During these months of COVID restrictions, we have had to find new ways to engage our musicians in using their gifts to help people worship. We have also seen that online engagement has greatly increased and, in the future, we will need to lean into online ministry possibilities, even more, to reach our world for Christ. One idea that I had the pleasure of working with is a Good Friday online service project of one of our NC Baptist churches. They realized that an online service could reach not only their church people but could also be a vehicle by which their people could share this powerful message easily across social media platforms with their friends, family, coworkers, etc. The concept for the project was to have five 4-minute messages interspersed with music that people could sing at home. As the planning team brainstormed, the project grew to the concept of producing music videos of the song segments rather than just have a worship leader or team recorded from the sanctuary. This would provide more visual and audible appeal and make the impact more powerful.
In the post-COVID days to come, the church will need to continue to lean strongly into their online ministries, giving them much emphasis to reach people in new and innovative ways. We should look for creative ways to utilize our worship ministries to engage people online with the message of the gospel.
Below is the entire service that was posted by Friendly Avenue Baptist Church in Greensboro. I encourage you to watch the video from beginning to end to experience it to its fullest. I have also stitched together a brief video that gives you the feel for the different parts of the video. As I will describe, producing a video like this does not require expensive equipment or software. It is in the scope of any of our churches that have someone with someone teachable in tech skills with minimal equipment needs.
My hope in sharing this project is that it will open up your creativity to find ways to both engage people with the message of Christ and find exciting ways to involve your worship ministry personnel in this new era ahead.
The video below shows very brief clips from each portion of the full video to give you a quick feel for the project.
Pastor Daniel Dickard wanted the church to have an online Good Friday service that families could watch together and intentionally invite other to view. The overall plan was to provide five brief messages that take the viewer through the steps to the cross. Five different people were asked to provide the brief messages. Music would be interspersed between each of the messages and an gospel invitation would be added at the end as well as a welcome at the beginning. Chris White, Director of Communications and Media for the church, would be recording all the videos of people speaking and pass them along to me to stitch the service together. Chris and I would later brainstorm together on the use of additional video elements to include in the service (more later).
As I began my task of selecting the songs and recording the videos, I did not want to merely record the worship team singing the songs in the sanctuary–the normal Sunday morning look. I wanted something more engaging and appealing to the viewer. I decided that producing the videos in differing settings would be more captivating. In order to do that, I realized that the audio would have to be captured in a studio setting since it would be practically impossible to obtain a good recording outdoors with people moving around. Secondly, if the people are going to lip-sync, then using a live band would have to be precise with a click track so that it can be precisely followed in all the subsequent recordings as the singers lip-sync. The church has the CCLI Streaming Pro license, so I realized we could use LifeWayWorship tracks for the songs legally, and this would be a better route to go for this project. Using these tracks makes editing so much easier and syncing from one setting to another.
The plan I settled on was:
- Choose the four songs from LifeWayWorship to use in the service.
- Purchase the vocal charts, listening demos, and stereo tracks for each piece.
- Determine who I wanted to sing each piece, contact them, share the concept and provide resources for their preparation.
- Set a date on which the singers would come to my makeshift studio to record their song. This session would be audio and video recorded.
- After the recording, we immediately would go to the destination for the additional takes to be lip-synced and recorded.
- I wanted to capture several different settings that can provide variety in the music videos.
Selecting the Songs and Singers
As I searched LifeWayWorship’s extensive catalog of songs, I selected several that I thought would work well for the project. I wanted a variety of old hymns, modern hymns, modern worship songs, etc. I also wanted to involve several generations of singers. For some of the singers I provided a single song and asked them if they would do that. Others I gave a choice of songs to see which worked best for them. I sent them the resources to learn the songs ahead of time.
Capturing the Audio
To make the best sounding recording, I knew I would need to isolate each voice. Since I was using a backing track, the recording was much easier, only having to make a quality recording of 2-3 voices for each song. I had a Behringer XR18 digital mixer that allowed me to connect to a laptop to record directly into a DAW (digital audio workstation/audio software)–I used Reaper for this project. You could also capture the audio in other ways that allow you to capture an mp3 or WAV file of the voices. A digital mixer such as the XR18 is particularly made to handle these kinds of jobs. If you do not have the ability to make separate recordings, you can make a recording with the combined voices–you just have to mix the levels well on the fly and you won’t have the ability to do much post-production work–but you can still produce a fine project.
I used a classroom at the church, set up 2-3 microphones and connected my laptop running Reaper to the XR18. I ran the tracks from an iPad into the XR18. To provide sound isolation (very important), I had the singers wear in-ear monitors (earbuds) that allowed them to hear the track and the vocals; this allowed my recording to have only their voices without any track sound captured. You could also merely have every singer wear one earbud for the track and have their other ear available to hear the voices. To achieve the in-ear monitoring, I connected an inexpensive headphone amp to one of the XR18s bus outputs so I could give them a good mix in their ears. I found these inexpensive in-ear monitors to work well.
Capturing the Video
This is where much creativity comes to play. As I looked at other music videos, I determined that I wanted the camera to be moving throughout the video rather than positioned on a tripod with the singers standing in one place. I wanted the singers to be stationary at times and to be moving at other times. I discovered that my iPhone shoots amazing video, so decided to do the entire project with my phone. To achieve the look I wanted with the moving camera shooting the video, I found that I needed a gimbal. After lots of investigation, I determined that DJIA Osmo Mobile 3 was perfect for this job. The $120 investment in this piece of gear was well worth it and will continue to be used in future projects. You can find many YouTube videos that will give you creative ideas for using a gimbal. Here are two that I found helpful: 1 and 2.
While the singers were recording the audio for the project, I was also walking around the room with the iPhone on the gimbal filming their studio time. You will see shots from the studio on a few occasions in the final video.
We next went to locations around the church or in parks or gardens to film the additional takes. I took an iPad with the tracks for the song and a Bluetooth speaker to the locations. I would hide the speaker near the singers and start the track and they would sing along. I would be moving and filming through the entire song. In some cases, I would just film one verse or a chorus in a location before moving on. The advantage of filming the entire song in several locations is that you have lots of choices for shots in the song and can easily switch between scenes in the video editing as I will describe later. I tried to achieve variety in the scenes and the types of camera movement.
Admittedly, I see lots that can be improved in my video capture. I did not have time to work with the gimbal ahead of time to get really comfortable with what it can do, so at times the video was a bit too jumpy. That is where multiple takes were a blessing such that if something was not useable, I could merely switch to another take. Despite the flaws, I still feel good about the finished project.
Now is the time we take the audio and video recordings and put it all together into a finished product.
Reaper software has some great effects plugins to make the vocals sound fuller. I took each vocal and added some EQ, compression, reverb and delay. The difference before and after the adding of effects was dramatic. I then deleted any sounds that should not have been there (throat clearing, gasping breaths, etc,) and balanced the voices and the track. I separated the voices slightly in the stereo field so you can more easily “see” the separate voices as you listen. Once I was satisfied with the sound of the audio track, I output the results to a stereo WAV file to use in the final video.
Now the fun begins! I used the powerful and awesome free video editor DaVinci Resolve to produce the final video; you will find many great tutorials on YouTube that will get you up to speed quickly. I loaded the WAV file from the audio editing and then imported all the video I shot of the project. One by one I stacked the videos in Resolve and synced them to the audio. Once all the videos were synced, I could begin editing–choosing which scene would play at what times–realizing that you can have multiple scenes in one verse if you desire. Lots of creativity can be employed here. Once you achieve the look you want, you can export the finalized video.
To add lyrics to the video I used ProPresenter. I set up the slides to be one line in height and used a green screen that could be removed in Resolve. ProPresenter has a feature to record your output, so I began recording, played the track and advance the lyrics. I took the outputted video and synced it in Resolve.
You can also use your finished video as the background in ProPresenter and superimpose the lyrics on the outputted file, but I found that there was loss of clarity in the video going this easier way.
- In the outdoor videos, I added some bird sounds (with copyright permission) to the track to make it feel more recorded on location. I also added rushing water sounds to the scene taken by a creek. This gave it more authenticity as if the audio was actually shot on location as well.
- The guitar in one of the videos was also recorded in the studio session. In that video, the guitar is the prominent instrument in the mix. I chose to keep the other instruments less strong for a more acoustic feel.
The church and the BSCNC have the basic CCLI license and the new Streaming Plus license that is required for using backing tracks in an online service. Any sound effects audio used in the project was obtained with copyright permission to use in the project. There are many sites that have royalty-free tracks for your use in these projects.
Putting It All Together
As I mentioned, the initial plan was to have an introduction, 5 short messages, an invitation and four songs. As Chris and I brainstormed, we decided to add some additional short videos to make it more impacting. The church has a subscription to Igniter Media and most of the videos can legally be embedded in online services. We selected three videos to include in the service along with a bumper to use at the beginning and end to tie it all together. Here is the outline I used to put the entire project together:
- VIDEO – Easter Journey – Good Friday Title Graphics
- Laura – Introduction
- VIDEO – Wounds
- Evan “Upper Room”: Mt. 26:17-30; Mk 14:17-21; Lk. 22:1-38; John 13:1-38
- SONG: God So Loved – Chris, Stu, Mary
- Chris “Garden of Gethsemane”: Mt. 26:36-56; Mk. 14:22-52; Lk. 22:39-62; John 18:1-11
- SONG – O the Blood – Ashley, Kelly, Connie
- Steve “Before the Court”: Mt. 25:57-27:26; Mk. 14:43-15:15; Lk. 22:66-23:25; John 18:12-19:16
- Song – Jesus Paid It All – Dale & Martha
- Robert “Towards Calvary”: Mt 27:27-44; Mk. 15:16-32; Lk. 23:26-30
- SONG – The Power of the Cross – Erik & Jen
- Daniel “At Calvary”: Mt. 27:45-56; Mk. 15:33-41; Lk. 23:32-56; John 19:17-37
- VIDEO – Nothing But the Blood
- Daniel – Invitation
- VIDEO – Sunday’s Comin’
- VIDEO – Easter Journey – Good Friday Title Graphics
I took all the final videos of each segment and put them all in DaVinci Resolve. I then paid very particular attention to the transitions between each element to make them as impacting as possible, Finally, I equalized the audio between the various segments so that no segment would be louder than the other. The final exported video was then uploaded to YouTube and Facebook and set to premiere on Good Friday.
As mentioned earlier, I hope sharing this project will spur your worship ministry on to new and innovative ways to use the gifts of your people to spread the gospel in a new era. Let’s go into the future with excitement for all the great things we can discover as we seek God’s leadership.