
accept an SVGA signal from the computer (but you will need some high grade
special cable to get it to the video projector). If you connect the computer
directly to the video projector, then the computer probably won't be going
through the video mixer and probably won't be recorded on the tape of the
service. This may be good if you want the tape to show the choir rather than
the song words. It may be bad if you want the tape to show the sermon notes.
Now you're ready! You got lots of cameras, you even got a computer, but how do
you get all this video "stuff" mixed together into one program? You need a
Just like any other type of equipment, there are a number of video mixers on
the market and they cover a broad price range. One of the lowest cost video
mixers is the Videonics MX1 (
). Advent has been using an MX1 for several years and we are well pleased with
it. In fact, I even bought one for myself.
The Videonics MX1 is a four-input video mixer. At Advent, we use it with three
cameras and one computer. On occasions when we have a video tape to play
during the service, we manually disconnect either one of the cameras or the
computer and connect the playback VCR.
Advent is planning to get a second MX1 and "gang" the two units together to
allow us to use more cameras. One MX1 will be used to mix our main close-up
camera, the medium-shot camera, the computer, and the fourth input will be the
output of the other MX1. The other MX1 will be used to mix three more cameras
and the playback VCR.
The MX1 has two outputs. One is the main program output that we send through a
multi-output video amplifier to our video screens and also to the record VCR.
The other is a multi-mode monitor display that we send to a 13" TV monitor in
front of the MX1. One mode allows us to see a small image of the four input
signals on one screen. Another mode allows us to monitor the main output.
You may find it desirable to have a separate small monitor screen for each
camera in front of the MX1 operator. Don't forget that this means you need a
multi-output video amplifier for each camera.
The Videonics MX1 has the ability to mix sound from three different stereo
sources (although it has four video inputs), but we do not use it for mixing
sound for video. Advent uses the main output of the house sound board for
video sound. We send the video sound through another small mixer so we have a
separate level control for the sound that goes to the video tape. If you want
to do it "right", you should run the video sound through a compressor to
control its level better. This will help control the substantial difference in
sound level between the Contemporary Music Group and the Pastor. A VCR is a
lot more particular about having exactly the right sound level than the house
sound system is.
Video Recorders / Players
You will probably want to have at least two video recorder (VCRs) connected to
your system, one for recording and one for playback. It is possible to get
away with one VCR for both, but then you can't record a service that contains a
Video Playback: Probably a standard VHS unit will do for the playback VCR.
Most tapes you will be asked to play are VHS. Personally, I like to have a
unit that has sound level meters so I can tell when there is sound on the tape
and when there isn't.
Video Recording: You may want to give more thought to what type of VCR you use
for recording. Who will be watching tapes recorded at your Church? Will you
be selling copies of the tapes? If you are just going to make ONE tape and do
not expect to copy it, then a VHS unit will do. If you want to copy the tapes,
then you should consider S-VHS, Hi8, or Digital because these formats will
allow you to produce a better quality VHS copy. My #1 requirement for a video
record deck is that it have sound level meters. It is the only way you can get
a good consistant sound level on the video tape and avoid distoration.
At the time of this writing, I have not yet been very impressed with the
quality of video recorded directly to a Windows PC. However, soon, it will be
practical to record high quality video directly to computer disk. This may be
something for you to consider. However, computer disks will not hold very many
hours of video so sooner or later you will have to transfer it to some type of
It is a good idea to have a TV monitor (with sound) on the playback output of
the record VCR to make sure you really are recording both video and sound.
There is one Church in our area (using semi-pro equipment) that has one Beta
recording VCR and 24 VHS recording VCRs. During the service, they make 24 VHS
tapes which are available for sale immediately after the service. If they sell
more than 24, they take orders and make more copies from the Beta original.
This Church has about 5 people working in their audio/video tape library each
Sunday! They sell tapes by the hundreds!
No matter which video tape format you choose for your record VCR, make sure the
VCR has sound level meters so that you can tell when you are recording sound
and whether or not the level is correct. Keeping a close eye (or ear) on the
video sound level is critical to making good video tapes. Video tape will not
tolerate nearly as large a change in volume as the house sound system will
tolerate. Remember, a video tape is not just picture, it is sound too!
Video with Style!
So what do I mean by "Video with Style"? I mean the difference between just
doing video and doing it right. It is important when doing video in a Church
that it add to the service rather than subtract from it. Technology should
never be a source of distraction. Video done wrong can be VERY distracting.
Smooth: One of the most important aspects of video is SMOOOOOOTH camera work.
The slightest jerkyness is easily noticeable and very distracting. The two
things that contribute most to smooth camera work are a good heavy video camera
tripod and a steady hand. Having the camera relatively close to the subject
minimizes the amount you have to zoom in and that also makes the picture more
Framing: Learning how to properly frame the picture is important. If you are
showing the Pastor during the sermon, the image of the Pastor's face on the
screen should be bigger than life. The video screen should allow people in the
back to clearly see the expression on the Pastor's face. This means that you
should use an upper body shot - showing just the head and chest, having the
Pastor's mouth in the center of the picture. If your Pastor stands still at
the Pulpit to preach, this may be easy enough to do, but if your Pastor (like
ours) constantly walks around while preaching, the camera operator may have
great difficulty following the Pastor around yet keeping the picture smooth.
In this case, a somewhat wider shot may be necessary.
Zoom: A zoom lense on a video camera is absolutely essential, but it should
seldom be used on the "live" camera. Zoom in or out to get the picture framed
the way you want it BEFORE switching to that camera. Occasionally zooming on
the "live" camera may produce a nice effect (such as zooming out from the
organist's hands to show the whole organ console and organist), but keep "live"
zooms to a minimum. Be especially careful of a "live" zoom-in because the
camera will often go out of focus for a moment on a zoom-in. Having two or
more cameras to switch between allows you to zoom when the camera is not "live".
Background: Often the camera operator is so focused on watching their subject
(e.g. the Pastor) that they don't notice what's in the background of the
picture. Catching a yawning acholite or a sleeping chior member behind the
Pastor can be embarasing. When choosing the location(s) for your camera(s), it
is important to look carefully at what will be in the background. If the
background will be distracting, consider choosing an alternative camera
location or move something (or someone) so that the background does not contain
distractions. Be careful that the background does not contain lights or
windows which will show up as bright spots on the video.
What's Next: Both the camera operators and the video mixer operator need to
know the "flow" of your Church's service. They need to know what is going to
happen next so they can anticipate and have the next shot already zoomed and
framed BEFORE switching to that camera. The video crew needs to know things
like: the announcements will be read from the floor, the scripture lessons
will be read from the Lecturn, the Pastor will start the sermon from the Pulpit
and then walk all over the front platform, there are five slides with sermon
notes and there is a queue sheet telling you what the pastor will say just
before you are to show a sermon note slide, the choir will sing immediately
after the sermon and the words are on the computer, but you need to show the
organist hands during a fancy interlued between the first two verses, and show
Suzzie when she sings a solo on the last verse.
Titling: If you are recording video to tape, you may want to use the computer
to insert a title slide or two at the beginning of the video giving the name of
the church, date, Pastor's name, and the sermon title. It is a good idea to
record the title slides before the service starts. Another title slide or
credits slide at the end of the video makes it look more professional.
The Video Crew
Camera Operator: A GOOD camera operator is the MOST important factor in
successful Church video. You can have a million dollars worth of video
equipment, but if you don't have a GOOD camera operator, your video will
detract from the service, not add to it. Trust me, I know! It takes TALENT to
be a GOOD camera operator - just like it takes talent to play an instrument or
to sing. Just because you once took a picture with a Polaroid camera does not
make you a video camera operator! It takes unrelenting concentration (look
away for a second and that's when your subject will decide to move), an eye
proper framing of each scene, knowing exactly how far to zoom in, getting close
when facial expressions are important, getting a wider shot when body movement
is important, knowing what should be in the center of the picture, keeping an
eye out for distracting backgrounds, anticipating when the subject will move
and following movement SMOOTHLY, and anticipating the next shot and having it
Video Mixer: The second most important factor in successful Church video is a
GOOD video mixer operator. Just like a camera operator, a GOOD video mixer
needs TALENT. Again it takes unrelenting concentration, the ability to watch
multiple video monitors simultaneously and instantly decide which picture is
best at any given moment, a feel for timing - when is the right time to change
to the next shot, planning to have the right camera free to get the next shot,
and anticipation to know what shot is needed next. The video mixer operator
may also have to operate the computer for song words and/or sermon notes. The
video mixer operator must also keep in mind that this is a Church, not a music
video, and transitions from one camera to another should be kept discrete and
subtle. Just because your video mixer has 200 different types of transitions
does not mean you have to use them all! You probably won't find more than 3 or
4 that are suitable for a Church service.
Calling the Shots: You need good communication between your camera operator(s)
and the person operating the video mixer. It is possible for one person to
operate several video cameras and the video mixer (all at one location) - I
know, I've done it, but it can drive you crazy, and mistakes happen more
frequently. It is much better to have a person operating each camera and
another operating the video mixer. However, in order to do this successfully,
you really need an intercom system. Generally the person operating the video
switcher calls the shots. That person tells the camera operators which camera
is currently "live" and what shot is needed next. To minimize distrations, the
camera operators should not talk. It works even better if another person
"calls the shots", preferably from another room so that the congregation will
not hear them. It is essential that the person "calling the shots" knows what
is going to happen next - that means they MUST talk to the Pastor and to the
Music Director BEFORE the service.
Video Sound: If you are only using video for big-screens in the Church, then
you don't need video sound. However, if you are showing video in the cry-room,
narthex, overflow room, or recording it on tape, then you need sound to go with
it. In most small to medium size churches, the best source for video sound is
the house audio mixer. However, the person mixing sound for the house may not
include things that are important for the video. For example, the house sound
mix generally does not include the organ and may not include other instruments
such as bass guitar and drums. The house sound mix does not include the
congregation singing and it does not include an "ambience" mike to pick up
things like laughter and applause. In order to do video sound RIGHT, you need
a separate mix. You need to add in the missing sounds. The simplest way to do
this is to set up your house mixer for pseudo-stereo operation; that is, use
the left channel out of the house mixer to drive the house sound and use the
right channel to drive the video sound. You will need to add other inputs to
the house mixer to add organ, bass, drums, and congregation ambience. These
additional sources should be "panned" all the way to the right. That will keep
them out of the house mix, but put them in the video mix.
Video Sound Level: Getting the correct sound level for video tape is much more
difficult than getting the correct sound level for the house mix. If you
record the sound level too low, then when people watch the tape, they have to
turn up their TV volume. If you record the sound level too high, it WILL
distort! The best way to monitor the video sound level is to use a video
recorder with sound level meters. Basically there are two ways to get it right
- either watch it real carefully and make adjustments, or install a compressor
between the mixer and the video recorder. When properly set, the compressor
will reduce the volume of loud passages enough to prevent distortion.
White Balance: Before each service, check the white balance of each of your
cameras. If you are using architectural or stage lighting, then your cameras
should probably be set for tungsten light. If you have an area of white wall
lighted by white lights, you can aim all the cameras at it and then switch back
and forth between them to see if the color stays about the same. If not,
follow the camera's instructions to set the white balance.
Test the Equipment: Before each service, test everything. See that all the
cameras are working, check the white balance, see that the big screen is
working, switch to the computer and see that it is working, check sound levels
on the video recorder, and record a few minutes of tape and play it back to
make sure the picture is clear (no noise) and the sound is good.
You get what you pay for. If you have purchased consumer grade video equipment
(as we did), then you can expect to have some problems. If you are able to
afford semi-pro equipment installed by a professional video contractor, then
you should expect less problems (theoretically speaking).
Noise: For us, the most difficult problem has been noise in the video signal.
I think it is caused by using low cost / low quality video line amplifiers and
the fact that our wiring plant required connecting three video amplifiers in
series (not a good thing to do!). I expect that if we upgraded our video
amplifiers it would solve our problem (but we haven't don it yet). The
amplifiers we are using are only able to drive one video monitor from each
output. The output of our video mixer feeds a four output video amplifier.
That first video amplifier feeds the record video deck, the narthex bigscreen,
and two more video amplifiers for the left and right sides of the Church. The
left and right side amplifiers each feed three video monitors (balcony, back,
and middle) and another video amplifier that then feeds two more video monitors
(front and choir). The "live" monitor for the video mix position is fed by the
output of the video record deck. If you are able to use one or two big screens
in your Church, your video wiring will be a lot simpler!
Multiple Terminations: Video signals are much more particular about multiple
terminations than audio signals. If you "double terminate" a video signal, it
will make the picture much darker. Normally, each video output can only drive
ONE other device. If you need to drive multiple devices, you will need a video
Videonicx MX1: Generally, we are very well pleased with our Videonicx MX1
video mixer, however, it has given us some trouble with computer input. We
have a PC running PowerPoint at 640 X 480 resolution going through a low cost
($99) external video scan converter to an input of the MX1. At times, the
computer signal causes the MX1 to go "spastic"! The video output of the MX1
will switch off and on about once a second until we disconnect the computer
signal. Then, it comes clear. If we re-connect the computer, sometimes it
works OK and sometimes it fails again. Recently, it hasn't been failing very
More Noise: Sometimes when the video signal gets noisey, it is because two
pieces of equipment are too close together. The computer may be too close the
MX1 - solution, put the computer on the floor. The video amplifier may be too
close a video monitor - solution, raise the video monitor. Another thing to
watch for as a cause of video problems is ground loops. If you end up passing
a ground current through a video cable, it is likely to cause noise. The best
way to avoid ground loops is to plug ALL the equipment into the same outlet. A
likely source for ground problems is the audio sound source from the audio
mixer. If the audio system is powered from a different outlet than the video
system, a ground loop may occur.
Unfortunately, when we add video to a Church, we increase the temptation for
theft. Video cameras are especially tempting. Initially, we put away our
video cameras each week, but that soon got old.
SeKure: The solution we chose for equipment security is a product manufactured
by a company called SeKure Controls Inc. (
). Se-Kure makes anti-theft security products for retail stores. I'm sure you
have seen their equipment in the Electronics departments of many stores.
Typically, their sensors are used to protect store displays of cell phones,
cameras, computers, etc.
The SeKure system consists of an alarm sensor that is affixed to each piece of
equipment and an alarm monitor box which interfaces to the Church's alarm
system. Each alarm sensor is a very small plastic box (3/4" X 1" X 1/8")
containing a microswitch. A short telephone cord (6') connects the alarm
sensors to the alarm box. The alarm sensor is affixed to the piece of
equipment to be monitored (e.g. video camera, tripod, VCR, video mixer, etc.)
by double-sticky tape. As long as the alarm sensor stays attached to the
equipment, the microswitch stays operated, closing the electric circuit and
keeping the alarm off. If the alarm sensor is removed from the equipment or
the phone cord is unplugged or cut, the electiric circuit is broken and the
alarm monitor box sounds an alarm. The alarm monitor box also sends an alarm
indication to the Church's door alarm system. We have attached a SeKure alarm
sensor to every piece of removable electronic equipment in our sound system,
lighting system, and video system. In order to connect them all to the alarm
monitor box, we got several SeKure 6-outlet fan-out boxes.
If we need to remove a piece of equipment that is monitored by the SeKure alarm
system, we use a key to deactivate the system, unplug the telephone cord for
the unit we want to remove, replace it with a "dummy" plug, and reactivate the
system. What could ba easier?
We have been very happy with the SeKure system and recommend it to all Churches
for security of their audio, lighting, and video equipment. It is relatively
inexpensive, almost infinitely expandable, and it can monitor equipment in
several locations (with a little special wiring).