When setting up a live streaming or video production kit at your church, choosing the camera placement is a critical step.
It’s easy just to pick a convenient spot and place your camera there. But if you put a little more thought into the framing of the image you want, it will take your live stream and video production to the next level.
But every sanctuary and venue is different. How do you know what the optimal placement is?
In this article, we’re going to walk through the main considerations that go into choosing the best place to mount the video cameras in your church.
Church Video Camera Placement
Before placing a camera anywhere, you need to understand what the camera view “feels” like from the viewer. If you are live streaming, consider that the camera is the viewer. If you place them in an awkward spot, or at an awkward angle, the stream is always going to feel awkward.
Even if you don’t know why the stream just won’t feel quite right.
Basic Considerations for All Camera Angles
There are a few things to consider for all of your cameras, regardless of where in the sanctuary you intend to place them.
Height of the Camera
In most churches, people both sit and stand and even stand with their hands raised high overhead. If your camera is too low, you’ll have to deal with people getting in the way. If your camera is too high, however, it’ll feel like you’re looking down on everything – like you’re hanging from the rafters.
You do want your camera high enough to avoid the congregation accidentally blocking the view. But you don’t want the camera too high.
As a general rule, the further away from the stage, the higher the camera can go without feeling “too high.”
Wiring the Cameras
Most church cameras are hard-wired to the video switcher. And the switcher may be in the sound booth, or it may be in an adjoining room. Regardless, you must consider how to wire the cameras at the chosen placement. In some cases, the fact you need wiring to reach the camera may make some placements impossible.
Special Service Requirements
Does your church do special productions or plays? Does your church host weddings and ceremonies?
If so, you should consider the needs of those special services when you’re mounting your cameras as well. You don’t want to have to set up and tear down a whole new system just because your cameras can’t catch the bride and groom very well.
Consider Future Upgrades
Future-proofing your setup is critical to not overspending. If you know you want to add more cameras later, then plan your camera placement beforehand. Even if you start with a single camera, you don’t want to have to reroute cabling and such when you add a second one.
Planning ahead will ensure your camera placements are future-proofed.
Placing a Single-Camera Video Setup
If you only have one camera, a straight-on shot is definitely preferred. You may be able to zoom, pan, and tilt, but with a single “perspective,” you want to ensure it feels the most natural.
In most churches, the single-camera setup (or primary camera) will be placed in the center of the sanctuary, and close to the back wall.
Some churches have platforms built up in the middle of the seating areas. That works, but I’m not a huge fan of having camera operators with giant cameras and tripods blocking the view of everyone behind them.
If you can mount your camera to the back wall, you should try to place it as close to “center stage” as you can.
Placing a Two-Camera Video Setup
Using two cameras is better than one, but it’s just halfway between 1 and 3. I know that sounds funny, but it’s actually how you should think.
Two camera angles usually feels like something is missing. If you have your primary camera center-stage, the second camera will typically have a side-angle. With only one side-angle, there is always a mental question in the viewer, why can’t I get another side angle?
For example, with a right-side angle, when the preacher faces to his left, the right-side angle gets his face perfectly. When he faces to his right, the left-side angle is absent. So, you either get a side shot from the center camera or a back shot from the single-angle camera.
Some churches that only want two cameras will not place either camera at center stage. Instead, both cameras are at an angle, which solves the “back” shot problem. But it also means that all of their shots are angled.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing if you choose to do it that way. It’s just something you should consider.
At our church, we’re currently using two cameras. We have one center-stage, and another on the right side of the sanctuary shooting the left side of the stage. We did it this way because, currently, nothing happens on the right side of the stage. And, we have plans to add a 3rd camera very soon. So, that third camera will “fill in” the gaps we have currently. But since the right side of the stage is unimportant for now, we made the decision to mount our two cameras as center-stage and right-side only.
Placing a Three-Camera Video Setup
With three cameras, the placement is almost always center, left, and right – even if those overlap significantly. Even with a PTZ camera kit, that’s normally the placement. Those three “perspectives” give the most complete coverage of the platform.
Getting Creative with Camera Placement
Every sanctuary is unique, and so is the creative mindset of the video team. Some churches may completely go away from the traditional 3-point camera placement theory.
That’s great, but only if done with a creative purpose.
When unconventional camera placement is chosen for convenience only, the stream won’t feel as professional. If unconventional placement is chosen for creative purposes, and your team can pull off the creative vision, it’s probably going to be pretty great.
In the end, your church and venue are different from every other venue out there. Where you place your cameras is your choice, and there is no real “right or wrong.” Just choose the placement that fits your sanctuary and gives your viewers the “feeling” you want them to get from your live stream.