There are many things that people overlook when they decide to do IMAG. They start off by setuping up a camera and pointing it towards the stage. Eventually it ends up on the screens, thus starting IMAG in the service. But because of this process many things begin to get overlooked. IMAG is done because, well, you can. It is a step in the right direction so you keep doing rather than addressing some of the issues. The truth is that once you start doing IMAG, 80% of people begin to watch the screens rather than the stage, and in most cases people don’t have a good view of the stage to start with. I know because I’m in the short people’s category and I can never see the stage. So if a majority of your audience is watching what your doing for IMAG, it better be good.
At Eagle Brook Church where I work we always talk about the attendees having a great experience every time they walk through our doors. From the greeters, kids check in, the coffee, the smells, the toilet paper and the service all have to be a great experience. Most of the people that are coming to the service are looking for a reason not to come back, the only reason they came in the first place was because their friend kept asking them and they finally gave in. Again, most people are watching your screens, which means that quality is key.
So the first thing that I believe to deliver quality IMAG is to not go into it half heartedly. Now I’m not saying that if you only do IMAG for the message that you also have to do it for music. What I’m saying is that if your going to do it, do it well and that might mean only doing it for the message rather than for music because it is easier to do IMAG well for the message than it is for music.
Start off by investing in quality gear. Quality cameras, switchers and projectors are very important in providing quality IMAG. I have seen many times where a graphic is drastically different quality than the cameras, or a switcher that has so much delay that it is distracting, and don’t even get me started on bad projectors. Ok, a few things on projectors, If 80% of your people’s experience rely on watching the projectors, then they must be pretty important. Your projectors should match the brightness of the stage, and should look as close to the stage as possible, as I believe the projectors are an extension of the stage. Every time I fire up my cameras I projectors I color both so that when people in the audience look at the stage and then the screens that it looks as close as possible. That means coming in early, setting up chip charts and spending lots of time painting the cameras before every weekend we have services. I greatly value the colors, it is a subtle detail that makes their experience better, which is why investing in quality projectors is very important.
The next thing is to be proactive rather than reactive. I do a little sports production on the side. With sports you don’t know when stuff is going to happen so you are forced to follow the action. In turn you have to react quickly and have a good handle of what is happening at all times. There is nothing worse then when the announcers say something and you have no idea that it is happening. In our world there is planning that goes into every service, so know that information and use it to keep yourself one step ahead of the game. For more on this topic see an earlier post titled, ““Ready….Take!” Going in with a plan.”
Keep it simple. Don’t do more than you can. Follow the action but don’t create the action. Sure you should energize and create a feel but do it in a way that relays the feel on stage. It is ok to stick with a shot longer if it fulfill it’s purpose of energizing, enhancing and connecting. For more on this see my earlier post “”Ready …Take!” The basics of directing IMAG.” But also with this, don’t cut cameras just because you can, or just to break it up. If someone is talking stay on a nice mid-tight camera shot of them, don’t cut to a wide or a slash unless you have to. Keep it simple. The other side of this is don’t put someone on camera just because they are on stage. Obviously if they are the main person you should, but if a musician or vocalist isn’t bringing energy or helping you to create a better experience, don’t put them on camera. At Eagle Brook, most of our Keys players don’t give us a lot of energy. They are an important part of the mix, but unless they have a lead line and I have not other options will I put them on the screens because they aren’t helping me to create a better experience for those attending.
So remember if your doing IMAG that means pretty much everyone sees what you are doing, seeing your mistakes and relying on you for their connection to the stage. Quality is key in both gear and execution. Keep in mind things like “shaky cameras make people in the audience sick” and “over iris cameras aren’t fun to look at.” Be sure to do your best to create a great experience for those coming, especially for the first time, you are part of their first experience that could change the rest of their life.