An Introduction to the Jesus Army video

The Jesus Army recently had a website redesign, which gave it a fresh and vibrant look. As video is a great way to communicate we created a short informative video to help people that come across our website and know nothing about our church discover who we are.

The music track above was a remix of an old classic – “Come and See Jesus Brotherhood”, and was created in Ableton. Each of the 5 sections had their own animated title and you can see them in the video below:
[responsive_vimeo http://vimeo.com/55818222 ]

A still from video recorded on a Canon 5D Mk II with F1.2 50mm lens, at ACC 2012.

A still from video recorded on a DSLR (Canon 5D Mk II) with F1.2 50mm lens, at ACC 2012.

Teamwork was an essential part of making this vid – Nathan, Johnny, and Chris were involved in the music and recording, James wrote the voice-over for Jake to read, Aidan animated the website sections, Gideon turned pictures into moving works of art, Viv captured a dancing crowd for the youth section, and I simply pieced it together. I always enjoy working with people and playing to their strengths, as it makes for a great final product.

Rise You Downtrodden – a mix of DSLR film, 3D animation, video projection, and a powerful life story

This project was a first attempt at a few things – a story of someone’s troubled life, using a DSLR camera to film, projection mapping onto a wall, and making a Christian music video. And somehow it all came together like this:

The video below is Chris talking about his life – some of the horrific things he went through, and how Jesus rescued him. It also includes behind the scenes shots from when we were filming.

The Life Story
Chris went through (and put himself through) hell for many years. I’m not going to try to explain it – the video does that.

Untamed indeed. He’s rubbish at boxing though.

What I will say is that he was brave for revisiting some scenes when we were filming that would have been very tough to deal with, and it shows how much Jesus has done in him. His story of freedom from addiction because of Jesus is by far the most important aspect of this video.

The Music
Technically it is important to get the music right – if you have a good backing track then it enables the video to have considerably more impact. The brief for Jonny was to do a remix in Ableton of an old song, “Rise You Downtrodden”, in a modern dubstep style (think Skrillex or Nero) and good old autotune. And he nailed it, producing a track that was musical but also hard hitting, and had a build up and drop that I could align the story with.

The 3D Animation
To be able to project video on a wall and get a 3D effect with depth, light, and shadow we had to create the building as a 3D model. This was so we could accurately position windows, doors, and pipes and do something clever with them for the final scene.

Aidan creating the 3D model of the Northampton Jesus Centre wall in SketchUp

So Aidan got the CAD plans of the Northampton Jesus Centre (where we were going to project on to the wall), worked on them in SketchUp till we had an accurate 3D model, and then imported that into Cinema 4D.
The interesting problem was trying to get the pipes, doors, and windows in the right position so that we wouldn’t project brickwork onto doors, or pipes onto windows. The picture below shows we weren’t far off.

Projecting text onto the wall (with windows, doors, and pipework roughly in the right position)

If you look at the image you can see we’re projecting pipes onto pipes, bricks onto brickwork, and doors onto doors. This gave us the ability to put shadow on them (by not projecting anything). Then when the text appeared and the light moved you would get shadow moving from left to right and look pretty impressive (in our thoroughly humble opinion).
The camera in the Cinema 4D software was placed exactly where the camera was to be placed in real life (the joy of working with accurate CAD plans) – the benefit being the text would appear 3D from the right angle of view when filmed.

The final wall projection scene with the bricks, pipework, and windows being knocked down

The Video Projection and Wall Mapping
The rig was fairly simple, but in practice there was a fair bit of tweaking to get it just right. We did an initial test which proved the projectors were bright enough (not surprising as they were 6,000 lumens Christie LX605 projectors). We then did another test to check the positioning of the 3D model structure so we could make some final adjustments. Then we were set for the filming.

The rig – Windows 7 PC (3x DVI outputs), 2x Christie LX605 projectors 2 metres apart.

We used Resolume Arena 4 software to control the video output to the projectors. This gave us the ability to use two projectors and soft-edge them so it would appear like one single video (rather than two separate ones with a nasty joining line).

Using Resolume Arena software to position the videos accurately on the wall

Tim (our projection mapping guru) was by now an expert in soft edging, and hacking Resolume to get the result he wanted, having had plenty of experience with Jesus Army events. The only difficulty with making this video was in order to project onto an outdoor wall it had to be done in the dark. And in the middle of the summer that meant we started all our test and filming sessions at 11pm. Sleep is overrated anyway.

The Canon 5D (Mark II) DSLR
If ever there was a game changer then this is it.

It transpired that the Canon 5D had automatic loony detection built in

After using a Sony Z5 HDV camera the past couple of years I thought it was time to try out a DSLR to record with, just slightly behind the 8,654,349 other film makers on Vimeo that were proudly showing off their high contrast, colourised masterpieces. So I hired one and as soon as it arrived I sped off to Birmingham to film Chris and tried to work out how to use it (not whilst driving I hasten to add).
Having had very little experience with DSLR cameras it seems 45 minutes was enough to understand the basics.

Ahhh that’s how you switch the darn thing on…

The quality of the recording was a stand out feature – rich, deep colours and very little noise. The lens also had a huge part to play – I opted for the Canon EF 50mm F/1.2L USM and the depth of field and amount of light it could take in was astonishing. I kept it on a 1.2 focal length for most of the filming, though had wide shots in 4/f-stop so it wasn’t claustrophobic and gave the video room to breathe.

An example of the depth of field you get with the 1.2 lens

There were two problems I came up against. The first was that any movement with the camera resulted in noticeable shaking on the recording, simply solved by being careful. Secondly having a 1.2 focal length meant I often wasn’t focusing on the right area. This improved over time as I got used to it, and the 5D has a useful feature where you press the zoom button and it magnifies the picture on the LCD up to two times, making it able to spot if you’re correctly focused.
The best compliment I can give is that the 5D and 1.2 lens made video making a delightful hobby again, from the chore it can sometimes be. This does reflect on the final result. The portability of the device meant you could easily transport it into any scene to film. Sadly I had to return the 5D and lens.

The Lighting
Bit of a blag this one (if everything else wasn’t already). I just plonked an ARRILITE 800 at head height about 10 metres from Chris and the bench, directly to one side. This lit up his face on one side and made for atmospheric shots. We did have problems with a bright street light casting a yellow flood across the wall we were projecting onto, but when it came to filming that light had broken (the one time it was beneficial having a slow response from the Council). Oh and we had nothing to do with it breaking!

Chris once again perfecting the glum look

The Editing Process
Being a music video it was important to keep it fast paced, and one way to do that is to have lots of cuts which means recording lots of material. I was aware of this to start with so I meticulously planned everything that needed filming. The great thing about daydreaming frequently is that you can create the perfect video in your head, and then try and work out how to make it.

Another area which I was experimenting with was colouring the look to achieve a different feel. Using Magic Bullet Looks in Premiere Pro CS5 I opted for making his past memories colder, and adding light streaks (inspired by the Bourne trilogy tetralogy flashbacks). Then when the change came and he knelt down beside his bed I changed the tone to being warm.

The image below is with the colouring done, which makes a big difference as you can see.

When I had thought I had finished someone said in passing that it had a lot of fade to blacks in it. After pondering it for a while I came to the conclusion that fading to black indicates the end of a scene or the end of the video. So I went back to editing it and took out most of the fades so it really was one fast moving video.

The team:
Jonny – music track production
Nayf – music track vocals
Tim – video projection set up
Aidan – 3D work for projection
James – director, camera work, and editor
Gideon – key grip and extra
MC – grip
Chris – actor (as himself)
James – extra (Chris’ brother)
Roy – extra

If I add up the hours each person spent on the project and total them it comes to roughly 185 hours. Not bad for a 2 minute and 52 second video!
As it goes for most guys their involvement is a hobby, and an enjoyable one at that.

I’m glad that in our church we have some incredibly skilled guys who are willing to go the extra mile and invest their time in a project in which its ultimate aim is to inspire people that Jesus really does make a worthwhile difference.
It feels like we are just getting started in producing some ground-breaking work, as each person’s expertise is stretched beyond what they thought was possible.

P.S. Big thanks to everyone that opened up their house for us to film in, and to Lickey Church for kindly allowing us to use their church. Couldn’t have done it without you generously handing us the keys! (We didn’t break anything – honest).