Doing Video on a Budget: Buy What You Need To Get Going, Start With A Plan

Doing Video on a Budget: Buy What You Need To Get Going, Start With A Plan

If you are still capturing video in SD, and are looking to jump to HD (1280 by 720 pixels) or even Full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels), know you'll likely have to change out most of your cables, screens, and cameras.

So, the pastor tells you that he wants to film the service every week.

This may sound backwards, but the easiest way to get better video is to get better sound.

Or maybe he wants to livestream your service every week.

Unfortunately, he says that you only have a limited budget to get that done.

Now what?

Most importantly, what does "limited" mean anyway?

No matter what your budget is, you can do this.

While you can always spend more, recognize that there are churches out there recording their services on $500 video cameras, and streaming to Facebook and YouTube using iPhones and tablets.

While I wouldn't suggest going down that exact road, you can get the best quality from this setup. If that is all you have, you can still make it work.

If you want to do it right, though, you can build a system from the ground up or buy someone else's old equipment, as there is a lot of used equipment for sale. There are even a few church groups that buy old gear, with the goal of then reselling it to churches on a budget like ours at West Asheville Baptist. For a list of these and others look at the WFX page for a list of vendors. And if you have not been to one of their events, I highly recommend it.

So, what do you need first to accomplishing video on a budget? Any guesses?

A good microphone.

This may sound backwards, but the easiest way to get better video is to get better sound.

And the fastest way to a bad video is by having bad sound.

If your budget demands that you can only choose between a microphone and a video camera, get the microphone and use a tablet to handle the video needs.

If you have microphones, speakers and an audio mixing console, you may be able to use that recording. Make a recording and listen to it. Unfortunately, the sound from a recording sounds different than it does in the room. This is because in the room, the sound bounces off walls, and some of it gets absorbed by people in the room.

In such a case, the sound tech is mixing for the room, not a recording. In this scenario, you have the ability to split the audio signals from each of the microphones and instruments and send them to a separate mix for your video or stream. This of course costs additional money, and you will need someone to operate that second sound board to create a separate mix.

This is where a good mic can help you.

There are many choices for microphones, and you don't need to spend a fortune, but get the best that you can afford.

Next, you will need to know some things about the room. Those details would include size, how many people will be in it, and how far away from the pastor and worship leaders they will be. Take all of that room information and recording device information to someone who sells microphones, to get their feedback on what they believe would be the best choice.

Do not cut corners on finding the right microphones.

In the beginning, you will have a lot of choices.

Start with a budget.

Once you have chosen a microphone, select a camera, and then a secondary way to record sound and video, such as to a computer, CD, DVD or video recorder. 

The reason for these additional items is that sooner than later, something will go wrong with your sound or video, and having a backup source will be crucial.

The next thing to account for is, what do you want to do with the video? Are you going to make DVDs, livestream, or broadcast the service on television?

Deciding what camera(s) to use will have a lot to do with what you plan to do with your video.

Keep in mind having the cost of building a system around the cameras and microphones. If you are livestreaming, you may only need to send the audio and video to a capture device on a computer, after which it can be uploaded to Facebook, YouTube, or a streaming service.

If you are recording for broadcast, cable, or recording for DVDs, you will need a lot more gear, such as cables, monitors, switchers, spare recorders, amplifiers, etc.

When trying to figure what next step should be taken for your video needs, note that there are a lot of used video cameras on the market. In the next year or two, at West Asheville, we will be upgrading to HD and new cameras, but for the last ten years we have been using the Canon XL1S professional camcorder. This camera captures video in SD, and is more than 20 years old.

But it works. as We have five of them, streaming live and recording for cable broadcast. Today, one could get a single XL1S in good condition for about $500, as you don't need five.

At West Asheville Baptist, our current system began with three used video cameras. The process began after a company had upgraded a church, after which we bought the church’s old equipment. The vast array of equipment we purchased ended up costing $25,000, but that included all of the gear and the installation, including cameras, cables, recorders, computers, monitors, and other associated equipment.

If you are just starting out, I would begin with at least capturing video in HD, and not the lesser formats.

Keep the end in mind. Few churches can afford to buy all their needed equipment at once. Buy what you need to get going, but make sure to start with a plan, so that as you add gear, everything will work together.

Make sure that you can also upgrade important pieces as you go. If you are still capturing video in SD at this moment, and are looking to jump to HD (1280 by 720 pixels) or even Full HD (1920 by 1080 pixels), recognize that you will likely also have to change out most of your cables, screens, and cameras as well.

Plan for upgrades, and don't forget to have good surge protectors for your recently purchased gear, along with redundant recording devices for sound and video. Having these backup systems in place is essential, as we have problems maybe four or five times a year, where they come in handy.

It is not if, but when, that you might be confronted with such an issue.

If you are recording to make DVDs, or are broadcasting your service, you will need to be able to record it to a computer, tape, or DVD. From there, you will need an editing program and someone to do the editing. The more you want to do, the more equipment and people you will need.

And let's not forget lights.

While you don't need a lot of lights to start working with video, you will still want to see those being filmed. Our eyes are amazing things, and can adjust to almost any lighting situation, but for cameras, they are, however, somewhat limited in this area. Those limits often come up when thinking about when confronted with the realities of one's budget. Keep an eye out for cameras and lenses that are recognized for doing well in low light situations, but recognize that they will come at a price. Aside from that investment, you will need lights in front and behind your subject.

In trying to figure what works best for lighting, I have written other articles in the past specific on that topic, so check those out, including this one specifically on lighting.

Also, with the help of YouTube, there are training videos available for just about everything in getting you ready with using video for your church.

I will caution you, though, don't just listen to just anyone.

Before you buy, ask a professional, show them your plan to make sure that you can accomplish everything what you want, either with the equipment you have, or what you intend to get. Make sure that the gear you are planning on getting will all work together, and find the time to have those who will use that gear, to train on those devices. It is very easy to get sidetracked and spend money and time on things that are unnecessary. Use your time and funds wisely.

In the end, the important thing is to decide what you will be filming and why.

Once that is done, identify all of the equipment that you will need to accomplish your goal.

Whether you end up buying new or used, remember you can start small and build on your foundation, to do all that you can envision.

Start today.

Take out your smartphone and start filming, and from there make a plan for the future.

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