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How to Film an “At The Movies” Summer Series


Summer is coming. Many churches slump in attendance during the summer. The ATM or At The Movies series is a great way keep or build attendance. The premise is that the Pastor will preach Biblical points from a secular film. The film can be any one they want as long as they can use it tot illustrate moral or Biblical meaning.  Many films have great moral illustrations or are stories about overcoming tragedy and great odds. As the media team it is our job to edit the chosen films to tell the points the Pastor wants to preach from. My church has even gone a step further and we film our Pastor and add the filmed preaching points into the edited film. Basically we show a 30 minute film each Sunday during the ATM series. We create an inviting and fun atmosphere with big props, buttered popcorn and soda. The ATM series can be really fun. This blog post will share with you the secrets to filming a successful ATM series.

Secure Your Location

 IMG_1445It’s important to secure your location. Pick a spot that helps illustrate or gives thematic flare to your film. Maybe it’s downtown with skyscrapers, or in an urban area, at the beach, in the woods, in the park, at an old theater. Wherever it is secure your spot. Why is this important? Say you have a great spot to film at in mind and you decide to “guerrilla” film there without asking anyone’s permission. You could be asked to leave before you finish, or even charges could be pressed against you due to trespassing. I can remember a couple of shoots when I was a student that were going very well, but then we were caught filming without permission there and were asked to leave without finishing the piece. We had to re film everything that we had just did! Trust me it saves a lot of time and trouble to call ahead and speak to the owners or whomever and make sure that you will not be inhibited if you film there.

Location is Key

Make sure that the location you pick is not to close to the road, rail tracks or airport. In other words be sure to not be in a noisy area so as to get the best sound recording. Look for available shading so that your Pastor or talent is not squinting into the sun. Shade is best for filming because it helps keep the aperture down thus helping to blur out the background and give you that beautiful film look. Shade also allows for a smooth clear image. You don’t want blotchy/spotty shade otherwise you will get a blotchy/spotty look on your Pastors face. Some of his face will be in sun while other parts will be in shade. That’s just a bad look. If need be, bring your own shade via a tent.


600-LED-Lights-4If shooting outdoors you may want to rent or invest in a reflector.  A reflector is simply a collapsible circle with a reflective side to it. You use that circle to reflect sun onto the subjects face to brighten it up. If you wanted you could get a lighting kit with 2-3 LED panels. Set up two of the lighting panels near the Pastor. One should be on the right and the other on the left.  If the kit comes with a third light, position it in the back if you can, to create a hair light.  Of coarse the most desirable hair light is to position the Pastor so that the sun is on their back. The sun will create a beautiful golden glow around your Pastor. If this is the case it is imperative that you bring some extra lighting to help brighten up the face due to the shadows created by the sun. It is necessary to blast as much light as you can into their front to match the sun in the back.


Plug the ¾ pin of the Lavaliere Receiver pack into the audio input of the Zoom recorder.  Run the lav wire up through the shirt of your Pastor and have him clip the mic to his shirt at chest level. Clip the mic pack to the back of his belt. Make sure the mic is not muted and that it is set to the same frequency as the receiver pack.  Put a 64GB SD card (or whatever memory card your Zoom takes) into the Zoom recorder. Plug a set of headphones into the headphone slot of the Zoom. Do some volume test and then your ready to record audio. You can also attach a Rode mic to the top of your DSLR for better on camera audio. Be sure to stop recording audio each time you stop rolling on the camera. This will help you to match up audio and video later when editing.

my camera 4Filming Camera “A”

Place camera A, which should be a DSLR of 60D or higher quality, right in front of your Pastor. This is not an interview, this is a sermon; therefor it is ok for your Pastor to preach right to the camera. I would open with a 24 mm wide angle shot to establish the scene. Then use a hip to head shot for the majority of the preaching, and so would use a 50 mm prime lens. Obviously you will need to reposition the camera as necessary.  But I think you’ll be very happy with the results of these two lenses during the shoot.

  • Directions for Camera “A”. Steady straight on shot will work for 65% of your footage. The rest of the footage from “A” camera will be a slow pan from right to left and left to right.  In this instance have your Pastor preach to you and not to the camera so their head and eyes do not move with the panning camera.

My camera 3Filming “Camera B”

Place camera B, which should be a DSLR of 60D or higher quality to the right or to the left of the subject.  If you can, place the camera on a slider and track the subject with the camera, while moving back and forth. For a shot like this I would use a 35 mm or 50mm. If you’re using a 50 mm in both shots then try to vary it up some by moving one of them closer and the other further back.  To really vary it up, every once in a while put a 85 mm lens on and get some tight close up shots. It might also be nice to capture some of your make shift on location “film se”t with Camera B and really capture the “At the Movies” feel. Once everything is all recorded it is time to log it and start editing your project.

For editing Instructions please look for my upcoming book.More details to come.


Keying Out Blue Screen in Adobe Premiere

Modern Filmmaking 

I love movies. Almost as much as the movies themselves; I love filmmaking and the art of filmmaking. Whatever you thought about Avatar, it was ground breaking in the way visual effects are shot. It joins the ranks of Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Terminator 2 and other visual effect groundbreakers. Right now the summer blockbuster season will be upon us, though who am I kidding; it’s already upon us! Batman v. Superman and The Jungle Book are out and soon Captain America: Civil War and many others will be joining them. All of these films are rich in special and visual effects. Let me also mention that they are rich in new ways of filmmaking in order to incorporate real footage with CGI. CGI of coarse is computer generated imagery. Blue and green screens are as prominent on film sets as are cameras, lights, actors and film crew. A good editor has to be able to do more than edit scenes, s/he has to be able to be a great chroma keyer! The chains are being broken daily as to what can be done and shown in the movies these days and its a great time to be a movie fan.


Now it is not likely that most churches will be using the visual effects and and new technical wizardry to do production. I hope that someday a church production can look like one of these block buster features. I am a firm believer that the church should be doing things as excellently as the world. But that’s a blog post for another day. Though let me show you the trailer for he Easter production for my home church in Tulsa. When I see it I feel excited that the church is catching up!

Using Blue Screen for Practical Church Production

But for my intents and purposes I hope to nock things down a few notches and focus on a more practical aspect of blue screen production. Again, some day I hope that I can compete with Disney on a church production, but in the mean time I’m going to focus on doing what I can do with excellence. I want to teach you today how to key out a blue screen or green screen on your project. I use Adobe Premiere so this tutorial will be focused on that.

I recently started filming a kids production where I am shooting a small film. Some of the film features characters in locations that I can’t or don’t have the time or budget to get to. In response to that, I filmed in front of a blue screen and then keyed out the blue and added in the desired background. I could see a church using blue screen for a fun and upbeat video for kids or youth. Maybe even for the right kind of teaching video for adults. Though the more you can film on location or on set the better and more realistic in my opinion. There is just some something fake about blue screen if done poorly. You really have to have the right lighting and precise editing skills to get it to look right and natural. That being said it can be a fun and effective tool and you should not be afraid to do it. Just be prepared to do it right.

Without further ado lets get on it. I’m going to let this video tutorial explain how to set up a blue screen and then I will go into the explanation on how to key it out.

Adobe Premiere 

Open Adobe Premiere and from the welcome menu either open or create a new project. On the next window name the project. The program opens, and it looks like this.premier

The bottom left panel is the Project Panel. Go to File, Import and select the media you want to work with. You now have chosen your film clip with the blue screen back ground. Take a look at this image of my kids film with the blue screen background. Your image ought to look something like this. Maybe not as “corny” but the example out to suffice for all circumstances.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.32.36 PM

Double click the file to load it into the Effects Panel. The image above is located in the Effects Panel. Find where you want to start the clip an hit the Mark In button. Now choose the ending of the scene and click the Mark Out Button. These are featured in the graphic below.
Mark IN and Mark Out



Next, pull the file into the Sequence or time line which is the long skinny menu to the right of the Project Panel. To pull in your selected clip you simply hover your cursor over the film clip button and the audio clip button. A hand appears and you click and drag the file into Sequence. These are featured in the graphic below.

Grab video or audio

Now the file is featured in the sequence menu. Next, open the Effects tab which is in the Project Panel. You can also open it by going to Window, Effects and clicking on the option. From the Effects tab, go to the folder titled, Video Effects and then the folder titled Keying,  and select the effect called Ultra Keying. Click and drag the effect onto the clip in the Sequence. Now double click on the film clip and the clip will open in the Effects Window. Now click on the Effect Controls tab.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.51.58 PM

You will notice it says Output with the option of Composite. Keep this there but change the Settings to Aggressive. Now choose the eye dropper tool on the option that reads Key Color. In the clip in the sequence, click on the blue background using the eye dropper tool. Once you do that, you will instantly see a change. The vast majority of blue will be removed from the scene, leaving you with a subject and black background. But you’re not done yet. Now it’s time to finesse the scene.

Go Output and instead of choosing Composite, choose Alpha Channel. The screen now shows the subject in white with shades of gray. Now use the Matte Generation and Matte Cleanup to fine tune the image. Use the shadow, tolerance, and the most important one, the Choke. These are the tools needed to clean up and fine tune the keying to get the perfect image. Make a check list.

  • Is all the blue keyed out?
  • Are the images fine tuned?
  • Check carefully on parts where the subject moves.
  • Is anything transparent on the subject?
  • Is any blue shimmering or showing through at any point during the scene?

By now you must also notice that the image is kind of gray and sickly looking? The answer is in these tools, Color Correction, Saturation, Hue, and Luminance.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 1.12.23 PM




  • Saturation ads in more vibrance and makes the colors that are there stand out and be more robust.
  • Hue ads in more natural color. Hue is one of the main properties of the color. This will distinctly show up in the face of the subject.
  • Luminosity is brightness or the appearance to the eye of more or less light.

Now that you have done all these steps you should have a beautiful image on screen. All you have to do is find or create the right background image and place it in, to finish the scene.

See the example of the final image below compared to the original blue screen image.

Screen Shot 2016-05-05 at 12.24.49 PM

That’s it for today, I hope you will enjoy some of my other articles on filming. In the mean time be sure to check out this great video on the making of Star Wars: The Force Awakens.


How to do Four Point Lighting for a Testimony Video

shutterstock_76770868Testimonies are a powerful witness to God’s miracle working power. Testimonies are a great way to help drive home or illustrate a point in the Pastors sermon. But I’ve been in to many services where the testimony turns into a mini sermon or it goes off onto a bunny trail that has strayed from the original point. Some testimonies have even delivered false theology that the Pastor then needs to discreetly correct. I’ve found that video taping a testimony is the best way to deliver a personal, powerful message and keep it on point. In previous blogs I’ve discussed the type of cameras and lenses that would be best for this type of video. But the right camera equipment is not the only thing necessary for a testimony video. Lighting is essential for a testimony video.

Without the proper lighting the video could be grainy, dark, and the right mood could be misconstrued. Lighting is used not just as a technique to brighten and illuminate the subject but it is a tool for setting the mood. Lighting is a tool like a painters paint brush, an authors pencil or in our case the cinematographers lens. Lighting can be warm and inviting, cool and refreshing or cold, damp and unnerving. Lighting sets the tone and feel for the story. It’s easy to see how properly used lighting can really change, add to or diminish the scene. As for the intents and purposes of  this blog post, I’ll discuss how to properly set up what is known in the studio/production business as four point lighting. Now you’re welcome to use more lights than that, but four is basic and it works very well. I’ll set the scene.

You’ve determined the set, and the position of the talent ( talent being the person giving the testimony) and the position of the camera or cameras. One will do but two cameras can give variety of shots and help when editing. We’re shooting inside so you need to rent or buy a kit that is white light or one that you can alternate. The lighting kits you can alternate are LED lights. They will have a dial on the back that you can switch from one setting to another.  3200 Kelvin is the proper lighting temperature for indoor tungsten  lighting. You will need to set the changeable light to 3200K for indoors and 5600K for outdoors or to emulate daylight. Once you learn the basics then you can play with lighting temperatures. The first light to be set up is the key light.

Key light: This light is the primary light, it is the brightest and meant to simply light the subject. Position this to the right or left or whichever side of the subject is the best side. Position is close enough to adequately light the subject but no so far in that it is overbearing or causes you to have to change the settings on the camera to much. The next light is the fill light.

Fill Light: The fill light is designed to soften the Key light. It is less bright is positioned closer to the subject. The fill light fills in the natural shadows that fall on the face and softens the features. The fill light is the beauty light. The next light is the back light.

Back Light: The backlight puts a dash of light on the back of the head. The back light separates the head and shoulders from the wall behind you. If it is too close to too strong then the subject will look like they have a halo. The well done back light simply cents and sparks the subject. The last light is the background light.

Background Light: You can get away without this one but I like it because it just ads something special to the production. A splash or streak of light on the background brings some real “umph” to the testimony video.

Different Lights

  • Umbrella Lights
  • LED Lights
  • Production Lights

IMG_7723Umbrella lighting is traditionally used for pictures. Umbrellas are used to reflect and throw light wide so that it does not land in one spot. You can still use the umbrella system in video lighting and you can still set it up as described above. You can also rig umbrella lights with a flash for some beautiful shot. I have a set that produces white light which is great for an indoor studio setting. I use mine for video shooting as well as photography.



600-LED-Lights-4LED Lighting is popular videos. LED lights are a broad light usually. LED’s are positioned on a panel that helps throw the light across the room. They also let you turn up the brightness and intensity so you can have more flexibility when shooting. You can get LED lights with barn doors. What’s that? A barn door is an attachment with hinges that can swing in, down or up and help the producers make the light more directional. Barn doors are a great tool to direct and cast light v letting it just spill out everywhere. Barn doors help you be more intentional with your lighting. They can also be used with studio lighting.

alzo_2000_portrait_studio_3lights_600wTraditional Studio lighting is set up with specified lights that come in varying degrees. You might have a light that is 150, 200, 350, 600 and so on. Each degree is a higher intensity. The color of the light is determined by different filters fitted into the front of the light or with gel papers clipped to the barn doors. You can also get covers that help soften, throw and focus light such as in the picture to the left. There are many tools that you can get to go with your right. Just because you have one type of light does not mean you have to keep it that way. Today there are numerous extras to make your lighting set up more desirable to your vision.