11 Tips For Making a Great Story Video

Here are 11 tips for making a great story video !

1.  Everyone has a story:   Looking for a great story?  Get to know your people!  Most of the best stories you’ll discover will come from relationships from people you already know. Undoubtedly, there is someone that you or someone on your team knows that has experienced God move in a significant way through some life experience.  Know who those people are and learn about their stories!

2.  Store your stories: As you discover or hear about a story of interest, take note and start a list.  You never know when the intended message will intersect perfectly with a relevant story, so keep a list in whatever format works best for you.

3.  Compelling story for a compelling message:  Just having a compelling story is not enough. The story must match the message and flow of a particular message or series.  And when they do, the results can truly resonate with people.  Aim for that synergy.

4.  Set the scene:  One of the key ingredients to a great story video is the filming location. I often spend a great deal of time thinking through the shot of the video before I begin. What place best suits the story?  Is it indoor?  On location somewhere?  How will that impact the shoot?  Will external lighting be needed?  How will sound be captured?

5.  First Source:  Sometimes what can make a story video pop most is to go to the very place where the story occurred.  I remember when 9/11 happened and I was planting a church in Baltimore, I remember thinking I could just edit news clips together of what happened or I could go to the source which was just a three hour drive away.  I chose the latter, and the results will forever be a part of my life.  The end result is always more powerful if you can help take your viewers to the source of the story.

6.  Preparation and synergy with message: Before you begin, you should know the story well… It is your job to discover where their story has synergy with the speaker’s message and capture that on video.  Direct the one(s) being interviewed towards that goal, but do not manipulate their story to fit.

7.  Know your limits: It’s important to know the length of video you’re aiming for before you begin. Usually 2-3 minutes is ideal. I’ve often found it to be very helpful to have the one being interviewed to get their story down on paper to about 3/4 of a page.  I’d rather have them edit their story to the good stuff.  Making them get it down to 3/4 of a page makes them think it through beforehand so the interview truly gets to the good stuff… the important stuff.  If you have someone go on and on with their story knowing full well that you only have 2-3 minutes in the service to work with, you end up doing everyone a disservice. You’ll have to edit out what might be the best part, and the content you end up with will most likely end up uneven and feel disconnected.

8.  Never too much B-Roll:  Seriously. There’s never enough. Capture hands. Gestures. Close ups. Establishing shots. You name it. Make sure you have enough space on your cards for all of that extra video and make sure you have enough batteries for the task at hand.

9.  Visually engaging yet not distracting:  I’ll often shoot the interview with one camera on a tripod and another hand held.  That’s a given.  But I am also on the hunt for how I can make the video visually appealing.  I want the people watching to be engaged, yet not distracted.  If they are thinking “wow, that’s a cool shot…” and not about the content of the story, I’ve crossed a line.  So I may save a visually compelling clip or scene for when there is a break in dialogue.

10.  Film school never ends: Three point lighting. Law of thirds.  Know your camera.  Know your lenses.  Watch your color balance.  Get good clean audio.  Watch blogs.  Be inspired by directors and cinematographers.  Watch documentaries.  Get fresh ideas. Always be open to learn.

11. Your edit should reflect the emotion of the story: Is the story upbeat?  Shoot hand held and make lots of cuts.  Keep it moving.  Is it serious?  Use a tripod… slow movement. Pick music that fits the mood as well… I will often find the song first that fits the mood of the story before I even begin the edit.  I may even edit the song down to the exact length I need and make the video fit that.

Now it’s your turn!  What tips do you have for making great story videos?  Comment below! We’d love to hear from you!


Examples of story videos I’ve shot (most are first source videos):

Mother’s Day Video 2015:

U2 Fan Becomes Something More… (Adam Bevell “All I Want Is You”)

Adam Deardorff’s Story:

Nathan Arnold’s Story:


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