Recording Church Videos for Remote Services…Safely

Ronnie T
5 min readApr 21, 2020

Hey folks! This is much different from my normal security banter, however I’ve seen one too many headlines about churches refusing to cancel their services. Look, we’re in different times…but we all have to work together on this one, regardless of religion. Now you can stop putting your congregation (and others) at risk to COVID-19 by simply move to remote services. The total cost? Free + a few hours of video editing.

This is also for churches who are figuring remote services out, or who may be experimenting with different types of software. I’m a huge fan of simplicity, and hopefully my few months of videography will help you get something implemented!

Most people don’t know this about me, but one of my responsibilities outside of security is to help film our church sermons, and once they’re filmed, we try to put them into a remote format that everyone can ingest. It’s been a crazy 6–8 months learning all of the things that videography has to offer, but it has been a ton of fun, and it’s these lessons that made the Infosec Oasis stream possible. Not only are we able to reach out to more people through our remote church services, but we’re also able to still have some sense of “togetherness” in these crazy COVID-19 times. Here’s how we do it.

Keep it Simple

If you read nothing else of this post, read these next 3 words: keep it simple. People don’t want to create new accounts or install extra software, so unless you want to become the point person for troubleshooting software, keep it simple. If you can write the instructions out on half a piece of paper the steps are probably simple enough, however any more steps may be difficult for those who aren’t technologically inclined.

Streaming vs. Recording vs. A Middle Ground?

Explaining the pros and cons of streaming vs. recording could be a post on it’s own, but for the sake of brevity I’ll just sum up the research and walk through how we’re doing it.

To cut to the chase, just pre-record your sermons, unless you’ve already invested into live streaming. The technological bar to live stream effectively is pretty high, not to mention expensive. Some churches have opted to do Zoom’s and Facebook live, but honestly the quality of those streams kinda suck. You also loose the ability to edit mistakes or weird sounds out like you can with a pre-recorded service.

We’re also taking raw audio from the soundboard into the camera, which gives us a direct microphone feed. We’ve even discussed making these a podcast, as we already have the audio in a decent format!

We pre-record our sermons a few days in advanced, then edit them in post production. Once the videos are edited, we upload and schedule them on YouTube as a YouTube Premiere, which “streams” the video at a certain time. The “premiere” option lets everyone sit down at the same time and see the sermon. There’s also a chat option where everyone can talk! This has been our happy middle ground to streaming vs. recording, while retaining some level of “togetherness”, if you will.

Service: YouTube
Cost: $0

Why no Zoom or Facebook: Extra software / accounts required

The Film “Crew”

For our film crew, it’s one person to run the soundboard, one to run the camera, and one pastor to preach the sermon. We could easily go down to one pastor and one running the camera, or if absolutely needed just have a pastor record the sermon on their cell phone.

Thankfully jump-cuts are in style, so you can literally cut sections of video out to help with flow and it’s perfectly acceptable. It sounds simple, but your video will look soooo much better by cutting out the um’s and un-necessary pauses. Not to mention that awkward “Is this thing on?” at the beginning of every. Single. Recorded. Video.

The Software

There are tons of software for editing video, but the one that I’ve been using is Davinci Resolve. The base version is free, and unless you’re doing some super advanced edits, 99.9% of the edits are in the free version. Our other video guy prefers Adobe Premiere, but I’m a sucker for free software, especially when they support multiple OS’s, including Linux.

The biggest down side to Davinci is the learning curve, as it’s not as simple as something like iMovie or Movie Maker. You will need to look up tutorials for different things, such as how to import video, tweak different audio frequencies, or tweak the colors if the video looks flat. But it’s totally worth learning the software, because the final product will look SO much better.

If you want the simplest way to do a movie, go with iMovie or Movie Maker.

Software: Davinci Resolve, iMovie, Movie Maker

Cost: $0

The Camera

This took the most research for us, however we settled on the BlackMagic Pocket 4k and couldn’t be happier. We’re able to do some amazing things with it, and the flexibility to edit and shoot videos in .braw (think BlackMagic’s version of a .raw file for photography, but for video AND compressed). We can tweak ISO, white balances, and a bajillion other settings that I’m not even going to pretend to know. We also had to invest into other things, such as decent SD cards for UHD video, tripods, wires, and several other things, but will leave those out for now for the sake of brevity.

Another thing with the Pocket 4k is that the battery is…virtually non-existent. You might get 28, maybe 30 seconds of video if you’re lucky. In all seriousness you would get more video, but just assume that you’ll be plugging up the power. The battery really sucks, but you aren’t purchasing a video camera for it’s battery.

For the lens, we have a lens that has a high powered zoom. So powerful that we could probably count nose hairs with it. Hindsight being 20/20 (no pun intended) we would have gone with a different lens. Sadly I don’t have too much knowledge to share here, so you’ll need to consult with someone else on your lens needs. :)

Using the camera, we pre-record the sessions then upload them to YouTube. If you don’t want to drop $2k on a camera and supporting equipment, almost any cell phone camera will record at minimum of 1080p. This makes getting a high quality pre-recorded video pretty simple these days. If you aren’t able to invest into a camera, a cell phone camera is more than enough. Plus…free.

Camera + Lens: BlackMagic Pocket 4k + some lens (don’t know our model off hand)

Cost: $2k+

Free camera: A cell phone

Cost: Hey, can I borrow your cell phone?

Final Thoughts

That’s it! Record a video, cut and edit the video, then upload and schedule it to YouTube as a premiere. “Click this link at 10:30” is as simple as instructions get, as there’s no software that needs to be installed, and you don’t even need a YouTube account to watch the video. Both Zoom and Facebook Live require additional software, and for simplicity’s sake, having one step “click this” makes it easier for the less technical crowd, where remote a remote video call would seem like magic.

And now that there’s a free and simple solution…churches should not be holding in-person services. These times suck for everyone, but sometimes we need to think outside the box to make everyone safe. :)

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Ronnie T

This is me. Dystopia with a smile, stomper of fraud, caller-outer of BS. Not all Nigerians are scammers. #EndFraud #BEC #OSCP