Live Worship Videos: Amateur vs Professional

Worship Video BlogI’m a worship leader. I like to watch videos that were recorded during live worship recordings. More and more of these seem to be done because technology has made it easy. So, why not video the recording too? It seems that every church large enough to do a worship album also has the equipment to produce a video of that recording, but many of these videos are amateur productions at best. 

Just because you have a switcher doesn’t mean you should produce a video of your worship recording. Owning a camera doesn’t make you a professional photographer any more than being in a garage makes you a car or being in a church makes you a Christian. I’m not even talking about the smaller mega church (1000-4000 people) who is just trying to continually improve. Many of the high-profile worship recordings could put more effort into the video side of what they do.
Rather than gripe about all the poor worship recording videos I see, I want to point out a group that clearly knows the difference between amateur and professional. Elevation Worship videos leave me wanting to go back and watch the video again. The quality is good. I can learn from what the worship team does and experience the atmosphere of the recordings without being distracted by poor production choices. The producer captures the heart of the worship songs without detracting from it by drawing unnecessary attention to the rock star leader, the cool video move, or the big budget stage design – although all those things are included. 

Right out of high school, I attended a Bible College that is well-known primarily for missions and worship. Worship wasn’t my primary focus at this school. What impacted me the most was what I learned about the world of video production. I attended before-school classes that started at 7:00 AM to learn what I could about video production. This was an easy decision because I was already working with a television ministry as an extra hand. It also made it easy because the quality of videos that this school produced was excellent and stood out as such for that time.

One of the first things my professor, Christopher Holt, asked was,”What’s the difference between a professional and an amateur?” The answer was simple but profound. “Both break the rules, but the professional does it intentionally.”

Back then, when we would go to produce a worship album, it wasn’t enough to have professional gear – although there certainly was that. It was important enough to bring in professional crew members.

Having all the professional gear you can imagine will not promise a professional product.

Worship videos that get a lot of hits on YouTube today may do so simply because the worship leader and the musicians are professional for their vocation or because the songwriter has put together something excellent. Next time you watch a worship video, look at the production value and ask yourself if you believe it was done with the care and excellence it deserved.

Elevation Worship gets my stamp of approval.

When I watch their videos, I can see that they didn’t just bring in volunteers or hire students in training to produce their videos that would undoubtedly be seen by hundreds of thousands of people. They brought in professionals. Sure they break some of the same rules that amateurs break, but you can tell the difference.

Here are some things to look for when watching these quality videos:

  • Does the movement of the camera work draw attention to the camera work or the subject being recorded?
  • Is the handheld work intentionally bumpy or was that just the best the cameraman could do so they decided it was intentional?
  • Did they go overboard with some cool touch that they saw somewhere else but didn’t know how to implement it tastefully into their production?
  • Was there effort placed to capture the members of the band in a way that shows what they do? People like to learn from those who have already “arrived.” 
  • Do the cameras match in color? Is that color intentional or did they leave it at a good white balance setting?
  • If they put forth the extra effort to do color grading, was it done well?
  • Is there a good mixture of establishing shots and close up personal ones? It’s helpful to the viewer to see the big picture atmosphere of where the recording took place. This is more than just showing that they had a lot of people in the crowd. 
  • Is there a good mixture of worshipers from the crowd included? Sometimes they have to focus on a handful of “favorites” because they can’t find enough people really worshiping. That could be laziness or it could just be the reality of that live event. Having a good mix also minimizing the chance of that particular song being about how it impacted a single individual. 
When worship recording videos draw too much attention to one area, it makes it less about the one true God that those worshippers are worshipping. So the next time you take part in a worship recording, don’t let the video aspect be an afterthought.

What do you think? What are your experiences in watching worship videos or participating in creating them? If you’ve been less than professional in the past, don’t worry. I have a few “amateur” stories of my own that aren’t so flattering.

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