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(a 2008 revision of material written by Susan Bauer and originally appearing in EMQ Evangelical Missions Quarterly magazine October 1993, copyrighted by Alpha Video Productions.)

As the price of video cameras goes down and the picture quality goes up, more and more missionaries and short-term workers are shooting their own video footage. If you want to shoot your own, then have it edited into a neat and clean, effective presentation, here are some tips to make it look as good as possible. (Remember, your editor can only make it look as good as the original footage he or she has to work with.)

For certain high-impact presentations with broad exposure, there’s no substitute for the experience, equipment, savvy, and creativity that seasoned professionals can offer. The investment is worth every penny! Think through which kind of video you need.

For those who find a simpler video report will do the job, following these tips will make a world of difference.

It goes without saying that you must get acquainted with the equipment—before you leave the country. Shoot. Shoot. And shoot some more. Practice the different settings to see which work for you the best. Take along more tape than you think you’ll need. Pack a notebook to write down the names of people and projects (don’t forget to ask exact spellings and job titles, too). And on location, roll tape to record that information; you’ll be glad you did when you get home.

If you need professional editing for your story, Alpha Video would be happy to discuss post-production services with you. And please call us--before you go--to check format capability. And now, our favorite tips:

1. Use the best quality camera you can, and look for an image-stabilizer feature if you plan to hand-hold the camera at all.  (The lighter weight the camera, the more it shakes when you hand-hold it.)

2. Use the best format you can. Quality from best downward—digital DVCam, flash-card or hard-drive camera, digital mini-DV tape.

3. Use a tripod. Shots must be steady to be edited. If you must hold the camera, use the wide-angle position. (Instead of zooming, come in closer to your subject, and it will be more stable.)

4. Resist the urge to move the camera. Instead, let the action occur within the viewfinder frame. An editor can use only a few pans and zooms, and they must be smooth to be usable.

5. Shoot in sequences—a wide shot to establish scene, a medium shot in closer, then close-ups. Don’t be too shy to ask people to repeat their action so you can get a complete sequence. Your editor will love you!

10 Tips for Missionary Videographers

6. Count to 10. Stay on each shot long enough for the editor to find the best part of it and to get in and out of it. Let the shot roll a full 10 seconds. Remember, tape is cheap.

7. Set the stage for your viewer. Shoot “local color,” and always include natural sound to transport your viewer to the location. Watch for markets, scenery, street scenes, typical buildings.

8. Video is a close-up medium. Therein lies emotion and TV’s power to motivate, to touch people. Expressive faces are the heartbeat of your video. Capture character, moods, ethnic differences that would appeal to your audience or heighten their sense of reality.

9. Interviews. Use close-ups and medium close-ups. Allow only a little headroom; put the top of the head near the top of the frame. Use a separate clip-on microphone for cleaner audio. It’s critical for the words to be understood, so use headphones to help you listen for a problem. If you have two audio channels, it helps to set one on automatic level control. Always look for an interesting background but don't place a person in front of a window or extremely bright background.

10. Finally, keep your viewers in mind. Develop a heart for where the impact is. If something grabs you, it will probably grab your viewer, too.

For additional information on concepting your video, understanding your audience, drafting a script, and helping viewers know how they can respond, see How to Produce a Video.