A great way to complement other things in a church service with video is by using it to provoke thought. I hope that if you’re part of a church then your church leaders are really keen for you as a community to engage with God’s word, the Bible. That’s one of the main reasons we meet together, isn’t it? As a community of God’s people, we hear God speak and so seek to live for him, spurring each other on. So how do you do that as a church? I hope at the minimum you read the Bible together. And I assume you probably have a talk on the Bible from your pastor. And I hope the aim of both of those is what I mentioned above. So how do you use video to complement these?
A short video can be effectively used earlier in the service to ‘warm people up’ such that when they hit the Bible reading and/or sermon they are in a better headspace for hearing the Word together. Your purpose of using the video is to get them thinking about what they’re going to be challenged about. It may be that you use it to raise questions, challenge assumptions, or even start dealing with roadblocks – you know that baggage that people bring to their reading of the Bible or applications that are made? A video can do this in a way that you can’t. It can give people the space to start those questions rolling and visuals that might raise things you can never articulate. Yet at the same time, because it’s a video designed to specifically provoke thought, it won’t be taken as the authoritative word. But rather, it should stimulate people’s minds so that they are better prepared to consider main points and applications of the Bible reading and sermon. Let me give you some examples of different styles of videos that are useful for provoking thought in different ways…
This is the video style where you use animated text to carry the video. You can use this style for lots of other purposes too – like Bible reading, teaching, or even to tell a story. I think a great way to use this style is to provoke thought. The most common example of this video style used for this purpose is by asking questions with the text, and then using animation and text to demonstrate or tease out these questions. “What’s God’s Will?” is a good example. They have used kinetic typography to cleverly provoke thought about what people might be asking about how to know God’s will.
This video style obviously has a very wide range of use. When used to provoke thought, you can put together something that gives a short grab of a person’s life and presents an idea about something. They’re often good for provoking thought because it’s easier to avoid preaching. You just raise an idea. I like the way “Blindness” does this. It’s short and visually stimulating, as well as intriguing – you’re waiting until the last shot to see what the blind man is painting. And then it simply leaves you with the question of what it means to really see. I’ve used this to lead into a talk on Ephesians 1, claiming we all need our eyes opened to who Jesus is, as well as a talk about what many people are like in the western world who though they are well off, they close their eyes to who God is.
I think if you’re going to use vox pop at all, use it to provoke thought. It’s often a bit lame for advertising and I hate it when it is used to build a straw man. But if you want to get people thinking about something, give them a range of people’s thoughts or questions on the topic to get them thinking. You also need to do it well though. “Lies” does both. It’s based around a simple idea (on a bus and using masks, both of which create an isolated yet confidential environment – you feel like you’re invited in to some of these people’s secrets. It also gives a good range, and offers some observation without making judgement. Good for provoking thought!
This is part of a series on using video well
One of my favourite way of using video with a talk is to illustrate a point. Generally, I don’t want the video do be doing exactly the same thing as what I am doing when I give a talk – I want it to complement me. I’ll come to using video to teach a point in a few posts time, but let me give a disclaimer about it now. I mainly have in mind those videos that feels like a glorified sermon – the video that focuses on a person preaching to the camera. My disclaimer: don’t use these videos with a talk if all you’re going to do is preach the same sermon. You’re just doing the same thing as the video, and you’ll probably be more boring than the video. Instead, use a video that will complement your talk. This is your purpose in using it (remember the principle?). So how do you do that? Back to using a video to illustrate a point…
I love using a video to illustrate a point because it does something that I can’t do. Don’t get me wrong – I think that most illustrations of points should still be told by the speaker, and there’s many good reasons behind that. But what a video can do is engage someone through a different medium. It can involve them in a story that is separate from me (the speaker) but still close to them. They can be swept up in the video, relate to the characters, understand the plot, contemplate the images. Then, as the speaker, I can direct that towards the point I want to make.
A friend of mine uses videos as illustration really well, so I’m going straight to his examples. He often uses simple short videos. The two examples I love from him are from his talks on Ecclesiastes, and he makes two points about what life is like. The first is a rollercoaster – so as he starts this, he shows a one-shot video from the perspective of someone riding a rollercoaster. It’s great fun (especially for youth) because the group can interact with the video, mimicking the screams on the big descents and leaning on the corners. My friend then talks of how life is like a rollercoaster – you get up, do as much as you can through the day, then you ‘get off’ at the end of the day and rest so that you can get back on again as quickly as possible. Here’s an example of what this might look like (you may only need a short segment of this).
The second video he uses to illustrate what life is like is a time-lapse of a banana rotting. It starts all yellow, but so quickly goes black and shrivels up. You feel how quickly it goes. And it resonates with my experience of bananas. And so I can then make the connection with life – it really is so quick, and the reality of the end of life is striking.
This is one of a bowl of fruit which you can download and use:
I like that both of these videos are short and tell small stories and engage our experience. And they make a striking point that helps complement the point my friend is trying to make.
Now there are also many ways you can go wrong with using a video to illustrate a point. Many of these are similar to warnings someone might give about spoken illustrations, but with video it will be even more pronounced because you’ve made a point of showing a video – remember, you don’t have to show it! So, the big warnings…
Using a video with a talk to illustrate a point fails when:
- The video distracts from the point – this often happens when you’re trying to make a point from a small part of the video that gets overshadowed by the big point of the video. Or if the big things that people remember from the video do not evoke the point you are illustrating. If the video is going to distract, leave it out.
- The video doesn’t match the value of the point – in the same way for a spoken illustration, this frequently happens when someone has a great video and they just really want to use it, so they use it at the first opportunity. But if the point it is illustrating is only a side point, or sub point that is only a very small part of the main idea, the video can be too good for the point it is illustrating, and makes too much of the point. Either the point it is illustrating gets lost, or it overtakes the main point, or the video is just seen as a cool video rather than complementing the talk. If it doesn’t match the value of the point, leave the video out.
- The video needs too much explanation – if you’re using the video to illustrate a point, it should do that. You should at the least understand the illustration. The speaker should then only need to connect the illustration to the point. If people couldn’t actually understand the video (or at the least the point that you think the video is making), then there’s no point in using it. Leave it out.
- The illustration from the video doesn’t illustrate the point you’re making – this is the same for a spoken illustration. Make sure it actually illustrates your point well. Make sure it does something. Don’t use the video just because you want to use the video. Know your purpose. If it doesn’t illustrate the point, leave it out.
I’d love to hear more examples of videos that you know of that helpfully illustrate points. Please comment with your favourites.
Doing a talk in church is hard. Not only are you trying to say something faithful to God’s word, but you’re trying to be faithful to the people listening. You want them to walk away changed. But we’ve all been in those awkward situations where there is an elderly minister speaking to a young crowd in the same way that he spoke to the retirees at the 7am service. From the start the young people are not engaged, for a large part because he hasn’t been faithful to them in seeking to engage them where they are at. But then there is also the younger minister who is really eager to engage the young people, and figures that in order to do so he has to use all the new types of media, like ‘cool videos’. He’s found some videos online that look great and are funny, and uses them alongside his talk. After the service though, all the young people are talking about the funny parts of the video, and it doesn’t seem like they engaged with the talk at all. Maybe you’ve even been one of those ministers.
I think they actually present two sides of the same problem, and that is that technology like video has become usable on a popular level – it’s available. The question then is what you do with it. It becomes a two sided problem because you can either ignore it’s there and not realise that it can be a helpful tool for engaging people in a way you couldn’t before, or you can use it simply because you can without actually considering whether or not your use is engaging people in the way you want. I hope that you want to avoid both of those. If you give talks, then the following posts should give you both some ideas and some boundaries for using video to aid your teaching. If you make videos, then the following should give you some categories for how to think about what your video is doing.
But before we get to the ideas, I want to give a simple principle for how to use video well. The ideas will all refer back to this. Here’s the principle: let your purpose dictate your use of video. The same goes for uses of other media. It’s an available tool, so treat it as such. You can use it if it helps you do your job better, but you don’t have to use it if it won’t. By way of analogy, say you’re a carpenter, and you’ve just found out that the circular saw has come on the market. Yay! A power tool! One carpenter, who mostly sizes wooden planks, might say “I’ve been using my hand-saw all my career and it works just fine”, then finds out that other chippies are starting to produce at a much faster rate. Another carpenter buys the circular saw because that’s what all the cool carpenters are doing, but then uses it for everything, including sharpening pencils. Do you catch my drift? A circular saw is a really helpful tool if used for appropriate purposes. It’s the same with video.
Why do you want to use video? Why do you refuse to use video? If your answer revolves around what will help see your purpose happen, then you’re on the right track. But I do have a disclaimer at the same time. If your natural tendency is to swing much more to one end of the spectrum (no use or over-use), then it is probably a good idea to ask yourself whether or not it’s just your preference coming into play. For most people giving talks, as we mentioned at the start, your purpose will be something to do with wanting to see people walk away changed. If that’s your purpose, then it’s not about you. Video might not help you if you were listening to yourself preach (that would be weird enough in itself), but it may well be the best thing for many of the people listening. Or it may be the most distracting thing ever. If your purpose is to see people changed, then let that dictate your use (or non-use) of video. And that means that you won’t just use any video for the sake of it. If using video will help your people, then you will pick a video that appropriately achieves what you want it to. It will complement your talk, not distract or take away from it.
I’m hoping the ideas that follow will give you some good ideas about how to use video to complement your talks. I’m also hoping that you might contribute some more ideas, as well as example videos that we can watch online. I’ll try to keep adding to the illustration project as I work through these ideas too. Hopefully we can help each other to get better at using video as a powerful tool rather than a gimmick or not-at-all.
I both love and hate that moment. It’s usually something like this: having dawdled around with my tea and beginning to eat a cookie, crumbs subtly dropping into the mug, I notice Mr Orquad sidling up. It’s obvious, but he asks anyway. “Hey Mike. I’m so glad I caught you. I need someone to make a video for me.” I love that the person thinks I can make a video (yes, unfortunately my first instinct is caught up with self-worth) and I love the possibility, a sense of intrigue and anticipation – could this be another fun and interesting video idea that I could make and that could actually be useful for people? But then, reality sets in, because in my experience of people asking this question, it has most often been because they just thought having a video would be cool. They often do not have a concrete idea, and they often assume that making a video is a simple task for those who can make them. In fact, the next most common sentence that the person expresses is “It’s pretty simple so it shouldn’t take you that long”. Ridiculous. So, what do you do?
i) Beware of saying ‘no’ straight away. I hate it that I catch myself sneering at someone in my mind who asks me to make a video – “not another video request that’s completely un-thought-through and unrealistic.” (If you’re worried that I’ve done that to you before, sorry! Keep reading for my ‘apology’). My temptation is just to say “no”. But I know I need to assume the best intentions on their part – they’re not trying to push me into a corner and destroy my life (though if you have done that, shame on you). They just want a cool video. So before I say “no”, I want to help them think through what they’re actually asking so that both of us have a much better idea as to what it would mean for me to say “yes”. Then I can say no if it’s appropriate, and you’d hope the person asking will understand.
ii) Beware of saying ‘yes’ straight away. I think I did this a bit too much in my earlier days of making videos. I made a lot of videos and spent a lot of time making them, but I should not have agreed to make a number of them. I had said ‘yes’ because I was excited and wanted more opportunities. But I had not understood what they wanted from the video and how much effort it would take on my part. Mostly, those videos were barely used, and all that time spent on them could have been saved if we’d just communicated about what was wanted and what it would take to get it there.
iii) Start by asking questions. I’m going to outline some basic topics that are helpful to work out before agreeing to make a video. The main purpose is that you are better able to assess whether it is a project you want to invest yourself in and how long it will take you, but also that the person asking is able to see more concretely what they’re asking you to do and why. I’m still waiting for the day when a church minister asking for a video gets to the end of a video conversation and says “You know, this is going to take you more time and effort than it’s worth for the purpose I want the video for. Don’t worry about it.” So what should you be asking about? And what should you be thinking about as you listen to their answers? I’ve got 10 top areas to talk and think about:
1. Purpose – Why do they want this video made? What are they hoping to use it for? What are they hoping it will do? How will it fit with the other things that are happening around it? Basically, you’re trying to decipher if the video is worth making in terms of what it’s trying to do. As you hear the answers, you should be pondering whether this purpose is something you’re on board with. Are you willing to put however many hours into this video for the purpose that this person is suggesting? I have always found videos really frustrating and arduous to make when two things are happening: 1) I’m not on board with the purpose, and 2) when I hate the idea. So…
2. Idea – What is their premise? Does their premise have legs? Do they even have a premise? Actually, I think the majority of times I’ve been asked to make a video, the person has had a clear purpose, but either no idea or a really bad idea. When this happens, I need to know in my mind that if I can’t think of an idea straight away, then it’s going to take me a long time to come up with a decent idea that I’m happy with (because the video can only ever be as good as the idea), and that I’m going to need to work out with them how much scope I have to work with. If they do have an idea, then we’re going to need to nut it out a bit and work out if it really has legs to stand on and where it falls down, so that we can either reshape it or bin it. If they don’t have an idea, then we need to be clear about who has ownership over the idea, and how much work and time it will take if we’re going to have future meetings to work out the idea well. They also need to see how important a good idea is. (If you haven’t read my post on the importance of the idea, go here).
3. Target audience – Who are they hoping to show this to? What do those people expect? What things will they engage with? What kind of genre is going to be most appropriate for getting a message across to them? As you’re asking these, you should be starting to build a picture in your head of what the video might be like (with purpose, idea, and target), and so, what it’s going to take for you to make it. But further questions will help you think narrow this down even further…
4. Duration – How long do they want it to be? When the above person has assumed that it won’t take me that long, often they’ve also been thinking “it only needs to be 4 minutes”. I hate that word “only”. It gives a tone suggesting that they think a four minute video only requires four minutes of footage and the skills to operate a fancy editing program, so the whole process shouldn’t take more than half an hour. If you get this tone, make sure to start helping them to understand the different steps to making a four minute video, why they are important, and how long it will take you to do it. Also, a time limit will help you edit.
5. Equipment Resources – What resources do they have available? Are they expecting you to use your own equipment, and if so, do they understand what kind of video that equipment will achieve? Do they have equipment that you can use? Do they have a budget that can either contribute to your equipment maintenance or fund the hiring of some better equipment? Further, what are they hoping for in terms of sound track? Do they understand that you can’t use mainstream music without permission, and other things going on with copyright? What are they expecting of you in terms of acquiring the different resources you need? As you’re asking about equipment, you should be narrowing down in your mind what kind of genre you will be shooting and the idea behind it. Has it limited your possibilities? Is the idea and genre that you have in mind actually going to work on your equipment limitations?
6. People Resources – Do they have people who will be able to help you with the video? Are there people who will help you brainstorm the idea if needed? Are there ‘producers’ who will help source actors and locations or even do the interviewing for you? Are there people who can help as ‘crew’, maybe even a camera man? Are there actors who can be involved? Maybe they just want you to film and produce it and they have someone lined up to edit it? As you’re asking these questions, you can be working out more and more what jobs you’re actually going to have to do, and so how long it will take you.
7. Deadline – When do they want this video done by? Is this a fixed date or is there some flexibility if something goes wrong? As you’re asking this, you should be thinking about what you have on before the deadline, and whether or not you can realistically invest the amount of time required to make it.
8. Expectation of Quality – what kind of quality are they expecting? Is there an example they have of what they want it to look like? Do they understand what it would take to get that kind of quality? How do they define what makes a good video? As you ask these questions, you’re trying to give them realistic expectations. Chances are that you’re not going to make something of hollywood quality (technically of course) – do they understand that? Can you show them an example of what your video will probably end up looking like? Do they even care about technical quality? What for them will mean that you’ve made a great or terrible video?
9. Expectation of Feedback – how much are they expecting to be involved in the video process? Do they trust you to make something? Do they expect to be able to watch it beforehand and to give you changes to make before it is shown? Are they reserving the right to cut it if it doesn’t turn out the way they wanted? As you’re asking these questions, you’re thinking about whether you’re satisfied with this arrangement. Feedback takes a lot of time, but also being cut is just depressing. Have you both communicated clearly how feedback will be involved in the process, and are you happy with that?
10. Expectation of time – Do they really understand how much time it will take you to make this video? Do they really understand what things you will not be able to do because you are making this video? Do they really think that you making this video is worth the time it will take you away from other things? As you’re talking about this, you should be re-examining yourself to work out if you’ve actually been realistic in what you have communicated – whether you have under or overestimated the amount of time that it will take you.
If you get to the end of this process and think you’ll really enjoy making it, you may want to say ‘yes’ even if they have come to the realisation that it’s not quite worth the time for what it will achieve. Fine, but that’s up to you. The main point in the above conversation is for both of you to be clear on what is being asked of you so that you can both be clear on why you are saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to making this 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.