Using Volunteer Camera Operators to Achieve a Great Video Experience

Great Video Experience

When it comes to video, keep it simple.


I had been a technical director for about 10 years before starting at a new church. We were launching the video ministry. We had only done IMAG on the screens for a few weeks when I decided to adapt the switching style from my last church. I pushed the volunteers to take complicated shots. I wanted it to be the best switched service out there! I wanted to implement the format of a major music awards show or a concert with some edgy switching. Then I talked with someone who worked those big events. They said, “most of our camera ops have just one function. They don’t do a lot of crazy shots.”


Then it hit me. I was going about this all wrong. The next weekend I sat down at the video switcher and told the team I was going to direct the music portion blindfolded. Everyone thought I was crazy. I thought I was crazy, but directing this way forced me to simplify the camera shots.


I assigned one camera to shoot the lead singer, no zooms, pans, nothing. Another shot the drums, another the background singers and one more on the lead guitar. It forced me to communicate differently and trust the operators to hold their respective shots. More importantly, it forced me to listen to the music. Listening to the music and helping to enhance what the worship team was doing became the point of this exercise. All of it happened because we kept it simple.

Keeping it simple is something we miss a lot when directing video. Many times we over-complicate things causing distraction to the worship service and exhausting our volunteers. The principle of “simple” means assessing your volunteers’ capabilities and not pushing them too far outside their safe zone, setting up shots that you can take when you don’t have a shot and helping everyone understand they are there to enhance the service, not distract from it.


Essentially, video needs to be leading people in worship by helping them see the song leader or the lead instrument and by painting backgrounds that work with the song and don’t break the atmosphere of worship. I like to say, upbeat we can push the envelope and excite the congregation, but your downbeats should focus the congregation. All of this comes down to understanding the objective.

The objective is to create a fun, exciting and team atmosphere in the control room while enhancing an atmosphere of worship in the building. We want our video volunteers engaged, stretched and wanting to come back the next time with a nervous readiness to help be a video missionary.


That’s right. Those cameras are missionaries that are helping your church take the Gospel of Jesus beyond the four walls of a building. Cameras bring people in the building closer to the experience. They allow that unsure visitor to get a closer glimpse from the back row. They engage the late arriving family in the hallway, a congregation at a multi-site church, the person who can’t attend and is watching online or someone in a different country who is experiencing the Gospel for the first time.


Your video team is a part of what I call the “Digital Great Commission.” They are going into all the world and preaching the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) That’s the objective, let’s teach it, live it.