While the cost of technology decreases, the quality of technology increases. Because of this, there are lots of fun new toys that have hit the market. Whether your church is debating an IMAG (Image Magnification) system or capturing your service on film, robotic cameras could be a solution you might not have given serious consideration.

While manned cameras might be the more traditional route, lets take a deeper look into what Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras have to offer.

PTZ has been on the scene for quite some time, used both in the professional video industry and more recently in the security industry. In pro video, PTZ is used to control camera movement at the end of a long crane, or jib.

Most churches aren’t in a position to come out of the gate with a jib rig because they don’t have the man power to operate them. By equipping your volunteers with the skills of PTZ operation, your church is investing in the potential to acquire a top notch video system. This wise move will set your church up for success when its time to upgrade the system in the future (no matter Traditional camera operators dutifully perform their job responsibilities side by side with their cameras.

Pan title zoom cameraOften times these operators sit on raised platforms so they can maintain a solid line of sight to their subjects. Robotic cameras have no need for such elaborate structures. By simply mounting cameras to a wall or upon a small stand, congregations can be spared these ugly platforms that take up valuable space. PTZ operators will work much more comfortably in a control room with nice chairs and large monitors.

The use of plural “operators” is intentional. A common misconception in regard to PTZ camera systems is that five volunteers can be replaced by one with a remote control. This idea holds some truth, but we have to be careful not to go overboard with it.

One PTZ operator is capable of balancing out two cameras max, which will cut your volunteer load a bit. Any more than a 2:1 ratio and your volunteers will become Professional video production isn’t only possible with robotic cameras, it can be an artform in and of itself. By keeping at least one camera mobile (not mounted to a wall) some very beautiful shots can be captured.

My favorite camera configuration his a robotic camera to the left, right, two in the center, and two on stage. By using three camera ops I split them up so that Operator A controls the tight center cam and a stage cam, Operator B controls the wide center cam and the right cam, while Operator C controls the left cam and the second stage cam. When these two stage cams are mounted to small mobile pedestals, we can achieve varying shots from week to week.

Does anyone else out there have success stories with PTZ cameras? 

Tommy ScullyWith a gift for church audio, Tommy Scully has served churches on staff and now consults with church nationwide to improve their church sound. His  mission to support ministry with technology has lead him to develop his own church sound training video series available at ChurchAudioTraining.com.