As church leaders invest in live streaming equipment, many are thinking about video placement will work for their church. Going “live” for churches is more than just delivering live sermons on Sundays. It also includes live streaming smaller services, group settings, and even major life events. So shot selection, as it is called, can make a big difference in how your church presents online.

Understanding how camera placement can affect viewing is important when considering your live streaming options. What is the best spot to place the camera for sermons? How high should the camera be? What about side angles? Should you include congregation shots? What about musicians, or baptisms and weddings?

This article will cover video placement for ideal shots, most suitable camera angles, and camera techniques to deliver the best results for your church live stream.

We will also cover different aspects such as framing and composition. You’ll gain an introduction to video camera shot selections, and tips to enhance the viewer experience depending on the event. 

Video Placement to Frame Your Space 

How your subject fits in the frame is extremely important. Remember that for people watching, the frame you capture is their entire view of the event. So the first things you need to decide when framing a live church scene are shot size and camera angle or height. Here are the most commonly used camera shot selections.

Showing the wide angle camera shotShot Selections Suitable for Churches

When deciding on your shots, you’ll want to be sure that even your ideal shots don’t dominate the entire broadcast. Viewers at home stay more engaged with variety, so pick a handful rather than just one of the following:

  1. Wide or Long Shot: frames the entire stage or church with the subject in the centre. The background scenery of the church dominates the shot. This shot is better suited to capturing action and movement on stage, such as a choir or ceremony.
  2. Full Shot: shows the subject from top to bottom. This is usually a head to toe shot, but you can also choose to either leave some headroom or fill the entire frame.
  3. Medium Full Shot: shows the subject from the knees up and allows the viewer to be close enough to see expressions.
  4. Medium Shot: this is a waist up, which can be slightly above or below the belt line.
  5. Medium Close Shot: a usually a chest or shoulders up shot that’s great for online engagement.
  6. Close-up Shot: here the subject’s face takes up the majority of the frame, allowing their expressions and emotions to dictate the scene.
  7. Extreme Close-Up Shot: so close that only one specific detail of the face. Unless you intend to create a very dramatic moment, this shot is not a great choice for churches.
  8. Two-Shot: A variant of the full shot, this shot frames two subjects side by side. For example, two musicians side by side.

The distance to your subject alters the impact of the video placement. Just like in reality, the closer you get to your subject, the more personal it feels. Moving in close gives a feeling of intimacy, whereas moving far away gives us a feeling of detachment.

5 Camera Angles Commonly Used in Video Production

Now let’s look at some common camera angles used in filming. The angle of the camera gives a perspective to what the person or subjects are saying or doing. The most common types of camera angles used in live streaming videos are:

  1. High Shot
  2. Eye level 
  3. Shoulder Level
  4. Hip Level 
  5. Ground Level

A camera pointed upwards gives a greater feeling of authority and respect. Conversely, a camera pointing down at a speaker will diminish the subject. An eye level shot will give the feeling of being equal to the subject.

Shooting from a low angle makes subjects appear larger than normal. The lens sees the scene from a “humble” point of view, while the subject towers over the scene to establish authority or power. This shot creates the impression that the subject is powerful or heroic.

Taking a shot from below as in a sermon provides authority and gives the viewer a humble angleBest Practices for Video Placement in Churches 

You can make a live stream event picture perfect by following a few simple best practices for video placement. These tips will help you get the best possible shot, whether you are filming church sermons, worship and music ceremonies, or special events like baptisms, and weddings.

Follow these shot selection practices and camera techniques, and your live streaming audience will enjoy viewing every single minute!

Follow the Rule of Thirds

Perhaps the most important lesson in video composition is the Rule of Thirds. The basic principle behind this rule says that to figure out where to place your subject, one should imagine a set of grid lines that divide the frame into three parts, both horizontally and vertically. Place the most important things at one of the intersection points in your grid.

The rule of thirds in practice: In a typical close up interview shot you would put the subjects’ eyes at the intersections. The rule of thirds also helps the person filming a moving subject to keep in the middle third of the frame as far as possible. 

Create Headroom

Headroom is the amount of space in the shot above the subject’s head. Leave too much space and the shot feels empty and distant. Not enough space leaves the subject cut off from the frame. Ideally, in medium to close shots, you want to leave as little headroom as possible without cutting off the preacher’s face. By allowing your preacher to fill the frame, you increase the impact of the message by creating an intimate, captivating experience.

Central Video Placement

This allows for a full frontal shot of the main pulpit where you can zoom in on the speaker for medium and close shots and zoom out to wide shots capture the whole worship stage and worship team. If you have just a single camera at your disposal, then it needs to be at the centre of the church. 

A sermon is taken from a mid camera shotThe Side Placement

Placing your church cameras about halfway down on either side of the church can give some beautiful pictures. It showcases a nice side view of your speaker or worship team. This also allows you to get some great shots as you pan across to the congregation. If you have multiple cameras, you can complement the centre camera with side placements that provide different angles.

Side view shot of a sermonThe Point of View Shot

“Point of View” (POV) placement showcases what it looks like from the perspective of someone who is sitting in the congregation. This can be achieved by placing the camera operator in the front row of the church looking up towards the stage. It is an excellent camera placement if you want to show the audience what it feels like to be in the building participating in the service.

High Angle Placement

Consider raising the camera up on a platform if you have the use of a tripod, stand, or wall mounting camera. For special events like baptisms and weddings where you want to capture the full congregation and display the beauty of the church setting, it’s a good idea to raise the camera height. Ideally, you should place the camera at a height of about 8 feet. By doing so, you can ensure that you can zoom even when they are standing.

Placing a camera at a high angle allows you to pan out and zoom in, great for weddingsOver The Shoulder Shot

Place the church video camera behind the speaker on the stage itself to film an over the shoulder shot. This placement gives you the ability to capture the reactions of the congregation during a moving moment. For example, in a wedding ceremony at the altar, when the bride and groom are focused on one another. If you have multiple cameras, you can switch angles to capture their expressions from over each other’s shoulder.

Use of Lower Thirds

“Lower thirds” refer to the bottom third of the image which often provides accompanying text. In a documentary, this would be something like the subject’s name and title. Churches are using lower thirds to identify scripture readings and lyrics. They can also be useful for announcements, such as donations, phone lines and upcoming events.

If you are planning on adding captions in the lower third, select a medium full shot from the knees up so that the text does not cover the subject.

Filming Sermons

While filming a typical shot of a pastor delivering a sermon, medium shots will generally look great. But you could vary the shot selection based on actions or moments in a scripted sermon.

If the speaker prefers walking around the stage, you might need to zoom out to a medium full or even a full head to toe shot. For one who prefers to stand in one spot for long periods at the pulpit, you can zoom in all the way into a Medium Close or Close shot.

Quality Equipment Makes Video Placement Easier

Knowing the ideal camera placement to utilise in each situation makes a huge difference to the enjoyment and viewing experience of church members watching the live stream. To make full use of your newly gained knowledge of video camera shot selection, we recommend you invest in high quality live streaming gear. 

Our live streaming experts at Faith Online have done the research when it comes to gear. We’ve put together a live streaming kit that includes technical support, easy installation and the wireless components. Making it easy to change your camera angle or shot without the need to worry about cabling options. The portable camera allows church teams to place and stabilise the camera virtually anywhere they want, while still capturing high quality HD pictures for the live stream.

Learn more by visiting Faith Online or view a live demo of the kit in action.