Feel is Important

There are a couple of really key elements when it comes to editing video. One of those is feel. As a video editor, my job is to take whatever broll, interviews, pictures etc., and turn it into the best thing someone has ever seen ;) Ok… not really, but my job is to make the best product I can with what I have. Sometimes that is really easy. Sometimes it is difficult. In that situation, positivity is key, and will get you a great product in a quick turn around.

Anyways, now for a practical example. I’m going to do a little walkthrough on a video I just wrapped up for our church. During our series “I Have Decided”, Pastor Chris gave a spontaneous call to baptism, and our video team was there to document it and get people’s stories. Go ahead and watch the video, and I’ll do a walkthrough.

My first task with a video like this is to pick a song. The song is going to be the key element which drives the video, and what will determine how you cut your video and where you place certain elements. So I found this song from one of my favorite composers, Tony Anderson. Great stuff.

I definitely cut up the song to flow the way I wanted it to. I had it drop down after the big chorus part, and the brought it back up and repeated the chorus and then had it end. More times than not, I am cutting up the song to match the feel I want, or make it fit in the time frame I want.

Ok, now to the edit. The song is very soft right there in the beginning, so I decided to add some text to bring the video into context. I actually decided to do this towards the end of my edit.

When the piano hits at 12 seconds, the song is “calling” for an action. If the video didn’t do anything, it’s a waste of a moment and will feel awkward. The song is still pretty slow and gentle so I had slomo footage going on the top of some soundbytes from Pastor Chris. I let these shots sit for a while and had them develop. In between the shots, I had the footage dip to black before I faded up the next clip. A cross dissolve would have been gross and a hard cut would not fit with the music because the music is quiet.

The music picks up at 31 seconds with a piano melody. This also “calls” for a change in pace, so I faded out of the slomo footage and brought in some interviews. I am dominating the interviews with baptism footage. Showing the person’s interview gives some context, but it feels better to have the baptism footage. It is also going along with what they are talking about, and it is a visual aid for the people that weren’t there.

The music is gradually building the whole time while the interviews are going. This helps build momentum and helps the edit not feel stale.

At 1:38, the music crescendos into the chorus. This is another “call” for action, so I added a flashframe transition into a section of a bunch of people getting baptized. Now, most of the shots are not in slow motion and move pretty fast. There’s a lot of action and relatively fast cuts. You don’t want to cut too fast, because the viewer won’t be able to tell what’s going on.

At 1:58, the chorus ends and starts to dip down, so I did a slow fade on the last clip. I also was intentional to make sure the last clip of that section was impactful and exciting. I waited a second or two and brought in another interview while the music kept dying down. This was one the best interviews we got that day, and his ending statement was really good and was an action point into the next section. Right as the music builds back into the chorus section, I made the interview end and flashframe into another relatively fast cutting baptism section. If you watch the two chorus sections back to back, you will notice that this one has a little longer shots, and they have a little more action and emotion. This helps drive home the video. The video ends on a dad having a great smile after getting baptized. I flashframed to black and faded up our I Have Decided logo. This pulls the video together with our series and also gives some space during the service while the congregation claps.

I hope this helps you understand feel a little more. One of the main things with a video like this is to find the right song and maximize the song to work for you. You can pick a great song, but if the edit doesn’t fit and take advantage of the “calls” for action, than it won’t feel very good and make sense. Also, make sure your edit is progressing. Don’t go from very quite moment to a intense loud chorus. That won’t feel good either. Make sure the song is progressing to the crescendo and make sure your edits are progressing as well.

I hope this helps, and as always, feel free to comment with questions! I would love to help!

Stabilizing Shaky Footage

So you shot something awesome and dropped it in your timeline only to find out it is a tad bit shaky, ok maybe a lot bit shaky. Don’t panic! We all do it from time to time and if you’ve got After Effects CC you’re covered. In this post I’m going to quickly show you how to stabilize those shots that have a case of the shakes.

Screen Shot 2013-11-19 at 11.38.50 AMAlright so drop the footage into AE and apply the effect “Warp Stabilizer VFX.” Here you can play around with the settings and better match them to your footage. These are the settings I prefer and if you’re lucky this may be all you have to do. However, chances are your footage will be stabilized but have a weird look too it, some may call it “warped.” So now you are going to have to go through the video and “pin” the object you want stabilized in place. This can be a somewhat time consuming process but it is worth it. You do this by deleting unwanted track points. First check the “Show track points” box in your effects panel. AE’s new and improved 3D camera tracker now lets you see tons of little colorful “x” marks across the screen. They will move and change across your footage. So what you will do is select the track points you don’t need, ones that are not on the object you want stabilized. Here is the example:

track point selection

In our clip the shakiness was most evident in our background, so what we did was delete all of tracking points on our subject and leave only the ones attached to the background. This will tell the effect to only use those tracking points when stabilizing the footage. Before you start you will want to make sure the “Auto-delete Points Across Time” box is checked and you might want to turn the size up a bit. Start this process at the beginning of your timeline and repeat it about every five or ten frames (Shift, PageDown) because new tracking points will regenerate as the subject continues to move. If you do this for all of your shaky spots (for really bad shake do your whole timeline) you should eliminate most, if not all, of your shakiness. Also remember to deselect the “Show Track Points” option when you are done deleting track points. Here is what ours ended up looking like:

Before and afterAs you can see we eliminated all of the distracting shake of our background but kept all of the motion of our subject. Look closely at the lights and seats in the before and after. This may be one of my favorite AE features ever! I hope this helps save some of your shaky footage like it did ours! Thanks for reading! -Jake

We Are Hiring!

The Creative Team at Highlands is in search of a video editor! This position is for the person who loves video. Not sure if this is you? Well . . . you know you love video when:

  • You watch a Nike commercial and say, “I bet Roger Deakins was in the DP on that”
  • When you see a blue sky free of clouds and think, “yeah, I could key that out …”
  • It bugs you when florescent light bulbs have a different white balance
  • Or when florescent lights bug you altogether …
  • When you set creative cow as your homepage
  • You watch TV and say, “hmmm, I like that lower third”

If this list describes you, and you would love to work with other passionate creatives to create video in a ministry environment, then this position could be right for you. In this role you will be helping to tell documentary-style stories about what God is doing in people’s lives. You will be doing something you love and helping to share the gospel at the same time.

Requirements for this position:

  • Must have experience with Final Cut Pro and/or Adobe Premier Pro Editing software
  • Must be able to trim footage segments and put together the sequence of a video
  • Input and edit music, vocal tracks and sound effects
  • Familiarity with special effects and compositing
  • Creative mind and storytelling skills
  • Must be able to take creative direction
  • DSLR Camera experience is preferable

To apply for this position send a resume, along with an online link of your most current work tohr@churchofthehighlands.comNo DVD reels will be accepted.

Rules of Interviewing People

Interviewing people is an art form, and it’s a continual learning process. Everyone is different, and when you interview one person, they may react to a set of questions differently than another person would. All this to say that the “rules of interviewing people” is a constantly changing list and i’m sure amendments could be added every time you interview someone new. That being said, here are a few rules that we follow that has helped us out throughout the process of capturing and telling someone’s story.

- Talk to them on the phone first.

The initial phone conversation is crucial and does a lot of different things. It gets both parties familiar with one another. It makes the person telling the story more comfortable and accustomed to telling the specific story (especially if they havent told it in a long time, or they have never said it aloud before). It also gives the interviewer an idea of what the story is about, and what the person is like, and can give them some ideas on how to frame up the questions on the day of shooting. And lets be honest, it can reveal if the story is not a good fit for a video, or if the person may not have an easy time telling it. Like I said – it does a lot of things.

- Tell them to wear solids and bring a few options for tops.

Some patterns and outfits look great in person, but on camera might not react well. Its also a good idea to stay away from brand logos and graphic tees as this can be a distraction to the story. Avoid problems with this by getting them to wear solid colors and bringing a few options.

- Discourage them from practicing or rehearsing

This one is tricky and I’m sure a lot of people might disagree with this. I just find that when someone has practiced and rehearsed their story, They can sometimes come across as not genuine or just stating facts. I like it more conversational, like they are sitting down for coffee with a friend. A good interviewer can bring a story out of someone just with conversational tone. Like I said – practice.

- Sit down with them when they arrive, don’t let them see the setup process.

The cameras and lights are intimidating – no doubt about it. If they see the crew setting everything up, it only makes them more nervous. Avoid this by having someone sit down with them away from the setup, or have everything set up before they get there. Make them feel comfortable and start talking with them before the interview starts either about their story or just even their day so far. It will make them more at ease.

Continue Reading

Quick Tip: Digital Recorders

As we’ve written about many times here, audio recording is just as important, if not MORE important than the video you’re capturing for your productions. A bad sounding interview is very disconnecting to the viewer, while audio that’s recorded well will make your video productions much more professional.

Here is a short video by Joe Simon, presenting an easy and cheap solution, to capturing great sound while recording video with a DSLR.


The Delivery Men’s Quick Tips! “Digital Recorders” from Joe Simon Films on Vimeo.

Don’t be afraid of the sequel

Some of our favorite video projects are the ones we get to create for our big events. Often we’ll create a handful of videos that will play during each session of a conference. It can be a real challenge to continue to come up with fresh ideas for events that repeat each year — so occasionally, we’ll take the Hollywood approach and create the sequel!

One thing we’ve learned over the years about creating sequels to video projects is that you can’t take for granted that your audience will remember or has even seen the original video. We’re not creating a sequel to continue the story necessarily, we’re creating a sequel because the original idea was such a hit and we can use that character to create new ideas around.

This past week for our church’s marriage conference, we created a sequel that was based on a video we produced last year for our men’s conference. We took an idea that was a hit at the men’s event, and used it as the basis for a new video that would work for a marriage conference.

Here is the original followed by the sequel.

Man Fouls

Marriage Fouls

Rules of Storytelling.. from the best.

Storytelling is the heart of what we do on the video team. Storytelling is used in testimonies, highlight videos and creative promos. Here are a few tips on storytelling from Pixar’s own, Emma Coats.

#1: You admire a character for trying more than for their successes.

#2: You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as an audience, not what’s fun to do as a writer. They can be v. different.

#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.

#4: Once upon a time there was ___. Every day, ___. One day ___. Because of that, ___. Because of that, ___. Until finally ___.

#5: Simplify. Focus. Combine characters. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.

Continue Reading

Green Screen Basics

Every once in a while, we get to pull out the green screen and put it to use. It’s an effective way to put your talent in a place you don’t have access to, or to give you a generic look for a church news shoot. Here’s a fun shoot we did in 2010 where we used the green screen to emulate a 1940′s movie scene for our At the Movies series.

2010 At the Movies Promo 2 from Church of the Highlands on Vimeo.

Here’s a short video that covers the basics of shooting video on a green screen.


Using a Green Screen from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

Quick Tip: Shoot Flat!

If you plan on color correcting your footage in your editing program, it can really pay off for you to shoot flat video. The reason behind this, is that when you shoot your video with very low contrast and saturation within the camera, you leave yourself with much more control over these areas in the post production process.

Let’s say for example we are shooting a person with dark hair. If the contrast is set too high in-camera, you may crush the blacks of his hair too much, leaving you with a black blob on top of his head instead of seeing the different shades of blacks and shadows in their hair.

Recently, we had a shoot where this principal showed up dramatically.

Notice how much color detail is available to be pulled in due to the flat image that we shot. In the color correction process, I was able to bring the darks in the corners, just dark enough to get a rich, warm looking image as well as boost the saturation to right where I wanted.

Continue Reading

Quick Tip: Exporting Video

We are just coming off of Grow week and absolutely loved meeting all of you guys! One of the things we were asked to blog about was how we handle video exports for playback in services.

At Highlands, we play most of our video content from ProPresenter in 720p high definition. The reason we choose to play back in 720p as opposed to 1080p is due to a few reasons.

  1. Our system and projectors cannot display true 1080p
  2. 720p video plays smoothly on all our machines including iMac’s and Mac Mini’s.

There are a few things that you can do to ensure that what you’ve been editing plays back looking great in a manageable file size for your playback computer. We’re going to show you how we do it in Final Cut Pro, but the settings and principals should be similar in most editing programs.

Continue Reading

Music For Video

As we’ve tried to demonstrate here, music is a critically important part in producing videos. It completely sets the tone and mood for the video. Music brings energy and makes you feel something. Sound must be taken seriously when being selected in videos.

We get a lot of questions where we get our music for our videos. This depends on what kind of music we are looking for. Highlight videos need an upbeat worship song with lyrics, while our Highlands News calls for mid-tempo instrumental tracks. Sometimes we just need an inspiring track to help communicate a testimony and some of the great things God is doing in our life. All of these different styles call for music that we may get at different places, so I am going to lay out some of those places where we start looking.

Review and Highlight Videos

Typically, we’ll use high energy worship songs. We just look for tracks on iTunes. We all also use Spotify. It’s a great tool for discovering and sharing music. We find it important as video producers to always be on the lookout for great songs that can be used for video. When we find a song that we think will be good for a video, we put it in a playlist called something like “Songs for Video”. Then when we have to make a video quickly or on short notice, we don’t have to spend a whole lot of time looking for a track.

Continue Reading

Quick Tip: Banner Design

Highlands uses banners for event and program promotion. Designing for banners take a slightly different approach due to their size. Here are a couple of parameters that you will want to use when designing banners

1) If designing in Adobe Photoshop use the actual dimensions of the size of your banner and set the DPI to 100

2) Always use vector images for logos and important detail work

3) Designing in Adobe Illustrator will give you higher quality image than something like Photoshop

Continue Reading

2 Camera Interview Setup

For interview and testimony videos, we like to use a two camera setup with a traditional 3-point lighting rig. In this post I will go over how and where we place our cameras, lights and microphone. Wherever we shoot, we use this system, and it works for just about every condition. For simplicity sake, our “virtual” shoot will be a studio setup.

Above is what our typical setup looks like. First lets talk about our camera placement. We always place the two cameras side-by-side. basically as close together as physically possible. The camera closer to the “interviewer” is always our tight camera. This is usually framed up from shoulders up to the head. Here is a screen shot of what this looks like.

Continue Reading

Is that slow motion?

Stuff looks awesome in slow motion right? Most people have seen shows like Time Warp that really slow things down, almost to a stop, that make something ordinary, look amazing! But did you know that many times, you are watching slow motion and you don’t even know it?

I first heard about this concept of shooting in slow motion without the intension of letting the viewer know he is watching slow motion while watching a Lord of the Rings behind the scenes video. They chose to shoot some scenes at about 80% slow motion speed, then re-recording the audio to match up with the slowed down footage. The reasoning behind this was to make the scene feel a bit dreamy, and to give it an ethereal quality. Turns out that this technique is used all the time, but we don’t notice it until it gets down to about 75% or slower.

For our recent Father’s Day video, we chose to shoot everything at 80% speed, to create that dreamlike, nostalgic quality that hopefully helps paint the picture that we were trying to present, without distracting the viewer by them noticing that what they’re watching, is actually in slow motion.

Take a look at the video below, and then I’ll explain a great way to capture beautiful slow motion footage.

Continue Reading

Traveling Light

Before joining the creative team at Highlands, I spent the previous four years traveling the world and making videos as a crew of one. Make no mistake about it, there are definite advantages to working as a team.

At Highlands, we try to have at least two to three people, if not more, on a shoot. We’ve learned that more eyes and ears you have on set the less likely you are to make a mistake, however there are still situations that arise when everyone on the team finds themselves shooting solo.

Continue Reading

How to Coordinate Video Shoot Participants

There is a saying that goes something like this: “People are sheep.” In other words, people tend to go in the direction a good leader, or Shepherd, takes them and I think this same principle applies to coordinating talent for a video shoot. When each person on camera understands clearly what is expected of him or her and their time, then they are much more willing to agree to put themselves in what is, for many, an uncomfortable position: appearing on camera.

Over the past few years I have picked up on a few tips that have worked for us. I hope these prove to be beneficial for your shoots as well!

1. Convey the three W’s.

This means that each potential participant, regardless of age, understands the three “W’s” of well-organized video shoots: when, where, and what.


He or she needs to know when she is needed. Will this be a thirty-minute interview, or a two-hour Easter testimony? A morning or evening shoot? Make sure they know how much time is involved so they can make plans to leave school or work early, etc.

Continue Reading

Video Tutorial: Motion Tracking

For our most recent series opener, “Remind Me”, we had the idea to film people in their everyday lives and have little spiritual reminders show up in their environment to remind them of a Biblical truth. To pull off this idea, we decided to use motion tracking to make it look like the reminders were really there with them.

We put together a short tutorial that will give you an idea of how we created this series opener.


Don’t Lose Sight of the Message

Something that we are very careful about here is making sure that we don’t put the “creative” that’s in us as a team over the message of the content we’re delivering. It’s easy to forget about the end goal of what you’re producing when your primary focus is on making something “cool”.

Something fun we do every year is have a series called “At the Movies.” We take stories with Biblical principals and use them as modern day parables. Some of our favorite things to create for this series are the video promos. It’s one of our few times a year to try something that’s fun and cinematic.

For last year’s promos, we focused on a Western genre theme that we used for many of these videos. For our first one, we wanted it to be really epic, and pretty stereotypical of old school westerns. We wanted a rough and tough lead man, a silly sidekick, and lots of guns.

This is the part where we could have easily gone off the tracks a little bit. It’s great to have fun and be creative, but we try to find the balance of keeping the videos fun and silly, but still get our message across. The whole point of the video is to get people excited about this “At the Movies” series and give them information on how to invite their friends.

Here’s the final product. Hope you enjoy.


Sound and Video

Sometime ago, I heard that Walt Disney had a revelation. The philosophy for their parks, rides, and video environments would be:

“70% of what our guests see is what they hear.”

Honestly I don’t know if this really came from Disney, or if anybody has ever said it… but I believe it.  What you hear in a video can make or break the product.  Watch the video below:

Now try and watch it with the volume muted. Notice how the sounds and music make the video.

Continue Reading

Multi-Page Design

If you are using Illustrator or Photoshop to lay out text intensive print pieces then this is for you!

A common mistake for designers is to go with the program we are used to rather than the one that is best for the specific project.

Adobe InDesign is the premier multi-page publication software. Quark Xpress had the market cornered until Adobe released and worked the kinks out of InDesign several years ago.

The main element that makes inDesign preferable over Illustrator and Photoshop is style sheets. You can set a Paragraph Style sheet for the whole publication. If you decide you want to change the font or even just one point size then all you have to do is change it in the style sheet and it will change all the text you have that style applied to.

Continue Reading

Page 1 of 2