Digital Ministry – Working with Video

More and more churches are needing to minister through multimedia at the moment. Here are some tips from what I’ve learned over the last few months:

The common standard for modern video work is HD – this comes in various flavours, but it is best to work in Full HD, also known as HD 1080 – this creates landscape-format video images which are 1,920 pixels wide and 1,080 pixels high. The aspect ratio is 16:9. This means that:

  • If contributors are shooting contributions using their mobile phones, consider asking them to shoot in landscape orientation.
  • If you need a still image to embed into a video, it should ideally by 1,920×1,080 pixels or at least cropped to a 16:9 aspect ratio.

Video editing software can be choosy about which kinds of video it will accept. MP4 and QuickTime seem to be formats that can be easily used.

To CONVERT video files, the best (free) tool I have discovered is Handbrake. I was a little uncertain when I first found it – what’s with the cheesy pineapple logo and the very name? – but I have found it works well in practice and converts video with fewer glitches and quality loss problems than any other tool. It can certainly handle MPG files and VOB files – if you have the kind of DVD which plays automatically on a DVD player, the footage on it will probably in VOB format. Needless to say, you should respect others’ copyright and not rip material which you have no right to use.

To VIEW video files, VLC player is a (free) player which is very flexible and can play videos in slow and fast motion – helpful if you need to transcribe what someone is saying. VLC can transcode files between formats but I haven’t found the ease-of-use or output quality as good as Handbrake.

To EDIT video files, Da Vinci Resolve (free) is an amazing product. It seemed far too good to be true, but it’s legit: the parent company makes its money by taking a premium if you want to unlock 4K capability and by selling compatible hardware. You can add backing audio, cut video clips into sections, paste them where you want, add stills, create captions and rolling credits – all for free! When you are ready to ‘render’ your finished product, take care: the software defaults to ‘maximum’ rate but it’s best to set 25% if you don’t want your computer to freeze!

To BROADCAST live video, if you are using a PC and not streaming directly from a mobile device, use OBS Studio (free). The best camera available to you may well be a phone or tablet – you can install a 3rd party app (NOT free) on an Apple device and the associated plugin. I haven’t tried with an Android device but apparently this 3rd party app and these instructions could work. If you need to connect a church sound system to a PC I’ve had success with the Komplete Audio 1 device.

If you want to feed your OBS mix into a Zoom, Skype, Webex or other live video call, you can turn the OBS output into a ‘virtual camera’ so your live-stream can pick it up. On this page, click the “Go to download” button on the top right.

If you’re running an event over Zoom, and are using images (videos, presentations etc.) it’s best to have separate devices for presenting and managing guests, otherwise your presenter screen could be affected by mouse-movements and pop-ups when guests enter, leave, raise hands, etc.

If you use a PC to project words onto a screen and want the same words to come up in a window on your live broadcast, which is being streamed by a different PC on your same network, you can use OBS with a NDI-Newtek plugin to capture the screen of the projection PC as a source for the broadcast PC. The layout isn’t very clear but look on the right side of the download page for a green lozenge saying ‘latest’, click that and scroll down for the .pkg (Mac) or .exe (Windows) versions. If you use Linux I assume you’ll know what to look for! Then watch this instruction video on how to make use of the plugins. Warning: if your projection machine is a laptop, there are known issues with capturing a laptop screen (because different hardware drives the built-in screen and the external screen port) so you may have to capture the projection software window instead.