A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of a poet.—Orson Wells
Why did I use that quote? Two reasons really, the first is that it very much rings true when making any kind of video. No matter what the content, whether a spotlight piece or an announcement video, it should have your individual flare yet be identifiable for others. The second reason I used that quote is because when I googled “How to write an article?” the first link said I should start with a quote or a question. (I did both.)
I am pointing this out for a reason. One of the greatest things about living in this modern world is if you don’t know how to do something you can essentially ask an expert or someone who has had the same situation as you and found a way through it.
You can Google or YouTube anything. I do it all the time when I am stuck. Tutorials are your best continuing education resource. I also love learning new things and techniques to better myself as a Media Development Specialist. That is my current job title at Unity Worldwide Ministries.
I work with the illustrious Rev Jacquie Lenati making video resources for Unity leaders and ministries and anyone interested in spiritual growth. You can find and download our work at UnityWorldwide.media. (The member password is “uwmmember” so feel free to download our free resources whenever you like.) These are great tools to have on your belt, but at some point you may need to make your own video. That is why you are reading this, right?
Good news friends, I am here to give you a few pointers. Here are three things to think about when you film something for your ministry.
The biggest component that can make or break your video is audio. You could have the best camera on the market and use the greatest cinematographer of all time but, if no one can understand what is being said, you will lose your audience.
You might be thinking to yourself “But Andy, I don’t have a good microphone (or any microphones for that matter.)” I am not here to tell you to get a microphone, I am here to inform you of ways to improve the sound of your videos.
Any time you are filming anything, make sure you turn off all the background noise you can. That can be as simple as turning off the air conditioner so you don’t get a distracting background hum. Also, if you are doing multiple takes for your video, that hum could be in one shot but not in another. This inconsistent audio is a huge distraction to the audience.
Sound also bounces all around. If you are in a big room, the sound will take longer to bounce back off the walls. That is how you get lots of “echo” in your audio. That is a bad thing. When recording, do your best to find a quiet corner where sound has less wiggle room to escape.
Here is a quick tip for people without a microphone: most people have smartphones with an “audio recording” app already built into it. If you don’t, you can always download a free one which is better than nothing. Hit record on your phone and set the phone close to you.
I promise you it will pick up better audio than your camera. I would recommend making a loud clap sound before you start talking after you hit record. You do this so you can sync the audio clip with your video clip in your editing software. It is easier to line up the clap on the audio and video then it is to match up the actual talking. This is the equivalent of the old “clapper” they use on movies set before they yelled, “Action!”
Lighting is one of the easiest but difficult things about film making. When it is done right, it should go unnoticed. Luckily for us, one of the greatest lights for filming is free and that, my friends, is the sun.
If you are filming a video in your office, open the drapes. If you can, shoot your video outside. That being said, the best time to film outside is when the sun is low in the sky. This is called the “enchanted hour” in the film industry.
The sun can be pretty harsh if it is high in the sky and will create unflattering shadows on the faces of your subjects. If you have to shoot at high noon, choose a place in the shade. This will provide some diffusion and control over your lighting. Diffusion can be crucial.
What is diffusion? It is basically filtering light to make a softer look. Diffusers can make your unnatural light look, well, natural. What I like to do is if I am using lights, I will put a seven dollar frosted shower curtain in front of them. Not only does this make all the lights softer, it even spreads the light in a better manner than without.
I am also a huge fan of using bounce lighting. You can bounce light onto your subject in a variety of different ways. If you don’t want to purchase a reflector, you can use a white matte or poster board, a white sheet, or a white wall—I have even used a person wearing a white t-shirt when I was in a pinch!
The bounce will do exactly what it’s named for, bounce existing light to help cover shadows. Try moving the subject or the reflector around until you see the shadows on the face have been softened.
If you are not editing your videos, you probably should get on that. Even if you have only recorded a three-minute video, you could edit it down to two. People, especially on the Internet, lose attention pretty easily. I find that a two-minute video is the perfect length.
I am honestly guilty of going over that for sure, but I feel that if you have a great story to tell with visuals and good pace, then you can take all the time you need. If you are making a quick announcement or something fun to inform your ministry or even a video to invite people to discover more about you, I recommend keeping it short and sweet. Pacing is everything. Cut any long pauses or anything that isn’t related to the point you are trying to convey.
I can’t stress that enough. You can always cover up an awkward transition or a quick cut with what is called “B-Roll.” “B-Roll” is any extra footage (like close-ups, shots of an activity, graphics, etc., that can emphasize what is being discussed in the video) that can be layered on top of your existing shot. It is super helpful for covering up any distractions. I am personally a huge fan of adding in “B-Roll” footage because it enhances your videos visually and it’s such an easy way to add some production value to your video.
There are also plenty of great free editing programs out there like Shotcut, VideoPad, or something more advanced like DaVinci Resolve. Most phones will allow you to edit shots if you used them for video too. I highly recommend researching software and finding one that will fit your flow and skill level.
What kind of videos are you making? Announcements? Welcome videos? Spotlights? Whatever video material you are putting out there is part of your brand. It tells the Internet and the world what to expect when they set foot in your ministry.
For most, it is a first impression. Your videos should be inviting and efficient. Don’t sweat if you don’t feel like you are capable of producing Spielberg-style content. Just focus content that will keep your audience interested.
Audio, lighting and editing are your jumping off points. They are small but important things that often get overlooked. Put some time towards them and you will be amazed at how much your video will improve. If you read this article but still feel helpless, fear not friend, because that is why we are here.
Like I said in the beginning, we at UWM are always producing new video material ready to be posted by you. Go to UnityWorldwide.media, log in as a member (Password: uwmmember), and download the whole library of media.
Remember that your online presence is the first thing most people see. In a world of social media, sometimes you don’t get a second chance at a first impression.