Write a sermon. Check.
Record sermon on video. After so many weeks of pandemic preaching, Friday has become production day. These are notes on how I accomplished that task today.
Decide on a setting. I’m asking myself if this sermon calls for a particular backdrop. Last week I filmed on location because the crescendo of the sermon landed at a particular sprout of wildflowers in a rain downspout downtown. This week’s sermon references divisive issues. I better keep it in the sanctuary so that all the “us vs. them” topics I raise are contained somewhat by this communal space. Plus, I can’t really think of anything else that would fit this sermon.
Decide on the tech. I want a soft, unfocused background in the video. I have no grand theological decision for this. It just looks cool, and I haven’t tried for this effect yet. I have to keep some element of fun in this for me, and it’ll be a learning experience. A blurred background will require using my good camera with a fast lens rather than my phone or iPad.
Pack the gear. Take the camera, obviously. Plus, it’s always good to have an extra fresh battery. Since I’ve made the decision to use the camera, I know I won’t be able to use the teleprompter app. I print out my sermon in 16 point font so I can read the hard copy out of frame. I’ll need lighting so I pack a light and tripod. I don’t know where all the outlets are in the sanctuary so I’ll need a long extension cord. Pack the digital recorder for audio along with its gorilla pod and I’m good to go. The choice to get a blurred background drives this audio choice. I know I will be sitting several feet away from the camera so a lavalier mic plugged into the camera is not feasible
Set up. The first thing I need to do is look through the camera and frame things out. The camera, me, and the backdrop need to be spaced apart correctly in order to produce the soft background I’m going for, and to frame a medium shot. I was in some close ups last week, and I think everyone could use a break from seeing the pores on my face. After I decide where the camera will be, I set up the light. While not absolutely necessary, the extra light will reduce the shadow on the side of my face opposite the sanctuary’s windows. The last time I filmed in the sanctuary, I forgot to light the altar candles. I’m cognizant of that, but today finds the chancel area with two grand pianos situated for a duet. Nice. I won’t need to forget to light the candles.
Record. I take a couple of test shots for fine tuning. I need to be off-center in the frame for a couple of reasons. First, off-center holds more visual appeal. Second, I know I’ll want to add in the text of the Scripture reading to the video in post, and maybe an image or two. Being off-center allows for some space in the frame to add things. Lastly I make sure that the frame won’t cut my head off, and that my script is out of frame. Now I’m ready to go. I get it all done in four clips. Not bad. I’ve learned the hard way that going for one take only leads to frustration. I discovered that since I was using a tall stool to sit on, the framing allowed for me to stand as well if I wanted. I ended up choosing to read the Gospel lesson standing up, a high-church tradition that counterbalances my casual shirt. I also like to have some visual demarcation between the reading of Scripture and the sermon.
Edit and post to YouTube. I got the shot I wanted with a blurred background. A little more blur would have been nice. The video was a little overexposed, and my green shirt looks blue, but color grading video is a world I don’t really want to enter right now. Not to harp on my shirt, but the sweat showed up on camera too. Even in the morning, the sanctuary is warm since the thermostat is in low power mode while the building is not being used. Using a teleprompter, or taping a script next to the camera makes a difference. I am looking up and down a lot in the finished video. I also speak much more slowly with a manuscript than with the teleprompter. Viewers of this sermon will no doubt have me on 1.5x speed. I know I would. Oh, well. It’s not horrible enough to redo. Videos, like a pre-pandemic sermons, have to go on whether you think they are finished or not.