There are a million possible choices for a church video production setup.
You can go super-basic, and record from a cellphone. Or, you can go hyper-complex and get all the bells and whistles of a television studio.
More than likely, the best choice for you is going to fall somewhere in the middle.
The problem is, that doesn’t narrow down the possible choices for cameras, encoders, wiring, capture cards, producer, switcher…
The list goes on and on.
So, what does a church really need in their video production setup?
Building a Church Video Production Setup
Since the first quarter of 2020, churches are no longer looking for video production only. They also want to live stream so their services are accessible to those who are most vulnerable to the virus.
So today, a church video production setup needs to double as both a recording setup, and a live streaming setup.
Luckily, technology has advanced to the point that building a multi-purpose video/streaming setup is a lot cheaper than it used to be. And, the quality is amazing with low-cost devices, too.
Don’t Overpay for Outdated Hardware
Recently, I had someone ask me about a quote they received from a company that was going to build them a custom video production setup.
The bid they received was north of $160,000.00!
That number doesn’t shock me, but it does make me a little aggrivated.
You see, a lot of companies that build custom video production packages, even for churches, are stuck in the 1990s. They want these huge professional camcorders or high-end cinema cameras like the Ursa or Red. And then they want to install all kinds of rack-mounted hardware, and switcher boards that you would see at your local tv news station.
The deal is, you don’t need all that hardware. Today, most of that stuff is replicated inside of the software. And, regardless of what you’ve been told, it looks and sounds just as good, and a lot cheaper!
What Video Production Hardware Does a Church Really Need?
Well, sadly there’s no way to answer this question simply.
There are a lot of variables that go into that answer.
And, when you start chasing down those variables, you will find a myriad of choices, brands, models, and price points. It can be mind-numbing, which is probably why you’re reading this.
So, we’re going to break it down as simple as we can, and help you understand what you really need.
The Basic List:
There are really four boxes we must check off to ensure we get all the hardware needed for a church video production package:
1. The Camera(s)
You need cameras, obviously. And, there are a lot to choose from!
2. The Controller
This the hardware that will control the video feed, or live stream.
3. The Encoder
This is the hardware that will take the camera feed and turn it into a live stream or a video.
4. The Audio Interface
This is the hardware that will capture the audio signal from a microphone or a mixer.
The Best Camera for Church Video
Like I said already, there are a ton of options, and each have their pros and cons. However, unless you’re wanting the big professional cameras that need a skilled and trained operator at the helm and cost thousands of dollars, you really come down to two choices, in my opinion:
CHOICE 1: DSLR or MIRRORLESS
Over the last two or three years, as live streaming has become a huge medium, consumer-level DSLR or Mirrorless cameras have added features that make them one of the best choices for a video production kit.
They shoot in 4k quality, which makes framing your shots and getting lossless, digitally-zoomed camera angles super easy. They preform really good in low light, especially compared to most consumer camcorders. And, they have interchangeable lenses, which means you can make them work in just about any circumstance or venue.
My Favorites for Church Video and Live Streaming:
- The Sony Alpha Series
- The a6100, a6400, and a6600 are amazing cameras.
- The Panasonic G-Series
- The GH5, G85, and G7 are all amazing streaming cameras.
CHOICE 2: PTZ Robotic Cameras
When you want to “up the game” with a live recording or stream, (Pan, Tilt, Zoom) PTZ cameras are hard to beat. When I say PTZ cameras, I don’t necessarily mean the brand, PTZOptics. While they are a good brand, there are other brands that make PTZ cameras.
These cameras are remote controlled through either an app, or a joystick control panel. Some of them will do 4K video, though that’s not a necessity when you can manipulate the camera. And, they feature optical zoom, sometimes up to 20X, allowing you to get up-close shots even in large auditoriums.
The Best Video Controller for Church
There are a lot of options here as well, and a popular one is the Blackmagic ATEM and ATEM Mini. However, if you have the right software, you don’t need these control panels.
If you are using DSLR or Mirrorless cameras, I recommend using something simple, like the Elgato Stream Deck, which is push-button simple. We include the Stream Deck in all of our Premium Live Streaming Kits.
If you’re using PTZ cameras, I recommend a PTZ controller to manipulate the camera and the Stream Deck for manipulating the stream. The joystick makes panning, tilting, and zooming the camera buttery smooth.
Church Video Encoder
There are a lot of options for this as well. However, I want to keep it simple, and the advancement of software is why I always choose using a PC as an encoder.
My favorite choice is a Live Streaming PC with a powerful CPU and fast video card. This will allow you to live stream and record simultaneously, or only one of those if you choose.
With a streaming PC, you can choose from a variety of software to stream and record. Our favorite is OBS, which is a free open-source software title. When it comes to streaming on YouTube, OBS is probably the most-used software out there.
However, it is open source, which means there is no commercial company behind it. As such, it does have its limitations, though not many.
In some cases, churches want to go high-end professional software, and for that we recommend Vmix.
With either of these software choices, and a good streaming PC, you will have everything you need to record and/or stream in high definition, or even 4K quality.
The Best Audio Interface for Church Video
Again – have I said this before? – there are so many choices here.
For churches, sometimes this is really easy: if you have a digital mixer with a USB connection, you have everything you need already. However, if you have an older analog mixer, you should consider getting a USB audio interface.
They come in all shapes and sizes, but our weapon of choice is the Focusrite Scarlet.
This allows you to run a sub-mix out of your mixer, and plug it in using a regular XLR cable. You can also plug a microphone directly into the interface, if you wanted to capture only a single source of audio.
Putting Together a Church Video Production Package That Fits Your Budget
Like I said over and over again, there are a lot of different options, and few of them are a bad choice. There are pros and cons no matter which hardware and software you choose.
For our customers, they like it simple, so they buy our pre-built video packages, and skip all the research. We feature packages for 1, 2, and 3-camera setups that are as plug’n’play as you can get.
What are your favorite hardware or software choices?