This article was written by Melanie Welch a Sierra College Film Student. Melanie is the winner of the PTZOptics Live Video Communication Scholarship.

Live Streaming Worship Services

In the past few years, the ability to live stream has enhanced numerous industries, and in my life specifically, Christian churches across the United States. Before live streaming became an option for churches, any church members who missed a service wouldn’t know what the service was about unless a family member attended and took notes (such a predicament is difficult especially when the church is in the middle of a series). Sometimes, churches would be able to broadcast their services over the radio, but if the weather was terrible and the audio feed went in and out, members were essentially missing an entire service and the experience of worshipping with their faith family. Before my home church, Bridgeway Christian Church in Roseville, California, was able to live stream, we recorded the sermon part of our service and posted it online the Monday or Tuesday after the weekend (we were and still are unable to post the worship segment of our services due to copyright – another aspect our church members are missing out on should they be unable to attend a service).

Helping Her Church Live Stream

Fortunately, Bridgeway Christian Church started live streaming our weekend services across multiple platforms in 2013. By utilizing three to four cameras for normal services, the Video Director is able to edit the shots together live to create a cohesive broadcast for our viewers at home who may be sick, who may be out of town, or even for our military members serving on the other side of the world. For special events, we use three to four static cameras, one mobile camera, and one camera set up on a jib crane or dolly pan. With the numerous cameras, the Camera Operators and Video Director are allowed to be creative, produce an amazing final product, and stream to our  members online.

Teaching volunteers who to produce live video in church

Church Service that is live streamed

Church Service that is live streamed

In my sophomore year of high school, I found Bridgeway’s Creative Arts Department, and I was trained as the youngest camera operator at the time. We had older home video recorders with simple lenses, but since then, we have upgraded our equipment to match the quality of the live stream with the quality of the stage production. After one and a half years of serving as a Camera Operator, I was trained as a Video Director, the youngest to this date. I used a board switcher, comms box, and two to three preview monitors (one mounted to a wall directly in front of me, one off to the side for Computer Graphics, and one mini-monitor to my right to double check color and focus).

The Assistant Director is in charge of the keys that control what gets shown to the people in the sanctuary on the side projectors versus what gets live streamed online (for our members using the childcare service, the ID numbers only get shown to the parents in the congregation present in the sanctuary if their child needs to be picked up – not to the online viewers at home). A Computer Graphics (CG) Director controls the lyrics, videos, and motion graphics that we use during services.

Defining goals for the church production

As of December 2019, a new Video Switcher position has been rolled out with the goal of allowing the Video Director to focus on the full picture of the service. The Switcher’s job is to push the buttons on the switch board when the Video Director calls for a cut/fade or wants a camera prepped for the next shot. In 2020, we will be fine-tuning the communication between the Video Director and the Switcher for more efficient work. Now after having filmed two concerts and video directed three special series and dozens of Christmas/Easter services, I have been able to practice the skills I’ve learned through my major of Visual and Fine Arts at Sierra College to make the live streams as professional as possible.

Video Director and Camera Operator Roles

By improving my skills as a Video Director, I inspire and push the Camera Operators underneath me to work harder and be more creative with the shots they provide me. Especially during the Christmas and Easter services that I direct, I ask for the Camera Operators to provide me with exceptionally creative shots, and if I like them, I use them; if I don’t, I ask them to move on to something else. For such services, we utilize our regular stage set-up (with the stage in the front of the house and three cameras in a line in the back of the room in-line with the lighting/sound platforms), or we present the services “in the round,” with a circular stage in the center of the room and the congregation surrounding it, and five to six cameras set up strategically around the perimeter of the room (not an easy feat for a Camera Operator or for a Video Director). We work as a creative team because we want the final product to look as professional as
possible for the church members at home. In spite of my age, I feel confident in my directing and leadership abilities when leading my team.

Summary

The ability to livestream has deeply impacted our faith family and our volunteers. In a specific case, a member of our church has a severe auto-immune disease which keeps him isolated at his home away from potentially ill people. Because of the live streaming option we offer to our congregation, he was able to watch all of the services at his home for an entire year, and when he was able to return to church in person, he hadn’t missed a thing and picked up the series we were going through without missing a beat. In another example, one of our church’s military members was able to thank my team last Easter as he enjoyed the live stream “with my church family” from his active duty post in Iraq.

Finally, a dear friend of mine was able to worship alongside the church while in labor with her first child at the hospital! In the future, for my church specifically, we are working on upgrading our sound quality: we are putting together a sound-proofed room where a Live Stream Audio Mixer can work on mixing the live sound for the viewers; without the live stream mixer, the audio can come across badly during worship. For churches in general, live streaming is becoming more affordable, so in a few years, all churches, no matter how small, will be able to cater to those who are unable to attend services in person.