When we speak to a media ministry and they want to do broadcast, one frequent question is, what will be different about their ministry compared to an Image Magnification-based (IMAG) Ministry?
Certainly there are some different technical requirements, but just as important, a fundamental concept must be considered. When you are broadcasting to a television station, cable outlet, or even streaming to the web- you are communicating to an audience who is outside the four walls of the church. You are entertaining and motivating a potential NEW MEMBER who has no prior experience with your ministry.
This means several things, but the first and foremost is that you only get to say HELLO for the first time once. Your potential new members’ total experience with your church is represented through your program. How do you want to say HELLO?
We recommend that you do it as well as you can. You want their experience with your ministries to be of excellence, and you want to keep them as a viewer throughout the program. You want them to be either a returning viewer or to come and visit the physical church itself.
When a potential new member visits on Sunday, most churches make a special point of making these people welcome, and always want to say hello the first time as well as they can- to put the best foot forward in gaining their continued interest. When you are broadcasting, a potential new member is often surfing the channels- and comes by your program to stop and visit for a while- deciding if they are going to switch to the next channel or stay with your program.
We live in what I like to call the VH1 Society. We all watch television and we know what a good program looks like- technical quality, creative quality, quality of the talent, the message and the craft of a good television program. Our goal when broadcasting is that we want the visitor to be captivated by the message, not turned off by the technical quality, lighting, audio, or anything that might cause them to be distracted. We don’t want them to change the channel for any reason.
The message should be captivating. You may consider your message so important that anyone who watches it will be captured – but it is important that it also be creative and delivered with technical excellence so as to not hinder the communication of our message.
Now let’s break down some important issues you may want to consider that are above and beyond the IMAG approach.
Technical Quality of Your Video
Several things contribute to the quality of the video image. An inexpensive camcorder is not going to make as good of a picture as a $20,000 – $50,000 broadcast quality camera. However, just having the best camera you can afford does not mean you are going to be making great looking images. Several things contribute to the overall quality of the image, mainly appropriate lighting, composition of the shots, but also color selections for wardrobe and set items.
Lighting is important to have an appropriate level or amount of light to create high quality pictures. Usually the more expensive cameras can make better pictures in lower light levels, but they will make much better pictures if you have a higher light level than traditionally used for IMAG. The actual level or foot-candle amount of light is different for different camera models, so no hard and fast rule may apply- but usually between 50 – 80 foot candles of light is recommended.
The quality and color of light are also important to consider. Light is either hard or soft. Hard light is produced by a light that has a single point of light, such as a spotlight- it produces hard shadows. Soft light produces soft shadows, and it is created by floodlights, soft boxes or reflectors.
Hard light is used to define texture and dimension to a subject. Oftentimes a hard light is used as a key light, which produces the principal illumination of a subject. Soft light is often called ‘fill’ light, as it fills in the darker portions of the subject, and will reduce the contrast of the shadows produced by the key light. So choosing a soft or hard lighting source is important to understand.
Now let’s discuss the direction of your lighting sources. Oftentimes television production textbooks discuss Three Point Lighting. What they mean is that you will have a key light illuminating the front of your subject from one side (point), a fill light opposite the key light, and a back light which is usually placed high up and directly behind the subject.
The back light is oftentimes a hard source. The purpose of the back light is to add dimension to the picture. Television is a 2-D space, but we see in 3-D. A good creative lighting design will use back light to separate the foreground subject from the background subject- creating the illusion of depth on the 2-D television. The back light can be identified in a picture as the ‘rimming’ light on the back of the shoulders and head- which helps to separate the subject from the background.
Certainly 3 point lighting is a good approach, but also consider other approaches and directions for your light. Experiment with your lights with a camera and monitor. Set up the basic 3 point lighting scheme, and turn the back light on and off. Look at your video monitor to see the difference that the back light creates. Experiment with soft and hard lights to see how they can add depth and dimension. Try to create a pleasing image on your monitor.
Also, experiment with different placements of your light. Consider putting a pair of back lights off to each side of your subject, then a fill light from the front. This can be very effective in single camera productions. I have used only one light to create a very pleasing picture- and the light came from behind the subject.
Wow, that sounds funky doesn’t it? Well try it; I have used a hard light from over the side shoulder of the subject. Then in the direct light in front of the subject, I placed a soft reflector to bounce light back up on the front of the subject, in essence creating a second light. I often use a product called ‘foam core’ for this reflector. Check with your local artist supply store for this handy product for interviews or other studio or single camera shoots. Other devices can also be used such as commercially available reflectors, or a large white poster board.
Another important issue with lighting is how ‘flat’ your lighting is. What we mean by this is what the level of the light is across the area that the action will be captured with the camera. As the pastor walks across the platform, do they walk into dark spots or spots where they appear burnt out?
The human eye is rather forgiving with these fluctuations in level, as our ‘iris’ opens and closes automatically as required. The video camera does not do as good a job of this, and will accentuate these dark and hot spots. Oftentimes cameras have automatic irises on their lenses, but they usually do a pretty poor job of adjusting the brightness and darkness of a picture without calling attention to its operation. This distracts the viewer and is not recommended. This means that the camera operator or the video engineer in the control room is manually adjusting the iris all the time.
Take a good light meter, and walk around on your platform. Take note of how you may find hot and dark spots in your lighting plan. Then see if you can refocus your lights to ‘flatten’ or equalize out the levels so that you only have a few foot candles difference in the areas that pastor or other subjects may walk around in. You can also use a waveform monitor for these measurements, but a light meter is a little easier to use (more about the waveform monitor later).
Keep in mind that you are ‘painting the image with light’ or creating your picture with your lights and their placement. Oftentimes you can solve many lighting problems by reducing the number of fixtures lighting your subject.
If you are having a difficult time getting your lights to work for you, start by turning off ALL your lights, then turn them on one at a time- noting what the results of each added fixture does to your look. You may find that you can adjust the lights you have to create a more effective look. Oftentimes technical ministries want ‘MORE lights’, take the KISS principle to try to do more with less.
Set items behind the subject are important to consider also. Do you have a choir behind pastor as he delivers his message? If you do, do they look captivated and interested in the message? Or do they look bored, like they are about to fall asleep? What if you reduce the amount of light on the choir to reduce their impact on the overall image? What if you have them exit the stage, and then reduce or eliminate their lights, causing this area of the set to ‘fall off’ to not be distracting?
Consider adding light cues to your background to add visual interest. You could have interesting set items behind pastor, a cross, a graphic projected by a video projector, colored set items or other items that may be involved in the message content. It is always helpful if you ensure that anything in the background be relevant to the message, or if not, muted significantly by either less light, or out of focus because of limited depth of field of the camera lens.
Camera Control Units
Camera control units are electronic remote controls for all the settings of your cameras- color balance, iris and black levels as well as most all electronic settings of the camera. CCU’s are important to make your cameras match in color and brightness. This facilitates cutting between different shots of your subject while maintaining the same colors and skin tones between the different cameras.
CCU’s allow you to ‘paint’ the cameras, to white and black balance the cameras to the same color temperature. One might think you could use auto white balancing features on your cameras to accomplish this, but this is not practical and does not work well enough. The reason for this is that each camera can not precisely set itself up correctly. If you look at each camera individually they may look fine, but when you cut between them on the same subject, even small differences in colors will be noticeable. This is especially noticeable in skin tones.
You will also need an important piece of technical equipment- a waveform monitor. This equipment allows you to monitor the brightness and darkness of a picture in a graphic method. It shows ‘white’ levels which should be at 100 units, and black levels should be either 0 units or 7.5 units depending on the video format you are using. Consider this device a ‘VU Meter’ for your video; would you want to record audio without some sort of VU Meter? The same is true for your video levels, and some broadcasters may reject your program on technical grounds because of improper video levels.
Switching and Mixing Considerations for IMAG and Broadcasting
An important question one should ask is if you are going to do both IMAG and Broadcasting, who is your primary audience, and who is the secondary audience? If both audiences are just as important, then it would be recommended that you have both an IMAG video switcher and an additional switcher for the Broadcast feed or record. Additionally you may need additional audio mixing capabilities.
Video Switching Considerations
Why might you need two video switchers? The reason for this is simple; the IMAG ‘cut’ is different than the Broadcast ‘cut’. In IMAG, wide shots are not needed- if the audience wants to see a wide shot they simply look away from the projection screens. In essence they are doing some of their own direction.
In a broadcasting cut, it is important that you have a periodic wide shot. This wide shot establishes the scene and where the speakers are in this scene. In broadcasting, you also may have more frequent shot changes- say every 3-10 seconds. In IMAG it is generally recommended that you hold shots for longer periods of time, and these shots are usually compromised of tighter shots.
You may also want to consider different resolution switchers for IMAG and Broadcasting. Broadcasting switchers are going to be in either Standard definition or High Definition, depending on the definition of your finished program you are delivering to the broadcaster or cable television outlet. IMAG switchers could be scaling type switchers- a switcher that may not have as much video production capability, but whose output resolution is designed to feed a video projector or large flat panel display- usually with a RGBH&V or DVI output.
It is possible to use one video production switcher for both applications, but this switcher should have the capability to have at least two Mix Effects, with one controlled easily by a second operator- preferable with some sort of remote control surface. This would provide the ability to create the two ‘cuts’ with different styles.
It is still important that the primary and secondary audience be considered, because one audience’s director will need to have the ability to direct the cameras to make sure they have the shots required for their application. Usually this would be to give priority to the broadcast cut, with the IMAG cut selecting the cameras with the closer shots for the internal audience. If one is using two production switchers and cameras capable of two color tallies the camera operators can easily tell if they are on line in the IMAG or Broadcasting programs.
The same question applies for audio- if you are doing an IMAG only cut, the Front of House audio mix will probably be all you need. But if you are broadcasting you will need a different audio mix.
The IMAG audience has the natural ambience and acoustics of the room that help to create an appropriate audio ‘picture’. The broadcasting audience does not have the natural ambiance of the room, as well as some of the natural sounds that instruments make- such as the drums, electric guitars and certainly the audience sounds such as singing and praise.
If your broadcast includes more than just the pastors message, then it is recommended that you have all the inputs available to the FOH mixer duplicated to an audio console for the video mix. It is also recommended to have some audience microphones to capture the natural acoustics and sound of the room, as well as the praise, singing and other sounds from the audience.
Multi-track recording could also be a consideration, especially if you are doing post production of the service to create the program. Multi-track recording facilitates all the channels from the console to be recorded independently, as well as the ‘mix’. Then in post production if one needs to sweeten the track, these individual tracks are either remixed altogether, or are used to facilitate additions to the original mix. Multi-track recordings can either be handled by tape recorders, or through multi-track recording to computer hard drives.
Other Important Considerations
Is your program delivered to the broadcaster in a Live fashion (through satellite, fiber optic, microwave or other delivery method) so that the program can go out immediately? If it is you certainly need to have one of these delivery methods in place, and possibly even a back up in case of a technical problem with the primary connection
You may need a video delay device if one is required by the broadcaster. This device allows the director to actually delay the program that is being sent out by a few seconds to a few minutes, and if something goes wrong with the content of the program, it allows them to cut to a prerecorded segment, or to take the delay out of the program.
This device is also called a ‘profanity delay’ or ‘JJ Box’ reminiscent of Janet Jacksons’ Super Bowl fiasco. Although this seems rather ridiculous for a House of Worship, consider what might happen if a ‘heckler’ were to jump up during a live program and cause problems in the sanctuary while broadcasting live? And quite simply, broadcasters are very concerned about expensive fines if a problem were to occur- so they may require a video delay for live programs.
Closed captioning is something that you will most likely be required to provide. Closed captioning services provide text messages on the screen for the hearing impaired audience. This service is required by the Federal Communications Committee (FCC) for at least 20 hours of programming per day.
Waivers are required for any program that would not include closed captioning- but these waivers are handed out on a case by case basis, and are seldom awarded. But consider first that your mission is to reach people who are either not churched, or those who cannot attend church- and some of those people may be hearing impaired. Isn’t this audience also important to serve?
Most church broadcasts are edited to some extent, which means if things go haywire during production- like the director cut to a wrong shot in the middle of the sermon, you will be able to fix this in post. You can also precisely control what the message is, as well as add more significant graphics with more precision in post. The important question to consider is what resolution does your editing system need, what types of special effects might you need- and most importantly do you have the talent, manpower and time to post produce your program?
Certainly technical considerations like these and more are very important to take into account when deciding about your Broadcast Ministry- but it is far more important to do some serious soul searching with your leadership about what your goal is with the program. Decide who your primary audience is, and what channels you want to put your programs on. Do consider that other audiences are out there, but you will potentially find more success when you target a specific audience.
Our goal is simple in the Church television program- we want to change lives! We need to keep in mind that we want to do this with the best excellence we can. We only get to say hello to that new viewer one time, and we don’t know when they will tune the channel to your program. Make sure your message is relevant to your goals, that the production quality is as high as you can make it- but also more importantly we must make sure that the content is of the highest quality. Television is a powerful medium, but to get the power, we must harness it effectively.