You won't read posts like this very often from me. Most of what I teach is very direct and step-by-step:
- Use this typeface and your text will be readable
- Include connection cards if you want a visitor to respond
- Here is a useful resource for free clip art, check it out
The creation of animoto videos (using the software at http://www.animoto.com, that makes creating videos ridiculously easy), requires a different approach. For this time of year, when you may want to create a video about summer mission projects (as I did for one that follows and is used as an example) I thought this might be helpful.
There are three videos that I created that I refer to in the materials that follows, these are all at the end of the text. You may want to jump down and watch them first (it will take less than 5 minutes to watch all three), but you may have already watched them.
A very different approach, but ministry sometimes needs it
But in wanting to help you create effective animoto videos like them, I realized that some of the following advice isn't so much cerebral as from the heart. And, gasp, horrors to my German, Mennonite soul--a bit undefined, touchy-feely, emotional even. Yet the topic seems to need a different approach, and so here are some thoughts that might be helpful:
1. I approach these kinds of things with a spiritual lesson in mind. I want people to feel something after they see it. I want to touch hearts.
2. In the past when I wrote for mission organizations, (and now today when I create things for our missions outreach), the thing I'd always say to myself is that I want to go for the gut--if people don't feel something, if they don't respond viserally, I've missed it.
I want people to spontaneously cry--just a bit--but when their emotions respond that is usually when people take action.
At the same time****VERY important***if your video is for a mission project or something else that requires specific action BE SURE you have concrete response materials. For the mission video below I had lists, brochures, a poster display, materials online and at the church welcome center. NEVER stir up emotions about a particular specific cause without giving people a way to concretely respond to it.
3. BUT to do that you don't use mushy words or pictures. If the gut/heart response is to be from God--the most important thing we can do is to present the story truthfully and get out-of-the-way.
4. You have to have good images to do that--I am really grateful to FREE BIBLE IMAGES (http://freebibleimages.org) for the project they are working on--to give us accurate images for Bible lessons. Though all their sets might be useful for a more linear form of teaching, for the videos, I look for ones with a narrative, emotional impact.
How to get pictures that will touch hearts and motivate to action
For mission ones, like the ones in the video below--you need to train your people who go out on mission trips to take good pictures. I went through over 100 ones to find the few I was able to use in the video. Most mission pictures are of groups (which communicate nothing) are shot too far away. Shoot up close; take people pictures, don't always have everyone staring into the camera. One of the best things to do is to shoot closely AROUND people when they are engaged in action. Take pictures that describe the setting--big and little things--don't just show me the building from a distance--show me the front door, the view from it, what kids see from their windows.
For the third video, "why I can be happy" I found images from the web--it took an incredible amount of time to do that and then I modified all of them into black and white--I was on sort of a black and white kick then--also because the images came from so many sources, this was a way to even out their tone.
5. YOU MUST use words--but be so careful with your words. A picture may be worth a 1,000 words, but without caption-type words--or the ones I like what I put into the video, the pictures alone either mean nothing, or more often they mean whatever story is going on in someone's head at the time.
You must guide the thought pattern of your audience. Not too much--this is where animoto is a great help because you are limited in your words. It forces you to create almost haiku phrases. But they must be clear and almost without emotion. This is where it gets tricky. For example, in the video about the Prodigal Son:
I wrote: and his only friends, were pigs
I didn't say: it was horrible the mess he got in--what a failure
I wrote: instead of scolding, his father through a party
I didn't say: his father was merciful and gracious like God is to us sinners
You see how the second examples of what I didn't say were a correct description--but said that way, the writer does the feeling for you. And if that feeling does not resonate with the reader, maybe they don't think the mess was "horrible" or don't like the term "sinners", the images lose their impact. In what I wrote, I tried to give the most precise, short description possible and then let the reader feel the emotion.
6. Selecting music. This is incredibly hard for me because I don't listen to hardly any music ever (long story behind that--no theological reasons-- a painful inner ear issue). I have the songs on animoto--many of you would have many other songs available and would actually know something about them, which I don't. I pray a lot about this first so I don't have to deal with it for long. But I try to find something that really fits either in the words (as in the Prodigal Son one and why I can be happy) or with the tone of the images as in the mission one. And then I try to fit the pacing of the images and music to it. I fiddle around a lot with this.
7. When I hit the "produce" button, I usually redo the video at least half a dozen times to fine-tune words, music, order of images.
8. One more thing: videos like this need to be SHORT. I ramble a bit (I do edit out a lot actually) when I talk and teach on how-to videos and sometimes that is necessary so I don't sound like a drill sergeant, but for a video to have a powerful, emotional punch you can't ramble on. For Fathers Day our church showed a video with father and children images interspersed with verses--I don't know who did it or where it came from, but not only was there not particularly anything new shown or anything added to the verses--but it went on and on and on and on--for over 5 minutes. That is WAY too long for a video that is supposed to inspire. Cute has a very short interest span.
For editing on videos and everything else--one thing I remind myself of is that if the Lord wills that you continue in your communication ministry--this is just one part of the conversation He wants you to have with your audience. You don't need to say everything at this one time.
9. Finally pray and let it go. But be sure to have the specific follow-up if the video message requires it.