By Stevan Speheger
In part one (Cameras Part 1), we looked at criteria to determine whether or not your church ministry would benefit from having more than one camera in the sanctuary. We also gave some tips on selecting additional cameras. In this part we’ll help you to determine where the additional camera(s) should be placed and how to use them effectively.
Where Should we Put Them?
The primary camera should always located dead center in the sanctuary with the lens at eye level with those standing on the platform. The zoom range on the lens should be able to achieve at very least a waist level close up of the speaker. This position is frequently met with opposition from the pastor or others because of its visibility and possible audience distraction. For professional looking video it is vitally important to do whatever is necessary to achieve this goal. An extended length telephoto lens from the back of a deep sanctuary is not ideal, but far better than an off-center or too high (balcony) position. It is often difficult to achieve this position with a wall mounted remote controlled camera.
A position for the second camera is chosen based on what purpose you are fulfilling with video. It will probably be located off to one side and closer to the platform. This will permit close ups of instrumentalists on backup singers, as well as variations on shots of the speaker. If you are doing podcasts or TV broadcasts of your services, consider locating the second camera at the very front where it can be turned around to shoot audience reaction shots. These, however, should never be used on the main IMAG screens in the sanctuary as they will be very distracting.
When adding a third camera, it might seem logical to place it on the opposite side from the second camera. Don’t do it. Why? It will create a situation known as “crossing the line”. Consider a shot of the speaker addressing the audience taken by a camera located on the left side of the auditorium. The subject will be looking from the left to the right in the frame. Now consider the same subject taken by a camera located on the right side. This shot shows the subject looking from the right to the left in the frame. Now think what happens when a cut is made between the two cameras. The subject suddenly switches direction in the picture. If you are stuck with cameras in those locations, you should always switch to another camera before a transition to the opposite one to minimize the jolt of the change of direction.
How do We Use Them?
That leads us to the artistry of camera switching. Why, how, and when are the questions to consider. The why should be pretty obvious. Switch cameras when the new viewpoint will provide extra information or enhance the viewer’s experience.
There are basically only three types of transitions between camera shots: the cut, the dissolve, and the whole range of special effects (wipes, exploding circles, etc.) For church purposes the unwritten “rules” are as follows:
- cuts, anytime;
- dissolves, under special conditions;
- special effects, NEVER.
A cut is never wrong. If you watch professionally produced programming television programs or movies, practically every transition is a cut. In a church setting, a dissolve can enhance presentation of slow music and times of prayer. A dissolve should never be used during up-tempo music or during sermons or other spoken presentations.
Decisions as to how frequently to make transitions should ultimately flow from the director’s emotional immersion in the mood and flow of the service. In general terms, faster music or faster-paced sermons will result in more frequent transitions than slower moving portions of the service. A director who truly wants to develop his or her craft will watch and learn from recordings of his or her work. Without getting too deep in gender issues, my observations over many years have shown me that women seem to have an easier time acquiring these skills than men. In fact, in 27 years in media ministry at a church in Indiana, one of my best directors was an eighth grade girl.
The best camera direction will reinforce the mood and tempo of the service without calling attention to the director’s work. Experience is the best teacher.
In summary, an effective multi-camera installation needs the right cameras in the correct positions skillfully operated and directed. The result can greatly enhance the video product.
More insight on this and similar topics can be found in my eBook, “Video in the Church“, available through Amazon.com.