What's in this session?

  • #1: Lighting (1:24)
  • #2: Contrast Ratio (3:58)
  • #3: Audio Quality (6:54)
  • #4: Frame Rate (8:13)
  • #5: Story/Narrative (8:41)

Show notes and resources

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The Transcript

Alex Mills: Too many people fall for what I call the gear gluttony trap, the trap of thinking that if you just had the right camera, the right gear with better features you’d be able to capture the look that you want. Here’s the truth though. It’s not about the gear. It’s about how you use it. So, in this podcast, you’ll learn how to instantly upgrade your church’s video production without needing to upgrade your gear.

Alex Mills: Well hey there and welcome to Pro Church Tools, the show where in 10 minutes or less, you are gonna get a dose of tips and tactics to help your church share the message of Jesus while we navigate the biggest communication shift in 500 years. I’m your host, Alex Mills, joined as always by the boss man, Brady Shearer.

Brady Shearer: Alex, award-winning films are now being shot on DSLRs and mobile devices like the one each of us have on the table right now. Why? Because creating cinematic shots and looks within your videos and upgrading your church’s video production, it’s almost never about the gear. It’s about the people that are using it and using it correctly. We got a DM from a member of Pro Church Nation saying, “I want my videos to look better. How could I instantly upgrade the look of the video?” That was the verbiage they used. So, we want to answer that question in this episode of Pro Church Tools.

Brady Shearer: Alex, the very first thing that we’re gonna start with is the most important. It’s not really close. You, as a photographer, know this better than anyone. That is better lighting. The visual look of your photo, of your video, of your film is 75% or more dictated by the lighting. The lighting, is it even? The lighting, is it dramatic? The lighting, is the color temperature proper? Is it appealing or is it not? The great thing about lighting is that-

Alex Mills: It’s free.

Brady Shearer: You can get the best lighting for free. This is a conversation we have all the time here in the office when it comes to story tape footage. It has been a fight that I have been fighting, and continue to fight with all of our videographers. I’m like if we’re not shooting at magic hour in the morning and magic hour in the evening, don’t go outside.

Alex Mills: There’s all kinds of toys and really cool LED lights. We’re using some in the studio right now, but every day you have two opportunities, two God-given opportunities to get outside in the morning and in the evening and use this magical thing we call magic hour. It is this golden goodness that happens when the sun is rising and the sun is setting. If the weather’s good, you have this opportunity every day. When you’re doing your next video spot for a testimony video, take it outside. Don’t film it inside in fluorescent lighting. Coordinate with your subject and meet outside in the late afternoon to evening and get that golden light. It’s free and available to anyone who will just go find it. You know what? It does take a little bit of work. I’m on the story tape crew, and it can be hard work, especially when we’re on a trip, like in Iceland, and the sun is rising at like 1:00 a.m. or however that works. It was crazy.

Alex Mills: It does take a little bit of work. It’s not as convenient, but there’s nothing better than it.

Brady Shearer: We can’t overstate this. This is the ultimate cheat code when it comes to making your videos, making your footage look amazing. You can go to Storytape.com and you can clearly contrast, compare footage shot during magic hour, because it’s gonna be pinkie, orangey, glowy and golden, compared to footage shot in the middle of the day. The middle of the day footage is not nearly as attractive and appealing as the golden hour footage. We didn’t do anything different except put the drone in the sky at a different time of day. It will make you look way better than you are. Why? Because it makes me look way better than I am all the time. That’s the first thing.

Brady Shearer: The second thing, this is a carry over of lighting. It’s a specific technique known as contrast ratio. Contrast ratio refers to almost always a person’s face, the lighting on their space. It can also refer to the lighting in an individual frame of a video. The contrast ratio refers to the comparison between the lightest part of the image and the darkest part. The greater the range between the lightest and darkest part, the greater the contrast, the greater the drama of the image.

Brady Shearer: To illustrate this, we’ve got two headshots of people on our team here at Pro Church Tools. One’s a designer. One’s an engineer. One’s named Eric. One’s named Trevor. They’re both very amazing people that we love very much. These are their headshots. I want you to take a look if you’re watching this, to the left side of their face versus the right side. One side is a lot lighter than the other. They’ve made these headshots black-and-white to add even additional drama. #Roma. But what these have done with the contrast ration in their face is it creates this really dramatic look because some areas are really dark and some areas are really light.

Brady Shearer: We talked about lighting as the first way to instantly upgrade the look of your videos. One technique that we love to use indoors is to go take our subject, who we’re filming for the testimony or video announcements, though you wouldn’t need too much drama or contrast for video announcements because they’re not that angry or dramatic. Is we’ll take our interviewee and we’ll put them next to a window in the room. We call this the single window lighting technique.

Alex Mills: Also free.

Brady Shearer: Again free. Incredibly easy. We just sit them next to the window so half of their body and face is lit from the window. We literally do nothing on the other side. There’s no light on the other side. This creates contrast ratio because one side’s being lit, one’s not. Now we have drama. The greater the discrepancy between the light side and the dark side, the more drama. A lot of times in horror movies, you’ll see the villain, one side of their face is completely black and the other side is lit. Why? Because it makes them look incredibly scary, evil, and daunting and villainous because of that contrast ratio. It doesn’t require any extra gear, just knowing a little bit about lighting, and you can change the entire feel, mood of the scene.

Alex Mills: I think about a video series that we’re all probably familiar with, the I Am Second videos. The contrast ratio is super high in those videos. Lots of whites. Lots of blacks. In those videos, it’s not even about creating, like you said, that villainous drama, but just it’s a much deeper richer image because of that contrast ration that we’re talking about. There’s more layers to it. There’s more drama to it and it really fits the story that you’re often trying to tell.

Brady Shearer: Right. We talk about matching what you’re seeing through the lens with what’s being said in the video. If someone’s on an I Am Second video, they’re probably talking about deep material, so you don’t want to have this sitcom perfectly lit every side of the image, every side of their face look because that would be incongruent. You want congruency between the material and the look.

Brady Shearer: Moving on to tip number three. That is audio quality. We see so many churches skipping on audio quality when it comes to gear, to invest in a little bit better camera. You can get away with a lesser image quality when the audio is good.

Alex Mills: Absolutely.

Brady Shearer: That does not work in the inverse. If you have poor audio, you cannot escape that. You cannot fake that. Even people that have no understanding of film, no understanding of video production will be able to transparently hear the terrible audio, and that will immediately degrade the quality of what you’re creating. So, get an external recorder, like the Tascams or the Zooms. They’re very affordable. Get a microphone, a boom mic that hangs right above the frame. Get it as close to the individual as you can without the camera … Sorry. Pardon me. The microphone showing up in the frame. We’re not huge fans of lapels. We don’t really … or lav mics. We don’t use them too often here. We love the booms. That’s just us. But invest in audio quality.

Alex Mills: And of these five tips, that’s the only one that’s gonna cost you money, is this audio quality. It’s something worth investing money into.

Brady Shearer: Yeah. The mics that we’re using right now on this podcast, we spent considerable dough on because we were like, “We want this podcast to be better.” The mics we’re using are fine, but we could instantly upgrade the quality of the show just by getting better mics that are better suited for this purpose.

Brady Shearer: Tip number four is frame rate. If you want that cinematic look, you want to be shooting in 24 frames per second. Don’t shoot in 30. Don’t shoot in 60, unless you’re doing frame rate to get slow motion. High frame rate to get slow motion. 24 is gonna create that look that feels very cinematic. In motion is very similar to what you’re seeing through your eyes-

Alex Mills: Exactly.

Brady Shearer: When it comes to motion. So, it will feel very lifelike, which is how to achieve the cinematic look.

Brady Shearer: Then final, this is the worst tip. You’ll hate it. Story and narrative. It doesn’t matter if you’ve got the best gear, if what you’re portraying doesn’t have any gripping narrative or story to it. That’s just the bottom line when it comes to all of that. It might not be a super sexy tip, but when it comes to creating better videos, it is all about narrative. So, invest. Learning about story. Learning how to take an interview that maybe you recorded over 60 minutes and then cutting it down into a six to eight minute final cut that has ups and downs and has a beginning, middle, and end, and is gripping. Nothing like lots of uhs and in betweens also.

Alex Mills: Like you said, it’s probably not as sexy. There’s no gear to acquire. You don’t get the fulfillment of the gear acquisition syndrome, but if you nail these first four tips and invest all the money in the world, into these first four tips, but you’re not telling a good story, your video production is gonna be rather useless. The fifth is the least sexy, but probably the most important.

Brady Shearer: Absolutely. That’ll do it for this episode of Pro Church Tools. We’ll see you next time.



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