Video Training Day

For a while now I’ve wanted to pass on what I’ve learned with making videos, and this tied in with realising that there’s a great crew of guys and girls doing video / media studies at college and university. So I arranged for everyone to come to the video studio where I work for a day’s training in both theory and practical video production.

Josh, Aidan, David, Charis, Naomi, Esme, George, and James

The team: Josh, Aidan, David, Charis, Naomi, Esme, George, and James

And a brilliant day it was – well anyway at least no one went home early in floods of tears. The overview of the video training day was a morning session on theory and editing techniques, lunch at a local community house, and then an afternoon where the group split into teams to each make a video on a set theme.

The theory session in the recently revamped video studio.

The theory session in the recently revamped video studio.

The technical detail behind video production is actually quite complicated and it’s hard to condense 7 years of learning into a couple of hours. So I focused on the main settings they’d need to know – like ISO, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, frame rate, and white balance. Simple. I had three cameras out so they could see how changing the settings would affect the image. Hands on is the best way to learn. I’ve uploaded the handouts in case anyone finds them useful.

Video Production – Filming (pdf)
Video Production – Editing (pdf)

Editing Huw's video

I went through a recent video I’d made showing them various tricks I’d learnt, and the importance of good audio / sound effects.

After three hours of cramming information into their craniums we popped out for a bite to eat at Anthem, a community house where I live with around 20 others. Anna kindly cooked for us.

Lunch is served.

Lunch is served, much to the apparent delight of Esme.

After we’d had lunch I split the group into three teams and gave them each some kit, a theme, and a computer to edit the video on – with the 30 second short to be made in just two hours!
This was a challenging task as they wouldn’t have been familiar with the kit or the location, and two hours isn’t long at all when it comes to planning, filming, and editing a video. However all three teams did brilliantly, and came up with original, well made videos.

The three teams hard at work editing their videos.

The three teams hard at work editing their videos with the deadline looming.

Here are the short 30 second videos they made.

I was encouraged to see this group of people get together and get something from the day – one of the main outcomes was a sense of team even though we’re all from different parts of the country (Brighton, Norwich, London, Northampton, Coventry, Leicester, and Sheffield). Unity is one of the hallmarks of the Jesus Army and I’m glad to see that’s still the case.

The future is exciting – there is a collaboration project in the works, where everyone makes a short section of a video that will then be joined together. And we’ll definitely have another training day when they’re on their summer holidays – if there is anyone I’ve missed out who’s involved in video production or animation then please let me know.

Josh trying to work out how to open a door while George looks on.

Josh trying to work out how to open a door while George looks on.

And finally it’s worth saying that one of the biggest challenges I had was getting the training day up and running in the first place. When you’ve spent years learning a skill it seems you want to hold onto it and not share it with others. Pride holds on to knowledge and responsibility and I’ve seen a fair bit of that over the years so I was determined to pass on what I’ve learned. May this next generation produce greater works than I ever will.

I’ll certainly do what I can to help them.

How to Live Stream a Church Event Over 3G / 4G

The Church that I’m part of has national events every couple of months for people from all around the country. It isn’t practical for everyone to travel long distances so I looked into ways of doing a video live stream of the event so they can watch from home.
After 6 months of frustration I found a setup that works in both remote locations and city centres. There might be someone out there who wants to know so here’s what works for me – the details of the parts I use are at the end of this post.

Livestreaming from

Successfully live streaming a Church event inside a marquee, in a field, in the middle of the English countryside.

Testing

We already do IMAG (3 video camera mix) so what I needed to do was take a feed from the BlackMagic ATEM mixer and broadcast it online. Our events are often in unusual locations – a tent in a field in the countryside, on Trafalgar Square, in sports halls – so a stable broadband connection isn’t possible. I first tried streaming with a 3G router and PC software (using a HDMI capture card) and it would cut out frequently. You have to bear in mind that the congregation will all have mobile phones and if you’re in a remote location this can overload the 3G cell tower you’re connected to and cause unstable 3G dropouts.

Using the PC software also led to complications – you have to keep the PC updated, it can crash, takes up a lot of room, not very energy efficient etc. So I found a small piece of hardware called the LiveStream Broadcaster that does all the encoding and uploading. This ties you into the LiveStream service but the end user interface is professional and wasn’t too expensive.

As 4G mobile connections were being rolled out across the country I checked to see where there is 4G coverage on EE’s map – and our marquee field was just in range of one of their 4G towers.

EE's 4G coverage checker - our event field was just in range.

EE’s 4G coverage checker – our event field was just in range.

I did a couple of tests with the Broadcaster and an unlocked 4G modem I got off eBay and it seemed to connect OK.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

Testing the LiveStream Broadcaster and 4G dongle in the marquee field.

However using the Broadcaster’s USB slot for the 4G modem led to difficulties and it would sometimes reboot or not connect to EE. So I hunted around and found a 4G router that would take the USB dongle, and from there on I didn’t have any connection issues. Even when the marquee was filled with a thousand people (all probably connecting to one cell tower) there was no drop outs over 4G.

Insulation tape

Live streaming from Trafalgar Square in London. JVC GY-HM600 video camera with HDMI out to the LiveStream Broadcaster. The 4G router was held with insulation tape to the roof of the gazebo just above the camera. Very professional.

Final Solution

BlackMagic ATEM video mixer  ­->  HDMI 720p50 (audio embedded) ­ ->  Livestream Broadcaster  ­->  Ethernet  ­->  TP-­Link 4G router  ->  4G dongle

­ I chose the Adaptive Medium setting (678kbs at ­768 x 432) as this uses around 300MB an hour. This is the best setting for image clarity vs data usage. I could up the quality but the chances of dropouts are higher, and the data use increases.

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events so far -

The Jesus Army LiveStream page with the 5 events we’ve held so far which are saved for repeat viewing.

Stats: So far we’ve had 6,600 views and 127 followers from the 5 events. People have accessed the video streams from 45 different countries.

Parts and Costing

  • EE 4G SIM + 6GB data (£17) ­ eBay
  • HUAWEI E398 4G USB dongle (£55) ­ eBay
JC router

A live stream from inside the Northampton Jesus Centre. Still haven’t got round to making the setup look tidy. That’s next years project.

There has been plenty of positive feedback about live streaming as people have been grateful to be able to watch the meetings and feel a part. It’s also helped many of our overseas friends and church members stay connected.
If you have any questions about the setup or details on how you’ve done it then please let me know in the comments below.

Creating A Song – He Is Stronger

 

Thursday Evening

Every Thursday eve, at our community house in Norwich, we have a big nosh-up. For quite a while our Thursday evenings lacked people. So we prayed. Now we have lots of people come; friends, family, work colleagues and the rest. Before we tuck in, I normally say a little word (like radio 4’s ‘Thought Of The Day) we sing a song and each week, someone is asked to wrap things up with a prayer before we eat.

It was during one of these lively evening meals that I turned to Ore (a regular attendee), five minutes before my thought for the day, and said.. “Lets make a song to sing in the next five minutes.” So we did. It went:

I’m getting rid of distractions,
looking to Jesus.
For He is stronger,
He is greater than the world.

He is stronger,
He is greater,
He’s the ruler of my heart (repeat)

IMG_20140828_212949

Jude, Mark and Ore

Jude, Mark and Ore

Jude happened to record the song on his phone:

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The tune was catchy and Ore said it reminded him of a Nigerian song he knew. After the meal, Ore and my sister Abigail helped to write a full on song with a middle eight and everything.

Whilst constructing the melody of the the song, Ab realised that some of the melodies were similar to other Jesus Fellowship songs. I said lets change it. In the end we didn’t change anything. There’s always going to be some other melody from somewhere that’s similar to the song you’re writing.

Don’t let your creativity be bullied by familiarity; If you do, they’ll be nothing of your originality left. Plus, people can relate to it more if they feel that they’ve heard it somewhere before.

We wanted the lyrics to be simple. We didn’t want to use any clever metaphors. There is nothing more powerful than the revelation of God’s love for us and the realisation that there is a completely different way to live.

Part of the finished product went like this:

C
I’m getting rid of distractions,
Am
looking to Jesus.
Dm-F
For He is stronger,
Dm-G
He is greater than the world (x2)

F
He is stronger,
C
He is greater,
G, F, Em, Dm, C – G
He’s the ruler of my heart.
Am
His name is Power,
F
Blessing And Honour.
G, F, Em, Dm, C – G
He’s the ruler of my Heart.

No words can express,
Nothing can compare,
To the love you’ve given us.
So free, So pure. 

Dm
Come,
F
Unblock our ears,
C

Uncover our eyes.
G
Reveal Your truth,
C

Set us Apart (repeat)

G
Set us apart…

 

We played the song in D-maj on a guitar that had been tuned down to the key of D. That means you’re still playing in C-maj. Just sounded nice really.

We decided to record the song Friday evening due to the fact that we’d spent quite a while constructing the song after the the Thursday meal.

Friday Evening

I set up the recording equipment in the lounge, stuck a sign on the door and hoped that people would read it before they ambled into the middle of a recording. Ideally you would want to record somewhere quiet but in community, that’s pretty difficult.

In the knowledge that I was recording three people (myself included) I would liked to have had each person with headphones listening to the timing of the song. Unfortunately I didn’t have enough inputs on my M-Audio interface. 

In the end, we each sat around my Behringer C-3 mic and did three different recordings. I listened to the timing of the song on Ableton that I had prepared earlier and played the guitar to help keep Ab and Ore in time.

Everything went to plan and all three recordings went perfectly.

Here you can see the mic somehow covering Ore's face.

So this was the basic set up. Gather around one mic. One mic to rule them all

The different pick up patterns

The different pick up patterns: Fig 8, Cardioid & Omnidirectional

So why do three?
Because I’m not a mastering magician, I had to rely solely on my equipment to provide the warmest sound before I started mixing it.. We recorded three times on three different pick-up patterns that my condenser has.

  • Cardioid – This picks up sound waves that travel directly into the front of the condenser.
  • Omnidirectional – This is more for an ambient recording that has a spherical pick-up. Basically it picks up sound from every possible angle.
  • Figure Eight (or as my teacher calls it ‘The butt’) – picks up sound from both sides of the mic.

All of this was in order to create track that sounded like a dozen or so people were having a sing-song as opposed to three people.

Because I was utilising all of these different pickups, I wanted to limit the sound waves bouncing around the room. So I shut the curtains and threw a load of blankets over the piano. Poor piano.

The piano is full of strings and hammers that are full of tone, if you spoke near it your voice would hit these internal instruments and project and prolong that sound around the room. The blankets were placed to try and absorb most of the sound before it reached the highly sensitive strings and hammers and stuff. I’m boring you. Sorry.

Piano covered up

Piano covered up

Aaaaanyway. This is what the finished audio sounded like:

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La, la la la laaa

La, la la la laaa

If you’re listening to this with anything other than your mobile phone, you’ll notice that there’s a strange high-pitched sound that coincides with the kick. This was because When I mixed down the track I was limited to what I could actually mix. This was all because I had to play the guitar on each of the recordings. I was also stamping my foot whilst playing to help keep the rhythm for the guys. This created the squeaky thump on the kick and it was so frustrating. Because the guitar was on all the recordings, I couldn’t EQ it out. There are many ways around this but the night was definitely not young and I had to have a track completed for Ab to take back with her the next day.  In the end I finished at 2:30am.

It's late...

Ab, Me and Ore. It’s late…

When recording vocals I can select the high pass filter input on the mic. This cuts out any unwanted low end hum-drum.

When recording vocals I can select the high pass filter input on the mic. This cuts out any unwanted low end hum-drum.

Saturday (Mens Day)

Some of the lads from our community house called ‘Saving Faith’, went to a Jesus Fellowship meeting/seminar bash called ‘Mens Day’. I saw my older sibling Gideon aka Sunshine and  played the track on phone. He said to “stick it on Soundcloud init”. I said “OK”. Riveting stuff.

Sunday

After our morning meeting, the food and then the washing up, I decided to have another crack at recording the song. This time with a cleaner mix worthy of the critical internet people.

But not just because of that. Ahem.

I choose a room upstairs that had recently been vacated for the week and set up my recording gear. Ab had gone back to Northampton by this time so I made do with my younger sibling Esme. Of course Ore was around and he was more than happy to re-record.

M-Audio Interface

M-Audio Interface

Midi keyboard

Midi keyboard

This time I found a split aux lead thing that could go into my interface and have two head phones attached. Wahoo! Esme and Ore wore the headphones while I looked at the visual cues on the laptop to help me know when to come in.

Yet again we did three recordings on the different pick up patterns which are called… ? Quick-fire test. If you failed, give me twenty. Pounds. Give me Twenty Pounds. I digress!

So we did the three recordings again but this without the guitar. NOW I was able to EQ the individual voices. I recorded the guitar separately. I also recorded myself singing the main bits and I also recorded one harmony.

This was all in aid to add width to the track. I wanted to include Abs vocals on the new version so I incorporated a harmony that she had done on the original. I also added in Ores harmony.

All in all, not including my lead vocals, there were 6 background vocal tracks. I panned all the tracks to the left and right outputs. This is what provided the width and punch.

I played some piano using a midi keyboard, stuck on some bass and spent a good few hours of  EQ nit-picking, decibel dropping and compressing.

I cleaned all the vocals up by dropping out the low end and allowing the high frequencies to come through. This made the track sound less muddy and allowed lower frequencies sounds such as the bass and the kick to push through.

I did some basic mastering by sticking some EQs, Compressors, Glue Compressor onto the master track.

Then I just thought. Like most people would:

“Pffft… that’ll do”