Video Directing 101

Nothing else can connect a person to another moment like video. When used well, video can influence the way we feel and think and even what we do. It has shaped how we view and elect government officials, our entertainment, our news, our education, and the songs and narrative of our culture. Video has created the society we live in (and not just for the better, obviously).

Ultimately, video is a means of telling a story.

The early church invested heavily in distributing the story of the Gospel and the letters of the Apostles. Back then, the production of vellum, papyrus, and ink was high tech… and expensive. The church has always used the most advanced means at their disposal to communicate the Gospel. Video is no different.

My hope is that this series will empower you to use live video to creatively and effectively communicate the story of God at work in your community.

What is an establishing shot?

The word establish means to set up or show. In video terms, the establishing shot sets up the scene or shows where the scene is taking place. The establishing shot provides context for the viewer.
You’ve seen this in every TV show and movie you have ever watched.

Consider a sitcom like Seinfeld. If you watched the show you know that one of the main places of action was the coffee shop. Can you here the popping bass notes as the camera zooms into the coffee shop for just a few seconds before we join the cast already inside at their favorite table? That’s the establishing shot.

Why do I need it?

It is a best practice to show the viewer where you are, how many people are in the room, and what your sanctuary looks like. It puts them at ease and allows them to enter into the flow of the service.

A first time viewer to your program might be asking any or all of these questions:

  • Where are you?
  • How many people are there? Are the seats full or empty?
  • What do the people that attend look like?
  • What does the sanctuary look like? Is it traditional or contemporary?

There are few things less effective than a single tight shot of the podium or speaker for an entire program. As far as we know, the speaker could be in their living room. The voices or clapping off screen makes us uncomfortable, because we can’t place it in context. The establishing shot is not optional.

Allow the viewer to enter the service by starting with a wide, establishing shot to provide context before moving into the action. I’ll save additional camera placement for another post, but you want to place your wide shot camera in a position where the viewer can see the room, the audience, and the stage. Think in terms of showing the architecture and not just the people, if it helps.

An example

Looks like this:

Thoughts about the composition of this shot and how I use this camera:

  • this is the home base shot for camera 2. When there is no other assignment, the operator returns to this position.
  • we use this camera for crowd reaction: clapping, laughing, or responsive reading, etc.
  • I use the wide shot to bridge the transitions between the main elements of the service.
  • in addition to the above, I insert this shot into the sermon line cut every 8 to 10 minutes. I like to cut to a wide shot, at a minimum, when the Pastor transitions between the main points of his outline.

Be creative in using the camera that provides the establishing shot. If you only have a few cameras, it does not have to just sit on a wide shot the entire time. However, teaching the wide shot as the home base, insures that the operator is ready for a quick cut to capture audience reaction.

The establishing shot establishes context, and is a necessary and effective way to insure that your video is connecting with your viewers. Start your service DVD, program, or podcast with an establishing shot for best results.

Taken from the series "Technically Thinking" @ www.