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Video Recording Church Service 101

So you are sitting in church thinking, man I would love it if my friend could hear this message, or see this baptism, or wedding, or funeral etc. If you’re my wife you are thinking oh boy here he goes again.

The question is how would you produce a video from a church service. Well first of all, unless your church is blessed with a plethora of geeks you better keep it simple. Second, unless your church is hosting bingo on Friday nights your budget will most likely be tight.

So with a tight budget, not a lot of video techs hanging around looking to spend hours and hours of time editing video, here is what I did.

First, I asked myself, really what is the result I am looking for. Second, how can I achieve the result. Third, how can I improve the result. Fourth, how can I maintain the result. Seriously sometimes I really do over think things.

Here are the ideas I came up with:

Video source

1st idea, 3 cameras with a video mixer board, this would be expensive and complicated to run.

2nd idea, 1 camera with pan tilt. I saw this in Calgary First church, loved the idea. It is simple to control the camera with presets and easy to capture the video.

The next issue was how to capture the video and audio

1st idea, simply use a DVD recorder, easy to do, and inexpensive. The issue was how to make the video available online.

2nd idea, use a combo of DVD recorder and computer. Still simple, but a bit more complex with the computer, capturing video and posting.

3rd idea, use computer with a video capture card to create a DVD. Same as the 2nd idea just less devices and things to think about when running the equipment, also it will allow us to create and audio CD as well which we normally do. Lastly it will automate the uploading of audio and video files to the Internet.

So using the idea of a single camera and computer. The question was what equipment to use. For the camera that was a simple call my brother (a broadcast engineer) and ask him. He suggested a Sony SNC-Z50 from The computer also turned out to be easy. We were upgrading our Projector computer, so I was able to use the old one. Note one thing about the computer it will need to be at least a 64bit machine to do all the video crunching, I tried a P4, it worked but was to slow.  We purchased a Haupauge HVR-2200 card mpeg2 encoder off eBay.

Now with all the equipment, the next step is to create the logic behind the steps for capturing and uploading the service. I am not sure about the restrictions on copy right. So to stay away from the copyright laws we only post the sermon to the Internet. The DVD and audio CD will have the whole service. So we need to be able to detect when the sermon starts and ends. (I was thinking about a optical detector on the Service Leaders mic switch, so when it was turned on it would time stamp the video file) Currently for the audio CD I have the sound person press the N key on the computer which causes a new track. With this in mind here are the steps I took to make this work.

Using Linux (you could use Windows as well), with Apache Web server, I created a web interface to get all the service info, ie service or sermon name, service leader etc. Next I have a webpage using iframes this allows me to create a button on the top of the screen to start recording, mark sermon, end recording and display the camera and controls in the main screen. The camera page allows the camera to be moved to 20 preset positions, or to use the mouse to move the camera for those wandering Pastors.

I record the button clicks as time stamps and use them to split the video into 3 parts(chapters). Next I have a script that creates an audio CD, mp3 of the sermon, uploads the MP3 to our website, DVD of service, video file of sermon and uploads it to YouTube, posting link on website. The Audio CD takes approx 5 minutes to create. This allows the Sound person to make copies in the DVD/CD duplicator and pass out (not literally) to members as they drink coffee. The DVD burn takes longer so we wait until the following week and duplicated it during the service.

For wiring for the camera I used 2 cat5e wires, one for Internet connection, second one for video via balun and power. I had to remove trim from a beam tuck the wires behind the trim, thank full John was driving by with and airgun as the beam was 15’ high.

Total cost approx $1000.00, and a bit of time, unless you ask my wife then it was a lot of time.

I really do like the idea of keeping things simply with using DVD recorders, and if I where not a programming guru I would look at the Sony VRD-MC6. You can do the same for an Audio CD, some DVD recorder will create Audio CD as well. The cons are computer DVD burners are relatively inexpensive, with the DVD recorders have proprietary hardware plus it is more work to upload content to the Internet. And the last con is you still need a controller for the camera, which could be a simple PTZ controller or computer, which just adds more costs.


Andrew, thank you so much for sharing such detailed information. This will be very helpful for others as they research and begin video recording at their church. I have referenced your entry in my blog, "What Do You Know About Video?" in the Church & Web section of The Network.

Andrew, thanks for the post.  The church that I work as campus ministry director at just recently did a remodel and added video recording capabilities.  We are still working through some of the bugs and figuring out the best way to get things done.  Since we don't really have a programmer, I think some of  your ideas, which sound awesome are probably beyond us.  Anyways, that's not what my comment is about.  Like you, we also  use a Hauppauge card to record, although it is different from yours.  What I am wondering is what software you are using to do the actual recording.  Right now we are using the softward that came with the Hauppauge card.  However, the issue we have been having is that after we record three or four services it seems to "max out" or something and when we are done recording a service there is only like 4 seconds that get saved.  But if we move the recordings out of the default folder so that it is empty again, then the problem is solved.  I haven't had a chance to investigate this well, but I would be interested in knowing of a better piece of software out there that we could use.  Preferably open-source.  Thanks for your help!



Andrew Nutma on November 16, 2011

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

That sounds like an interesting problem. Maybe a simple solution would be to to have a batch script to move the files on startup? I am curiuos what OS and capture card you are using? Currently I am using Ubuntu with ffmpeg which is an opensource program. There is a windows version as well


Andrew, precious greetings. Could you please send me a copy of the script and a how to setup a web server?

Many thx for your labor of love.


Andrew Nutma on July 23, 2012

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Sorry for the delay. Here is a link to my google doc

It has all my notes including scripts, when I get a chance I will update them to clarify all the steps needed to make a functional system.

Thanks Andrew

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