How many cameras does a church livestream need?

cameras livestream Apr 08, 2021

Well, technically... only 1.

Let’s ask a better question. 

What does adding additional cameras to a Livestream achieve?

Now, that’s a better question, but one that will take more time to take apart.

Recently I asked how many Cameras different Churches used in their livestream. For context, the participants of the survey were primarily from American Churches and were engaged in worship technology Facebook groups. 

Make your own conclusions, but it is interesting to see the landscape of Church live streams. 

As someone who has worked as a professional videographer in all kinds of live events, there are a few questions I will always ask before preparing a number of cameras for an event. The first set are always pragmatic. 

  • How many camera operators will there be?
  • What is the budget? 
  • What are the physical limitations of the space?
  • Are my camera angles static (on a tripod) or dynamic (operated)?

 However, it's the last question I ask myself that is the most important. 

"What needs to be captured to give the viewer the experience I want them to have?" 

Now we are working with our director's hats on.

Obviously, every church must work within its limitations. And I should say, you can create a great experience with one operated camera that outclasses a church using three static cameras.

In broad strokes however, this is what I think each camera gets you.

One Camera is a Window

It's the bare essential to let someone view into your service. Use it well and you can achieve a lot. Stick it at the back of a room and keep it as a wide shot? Well, maybe keep reading. 

Two Cameras Add Context And Safety 

With a mid/close shot of the front and now adding a wide shot, you can actually 'show' the church. Not the building, but the people. You can make someone online feel like they are a part of the action by showing people in the room. Even if it's just the back of heads, you've added the 'life' into a Church service. 

You also have something to cut to if someone spontaneously worships in front of the primary camera angle or another trips over a cord. 

Three or Four Cameras creates A Story

I believe this is the sweet spot for most Churches. There is a law of diminishing returns when it comes to each camera you add.

With this kind of set-up, you can be confident in your coverage (ability to capture anything that happens in the room). But more importantly, you can use the power of editing to amplify the online viewing experience.

VIDEO IS BORING. You need to use all the tools of cinematic storytelling that have developed over 100 years to inject life back into the 2D motion picture experience.

I'm taking mixing up camera angles and shot types, adding camera movements, using reaction shots, cross-cutting,  following action.... the list goes on. 

My sentences get longer the more passionate I get. My apologies. 

It boils down to this: Sitting in a living, breathing, room full of people is a completely different experience from watching something on a screen. Imagine trying to show someone a movie on the radio. They are different mediums. 

 Five Cameras and more = Aren't you lucky!

Now you are competing with broadcast television. If you are fortunate to have all the money & people power, I trust you are using them well! 

So how many cameras do you need? Still only one. But it's not hard to see the value of adding more up to a point. 

Want to dive deeper into framing, camera positioning, and knowing what cameras to even buy? These are areas we dive into in the 'Church Livestream Level Up' Course. Click here to learn more.

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