by Martin Johnson*
When I worked in commercial television (a long time ago now) I’d often get asked by an advertiser or one of the station’s salespeople, ‘can you do …’ and they’d mention some quite involved location shoot or special effect.
My answer was always, ‘with an unlimited budget and unlimited time, we can do anything.’ Of course there was always a limited budget and the commercial had to be finished by the end of the week.
Whilst the technology I now use has changed dramatically since those days, video producers still face limits on budget and time. The challenge is how to work within them.
Churches have been using video to communicate their message ever since television was invented. When the Billy Graham organisation came to Australia for their second visit in 1968, almost ten years after the historic ’59 Crusade, they brought their own colour television equipment with them.
The use of video by local churches was made possible by the invention of data and video projectors. Now you can show a video image on a large screen or screens that can be easily seen, even in large auditoriums.
But whilst the technology is there, producing engaging video is always a challenge, especially with next to no budget and a ‘we want this by Sunday’ timeline.
Karl Faase, former Senior Pastor of Gymea Baptist Church and now CEO of Olive Tree Media, producers of the acclaimed ‘Towards Belief’ series, has some great points on using video from a Senior Pastor’s point of view.
“Video segments in the context of worship services or messages can be very helpful to illustrate, focus and clarify your point or to create the tension that you will seek to resolve as you speak. The following are worth keeping in mind.
- Keep them short – you really only have two to three minutes to make your point in a video presentation in a service. Very few videos are a high enough standard to hold peoples attention for longer than a couple of minutes and then the video becomes a distraction rather than a helpful addition
- Take care that the video does not take you on a tangent – the video must be strongly and directly related to the point you are seeking to make or building the question you are seeking to answer. Editing and planning are crucial here. If the video contains a lot of unrelated or unhelpful material then it will cause people to be directed away from, not towards your message
- Stay on the topic – many videographers and editors are looking to demonstrate how clever they are rather than communicate the point you are trying to make. As graciously and gently as possible keep them to the topic.
- Keep the video moving – very few people on a video can keep an audiences attention for longer than 10 – 20 seconds without a change of angle, scene or the point being made (Rob Bell’s Nooma series is a rare exception).
- We can be fooled by the idea that because it’s a video it will hold people’s attention. In fact it may actually have the opposite effect if the presenter on the video is average or the video feels slow and dull.
- Beware of video for videos sake – ask if the video is really adding to what you are seeking to do. Just because you can show a video does not mean that you should.”
What does this mean for local churches in 2015?
Firstly, focus on finding a great story to tell, not what camera to use. Every church is full of people who have come to faith in difficult circumstances, overcoming illness or an accident. Telling one person’s faith story can illustrate the vision of the whole church. Church videos should be about emotion, not facts and figures.
Secondly, get the person to tell their own story. With so many cameras around today – people are used to having one pointed at them. Find a comfortable, quiet setting and encourage them to chat naturally to an interviewer.
Find appropriate overlay or B roll shots to enhance the story. These can be still images brought to life with pans or gentle zooms, or live action as the person visits a place of significance.
Enhance the emotional highs and lows with music. Finding the right music track can really support the story.
Use an experienced videographer. Poor framing, lighting and sound detract from the story.
One of the points I make on my ProVideoBlogger.com.au blog is that we all see well crafted stories every night on TV. Watch how they do it – and then see how you can improve your video story telling.
We all love using the latest camera – whether it’s the RED, Blackmagic or the latest DSLR. Certainly you need quality images and sound, but the focus should be on telling an engaging story.
* Martin Johnson has spent 30 + years working in film and television, including 20 years at Wesley Mission and with Christian Television Australia. He now runs his own video production business and blogs at provideoblogger.com.au