by Susan Bauer
When’s the last time a National Geographic film or video crew visited your ministry . . . to tell your story? A long time ago? Never? There’s good news. The wait is over. You can do a very credible job yourself.
When’s the last time a National Geographic film or video crew visited your ministry…to tell your story? A long time ago? Never? There’s good news. The wait is over. You can do a very credible job yourself.
Video equipment has just leaped in quality and fallen in price—again. With home video’s trend toward sharper pictures and more portable equipment, many missionaries now hold in their hands a powerful tool. There’s more potential than ever for communicating with supporters, headquarters, and each other.
IMPACT THE BOOMERS
Moving pictures impact viewers more than still photos and slides. That’s because television is a “feeling” medium, alive with people’s gestures and facial expressions, as well as the natural sounds of their surroundings.
The baby boomer generation cut its teeth on a video diet. Boomers digest information and emotions from television and act on what they see. Today, a videocassette arouses a certain curiosity, carries a mystique, that practically compels a person to pop it into the recorder for a look. Corporations—and visionary missions—are sending out videos to set their messages apart from the avalanche of printed materials in everyone’s mailbox. Why, a missionary video newsletter can be as natural as television news!
But buying a camera does not a videographer make. (Experience in TV-watching has produced a discriminating and sophisticated audience.) Practice and a few simple principles can make the difference, though! It is possible to shed the—yawn—home movie stereotype for more professional-looking, highly effective video newsletters. Let the people vital to your ministry hear from and see you more often, and they’ll share your vision, enthusiasm, and understanding as never before.
These basic steps followed by the pros can get you started:
Know what you want to communicate. What’s the main idea? A life changed because of your ministry? A holiday greeting? A portrayal of the people or nation where you minister and the challenges there? Or perhaps a statement about what’s unique on your field?
Decide who your audience is. Are you trying to reach churches and families, foundations or business persons, or agency executives? How much are they likely to know already about your work? What aspect do you think would interest them most?
Plan for an appropriate length. Generally speaking, the best rule is still, “The shorter, the better.” Try to leave the audience wishing for more, not feeling they’ve just overindulged. An executive may spare three to five minutes. Families are accustomed to commercial breaks after only about seven minutes of program content. Sunday school class formats usually allow only about 20 minutes of actual video time. A documentary for cable television, on the other hand, may run up to 28 minutes.
Draft a rough script. It may be as loose as three key concepts scribbled on a notepad, or a formal, double-spaced, two-column script, with video on one side and audio on the other. Just remember to write as you talk, use simple vocabulary, keep the viewers in mind, and don’t tell things in a narration that you can show in pictures. (Let them figure out a lot from the moving pictures, and save your words to communicate the essential content.) Work hardest on the beginning and end; people will remember them better than the details sandwiched in the middle. At the end, let them know how you’d like them to respond to what they’ve just seen.
Get acquainted with the equipment. Shoot. Shoot. And shoot some more. Remember, the tapes are reusable! You might even want to read the manual. It can actually be helpful.
Then go! And take our 10 tips with you (see below).
Once you obtain the footage, play it back and write down for each tape a list of the shots, in the order shot. Note the best ones as you go. This logging process is vital to successful editing. Alpha Video has designed forms that are especially helpful in logging; they are available upon request. (If you planned ahead very carefully, with a completescript, you may be able to edit in the camera—in other words, to shoot scenes in the order they’ll appear in the finished program. That’s not always feasible, though, because life doesn’t happen that way.)
Then an editor (yourself, a co-worker, someone at mission headquarters, or an editing facility) can add narration and music, assembling the shots in proper order, according to the script. This process is done with a second VCR by rerecording each shot you want to use onto another tape, in script order from beginning to end. And, by the way, make sure you have any copyright clearances needed for music you use.
For those who lack access to editing equipment, companies like Alpha Video Productions are fully equipped to perform this service in a variety of formats. Many facilities like ours now use the Video Toaster™ by NewTek. Designed to run on an Amiga, IBM, or Macintosh computer, the “Toaster” offers a wider array of titles, graphics, and special effects, at an unbelievably lower cost than ever before.
There are, of course, certain projects that require the services of professional video producers throughout. But footage shot by non-professional videographers can often be successfully integrated into higher-level programs, when basic good production principles are followed.
A VISUAL WORLD
Your missionary-senders live in a visual world. Television images compete daily for their attention and pocketbooks. Unless every prayer partner and financial supporter of yours has visited you in the field recently—seen your ministry for themselves—it’s time to start planning your next production!
So what are you waiting for?
PRIME THE CREATIVE PUMP
This handful of suggestions may help your droplet of an idea grow into a refreshing stream of good communication:
• Straightforward news story format.
• Humorous tale of a cultural or lingual faux pas.
• The ups and downs of being a multicultural child.
• Events told from a baby’s viewpoint.
• Interviews with local people or members of your team.
• Documentary of a special event.
• Glimpses of daily life—meals, shopping, schooling.
• Dreams and visions for the future.
• Indigenous folklore—help or hindrance to the gospel?
• News event from the point of view of your people group.
• Story of how God is making a difference in someone’s life.
Okay, turn on the spigot! Sink deep into your favorite chair—or sit on a local log. Breathe a prayer for guidance from the greatest Creator of all. Brainstorm the possibilities. Charge the camera batteries. And remember to have fun. (Your audience will know.)
TEN TIPS FOR MISSION VIDEOGRAPHERS
1. Use the best camera you can. Chip is better than tube. Three-chip is better than single-chip.
2. Use the best format you can. Quality from best downward—Betacam, 3/4-inch SP, 3/4-inch, Hi8, Super VHS, regular VHS, and 8mm.
3. Use a tripod. Shots must be steady to be edited. If you must hold the camera, use the wide angle position. (Instead of zooming, come in closer to your subject, and it will be more stable.)
4. Resist the urge to move the camera. Instead, let the action occur within the viewfinder frame. An editor can use only a few pans and zooms, and they must be smooth to be usable.
5. Shoot in sequences—a wide shot to establish scene, a medium shot in closer, then close-ups. Don’t be too shy to ask people to repeat their action so you can get a complete sequence. Your editor will love you!
6. Count to 10. Stay on each shot long enough for the editor to find the best part of it and to get in and out of it. Let the shot roll a full 10 seconds. Remember, tape is cheap.
7. Set the stage for your viewer. Shoot “local color,” and always include natural sound to transport your viewer to the location. Watch for markets, scenery, street scenes, typical buildings.
8. Video is a close-up medium. Therein lies emotion and TV’s power to motivate, to touch people. Expressive faces are the heartbeat of your video. Capture character, moods, ethnicdifferences that would appeal to your audience or heighten their sense of reality.
9. Interviews. Use close-ups and medium close-ups. Allow only a little headroom; put the top of the head near the top of the frame. Use a separate clip-on microphone for cleaner audio. It’s critical for the words to be understood, so use headphones to help you listen for a problem. If you have two audio channels, it helps to set one on automatic level control.
10. Finally, keep your viewers in mind. Develop a heart for where the impact is. If something grabs you, it will probably grab your viewer, too.
EMQ, Vol. 29, No. 4, pp. 356-359. Copyright © 1993 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS). All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.