A Realistic Approach to Video for Church Plant and Church Planters

This week I was contacted by a good friend who is starting a new church about how we do video.  After spending several hours compiling a list of options and then writing a long email explaining the options, I realized that this is information I wish was more easily accessible when was church planting.  So I have decided to share the contents of that email with you.  If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below!


To start off with let me give you my opinion of the equipment by order of importance

  1. The Camera:  This is the most important thing you can spend your money on.  I am a big fan of the DSRL options.  Whether you buy a t5i or a Panasonic GH5 or a Sony AS7ii the MAIN REASON I like the DSLR cameras is because increase the chances of quality and options over time with the second most important thing on your list.
  2. The Lens: There is a reason film is classically recorded in 35mm.  It’s what looks most like what you see out of your eyes.  Most of the above cameras come with a great kit lens, but if you want to take things to the next level, there is no shortage of options you have for spending money on lenses.  And an upgrade in lens will give you SIGNIFICANTLY better video than only upgraded the body.  
  3. AUDIO:  This is where some people put lighting.  I disagree because you can create good lighting with things you already have, but recording video just from the on camera mic is TERRIBLE!  Audio (and the background music if you choose) to put behind it is what takes a video from “ehhh…” to “wow…that was great!”   At a minimum you can use a shotgun mic that you plug into your camera (which is the easiest option because you don’t have to sync audio to video in post production) or you can go "fancy pants" and record audio separately via a portable recorder.  
  4. LIGHTING: This is last on the list because you can use things such as window, or lighting like this (http://www.homedepot.com/p/75-Watt-Incandescent-Clamp-Light-HD-200PDQ/205139241) that we used in the early days…and I bet most people can’t tell the difference from when we went from that to the upgraded soft boxes.  I will say that with the advent of LED lighting panels, if I had to do again I would NOT do soft boxes but panels simply because the soft boxes are awkward to store and transport because of their size.  

With that said, here are a few options you have for video.  I’ll start with exactly what we use to create videos. Following this I will create 1) a recommended list on a budget or $1000 2) a “realistic best case scenario”  list that won’t break the bank but will require more than a $1000 budget.

WHAT WE USE (Not recommended)
Below is a list of things we currently use.  I do not recommend this but I thought it would be helpful for you to know what we are using and why we use it.  

The tripod we use is a video tripod, not a camera tripod.  We did this because of my experience with both.  Camera tripods tend to be way too flimsy and don’t work well when you want to pan and tilt while recording.

The camera we use for most of our videos is  Canon t3i.  This is a discontinued camera but you can still find them out there.  The price they are going for isn’t much less than the newer t5i that replaced it and I would recommend the t5i just because of some of the upgrades.  In the first three years we used the kit 18-55mm lens.  Most of our videos were shot on this.  As of 2017 any new videos are shot on the Sigma Art Lens.  This lens is AMAZING and is how our newer videos look super artistic.  But if all you are doing are interview videos I don’t recommend for now, simply because it is an $800 lens.

With the camera I use a battery grip simply because it extends the battery life of the camera.  I learned this the hard way that there is nothing worse than having to switch batteries in the middle of an interview.  To me, this is a no brainer.  Also, I have NOT had success with 3rd party batteries.  I started with them because they were so much cheaper, but I kept on having super short batter length and they also talked funny to the camera so that the battery indicator wasn’t really telling the actual life of the battery.  I only use Canon Brand batteries in the camera for that purpose

The SD card I use is the best “bang for buck” and is also rated at a speed you will want for recording video.  Do not get a card SLOWER than this.  You can try other brands, but Transcend is a really reliable brand.  I think I own about 4-5 of these cards.  They have been excellent

The shotgun mic we use is hooked up to the audio recorder that we picked up on a guitar center flash sale (you can subscribe to the “flash sale emails via guitarcenter.com”.  I think we got the audio recorder it for something like $99…killer deal.  But after having used it for almost 4 years I would gladly pay retail for it.  It has help up remarkably and we also use it as the backup recorder (you can use a primary) for recording messages on Sunday.  This is also one of the most expensive things in our kit, but to me audio is the second most important thing to the camera.

The K&M mic stand is what we use.  As I told you in our call, DO NOT CHEAP OUT ON THIS.  We started with one of these stands 4 years ago and a bunch of 5 for $50 stands and we have replaced all of the cheap stands 2-3 times over.  The original K&M stand is still in use…and I got that one used!


OPTION 1: ($1000 Budget)

  • T5i with kit lens (18-55mm) 
  • SD CARD for Camera
  • Mic Kit:  Pros: this comes with everything you need and you can even mount this on camera for a portable solution and is WAY better than the onboard mic built in the camera an it also plugs directly into camera so you don’t have to sync audio in post production  Cons: while better than the onboard mic, it does not replace the quality of a dedicated shotgun mic that utilizes and XLR out instead of an 1/8” out.  Also, the onboard audio mixing option on your camera will NOT be as good as a dedicated audio recorder.  Good for now, but not flexible for later.
  • Audio Recorder: Because of all the things I mentioned before I still highly recommend a dedicated audio recorder. You will also find use for this in many other applications (recording sermons, podcasts, etc…)
  • Video Tripod (you can go cheaper with a basic tripod if you don’t see yourself doing a lot of pan/tilt or follow of a moving person)
  • Lighting: Get 3 of these cheap light options below and you’re set!  If you use incandescent bulb you can always diffuse the light by placing a thin white cloth (think bedsheets) over it 
  • ALTERNATE LIGHTING: If you forgot the video tripod and goes with a cheap tripod, you can afford a simple softbox kit like this. I DO NOT recommend the soft box kit where each soft box is only lit with one bulb.  I recommend the ones that come with 4 bulbs and the ability to turn 2 sets of bulbs (each set is 2 bulbs obviously) on or off.
  • iMovie or Premier Elements for editing: Mac users have movie for free.  PC users, I would recommend Premier Elements


If you are able to “fundraise” for the extra costs, these extra things will not only last you for years (at least 3…because that’s how old Clarity Church is) but will also make recording easier and the quality at which you record to be better.  Just a pointer, when you are able to record good footage,  you spend less time in post production making the footage look good.  You can cheap on equipment, but you may be spending more time trying (and even failing) to make your video up to the quality you would want.  TOTAL COST IS $1,440.61.  If you go with the LED panels instead of the soft box, the price looks more like $1,502.61.  The cost for software is separate but I tell you what that is at the bottom of the list


So that’s that…let me know if you have any questions!

Phillip SantillanComment