Primer on IMAG

Many churches that I’ve been to want to do IMAG, or Image MAGnification. This term refers to basically putting any “image” on screen whether it’s words for songs or announcements or a live camera feed of the musicians on stage and the pastor in the pulpit. If this is something you’re interested in doing, there are some questions you need to answer.

1. Do you need it?

There are a lot of things that may look cool or neat to do, but will they enhance your services and worship? I’m a firm believer in having a reason for doing something, not doing it just because it’s cool or just because somebody requested it. The pastoral staff, the tech team, the church leadership, etc. need to be on board with a plan and a reason for doing IMAG.

2. To what level should you go?

Are you just interested in putting words on the screen for the songs and specials, or are you planning to offer the whole works with multiple cameras and live video effects? Here are a couple of tips regardless of what your end goal is.

Start small

Don’t go from zero to 100% right away, unless everyone is entirely behind the idea and you have the level of budget and personnel commitment needed to be successful. Consider starting with just one camera, or just doing the words on screen. As much as you might want to go to full on production IMAG, wait just a minute and make certain that you have everything and everyone on board!

Don’t think small

What?! You just said start small! Correct, I did, but take the time to consider where you eventually want to go, so that you select your gear accordingly. Plan to buy equipment you can grow into. It actually saves you money in the long run since when it’s time to grow, you won’t have to buy more powerful gear.

3. Do you have the people committed to making this happen?

Here’s a tip: if you can’t get people to faithfully show up to turn on one microphone on Sunday morning, IMAG is not for you. A good video program with multiple cameras needs multiple people to run it. For example, if you have 3 cameras, you’ll need a camera tech for each camera (unless you fork out for more expensive remote-controlled pan/tilt/zoom cameras—more on that below), a director who is calling the shots, and a switch operator who is pushing the shots to the screen… in other words, a total of 5 people for 3 cameras. IMAG requires high personnel commitment.

4. Do you have the budget to go to the desired level, do it right, and sustain it?

Equipment for IMAG can range from a simple computer connected to a projector with free software to multiple multi-thousand dollar HD camera rigs, jib booms, pricey software, hardware, a separate control room, and a large staff to run it. It takes what it takes. And if you buy cheap gear, you will come to regret it! There are some places in the A/V world where you can cut corners; this is not one of them.

Additional Thoughts

Avoid being a distraction. You want to enhance and aid the worship not upstage or distract from it. I’ve been to services where they have cameras on screen with multiple angles and effects going, and many times it’s nothing more than a lot of distraction. Believe it or not, some of the best IMAG I’ve seen was done by one camera operator who was really trained to follow the action and do it well!

Be careful with remote-controlled cameras. Pan/Tilt/Zoom (PTZ) cameras are a wonderful innovation that allow a single operator to control multiple cameras inconspicuously. However in a moving shot the human touch is much more appealing than a mechanical motion when seen on screen. So if you use PTZ cameras, make sure you have a suitable wide shot you can fall back to when your subject moves out of the frame to avoid a jerky, mechanical motion on screen.

IMAG and production video are different. Normally you will want to use the same cameras and shots to create the video that you are sending out to your stream or recording. Although there you can do some artistic things like creative transitions, unique angles, etc. those types of effects are very distracting in the world of IMAG. It might be a good idea to “freeze” one shot on screen while you do some of those effects for your stream or recording. Or maybe consider just keeping your video simple and clean so that it works for both.

There’s a lot to consider. If you need some help selecting gear or even just figuring out where you need to be, as always Ministry Tech would be thrilled to be able to help you. We have years of both production and IMAG experience and are certain that we can use that to serve you. Give us a shout!

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