Visual Story Telling

Communicating Ideas & Stories… Visually 

  • There are several ways you can tell a story.  You can speak it, you can write it, you can draw it,  or you can show it.
  • Read any stats on TV watching and movies and it’s clear the visual story telling is a favourite in our society
  • Visual story telling is a really effective way to communicate your story in an engaging and meaningful way

The church can use video to tell it’s story and The Bigger Story.

Video production used to be so expensive that only wealthy churches could do it, but there are more and more tools out there that allow anyone to create great videos.


Equipment isn’t everything

This video was shot & edited on an iPhone.  It may not be the most incredible video… but they effectively communicate a story with some nice visual shots using one simple smart phone as their equipment.

Apple of My Eye – IPHONE 4 FILM from Michael Koerbel on Vimeo.

Equipment isn’t everything but you will eventually find that some equipment is limited, and good equipment can add significant value to your story.

You no longer need $20,000 of equipment to make a professional looking video.


  • Make sure to get the highest specs you can afford
  • Make sure your computer has a dedicated graphics card.  The one exception might be Apple software and hardware.  Apple’s Macbook Air can do basic editing in the Apple iMovie program even without a dedicated video card.
  • Hard Drive Speed – Your computer has to go ‘get’ the video files from the hard drive so the quicker your hard drive the faster it can access the video… slower hard drive, slower access and slower video editing performance.  Solid State Drives are ideal, but if not then a 7200rpm drive will work.
  • If you want an opinion buy an Apple Computer.


Intro do DSLR Cameras

Introduction to DSLR Cameras with Philip Bloom from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.

  1. To get a ‘film’ look you’ll need to use a DSLR camera rather than a stock handy cam video camera.
  2. DSLR Cameras have a bigger image sensor which gives you great colour something called depth of field which we will talk about later.
  1. Several Camera Reviews by Phillip Bloom – wide range of expenses.


  • Nikon d3200    679.00
  • Nikon d5100    600.00
  • Nkon d5100 body 499.00
  • Nikon 50mm 1.8 250.00
  • Canon t3i 799.00 (with 50mm 1.8)
  • Canon t4i 799.00
  • Canon 5d Mark ii – 1800 body only
  • Canon 50mm 1.8 120.00

Like a Car if you have a huge budget you can buy a great camera… but today we are here to talk about using the lower end cameras to make great videos.  These Cameras under $1000 can do a great job.


  • SD Card 50 – 100
  • Tripod 100-200
  • Case – 100


  • Movie specific lens – 120-250

Audio Equipment

Comparing Zoom h1 and h4n

Compare Zoom h1 vs Rode Mic

Understanding DSLR

Here are some websites and useful links to find great info on DSLR Cameras & Gear

Vimeo Video School has many great videos for learning about DSLR cameras and film making.

No Film School 

DSLR Film Noob – reviews and gear

Cheesy Cam – Accessories, Reviews, and Gear

What are these settings on my camera???

A few key tutorials –

Part 6: Shutter Speed & FPS from –jL on Vimeo.

Part 7: Aperture from –jL on Vimeo.

Part 8: Depth of Field from –jL on Vimeo.



Creating an Interview or Testimony Style Video

Check out this great tutorial from Vimeo Video School with all the basics you need to know for an interview setup.

10 Steps to Shooting your First DIY Interview from Vimeo Video School on Vimeo.


Using a Studio Setup


Most people who sat down in this chair for an interview were skeptical of the end results.  But it turned out great – see video below.

Pilgrimage Project Example

The above video uses something called 3 Point Lighting

3 point lighting basic from LifeNow Video on Vimeo.

My lighting consisted of construction lights from Rona with a bed sheet hanging in front of it to diffuse the light.

Affordable Lighting Techniques for Interviews from Caleb Pike on Vimeo.


If your not going to use construction lights – your option is to buy studio lighting.  Studio Lighting stands and soft boxes are 160- 300.

Capturing Audio

 External Recorders

  • The cheapest option I know to record externally is using the zoom H1 with ATR3350 lav mic plugged into it.  About $130 total cost.  (Just h1 works great too)
  • Record audio separate from the camera – either onto a recorder like a Zoom h1 or into a Microphone and audio software like Garageband, ProTools etc.
  • Get your audio as close to the source sound as possible
  • In the interview example, the microphone is as close as possible without being in the frame.  Having it above the person still picks up sound, it doesn’t have to be in front of their mouth.

You’ll need to synchronize your camera audio with the microphone recorded audio in your editing program.  Then remove the camera audio so you only have the nice clean sound from the mic.  A manual way to do this is to clap before you record so there will be a sound spike in both the mic and camera.  You can then line up those sound spikes in your editing program to synchronize your clips.

In Final Cut Pro X, there is an automatic synchronize by audio feature… which is incredible.

Recording Audio Internally 

This still uses a separate mic but the signal will be sent to the camera and will be used in your video clips instead of the camera’s built in audio.

  • Mic plugged into camera audio
  • Rode Video Mic
  • Boom Mic


  • Don’t set your depth of field too small or else when your subject shifts in their chair or moves, they will suddenly be out of focus.  f3.5 minimum
  • Have someone else the person can talk to… it’s easier on you so you can watch your camera and helps them not look at you or the camera if you quickly check it.
  • Shoot till you get the right version – the worst feeling is sitting in Edit and realizing you don’t have the shot you need

Using Two Cameras

  • If one camera is out of focus or not correct, you have a backup
  • Great for splicing edits when people make mistakes.  With a single camera, your only option is to cut out their mistake which creates a glitch effect since the subject moves a little bit as they talk.  However if you cut to the second camera source, people won’t notice you edited out a mistake.
  • Each camera at different angles and distance
  • Keep cameras at eye level generally


Coffee Shop or Living Room Style Interview

We’ve used this style of interview to allow people to share their story without having to get up in front of the whole church.  One person shared their story with our Pastor who was sitting on the couch across from them.  I simply filmed her talking and we were able to show it as a testimony.

Using One Camera + B-Roll

B-roll is the footage you see in the news or in a documentary that shows something other than the person talking.  It’s a great way to add to your interview and it also helps to cover up edit points.  In this example below, I asked Shane several different questions and for each question I moved the camera to a new angle.  Then we filmed b-roll and I used that to cover up the edit points when the camera moved to a new angle.  The illusion is having 3 or 4 cameras setup to film this interview.


In this example, there is some B-roll as well as a secondary story line throughout.

Creating A Ministries Promo Video

Show & Tell

Some ministries need some explanation or an underlying narration.  Usually this is important when there is crucial information that can’t be communicated with just visual images.

This Salon video I created needed some narration because they explain about the products and unique features of the salon which we couldn’t just show.


In contrast, this next version is just a ‘Show’ version which only highlights the salon visually.

This Youth Video – Shows the events and has some testimonies

Preschool Video – Shows what a day of preschool is like.

We found at our church using video is a great way to help people see your ministries.  At our AGM we often do highlight videos rather than reading reports because we find it a more effective way to celebrate the incredible work of those ministries.

The Content of your shots

Your main goal is to represent the entire experience in images.

Imagine you have to write about this story in a book – what would you describe in the room to a blind person? Take that list of things and capture it on video.

  • Have a balance of wide distant shots and close ups
  • Make sure what you show helps establish the scene

Frame Options

HFSS Episode #5: Framing for Film from Caleb Pike on Vimeo.


Filming Techniques

There are many great tutorials on various aspects of composing shots, filming, panning, motion etc…at Vimeo Video School – Shooting Techniques


  •      Object moves you are still
  •      You are going to move but the object will stay still
  •      Both object and camera are moving

Moving with DSLR is tricky

  • You can’t pan across quickly or else you’ll get a rolling shutter jelly effect.
  • DSLRs don’t have stabilization like a consumer video camera so use a tripod!

You can also use a Steady Cam to make a smooth shot

DIY Steady Cam – This video has a decent explanation of what it is and how to use it.  After having built this DIY Flyer myself, I would suggest just purchasing a proper one.  Building it yourself ends up costing you lots and lots of hours of fiddling and adjusting.  Balancing this kind of stabilizer is very difficult and takes lots of time.  If you have a poor steady cam to begin with, it makes balancing it even harder.

I used this steady cam on the La Bella Vita Salon Video you saw above.


Or A Slider


If your stuck for options you can get creative with how to film your shots.  In this Good Friday video, I used an office chair and pulled it along the ground.

NEWS MOVIE – slider needed – used table



Watch how these two videos of the same event are completely different because of the music.

Where to buy music

Audio Jungle

(Google search – Royalty Free Stock Music)


Editing the Film

      • Have a sense for timing and style of movie
      • Trust your gut – that was too long too short
      • Match music with cuts (hard work for a whole song)
      • Have balance of quick cuts and long cuts
      • Build suspense with cuts
      • Transitions *** Some fades, mostly cuts*** don’t use fancy wipes or gimmicky transitions
      • Balance of Movement and Still
      • You can speed up or slow down your video in certain parts of the edit
      • Text over video – keep it simple and readable

Check out this article on ‘Trimming the Fat’ of your video edit.  Great before and after of a short and long version of the same story.


Multi-Cam Editing – Final Cut Pro X is great for this!




Video In Your Church Conclusion

Leave the fancy video production to the professionals at the production houses.  Focus your energy on testimonies and stories of your congregation.

Use Video to highlight your ministries, stories, and staff.

Staff Video for Level Ground Mennonite Church – this one created using iMovie built in Trailers.


Videos you saw above that I made filmed with a Nikon d5100 & 50mm f1.8 lens & edited in Final Cut Pro X on an Apple Macboook Pro Retina, (16gb Ram).  I’m thrilled with my equipment and find it’s working great for what I need.

My experience with learning video was simply one of practice, immersion, and finding resources online.  (As you can tell by the many video links)


Shoot video of your dog, or your family dinner, or an outing to the beach.  The more you do it, the better you’ll get and the practice you get on these ‘meaningless’ projects will pay off when you really need it.


Watch lots of good videos.  Like a good musicians listens to great music… watch and learn from videos you see.  Vimeo seems to have a lot higher quality videos then YouTube, but you can certainly find great videos on both.

When you see a great video, ask yourself what made it great?  Write down the edit points – write down the order of shots – learn to pick up patterns and techniques from the pros.

Resources online

Google is honestly your best friend when it comes to finding things online.  Search and you will find.