For churches trying to videotape their services for the first time (and don't have volunteers or staff with an understanding of video approaching a professional level) there can be a lot of frustration.Why does it look so bad? Well, there can be several reasons for that. Over the next few articles were going to take a look at a few.
Video cameras are very sensitive to lighting levels. While the human eye can see a huge range between the darkest blacks and the brightest whites (in technical terms, a large dynamic range, or large contrast ratio), video cameras only see a fraction of that range. Where we see a dark gray, the video camera sees that color and everything darker as black. And where we see a light grey, the video camera sees it and everything brighter as pure white.
To get the best looking video you need to reduce the variation of lighting levels across your stage. This is contrary to what churches may want for the "look" of the stage for those attending in person. You need to decide what your priority is, and strike a balance between these conflicting desires.
Try to achieve even lighting across the stage without a lot of lighting level variation from area to area. A $100 lighting meter can assist greatly with this.
And depending on the type of camera you are using, video cameras that set their exposure automatically often set the level for the average lighting level it sees. If you have a dark stage with light just on the pastor at the lectern, there's a good chance the camera will turn up the exposure to where the pastor is a white blob in order to get the average up to the level it thinks it needs.
If you're using this type of camera, there may be a mode you can pick called "Spotlight", which will base its exposure setting on the brightest area in the shot instead of the average. If you can't level out the lighting on your stage, this might help.
Cameras can also be very sensitive to color saturation. If you are using LED lighting that can achieve bright, vibrant colors and you're making strong use of that feature, you may find your video looking cartoonish. This is especially true of reds. Try easing up on the saturation of the lighting color and see if that clears up your video quality.
Next time, we'll talk about camera focus.