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.Church and Why it Matters

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What is it?

Tomorrow (9/17) the newest domain extension, .CHURCH, will be open to the general public. What does this mean for your church? Because so many churches share a name, the .COM extension has become overcrowded causing churches to add abbreviations, symbols, and locations to their domain names. The addition of .CHURCH establishes a new option for creating an online community for your church.

Why should you register for one?

1.)  Avoid “search frustration.” Because the .COM and .ORG extensions are so crowded with information it may be time consuming and frustrating trying to find your church’s website among the millions of search results. Help your congregation and community avoid “search frustration” by creating an easy to remember domain name such as YourChurchName.church.

2.)  Create a powerful marketing tool for yourself! Because a .CHURCH website will allow the community to find you easier and faster, information on your services, events, directions, and contact information will be just as easy to find.

3.)  Take a “defensive” approach. This new extension creates opportunities for wrong doers to abuse your church’s name and reputation. Even if your church isn’t interested in the new .CHURCH extension, it may be a good idea to take a “defensive” approach and register a domain name that may be used by someone trying to misrepresent your church.

4.)  New opportunities. Because many .COM and .ORG domain names are already taken, this new .CHURCH extension provides you with the opportunity to stake claim on a premium domain name that is shorter, more precise, and easier to find.

Ready to claim your new domain name?

You can pre-register for a .CHURCH website at most of the domain registrars listed here.

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7 Free Resources for September

It’s free resource time again! And we at the Church Media Blog have rounded up some of our favorites! These include two inspirational videos, a fall welcome background, an audio and video track by Planetshakers, a chart off Lincoln Brewster’s new album, and a stock clip that will make you make you crave pumpkin lattes. Use these new resources for your ministry and share them with your media-loving acquaintances and friends!

My Offering by Floodgate Productions - Mini-Movie

myoffering Download the free Mini-Movie at WorshipHouseMedia.com. (Available through September 30)

 

Welcome Background by Vertical Hold Media - Looping Background Download the free background at Sermonspice.com. (Available through September 30)

 

God is the Creator of All Things: The Red Bird by Biblepop - Mini-Movie Download the free Mini-Movie at WorshipHouseKids.com. (Available through September 30)

 

The Anthem by Planetshakers - Video Worship Track Download the free song track at videosforyouth.com. (Available through September 30)

 

The Anthem by Planetshakers - Audio Worship Track Download the free audio track at christiansongtracks.com. (Available through September 30)

 

On Our Side by Lincoln Brewster - Song Chart Download the free song chart at christiansongcharts.com. (Available through September 30)

 

Stock Video by Pearl - Video Clip Download the free video clip at lightstock.com. (Available through September 30)

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Book Excerpt: Created for More

We’re really excited about Jonathan Malm’s new book, just released in paperback and e-book. Created for More is a thirty-day guide that inspires the reader to become a better creative, all the while staying focused on pursuing the Creator. You can read an excerpt here:

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Be Curious

Thought for the day: Curiosity killed the cat. But it’s worth the risk.

Spiritual Development

It is the glory of God to conceal a thing; But the glory of kings is to search out a matter.

Proverbs 25:2 (ASV)

I’m fascinated by olives. They’re such an important fruit in the Bible and in all of history. The tree’s wood, the fruit’s oil…all very important. But did you know the olive by itself is extremely bitter? It’s unpalatable.

It’s only through the fermenting and curing of the olive that it becomes the tasty treat so many enjoy today.

Who was the first person to eat a raw olive, then experiment with it to discover how it could taste good? How did he decide to rinse the fruit excessively then stick it in salt water for a couple days?

It had to be someone very curious.

Look at the passage above. I love it. It almost shows a hide-and-seek playing God. He delights in hiding things for us to discover. God wants us to be curious.

He created an enormous universe for us to explore. Then He gave us the intellect and resources to do just that! And we’ll never fully understand the universe. We aren’t even close to understanding our own planet – the depths of the sea, the make up of our core.

This tells me one big thing about God: He isn’t threatened by our questions. He wants us to explore and ponder – to challenge and question.

Christianity isn’t meant to be a blind faith. Obviously we will never have all the answers – just like science will never have all the answers. But we also shouldn’t be afraid to delve into and test our faith. It does hold up to God-fearing scrutiny.

The world needs more curious Christians – Christians willing to explore their faith. We need to be delving into the mysteries of God and His Word. There’s more than just history and pithy proverbs inside. There are stories and mysteries that rival J.J. Abram’s greatest masterpiece.

So I encourage you. Be curious about your faith.

Prayer Starter

I’m so glad I don’t have to check my brain at the door when it comes to my faith. Thank you God that You aren’t threatened when I ask questions and search for You. I pray that you’d put a God-fearing curiosity in me that searches out the matters You’ve concealed for Your own glory. Help me to have faith in you when those matters are beyond my comprehension.

Change the Way You Think

They say curiosity killed the cat. But I say it’s worth the risk. Just like the world needs curious Christians, the world needs curious artists.

Curiosity is necessary to the creative process. It’s the voice that asks, “What if?” It’s the voice that helped humanity build the first airplane, discover electricity, and brew our first cup of coffee. What if is very necessary.

Too often, the what if attitude is considered inefficient and impractical. Teachers, loan officers, and even parents can discourage you from curiosity.

Unlearn those bad habits. Renew and foster that curiosity inside you. It will make your work better and will ultimately lead to a better world. Let’s be a world full of the curious!

Challenge

Come up with a really bad idea. Then start exploring at least three ways that bad idea could actually be a good idea. (You might want to use the appendix at the end of this book for ideas.)

Example: Speed limit signs that change the speed limit randomly. How that could be good:

  1. They could adjust themselves to driving patterns. They could raise the limit for slow drivers and lower the limit for fast drivers. It would make everyone drive the same.
  2. They could change depending on the time of day.
  3. People would notice the signs more.

This is a silly exercise, but it will get your curiosity flowing. Once you’re done with the exercise, don’t stop there. Keep that curiosity flowing through all your projects.

Parts of this article have been excerpted from Created for More by Jonathan Malm. Used with permission from Moody Publishers © 2014.

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SALT Conference

I had the privilege of being involved in last year’s first-ever SALT Conference in Nashville. I’ve been to a number of conferences over the last few years and they’ve all been excellent. There are a couple of things that stood out to me about SALT: the event served the visual worship individual and the visual worship community in a really unique way.

The Individual
Many conferences provide excellent training and resource demos that can build attendees’ skills, but SALT seemed to care more about building visual worship leaders as people. I have been to few other conferences that cared as much about the spiritual needs of the people being served as SALT. If you’re looking for a place to not only learn new things, but also for a place where you can be refreshed and grow as a person, this is the one for you.

The Community
SALT is not interested, however, in building individuals in isolation. Rather, Luke McElroy and the conference organizers take special care to make sure that a sense of deep community is being fostered. When at SALT, you get a real sense that all of a sudden everyone is looking around thinking: “Everyone in here is going through the same struggles and doing the same work as I am.” There’s a real freedom in that acknowledgment. You’re not the odd one out on your church staff – these people get you. And there’s ample space provided for the visual worship community to connect and forge valuable friendships. I recently talked with Luke about the visual worship community and the heart of his work & ministry. This interview will give you a taste of what you’ll experience at SALT.

At Salem Church Products, we take a lot of care to find conferences not just to sponsor, but to really invest in. In other words, our participation in a conference is not just a marketing expense, but it’s a signal that we believe the good work the conference is doing to serve the church aligns with our own mission to serve pastors and church leaders. We’re really honored to be participating in SALT, and we’d love to see you there. Register for SALT this week before rates increase and be sure to stop by our WorshipHouse Media and SermonSpice booth at the event.

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HemingwayApp

The constant demand for content creation is one of the greatest challenges church communications folks face. You need copy for the bulletin, announcements in the e-mail newsletter, Facebook posts, and that blog that just won’t write itself.

And in pursuit of the beast, there’s a temptation to become lazy in our writing. We overuse a single adjective, we use passive voice, we dumb down, etc.

That’s why I love the new Hemingway App. It looks over your shoulder and catches all those little mistakes that you might miss in your weariness.

The app will tell you at what level your writing is, and will point out any of the places where you could improve upon your writing.

If you relate to this dilemma, and your church budget doesn’t afford you a human editor, you should definitely check out Hemingway App.

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7 Free Resources for August

It’s free resource time again! And we at the Church Media Blog have rounded up some of our favorites! These include an inspirational video, a colorful motion pack, trendy countdowns, a Covenant Worship audio track, a cool stock clip, and a popular song chart by Bellarive. Use these new resources for your ministry and share them with your media-loving acquaintances and friends!

Faith Refocused by The Veracity Project - Mini Movie

sermonspice

Download the free mini movie at SermonSpice.com. (Available through August 31)

Colorful Motion Pack by 4ThoughtMedia - Motion Collection

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Download the free collection at WorshipHouseMedia.com. (Available through August 31)

Notebook Paper Countdown by Centerline New Media - Countdown

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Download the free countdown at WorshipHouseKids.com. (Available through August 31)

Light Mesh Countdown Timer by Church Motion Graphics - Countdown

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Download the free countdown at videosforyouth.com. (Available through August 31)

First Loved Me by Covenant Worship - Audio Track

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Download the free audio track at christiansongtracks.com. (Available through August 31)

Your Great Love by Bellarive - Song Chart

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Download the free song chart at christiansongcharts.com. (Available through August 31)

Stock Video by Unblind - Video Clip

lightroom

Download the free video clip at lightstock.com. (Available through August 31)

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Seven Tips for Church Media Production

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Image from Lightstock.com

Quality and excellence glorify God. All projects have limitations. Here are some ways to work within those limitations and still deliver a final product that you and your team are proud of. As I’ve worked with church and para-church media teams I have seen many similar pain points arise. Here are seven key principles that will help any ministry media producer or team avoid these pain points and operate with more excellence and efficiency.

1. Have a system
A good friend of mine got a job at a very large church where things were done with excellence but was shocked when he found out on his first day that there was no system in place for initiating or tracking creative projects. They had a key employee that got the ball rolling on any request their team was given. The problem with that system is that it’s 100% reliant on one individual’s talent and work ethic. If this person were to get sick (probably due to burn out), or leave for another job, a dysfunctional mess would appear in the wake.

2. Over-clarify deliverables and details
Too many problems arise when a brief conversation about a creative project takes place or a creative meeting concludes without a follow up clarification. It is wise and efficient to carefully layout all details of a project including milestones, responsible parties, and if anything is needed from the client (ie. lead pastor, children’s pastor, whomever is requesting the service) to get started. I recommend having a short (1-2 page) agreement that people sign (or at least email saying it’s approved) just to make sure that you as the producer fully understand what’s expected of you. There is a tendency to get too comfortable and assume everyone is on the same page. This also gives you an opportunity as a producer to make sure all of the details of the project are realistic based on time, budget, and expectations.

3. Clearly I.D. milestones for all phases
Producers need to develop a firm understanding of the differences between development, pre-production, production, post-production (and even promotion/collateral). It’s also very worthwhile to take a meeting to carefully explain these to key staff who may be requesting creative projects. Because most creative ministry projects have tight budgets and tight timeframes, it’s very producer-friendly to break down functions by phases so that you can clearly point to approvals that are “point-of-no-return” (PONR) milestones. For example, when we produce animated shorts that have a specific budget and time frame we make it very clear to our clients that no timing changes will be possible once the animatic is approved. The animatic locks the timing on our edit and we create assets, split up scenes, and time out the lip sync based on the client approved animatic. The key here is clear communication. Don’t assume anything. Make sure your client knows all PONR milestones.

4. Recognize development for what it is
Don’t let someone who’s anxious to move forward pressure you or your team into moving into pre-production before development is complete. If you are not clear on the concept, purpose, script, storyline, characters, world, art direction, or tone of a project it’s still in development. Make it clear that you or your team can’t move into pre-production until you are sure development is completed. It’s common for teams to blend development and pre-production together, but if you are not careful you will waste valuable time on unneeded storyboards, video shoots, script writing, voice recording or other asset creation when you find that development was left unfinished.

5. Give more time to pre-production than you think it needs
It is very common to assume that the bulk of the work is in production. This is simply not true (except for maybe traditional 2d hand drawn animation). Most creative pipelines (including graphic design, motion graphics, and video production) require just as much work in preproduction (and sometimes post, see below) as they do in production. Mentally, we give more weight to production because that’s where the magic really comes together, but be sure to carefully account for pre-production in time and budget as well as expectations. Production loses out if assets are rushed or minimized in preproduction.

6. Make sure you have to right people in the right phases (switch bus seats if needed) 
Many creative teams are made up of people that came on board at different seasons of a ministry’s growth. Many have learned new skills or have become more clear on their core creative strengths. It is very worthwhile to take a careful look at the make up of your team (in terms of skill sets) and make sure everyone is in the right seat on the bus. Many creatives are multi-talented and have a hard time seeing their own core strengths. It’s great to try everything, but to be excellent and efficient, it’s a healthy exercise to evaluate your team, not to compare their talent, but to make sure that you as the leader have them in a position where they will thrive. (BTW, I have a book and a free workbook that teams of artists can use to identify their calling and core creative strengths.)

7. Don’t under estimate post-production
I can’t understate this. So often we feel the surge of relief when the tough work of production is done, but don’t underestimate post! It’s easy to let production deadlines slip because some view post as a bit of a buffer, but it’s valuable to build adequate time and budget into your culture and systems regarding post-production. The last thing you want to do is have to pull an all-nighter or deliver something that lacks polish because post-production didn’t get the time or budget it deserved.

I hope these tips will help you as a producer or creative team member. One last word of advice. When introducing any of these concepts to your team or your leadership, be sure to be gracious and patient since the process and terminology may be a bit foreign to them. Feel free to send them a link to this post as a primer to your discussion with them.

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We’re Looking for an Excellent Graphic Designer. Is That You?

Salem Church Products is looking for a graphic designer to join our team and work on projects for WorshipHouse Media, ChurchStaffing, SermonSpice, WorshipHouse Kids, ChurchMediaBlog, and other sites in our Richmond, VA office. If you’re looking for a career with a purpose, and want to help us as we serve churches and pastors all over the world, we’d love to explore the position with you. We’re looking for someone with a versatile skill set, including excellent web and graphic design abilities. Check out the full job description here.

If that sounds like you, please send your resume and portfolio to Angela Bainter at angela@salemchurchproducts.com.

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The Tools of “With You (I Feel Again)”

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In my last post, I wrote about some of the challenges that presented themselves in the development and production of “With You.” One of the coolest parts of working on this project (besides using a OneRepublic song) was being able to rent two cool pieces of equipment:

1. The Canon C100
2. The Defy G5 (3 axis gimbal)

C100THE CANON C100
I was first introduced to the C100 at Alex Buono’s (DP of SNL’s Film Crew) “The Art of Visual Storytelling Tour” last summer and immediately fell in love with it. However, it was certainly out of my price range.

Since I started Journey Box Media, I committed to keep the company debt free, not get caught up in ‘Gear Envy’, and rely on the quality of the stories over the camera and equipment I used. So from the beginning I have shot every project on the Canon T3i that my church let me use. Yes, it’s true, Journey Box Media doesn’t own a camera.

But for this project, I decided to rent the C100 for a practical reason: lighting. DSLRs are famous for low-light shooting, but I wanted to use natural light coming in from the windows of our location. With the room being so large, and after a few test shots, I knew my trusted T3i wouldn’t cut it. Once I get above 1600 ISO, the picture becomes grainy. The C100, however, allows up to 20,000 ISO with a clean picture (and Canon just introduced a firmware update allowing up to 80,000 ISO).

The C100 is the newest and most inexpensive camera in Canon’s cinema line with some amazing features, including built in ND Filters, dual XLR inputs, and C-LOG (an ultra flat image setting that allows for much more control in color grading).

Built in ND Filters
When shooting outside or anywhere with bright light, you need an ND filter to lower the intensity of light so you don’t overexpose. This allows more flexibility for shallow depth of field while keeping the shutter speed the same.

Built in XLR Inputs
No more secondary audio recording! While, at times, off-camera audio may be the best way to go, nothing beats the convenience of being able to record your audio (with great quality) right on your video media – especially on a ‘run-and-gun’ style project. This cuts down post time incredibly, and provides a much more streamlined workflow.

The camera allows for individual level control, with meters and a headphone jack for monitoring. That’s something I can’t get with the T3i.

C-LOG
In the T3i, I record the visuals with a very flat setting. This allows for the most versatility in color grading. The C-LOG takes it to a new level, almost matching the RAW capture you can get in RED cameras. Though there is not nearly as much information captured as in those cameras, I found more flexibility than I needed in color correction. Even if you just throw on a preset color style from Magic Bullet or Looks, you can get a great looking grade to your image.

I loved the camera and it will definitely be my next purchase. The C100 is currently $4,999 on B&H.

G5THE DEFY G5
Many of you may heard of the Movi (the first well-known motorized 3-axis gimbal). It’s basically a steadycam on steroids.

The Defy G5 is a lower-priced version of the same concept. It allows for great movement by the camera operator while keeping the camera level and smooth.

While the possibilities are amazing with this tool, the important thing to remember is that it’s a tool. One of many we use in visual storytelling. It can be very easy to get caught up on the moving camera trend, but that will actually diminish it’s effect. Camera movement is a lot like bolding text. If everything is bold, nothing is.

So the key is to be selective and intentional with the camera movements.

In “With You” I wanted to have camera movement for the opening shot, to establish our teen as a loner. He has purposefully shut everyone else out.

Once he walks through the doors to his “prison”, the camera movements become static, as if there is no where to go.

Then, towards the end, once his mom sees his interaction, dancing and laughing with new friends, the camera starts moving again. There is now life within, as well as movement and joy.

I also had the shot in mind about our friend Eddie (older gentleman) taking the framed picture to his wife. I wanted to follow the frame to allow us time to see the image and see the dancing continuing behind him, as he is taking the joy with him to his wife suffering from Alzheimers.

This shot did not come off perfectly, as my arms got tired. It was the last shot we got with the movements. I learned quickly that many workouts were needed to strengthen my arms.

While the movement did take some getting used to, I was able to get comfortable with it within a day. The most challenging part of the G5 was balancing. It look me about 45 minutes to balance my first time, but after several tries I was able to balance it within 10 minutes.

I took the G5 with me on a trip and got some test footage with it.

The Defy G5 can be purchased for $3,800 on Defy’s website.

In the end, I decided the G5 was not the tool for me to invest money in right now. I would not be used in every project, and at $4,000 I’d much rather get a camera I’ll use on every project.

With new technology being released practically every week, it can be so easy to get caught up in the gear game. Let’s stay committed to telling better stories, regardless of what tools we have. Use what you have to the best of your ability, and spend the time in story development to create the best story you can. That’s our responsibility as storytellers.

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