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Jan 16 14

5 Free Apps for Worship Arts Peeps

by Phil Wright

Well, it’s a new year. If you’re looking to up your game in 2014, here are a few apps that might help you plan/design/interact better.

IFTTT – There’s a lot this service can do. And as it grows in popularity, I’m sure they’ll add a lot more functionality to it. IFTTT (If-This-Then-That) lets you create “recipes” that can range from just-for-fun to really useful. For example, you can create a recipe that watches Instagram for photos taken at or around your church building, then texts you when it finds one, or adds it to your Facebook page. Or, keep track of your schedule in real time, by creating a recipe that adds your iOS location changes with a timestamp into a Google Docs spreadsheet. The possibilities are as numerous as they are impressive.

Decibel 10th – Quantify subjective comments about volume. If your church has a “contemporary” worship service (or just acoustic drums), chances are you’ve received complaints about volume levels. While Decibel 10th won’t help you field those complaints, it will help you figure out where your congregation’s volume threshold is. When people speak up, use this app to take note of the db, and ask your sound guy to mix it slightly quieter than that next week.

Adobe Kuler – Do you ever feel like your media looks great, but it just doesn’t seem to fit in the room you’re using it in? You can use Adobe’s Kuler app on your phone to identify color palettes in the space where you’ll be using them, then use those palettes to choose complementary graphics. They also have a website that helps you define themes.

WhatTheFont – While they stopped updating it in 2011, WhatTheFont is still a somewhat useful tool for identifying a font you like. If you see a printed font that you’d like to use in your designs, just snap a picture and run it through this app. In our experience it’s not perfect, but it will definitely get you close.

Sleep Time – If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you’re one of the few who have been up for hours by the time people walk through the church doors on Sunday mornings. So waking up feeling rested is probably a rare occurrence. This app tracks your sleep cycles based on the amount you move in your sleep. You give it a must-be-awake-by time, and it wakes you up in the part of your cycle that should leave you refreshed (or at least not groggy). It even has “soundscapes” feature that plays white-noise type sounds to help you fall asleep. Now if they could just add a feature that makes being out of bed more comfortable than being under the covers…

What are some apps (or other tools) that you find indispensable?

Jan 6 14

A New Year, A New Blog

by Phil Wright

2013 was a big year for Igniter and our parent company, RT Creative Group. Notably, we launched a new site while simultaneously overhauling our business model in favor of the subscription-based “Membership” model that we currently have; and while our sister company Echo Conference had its best year yet, we made the difficult decision to close its doors in order to focus on other things.

And we fully expect 2014 to have its share of earthshaking moments.

And while it may look different from year to year as we follow where we feel like God is leading us, our passion has always been, and will always be to equip churches with tools to effectively and beautifully communicate the Truth.

All that to say: our poor, neglected blog is going to get some more attention this year. And while it will almost definitely never attain to the prolificacy of the EchoHub blog that we maintained for so long, we want it to be a place where you can come to learn, to be equipped, and to be encouraged.

Happy New Year!

Sep 11 13

Our Camera Setup

by Steve Vanderheide

RED Scarlet with our new setup

At Igniter Media, we are always looking to improve the quality of our videos, and to pair beautiful visuals with a good script. At the beginning of the year we purchased a RED Scarlet, in the hopes of doing just that. We’ve come to love this camera, with it’s depth of color and flexibility in post production.

One thing that this camera needs is accessories. Since it is so modular, just shooting with a simple package can be downright difficult, if not impossible. When we first purchased the package, we invested in the Scarlet-X Lightweight Collection, which was a good start, but we could tell it wasn’t ideal.

We shot a number of videos with this simple setup, including Filled and The Adventure of Fatherhood. Both were shot handheld, with me cradling the camera body, and using a stabilized Canon 17-55mm lens to keep things smooth. This was doable, but still somewhat awkward. Also, the REDVOLT batteries that go into the side handle only last for about 25 minutes, so you are constantly worrying about how much time you have left and whether or not you should shut down the camera. Needless to say, this setup worked, but it was a bit cumbersome and not very practical.

Shooting “The Adventure of Fatherhood”

We were really in need of some rails, a follow focus, a top handle, perhaps a shoulder rig, and a larger battery solution. Doing some quick searching around RED’s online store, as well as other places revealed that accessories are EXPENSIVE, not to mention there are so many little add-ons that it will make your head spin deciding what to purchase. I was hoping to get a working solution without spending so much.

Along came… the Echo Conference!

…and with it, vendors that set up booths on our floor. Ikan, a manufacturer of camera rigs, batteries, monitors, and other accessories contacted us and asked if we would be willing to exchange a spot on our floor for $2000 worth of gear. We accepted.

First of all, we spent some of the credit on a battery and charger solution. These new, larger, IB-L130S V-mount batteries, along with the Switronix V type Camera Mount Plate and Wooden Camera Fixed Back allow us to power the camera for a much-more-practical 2 hours per battery.

Next, I started hunting through their Elements rigs to see if I could retro-fit something to work. After seeing a lot of interesting options, but not quite what I needed, I opted for the Elements Master Kit that would allow me to assemble something custom (which excited me because I love LEGO, and it was basically a big box of parts). I also found a refurbished follow focus that is built like a tank.

After a some tinkering and playing around to see what-would-work-with-what (5 “W”s!), a trip to the hardware store, and a little bit of help from a friend with a drill, I ended up with:

  1. A bottom plate with rails to mount the follow focus to the camera
  2. A top handle
  3. A shoulder mount

To mount the camera rig to the shoulder rig, I simply tighten one of the 15mm rod mounts that is already attached to the shoulder rig, to the end of the camera rig’s 6-inch rails.

Granted, I realize that most people don’t have access to $2000 worth of credit at a camera accessory store, but I post all this to point out that with a bit of playing around you can get some interesting and useful results. After comparing prices, what we were able to come up with out of the “box of LEGOs” is significantly cheaper than other “made-to-fit” options out there. I don’t think this is a perfect rig or anything, and I’m not necessarily suggesting that anyone copy our setup, but this has worked out great so far, and has saved us a good amount of cash. It also makes the DIY personality in me smile.

Shooting “The Apostles’ Creed” with the new setup

What about you? Have you taken some interesting steps to save some money? We’d love to hear what you have come up with.

Jun 6 13


by Kate Padgitt

Matthew 5:14 says “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.” In a world where success is determined by power, position, and wealth, Christians are called to be different. To stand apart. To be a light. But is it possible that in this endeavor to make Christ more famous, we are subconsciously giving pieces of our hearts to the world? Is it possible that in our sincerest efforts to be different in big ways, we are conforming in small ways?

We love this quote by CS Lewis. He put it perfectly when he wrote, “It would seem that our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.” What is it that we are fooling about with? Social media? Outward appearance? Zipcodes, entertainment, attention?

Is it possible that in the midst of day-to-day living, we have become far too easily satisfied with the weak offers of this culture? Take a moment to watch and reflect on our newest video, “Filled.”

Filled from Igniter Media on Vimeo.

Apr 2 13

Creating the final Shot in “The Easter Gift”

by Steve Vanderheide

“Ok. This is how I picture the final shot:

The camera will be low to the ground, moving up towards the gift. As it gets closer, it will move up and over the gift, and tilt down to look at it. As it’s tilting down, the ribbon will untie itself, and the gift will open, revealing the inside. How can we make this work?”

This conversation with Rob Thomas was the beginning of a long/fun/challenging process on creating the final visual effects shot of this years “The Easter Gift”.

In order to make the gift come alive on it’s own, we came up with three options we had to choose from: Stop-motion, a practical gift opening with fishing line, and recreating it digitally in 3D software. We concluded that stop motion wouldn’t provide the feel we needed and fishing line attached to different parts of the gift would be far too difficult to nail a good take, given that the camera move itself was quite elaborate. And so, we set off down the digital road to shoot the scene without a practical gift even in it, and add one in post.

The first thing we did was get some help from a few people who were more up to speed on the subject. We ended up hiring Rhett Blankenship to track the scene, while handing over the modeling and animation to a digital artist, Kent Trammell. Rhett spent some time explaining that he would need points to track, and sent me tracking markers to cut out and stick in our scene. In addition to this, he recommended I create a placeholder out of cardboard, that could represent the size of the gift, so it would be easy to figure out angles in post production. As you can see, the placeholder was pretty high-tech: utilizing a plastic CD spindle and lots of gaff tape.

In prepping for the shoot, I got out our 8-foot indie dolly track, and rented some extra gear, including a Losmandy Porta-Jib, and a Varizoom VZ-MC100 remote motorized Pan/Tilt head. I knew the final shot would need forward movement, elevating movement, and camera tilt… and that the tilt would be impossible to do without messing up our jib move, unless we could control it remotely – not to mention that we couldn’t get our feet in the frame.

On set, the shot was quite a challenge. With the RED Scarlet plus Canon lens, plus jib, plus counter weights, plus heavy duty tripod, we were severely weighing down our dolly. Every time we reset the shot to do another take, we would have to lift up the whole system to get it back on track, because the weight would cause the dolly to slide off to one side.

The move itself was very difficult too. We had 4 people involved just to get the camera to travel the way we wanted it to. Rob Thomas was on the remote controlling the tilt, David Chapman was pushing the dolly, Jeff Parker was on the jib controlling the elevation, and I was at the front of the jib arm putting pressure on it to avoid shake and wobble. It took us about 15 attempts to get it right. We also shot a couple takes with the gift in it, for Kent to reference when lighting in his 3D software.

The next step was to create and insert a digital gift into that scene. First off, the shot was stabilized with Mocha in After Effects and then tracked using SynthEyes, to get 3D camera information that could be used in Kent’s 3D software. It was pivotal that the movement of the gift in the digital environment would match our real camera movement in our shot. After tracking was finished, Kent began to create and animate a digital gift, in the open-source 3D animation program Blender, based off of photographs and practical shots we gathered from the shoot. In the meantime, Trent Armstrong got to work creating a clean plate in After Effects, removing the tracking markers we had placed.

While Kent and Trent were working the visual effects, I was cutting the rest of the piece. Our workflow was to preview the shot from time to time, getting occasional, low res videos from Kent, that we could approve, before moving forward with our high-res render.

After doing some tests, Kent discovered that given the nature of our frame size, which was 4K (4096 x 2160), and adding to that the complexities and lighting of a photo-realistic 3D image, that each frame was going to take well over an hour. Given that we had about 1000 frames, and a fast-approaching deadline (Easter), we had to make some decisions. We decided to render only the necessary frames we needed, and cut our frame size down to 2.5K, because our masters are saved at 1080p anyway. I decided on 2.5K because I wanted to have a few pixels to play with yet, as I wanted to do a slight digital push in After Effects after I got the render. I asked for help from our IT wiz, Clint Miller, who gathered a bunch of computers around the office, downloaded Blender onto all of them, and created a small render farm.

Clint set up a VNC client on my edit suite, that allowed me to monitor each machine remotely. With Kent’s linux farm, plus our grouping of Mac Pros, we had 8 different (and free!) copies of Blender churning out hundreds of 2.5K .exr frames! Each computer was given a different range of the sequence, and we grouped them all together into one folder.

After all the computers finished rendering, Kent then took the .exr image sequence, which contained the image, shadows, and light information, and added them to the clean plate that Trent had finished. Kent then sent me the final render, I put it in my timeline and added foley sound effects to match Kent’s animation. A few more tweaks, and we were out the door!

Below is a visual breakdown of all the steps it took to create this shot: