I have been around churches that deploy cameras and screens for several years now, and that experience has helped me to form some opinions on how IMAG (image magnification) is best utilized in a worship environment. (Note to new readers; I also spent many years in live television production, so I have a detailed understanding of the major differences between a live, stage-based production and production that is designed for video) If you have thoughts (similar or different), please feel free to leave comments here and make this a discussion.
Here are some thoughts for directors in random order:
What is your priority? Is it to add to the live worship environment or is it for a recording/broadcast? If your primary objective is to enhance the worship environment in your live experience, then consider the literal term, “magnification”… your images should show things on stage that are not readily visible to most of your audience… to me, this means faces more than anything. Shots of worship leaders, musicians and pastors should be no wider than waist-up. Most worship centers that I have seen are designed in a such way that if you frame up your pastor on screen head-to-toe, he will be the same size or smaller on screen than he is to look at him on stage. Bigger is better! Wide shots defeat the whole purpose of IMAG.
Let the worship leader LEAD! It is difficult for your audience to follow along in singing when they’re watching a lot of unnecessary cutting around. I have come to believe that your worship leader should get most of the face time during worship so that he or she can truly lead your people. The combination of the strongest voice and on-screen lyrics is the best way to encourage your people to engage in worship.
Listen. Listening is critical for the entire service: During worship/music it is all about timing. A good director should have a good running knowledge of the regular songs in the worship team’s repetoir. This will allow for good coverage of vocal and instrumental solos, transitions, and the big finish. A well covered worship set looks intentional; like the camera shots are as planned as the music is. Listening during the sermon/teaching is just as critical. A good director will learn his pastor’s style, quirks, and “tells”. Consider that you are being trusted to help your pastor preach his sermon! If you have screens in your auditorium, most people are looking at them; always do your best to present the message with great care.
Bottom line: I was once asked, “What is your theology of technology?”. What a great question! If no one has ever asked you that, think about it now. My answer might surprise some: As much as I love what I do, from the creative to the production to the live production, I always want it to be a value-add to the whole worship experience. If the cameras, screens, or videos ever become a distraction to the whole reason that we worship, SHUT IT ALL OFF! These things are wonderful tools… just tools! If people start showing up at our churches to watch TV, we’ve missed the boat some where. Work with your pastor on establishing realistic expectations for IMAG in your church and it will be a great way to compliment your services.