First off, thank you for volunteering to help!
The importance of capturing and sharing the church’s worship service cannot be understated. For those that seek a connection to the church, YOU are the conduit that makes that happen. That’s a pretty exciting concept. Let that energy motivate you through the technical details of the video process. In the end, the benefits of connecting the congregation to our church’s worship service is a blessing to all.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, CLC has managed to upload its worship service to both Facebook and YouTube. At times, state rules allowed members to congregate for Sunday service in limited numbers. During that time, the service was live-streamed; but currently, we are simply pre-recording the services, editing, then uploading the finished videos to the church’s YouTube channel. The shoot usually takes about an hour on a Thursday and is performed in an empty sanctuary. By the following Saturday, the video has been edited and uploaded to YouTube. The video recording process involves multiple cameras and a “switcher.” The process can be done by a single person but it is easier with two people. The switcher allows for smooth transitions between the multiple cameras, and initiates and ends the recording process. The switcher runs on an iPad and interfaces wirelessly between cameras and the SlingStudio hub (which is currently located atop the organ). The hub saves each camera signal and the house audio to an external hard drive.
The recording process starts by powering on each device. The SlingStudio is positioned on top of the organ so it can maintain a clear line of sight to a wireless camera connection on the opposite side of the sanctuary. Pushing the power button on the hub will begin a startup sequence that is indicated by a flashing blue light. Within 2 minutes the light should go solid; this verifies that it has connected to the wi-fi network. Recording is either done to a SD card or a small external hard drive. Check to see that at least one of these two recording devices are plugged into the unit.
One camcorder is located near the hub and is plugged in directly via an HDMI cable. To get this particular camcorder ready, you will need to open the viewfinder (on the side) and plug in the HDMI cable into the micro-HDMI port. Also, check to see that the camcorder is receiving power via a black AC cable (power port is on opposite side). The camcorder should power on by itself. Check the line of sight through the camcorder’s viewfinder. That is all that needs to be done here; all settings for focus, etc. are automatic.
Across the sanctuary, on the window sill, is another camcorder. This particular camcorder uses a wireless transmitter to talk to the SlingStudio hub. Check that this camcorder, as well as the wireless transmitter, are powered on. To power on the wireless transmitter, hold the power button in for 5 seconds until it glows white. Also, check the camcorder’s viewfinder. As with the other camcorder, all settings are automatic.
Aside from these 2 camcorders, the SlingStudio can also accept wireless video from Android phones and iPhones (using the SlingStudio Capture app). Naturally, these smartphones must be set to” Do Not Disturb.” In the phone’s settings, switch the network connection to the SlingStudio hotspot. and launch the app. One smartphone can be positioned for a wide shot by placing it on the baptismal font in the center aisle. Other smartphones can be mounted on flexible mini tripods and positioned on a pew armrest on either the left or right. For these smartphones, the line of sight can be quickly modified for the children’s message (right), or sermon (left). You should now have cameras and smartphones in place to capture a wide shot, sermon from the pulpit, prayers from the altar, and a musical offering from the right side. Directions on switching between each of these shots can be found below.
On the iPad, launch SlingStudio Console. Tap to confirm that the iPad should connect with the SlingStudio hub. You will want to create a new project named by the date of worship. Verify that the settings are “Television/1080p” and drag the slider to a bandwidth setting of 8mbps. Verify that the recording is capturing “Program” as well as “All Camera Sources” (but not quad view). Recording can either be directed to the external SSD hard drive or the SD card. Since this recording process is not being pushed out as a live broadcast, tap OK and continue tapping OK to get past the request for customer feedback and audio set up.
The console screen should show several camera angles in que on the left side. The SlingStudio holds a maximum of 4 cameras in que, but an additional 6 cameras can easily be swapped out. If you are not seeing all camcorders and smartphone cameras, tap “Add Source” to locate either the window-mounted wireless unit or any other smartphones that are running the SlingStudio Capture app. At this point, check that all camera views are level. Since zooming and/or adjusting levels is not done in the SlingStudio Console app, leveling each camera’s view needs to be done before recording starts.
Before the service begins, verify that you’ve tapped the “Record” button on the left of the Console window and that this is glowing. The worship service should start with a wide shot. Drag the appropriate camera angle into the “Program” pane (lower right). The pane just above that is used for staging, but any of the cameras can be made live by double tapping them or sliding their view into the lower right Program pane. Decisions on switching should be considered part of the creative nature of how the service is presented. At its core, the multi-camera switching function brings a more dynamic nature to the service and keeps a viewer’s interest. Anticipate changes in the flow of the service and switch cameras every few minutes (or as changes in the service are happening), but be aware that switching between views should not be done so often that it would be annoying to the viewer.
Note the tabs above the view panes in the Console. You can Add Sources, Preview, or manage Audio Mixer. Audio from the house audio system is the first slider channel on the left. This channel is delivers the audio from the organ as well as the mic in the pulpit. This slider is usually around 95%. To monitor this audio channel, tap the headphone icon in the lower right of the channel below the slider. You can plug earbuds or headphones into the iPad’s 3.5mm jack. The right-side channel is the Program. This is also usually around 95% –and ideally, would show a strong signal, staying green (but never staying solid red). Other channels are audio feeds coming from the cameras and smartphones. It is best to set them at around 20%, as they are only useful for syncing. Normally it would be best to leave the setting for each channel to ON, but swapping a camera into the queue (remember you can have up to 10 cameras, but only 4 cameras can be in queue) and a camera’s setting must be in AFV (Audio Follows Video) before it can be swapped out with a new source.
Ask one of the pastors to turn on the house audio system. As noted, this house system does a fine job of capturing the organ, as well as the fixed mic in the pulpit; but, during the children’s message, and prayers from the altar, the pastors have become familiar with using their own smartphones to record themselves. Remind them to hit their own audio record buttons on their respective devices. They are familiar with sending that audio recording to me as that audio is added later in post.
A quick comment that video recording should not take you away from the core reason for being in the church. By all means, you should be able to take part in the church service without being solely dedicated to the video recording function. Relax, and take part in the service. Remember the blessing that comes with being one of the few to be present in the sanctuary for the worship service; your experience is commuted to others through monitoring the video feed, but you should not sacrifice the spiritual nourishment that comes with being attentive to the preaching of the word. Do your best with the details, but minor glitches are expected. Know that the original settings were set to record EACH camera individually; and, while using the mixed Program feed would be ideal, individual cameras are also being sampled for the purpose of adding during the editing process.
This breakdown of the pre-recording video process through SlingStudio is ever-changing. Your input and critique is appreciated. Feel free to email Mitch Higgins to make changes for this document.