Short videos are a great way to communicate a powerful message in a two- or three-minute package. Unfortunately, not every church video is created equal. Though produced with the best intentions, some church videos are just bad. In fact, the three of us have seen enough bad church videos that we’ve identified five things that indicate, without a doubt, that you’re watching a bad church video.
1) Excessive use of the Papyrus font
Papyrus was created in 1982 and was meant to look old. In a church video, old typically equals bad. Unless you are James Cameron and you have the budget of Avatar, Papyrus will look outdated. Even Chris Costello, the typeface’s creator, has agreed that Papyrus is overused. Please avoid it or people will avoid watching your video.
How to fix it: Simplify the fonts in your videos. You don’t need to go font wild in order to give your video a look, especially if you’re trying to use text to convey information. Settle for something readable that supports or complements the overall tone of your piece. Oh, and by the way, lay off the Rosewood, too.
2) Poorly-keyed green screen footage
A green screen can be a media producer’s best friend. However, when you don’t put in the effort to get rid of all the green in the final product, you’ve just created a huge distraction. When everyone in your video is encapsulated in a thin layer of green, most people won’t be talking about your video’s message.
How to fix it: There are a few ways to take your green screen footage up a notch. If possible, shoot in 1080p (or at least shoot progressive footage). Place your subject 15 feet away from the green screen, and use separate lights for your subject and your screen in order to avoid spill. Keep your subjects from wearing reflective (or green) clothing, and make sure that your screen isn’t more brightly lit than your subject. Once you’ve shot your footage, use dvMatte Blast (www.dvgarage.com) or Keylight (www.thefoundry.co.uk) to rid yourself of the green.
3) Use of the on-camera microphone
Audio is just as important as the visuals in a short video. It’s not good to cause your audience to wonder whether or not your audio was recorded in the bathroom or on a busy street.
How to fix it: When you’re doing a shoot, employ a boom mic and a lavalier, if possible, and record them on separate tracks using your camera or a computer. Later, you can mix the best audio. To avoid room noise, pick a quiet location, turn off the AC, rent sound blankets, and position your microphones as close to the subject as possible. Once you’ve recorded your sound, see if you can get a professional to do the final mix. Audiences will forgive bad video before they’ll forgive bad audio.
4) Lack of narrative
You’d think it would be hard to lose someone’s attention in less than five minutes, but it’s not. Even in a short video, story is extremely important. The structure and visuals must engage the viewer so they aren’t counting the minutes until your video ends.
How to fix it: Your video needs a message; you need to know exactly what you’re trying to communicate before you ever pick up a camera. That means that the most important video work you do may be done in a word processor. Get the story straight, get the script right, and identify the arc of your video. Know where you’re starting, where you’re ending, and how you’re going to get there. Consider all the books, movies, TV shows, and commercials you’ve criticized because they “didn’t go anywhere.” Don’t leave yourself open to the same criticism.
5) Bad actors
You don’t need to cast James Caviezel in order to make a good church video, but solid acting is a key element. A good actor pulls the viewer into the narrative but a shaky actor yanks the viewer out of the story.
How to fix it: Do your best to recruit and cultivate acting and voiceover talent. Find out who in your church has performance experience and ask them to volunteer for your next video project. Teaching pastors and worship leaders are usually good with dramatic Scripture readings, so let yours do your next voiceover. If no one in your church has the necessary chops, you can either steer away from videos that require acting and voiceovers, or you could reach out to a local theatre troupe. You could also contact casting agencies in your area or post the gig on Craigslist to see if you can find someone within your budget. As a last resort, and only as a last resort, you can employ sock puppets.
Dale Carter, Mo Lawson, and Beth Church are the knowledgeable and friendly staff behind WorshipHouse Media, a one-stop shop for creative church resources.