Camera Operator and Video Director Training for Church Live Streaming

Cameras used in this training:

CR-N500 – https://canon.us/churchfrontcrn500

XF605 – https://canon.us/churchfrontxf605

RC-IP100 – https://canon.us/churchfrontrcip100

In this video, you are going to get the ultimate guide to operating cameras and directing video for your church livestream. We’ll be covering essential topics like framing, headroom, composition, and exposure. We’ll even talk about some advanced features available with these Canon PTZ cameras, such as auto-tracking. A huge thank you to Canon for sponsoring this video and providing the cameras to make this training possible. We’ll be demonstrating the Canon CRN 500 and 700 PTZ cameras. I’ll also be able to show you the XF 605 professional camcorder, which pairs perfectly with the PTZ cameras. I’m going to link those specific cameras below this video. I’ve developed this training to be comprehensive but very simple. So even if you are a new camera operator or new video director at your church, maybe you’re a volunteer, you are in the right place. My name is Jake Gosselin with ChurchFront. We’re here to be your roadmap for Worship and Production Ministry. If you’d like more training content like this video, be sure to subscribe. This training is going to be in-depth, so be sure to refer to the chapter markers on the playhead below for convenient navigation of the video.

Setting Up Exposure

First, I’m going to cover how to dial in the exposure settings for your camera. It’s very important to make sure the exposure looks correct because all of the other steps we’re going to cover in this training—like framing, composition, and movement—won’t look great if the camera exposure isn’t set properly. Ensure you have sufficient lighting at your church. This is a crucial ingredient.

Before you dive into your camera settings, make sure you have sufficient front lighting on stage and know what temperature that front lighting is. Here in our setup, we are using some front washes at 4,000 Kelvin. We also have some backlights or hair lights, often in different colors like blues, purples, or ambers. These look great in helping separate the foreground from the background on the subject.

The key here, especially in a church environment for your livestream, is to make sure your pastor, worship leaders, and MCs have adequate front lighting when you expose the cameras. Our front lighting stays consistent throughout the entire service. We use the same brightness front lighting for the pastor as well as for worship leaders, so our cameras don’t need to adjust exposure throughout the service.

Let’s go ahead and dive into the settings of the Canon CRN 500 and adjust the exposure. I recommend running your camera in manual mode, which you can see right here. If I switch to auto, some interesting things start to happen. Mainly, the color looks like the white balance shifted around. Let’s go back to our manual mode, which looks very natural.

Manual mode gives you control over your iris (aperture value), which determines how large the opening is in your lens for light to hit the sensor. You also have control over gain (ISO), which is the sensor’s gain. If it’s dark, you can add some gain to the sensor, but beware, as more gain introduces more noise. The third piece of the exposure triangle is shutter speed. Our system runs at a frame rate of 29.97, so a good rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed to at least twice the frame rate value—in this case, 1/60th of a second.

Using ND Filters

This particular camera also has a built-in ND filter. You can add a quarter, a sixteenth, or a sixty-fourth worth of ND filter to it, which gets really dark. This is handy if you have a super bright room and want to keep your aperture low. Darkening an image by turning up the aperture in a bright situation can lose the nice bokeh effect, where the background is nicely blurred out due to a low aperture.

Let’s simulate a darker environment with an ND filter. I could use the gain here and start turning it up, but you’ll see it creates some noise in the image by turning up the gain or the video signal on the sensor, distorting it like jacking up the gain on an amplifier for a guitar. I’m going to set my gain around 4.0, turn off the ND filter, and I am happy with this exposure setting.

Setting White Balance

Next, we need to think about white balance, which is closely related to exposure. You can use auto white balance, but manual adjustment is better, especially to ensure accurate skin tones. Match the white balance to your front lights’ temperature. Adjusting the temperature in the settings compensates for different lighting conditions.

If I turn it all the way down, the image will cool dramatically because the camera compensates for a lower temperature light source. Conversely, if I set it high, the image warms up. Ensure the white balance matches your lighting setup to keep colors natural.

Focus Settings

The Canon PTZ cameras have excellent autofocus, including face detection. This feature is particularly useful for tracking people on stage. Save your exposure settings as a preset for easy recall. You can select another preset number, disable the pan-tilt-zoom focus settings if not needed, and update the thumbnail. Call it “Standard Exposure Settings” and save it for easy recall.

Here we have the focus settings on this camera, and what’s great about these PTZ cameras is the autofocus is really good. I could turn the focus off if I wanted to and click with my cursor on the image to select what to focus on. But in most cases, we are filming people, and Canon’s face detection autofocus is really solid. As soon as I turn that on, you can see the little frame that shows up here. Of course, that frame doesn’t show up on our actual program view or the camera input going into the switcher, but that looks really solid.

I recommend having the face autofocus on for a lot of your main follow cams in your broadcast setup. You can see as he’s moving around, it is just locking in on his face. Even if he turns almost 90 degrees to the side, it tracks well, and as soon as he turns back towards the camera, it comes right into focus.

Saving Presets

I highly recommend saving a preset once you’ve dialed in the exposure settings for your camera. Go over to the preset page, select another spot, and save these camera settings—exposure, image, focus—without necessarily saving the pan-tilt-zoom settings. Update the thumbnail and name it something like “Standard Exposure Settings” for easy recall.

Headroom and Composition

Now let’s cover best practices for things like headroom, framing, and composition for your church livestream using the Canon CRN 500. Headroom is the space between the top of the subject’s head and the top of the frame. Ensure it’s balanced—not too much, not too little. A quick rule of thumb is to leave enough space for a hand above the head. Adjust headroom for different compositions like waist-up shots, knees-up shots, and elbows-up shots. Use the center third of the image for standard waist-up shots. Wider shots like knees-up or feet-up are easier for tracking movement.

Headroom is crucial for a natural-looking shot. Too much or too little space above the subject’s head can look odd. A good rule is to leave enough space for the subject’s hand above their head. This rule may vary for different compositions, like super wide or tight shots, but it generally works well for standard waist-up shots.

Rule of Thirds

The rule of thirds helps frame your subject effectively, particularly with side profile shots. Ensure the subject’s looking room (the space in the direction they’re looking) is adequate. This composition technique adds visual interest and context.

For instance, framing the subject on the left third of the image creates a more engaging shot than placing them dead center. When using the rule of thirds, consider the looking room. Position the subject on one-third of the frame, with the looking room in the direction they’re facing. This creates a balanced and visually appealing composition.

Camera Movements

Camera movements include tilting (up and down), panning (left and right), and zooming (in and out). Use these movements to add dynamism to your livestream. Adjust the speed of these movements for smooth transitions.

Tilting draws the eye to the vertical dimension of a space, while panning highlights horizontal movement. Zooming in and out can show detail or context. For example, tilting helps draw the eye to the height or vertical dimension of a space, while panning highlights horizontal movement.

Manual Camera Operation

For manned cameras like the Canon XF 605, you have greater control over movements and framing. Adjust the tension on your tripod for smooth panning and tilting. Use autofocus for tracking faces, but you can switch to manual focus if needed. Adjust your framing for different shots, from tight headshots to wide feet-up shots, ensuring smooth transitions.

When operating a manned camera, ensure the tripod tension is set correctly for smooth movements. Autofocus is useful, but manual focus gives you more control if needed. Practice different compositions, from tight headshots to wide shots, for varied and engaging footage.

Auto Tracking

Canon PTZ cameras have an auto-tracking feature that follows the subject, maintaining proper composition. Enable auto-tracking in the camera’s web browser interface and adjust the settings for optimal performance. This feature is especially useful for long sermons or presentations, allowing the camera to automatically follow the speaker.

Auto-tracking simplifies camera operation during long presentations. Enable it in the camera’s settings and adjust the tracking parameters for the best performance. This ensures the camera follows the subject smoothly, maintaining good composition throughout.

Video Directing

As a video director, you control how the video is cut and presented. Understand the service flow and plan your shots accordingly. Switch camera angles frequently to maintain viewer interest, especially during musical segments. Use safe shots or cover shots for transitions, such as a wide shot of the stage, to smoothly move between different parts of the service.

The video director’s role involves understanding the service flow and planning shots to maintain viewer interest. Switch angles frequently, especially during musical segments, to convey energy. Use wide shots as cover shots for transitions between different parts of the service.

Final Thoughts

Watch other professional broadcasts to understand pacing and composition. Practice during rehearsals to hone your skills. Use cuts for most transitions and occasional fades for slower segments or graphic overlays. Plan your shots and transitions to keep the livestream engaging.

Thanks for watching this video, and thank you to Canon for sponsoring it. Check out the description below for links to the cameras we demonstrated. If you have any questions or comments, let me know down below. Thanks for watching, and we’ll see you next time.

Looking for the best audio gear for worship?

Claim your FREE copy
of the Churchfront Toolkit.