Book Review: The Art of Explanation

I recently finished reading the book The Art of Explanation by Lee LeFever. Lee is famous his “paper cutouts on a whiteboard” explanation videos. The first one I encountered was called RSS in Plain English, showing how this new technology helps you save time reading items on the web. His straightforward explanation has helped over 2,000,000 people better understand WHY they should care about this technology.

Lee started his company Common Craft specializing in “helping the world become a more understandable place to live and work.” One of the premises Lee has, is that there is a worldwide explanation problem and that the adoption of an idea is often limited by how the idea is being explained.

Lee does a great job of explaining “explanations” and gives some very practical ideas on how to make your ideas, products and services easier to understand. He identified “the curse of knowledge”as being one of the key problems that leads to confusion. I highly recommend this book.

After reading it, I thought it would be fun to do a short book review in “Common Craft Style.” Making one of theses video seemed fairly straight forward. You have cut-out paper puppets, hand motions with a simple voice over. How hard could it be? Here is the final result:

Five lessons I learned making a “Common Craft” style video…

  1. Common Craft Video SetupIt’s harder than it looks – I have 8 hours invested in the above 2 minute video. While it’s not terrible, there are so many things that I would have done differently. And I didn’t even draw any of the paper puppets! I’m sure it would get easier over time, but you need to know there is going to be a significant investment of time before you embark on a project like this.
  2. It’s all about the script – Lee makes this point in his book…while he is know for the look of his videos, it is the script (ie. the explanation) that takes the most time to perfect. The animations, hand motions and script should all work together help move the explanation forward.
  3. Time yourself first – It seems obvious, but if it takes 10 seconds to read your lines, you should have 10 seconds of video to go along with it. Otherwise you have to re-shoot or you have to cut your script. Neither of these are ideal.
  4. Get a bigger white board – The white board I used was relatively small and had a boarder. This lip made it difficult to move objects off and on the white board…they kept getting stuck.
  5. It was fun – I have to admit, I had fun with this project. I’m not sure exactly where I’ll use this style of video in the future, but it was a fun exercise to try. Making this video helped me wrestle though much of what I learned in the book and that helped cement it in my mind.

What NOT To Wear On Video


Dear Pastor ________________ ,

I have a few guidelines of what NOT to wear when you know you are going to be on camera. These guidelines are not intended to crush your style or creativity. We want to partner with you to help eliminate unnecessary distractions and we want you to look your best on camera (IMAG, livestream, DVD and digital recordings).

Please DO NOT wear:

  1. White or cream. (it makes you glow on screen)
  2. Plaid or thin stripes. (it freaks out the camera with a rainbow moiré effect)
  3. Black or dark navy blue. (it makes you look like a floating head)

What should you wear?

Solid colors or large prints works best. Warm colors like muted oranges or reds, green, brown or even a medium blue would be wonderful. If you have any questions (or you want to bring in a shirt to see if it gets a thumbs up) you know where to find me.

Thank you,

Media Team

Inspired and Convicted

Yesterday I had a chance to spend the day at the NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters) in Las Vegas. It’s a big tech/hardware show for video/photography, etc.

At the Canon booth, they had a 15 minute behind-the-scenes short film, featuring 3 different story tellers, talking about their equipment, philosophy of shooting, etc. The third story was both inspiring and convicting.

I can’t find the video that they showed at the NAB show, but this article and the 3 minute video clip below will give you the general feel.


It’s a compelling story, told by the folks from Still Motion, of a little girl’s efforts to free 500 children from slavery by selling lemonade. The film is called Stand With Me.

The storytelling was INSPIRING. The quality of the cinematography was BREATHTAKING. The investment of time, money, equipment and work that it took to capture that story must have been MASSIVE.

What was convicting to me, was there was no Gospel. No Jesus. No lasting Good News. Yet all around us, there are people that are in bondage to sin that need to be set free.

And we’re apathetic.

We have the greatest story ever told that is being played out IN REAL TIME on the front lines of our churches and mission fields…and for the most part, the church is doing a lousy job of capturing and telling these stories.

How much MORE effort, MORE time and MORE resources should be spent by Christians telling the story of the ONE who can truly set people free?

Count me in.

Making Square Videos For Instagram

Easter2014 - Facebook header

A few months ago in my post Seven Alternatives to Posting Photos on Instagram, I mentioned using a 15 second video trailer. While I had shot and edited Instagram videos on my iPhone, I had not actually made a video using off camera editing. Easter is always a good time to try new things…but where to begin?

I use Adobe’s Premier Pro as my video editing software and the tutorial Creating High Quality Instagram Videos Using Adobe Premiere Pro CC by  WhoIsMatt was extremely helpful. He has step-by-step instructions showing you exactly how to setup your computer for editing and export Instagram videos (for both iOS and Android).

Once the video is exported, just email it to yourself (15 seconds of 640×640 video is about 10MB), save it to your photo library and upload it to Instagram like normal. If you didn’t add Instagram like filters it in the editing process and want it, you can add them here before uploading.

I was pleased with how painless the process actually was. It’s just like editing a normal video…but square. Depending on the cropping, you can’t just use same HD video (which is very landscape) and expect it to work. This is especially true of text. You have to massage it. Sometimes you have to create something entirely new.

For example, I had created this short Easter teaser.

For Instagram, while I use use a similar idea, I couldn’t actually use us ANY of the same footage. I had to start from scratch.

Now that I have the presets saved, in the future, making these will be even easier. Shooting and editing video is inherently time consuming. While you’re in “editing mode” and you have easy access to the files, you might as well make the most if it and include making a 15 second Instagram video part of the routine.

PS. Here is another Instagram video that I had done earlier of a caravan of  white vans leaving on a short term mission trip to Mexico. For this video I needed to speed things up so it would fit in the allotted 15 seconds. It reminds me of the stream of circus clowns that keep climbing out of an itty-bitty car.

5 Shortcuts To Making Faster Ministry Videos

We are all under the gun. My department doesn’t have a video team (the only camera the church owns is a $50 Flip camera I bought on Woot! after they were discontinued) but I’m still responsible to make and edit videos. I recently went on a weekend loft-house build to Mexico and needed to have a video to show for the next Sunday.

These 5 tips will work on any recap, missions or ministry “music” video.

  1. Know what song you are going to use ahead of time – if you can pick the song you are going to use early, you have an idea of the length, pacing and creative elements you might be able to leverage.
  2. Have a mental (or written) shot list – This is most helpful if you’re shooting an event that you are familiar with (this was my 10th loft house build). If not, talk to someone who as been there before and get their take on what the “most important” parts of the event are.
  3. Shoot short clips (5-10 seconds) – If you have clips that are 1-2 minutes in length, you are going to have to watch the entire clip to see what portion you are going to use. Better to shoot more, in smaller chunks. You only need 3-5 second clips anyway. It goes MUCH faster when you edit.
  4. Edit while you shoot – If you know what you are after, you won’t waste your time shooting video of things you know you won’t use. If you know the video you just took won’t work, delete it from the camera.
  5. Tell a story by shooting sequentially – Beginning > Middle > End. Don’t over think it…this is by far the easiest way to organize your video and tell your story.

In this case the video was going to be shown before our children’s Christmas musical, and our Worship Pastor has suggested “The Little Drummer Boy” by Lincoln Brewster. Knowing that early, I knew where I was going to head creatively. I emptied a trash bucket and turned it into a drum and shot my son marching around the construction site. While I would have liked to do more with better equipment, it served it purpose, didn’t take forever and people loved it!


Video Editing in the Cloud


Still think you need an expensive monster computer with lots of memory, expensive graphics cards and outrageously priced software in order to edit HD Video?

Think again…then head on over to You are about to see the future of video editing. It’s in the cloud.

“WeVideo makes video creation accessible to everyone, using cloud-based technologies to make it easier, faster and more convenient. Because it’s cloud-based, we make social video editing possible, where people come together online to collaborate on a video project.”

With multiple video editing modes, people from beginners to advanced videoographers can get the level of controls that they need. WeVideo also offers templates and “Instagram” filters to help stylize your video. One of the unique features of WeVideo  is the ability to collaborate on video projects. Multiple people can contribute video to a project and help in the editing.

While it still takes time to upload lots of video (It’s best if you can upload shorter clips of what you know you’ll use), this an interesting approach to consider. As video transfer speeds get faster, and more and more moves to the cloud, keep your eyes on these guys…I would be surprised if Google or Adobe eventually buy them out.


We used WeVideo to edit this video.


WebVideo University

I have found that WebVideo University has been a fantastic resource for learning tips and tricks of the video trade.

“Dave Kaminski is a professional copywriter, videographer, photographer and 10-year veteran of direct response marketing whose work in multimedia advertising has resulted in millions of dollars worth of sales. A former U.S. Marine, Dave specializes in teaching entrepreneurs how to effectively use web video in their marketing efforts.”

While a little “pushy” in his some of his marketing materials, his paid products offer a lot of value. He covers the basics without making you feel dumb and explains advanced concepts without talking over your head.

web video university

It’s a little hard to find, but if you click here and scroll all the way down, you can subscribe to his free email service.


Viral Video…What This One Did Right

According to Wikipedia, A viral video is a video “that becomes popular through the process of Internet sharing, typically through video sharing websites, social media and email.” Sonia Simone co-founder and CMO of Copyblogger Media, has a great post, breaking down an effective video that went viral. Here is the video she reviewed. (You may want to have a hanky handy.)


Sonia notes that there are three elements that make this video effective…

1. They’re doing something remarkable

2. It grabs you emotionally

3. You know what to do next…it has a clear call to action.

If you start with great CONTENT, it’s easier to tell great STORIES. You can read the full blog post here.

YouTube Playlists

Once a year, our church puts on an event called “Servant Celebration” in appreciation for all those that volunteer in the ministries of Trinity Church. This year our theme was based on the “Hobbit” and placed in Middle Earth. I played the part of the Story Teller, interacting with my two boys.

When I get the DVD, one of my jobs is to slice the video into shorter segments and upload them to YouTube. I have found that setting a Playlist is a great way to group and organize the videos…especially if the videos were not uploaded in the correct order. Click Here for a description of how to make a playlist for your YouTube Content.

There are two ways of displaying the content on your website or blog. You can embed it like you see below, but it’s not my preferred method. While you keep people on your site, it’s not obvious to me that this isn’t anything more then a normal YouTube video….or that there are several videos to chose from (especially after you click play).

The other way is to display a static .jpg of the video that links to the your YouTube Playlist. Click the image below to see what you get. Notice the numbered bars on the right…clearly this is playlist. The downside is that it’s showing other YouTube videos beneath…and with YouTube you don’t always know what you are going to get.

YouTube Playlist

As an alternative, you can link to your YouTube Channel. This looks nice, because it’s your branded channel and you can see there are options, but unfortunately, you can’t play the videos here. When you click one of the videos, it takes you out of your channel and into the normal YouTube play, like you got in the above example. Since I don’t like making users click twice, I prefer to link them directly to the content.


Hopefully, one day YouTube will allows people to watch playlists directly in a YouTube channel.

Animoto – Making Awesome Easy


If you’ve ever tried to make a video slideshow using PowerPoint, you need Animoto.

I can’t tell you how many times this service has come in handy. Animoto creates motion videos out of your still photos and video clips…but really simply and very fast. It’s a cloud based service that does all of the heavy lifting, so even if you don’t have a fast computer, it doesn’t matter…you get quality output with very little time invested.

Because we use it enough and I prefer the High Definition output, I found it worth the $250 annual Pro member subscription.

Click here to try Animoto for free.

Here’s a few samples of how we’ve used it here at Trinity Church.