Let me start with a disclaimer – I love, love, love the Live TV experience. I thrive on Live.
I have produced a lot of LIVE TV, maybe more than anyone I know, so I am not only a huge fan of it but I know how to do it well. There is nothing more satisfying than connecting a remote or online audience to an experience happening at the same time many miles from where they are viewing. It can also be an exhilarating experience for all the team involved. When it goes well, the sense of satisfaction from the achievement can be immense.
I remember many years ago, producing and directing GOD TV’s first ever live broadcast. Everyone in the crew cheered as master control counted us off air. It was however a little embarrassing as we were in a room connected to the main auditorium and anyone in the auditorium heard us cheering – and the event hadn’t wrapped up – ooooops…
All that said though, it is a riskier strategy to do things live than pre-recorded. When things go wrong, it can be a horrible feeling and leave you dejected. Our aim with any production should be to deliver great content for our audience and if you cannot guarantee the live production will be a good viewing experience, I would recommend you consider pre-recording the service and broadcasting it later. Consistency and quality in the viewing experience should be your primary driver.
So, what are the pros and cons of pre-recording over live? Here are my top 3 pros:
PRO 1 – You can spend time to ensure the final product is as good as it can be. You can “fix” mistakes, re-edit where there are technical issues, even re-mix the audio so it’s better. You can also tighten up the production to make it appear more professional and create something that can be easier to watch.
PRO 2 – You can tailor the content for your online audience. For instance, you can replace announcements meant for your “in person” audience with announcements that are for your online audience. You can remove any “dead spots” where the flow of the service flags. Plus, you can even add other new elements created for the online audience.
PRO 3 – You can get more out of limited resources. For instance, if you are pre-recording the content and then editing for broadcast, you don’t need to worry about things like scripture slides, lower 3rds for names, song words during worship or even things like subtitles or sign language for the hard of hearing. You can add these in edit. Also, you can use extra cameras that can’t be accommodated in your switcher but you can add them in the edit. So you can create a better product than you would if you went LIVE.
OK, so I’m sure you agree, those are pretty compelling reasons to go for a pre-recorded format BUT what are the cons? Here are 3 to consider:
CON 1 – You don’t get to walk away and it is “done” afterwards. It often requires greater resources and a greater time commitment from you and the team when pre-recording the content. Editing, re-mixing and then outputting the final product takes time and if you are reliant on volunteers OR you are a “one-man band” this can consume time that might be better spent in other areas.
CON 2 – You won’t be able to have “back and forth” interaction and immediate feedback from your audience. If that is important to you then pre-recorded won’t work for you. This is one question to have clarity on before deciding the best route for you. You can of course still make full use of the “chat” functions on platforms to interact with your audience even if you are not live. The limitation is that you won’t be able to have real time interaction with the people featured on camera.
CON 3 – In some ways this isn’t a “CON”, instead it’s something to clarify from the outset. That is, who signs off on the final broadcast? Do you have that responsibility? Has that been established? You may need to make “editorial” decisions around what content gets included and what doesn’t. Being clear on what your authority is can save complications down the road. Or, does the Pastor want to “approve” the final output. That’s fine, but it can add delays to getting a final product ready. This may increase the pressure on you and your team. Planning ahead and taking that into account is important. Wherever final approval comes from, it needs to be part of the planning process for delivery of the final content.
A final thing to consider is what would be the best thing for your team and their development? Some people thrive in the adrenaline of pressure and NOTHING gives greater pressure than a LIVE broadcast. Other people struggle if things are out of control or not as “perfect” as they want. They can get dejected and demotivated. Knowing your team and where they sit on this scale can help you make a decision that will allow them to grow and develop over a longer period at a manageable pace.
Here is a tip to consider – does it have to be one or the other? How about you do a mixture? Go LIVE once a month with the other weeks being pre-recorded. That helps introduce the concept of LIVE and gets people used to it while not overwhelming them. This allows the team to grow and develop and then you can introduce more live broadcasts.
There is no wrong answer to if you should be LIVE or Pre-recorded. The only mistake you can make is to do something beyond your current capabilities. This will damage the long-term sustainability of what you are looking to build and demotivate your team.