Behind the scenes: Low-budget youth group video

I recently jumped into amateur video editing to create a few videos for our church’s youth group’s kick-off event. I first created the event video (it was played at the beginning of the evening to introduce the scavenger hunt activity) and then the teaser video, which we posted on Facebook.

SHIV 2012 Preview

SHIV 2012 Video

Planning

In the past, the kick-off event has been called Super-Heroes In Volume, or SHIV (each group dresses up as “superheroes”), but this year, the staff decided to mix things up and the event was called Steve Hafflly’s Ice cream Vendetta, where students would run around the UCD campus following clues to find ice cream sundae components. Steve asked me to help with producing a video. We brainstormed ideas for a “story” — Steve vs. a giant ice cream monster? Steve vs. a deadly bowl of ice cream? The word “vendetta” implied that Steve was getting revenge on ice cream for some wrong, and that made me think of Harry Potter. We decided to put Steve in the role of Harry and “ice cream” in the role of Voldemort, the various scavenger hunt components as “horcruxes,” and decided to draw from the scene in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone where Harry’s mother gets killed. Steve came up with the idea of having the ice cream in a bowl, approaching menacingly. I thought it would be funny if we could incorporate baby Benjamin in the role of Baby Harry and then cut to a visual of Steve as Older Harry.

Filming

Originally, we were going to try to re-enact the Sorcerer’s Stone scene, with me as Lily. After thinking about the exponentially larger amount of time I’d need to spend on filming and editing, though — and keep in mind that this was a Monday and we needed the main video by Wednesday — I opted to figure out how to rip scenes from the Harry Potter DVDs and just film a snippet of the ice cream approaching Benjamin, then film the bulk of the explanatory dialogue where the backstory is set up. We recruited Joe, the youth pastor, for the role of Dumbledore – not least because of his awesome wizard-like goatee.

Using a black tablecloth and a chopstick for a wand, we scooped some old ice cream into a white bowl and then worked on filming the few seconds of the ice cream going through an open door. Steve got on his knees and held the bowl of ice cream under the tablecloth. I pulled the stiff fabric of the tablecloth up and around the bowl so it looked kind of like a hooded cloak. Steve slowly brought his arms forward under the tablecloth while I filmed using my Canon Rebel Ti1’s video setting.

Next, we filmed Benjamin with the ice cream slowly approaching. I was looking for a relatively calm, wondering look from Benjamin, similar to the baby in the Harry Potter scene. For the five seconds that we ended up using in the video, it took us a good half hour to film six or seven takes! Each time, I had to adjust the tablecloth, Steve had to get back into place, we had to wedge Benjamin into sitting position again (if he had fallen over on the previous take), I had to adjust the focus on my camera. As it turned out, the second take was the best, but we had some amusing outtakes:

It took us a good hour to film Joe and Steve’s part. Joe found a satin robe from his kids’ dress-up pile, and in lieu of a wizardly beret, went with a do-rag. Luckily they had a can of whipped cream on hand for a prop. Here are three short outtakes – the last one, Steve busts out with an accent without any warning.

Editing

I spent part of my evening editing the main video. First, I did some Googling to figure out how to rip scenes from a DVD. I came across a free Mac App, MacX DVD Ripper Mac Free Editon. After loading in the DVD, I was able to limit the import to a smaller portion of the DVD to just get the few minutes I needed by clicking and dragging on the slider handles. Then, I imported the clip into iMovie, along with the other video clips from my camera, and used iMovie to create the movie.

For the title slides, I used Photoshop and free fonts (Harry P and Lumos fonts) — I’ll cover the how-to’s in a different blog post. I created a graphic image in Photoshop and then saved as a png, then dropped those into iMovie and added a Ken Burns zoom effect.

For the background music, I purchased Hedwig’s Theme from iTunes. I love that iMovie makes it easy – I just dragged and dropped the audio file into the Project timeline! We used iMovie to add the voiceover – it’s Steve talking, but we went into the Clip Inspector and used the “Pitch Down 1” audio effect to distort his voice.

Teaser video

It only took me 15 minutes to create additional title slides and whip up the teaser video for our event preview. Since I had all the video clips imported into iMovie already, I just had to add the title slides, pull in the video snippets I wanted to use, and edit the background music starting point.

Production

Creating and sharing the movie files was easy! I used the iMovie “Share” menu to post the videos to YouTube, then exported the movies into .mov file. Using the iDVD app, I burned the first movie to a DVD so that we could play it at the event.

In conclusion…

My total out-of-pocket cost was 99 cents for purchasing the background music! I already had a nice camera, MacBook Pro, the iMovie, Photoshop, and iDVD software. We spent about four or five combined man-hours for filming, and I probably spent about 3 hours more between editing the movies and researching DVD-ripping software, while Steve spent probably an hour rewatching the Dumbledore/Harry clip to develop his and Joe’s dialog.

We got some good laughs from the youth group students at the Benjamin-to-Steve transition and more laughs at Joe and Steve’s costumes/accents, so I’ll mark this one as a success!

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