I’m often asked about my recommendations of products and services to make your hybrid worship experience better. Emails become dated and my recommendations change, so I created this page so I can update it as needed.
I also share recommendations in my newsletter, which is almost always published on Wednesdays, also with links to articles and other resources that I find helpful. You can sign up here:
Please take a few minutes to read my notes on this equipment. In most cases, I’ve listed a few options at different prices and I always try to suggest a lower-cost option, including repurposing equipment that you may have access to already.
Another note: so much of what folks have learned and applied to virtual and hybrid worship has come from video streamers. If you didn’t know, there is a huge community of folks that stream themselves playing video games and have very complicated recording and broadcasting setups. Some of the videos and tutorials I share below are tuned towards game streamers, but we can learn a lot from their work.
Cameras and Camcorders
Before you start investing in new equipment, check with your congregation to see if they have access to anything that you can repurpose. For example, I use my Canon 60D as my primary webcam and it makes a great streaming camera. This is a 10+ year old semi-professional DSLR, so nothing cutting edge. Canon released software during the pandemic to allow most Canon DSLRs to function as webcams. It’s called the Canon EOS Webcam Utility. This camera also has an HDMI out, but it’s not clean, so it requires some tweaking to get a Clean HDMI out, or the use of a capture card.
It’s worth asking if any members have cameras or camcorders that you can use to test your setup before committing to a purchase. Even if you don’t use them forever, you can test your processes and physical setup.
Below, I’ve recommended a few camcorders, a few APS-C sensor cameras, a few PTZs, and a few full-frame cameras. Here’s a great tutorial on the difference between APS-C and a Full Frame camera.
- Canon VIXIA HF R800 Camcorder (~$250)
- Canon VIXIA HF R800 Streaming Kit (~$400)
- Canon M50 MKII Kit (~$700) – This is a very capable APS-C camera. The Mark II version has a clean HDMI out, but as with all Canons, you can use the webcam utility to connect via USB.
- Sony a6000 Mirrorless (~$650) – Similar to the M50, only a Sony lens mount. Also an APS-C sensor.
- AViPAS USB/HDMI PTZ Camera (~$950) – This PTZ has USB and HDMI connections, so you have some flexibility.
- AViPAS SDI with Tracking (~$1400) – This PTZ uses SDI, but has tracking features. You can check out a video of the tracking here.
- Canon EOS R Mirrorless Kit (~$1900) – This is a professional quality, full-frame Canon mirrorless.
- Sony Alpha a7 III Kit (~$2200) – If you prefer Sony to Canon, this is one of the most popular mirrorless cameras and gets amazing reviews.
Congregation Camera and Display
When some are able to return to the sanctuary, you don’t want to lose the community feeling you had during strictly virtual church. Consider how to broadcast the Zoom service into the sanctuary so folks in the building can see those at home. You can repurpose an old computer and use an existing projector, likely at little cost.
If you choose to purchase equipment, modern 4K televisions are almost as cheap as projector bulbs and provide a much better experience. You can frequently find off-brand televisions for under $400. Add to that a GOPRO Hero 7, a small tripod, and a computer and you’re up and running. The computer can be quite old, since it only needs to run Zoom, but it will need an HDMI output. If you don’t have one, consider a “thin client”, a very small desktop that is dirt-cheap. Make sure you get something with at least 8GB of RAM and an Intel i5 chip, or the AMD equivalent.
- Cheap 70″ 4K TV (~$600)
- Midrange 70″ 4K TV (~$1200)
- GOPRO Hero 7 (~$250)
- Thin Client Mini Desktop (<$200)
- Apple Mac mini M1 (~$700)
Mics and Audio Capture Tools
One of the best investments you’ll make is a better mic. If you’re back in the sanctuary, then you can likely use the existing audio infrastructure and then bring in the audio from the soundboard. To do that, you can use either an audio interface or a simple cable adapter. Those are the last two links in this section.
If you want to invest in higher quality sound before returning to the sanctuary, or if you need to upgrade some of your existing equipment, consider a few of the mics listed below. The USB mics won’t be useful in the sanctuary; they can only be 8-12 feet from the computer and don’t connect to a soundboard, just a computer. The XLR mics use a standard mic cable connection and can be fed into any soundboard or audio interface.
- Blue Yeti USB (~$130) – I use this mic for my podcast, for video I shoot inside, and for meetings. I’ve had it for years and love it.
- Shure MV7 Podcast Mic USB (~$250)
- Audio-Technica AT2020 USB (~$150)
- Rode NT1-A XLR Mic (~$230)
- Audio-Technica AT2020 XLR (~$100)
- Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 USB Audio Interface (~$160)
- Cable Matters XLR to 1/8″ Aux (~$10)
Video Capture and Processing
If you are using a camera or camcorder that doesn’t have a clean HDMI out, you can use a capture card to grab the signal, strip out all the extra info, and output that video to a computer via USB. The first link is for a cheap knock-off of the Elgato. It actually gets good reviews, especially if you’re not using it to stream video games in very high resolution. The Elgato is the most common capture card, however I recommend you consider upgrading to the ATEM Mini or Mini Pro, based on the very low cost. The ATEM Mini is a video switcher that accepts up to 4 HDMI inputs and outputs those via USB to a computer.
The Elgato Stream Desk is probably too much for most churches, but it has programmable buttons that you can customize to control OBS, cameras, and so many other things. Here’s an intro video that’ll help you understand what it does.
- Knock-off Camlink (~$25) Buyer Beware! – Turns out this might be a great card. Here’s a review. Might not have the chops for a livestream of a video game, but could work great for a church.
- Elgato Camlink Capture Card (~$120)
- ATEM Mini Basic (~$300) – It’s hard to describe what a good deal this is. ATEM makes production switchers for TV studios. This little switcher is easy to use, it’s not picky about the inputs (more complex products need the same resolution and framerate from every feed), and it makes you look professional with just a little training.
- ATEM Mini Pro (~$600)
- Elgato Stream Deck XL (~$250)
Lighting, Cables, and Accessories
Lighting is one of best bang-for-the-buck investments you can make. If you properly light your subject, you’ll be amazed at the improved quality of your video. Here’s a great tutorial about improving the lighting for your meetings and video calls.
All the cables I’ve linked to below are from Monoprice.com. They have high quality cables and they’re warrantied for life. They ship from CA, so if you use free shipping, it takes about a week. Be careful if you need something in a hurry!
- Entry Level CFL Softboxes (~$80)
- Mid-Range LED Lights for One Position (~$350)
- Advanced LED Studio Lights (~$600)
- HDMI over CAT6 Extender (~$25)
- CAT 6 Cables
- HDMI Cables
- Basic Tripod MACTREM 80″ (~$75)
- Mid-Range Tripod Magnus VT-4000 (~$160)
Software and Downloads
There are so many options for editing your audio and video. Both Macs and Windows 10 computers have decent built-in programs. If you want a more powerful audio or video editor, there are some free options for all platforms. Davinci Resolve has a free version and a paid version, but is a very complicated program and may be too much for your needs. Adobe Elements are pared down versions of Adobe’s flagship products, Premier and Photoshop. The Elements version are downloadable, so you pay once and can use them forever, vs. the subscription model for the flagships.
- Apple iMovie (Video editor, Free)
- Apple Garageband (Audio editor, Free)
- Audacity Audio Editor (Mac, Windows, Linux, Free)
- Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Elements 2021 (~$100)
- Davinci Resolve (Video Editor. Mac, Windows, Linux. Free and Paid)
- Microsoft Photos App (Photo and Video Editor, Free)
- Open Broadcast Studio (Recording and Streaming. Mac, Windows, Linux, Free)