Jaw-dropping special effects, crystal clear surround sound, High Definition TV’s, IMAX 3D, and multimillion dollar movie budgets are the standards of entertainment in our society. Our attention spans are getting shorter, and we want to see things faster, louder, and flashier than ever. While local church ministry isn’t trying to compete with Hollywood, our God is still worthy of our best efforts. Thankfully it doesn’t take a big budget to produce high quality video content.
The principles of good filmmaking remain the same regardless of the size of your budget. The basic components of a quality video presentation—sound, lighting, composition, music, edit—can be easily implemented in any production with a little work and creativity.
By following a few simple guidelines, your ministry can produce high-quality video presentations at a fraction of studio cost:
Media is all around us—you can’t escape it. Even now as you are reading this, stop and look around you. You will see and hear media in some form or another—a book cover design, a web banner, or music playing in the background. Your environment provides all the inspiration you could ever need for creating professional material.
Take something that has been done professionally and do your best to imitate it. This could be an interview setup for example. Watch where the camera is positioned: Is it high? Low? Eye level? How are they lighting the interviewee? How often are they cutting to different angles? What sort of music is playing? How loud is it? Do the sound levels change when dialogue is taking place? Observe, observe, observe!
Light Like a Pro
Every individual who wants to make video presentations ought to be familiar with the basic three point lighting technique. How-to videos can be found for free on sites like YouTube.
The three point technique is what we are accustomed to seeing in nearly every video interview. It consists of the key light, fill light, and the back or rim light.
The key light is the main source of light on your subject. The light is placed on either side of the camera and pointed at the interviewee. This light can be either a professional light on a stand or a simple desk lamp, depending on availability.
As the name suggests, the fill light is placed on the opposite side of the camera and is used to fill in the shadows created by the key. The fill light is not as bright as the key light in order to retain some shadow on the subject’s face and create depth. If the fill is too bright the image will look flat.
The back light, also called the rim light, is place diagonally across from the key light. This light is used to create a rim of light on the shoulders and hair of the subject and draw them out from the background.
Understanding and correctly implementing the basic three point lighting system will bring the look of your presentations to a professional level.
Sound Is Key
Place the microphone as close to the subject as possible. Many aspects of sound could be discussed here, but this is key. Most video cameras have a mic input that allows you to plug in a wired microphone. Take advantage of this. Place the microphone as close as you can without entering the frame. Poor sound quality is one of the earmarks of an amateur video.
Vary your camera angles. We see our world from eye level all day, every day. Create some visual interest by occasionally placing the camera low or high.
Motion creates emotion. If possible, create some movement with the camera. Moving the camera from side to side is known as dollying. When the camera moves it creates interest in something that would otherwise be stagnant.
First-class editing is all about creating good flow within your video project. Ignore most of the transitions that came standard in your editing software, and stick with simple transitions like the dissolve, fade through black or white, and even the straight cut. Most documentaries don’t use many transitions. They are made of many straight cuts between the interview and supplementary footage.
When selecting transitions, understand that they symbolize the passage of time. A dissolve usually represents a shorter passage of time, and a fade represents a longer passage of time.
Music determines the emotion of a scene. Selecting the right music is both one of the most meticulous and vital processes in editing. Ask yourself what your are feeling when you hear a track overlaid on your video. If the emotion matches the message you are trying to communicate, you found the right music.
High quality video production is possible for anyone willing to put in the time and effort. We serve a God who is excellent, and He desires excellence from us. May our work in media be itself a testimony for Him.