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As we continue to navigate the challenges of self-isolation and the need to stay connected with our churches and our communities, the Office of the Bishop has received quite a few questions regarding best practices for offering direct video messages from clergy to their congregations. So the Communications Office is producing this Best Practices guide for clergy who would like some simple solutions for recording video messages to remain connected with their communities.

Note: Before we begin, please note that these video messages do not need to be perfect, highly polished or produced videos. The important thing is to stay connected with your community during this crisis, and sermons, updates, and words of reassurance from spiritual leaders can help provide that for your community. So make sure to choose the option that matches your bandwidth and skill level.

Recording Equipment

There are a number of options for recording your message, from a simple cell phone video or laptop and webcam, to a full digital camera setup with lights and sound.

  • Cell Phone: When using a cell phone, you should always use a tripod and, if possible, an external lapel microphone that can plug into your phone’s headphone or lightning jack. Some tripods come with a Bluetooth remote, which can be helpful in starting and stoping the camera. It’s best to use the rear-facing camera so that you can see yourself in the camera frame while recording.
  • Computer: When using a computer, you will either be using a laptop’s built-in webcam, or an external webcam that plugs into a USB port. You will also want to use some sort of external lapel microphone that can plug into your computer. External webcams are currently difficult to find online. We’ll have links to inexpensive, high quality webcams here in the future.
  • Full Camera Setup: A full camera setup will require more in the realm of lighting and sound. You will also need a sturdier tripod. You can find simple point and click high definition video cameras, good quality standalone portable audio recording devices, and fairly inexpensive portable lighting kits, but these will all require time and patience to learn how to use properly, as each system will have its own unique features and limitations.

Links to equipment for all options can be found at the end of this guide.


Our office has been asked about teleprompters and teleprompter software. This allows you to look directly into the camera while speaking as you read from a prepared script and make it appear as if you have the message memorized or as if you are speaking extemporaneously. Full teleprompter setups work are only designed to work with sturdier and tend to be more expensive. However, if this is something you would like to explore, here are a few options.

  • Simple iPad Setup: Using a teleprompter app for your iPad, place your iPad on an elevated surface just above, below, or to either side your camera. While not a perfect solution, this will allow you to see your script from your peripheral vision and keep you from looking down at notes too frequently.
  • Full Teleprompter Setup: Using reflective glass, the iPad and teleprompter are mounted to a tripod with the camera on the other side of the glass, allowing you to read the script as you look directly into the camera. This only works with study tripods. You can get a cell phone adapter to attach your phone to a full tripod and place it on the other side of the tripod.

Links to equipment for all options can be found at the end of this guide.

Basic Setup

The basic setup for either of the three equipment options should be as follows:

  • Framing: Make sure the camera/webcam is roughly at your eye level to avoid making it appear that you are either looking up or looking down at your viewers. You also want to be far enough away from the camera so that your upper chest and shoulder are visible, and there is a bit of space above your head. It’s best to avoid being in the center of the frame, being just slightly off to the left or the right helps provide a bit of visual interest. And be careful of being too close to a wall, bookcase, or other background – it becomes too easy to blend into the background in these cases.
  • Lighting: The most important thing to remember with lighting is to remember to keep the face lit brighter than the background. If the light coming from behind you is too bright, it will create a silhouette and your face will be in shadows. If you want to take more time with lighting, you can learn about 3 Point Lighting in this Video.
  • Sound: If you’re using a simple setup, you won’t need to worry too much about sound – plug the microphone into the microphone jack and start recording. If you use an external recorder and a camcorder, you will need to do a sound check to make sure that the levels don’t peak (meaning they don’t start to distort), and you’ll want to make sure you hit record at the same time you hit record on your camera.

Video Recording Software

Depending on the device you are using, you may already have built-in software for recording, editing, and sharing videos from your device. Most cell phone cameras allow you to record directly from your camera, save it to your camera roll, and share it to whatever platform you would like. You can also record directly in YouTube, Facebook, and many other social media platforms directly from your phone. Because each cell phone, computer, and device are different, we recommend researching the options and reading reviews before purchasing software.

Video Editing Software

Again, many devices have their own built-in apps and programs for basic editing. Windows has MovieMaker as a free download. All Apple and Mac devices come with iMovie. These are simple and intuitive programs. You can also do a quick search for instructional videos on YouTube and learn the basics of these programs in a few quick tutorials. (iMovie Tutorials | Movie Maker Tutorials)

If you have some experience with editing, you can also use professional software like Final Cut or Adobe Premiere.

However, with these brief messages, there’s no reason to no much (if any) editing. So don’t let yourself get too carried away with this.


If you are thinking about adding music to these videos, please remember that all pre-recorded music has to be cleared in order to be used in a video. Your best bet is to use royalty-free music which you can find on sites such as Audio Jungle. Find the music you would like to use, pay a one-time fee, and receive a license to use it for a series of video (up to 52 uses or one year, whichever comes first).

Equipment and Software Links

Best Practices for Direct Video Messages

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