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8 Steps to Making a Video: In Practice

So what do the 8 steps actually look like in real life?  I’m glad you asked, cause not only do I get to tell you how I went about them in a recent video that I made , but I get to share the video with you (watch it below).  Be prepared for when you watch it though – it can be a bit gross and wacky.  But I think any student will feel some affinity with it; maybe even video makers who are trying to function the next day after a long night in the editing room.  So I’ll talk through each step one by one, trying to give an indication of what you might expect when you go to make a video.

1) Making sure our idea was incredible
I love brainstorming ideas with other people – it keeps me fresh, and sparks my creative side into action.  This is totally what happened here.  The reason to make a film was already there: our college revue was coming up, and being in our final year, a bunch of us were keen to do something that would be a funny reflection on something to do with our time at college.  So that was our brief.  The idea then came by a shared experience of watching some sketches by Tim and Eric – funny but wacky stuff, and often in a sort of infomercial style.  Someone made an extreme comment on facebook, being so desperate to be able to function better for study that he’d inject caffeine directly into his eyeball.  The idea was then sparked.  All it needed was for us to brainstorm how the plot would begin, develop, and finish on a high.  We figured out a basic structure that could work well, and then it was down to scripting to add in more of the joke ideas that we had been tossing around.

2) Scripting “The Cisco Direct Injection System”
With the idea in hand, we took it to the lunch table and started trying to put it to paper.  We came up with the basic bits of dialogue that moved the drama along, and hold it together.  Then we filled it out a bit more with some additional gags that we thought would be funny as well as complementing the flow of the story well.  We also decided not to include some funny lines because they did not complement the overall flow.  We then read it through to see if it felt right, and whether it actually sounded like timing would work.  This process then went back and forth (scripting and reading) until we were happy with what we had.

3) Storyboarding “The Cisco Direct Injection System”
I then broke down the script into a 4 column table, where each row represented a different shot.  I put the dialogue that ran through each shot in the appropriate row in one column, and the action occurring within each shot in another.  Then I had another column which I could drawn within each cell how I wanted the shot to look (though in this instance, because I was strapped for time, I wrote down a description like “cu portrait student”, picturing in my head what this would look like – you can get away with this when you can visualise exactly what you want, but I would always recommend drawing it when you can).  I used the forth column to then write down any props we would need, a possible location, and which actors would be involved.

4) Organise the filming of “The Cisco Direct Injection System”
Because the idea and scripting had been done over a period of time, a lot of this had already been talked about (in terms of who we would get for acting, possible locations, and props).  And we were going to shoot it on my equipment (Canon 60d with 50mm 1.4f lens with shotgun mic plugged in).  So, I just needed to kick it all into motion.  Again around the lunch table, we sorted out who was bringing each prop, where we would film each scene, and the time and date for our film shoot.  I also drew up a shooting schedule, planning the order in which we would film each shot (it’s usually the case that it’s easier to film them out of order because of location and availability of actors).  While we’re on that, it took longer than I expected for filming.  This is always always the case.  So make sure when you’re planning a schedule for filming that you allow lots of extra time.

5) Filming “The Cisco Direct Injection System”
This was a lot of fun.  We had a good laugh seeing our ideas come to life.  Thankfully, the logistics all worked out ok.  There were a couple of last minute changes, but because we were well thought through, these were manageable.  Because we had a shot schedule, none were missed.  Some shot plans didn’t work as well as hoped, so they were adjusted, and some were much better than expected.  The team did a great job, and although it took longer than I had communicated, they were very forgiving and happy with the day.  The only thing I was unhappy with, which I only discovered later, was that one of the shots had its audio distorting because I had the levels too high (can you pick it in the video?).  This is the danger in using the DSLR – unless you have an additional audio mixer, which I did not have at the time, you cannot monitor your audio.

6) Import the footage of “The Cisco Direct Injection System” for editing
Thankfully I had done this process with the DSLR a couple of times already, so knew what I was in for.  I imported the footage using the EOS utility, and then used Log and Transfer in Final Cut Pro to import the footage.  I checked my project and sequence settings so that they were the same as the footage, and I was ready to go for editing.  At this stage, I also started collecting some of the other bits of media I would need, pulling in my folder of royalty-free music and some images that I knew I would need for the green screen shots.

7) Editing “The Cisco Direct Injection System”
Including the importing above, this took about seven hours.  This is a bit slow for me because I’m out of practice with editing.  “But the final video is only two minutes!  Why did it take so long?” you say?  Well I say get used to video my friend – it takes a long time, especially if you’re pedantic about getting it right.  And it would have taken soooooo much longer if we had not plannned well for filming, as well as being a much worse final video.  I started from the beginning and inserted the shots for the first scene in order.  Then I found some appropriate music, laid it in my ‘music’ tracks, and started editing the clips to the music so that it felt right.  I tried to make the cuts where you could see the continuity in action (like being at the same point of movement in sitting down).  I also added in any sound effects needed.  Once the scene was about right, I moved onto the next one following the same process.  This continued until I got to the end of the film.  At this point, I was able to close my eyes and listen to the film – the audio was pretty much as it would be at the point of export.  I then adjusted all the visual stuff, adding in graphics, credits, and backgrounds for the green screen shots.  To do this, I needed to spend some time in an image editor to get these right.  I then rendered the whole thing and watched it through to make sure I was happy with it.  Then I did a sound master to make sure that it was consistent throughout and as loud as it could be without peaking, followed by checking for any audio peaks which I could then remove.  Then I put a broadcast safe filter across all the footage to stop colour peaks, and rendered the whole thing.  Done!   (For tips on editing in Final Cut Pro, check out this)

8).Export “The Cisco Direct Injection System”
Ahhh, the final step.  For this, all I needed to do was export it as a quicktime at its current settings, making it self-contained.  I then used Compressor to compress it into a smaller file (using the settings suggested by Ed McNichol on Vimeo), and it was ready to transfer to the person organising the Moore College Revue, and upload to Vimeo.  And there you have it!

Please comment if you want any more details about the above process.

This post is part of the series 8 Steps to Making a Video

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8 Steps to Making a Video

Image: 'Camermen...' by nkzs. Sourced from Used with permission.

Fantastic!  You want to make a video.  But wait – don’t start filming right now!!  Making a video is a bit like all that stuff you hear about food on Masterchef – getting your idea and preparation right at the start will see a better process and more impressive results.  So here’s the process that I aim for when I want to make a video. (This is just an overview.  To get more detail on any of the below steps, just click the heading)

1) Make sure your idea is incredible
Look at the process backwards – your editing can only ever be as good as your footage, which can only ever be as good as your filming, which can only ever be as good as its content, which can only ever be as good as the planning/script, which can only ever be as good as the initial concept.  So, don’t skimp out on your idea!  Make sure you work it and rework it; where’s it going?; how will it end?; is the twist as good as it can be?; does it work within your limits (budget/equipment/actors/music/skills etc)?  Make sure your idea is the best it possibly can be, because your film will only ever be as good as that idea!

2) Script everything!
I’m not just talking about dialogue, but everything that happens.  Put it down on paper so that you know exactly how your idea is playing out.  Then run it by someone else, especially if they are handy with words.  Even if you’re doing a vox pop or interview, know what kind of content grabs you’re looking for.

3) Storyboard everything!
This is where you basically map out every shot.  You draw a still frame for each shot, and put the part of the script next to it that the shot will cover.  At the end of this process, you should be able to effectively ‘watch’ the film in your head.  You’re basically editing before you shoot, and it means you have less footage to trawl through in the editing process, and your footage will be a billion times better (possibly an over-exaggeration).

4) Organise your filming day
You need to organise all your equipment (camera, charged batteries, tripod, sound gear, headphones, lighting?, extension cords etc); your actors; your crew; your paperwork (scripts, storyboards etc); your locations; and your realistic plan for shooting – when will you film each shot and how much time will it take?  Have you left enough space in your schedule for all those unexpected things that will happen?

5) Film your film
If you’ve storyboarded and planned will, this should be fun.  It’s a good idea to make sure you’re really familiar with the camera you’ll be using on the day.  Stick to your storyboard unless you can see that you really need another shot to supplement how the filming has gone (since things don’t always turn out exactly how you pictured it).  Make sure you communicate really well with your actors and crew – don’t be afraid to get a bit bossy (but of course do it gently).  Always encourage your people helpers with things they do well!  And make sure you adequately reward them for their help!

6) Import your footage for editing
This always takes longer than you think, and very often can be where videographers run into trouble.  Always check that you have the right settings (PAL 25p/50i fps and a 16:9 resolution are probably going to be what you’re looking for, but check your camera settings and see if it matches with your computer).  Allow sufficient time for this.  If you can avoid importing shots that you won’t use, then that will speed you up later.

7) Edit your film
Sorry to say this, but chances are that the newer you are to this, the longer it will take.  Be ready.  But stick at it.  The more you edit, the faster and better at it you will get.  Check out my video on how to make an interview video if you’re using final cut pro – even if you’re not making an interview video, it will give you some principles to work from.  The basic principle is to let the audio guide your editing.  It will set the rhythm.  So edit to the audio rather than the visual.  Audio always covers a multitude of visual sins, but not the other way around.

8) Export your film
The final step, but this can also be the most painful.  So make sure you’ve got enough time for your computer to do its thing, and make sure you know the settings that you need for whatever purpose your film is for.  If you’re making it for church, are you exporting it in a format that will play on your church computer?  (FYI – a playable DVD is not just copying the movie file onto a writable DVD and burning it; you need to use a program like idvd etc to build a dvd).

And you’re done!  Did this help?

This post only summarises the above 8 steps.
For more detail, start with Step 1. Make sure your idea is incredible
Go here to see how I put the 8 steps into practice on a recent project

Not-so-cheap setup: DSLR + digital-audio-recorder

This option involves taking your video on a Digital SLR camera.  This has become more and more popular over the last number of years as the video capabilities on the DSLRs have improved.  Quite a number now have full HD capabilities.  The reason why this has become so popular amongst indie film-makers, and even professionals, is because it provides an affordable means of using some really nice lenses without having to buy a ridiculously expensive film camera, like they use in the movies.  It’s the same kind of idea as the camcorder with a lens adapter, only here the quality is going to be better because it’s only going through one lens rather than two.  Further, you have much more control over your image settings due to the nature of the DSLR being optimised for still images.

The problem?  It’s hard to use.  They usually take a fair bit of practice to work out how to actually film so that you can see what you’re shooting and not be too shaky (like attaching a tripod to hold as a stabiliser).  Also, it’s nowhere near as automated for the image settings – You need to get used to how to adjust the settings so that they film the image the way you want it, and you will have to focus manually during shooting.  Then there’s the mic – on a DSLR it’s generally going to be pretty bad, especially in big open spaces.  Some DSLRs come with a mic input, but you won’t be able to monitor or adjust the sound levels while filming.  This is pretty risky.

But it’s such an amazing image!!  So to work around the sound problem it means you need a way to monitor and adjust the sound input.

One way is to get a Audio Mixer that pre-mixes your sound.  It sits between your camera and mic (mic plugs into mixer, then mixer into camera mic input), so the sound is still recorded onto the camera, but you are able to monitor it by plugging headphones into the mixer so you can listen to what the mixed sound is like and adjusting the mixer settings accordingly.  These sell for around $50-200.  The bonus is that you only have to do one import because the audio is still captured on your camera.  The danger is that you still cannot monitor exactly what the camera is recording, and it is relying on the camera’s audio capture which is sometimes not as clean as it could be.

The second way is by some sort of digital recording device like the Zoom H4N.  It can function in the same way as the mixer (it has a mixed output that you can plug in to the camera mic input), but also has the capability of recording four separate tracks on it, coming with two mics built in that work pretty well, and the ability to plug in two additional mics.  This is the way to go if you want some great sound.  The pain of this is that if you want to use the audio recorded onto an external device, you have to import the audio separately and sync up the audio and video in editing.  But it will be worth it.  The DSLR (and even camcorders) can only go so far in their audio capabilities.  DSLR’s are built to create great images, not audio, and camcorders are more all rounders.

With this kind of set-up (DSLR, good lens, digital audio recorder), if you can get used to using it, you have the potential to create some really high-level video.  Even top level commercials are made on this kind of set-up!  But if you’re new to video, then you’re really going to struggle with this option at first.  It’s like learning to surf – you’d start on a long floaty board to start off with that will help you get the hang of surfing, and then move onto a shorter board later on once you know what you’re looking for and have a better ability to work out how to use it.  It might be a good idea to hire a set-up like this for a day for your next project, and see how you like it before you buy it.

Some of you will be budding photographers though and already have a DSLR, and maybe this is the first time you’ve realised that you could actually use it for video!  Hopefully you’ve got enough of an idea of the image settings that it won’t be as difficult for you, so give it a go.  But be prepared for it to be harder than you think it will be.

Another thing that is good to be aware of.  Zooming is generally going to be harder and choppier, because you’re doing it on the lens which generally are not set-up for filming while in the process of zooming.  It will probably be best to end up getting a couple of different lenses if this is the option you’re going to go for, including a couple of fixed lenses that will give you a really shallow depth of field, and a lens that covers a good range of zoom for when that is needed.  To start off with though, I would recommend a 50mm 1.4f lens.  It will give you a beautifully rich image, and forces you to frame your shots well (since you can’t zoom).  So you’re probably looking at $1000 for the body and $400 for the lens, plus whatever else you want to spend for more lenses and accessories.  So with this plus the H4N, you’re looking at up to $2000 for this set-up.

Just on a personal note, I have been using the Canon 60D as a body, and found it helpful for the practical nature of filming, mainly because of the flip-out rotating LCD screen.  It just gives that bit more versatility for filming angles in a hurry.  You can also adjust the audio recording level before recording which helps if you can’t get your hands on an external digital audio device.  I also hear that it doesn’t overheat as much as some of the others do when filming for long periods.

Not for you?
Check out other setups in this series:
Cheapest setup: Camcorder and Mic
Cheapish setup: Camcorder with adapted lens
Necessories: tripod, mic, headphones, (audio recorder)

Asking someone else to make a Video

My guess is that most people in this situation from the church setting are pastors, youth leaders, church leaders, or someone else with a position of responsibility.  You’ve been thinking that you want to make your church service a bit more appealing, and so have been using different mediums to do that.  Maybe you’ve revamped the music, beautified your bulletins, run some interviews, and maybe even some skits.  And you then think that having some video would be really cool.  You’ve thought through why you’re using it and what you want it to achieve, and so you know now that you need someone in your church to make it.  Here’s three things you need to ask yourself before you ask someone else to make a video.

1) ask yourself: do you honestly understand what you’re asking this person to do?  I’ve had a number of people ask me to make videos for various things, and I reckon the normal assumption is that it doesn’t take too long.  For example, making a vox pop video – I reckon most people who have asked me to make something like this think that it should only take about an hour – total!  However, this just isn’t the case.  Video always takes longer than you think, especially if you’re new to it.  There are always technical problems, and there’s a lot of steps to take.  Even if someone has provided you with the initial idea, you still have to work out how to practically execute it, then organise everything for filming, then film it, then import the video onto the computer, then edit it, then export it in a format that can be played.  So if you’re asking someone to make a video for you, always remember that it is going to take a lot of time and effort from them.  This takes us to the next point…

2) ask yourself: do you have a realistic expectation of the result?  It’s probably not going to look like a Hollywood movie.  If it’s the first time this person is making video, you might find that when you’re looking at it that you almost don’t want to use it.  Are you ready for that?  If you want better video, then it’s going to take time for people to get better at making it.  You’re going to have to be ready for some shockers, yet at the same time to appreciate all the effort made by the person you asked to do it.  Be ready to be patient and to encourage.  That’s what it was like for you with learning to preach/lead studies/play music/etc right?

3) ask yourself: have you clearly communicated what you want?  If you’re going to ask someone to make something, make sure that you are as clear as possible what you want.  You can’t expect them to know what’s in your head simply because they’re ‘creative’.  Make sure you’ve done some hard thinking about what you want, communicate that clearly, and then give the person you’re asking the license to make it from there.  If you want something quite specific, then you’re going to need to spend more time planning and working with the videographer to make it closer to what you’re after.

Along with this also comes a responsibility to communicate things to do with video that they might not be aware of, such as info on copyright and appropriate content.  Churches are generally pretty good at doing this with their musicians, making sure they have a CCLI licence and music.  Why not make sure you’re clear with your videographers?  My hope is that you would find this site a good place to refer them to, but I’ll also try to make a document that you could give to your budding videographer that might help give them a clear intro to making video for churches – keep on my back about this if it doesn’t come shortly.  For now, get them to check out the stuff on copyright, resources, the two principles, and equipment.

Sites for downloading royalty-free images

Like Video and Music, Images come under copyright. But you already knew this right? We’ve known it for centuries – that’s why people got into such big trouble for forging artworks! So, if you’re going to use someone else’s image, you’re going to need their permission. Thankfully this is much more accessible than video and music. There’s a lot out there, and a lot of great stuff. Now at this point you may say “but why do I need these sites when I can just search on Google Images?!” Well, Google Images (and other similar search engines) scan all images they can, providing you with a lot of results. You can look at them (that’s why they’re on the web), but that doesn’t mean that you can use them in your own media (whether in print, powerpoint, or video). You need the copyright owners permission. But with the rise of the digital SLR, lots of sites have been created where people put up their photos because they want you to use them. The professional sites often ask for money for use of these images. But there are also community sites where people share their photos for you to use. So here’s a few of each: – a huge range of exceptional images that usually aren’t too expensive – big range of images for a really affordable price (most about $1) – or ‘Stock Exchange’ – this has been my favourite for a long time. It has a great selection of good photos, and all are free to use. Sometimes people will have restrictions on use, but they are usually small (as in, they want to be notified when you use it, or credited) – similar to Stock Exchange, although I’ve generally found the images are not as good. – a search engine for royalty free photos! Brilliant – although you have to do a lot of trawling to find the right photo that’s also of a reasonable standard.

Bottom line – there’s lots out there. So why not try to be good to those who actually create the images, and use them with permission (so paying those who ask for it, and accepting the grace of those willing to share their images for free). You may well even like to put a credit with the creator and ‘used with permission’ in your powerpoint or video, but this would be more to help others consider how they use images rather than because you need to.

One final major bugbear I have to get off my chest. A number of times I have seen youth group flyers or powerpoint presentations that have an image where you can clearly see a watermark like ‘istockphoto’ across it. They put that on there because they’re saying it is illegal to use that picture unless you buy it! And I don’t see how we so blatantly ignore this and use it anyway. Please restrain yourself, and use something that’s royalty free instead.

‘Splitscreen: A Love Story’ and things to learn from it

Splitscreen: A Love Story was the winner of the Nokia Shorts competition 2011.  Watch it.  Notice firstly – it is a brilliant, simple idea.  It takes the style of camera and uses it to suit the concept.  Interestingly, if you watch the ‘making of’ videos (see below), the footage quality is much better when you look at it, but do you see how the sound quality breaks it (but that’s ok cause it’s a ‘making of’, and kind of what we’re expecting).

This brings us to the second thing to notice – the audio in the film is really nice, and helps you engage with the story, rather than distract you from it.  It helps somehow helps you believe the two similar shots in different countries are the same.

Third, notice how Griffiths has achieved beautiful continuity between the two shots.  This must have taken a lot of waiting to get those shots (for a train/pedestrian/cyclist to go past at the same point in the shot).  It’s a good tip for editing – look for the actions in a shot that you can match with the next shot and make your cut on that.  It can be as simple as a blink.  This will help the cut to be less distracting.  The other thing that has really helped Griffiths’ continuity is the steadiness of his shots.  If one side were wobbling while the other side wasn’t, it would have ruined the illusion.  If you watch the ‘making of’, you’ll notice a small steadicam contraption he used.  A makeshift version that you could use without buying one is a tripod.  Just attache it to the camera, but keep it compact without releasing the legs, and then hold it by one of the legs.  This will help with stability.

So do you get the picture?  The idea, audio and filming techniques were all more important than the actual video capture quality.  So make sure this is reflected in the way you approach your next video.

Thanks for a cool vid JW, and for a great example of creative filming.

Cheapish setup: Camcorder with adapted lens

This set-up is basically adding to the Cheapest Set-up in order to improve the quality of your image.  To understand why you might want to do this, compare your camcorder footage that you’ve taken so far to the images that you see in your favourite movie.  Pretty different right?  Do you notice some of the differences?  For one, there’s the colour.  Often your camcorder footage is going to look a lot more washed out, where as the film will be warm and full.  The other is what’s called the ‘depth of field’ – this refers to how much of the depth of the image is in the field of focus.  The shallower the depth of field, the more particular is the point of focus, and everything else gets blurrier and blurrier.  Now some of these things can be helped along by lighting, filming distance/zoom, and post-production effects, but your main problem is really the lens on your camcorder.  It’s simply not cut out to make anything even close to the images you see in the movies.

“But how can I even come close to getting this kind of image on a budget?!” you may ask.  Well, here’s an answer: get a better lens!  The next three set-ups are really about trying to keep improving that image by improving the lens (and capturing format) that you are able to use.

First things first.  Ever had a go of an SLR camera?  They have lots of versatility with lenses.  I love the photos that are taken with lenses that achieve a really shallow depth of field – I feel like I get caught up into the image.  Nowadays, the digital SLR cameras can also take full HD video – this means you can take video at a reasonable quality while at the same time achieving that brilliant footage!  But you may not yet be able to afford this kind of camera yet, or you might find them a bit awkward to shoot video on.  So what can you do?  Convert an old SLR lens onto your camcorder!  Lots of indie film makers went this way before SLR cameras got the HD video capability.

There’s some things you need to know though.  First, you want to get the right lens.  You want one that’s going to give you a good depth of field.  I got a 50mm 1.4f lens for mine (see picture above), and it has worked a treat.  You’re generally going to get a much shallower depth of field on a fixed lens (as in, no zoom).  I think it also forces you to frame your shot better than you would if you simply zoomed.  You can get an old one of these lenses for around $200 – they will usually be of great solid material, but might not fit a modern SLR (so if you were to end up getting an SLR, it wouldn’t be much good to you without another adapter – unless it’s a Nikon lens).  New lenses like this retail for around $450.

Next, you need a lens adapter.  This needs to both fit the lens and the camcorder thread – you may need to get an extra piece to fit these together.  The lens adapter is basically a tube with a focussing screen – so the image from the lens gets projected onto the screen, and the camcorder then focusses on the image on the screen.  Unfortunately this means that the image will be upside down, but you can work around this.  It is helpful to get an adapter that has a vibrating focussing screen.  This will blur out any specs of dust on the screen that would otherwise appear as tiny black dots on your final image.

Lots of people make these adapters themselves (search Vimeo for DIY lens adapter tutorials if you want to give it a go), but you could also buy one – they can be really expensive, but you should be able to pick a basic one up off ebay or a manufacturer for around $200.

So, the moral of the above?  If you’re going to improve your video footage, you need a good lens, and the cheapest way to do this will probably be to get a lens and a lens adapter for your camcorder.  This will end up costing you about $400 on top of what you already spent on the Cheapest Set-up of Camcorder and Mic.

PS.  Do not make this upgrade if you have not got an external mic.  The vibrating focussing screen will create noise for your camera mic, and will be way to0 distracting.  Audio over visual!

Update 29/6/11: a video on 35mm lens adapters – cheesy, and a bit long, but helpful visual of the mechanism.

Not for you?
Check out other setups in this series:
Cheapest setup: Camcorder and Mic
Not-so-cheap setup: DSLR + digital-audio-recorder
Necessories: tripod, mic, headphones, (audio recorder)

When can I use other’s music/video/images in my video?

Image by brainloc, - Used with Permission.

Making a video yourself can be a fun task, but it is almost always time consuming and hard.  A way we find of cutting corners is by using music, images, and video that other people have created to bring up the quality.  People are already familiar with it so it can be easier to relate to, and it is also usually much better quality than the music, images and video that we try to create ourselves.  As we have the great ideas of how to use other people’s media in our own, it’s easy to overlook the  copyright attached.  I reckon mostly we just don’t think of it!  The difficult news is that all music, images, and video have copyright attached simply because it is the work of the creator.  Mainstream works (like a hollywood film) are often tied up with a whole range of people, and so copyright is handled by a distributor.  So, this means we cannot just use whatever we want in our own videos.  Below are some of the intricacies about the use of the different mediums.

But what if I own the music?
When you buy a CD or mp3, you then have the right to play it as you like for personal use.  You are even able to change its format and store it on different devices (eg computer and ipod – believe it or not, this was only made legal a few years ago).  However, you are not allowed to freely distribute it – so giving a copy to a friend, or sharing it on the internet, or even playing it in an open public setting without permission (see FEVA document for use in church).  You are also not allowed to change it without permission.  This happens when you add a music track to video – it becomes a different medium.  By connecting it with the video, you have changed what the music will mean.

This means that legally you are not able to use mainstream music in a video you put together for church unless you are able to get permission from the distributor (though this usually involves a substantial cost).

But what if I credit them?
This doesn’t make a difference.  It’s actually the wrong way of looking at it.  The credits are there to show what is going on legally – a requirement of the permission already attained.  It’s very loosely like how just doing good things doesn’t get you right with God; instead, Christians do good things because they’re right with God through Jesus.

This leads into my hot tip though: a good way to work out whether you can use music/video/images in a video or not is to again ask if you could honestly put a credit at the end for the music/video/image with its creator saying ‘Used with permission‘.  Placing this kind of credit at the end is a good practice anyway as it acknowledges the creators work, keeps you accountable, and helps the viewers to recognise that there are legal obligations.  Maybe if more of us did this, it would help others to be more aware of how they use other people’s media.

There are also LOTS of resources available that you can use with permission for video, music, and images.  So check them out.  You’ll notice a lot of images on this site from these kind of resources, and a lot of music in my videos.

Youtube etc?

'Late Night Portrait' by Scataudo on sxc. Used with Permission.

The Internet has opened lots of possibilities for sourcing videos, but also some dangers if we are wanting to obey copyright law. is great resource for sharing your videos, particularly for video-blogging or those quirky party tricks.  However, like music sharing programs, it has also been used to distribute videos that do not have the creators permission to be up there.  Just because it is on youtube does not mean you can use it as you please.  For example, tv episodes are more often than not illegal posts – better to go to the network site if you want to watch it or get the DVD.

Basic principle:  With any youtube (or online) video, look for whether or not it has been posted by the creator or distributor.  If not, then don’t use it.  If yes, then contact them and ask for permission before using it.  I think this is why Youtube doesn’t have a download feature – they know people will use Youtube to distribute illegal content, and so try to limit that.  (In saying this, youtube has started going along the Vimeo line of indicating that there is some kind of license, and you choose a license when you upload a video now.  But it’s still hard to find where this information is)

There are lots of places online that you can get video to use with permission granted – see my earlier post.  Really, it’s coming down to a decision as to whether or not you want to submit to the copyright authorities – if this is you, then you are going to be more limited in your video choice.  And that’s ok.  It has the potential to actually help you be more creative – you’re liberated from having to use the ‘perfect’ video!  You may even find an even better video for your purposes that you are free to use and would not have otherwise found.  And you get to love your neighbour by using video with permission.

Making Better Video finally launched… so Subscribe!!

Hi all!

We’ve finally got there – where ‘there’ is exactly I don’t know, but it’s enough to say that it’s time for Making Better Video to go live.  I hope you enjoy the beginnings of the site so far.  Have a browse around.  There’s some helpful stuff on copyright and use of video, and I’ve started a series on filming set-ups that may be helpful if you are starting out in video.  There will be new posts coming each week, so make sure to subscribe (look in the toolbar to your right).  Feel free to start sharing the site with your friends.  It is particularly directed at people who are making videos for churches and people who are wanting to use videos in their churches (and get others to make videos for them).

So share the love, browse around, and comment!  And did I say subscribe?

Wohoo!  We’re launched!


Necessories: tripod, mic, headphones, (audio recorder)

I reckon that if you want to make a decent video then you’re going to need some kind of tripod, mic and headphones to go along with whatever device you’re using to record your video. Some of these are included in the filming set-ups, but I’ll fill out a few more of your options here.

First off: tripods!

Chances are that you’re as shaky as the average person when it comes to filming, and you don’t always want the shaky-cam look. Get a tripod! There’s a huge range of them, and you can get one for pretty cheap if you’re strapped for cash. Not only are they brilliant for getting a good steady shot, allowing you to adjust the camera to the angle of your choice, they also allow you to do smoother pans and motion. I even use my tripod as a balance weight to aid stabilisation when I’m shooting on the move (as in I have the tripod attached to the camera and hold onto a leg – it gives me a much smoother shot than if I were holding just the camera!)

look for one like this if you can afford it

Things to look for in a tripod:
1) Stability – it’s got to do what it’s there for! Can the tripod hold your camera stable? The one pictured is a really stable design. Unfortunately, the cheaper ones are often quite flimsy. However that may be all you need for a small camcorder.
2) The head – it should move smoothly and provide a little resistance. It should also allow you good control over your angle. It’s also nice having a level bubble on the head so you know when your camera is level.
3) The legs – they should be able to get you as high and as low as you need to go. The extension grips should also not let the legs move once you’ve set the desired length.
4) The feet – these don’t matter so much, but it can be nice to have spikes and movable feet that adjust to the slope you’re on.

Second: mics!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – audio is more important than video. The camera inbuilt mics will generally sound tinny, and the background noise will always be louder than you want. So, you need an external microphone. Here’s some different types you might think about:

1) Shotgun – I’ve found this to be the most versatile type of mic. It’s the one I use most of the time. They have better directional capabilities so that you capture the audio you want, without the mic in shot and the background noise is less invasive. It’s great if you’ve got a boom pole so that you can hover this mic over the top – close to your target, but out of shot. You could also use a mic stand.

2) Lapel – these are particularly good for capturing audio of one person’s voice, so fantastic for interviews. They’re not so good for other types of audio though, so better as a second option in your armoury. The mics themselves are pretty cheap, but the remote boxes are a bit more expensive.

3) Icecream (dynamic) – these are the classic news reporter and singer mics. They are great for voice audio, and can even be a fun prop. Their starting price is probably also the cheapest. But, they’re only good if you can get them close, which means that they are usually in shot. Not always the best look! They are also ok for recording ambient background tracks.

Third: headphones!
There’s not much point having an external mic if you can’t hear what it sounds like. There’s nothing worse than getting to your computer and realising that you forgot to turn the mic on or that there is a buzz because your cable wasn’t connected properly (to clarify: there are things that are worse than this in life, but this is still pretty bad). You can get by with generic headphones that come with your mobile or mp3 player, but it is better to get some that will cancel the outside noise – you want what you hear to be what is being recorded. The more you can fork out, the better these will be.

Fourth (when you can afford it): external digital audio recording device!
One of these bad boys will allow you a whole lot more control over the incoming audio. It will also allow you to record separate tracks at the same time, so you could have two mics going at once (eg a lapel and a shotgun). It does mean that you have to sync up your audio and video in post production, but this is usually well worth it. Since you can still get reasonable quality audio through an external mic linked straight into your camera, you don’t need this straight off. But it will be well worth keeping in mind for when you want a seriously good final product. A good starter would be the Zoom H4n (pictured).

Not for you?
Check out other setups in this series:
Cheapest setup: Camcorder and Mic
Cheapish setup: Camcorder with adapted lens
Not-so-cheap setup: DSLR + digital-audio-recorder

Cheapest Set-up: Camcorder and Mic

If you’re starting from scratch, this is about the cheapest option you can go for if you’re going to buy something for making videos.  Sometimes you can get away with using your basic digital camera or even your phone these days, but remember our two principles?  If you’re buying cheap gear, then you should make audio your priority (unless you’re making videos where all the audio is imported – eg Music videos).  My opinion is that most camcorders will have much better sound recording capabilities than other cheap video recording devices.

So what do you look for in a camcorder?

First off, make sure it has an input socket for an external microphone.

Then, as soon as you have another $50-100 available, buy one.  You can sometimes get cheapish shotgun mic (like the one pictured) off ebay for this kind of price.  It won’t be a Sennheisser, but it will get you much better and clearer sound than the inbuilt mic on the camera.  The shotgun mic is also pretty versatile, allowing you to capture a good range of sounds without being in shot.  It should have it’s own power-source (like an AA battery), and come with a wind sock and an XLR cable – this will need a converter to get into the camera input (which you may be able to get included in your package).

Preferably, it should also have an input for your headphones so you can monitor the sound.  This is especially crucial if you’re thinking of doing any filming in places with background noise (which you most probably are!).  Even if you don’t have an external mic, get a pair of headphones so you can listen in to the audio that the camera is picking up – preferably ones that cover your ears ($50?).

Next, consider the video quality.  HD camcorders are now cheap enough that I’d be surprised if you had to consider something of lower quality.  Make sure it is full HD (1920×1080 pixels).  After that, look at the lens and the censor – the better they are the better the footage.  In Australia, we use the PAL system (25 frames per second), so make sure it shoots at this rate if you live here.  If you live in America on the other hand, you want an NTSC camera (30 frames per second).

The other thing to notice with video quality is how it records the footage – check how much it is being compressed for storage.  Full quality footage (minimal compression) should take up a lot of space!  Be ready for that – which will probably mean buying a big SDHC memory card for storage (since that’s where the storage seems to be heading).

Any features beyond this don’t tend to matter that much.  You can do effects in editing – they just put them on the camcorder to try to make it look more attractive.

Most camcorders you can find that have the above specifications should be around the $300-400 price range.  One that I’ve found online which looks like a good entry level is the Canon Vixia HF R10.  It’s got the above specs, and you could potentially attach a lens converter on later (check the next filming setup for what I’m talking about).  I’m sure there’s loads more.  So look around, read and watch reviews, and maybe even see if you can give something a try.  (It’s hard nowadays to find a cheap camcorder with an audio input.  Two mentioned in the comments below are the Kodak Zi8, Aipetek Action HD, and GoPro Hero, but each come with their own downsides.  Another option you could try is to add the input yourself, but you’d want to make sure you knew what you were doing!  Check out this for an example on a JVC Everio)

Moral of the above?  The best thing you can do for your video is get an external microphone!  All up, that puts the above set up (camera, mic, headphones?) at $350-550.  Not bad! (I paid $1500 for my first video camera – and that was cheap for a MiniDV camera back in the day.  Hi8 was still around!)

Also, check out this video for a good comparison of Mobile phone cameras and Camcorders:

Not for you?
Check out other setups in this series:
Cheapish setup: Camcorder with adapted lens
Not-so-cheap setup: DSLR + digital-audio-recorder
Necessories: tripod, mic, headphones, (audio recorder)

Buying vs Hiring

Any filming equipment you buy will be superseded quicker than you can figure out how to spell ‘superseded’ (did I even spell that right?).  It’s not going to be an investment (unless you are regularly making money out of the videos you make from it).  I’ve seen a number of people (and have been one myself) get a really expensive video camera for their first buy, and then by the time they get good at video, the camera is outdated or broken.  We also tend to get in the mind set that you have to have really expensive equipment to get good quality, especially after we see the kind of gear that they use to make movies.  And we usually get dazzled by what a video camera can do before we think about sound (remember the principles?).

What I did for a while was had a cheap camcorder for doing day-to-day videos, and then hired better equipment for shooting a short film.  The kind of cameras I could hire were much better than any I could even think about buying, and since I only needed it once or twice a year, it was comparatively cheap.  And they had great sound equipment that was very cheap to hire.  The other option of buying something a bit better would have meant that my short films would not have come out as nice.  This is especially the case now that the cheapest equipment can give you a really nice image compared with 10 years ago.

So, if you’re new to video and are thinking about buying a camera, my suggestion would be to start on something cheap that you can make lots of videos on, and then hire something better when you want to make something of a better quality.  This will also give you the opportunity of trying equipment before you buy.  If you go on to more professional video, you will then be familiar enough with the equipment to know what you want.  Also, the hire equipment will keep getting upgraded, so you keep getting more bang for your buck.

Some hire places in Sydney:

(please comment if you have any suggestions for where to hire)

Think about how long do you expect your camera purchase to last.  5 years?  It will most likely have either broken or been massively outdated by then.  So, break down the cost over 5 years and work out if your use will justify the money, or whether it will be better to just hire the decent equipment when you need it. Think about what you want this equipment for, and whether buying or hiring will be better for you.  Anyway, onto the equipment…

Two Important Principles

Two big things to get into your head:

1) Audio is more important than Video – high quality visuals with bad sound will be far worse than poor quality visuals with great sound.  Good sound covers way more mistakes than good video – and you will make mistakes!  This means that when it comes to gear, you need to readjust your priorities – don’t go for an amazing visual camera if you won’t be able to get good sound, and good sound will almost always require an external microphone.

2) Good gear does not equal good videos – it will help, but it won’t guarantee it.  When someone has appreciated a video I’ve edited, they will always ask what I used to edit it – the thinking behind it is almost always “If I had that editing equipment, I could edit a good video.”  But this just isn’t the case.  If you want to edit a good video, learn how to be a good editor, and then slowly build the equipment you need to do that when you do.

>> So, what I’m hoping to do in the next couple of posts is give some tips on gear that you might think about getting if you want to shoot and edit video.  The tips will be based on the above two principles.  I’ll outline a number of set-ups for videoing, which will jump up both in price and quality.  If you’re starting out at video, why not start with one of the simpler options, and then when you get better at video you can upgrade, knowing what you want.  If you’ve already been making a bit of video, hopefully these set-ups will give you some ideas about gear that will help improve your quality, and how much it will cost you to do it.  Also, you might like to try hiring something in order to give it a try before you buy it, and see what kind of results you get.

Sites for Downloading Royalty Free Music

Royalty free music is music that the artist has released for people the use any way they want.  The idea of being ‘royalty-free’ is that you don’t need to pay any royalty for using it.  These usually come at a small cost (you can buy CDs/downloads full of royalty free music), but are also sometimes available for free.  My favourite at the moment is by Kevin MacLeod.  He has a wide variety of tracks which you can download at a high quality, and they are all released under a Creative Commons License.  He asks that if you use his stuff then you make a small donation per track used.  He also has several links to other good sites of similar musicians producing royalty free music like by Jason Shaw.

Another site is though sometimes you need to be careful of people who have posted copyrighted material (as you do on vimeo and youtube).  Also has some tracks available for free, and lots at a small cost.

There are loads more you could find if you search the net.  Just make sure to read the site’s ‘terms of use’ and ‘license agreement’ to make sure you are aware of how you can use their content.

Another great way of getting music you can use is by asking a band you know (or who you think might give you permission) if you can use one of their recorded tracks.  They may even be able to provide you with the track without vocals if that’s what you need.  See Page CXVI for a great band that has made this really simple.  If you’re in a band and would offer your music for others to use, feel free to comment and leave a link to your site.

Update 1/6/11: I just got forwarded a link to where Moby (that’s right, the famous musician) has made a whole heap of tracks available for free download and use for non-profit/non-commercial videos/websites/etc. You just need to create a log-in, and then when you find the track you want to use, you request it and are then granted permission to download and use it. What great generosity!

Update 29/9/11: Vimeo have just launched their Music Store which is really clear on the licensing, has good quality stuff, and quite a lot of free stuff.  It also has some good features for searching and saving tracks that you like without having to download them straight away.  I think I’m going to enjoy this!

Sites for downloading video clips with permission granted

wingclips – these people have already gone to the distributors in seeking permission to use these clips, so you don’t have to.  You do have to sign up (though basic membership is free), and abide by their conditions of use (which is basically agreeing to use them as illustrative material in the church setting).

movieministry – similar to wingclips, with a great range of clips from films that the studios have given permission for free use.

bluefishtv – a site that has compiled a huge number of videos particularly for Christian use.  You can search for relevant content.  Most videos cost a couple of dollars.

vimeo – the difference vimeo has to youtube is that those who upload videos are generally film makers.  If it is available for download, then it usually means that the person is releasing it under a creative commons license (read more about this on vimeo).  It means you can show it, and even sometimes use it in your own videos (depending on the type of creative commons license).  If it is not available for download, then it means the maker is happy for you to watch it online, but doesn’t want you using it beyond that – so don’t try to rip it off with some other program.

videoblocks – This is a site for downloading royalty free stock footage.  You pay for a month’s subscription (about $50) and can download as many video clips as you want.  However, they also have a 7 day trial period where you can download clips for free – just make sure that if you don’t want to continue with the site that you unsubscribe before the end of the 7 days or you will be charged.  It’s great for getting footage that you would not otherwise be able to take yourself (like super slow-motion or aerial shots).

When can I show a video?

You might be someone who gives talks at a church or runs a youth group, and you’d love to use videos to engage the media savvy generation – especially if they are videos that they will recognise from the popular media.  Before we ask whether the content of the video is appropriate, I want to suggest that we should first be asking if we actually can use it.

Just as with music, a video is someone else’s work.  The creator therefore holds a copyright, and so can only be used if you have the creator’s permission.  This means that using a film or TV segment in church would generally attract a charge from the distributor (this even goes for showing a movie at a youth group).

A context for which permission is not needed is when the video is being critiqued (see the FEVA document for more detail).  The distributor may also have made an allowance for the public viewing of the video (this will usually be shown on the DVD cover).  Some videos are also advertised as ‘royalty free’, meaning it can be used publicly without the payment of royalties to the creator.

A good general principle to follow if you are unsure whether you can use the video or not is to ask yourself if you could honestly say that you are using it with the permission of the creator.  If the answer is no, then contact the creator/distributor and ask.  It seems that a lot of the time we are either too lazy to do this or assume that since ‘no-one will care’, it is ok to use the video.  Can I challenge you to submit to your authorities and recognise that by showing a video without gaining permission you are actually stealing.

FEVA’s document will give you a much better and more detailed understanding of this – please read it.

See resources for some places to access videos you can show with permission.

How to edit an Interview Video in Final Cut Pro

This walks you through the basics of great method for how to go about editing an interview video in Final Cut Pro. It is built around the principle that the audio of your video will drive how the image feels. This is incredibly important for editing. It then takes you through the steps you need to follow in terms of seeing that happen in Final Cut Pro. It will also get you editing faster. If you’re new to Final Cut Pro, then this will be a great starting point. If you’ve been doing some editing already, then hopefully this will give you a fresh approach. If you think you’ve got some better tips, then I’d love to hear them – please leave a comment.

The video I was editing can also be viewed – ‘How to make an Interview Video’

Music: ‘In Christ Alone – Instrumental’ by Page CXVI. Used with permission under creative commons.

Permission for use: Released under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License

• I couldn’t cover everything – eg capturing, compression. Let me know if you want me to try, or let me know about others who have already done this well.

My Music: Reformation!

This was almost more procrastination than study at the time, but it did turn out to be a pretty helpful study tool (even though the question didn’t come up in the exam).  This song summarises Calvin’s Small Treatise on the Lord’s Supper where he plays of Luther and Zwingli’s views.  Thanks to Nicky Chiswell for being ok with me parodying her song.  If you’re ever trying to remember the big points of this treatise, maybe this will help you!  Written in 2009 (in preparation for Church History 2 exam in June).

My Music: Deodorant Moment

The title speaks for itself – sharing those experiences when you really need deodorant.  Written in 2006.

My Music: How Majestic

This is a song I wrote in 2006 after reflecting on the wonderful words we hear in Psalm 8 – the God who created everything, who is majestic in all the earth, chose to care for humanity.  Even more so, he made them to rule his creation.  Yet our rule has been distorted by our sin, so how will God deal with this?  Hebrews 2 then addresses this same question.  God fulfills humanity’s rule in putting everything under Jesus – the true God-man who was like us in every way but without sin.  This blows me away.  I hope this song in some way reflects how majestic our great God is.

Jingles for learning Koine Greek Paradigms

Here are some jingles I put together in my first year at Moore College to help me learn some of the basic paradigms for Koine Greek (what the New Testament was written in).  You can download them by clicking the downward arrow to the right of the waveform.  I hope they help.

Masculine Article

Feminine Article

Neuter Article

Verb: Present Active Indicative

Verb: Imperfect Active Indicative

Verb: Present/Imperfect Middle-Passive Indicative

Verb: Aorist Active Indicative

Verb: Present and Aorist Participles

Verb: Present and Imperfect of EIMI (‘To Be’)

Pronouns: 1st and 2nd person Personal Pronouns

Demonstrative: OUTOS (‘this’)

Music – Page CXVI

This group in the US put old hymns to some really cool music. They’ve even released some their tracks as instrumentals (without vocals) which are really cool for using as backing tracks (I used one of their tracks in Blindness).

*Edit 2 Aug 2013 – Page CXVI now do most of their music licensing through THE MUSIC BED, which can cost some money.  Though if you have a special request or particular circumstances, it’s worth sending the band an email at

Visit their site and their blog for more info.

Make Suggestions Please!!

Please help me in collecting videos useful for illustrations in talks etc.  You can either send me an email or make a comment here using the following format:

1. either embed the video (if copyright allows)

2. a link to where we can see more about it (eg. an imdb page)

3. “Illustrating:” – Suggest what Bible passages/themes it illustrates (as many as relevant)

4. “How to use it:” – Give an example of how you’ve used it or will use it or what setting it would be good for

5. “Permission for use:” – Show what kind of permission is given for use of the video (Vimeo makes you choose a license when you upload, so this is really helpful for knowing if you can use it) and any cost involved (eg

6. “Critique:” – Add some criticism: what do you like about it? what don’t you like about it?

You can copy and use this:



How to use it:

Permission for use:


Thanks for your help!

(For ideas on where to search for videos and music that you know you can use, go to my copyright articles under Important Info, or look under Resources)


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