Small Groups & Connect Sunday

Every fall Brook Hills designates a Sunday for small groups to kick back up after summer break. We call it “Connect Sunday” and reiterate the importance of getting plugged into a small group. The need for smaller community is even more pronounced in a large church family such as ours (approx. 2500 regular Sunday attendance last I heard). This video rolled at the end of the gatherings yesterday. It will also have a home on our small groups web page.

In this season of life (busy newlyweds both working for ministries) it has been difficult for Luke and me to invest time in a small group. There was a clip (which didn’t make this short edit) from the Nortons who spoke on the struggle of small group for introverts. As an introvert myself it’s far too easy to hide behind the camera and church staff responsibilities so much that I shirk community indefinitely. And if you’ve ever been burned by fellow believers you’ll be nodding your head as I say that—sadly—trusting church community can be a daunting prospect for many of us. So, it was important for me personally to hear stories on positive church community during the hours I spent filming and editing this video. Many folks have spoken out about how it impacted them and I’m grateful for that feedback.

Priscilla & Caleb | Wedding Highlight

Priscilla and Caleb had a specific vision: A wedding highlight video set to traditional music with no recorded audio. They wanted to focus on the visuals.

My favorite part of this day was the rainy escapade on the roof following the ceremony. What a killer setting for those secluded newlywed images!

I provided them with two edits: (1) the Instagram edit above and (2) a two-minute version. The shorter video for Instagram boiled the day down to the most magical of visuals. It also allowed for the couple to share the video in social media posts more easily. The shorter version is my favorite of the two edits.

Fun fact: Priscilla’s sister Ragan is one-half of Ammi Floral Designs, the lovely company that provided florals for our wedding last November! And remember the company highlight video I produced for them? They’re great people and it was such fun working with them again.

Congrats Priscilla and Caleb!

Rock the Block Series

The Brook Hills Worship team came to me with an idea a few weeks ago. Could we pull off recording three lyric videos and a tutorial in - like - 48 hours?

It was super fun to partner with these guys in creating a resource for our Rock the Block ministries. They’ll be sent out to Rock the Block leaders who put on Brook Hills’ version of Backyard Bible Clubs. The lyric videos will act as singalongs for kids at each RTB setting and the tutorials break down the hand motions so leaders can teach the kids.

Here is the Vimeo showcase link that was sent out to leaders. I love how Vimeo offers this as a clean delivery platform.

Update: I hear that these are currently being used all over Birmingham and beyond!

Lessons learned:

  1. The kids in the lyric videos had a just a couple of practice runs with the motions before they went live. Props to their quick learning! You’ll see in “Found by Jesus” that they are beginning to get tired and hot. Next time I’d love to have enough time to do a thorough indoor teaching session before production day. That would have allowed us to pick the kids with the best motions to be in the front and it would have increased the synchronization of their motions throughout.

  2. Audio in the tutorial video isn’t great. The tutorial was a last-minute addition to our project and in retrospect I would have put a wireless lav on Tiffany (instead of a hotshoe shotgun) so her audio remained crisp when she stepped back.

  3. I wish I had gotten more closeup b-roll. Part of my plan was to capture closeups of the beach balls, feet in the grass, etc. but time ran out. A second day for pickups with one or two kids would have allowed for this. Next time.

This is me being super picky - but I know staring those issues in the face is what takes it to the next level. I can already see a lot of progress with working under time crunches and stress but I know that is an area where growth is needed as well. Can’t wait for more opportunities to stretch my skills and potential. Let’s see what comes next!

Resource: One-Person Video Shoot

Normally I only post my own projects here. However, I’ve just stumbled upon a resource from the Shutterstock blog that could really be useful to folks who shoot like me: one camera, at least one subject with a story, a few hours, and the project is due Friday. I wish this tutorial had been around before I went to the Dominican Republic in March. It could have saved my back from lugging around 50 pounds of gear I never used.

I feel like so much of photography and filmmaking is just life-hacking the situation - making one patch of grass and a bush in a parking lot look like a lush garden your subject is lounging in. Or shooting so that a boring white wall looks intentionally sleek and minimalistic. If you got your start with camerawork all scrappy under the “fake it ‘til you make it” principle - own that stuff. I’ve found that those skills will never leave you. You don’t need the newest camera on the market or an elaborate studio. Give you a white bedsheet as a reflector and some window light and you can create gold. Or one camera and a mic in the desert, like these guys.

The beginning of this video is their final product: a short documentary about a guy who shoots film photography at Big Bend National Park (the scenery and film talk are glorious). There’s one guy shooting that documentary. Then there’s a crew shooting him shooting the documentary for this tutorial. But it’s good; it works.

A good bit of the tutorial’s content is straightforward but I love when someone vocalizes relevant information that I’ve never quite been able to put into words. That being said, you may watch this after all my hype and be like, “Well duh.” But it could also help you a whole lot. I watched it twice.

My notes from the video:

  • Shoot in slow motion (as long as that makes sense in your context). On a functional level it doubles the content you have to work with in post.

  • Use a super-wide lens. He uses 11-16mm Tokina F2.8.

    • Short minimum focus so you can get up close to subject. Able to get more varied coverage - close like you’re there with subject, plus wide epic scenery shots.

    • Really deep depth of field so you’re able to move quickly and not worry as much about getting out of focus. Free-flowing.

    • Put a little bit of foliage, etc. in foreground to highlight movement.

    • Personal note: I might toss in a 50mm prime for closeups and portrait-style. They’re super small and lightweight, so why not?

  • Bring filters.

    • Variable ND filter - like sunglasses for your lens.

    • Circular polarizer

  • Keep the gear out of your way. Find an easy method that works for you and don’t be afraid to repeat it. If there’s gear that stresses you out or takes forever to put together - it will show in the work.

    • Slow-motion and wide-angle come into play here.

    • Really creep by slowly with the camera, keeping your motion to a minimum.

    • Toss on some warp stabilizer in post.

  • This doesn’t have to be complicated.

  • His process so he tells the whole story:

    • Start with getting your closeups - let the audience make a connection with subject.

    • Pull back and get all establishing and wide shots - let the audience see where your subject is located.

    • Get creative after you have all of that. Spend whatever time you have left finding interesting angles and cool shots.

    • Interview in car with lav mic plugged directly into phone so he didn’t have to take a separate audio recorder. (Personal note: Reviewing his audio it was a bit noisy and not the best of quality - but undeniably efficient and it did make the most of their driving time.)

Here’s Shutterstock’s original post on the subject if you care to read more.

"First Things First" Sermon Bumpers

The initial “First Things First” video is one of my favorite projects to date. I saw it morph from a Comm Team brainstorming session, to a shoot in my living room, to the final cinematic piece I had envisioned. I loved creating the foley (sound effects) and dubbing them over the video. Can’t tell you how many times I had him rip cardboard, spin the helicopter blades, or dump out LEGOs to get the perfect sound.

You’ll see a similar theme with the two following bumpers - one in a coffee shop and one with carpentry.

Ammi Floral Designs

I had the absolute pleasure to work with the ladies from Ammi Floral designs for a local wedding at Sunshine Farms. Best friends plus a mother-daughter duo form a botanical powerhouse. They’re confident and well-spoken in their craft, passionate, and setting a solid example for their children. Check out their website for more beauty.

Psst… They also designed the florals for our wedding last month and killed it.

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"Live Verses" Sermon Bumpers

Below are five intro videos for a sermon series at Brook Hills. All except the first installment are voiced by the man or woman whose life verse inspired the sermon. Each video is around one minute long. They played in worship gatherings immediately before the sermon.

For the Love of Donuts

This clip is from a cross-country trip my brothers and I took during the summer after the youngest of us graduated high school. We’d been planning it for a decade. Slept under the stars at national parks and made it to Cali and back in a brisk 11 days. #yolo

"Of whom they have never heard..."

This large group of young people was sent out on the mission field for a length we call “midterm” - anywhere from two months to two years. The movement, color, music, light leaks, and reflection of each personality - these are all things I adore about this video.