Because of a lack of funds, most churches don’t ask, “What do we need?” but “What’s the least we can get away with?” This sometimes yields some interesting results, but the truth is when you start by asking what the least is, you’re actually asking the wrong question. You need to be able to do the job, not save money by buying equipment that won’t do it.
Ideally, you’d use a bona fide production camera. This type of camera can be modified to operate in a studio configuration. What this means is that all color and exposure settings can be run from a remote device, called a CCU (camera control unit), it has pan-bar mounted zoom and focus controls, a viewfinder, and a motorized zoom lens.
Unfortunately, these cameras are pricey. So, what’s a church to do? Here are a few things you shouldn’t do.
Don’t settle for a webcam. With webcams coming in 1080p, you might be tempted to go this route. Don’t. These cams are designed for running up close. That means they have wide lenses, so unless you get close to the pastor, he/she will be very small in the final image.
Don’t settle for a DSLR. DSLRs take beautiful video (you’re looking at one as you watch the video above), but they’re not designed for live. They don’t all output a clean signal (without the overlays that show what the camera is doing) or even a standard one. Additionally, they don’t have video lenses. So, while the image is awesome when still, trying to zoom live produces unpredictable results.
Don’t settle of a security camera. These cameras aren’t designed for videography, but to catch people doing bad things. Additionally, they don’t often have motorized zoom lenses.
Look instead for a prosumer camcorder that can take a zoom control. They’re out there and you’ll get better results with them than with any other set up, but they’ll save you thousands of dollars over a production camera. This savings does come at a cost, but for most churches, that cost is a level of flexibility and control that you can get by without.
For more on live production cameras, watch the video.