Tips for online video

With many Salvation Army centres unable to gather together at the moment, you may be thinking about whether you could provide an online alternative. This is an exciting opportunity not only to reach regular congregations, but also those who might not normally enter our buildings.

If you are unsure how to go about providing such a service, we have put together a few tips and things to think about below.

The most important thing is to start with the basics and work upwards from there. The priority is the content, and it is much better to do something simple really well than to overstretch and distract from your message.

ClapperboardLive or pre-recorded?

Consider whether to go with live video, or to record and edit. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.

  • Live video offers a quick turnaround and a simple ‘one take’ process. It also means you can incorporate instant feedback from viewers, such as prayer requests. Viewers will be more forgiving of errors, understanding it to be live.
  • Pre-recorded video offers the opportunity to have multiple attempts at getting things right. However, this may also lead to the presentation becoming too much of a consideration over the content. It also extends the time needed to edit the final piece. It does mean that it is much easier to use multiple camera angles and other clips within the wider video. The leader can also take part in the online reaction in a way they cannot with a live video.

CameraWhich camera?

If pre-recording your video, you may have a few cameras to choose from. Many D-SLR cameras (such as from Nikon or Canon) have video recording modes, and camcorders are naturally built for this purpose.

Arguably the easiest way is to use a smartphone, many of which are capable of capturing high quality videos. You can transfer these to a computer using a cable, SD card or services like Apple’s AirDrop.

If you are live-streaming, there are various solutions that you can invest in, such as a Mevo Camera, but the simplest method is to use a smartphone or webcam (such as your computer’s built-in camera, if it has one).

Get to know your camera before using it for real. Do you know how to do the basics, like focussing and zooming? (Note, it is usually better not to zoom at all during filming. Rather, set up your shot as best as you can and make any tweaks during editing, if applicable.) What are the limits of the camera – how long can you record for in a single take? Do you need extra memory cards?

LaptopWhere to host your video?

International Headquarters has experience with sharing video to a number of locations, and recommends Facebook, YouTube and Vimeo.

For live video in particular, we recommend Facebook and YouTube. Facebook is especially useful in attracting viewers through notifications and getting the attention of those scrolling social media.

You may choose to put your video in a closed group on Facebook, which could be useful if you are facilitating an event like a prayer gathering where a little more intimacy is helpful.


When setting up your camera angle, think about the kind of shots you are used to seeing on television. Make sure your subject (usually the person speaking) can be seen clearly and takes up a good proportion of the screen (i.e. ‘fills’ the frame).

Consider the background. Make sure there is nothing too distracting in shot – for example, a bookcase might look nice, but are the titles of the books on the shelf going to take away the attention of the viewer?

Try to get your camera at a similar eye-line to the subject. Think about where the subject will look – they could make eye contact with the camera lens, or look to the side of the camera (this would be most effective if they are being interviewed).

If you cannot put your camera on a tripod, ensure it is stable (a wobbly camera can be distracting). Your subject should be comfortable but sit fairly upright, and so a dining or office chair may be preferable to a sofa.

Consider whether to film in portrait or landscape. Portrait is best if viewers will primarily be viewing the video on Facebook Live on their smartphones, but if they are more likely to see it pre-recorded, on YouTube or by using their television screen, landscape is best.


Your subject and the background should be well lit. This can be done in a variety of ways, most simply by using natural light (have the subject sat facing a window) or a lamp positioned next to the camera. One possible technique could be to shine a lamp onto a white wall behind the camera, so that light ‘bounces off’ this wall onto the subject giving soft shadows and even lighting. Good lighting also helps your camera perform well, as they usually perform poorly in low light environments.

Avoid your subject being in silhouette by not having a background that is too bright. This means, for instance, ensuring your subject is not sat with a window behind them.

Where possible, the subject should sit away from walls to avoid casting too many shadows on the background.


Getting a good sound quality is really important. It ensures your message is heard clearly and gives a professional feel, allowing for viewers to really focus on the content.

Depending on the content of your video, there are several solutions. The most straight-forward way to capture a person speaking is to use a clip-on lapel microphone (available at low cost from online retailers), which can be connected to most cameras and smartphones. To capture several people speaking, or a musical group, this may need to be a different kind of microphone such a condenser microphone. These can also be found from online retailers. Another option is to have several microphones and a USB mixing desk – use a search engine to find out more information.

Do a sound check before recording or going live – listen out for background hum from things like air conditioning and try to eliminate this.



Think about who your audience is. Is your video intended for those you might see in your usual church service, or do you have a much wider group in mind? Consider the opportunity that is presented by online video to reach those who would not come into a church building ordinarily. How can you adapt your service? What would welcome a casual viewer in, and what would alienate them?

Avoid using Salvation Army jargon and abbreviations. These can be off-putting to newcomers, i.e. those who might watch your video who would not normally come to your building.

Reflect on what would work well on video. How long should your video be? Do not feel you need to capture a usual-length service. You will probably be much more effective with a half-hour version, or even a five-minute thought. The production process will be easier too. Remember that some things work well in the room at a Sunday gathering, but less well captured on video.

Consider copyright restrictions. Your regular CCLI or equivalent license may not cover online broadcasts, and you almost certainly will not be able to use pre-recorded music. Think about what you might do instead – perhaps a link to a YouTube video is a suitable alternative?

If using congregational songs, why not share songsheets with congregation members ahead of time (again, being careful of copyright) and have someone available to share them with other people who may join in.

Perhaps you could collect prayer requests from the regular congregation that can then be shared and prayed for during the video. In a live video, you could incorporate prayer requests as comments are added to the post.

To take some of the pressure off having to do a weekly production, why not join forces with other corps and take it in turns? This is also a good way to create a wider community of support.

Editing scissorsEditing

If you are choosing not to go live, you will almost certainly need to edit your footage. This can be as basic as cutting off the beginning and end of a clip, or can be much more sophisticated with PowerPoint presentations, multiple clips and camera angles and on-screen text adding.

Various pieces of software are available to help with this. We list a few below, but take a look in your device’s app directory or elsewhere online.

Desktop computer

  • Windows Photos
  • iMovie
  • Premiere Pro
  • Final Cut Pro
  • DaVinci Resolve


  • iMovie
  • Adobe Premiere Rush

More tips

There are many possibilities, but don't be overwhelmed by them. The most important thing is your content, so stick to the basics at first and you can build from there. Why not stick to a simple, pre-recorded five-minute thought and see how it goes?

Remember, help in this area is available from many websites, and in many cases from your territorial and divisional headquarters.


We've put our tips into a poster, so you can print them out and keep them handy!

Tags: Coronavirus