Using the Internet for Media in Ministry
Goodbye Fido. Forget Rover. See Spot run…away. When it comes to using media technology in ministry, the no-longer-new-yet-ever-expanding Internet is, or certainly can be, a youth worker's best friend. Besides, there's no house (only mouse) training required.
By now, nearly all of us youth ministry types are tapping (and typing) into the power and effectiveness of e-mail, instant messaging, and cyber shopping, not to mention www.everyandanythingelseIdoinministry.com. But in this issue of “Tech Talk” we're going to take a little different glance at the Web and look at three great tastes that taste great together—ministry, media, and modems: or how to use the Internet for media-based youth ministry. Rather than simply turn this article into a giant list of Web sites (could be fun, but also quickly obsolete), we'll turn our attention to some hopefully helpful tips for downloading and using different types of media (audio, video, graphics, animations, etc.) from the Web for your media-rich presentations and/or not-so-award-winning video productions.
The Broadband Wagon
In a perfect world, we'd all have access to a high-speed Internet connection, but alas, the pace (crawl?) of 56k still remains a harsh reality for far too many. If you happen to be a 56ker, I feel your pain. Having said that I now say this—get access to high-speed (DSL or cable modem) ASATPP (As Soon As The Pastor Permits)! Now, on to the media.
Let's think audio first. In this postmodern, post-Napster, Post-it® world, the Internet and audio go together like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, Britney and…okay, you get it. The tasteful and creative addition of music and sound effects to your messages, lessons, and other presentations can contribute greatly towards our never-ending goal of highimpact (but low-cost) communication. In fact, a host of youth workers are in the marvelously-media-minded habit of “thinking sound” when it comes to almost any lesson or message they prepare. Remember, every story, event, and parable in the Bible has a soundtrack just waiting to be heard. Why not start building a library of music and sound effects sequences that match your favorite bible stories, personal experiences, and illustrations? Where to start? Find out what audio formats your particular presentation software or video editing program can import and start building a collection of audio files in the appropriate format(s). Of course, you could simply record audio directly from your computer to a miniDisk recorder or simply rip the custom tracks to a CD with software you probably already own such as EasyCD Creator. You'll soon have a ready-made collection of sounds, music, and other indefinable (outrageous?) audio files to draw from instantly. Look for the audio formats: .mp3, .wav (Windows Sound), .wma (Windows Media Audio), and .aif (Audio Interchange File). Typing “sound effects” in a search engine such as Google yields a lifetime worth of links. For those who have ears….
Fortunately, there are more and more Christians and Christian organizations (see sidebar for a sampling) producing high-quality images, animation, and other graphic resources just waiting for your digital download and destruct…uh, delivery for your next 47 youth ministry print, presentation, or production projects. Like the above-mentioned audio files, make sure you download and/or purchase images and graphics in the file format(s) and resolution best suited for your purposes and software.
For instance, for print you'll want to use high resolution 300dpi (dots per inch) images (used, for instance, in my mug shot at the end of this column), but for video productions and projected presentations 300dpi is super overkill. For non-print projects, go for the 72dpi in a resolution such as 640×480, 720×480, or 800×600 depending, once again, on your presentation or video production software requirements. Most DV editing software gets along just fine with 720×480 resolution images in the .jpg (JPEG), .bmp (bitmap), or .psd (Photoshop) formats, to name just a few of about a dozen image file formats.
If you're producing, or would like to produce, video productions for youth ministry, the Internet can be a tremendous production assistant. Current technology doesn't allow for downloading (or uploading) high quality video clips, so the role of the Internet in your use of video in ministry will probably have more to do with fonts, music, sound effects, and graphics, plus unlimited video training, on-line product support forums, e-newsletters, and cyber shopping as you shoot and edit your world premiere.
Motion graphics (animated moving backgrounds for worship and other ministry presentations) can be downloaded off the Web, but these resources are in a compressed format (usually MPEG1, MPEG2, or Quicktime) and are usually not suitable for most video editing applications (most collections offer short sample clips with the actual media coming on CDRom, DVDRom, or DVD). These compressed moving backgrounds are very effective for ministry presentations and worship applications (behind song lyrics, video titles, announcements, etc.) if they're used in moderation! “Let your digital moderation be known unto all men.” Phil. 4:5 NIV (New Internet Version)
- Organize your Web browser's “favorites” list. Create separate folders for Web links to Music, Sound F/X, Photos, Motion Backgrounds, Video Programs, Paid Sabbaticals, etc.
- Organize your hard drive by creating folders to store the actual media using the same folder names as above.
- When you create your video or presentation, first copy the media from its permanent storage location (the folder in your hard drive) into the folder which is to contain all the files for your presentation or video production. Although this requires more hard drive space, it allows you to backup and transport your entire project to CDRom or to another computer more easily.
- Preview or sample portions of larger (read: more expensive) collections before purchasing if at all possible to avoid the “Seven Percent Curse” (I bought 100 percent of the songs/photos/graphics but only like/use about seven percent of them).
- Buy a bigger hard drive. No, buy two. Master (or learn a bit more each month) whatever presentation or video editing software you're using, so your preparation and production time goes down as your media-rich communication effectiveness goes up.
- Avoid the temptation of right clicking on graphics, icons, and photos on Web pages and selecting “Save Picture as” to store them on your computer to use in your media productions (even though I just told you how to do it). They are super-low resolution (read: lousy quality for video and print). And besides, they aren't yours to use anyway.
- Enlist tech-savvy students and volunteers to do any and everything in this article. You're busy enough, for cryin' out loud!
- Sell your car and get a high-speed Internet connection. Use the remaining cash to buy a smaller, older car.
- Buy another hard drive. The ones above are now full.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.