Recording a church sermon (or the entire service) is part of our job. Recording hardware is no longer limited to cassette tapes…and isn't always cheap. Check out how recording can be done with a budget in mind.
a. Reel-to-Reel. This is a technology we don't see used much anymore in a church sound booth but when it comes to recording a long period of time, reel-to-reel machines are the best. However, creating a copy of the service gets a lot harder! Look for a used one if you want to go this route. Price – check ebay for a used one.
b. Cassette Tape. Tape decks run the gamut as far as price range. Tapes are available as long as 90 minutes. A 90 minute tape gives you 45 minutes a side. The problem here might be that if you are recording a sermon and at 45 minutes, the pastor is still talking. Now-a-days, tape decks can be set to automatically flip to record on the other side. The problem is that when the tape ends and then flips over, you lose about 8-10 seconds of audio. Tape duplication is easy, though not necessarily fast. And of course you have to buy new tapes. If you want to offer the recording on the internet, you'll have to record it to a computer and convert it to the proper audio format.
c. CD recorders. These run a few hundred dollars and up in price. Just pop in the CD and let it record. Now you are only limited to the length of the CD – typically 80 minutes. CD duplication is easy with a computer that has two CD drives. Or, you can burn a copy of the recording to the computer and then burn disks as necessary. Copying to the internet is equally easy. Some CD recorders will also break the recording into tracks based on moments of silence. For example, 2+ seconds of silence trigger a new track. This makes it easy for listeners to skip around the CD if they lose their place. Just make sure you buy the right type of CD's as not all CD's are formatted the same. Some CD recorders require music-format CD's.
d. Computer. If you already have a computer hooked up to your sound board such as for an audio feed for videos, then you have an easy way to record the service as well. You get the ability to copy or stream directly to the internet, the ability to quickly make CD copies, and free software like Audacity enables you to edit the recording. The disadvantages are you have to make sure the person on the computer remembers to record the service. Additionally, you'll need to make sure you have enough space on the hard drive to record it – usually not an issue but it's still something to monitor. I say it's a toss-up between a computer and a CD recorder. It comes down to your needs and your tech crew. If you already have a PC (used in the generic sense of the term) then you don't have to spend any money for a new recording device.
e. Solid State Recorder. Products like the popular Marantz PMD560 have no moving parts unlike everything else I've listed. These recorders can be stand-alone or rack-mounted units. They record to compact flash media so a 1GB flash card can get you 37 hours of audio. The flash card can then be plugged into a computer for editing, uploading to the internet, burning to a CD, whatever you want. Definitely not for a shoe-string budget.
There are many ways you can record a service. Pick the type that works best for your needs.
What has worked for you? What do you for extended recordings that are more than your media can contain?