– Ben Martens

Online Church Services

Pastor, Dave (our main organist) and I have been rapidly figuring out how to put together online church services more efficiently. The first week was Pastor recording from his laptop in his living room but now we’re doing full services recorded at church with multiple camera angles, music, hymns, and liturgy. It’s far from a professional operation and this makes me want to upgrade our gear even more, but we’re certainly doing a lot with what we have available.

Here’s our basic flow for the week:

  • Pastor records the liturgy and children’s sermon. Those get copied to the computer at church and then it slowly uploads it to our Backblaze cloud backup provider so that I can download it. I usually have the files by Wednesday or Thursday. There is an MP4 file from each of the camcorders and the audio from the mics ends up on a DVD.
  • Pastor records the next day and sends those to me the same way.
  • Dave records pre and post service music along with all of the hymns and liturgy. He can get a WAV output file from his organ/computer at home and those files go on Dropbox.
  • As the files come in from Pastor, I strip the audio out of the DVD files, align it with each of the video files and then I align the video files with each other so I can switch camera angles.
  • From there I watch all the video, cut out the spots where Pastor may have done multiple takes, and remove all the points where the cameras are being moved, etc.
  • For the hymns and Dave’s music, I need to have something to display on screen. We’re using only the public domain hymns so I’m able to get images of the hymns and display those.
  • That would be sufficient but I’ve been adding some polish on them as well:
    • Normalize the audio. Speaking is -7dB and organ is -10dB.
    • Run a dialogue processor over Pastor’s audio to try and clean it up a little. Our microphone setup is really basic. It sounds fine in church but on a recording, it’s not great. This helps a tiny amount.
    • Add titles at various points in the service.
    • Sometimes I’ll do a little color correction on the video and I try to rotate it to make sure it’s perfectly aligned.
    • At any point where the viewers are invited to sing along, I started making animated highlights that show what is being sung.
    • Add subtitles for all Bible readings and the Apostles Creed
  • Once everything is done, I render the video to a single MP4 file. Thanks to my new PC build, this only takes about 15-20 minutes. I end up with a file between 1.5 and 2GB.
  • That file gets uploaded to both YouTube and Facebook. We get better numbers when the files are posted in each place natively instead of posting a link to YouTube from Facebook. Each of those videos needs to have all the metadata tags filled out and I make a description with timecodes for each key point in the service. Then I pick a thumbnail and schedule the release for 8am on Sunday morning.

Then I’m done! With any luck I’m done early afternoon on Saturday, but we’re getting better and Pastor is moving his schedule up so I think that soon I’ll have a week where I’m done by Friday.

Then on Sunday morning, I sit down with Tyla and Elijah to watch the service. I try hard to focus on the message but in the back of my mind I’m always cringing a little bit wondering if there’s going to be some huge mistake in the video. So far so good.