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Video on a budget
Among the viable options for achieving video while accounting for your budget, begin with PTZ camera options, such as models by PTZOptics, left, or the Carbonite Black Solo switcher by Ross  Video, right.

Video on A Budget: Cost-Effective Video Solutions

The main prerogative is to accomplish our goals at hand with quality, tell the story well, and be good stewards of the opportunity that we have, to tell that story.

Start with the “Why”

The technical tools we use to tell the Greatest Story actually matter. Your church can opt to stream on Facebook with a camera-enabled mobile device this Sunday, if that’s the quality of experience that your church is OK with.

Probably not.

The goal of a video system isn’t to save money. The goal is to tell the story.

More often, though, we try for a higher-quality visual experience utilizing multiple cameras, a switcher, and some kind of local, visual medium, as part of the formula - like a projector or direct-view display.

Wherever you may land in this spectrum of camera/visual needs, it’s important to remember we don’t do things, because we can. We do things because we should.

The main prerogative is to accomplish our goals at hand with quality, tell the story well, and be good stewards of the opportunity that we have, to tell that story.

Real Money

The goal of a video system isn’t to save money. The goal is to tell the story.

These tools cost real money, but there are some major decisions to make, when it comes to your church, when selecting the right tools. Quality costs what it costs, but the question is … what level of quality?

If we understand that buying the least expensive option won’t give you the highest quality experience, we often land somewhere in the middle.

A lot of tech folks, though, are often willing to shoehorn the wrong piece of gear that they got a “deal” on, forcing it to fit within their workflow, while losing sight of the real goal in the first place.

The task of setting goals and expectations, before buying a single piece of gear can be tough, especially without the help of a trusted knowledgeable consultant to offer objective solutions.

Often, a relationship with a trusted church systems integrator can help bridge this knowledge gap.


Manned camera or PTZ? HD or UHD? How’s the light in the space? Are we capturing or creating?

Each of these questions can lead to extremely different choices in cameras. Quite a few low-cost PTZ (robotic) cameras, including models from PTZOptics and Marshall, are a good place to start for the small- to medium-sized church, which will ease their way into the world of cameras, and their associated costs.

Even with the growing popularity of 4K, one must ask, does your church really need 4K/UHD? How does 4K help your church tell the story? Keeping an HD or 1080p workflow at your church instead of upgrading now to UHD, is a great way to save money, while still maintaining quality. It’s often “good enough,” to tell the story effectively.

And remember, the best camera in the world can look pretty mediocre, without the right lighting.


Sometimes switching can be very simple to accomplish the task at hand. Got only a few sources? Fade-through-black OK?

A basic HDMI switcher or small SDI router might serve as the right fit for a simple, single-projector system, with a couple laptops as sources. It’s when we get to the need for seamless switching between cameras, the integration of lyrics/graphics, and multiple output zones, that we start being in need of a switcher that will do significantly more.

How many inputs is enough? How many discreet or unique outputs? Do I need this switcher to have tactile control, or is software/IP or remote control ideal?

Recent switcher options offered by Blackmagic Design have really changed the industry over the past few years. For smaller churches with a few cameras and a few graphics sources, an ATEM seamless switcher with a built-in 10-box multiviewer, and two unique outputs, can be a great solution for around $1,000.

When more outputs are needed, and greater keying options are required, Ross Video offers some awesome small format switchers, including the Carbonite Black Solo, with incredible bus/routing power and tactile control for a little bit more.


Laser projection and LED walls are everywhere. LCD 5,000-lumen laser projectors are now available for less than $3,000, and are getting less expensive every year.

Laser projection is still the most cost-effective long-term option for in-room lyrics, but LED walls are getting less expensive every day, as they solve a lot of issues across a number of scenarios.

The main question to ask for your church would be, how big of a screen is big enough? If the screen is there to display information, lyrics, or the occasional video presentation, then maybe projection is the right solution. If you need an immersive experience with no shadows, and want to make a statement, an LED wall may be the right option.


In any scenario, if you let the budget define your goal, you’ll end up never really achieving anything special. Know the goal, and find out what it takes to achieve it, then budget for it, and wait until you can do it right.

As it’s said … good things come to those who wait. We all want the best for our churches, so rushing to use the least expensive tool rarely goes well for the long-term!

Patience is tough, but it’s often a very valuable tool for any tech.

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