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Church production ideas, tips, and thoughts from Christian leaders. Learn about church stage design ideas and other production tips for your church services or ministry.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Live Recording

Most church leaders do not realize the importance of live directing. Whether it is for Television or more commonly for live stream services, the professionalism that you show in your directing determines how people experience your services. Whether or not viewers will return to view your services again or even come in person to your church can depend on how well you do your job.

Unfortunately more often than not church directors simply pick shots at random. Live directing does not have exact rules but after many years of experience there are definite do’s and don’ts to follow. If you watch professionally directed televised church services or even secular events you will notice they have certain trends that you can follow. Here are just five do’s and don’ts I would like to share with you.

Number 1

Don’t – Excessive Dissolving

One of the more common visual blunders I see on live stream broadcasts of services, is the overuse of prolonged cross dissolves. This was a trend in the 80’s and has since gone out of style. Also when there is a speaker or preacher, I would not use cross dissolves at all, except perhaps during prayer.

Do – Cross Dissolve

Cross dissolves have their place but usually only on slow tempo songs or prayer services. As a preference, I would usually not use a cross dissolve more than 2 seconds long.

Number 2

Don’t – Random Cutting

I have seen in many services, a director who clicks the shots at random, as long as they are framed and ready to go. After a while it gets difficult for me even to watch the screen because there is no rhythm or purpose to it. During speaking or preaching too many cuts in the middle of sentences or points can be a real distraction.

Do – Rhythm Cutting

When directing music, it is important that your shot cutting is in tempo with the music playing. Your cuts should be on the beat of the music when possible. It is more natural to your viewer’s eyes for the shot to change in beat with the music. When directing the preaching or speaking it is important to cut after complete thoughts are made. As a practice, I kept the sermon outline near me to know where the pastor was on a particular point in the lesson. It is also important to plan audience or crowd shots to show audience response to good points, and also to give your speaker time to find their place in their notes on the podium or even to cover up when they need a drink of water.

Number 3

Don’t – Cutting to Similar Shots

Cutting or dissolving to a shot that is very similar in frame up and distance is just not pleasing to the eye. For example, do not cut from a front bust of a person to an off angle bust of the same person. Also don’t change from the same frame up of one person to another person. This has the appearance on the screen of a person morphing into another person.

Do – Shot Variance

There are some transitions of shots that work better than others. A close up or bust shot transitions wells to a shot that is at more of a distance. A camera pulling out or pushing in transitions well to a static or shoulder camera shot of instruments being played. A camera pulling out, transitions well to a camera pushing in. While most of these are preferences, the point is that variance in your shots is more interesting than 3 cameras all framed up at the same distance.

Number 4

Don’t – Miss the Focus of the Service

I have seen it many times. I am watching a service online and someone begins to sing a solo. I look at the screen and there is only a shot of an electric guitar and he isn’t even playing. This is called missing the focus of your service. The viewer shouldn’t be waiting a long time to know who is singing. Another example is an instrumental is playing and the camera shot is only showing someone on the praise team smiling and clapping.

Do – Keep Focused

If a soloist sings you should already have planned to capture them before they begin. Our worship leader would list all soloists and their mic positions on the printed order of service. When instrumentals begin, show some band shots. If there is an extended period of applause then wide crowd shots and audience member shots should be used. The most important thing you can get across through live directing is making your online or tv audience feel like they are right there with you.

Number 5

Don’t – Technical Unpreparedness

This is a common issue with many churches. Camera 1 has the back focus out of alignment so that every time he pulls out halfway the shot goes out of focus. Camera 2 has his gain setting set a level too high and he’s trying to fix it by lowering his iris setting, but the shot doesn’t match the other cameras. Camera 3 crane jib can’t turn left or right because someone has bumped the gears out of alignment. Camera 4 roamer has a orange screen because of a bad white balance. Camera 5 wide cannot get the zoom controls to work. Camera 6 roamer cannot hear you on comm because his batteries are dead or he is on the wrong channel. If you are not prepared with your equipment before service, you are headed for a train wreck.

Do – Be Prepared

It may seem like overkill but a good director makes sure all cameras are working, white balanced, level, matching in color and brightness, batteries are charged on wireless cameras and comms, back focus is set, all signal paths are received, monitors working, zoom and focus controls are working and crane motors are in working condition.

While this guide does not cover everything there is to know about live directing, hopefully it will help you recognize some of the more common problems helping you become a more efficient live director.

 

Jonathan Litchfield is the Executive Director of LifeScribe Media, which is devoted to enhancing the worship experience through creative church visuals. Check out some of LifeScribe Media’s content.

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How To Run a Soundcheck Like a Pro

A soundcheck is a short moment when the audio engineer is in control. This means that we have just a few minutes to shine, put our best foot forward and get the bulk of our work done. Musicians tend to learn over time how to provide a good soundcheck. Speakers, like pastors and hosts are not so keen. This is no fault of theirs. Their gifts are communication, theology and leadership. It is not their responsibility to be concerned with audio and technology.

There are 44 phonetic sounds in the english language. We get these from consonants, multiple sounds from our vowels and then combining other letters creating unique sounds like “th” or “sh”. In a 25 minute sermon, you are likely to come across most if not all of these. Some sounds can create deep, swelling mids while others pierce through with multiple kinds of esses and t’s. Maintaining control of these sounds in various environments call for the right EQ, compression and other processing.

As sound engineers in church we have the challenge of making the speaking pastor have a clear, comfortable sound so that the gospel can be heard with little distraction. Often, the sound check for the speaking pastor happens in a short moment, maybe 30 seconds if your lucky. The pastor is also not worried about their microphone (or at least they shouldn’t be). They are focused on their sermon, people they may end up in conversation with between services or the tough counseling session they have coming up Monday morning.

Hopefully we have a good starting point, particularly with newer digital consoles. However weather, mobile A/V systems, pastors getting over a cold, and mic placement can sometimes make us clear everything out and start from scratch. I have been looking for a more efficient way to sound check each Sunday morning and I seem to have found the weakest link in our process.

This is a call to ban the phrase “Check, 1, 2.” I will also include “Is this mic on?” Stop it! No more, a complete cease and desist. These two phrases contain only 8 phonetical sounds each. It is not enough sounds and not enough time get the EQ right, much less the right compression. In order to serve our churches as best we can we must commit to fuller, richer sentences. Try this sentence that includes almost all 44 phonetic sounds:

“The beige hue on the waters of the loch impressed all, including the French queen, before she heard that symphony again, just as young Arthur wanted.”

We could require all of our speakers to memorize this sentence which may actually work, but it still does not provide enough time to dial in all of the necessary parameters. I often ask someone to tell a joke and then fake-laugh at themselves. Laughing tends to push the speaker to hit their peak volume and I can set the compressor at a decent level. Even if they think they won’t hit this volume, at some point in their sermon they will.

The most challenging phonetics are the esses and t’s. You’ll be dealing with anything from 3k-10k htz. Often you’ll have harmonics like 4k and 8k. Getting these just right is a challenge and can’t be addressed without the proper soundcheck. I prefer this excerpt from Dr. Seuss’s One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish:

“Who is this pet. Say, he is wet. You never yet met a pet, I bet, as wet as they let this wet pet get.”

Now we are working with something! Maybe set these up on the screen or print them out to give the speaker something to read. An easier ask is to have them recite their favorite scripture or poem. One of our pastors has the Lewis Carol poem “Jabberwocky” memorized. It takes him roughly 3-4 minutes and I can get pretty much everything I need in that time. Get them excited as they may have not quite warmed up their voice like singers do. Ask them about their Saturday. How do they feel about their current favorite sports team or the book they are reading right now? But no political questions, please!

The pastor will know that you care and that they will be heard that day. It’s a well spent 5 minutes.

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The Importance of Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day can be a challenge when it comes to service programming because it sneaks up on churches just after Easter. Nevertheless, church creative teams usually start planning with questions like:

* Should we get a guest speaker for our Mother’s Day services?
* How can we make moms feel honored?
* What do we do with people who had moms who messed them up?
* Do we have time to create a cute video of kids talking about their moms?
* How can we use pre-existing videos to help support our Mother’s Day services?

While these questions are important to ask at some point in our creative processes, they shouldn’t be the first questions we ask. And that’s because nowhere in those questions is God even mentioned. And if we’re not careful, we can unintentionally give God the weekend off, and just highlight moms.

I wonder if a better and more basic question to begin with is this one: How do moms uniquely display the character of God?

HOW DO MOMS UNIQUELY DISPLAY
THE CHARACTER OF GOD?

Here’s what I mean…

By nature, moms are protectors. You already know that the vast majority of mothers are fiercely protective of their kids. And I think they’re protectors because when they protect, they display a God who protects us. And that God-display is hard-wired in them, by God, for His glory.

I will protect them like a bear robbed of her cubs.
Hosea 13:8

By nature moms are comforters, not as an end, but as another means of displaying the God who comforts people at their deepest levels of hurt and heartache. And the world watches, and knowingly or unknowingly experiences God in some way that God intends.

As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.
Isaiah 66:13

These aren’t just random roles that moms play, but actual characteristics of God Himself, highlighted in Scripture, using the metaphor of a mother. It’s gorgeous like that.

Jerusalem, Jerusalem… how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings.
Luke 13:34

It’s worth noticing that Jesus is expressing himself using soft language, all the while using the metaphor of a mother hen. He isn’t embarrassed or worried that people will get the wrong perception of God. Instead, He seems to embrace it.

So as you build your Mother’s Day services, what if you begin by asking two questions, in this order…?

1 – How do moms uniquely display the character of God?
2 – How can we creatively communicate that?

Practical Service Plan for Mother’s Day

Intro + Worship

Program your first 20 minutes as usual, with a proper nod to Mother’s Day. Then…

2 Pre-Sermon Options

Option 1

Have children read (live or on video) the three verses mentioned above (or other verses you discover). It might be fun to get little kids trying to pronounce the words on video, then leave the mistakes in the final version. Or…

Option 2

Run our mini-movie “Moms: Portraits of God”.

Sermon

Preach about how God demonstrates His character into the world through moms. Include real stories of moms in your congregation (video, as a sermon illustration, or as a live interview).

Worship

Fierce (Jesus Culture).

I hope this post spurs your church to experience something far beyond the normal on Mother’s Day 2017. It’s such a gift to display the heart of God AND to honor moms with the same brushstroke.

I think it’ll change everyone who has the pleasure of attending your church that day.

 

Gary Molander is the co-owner of Floodgate Productions which has a vision to create great media for anyone who is willing to be stirred. Floodgate Productions Producer Page. Gary is also the author of Pursuing Christ. Creating Art which explores what it means to be a Christ-Follower and an artist.

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In Case You Missed It – Tech Career Opportunity


Could this be the opportunity for you? Could this be the one you’ve been waiting for? You never know! Check this job out. James River Church in Ozark, Missouri is looking to hire the right person for their Senior Video Editor opening. If video is your thing and you aren’t scared off by a multi-site church with over 10,000 people in regular attendance, then keep reading. They are looking for someone to take the reigns on a number of fronts including filming and editing videos during weekly services as well as leading the video department within the Creative Team. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by. Click on the link below and read more about this exciting opportunity.

Film Director/Video Lead

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Get Creative! Church Stage Designs for the Easter Season

The Easter season is here! For all of you out there who have the joy and honor of being able to dream and create stages that help draw our churches into worship, this post is for you. The team over at Church Stage Designs Ideas have put together a list of ideas for you to consider as you create your own stage to bring your church through this season. In this post, you’ll find some simple, yet thoughtful designs. You’ll also discover a few extremely technical and elaborate designs. Any stage design involving a rugged cross will normally do it for me. Whatever you choose, I encourage you to have the worship of Jesus as your focal point during this entire process. Enjoy!

Easter Stage Designs by Church Stage Design Ideas

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