Setting Up A Church TV Ministry- On A Tight Budget

In Uncategorizedby tfwm

In the past, only large churches with lots of money could afford to televise their services. Over the past few years however, there have been numerous technology changes in the video world. It is now possible for the local church to start producing video tapes of their services; without having to sink a few hundred thousand dollars into it.

Keep in mind that while reading this, the rule is still there, and is true; the more money that you are willing to sink in equipment, the better video signal you will be getting. You WILL be able to tell a difference between the video shot done on $200,000 equipment and a video shot done on a $300 camcorder.

For the Church that wants to produce videotapes for members to distribute to shut-ins or friends, or even for televising on the local cable channel, depending on the number of cameras that you’ve got to have, you can get up-and-running for just over $10,000.

With the “dual-field” TBC video mixers, you don’t need gen-lockable cameras. As a matter of fact, you could take a couple of your members home camcorders, put it with a Videonics (MX-1 or MXPro) or Panasonic (MX-20 or MX-50) video mixer, run the video signal to a home VCR along with the audio from your soundboard, and you would have the start of a TV ministry for as little as a thousand (or so) dollars.

Of course if you really want a better quality picture, the following list below is a list of equipment that could get you on the local cable channel with quality that most people won’t laugh at.

Yeah, I know. Some of you “big guys” are laughing your heads off, asking why this magazine published such garbage. But wait; that guy with 150 people in the church that started last year is calling a mail-order company to get their new TV ministry shipped over.

As a director/producer of a local Christian broadcasting station, I know the types of productions that we get sometimes, as well as what the local cable companies air. As an owner of a production company, I know what others around me are using to shoot these services.

Let me say that my purpose is not to endorse any of the equipment above, it is only to let you know of some equipment that will work. There are several manufacturers with equipment that will fit the bill. As far as headphones for communication goes, you can build a wired communications system that will give you better service for about a hundred dollars more. You can use an OZ audio Q-Mix headset amplifier and boom-mike headphones using regular microphone cable between the director and the cameras. Use Belden 9265 or Carol C8025 for an RG-59 coax together with a 2 conductor shielded cable. You can run one cable to the camera for your video signal and for communications.

In some cases, Churches won’t even have to change their lighting. Years ago, the old tube cameras had to have lighting grids hot enough to cook thanksgiving dinner. Today’s chip cameras can almost get video in a dark room.

If at all possible, you’ll want to consider dedicating some space in your sound booth (if you have it), or a room just off of the sanctuary. If you mount this equipment in a rack, you’ll need about as much room as a 19″ TV. Besides being neat, this would be especially good for the ministry that’s currently meeting in the middle school auditorium to allow for the weekly moving in and out of the equipment.

It’s better not to have your video director and the video console in the sanctuary if possible. Reasons:

1) He/She will probably be talking to the camera personnel during the service telling them who’s “hot”, telling them to zoom in a little, get a different shot, etc. That will be distracting to your other members.

2) He/She’ll be listening to sound quality quite frequently to make sure that it’s not over-driving, if the signal is loud enough, etc. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference in the signal coming into a headset and what’s in the room. Keep in mind, that if you’re not getting good quality audio tapes, you need to work on it. You’ll be getting the same quality sound on your videos as well.

There are several different ways to place cameras. One is for Camera 1 to be in the back of the church next to the center isle. Camera 2 could be at the back right corner of the church, and Camera 3 could be “partially hidden” behind the piano/organ or at the corner of the stage. This way, you can get two different views of what’s going on on-stage, and with the front camera, you can get audience shots, or a profile shot of the soloist or minister.

With live switching, you will eliminate the need for editing. (unless your live camera gets a shot of the floor that you don’t like) For the bad shots, record tapes in your cameras for emergencies so that you can do some insert editing. After you finish editing, you can re-use them for the next service.

For editing down to a thirty minute slot, you’ll need two VCR decks and a controller, or you can get a computer set up as a non-linear editor. If this is the option you want to choose, you’ll need lots of hard disk space. You’ll get about 5 minutes of video per gig of hard drive space. Make sure that you talk to people who are using the system that you are thinking about getting to see how they like it. Ask how many times it crashes on them. If you’re on a tight budget, you can delete one of the cameras to add another VCR.

Let’s talk about upgrades to the equipment above. First, I’d suggest upgrading from the S-VHS recorder to a Sony DSR-30 DVCam deck. With S-VHS, you’ve got an analog format, and with the new DV formats, it’s digital. You can make copies, do editing, etc, and you can stay in the digital realm. You’ll definitely see a difference. If you have long services, DVCam records on a 184 minute tape, where DVCPRO records on a 126 minute tape. Also with the DSR-30 at about $4000, you can insert edit and you have jog-shuttle capabilities, where the DVCPRO equivalent runs about $6K for a player and $8K for the recorder.

“Where can we get this equipment?” you might ask. For starters, go to your local magazine store and look for video magazines. You’ll find ads in the back. Some mail-order companies that I’ve used are Columbia Audio/Video, and B&H Photo/Video. With mail-order companies, don’t expect to ask very many questions; they are there to take orders. Give them model numbers and your credit card number.

The other option is video supply houses. A couple are Technical Industries; MCSI or and Clark Powell

As far as extended warranties, I’ve personally spent over $100,000 on video equipment over the past 12 years, and with the exception of the 4 pieces that I fried and one that I dropped, only one piece needed to be returned for service. I’ve only had to spend about $2000 for equipment repairs. That might be because I’ve got a praying wife, but I don’t know…

If you’ll notice, I started out on the list at about $11K, but I added another VCR and controller (another $1900) and a non-linear editor (about another $10K). Then I started talking about upgrades. Video is an expensive habit. I started out with all that I thought I needed a few years ago with $20,000, and I kept adding on. Oh, I forgot, You’ll need to provide duplicates for your congregation. You’ll need a distribution amplifier (3x radio shack; $29.95, or 10x Elite Video; $499.95), and a bank of VCRs; (decent ones for $129.95 each). Did I mention that it’s an expensive habit?