Many churches are now using video during their services. Whether it’s to supplement the message, to make a point, or as an alternative to a drama, video is becoming more popular. I’m excited by this, because I think video is a pretty powerful medium. I believe it so strongly that I have devoted nearly 15 years of my career to producing videos. A well done video can convey truth so powerfully, in such a compelling manner that few other mediums can match it. A poorly done video, however, can do more harm than good. Even if the message is spot on, if the production is sub-par, the message will be lost. Given that people watch anywhere between 2-6 hours of professionally produced, high-impact video (aka TV) a day, we need to be sure we are not clouding the message with poor production technique. So here are Mike’s 3 tips to better video.

Tip #1 – Get a Tripod

Under rare circumstances, when done correctly, a hand held camera will work. Because I have been shooting video professionally for a long time, and use professional equipment, I can hand hold a camera, sometimes, and get an acceptable shot. However, given the choice, I will use a tripod. Video tripods can get expensive, but even an inexpensive one will give you good results if you don’t try to do too much panning and tilting. Once the camera is on the tripod, take a tip from filmmakers – work on setting up well composed, static shots. Don’t try to pan and tilt all over the place. Keep your shots simple and static and camera movement will not get in the way of the message.

Tip #2 – Don’t Zoom

One of the dead giveaways of non-professional video production is constant zooming in and out. Watch films, and well-produced TV shows and one thing you won’t see is zooming. What you will see is nicely composed, static shots (sounding familiar isn’t it?). The zoom function of a video camera can be very useful; it allows you to get a different view of a scene, or isolate a subject. Just don’t use it during the shot.

Tip #3 – Get a Good Mic

Another message-killer for a video is poor audio. The microphones that are mounted on all but the most professional cameras are good for one thing and one thing only; picking up ambient sound. Ambient sound is all the sound in the room. Sometimes you want that. When you are shooting a large scene of people worshiping, or mingling, ambient sound is good. When you are in a room doing an interview, ambient sound is bad. Just like in live sound, the goal needs to be to get a good mic close to the sound source. Most camcorders have some type of microphone input jack (either 1/8″ or better yet, XLR). If you have a 1/8″ jack, you can either get an inexpensive mic that is so equipped and use that. It’s not my first choice, but it will be orders of magnitude better than the on-camera mic. Another option is to use an adapter, like the ones made by BeachTek to adapt professional level XLR mics to 1/8″. Once you have XLR connections, you can use a wide variety of lavaliere, shotgun and handheld interview mics. You don’t have to spend a fortune, you can get a really good quality mic for under $200.

As I’m writing this, it’s occuring to me that each of these topics can be expanded upon, and there is a lot more detail about the equipment to go into. I’ll work on that, so check back in a week or two and see what I’ve come up with. In the meantime, start thinking about how you can use video to impact people for Christ!