How effective is your digital ministry? Find out for FREE HERE

Make the jump to multi camera production

This article will walk you through all you need to consider when you decide to go from a single camera to a multi camera set up.

For many churches at the start of the pandemic who were not already engaging in online media, the priority was to get something started to continue to have an impact on their congregation and beyond. Most achieved that. Often, that was a single camera set up or even using web cams, phones or domestic camcorders etc to start somewhere. I am impressed by what I have seen, the ingenuity employed and how so many stepped up and did something – well done to you all!

Now, many months into the pandemic, I see a considerable number of churches looking to upgrade what they are doing, add more creativity, increase quality and more – which is awesome and a primary reason for setting up Media Mentoring. One thing I know is on many people’s agendas is a desire to go from a single camera set up to a multi camera set up. For definition’s sake, I define a multi camera set up as where you have two or more cameras filming the same thing. For some churches, this will be adding one extra camera, for others it might be adding 3 or more but the challenges to address are in many ways the same irrespective of how many new cameras you add, the difference being the issues “scale”.

So what challenges must you consider? I’ll split this into three areas: Personnel; Equipment; Production.

  • Personnel – This is the change to look at first as it is the one that isn’t solvable by money or creativity. Assuming you are planning based on “manned” cameras, you will likely need to add more camera operators for your new camera(s). This means facing questions like: who is available to help run the new camera(s); how will you train them; what back up plans do you have when one of your operators gets sick or doesn’t turn up or decides it’s not for them? As a leader, YOUR headaches grow when it comes to coordinating people, what is your volunteer plan etc? Also, who will be the “director” for the shoot? That role is very important, they are the person who is telling the story of what is happening to the people at home. This is a skill that you need to grow if you don’t have it, so how will you train them? Your “team” becomes larger, and has more moving parts. For that reason, you need to have a plan in place before you make the leap to multi camera production. You may also need to add other team members for things like cable “wrangling” OR a vision engineer (if you are having cameras that use camera controls etc). This is a roll that is important and is often merged with an engineering role for maintaining your “system”. Lots of things need to change when you move to a multi camera production, a key here is ensuring you have a training plan for the people joining your team.
  • Equipment – The obvious change here is in the number of cameras, but that isn’t at all the equipment changes you need to consider. The major other piece of equipment you will need is a “switcher” or “vision mixer” as we call it in the UK. This can be software based (VMIX for example) or Hardware based (The ATEM from Blackmagic is a good entry level option). One thing to establish at this stage is, if you are plan on adding more cameras (or other inputs) later, then make sure whatever system you get has expansion capability. You also need to consider HOW you handle inputs into the system – HDMI, SDI, NDI, are options to look at. Your final choice will depend on your needs and your budget NOW but also take in consideration your plans for the future. Spend your money well. You also need to think about cables, cable runs, and depending on your choices, convertors as well. Then, you need to think about more monitors, how about adding a router for all your inputs and outputs? And what about camera control units? If you don’t add camera control units then what are your plans to ensure your cameras “match” when it comes to colour etc? What about your plans for Comms so you can communicate to your camera team? A vital element many people overlook at this stage and often use a short-term solution rather than investing in a longer-term plan. Of course, one thing that doesn’t need to change when you add more cameras is audio – right? Well, not necessarily, for instance if part of your reason for adding more cameras is so you can show your congregation and so enhance the production for the viewers, then you need to ensure that people can HEAR the congregation. This means considering audience response mics etc. Is this also the time to spend money on a separate broadcast mix for your live stream? Then, not only are you enhancing your video coverage BUT you are also improving the quality of your audio too.
  • Production – The changes you need to consider here will of course be very different depending on your specific circumstances, so here is my list of a few that you may need to consider:
  • Back drop – if you are adding more cameras, you are likely to show a “wider” area OR a different angle of your stage. So, you need to consider what else you are “showing” in the background of those shots. Do you need to relook at your stage layout? Things like mic stands sticking out of the head of the preacher are avoidable by simple layout changes.
  • Lighting – this goes along with camera settings so you can “match” the colours your cameras are capturing BUT you also need to consider if you have lighting issues on your stage where the lighting is not balanced. Can be fixed at the same time? Do you have lights on all the people you want to show (band members etc)? If you are now showing the congregation, do you need to consider adding lights so you can see them OR if you use “house lights” are the colour temperatures the same as you stage lights. If not, how do you plan on filming them so they look good on camera? Take the opportunity to look at your lighting as you make the jump to multi camera production.
    1. No Go Areas – now you are filming with multiple cameras, are there areas you need to designate as “no go” areas? By that I mean, if you are filming at a certain angle, you don’t want people walking through the background of the shot – so you need to rethink the layout of your “space” to consider the extra cameras?
    2. Eyelines – one thing that is important here is that IF your preacher usually speaks to the audience at home, connecting with them via ONE camera, adding extra cameras might be disconcerting. Where will he look? Is he looking at the right camera? My recommendation is that the director FOLLOWS the lead of the person speaking. If they are preaching and looking into ONE camera, we sometimes want to switch to a different camera because staying on the same camera is boring for us. Instead, think like a viewer! Don’t switch from the camera they are looking at as it breaks connection for the people watching and disturbs the flow for them. Can you work with the minister (and any others who feature on camera) to have them move their eyeline from one camera to another to allow shot variation?

    This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the areas to consider when moving from a single camera production to a multi camera production and I am very happy to help you work through questions you may have if you reach out to me. I do believe that adding more cameras enhances the quality of the content we produce BUT I also understand from the lessons I have learned that it is important to consider all the implications when we make this move. I hope this helps as you add more cameras to your set up.

    Make sure you also read my "Camera Placement" article to get my thoughts on where you should put your new camera.

    How many cameras do you use at the moment for filming and what is your long term aim to build towards?

    Categories: Broadcasting, Cameras, filming, production, set up, Skills, Strategy, Team

    Sign up to get great content sent directly to your inbox

    If you are enjoying this blog and the articles we publish here then we know you'll find our weekly emails valuable too.

    Each week we send unique and helpful content directly to you that we believe will help you continue to grow and develop in what God has called you to.  

    Fill in your details and start getting content that will help you grow. 

    I have read and agree to the privacy policy
    You will be able to unsubscribe at any time.

    Why sign up?

    Here is what some of our subscribers say:
    Sam, UK: "Thank you for your wonderful emails, encouragement and for sharing your technical wisdom."
    Bob, USA: "Your email on audio, is excellent, thank you for those golden nuggets of wisdom and advice that you share."
    Chris, UK: "These resources have been very helpful to me, thank you for the time and effort you put in to creating those resources."
    John, Ireland: "Thank you for a helpful and inspiring email."
    Paul, UK: "Thank you for sharing your time and resources.   Keep up the good work."
    John, USA: " So insightful!"