In the last two weeks I put put together three videos telling stories. The first is about the first week of vacation bible school at Aim Right. The second is a highlight video shot at Circle K Camp in Colorado where Aim Right takes a group of teens each summer. And the third is a narrative briefly telling the history of Aim Right from 1991 to 2021. These videos were made to be shown at Aim Right’s 30 year anniversary reunion in Ohio. This post is about shooting and producing these videos and our trip to Ohio this past weekend.
Aim Right VBS 2021
I’m new enough to videography that it seems like I learn a new skill or tool each time I make a video. In this video I learned how to do a flicker scene change. It makes for a more interesting transition and helps to move from one portion of the narrative to another.
This was an interesting project because it’s built around a piece of music. Before the week of VBS started, I’d been trying to figure out a way to capture the feel and look of the empty church sanctuary and juxtapose that with scenes of excited kids. I was thrilled when I came across this music track that matched that idea perfectly. And I’m really pleased with how it turned out. As I was going through the footage I noticed I had almost perfectly captured the same shot twice on two different days. This meant I had the panning shot of the light bulbs in the sanctuary both with and without kids in the room. And this is what the transition from the first to second part is built around.
Summer Camp 2021
Aleisha and Mike Dienner shot all the footage for this project. I had just started my new job at Grand Canyon University a few weeks before they left for camp, and taking off for a whole week to go to Colorado wasn’t really an option.
During editing this project I learned a bit about how to make elements from different scenes interact with one another. You see this in the intro when the Aim Right logo appears and the rest of the shot turns to black and white. I needed the background washed out in order for the logo to be clear, so making it seem like the logo’s appearance moved the scene to black and white was a natural choice. The intro is definitely my favorite part of the project. Mike flew my drone up the river and also high above the kids playing soccer. By reversing the direction of the river clip and speeding it (and the soccer clip) up to about 1250%, I got the effect of pushing in and then rushing out that I wanted.
The ending scene is similar. They got a cool shot of Nicole blowing out candles, but I couldn’t figure out where to put that in the video. I decided to try to make the candles flickering out and the logo flickering in coincide, and it worked! By slowing down the footage of the candles, I was able to make the logo part of that interaction as well.
Aim Right 30 Years
This project was created to highlight some of Aim Right’s history as well as the partnerships the ministry is currently involved in. I filmed Caleb and Stephanie talking about the partnerships at different locations and then had Stephanie read an overview I wrote.
In this video I learned how to make dots on a timeline appear. This was surprisingly hard, and it undoubtedly could’ve been done more efficiently. I literally found a shape and made it appear 30 separate times by using 30 separate video tracks, each entering slightly after the one before. In video editing there are tons of ways to make what you want to see happen. I’m still learning how to be efficient. See photo below showing 7 of the 30 tracks.
The most challenging part of this project was in pacing and narrative structure. How do you let the audience know they’ll be hearing a narration read by a voice off screen and still keep them interested in what’s happening on screen? How do you weave a story spanning 30 years together with information about current events? By slowing the videos down during the narration parts and then playing the interview-on-site scenes in real time with no b-roll, I was able to signal what was happening in a (hopefully) coherent way.
Aleisha and I got on a plane to Cleveland on Friday at 8:30 a.m. Unfortunately, that plane’s main engine overheated during takeoff and we had to make a landing in Denver. [Side note: the Denver airstrip looks like the middle of a cow pasture] A few hours later, we boarded a new flight and then got to reunion in Holmes County, Ohio at about 10:30 p.m., just as everyone was walking out. We took the pizza they saved for us back to the house where we were staying and devoured it. I for one was famished and dehydrated – Frontier Airlines kept apologizing for our inconvenience, but still wanted three bucks for a bottle of water and didn’t serve any refreshments. Lesson learned on buying the cheapest flights.
The main event was Saturday. We got to see and hear from interns and staff members of Aim Right spanning all the way back to the early 70s. Aleisha was part of a panel of interns who talked about their experience serving at Aim Right. Everyone got these cool mugs and t-shirts. There was even one of those banners to take a picture beside. Below, Mike is interviewing Jose about his experience as a teen who has been a key part of Aim Right for several years.
One of the first things I noticed as we flew into Cleveland was the grass. It was so green, everywhere. That’s something I took for granted before moving to the desert. There are also hills and all the roads are curvy – it was fun driving winding roads again. As we walked into the house we were staying at, I just kind of stopped and looked around – the place seemed huge. Rooms and rooms and two levels and closets everywhere. In the context of the country living, it wasn’t a very large house. But after moving into an apartment, houses with four or five bedrooms, a kitchen, dining room, living room, ect. just seem massive, and kind of excessive. There’s so much empty space.
Our flight back to Phoenix left at 8:30 p.m. on Sunday, so we had time to eat lunch with Ruby’s family and the other Aim Right interns. About 45 minutes into our trip to the airport, we realized we were indeed headed to the wrong airport. Thankfully we only felt foolish and didn’t miss our flight. It’s long been a dream of mine to fly at night on July 4th. And it was magical. As we descended into Nashville for our layover, the ground below us was alight with red, blue, green, white, and gold. You could see fireworks going up out of subdivisions and big commercial displays and kids holding Roman candles in driveways.
On the flight back to Phoenix, we read our books and crooked our necks trying to sleep while the plane bumped along through storms and winds and whatever is up thirty thousand feet between Nashville and Phoenix. Aleisha is reading The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry: How to Stay Emotionally Healthy and Spiritually Alive in the Chaos of the Modern World – John Mark Comer, and I’m reading The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma – Bessel Van Der Kolk. She’s learning practices to help up live more restful and less frantic lives – something that Protestant Americans are just simply programmed against from birth. And I’m learning about the way a traumatic experience can alter our bodies, rewire our brains, and keep us unable to distinguish past from present. It’s also a fascinating look into the different ways we know and remember. As modern people, we tend to assume all knowledge is housed in the brain, and we neglect the ways our bodies learn, know, and remember at a much deeper level. I’m planning to do a master’s degree in clinical mental health, and this book is making me consider focusing on trauma. I’d highly recommend it – it’s easy to read and loaded with stories.
And for now, we back in Phoenix!