Chad Vegas has been in the production industry for 18 years, and has been the directing as the Live Broadcast Director for Bethel Church and Bethel TV for 2 years. After years of serving in churches, production houses and other live gigs, Chad has gained a wealth of experience and an understanding of how to utilize technology in order to best capture and highlight what God is doing in a moment of worship or teaching. In this article, Chad talks about capturing as an act of worship, and the heart position he and his team take when in the moment along with tons of practical tips on leadership, inspiration and gear.
Our Goal is to Make Him Known
That means we always come to “work” with our hearts ready to worship and engage with the Lord. We prepare just as much as the worship team prepares, and we are there to worship alongside of them, not just to capture what they’re doing on stage. There have been times when we are capturing something happening during worship, we all end up encountering the Lord with the room.
As a production team, our goal is to worship first and capture second.
Last year at Bethel Music’s WorshipU on Campus 2019, my team had worked since 7am and came back to capture another worship set from 10pm to midnight. Hundreds of people had paid large amounts of money and traveled from around the world to be there, and my 18 hour day was nothing compared to what they had given up. We were exhausted, but I told my team, “We’re here to worship just as much as they are.” Luckily we weren’t live streaming, so I told my team to just get out there and worship.
The Bethel Music worship team didn’t have a set list, they were just flowing—so we flowed with them. We use intercoms to talk to each other across the sanctuary, and after a while I heard someone sniffling, and then some of my other guys were saying “I gotta take a break.” My whole team was ugly crying because we had all been encountered by the presence of God.
What we do isn’t just a job—it’s our worship to God.
I have a camera operator who enjoys praying and ministering to people in the audience while he’s out capturing. The first time he did this, I told him, “I don’t care if you do that, as long as you get the shot.” So now when we’re in the middle of capturing I can usually tell when he’s praying for someone and I just say his name and he props up his camera with one hand while his other is on someone’s shoulder. That’s his worship, it’s what he loves to do. Everything we do all comes down to creating an environment of worship.
We are Visual Worship Leaders
There’s always been a separation between what is happening in the room and what is being displayed on the sanctuary screens or online. Most production teams just film things for the sake of filming, and coming into this role, my heart is to break down that wall for the audience.
When I first moved to the production team, I got together with some of them and came up with an idea of what we wanted our capture style to look like. We are lucky enough to have a senior leadership team that said, “Okay, let’s try it. If that doesn’t work we’ll try something else.” Now we have completely changed the way we capture, and we have our church on board with it.
My goal for our production team is not to create a look on a screen but an atmosphere.
When you walk into Bethel’s sanctuary, you immediately feel the presence of God, and it feels like home. I want to create that same feeling for our online audience. For the people in the room, my goal is to make them feel like they’re on stage worshipping with the team, because there is no “us and them.”
As I direct my team, I’m telling a story. I’m shaping it by piecing together different moments that are happening in the room. If there’s a guitar solo, I will have the team capture that, and then if Jenn Johnson is crying on stage, we will get close to her and draw people into that experience. I want to shape it in a way that’s smooth and meaningful, and pull on the heartstrings of people.
If my team and I are doing our jobs right, after a while no one will be watching the screen —they will be worshipping.
Our Style: Live Broadcast
Our goal for style is to make it feel like the audience is at a live concert. To achieve this, on Sundays we have 7 cameras capturing, and 5 of those are handheld. For conferences, we can have up to 14 cameras depending on the venue.
One thing we do differently in order to give it a live feeling is allowing the camera operators to have full control of the camera. Instead of me telling them what to do, 95% of the time the operators will capture on their own, and 5% is me making sure certain things get captured in the room. In order to do this successfully, the operators are taught to actively listen to what is happening in the room and know when to get a shot.
When something is happening on the other side of the stage, they will walk across or sometimes run from one musician to the next, to get that live, behind the scenes look. Whip panning is another technique we use in our capture our style. This means we will go from an instrument to a worship leader without cutting away, bringing energy and a feeling of excitement.
We are always thinking about where we are going to go next. I am constantly asking, “How do you want to show this to me, Lord?” Asking for new eyes for creativity.
How I Lead My Team
Since we are visual worship leaders, we practice as much as the worship team does. Once I get a setlist from the worship team, I put together a playlist on Spotify and send it to the production team, and assign them their positions in the room. My team is skilled in every position, meaning we can change things up if we want to. Once they have the songs each camera operator listens to the music and imagines what they are going to do during each part of the song, whether it be a guitar solo or highlighting a singer.
I address my team as I do my own son, as a loving father. If they make a mistake on camera, I will address it right away but in love. It is very normal in the production industry, even the Christian production industry to swear at someone when they mess up. There were times when I was a camera operator getting a shot, but my director didn’t like it so he would sigh loudly in the headset and I would hear it. When I heard that it took me out of worship and into fear. It made me feel like I had to impress my director instead of worshipping God through my work. I never want my team to feel like they have to perform to impress me. If they’re not getting the right shot, it’s because I’m not communicating enough.
How to Stay Inspired
It’s important to stay inspired and try new things so you don’t get stuck repeating what you’ve always done. My team and I try to change things up as much as we can to be creative. For example, a couple of weeks ago we had an all-acoustic set, and we usually scale back our cameras because there are fewer instruments, but this time I decided to have all the cameras on. There were no drums, so I challenged my team by asking, “How are we going to make this exciting?” The camera operators had to think outside the box and figure out how to capture a slower song and make it feel energetic.
We are constantly pushing ourselves, and meeting up every month to go over all of the stuff we’ve done and talk about what works. In these meetings, we watch videos of services we capture, because in the moment we don’t notice when something didn’t work as much as when we sit back and watch it. Watching these with the team is almost like watching our game day tapes. It helps us learn and grow together as a team.
Get Your Leadership Involved
If you are called to serve somewhere, you need to honor your leadership’s vision. There are ways to get your leadership on board with you but do it in honor. Show them what buying new production gear could do for your congregation, and tell them why you want to implement this change. A friend of mine got his leadership on board with streaming, and once they did that, their online giving went up 10%.
If you can get approval to rent something, rentals are very cheap. Ask your leadership if you can get approved to test out a rental during a service, and show them what you can do with it that you couldn’t normally do.
What most people don’t know is that our team is on a small budget for our size church. We use Black Magic Design gear, which is the best bang for your buck and lasts a long time. Out of the 8 cameras, we have only had 2 of them go back for repairs, and we use them almost daily.
If you can’t stream church services, you can try this “live” style on music videos instead.
If you are looking for more tips on streaming, production and live broadcasting, check out the Facebook Group Church Sound and Media Techs, it’s one of the largest groups for church media. You can also visit our Youtube Channel Bethel Production and our Instagram @bethelproduction for more tips and a behind the scenes look at what we do.