Elevation Video


"Warriors"

"Warriors" is a project our team worked on that was supposed to play during our Hebrews XII series, but due to a conflict in scheduling, never aired. It lacks the VO that would have driven the narrative because the project was canned before post-production was finished. Regardless, enjoy "Warriors."

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"The Human Brain"

Creative Direction | Geoff Schultz

Art Direction | Geoff Schultz

Lead Designer/Animator | Geoff Schultz

3D Design/Animation | Zach Taylor

2D Design Support | Preston Stack

In July of this year, 2011, we entered into a 4-week series titled Treatment. During this series, Pastor Steven focused on preaching about issues that nobody wants to talk about - anxiety, depression, addiction & insecurity - and brought them to the main stage.  It was an incredibly powerful series that brought a lot of freedom to the people of Elevation.

On the third week, we premiered The Human Brain

The goal of this piece was to break down the utterly complex system of the human brain & how it relates to reoccurring sin in our lives. It started with piles of research. I read lots of scientific journals & blog posts, academic explanations of the brain’s physical make-up and functions, & theories on why our brain reacts the way it does.

After sifting through mounds of notes and holding multiple brainstorm sessions, the decision was made to focus on the idea of renewing our minds through the power of God’s word. We drew this objective from scriptures Romans 7:14-25 (NLT), Romans 12:2-3 (NLT) & 2 Corinthians 5:17 (CEV).

Visually, fitting within in the theme of the series, we went with a very clinical & academic style. Below are several different visual explorations that we went through before settling on the final look.

A few takeaways from working through this project that will hopefully help you in your next project:

  • Finalize content before production – The first draft we put together didn’t get great feedback in our weekly preview meeting.  We ended up having to rewrite the entire back end of the script, which included redesigning & animating all of it as well. This could have been avoided on our end if we had worked ahead to get the script approved before we needed to begin production. For your benefit, do the leg work upfront to make sure you are moving forward with an approved script.
  • 3 is better than 2 is better than 1 – I had grown used to taking a project from beginning to end completely on my own.  I was the only motion designer on staff for a while, so the weight all fell on my shoulders. However, now having a 2nd designer on staff and utilizing the strengths of an intern, we were able to pull of something that I would have never been able to do on my own. 
  • Think before you animate – I am guilty of designing on the fly. I get an idea, I design one frame of what it looks like, and then I start animating. Bad idea. This project forced me to think ahead since I was utilizing two other designers. I had to think through what I needed each of them to do beforehand and it was evident to me going through the process that this was a good idea. It might seem inefficient to spend a ½ day planning what you want to happen, but I promise you on a project this size, it is well worth your time. In fact, it will save you time… especially when you can’t think straight at 4 am after 2 Venti Americanos, an energy drink, and some gummy worms 

Just to give you some handles on production time, here is an estimation of where the time went:

R&D: 10-12 hrs

Conceptual Development: 6-8 hrs

Design Development: 6-8 hrs

Production: 80 hrs

Revisions: 45-50 hrs

Total Hours: 137-148 hrs

-Geoff Schultz


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The Elevation Experience - TV

The Objective:

Close to a year now we’ve been broadcasting an edit of our weekend sermon on our local television network.  We’ve tried to be as strategic as possible with the time slots that we pay for, so for now, the 30 minute show plays on CBS at 11 am on Sundays and on NBC at 1 am on Saturdays, right after Saturday Night Live.  And on special occasions we’ll buy a time slot directly following a big sports game to connect with viewers who might not normally have a chance to see the show.

  Our move to television was a way to test the waters and get our feet wet in a new market, with the hope of reaching more people for Christ.  Most of our physical locations are already getting the sermon piped to them as a simulcast broadcast as Pastor Steven preaches on the other side of town. That’s a model that we’ve found works very well for us, so moving to television ended up being a natural progression to make.

The Edit:

  We currently edit the sometimes 45 minute sermons down to about 22 minutes to fit within our 28 minute and 30 second time slot.  Sometimes we’ll split sermons into 2 episodes and sometimes we’ll encourage viewers to watch the complete sermon online or we’ll mail them the sermon for free.

The edit consists of the same type of elements in every episode.  We usually start with a 30 second highlight of what viewers can expect from the sermon.  That transitions into a motion graphic show opener created in house by our talented Geoff Schultz.  Then we have a portion of a worship song and a roll-in and roll-out of Pastor Steven that bookends the sermon.

We also have a series of 30 second commercials that highlight different outreach partners that we work with and a series of 30 second promos inviting people to visit us at one of our 6 locations to worship with us.  We always include one of each of these in every episode.

   During the sermon, we’ve built out lower thirds that will communicate things to the viewer like how to access our sermon archives, how to share a story of life change, how to follow us on twitter, or how to find more information about our locations.

   We also edit in various jib shots and camera angles to keep it visually interesting which helps keep viewers engaged.  

A Sample:          

  If you’re wondering what all this means or what it actually looks like, you can check out an episode embedded below. For best viewing, hit play, then pause and allow it to load. Enjoy!

-Mike


3D Easter

In January of 2011, the video department at Elevation Church was given the task to figure out how to shoot, edit, and deliver 3D Easter material. Needless to say, 3 months later we did it, not only for one piece but for three different elements for our Easter Worship Experiences. It was an amazing worship experience, where Pastor Steven preached a powerful word and another 2200 people raised their hands to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. 

Following our Easter Worship Experiences, the Elevation Offices were flooded with phone calls and emails from other churches wondering how we did 3D. I thought this would be a great opportunity to share with all of you what we learned working with 3D.

***Now, the disclaimer: I’m no expert in 3D, this is just how we decided to do 3D based on experience, time, and technical ability***

Phase 1 - Research

The first step in doing any project on this scale is doing the research. Thats where we started. We jumped in to a million and one different articles, books, and conversations to figure out what was the best way to do 3D for us. 

The first thing we discovered while researching 3D were the different types of 3D. We were surprised to find that there were so many options. The two most popular options are RealD and Anaglyph 3D.

RealD is what you see in movies today, and it is what every one thinks of when you say 3D. Wiki defines it as a digital stereoscopic projection technology made and sold by RealD Inc. It is currently the most widely used technology for watching 3D films in theaters.  Although this is the best quality 3D, it also requires a large budget, due to the fact that you have to rent special projectors, special switchers, and special computers to actually play Real D.

We decided to go with Anaglyph 3D. Anaglyph Images are used to provide a stereoscopic 3D effect, when viewed with glasses where the two lenses are different (usually chromatically opposite) colors, such as red and cyan. Images are made up of two color layers, superimposed, but offset with respect to each other to produce a depth effect. Anaglyph 3D can be played on any monitor, projector, or TV. So, if you’re on a budget, this is the best way to go. It also produces great 3D images.

Once we figured out what type of 3D technology we would be using,  we began learning the theory behind 3D. To do 3D well you really need to understand how it works. 

In 3D, convergence is critical. Convergence is, simply put, the difference between the left and the right image of an object when the two images are superimposed. This is what creates good 3D. Think focus for 3D.

Once we felt like we had a grasp on how 3D actually worked, we needed to figure out how to shoot 3D. Just like there are many different types of 3D there are many different ways to capture 3D. Here are just a few. 

Beam Splitter Rig- Best way I can describe it is by pictures and video:

    

The basic concept is two non-3D cameras that are connected by a rig. One camera is pointed down through a piece of glass that reflects the image, and the other camera is shooting straight on. It sounds simple, right? Wrong! There are a huge number of variables.

  1. The cameras must be genlocked.
  2. The cameras must have the same exact settings, meaning iris, shutter speed, focal length, picture settings, etc.
  3. The lenses not only need to be the same type, but have similar artifacts. 

Needless to say, this type of rig is incredibly complicated and is mostly used by professionals that specialize in 3D.

      

Another option is to have a camera like the Panasonic 3dA-1, Sony HXR-Nx3d1, or PMW-TD300. This is the route we chose. At the time the only real option was the Panasonic 3DA-1. The team became very familiar with this camera.

One of the big benfits of this type of camera is that they are two cameras in one. All the variables I was mentioning about the beam splitter rigs are non existent due to the way these cameras are manufactured. Convergence is changed not by correcting the distance between the cameras, but by a dial, just like you would change an iris on an HVX. This is really the way to go, especially if you’re not familiar with anything 3D.

Phase 2 - Production

We had done our research, planned everything out and now it was time to begin shooting. Production was actually rather simple. We did a lot of work on the front end so we were well prepared for what was to come.

My biggest advice when it comes to shooting 3D is have a 3D monitor. To be honest,  this was probably the most important piece of hardware we had besides the camera. It provided our director, Jared Hogan, the freedom to compose shots that looked great and took advantage of 3D. 

As a camera op, with Panasonic 3DA-1, you don’t have a way to view the image well in 3D so you tend to frame your shots in a way that looks good in 2D, but that doesn’t always work in 3D. The monitor allowed Jared to fine tune the 3D, and made our jobs incredibly easy.

Here are some tips when actually shooting 3D:

  1. Layers Layers Layers! You need this to give depth and character to your shot. You can make a subject and a wall interesting in 2D, but in 3D you have nothing to work with.
  2. Keep your movements clean. Leave the camera on a tripod, dolly, or steadicam. If you want hand held make sure you have a camera op who has a steady hand.
  3. Remember 2D and 3D composition are two different things. Don’t expect to get the same shots that you would usually get. 3D takes time and practice. Have patience and experiment.

For us, production was the easiest part. We had done our research and knew how to get the things we wanted. All that was left was post.

Phase 3 - Post Production

Post was a little bit more challenging. Everyone we talked to told us to use Cineform 3D, and they were right. It made our jobs relatively easy. It allowed us to edit in 2D and switch to 3D by the pull of a menu. Super simple. 

Once we got back home and into our workstations we imported the footage using Cineform 3D. We quickly realized that we didn’t import any audio, so we had to import a 2D version through Final Cut Pro, sync the two images up and re-export a 3D version with audio. There was probably a smarter way to do it, but we had 3 weeks to complete the video and we wanted to be wise with our edit time.

The biggest thing we learned about editing 3D was to hold on to your shots longer than you normally would.  Longer shots give the audience more time to engage with the 3D elements. Also, this goes for any project, but don’t be afraid to pull in people who have no production experience to give feedback. Let’s face it, we’re not creating content for really technical video producers, but for the everyone else.

Once edits were approved we did minor convergence adjustments in Cineform 3D, we exported and prepared it for our Easter Worship Experience. 

I really do want to thank Pastor Steven for always pushing us to do creative things that push our knowledge and skill set. I’m super thankful to have a leader that allows and expects that kind of performance. Also, the Lead Team at Elevation really gave us great feedback that allowed us to make these pieces the best they could be. Finally Larry Hubtaka, who pushed us constantly to make sure we were doing this 3D thing correctly. 

If you haven’t seen our 3D Easter Experience, it check out at: 

http://www.elevationchurch.org/sermons/3deaster/part1 

[skip to 12:50 to see 3D]

- Steven Lester


Things I’ve Learned About Lighting - Part 1

We shoot a lot. While most of you reading this blog are probably familiar with our creative elements, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. We shoot videos for everything from testimonies, informational messages, intros and outros for our TV show, The Elevation Experience, and many other purposes. Most of these are your traditional “talking head”.

While each video has different content and talent, the set up is usually very similar. The majority of these videos are shot in a studio with a backdrop of some sort. The lighting usually consists of:

·      An Arrilite 1k, going through heavy diffusion with a Chimera, as our Key.

·      A 4x4 Bead Board as Fill.

·      A Kino Flo 2ft Diva-lite as Hair Light.

·      Depending on the backdrop, either a 300w or 650w Arri Fresnel with heavy diffusion for the backdrop.

The set up is very basic three-point lighting. I position the key as close to eye level as possible. I try to keep the key at about a 20 – 30 degree angle from talent. The fill is positioned on the other side of the camera and adjusted depending on talent. The hair light is actually flown in behind talent, usually about three to four feet above talent and about three feet back. The backdrop light, when used, would be placed behind talent pointing at the backdrop. Below is a diagram that should give you an idea of what this set up looks like (obviously the elements are not to scale and the images do not represent the actual sources used, this is simply meant as a quick visual representation).

              

This lighting setup is simple, but accomplishes everything we need it to.

It creates a clean, well-balanced picture that does not bring attention to the lighting. In most cases, videos where this lighting setup is used, content is the most important aspect of the piece. When an audience watches this, they shouldn’t be thinking about dramatic lighting or a crazy backdrop, they should be completely focused on the talent delivering the information. At the same time, its polished enough so that when people watch the video they know they’re in good hands and aren’t distracted by poor video/lighting quality.

I think of lighting as a creative storytelling tool. Lighting can be used to set a mood, reveal something about a character or location, or lead the audience visually throughout a narrative. What I’ve learned from shooting “talking heads” is that lighting plays a very different role with these videos. Lighting needs to support the content objectively and create an image that is appealing visually. It needs to be consistent and simple.

While every shoot is not exactly the same, and I’ll tweak the light for every different person we are shooting, I’ve found that starting off from this base is the most effective way to communicate a message clearly and professionally.

Here are a couple examples:

This is the basic 3 point set up described above.

The same setup, Key light flipped over to the left.

Two Kino Divas as hairlights, placed at 45 degrees from talent.

Same as above.

- Bernardo A Marentes


"The Messenger"

Director | Jared Hogan

Cinematography | Bernardo Marentes

VFX | Preston Stack

Script | Jared Hogan

Color | Steven Lester

Editor | Jared Hogan

This started out as an idea that we weren’t sure we could pull off. There were a lot of elements that had to fall in place for this thing to work. We had to find someone with a horse who was willing to let us use it all day. We had to find someone who could ride a horse and look the part. We had to find a location that was fitting. We had to find a costume that actually worked. Not to mention, just pulling off a period piece is difficult. Then we had to capture it.

As things often do, things began to fall into place. As a matter of fact, the person who let us borrow the horse was also the rider and actor in the piece. Sometimes you just get lucky. He goes to Elevation and volunteered his time and his horse. In addition, the land we filmed on we filmed on for free. He just wanted to bless us too. And wouldn’t you guess it, we found a costume that didn’t look like it was from Party City. Always a plus when shooting a period piece.

Then came actually pulling off the shoot.

I had a personal goal going in to this shoot. As far as I can remember, I’ve shot everything I’ve directed. It’s just how I learned. In film school, you don’t always have a team waiting around to help you pull off projects. So you learn how to do everything. At least I tried to.

What happens, though, is that you don’t get to do anything with excellence. Instead, you do everything pretty well, if you’re lucky. There’s only so much you can pull off yourself.

So my goal was this: Don’t touch the camera.

I have an amazing DP on my team now. I love to shoot, and will continue to, but now I have the luxury to focus on directing when the project calls for it. So that’s what I did. Bernardo [the DP] and I talked through every shot of every scene, determining how, or if, it was moving the story forward. Once we were on set, we plotted out where we could capture the different scenes. It’s always a plus to location scout before arriving, but we didn’t have that luxury this time.

We shot chronologically, marking off the script as we went. It was very much out of my comfort zone not seeing anything we were shooting, but I trusted Bernardo to capture what we had decided on and discussed before. We shot all day, because I wanted the journey to feel more expansive than just an afternoon.

I have this condition on almost any substantial project I work on: I want to quit. My mind turns into mush and I can’t think straight. All I want to do is curl up on my couch and be left alone. It’s this hump that I always have to push through. This shoot was no exception. I got tired, discouraged and just wanted to hide. But I know now to push through. The other side is always worth the struggle. It seems like a simple principle, but it’s worth repeating: if you’re not being challenged, you’re not growing. Try something you’re not sure you can pull off. Failing is painful, but fruitful. Thankfully, the fruit of failure is real success.

"The Messenger"

 

- Jared


"For the Honor" Live DVD

At the beginning of this year we started pre-production on a live DVD recording that we will be releasing soon in the fall. Production was in February and the team is finishing up post production now.

We decided not to go with the traditional ENG style multi-cam setup, but instead shot the event with HDSLR’s. It was a risk, but one we’re glad we took. We decided to go HDSLR’s for the look and the quality of images. Shooting with HDSLR’s really allowed us to capitalize on the high energy moments.

When taking on a project of this size, pre-production is key. You have one chance to capture the event. So, everything is relying on pre-production. 

With a traditional single cam project you have the ability to storyboard or put together an organized shot list of how the shoot is going to flow. But with a live event you don’t have that luxury. The one thing that is as important is your camera layout. This is your playbook for the event. It not only gives your team the ability to set up, but shows your camera men what their focus is during the event. Below is a rough sketch I put together while planning out how to capture this event specifically.

We had 10 cameras, 4 grips, 24 CF cards, 16 lenses, and 40ft of dolly track that night. All Canon 5D’s and 7D’s with EF L-Series lenses. All the cameras were set on a custom neutral setting, allowing us to match the different camera lens combinations in post. More to come about the post process soon.

-Steven Lester


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Communicating Church News

What I love about this segment is that it’s a chance to share the heart of the church every week. And in order to communicate the heart, I feel it’s important that it doesn’t come across as simply “church news.”

This can be a challenge as the subject matter much of the time revolves around communicating information. We may be introducing our church to our different Outreach Partners, organizations that we support all over our city, we might be encouraging people to get involved in an eGroup, our community small groups and sometimes we’re catching people up on the life change that is taking place by our giving financially and through our time, serving. 

Every 5B4 has a host that carries the piece and introduces people who have been interviewed or throws to vignettes that have been produced.

The best way I’ve found to tell these stories without them coming across as stale news stories is by working hard to get to the heart of the matter when interviewing people and shooting supportive B-roll. When shooting the host, it is vital to switch up the shots to help make the story feel like it’s progressing.

Below are a couple screen grabs from a recent 5B4 of one of our hosts, Tonia Bendickson.  By switching up the shots/locations, every time we come back to her between segments, it keeps it fresh and keeps the audience more engaged!

It’s a simple thing that might take a little more time in your shoot but in the end it is very beneficial.

In this particular 5B4, we were featuring one of our Outreach Partners, Hope Cancer Ministries, HCM. They offer prayer and support to individuals battling cancer.

When I set up the shot to interview the Outreach Liaison below, it was my hope to have a nice background that compliments and doesn’t distract from what she’s saying.  She shared about why she loves serving with HCM which is directly tied to the fact that both her father and step-father lost their lives to cancer and she wants to provide the care and support that they didn’t have when they were struggling with the disease.

Her story is part of the heart of the piece and I didn’t want anything to distract us from hearing her heart and feeling her passion.

We also had the opportunity to interview Ed, a cancer survivor who was supported along with his wife by HCM as they battled his cancer together.

Ed’s story is the back bone of this piece, it’s what communicates to all who are watching why it’s so important to support HCM and the work that they do – they’re saving lives through prayer and encouragement.  We learn this by hearing Ed share about how he was ready to give up before his wife reached out for help. I tried to capture supportive B-roll of Ed that would help support the impact he was making by sharing his story.

So if you do “church news” at your church – push yourself to find the heart of the story in the news you want to communicate. It’ll be more satisfying as a storyteller and it will help it resonate more with your audience.

- Michael Crissinger


"Defining a Prodigy"

Director | Bernardo Marentes & Preston Stack

Cinematography | Bernardo Marentes

Motion Graphics | Preston Stack

Script | Preston Stack & Larry Hubatka

Color | Steven Lester

This piece is the perfect example of why preproduction works, is a must, and pays off bigtime. “Defining a Prodigy” started off as a Motion Graphics piece assigned to one of our mgfx designer, Preston Stack. I was to help him pull off the video elements. We quickly realized that in order for this piece to work, a strong collaboration was necessary. 

Preston and I both knew that this was a big project, that there were high expectations for it and that we had a small time frame to complete it. On top of this, we were in the middle of a very busy season, going into our “Follow” series. We met and discussed the script, established the mood, overall feel and pace of the piece. We went through the script line by line and plotted out the video. We wrote a shot list and storyboarded every single shot in the video.

We decided up front to be very ambitious in our writing. It has always been a struggle for me to write as a writer and not as a producer. Here’s what I mean by this: In the past, mostly before coming to Elevation, I have usually been then one to actually produce a piece I have written. I have had to find people, locations, props, etc. I write what I know I have available to me. This is a terrible practice if you want to write a script, as it obviously limits you tremendously. On this piece, I was very set on writing like a writer. We read the script and we wrote exactly what we wanted, having no idea where we would find a keymaker, the right street or a huge canvas. It took us a couple of hours, but at the end of our meeting, we had every single shot written out. We knew exactly what we wanted.

   As I mentioned before, this project came at a very busy season for the Church and Video Department. This meant that I was practically out of commission for doing most of the location scouting and casting. Fortunately Preston stepped up big time and with the help of some amazing volunteers, managed to secure all locations and talent (I believe we had written in about 20 different locations and actors). Whenever we found some time Preston and I would meet and discuss the progress and make final decisions on both talent and locations. 

That was the hard part. 

Production ran incredibly smooth. We shot every day for about 6 days. We managed to capture around 90% of our original script ( which, in my opinion, was quite an accomplishment as the script was quite ambitious in scope). The 10% of the script that changed ended up working out great. 

As I was editing this piece, I was happy to see that our shots matched up almost identically to our story boards (I have included some examples below). We are incredibly proud of this piece and I believe that it would not have been nearly as successful if we had not taken the time upfront to build it up completely even before we set hands on a camera. 

-Bernardo A Marentes


"Follow"

We realized that too often on shoots like these our team defaults to quantity. Shooting too much with too little of a vision. We were challenged by our pastor to, essentially, grow up. To plan on what story we were going to tell, and to stop being juvenile filmmakers depending on our knack for “making things work.”

We realized that creativity flows from structure. As do options. When you know where you are headed conceptually, it opens your eyes to things that take that concept even further.

For example, by good fortune, I happened to listen to our first week of “One Generation Away” from back in January. Cliff Barrows, an enormous juggernaut in the faith, came to pray over our new campus opening up in Blakeney. Again, by good fortune and most definitely the Lord’s grace, he quoted an old hymn when speaking to the dedication of our new building. It worked. On a variety of levels. It worked for the video we were building, and I knew that because of the discussion and planning we established before production began.

From now on that will be common practice for our team, asking this question:

“What is the win?”

Is it hype? Inspiration? Emotional engagement? Practical application of scripture? Know what you’re trying to accomplish. One piece can’t be everything. So, establish the win.

Click here to view our script for the “Follow” video.

- Jared