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Why Does My Video Look Terrible? Part II

Why Does My Video Look Terrible? Part II

Mastering these foundational elements of video production will enable your church to reap the benefits of top quality video images.

Last time, we started talking about why the video of your services looks bad. Today, we're talking about another reason it may have issues: camera focus.

There's a strong temptation when you're new to video to turn on all the automatic features of your camera and assume that it will make good decisions on those settings for your environment. Usually, though, this isn't the case, especially for spaces where there's a lot of contrast, or the lighting isn't extremely bright (bright being shooting outdoors on a sunny day).

One setting that's very tempting is auto-focus. The problem with auto-focus is that the video camera usually focuses on what's in the center of the frame. If you are shooting the pastor from the side of the auditorium, proper framing would put the pastor at one side of the frame, not at the center. So, your camera is going to focus on what the camera sees beyond the pastor. If that's the piano 20 feet further away, the piano is what will be in focus and the pastor will be blurry. And the lower the lighting levels, the blurrier the pastor will be.

I once shot a friend's outdoor wedding, and borrowed a video camera to get a second camera angle. The camera only operated fully automaticthere was no option to manually focus the camera. I used this as the centerline camera from the back of the seating area. During their vows, with the bride and groom facing each other, there was a large tree about 100 feet beyond the bride and groom perfectly centered between them.
The camera locked its focus onto the tree as it was centered in the frame. The tree looked awesome; the bride and groom, not so much.

Even if you are shooting straight on and have your pastor centered in the frame, if your pastor moves out of the center of the frame, the camera is going to refocus on the background and then refocus on the pastor when the camera gets re-centered on him.

Sometimes, if the pastor is wearing clothing without a lot of detail such as a dark suit, and if that clothing is what's in the center of the frame, then you might see the camera occasionally searching for focus causing the frame to blur in and out, as there's not enough contrast and detail in the clothing to give the camera something to focus on.

The proper solution is to use manual focus on your cameras, and train your camera operators to follow the pastor with the focus as they move around. Now, most pastors don't venture very far from the pulpit, so once you have focus set initially, you're probably good for the duration of the services. If you're a more animated pastor and move around a lot, your camera people are going to need a lot more practice to keep up with you.
Next time, let's cover one more video topic: the color of your lighting.

TAGS: Video Video
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