New Life, New Story

How It All Began

In early April, we celebrated the baptism of 4 people at our church, STSA. It was an amazing day full of love, and excitement, and celebration. It was captured by countless photographers and a videographer. In watching the video captured from the day, I couldn’t help but think that something was missing. It was a 30 minute recording taken from one angle, with little to no background information on the new members, the church, or their journeys to the baptismal font.

I knew that for my final project, I wanted to find a way to present the ceremony with the same enthusiasm and joy that filled the room that day. What better way to incorporate that excitement than to tell the story of how the individuals got to baptism? It’s not an easy decision, nor a single emotion that prompts a baptism, but rather careful thought, lots of research, and of course prayer and faith.

I was inspired by the radio broadcast we listened to a while ago about a papermaker named Joanne Rosser. The broadcast layered audio of an interview with Joanne alongside her step by step tutorial of how to make paper. The end result was a beautiful metaphor of Joanne’s journey and start of her new life in a new town.

I thought this would be a powerful way to tackle this assignment, but it did require some prep work. My project’s three main characters were those baptized that day. There was a fourth person baptized, but she was not from this area and I was unable to contact her for this video, so her story remains a mystery for now.

Finding a Story

The three people I focused on were Toni, Brad, and Billy. I had met the three of them before but hadn’t heard their stories or how they ended up in our church. I decided to ask the three of them the same set of questions and record them to use as part of the final video. The questions mirrored the story spine of my piece:

  1. Once upon a time Billy, Brad, and Toni lived in the DC area
  2. Everyday they lived their normal lives while learning about various practices of faiths
  3. But one day, they stumbled across St. Timothy and St. Anthanasius Church
  4. Because of that, they began to learn more about the  Coptic church
  5. Because of that, they signed up for membership classes that discussed the history, services, and beliefs of the Orthodox faith
  6. Because of that, they built relationships with people in the church
  7. Until finally, they decided to become members of the church and be baptized
  8. And, ever since then, they have had lasting friendships, renewed spirits, and a new family in STSA

Thought Process

Because this particular story is about three very different people, the story spine varies slightly, but generally, all three stories follow this structure. To incorporate this story spine into the final product without getting too overwhelmed with the multiple media I was working with, I decided to develop a high-level storyboard for the video. I didn’t really end up following it, but it did help me organize my thoughts and pull out clips from the original video and three interviews. I tied a piece of the ceremony to each of the questions asked to build my metaphor of their journey.


Baptism Storyboard

Movie Magic

Once I was comfortable with my concept, the real work began. I used MovieMaker which gave me the same limitations as I’ve had previously. I had hoped to experiment with another editor, but after doing some research, the only other free program I could find with similar capabilities was called WonderShare, but their free version puts a very distracting watermark over the video when it plays.

One of the editing elements I know I wanted to use was the picture in picture, or layering. In the radio broadcast I mentioned above, they used layering to emphasize the metaphor, for example the sounds of her cutting the paper as she discussed a difficult time in her life. I wanted to use the same technique for this assignment. Because I was using MovieMaker, this meant that I had to work around the limitation of only being able to have one audio track play alongside the video.

The first thing I did was to watch the 30 minute clip in MovieMaker and trim the pieces I wanted to use. I then watched all three of the interviews and did the same thing, placing the interview pieces close to where I wanted them to overlap or follow pieces of the ceremony. I then saved that file “audio only” in MovieMaker and inserted it back in as an audio track to the video. I then edited the audio, lining up the pieces I wanted to overlap and then aligning back to the interviewee speaking if necessary. I edited the audio in MovieMaker itself, rather than a separate audio editor because I find it much easier to shape the story when the media is all in one place. Once I did that, and deleted some of the video that was now extraneous, I had brought the video to around 12 minutes. After walking through it, trimming it once more, and adding the opening and closing slides, the video ended up being around ten and a half minutes.

Original Editing

Original Video Editing

The next step was to add in the music. I settled on a remake of an old hymn by Starfield. A trick I had picked up on adding audio to MovieMaker was to save the  now edited video as an MP4 and then start a new file for adding in music. After downloading the song from iTunes, I did this and then figured out where I wanted the music to go, when I wanted it louder or softer, and how I wanted it to fade in and out.

Adding Music

Adding in music.

I had had some audio issues in MovieMaker before and when I added in the new song, the levels were completely unbalanced. I saved two separate versions of that movie as audio only, one with the ceremony and interview audio, and one with the edited song audio. Audacity doesn’t support the audio file that MovieMaker exports to (mp4a), so I used to convert the files into an mp3 format. I then balanced the sounds out in Audacity by adjusting gain and volume on the individual tracks. This helped me bring out the interviews and soften the background music. I saved that Audacity file and then brought it into MovieMaker as the audio track. Needless to say, I got some audio editing practice Dr. Levine. 🙂

Audio Editing

Audio Editing in Audacity


Final Editing

Bringing it all together in MovieMaker

Once I had all the levels where I wanted them to be, I saved the movie as an MP4 and uploaded to YouTube. Here’s the final product:

Struggles Come and Go

I think using three different cameras for the interviews made it a bit more challenging to edit due to the varies in quality of sound.

Fun Fact: The recording on a Droid device provided the clearest audio of the interviews. The other recording devices were an iPhone and a Kodak Zi8. The ceremony was recorded on a professional camera and tied to the mics.

I have pretty much had my fill of MovieMaker, and after this experience, think I may spring for a paid video editor or use a Mac. I think that if I had isolated the audio from the clips in Audacity before editing into the video, I probably could have gotten the interviews to a more equal balance without the static and background noise, but it’s hard to tell when you’re just starting out and pulling the various media together.

As an amateur video editor, I also had some struggles with the transitions. I implemented a consistent fade in and out of the ceremony pieces to help instill a sense of continuity. Trimming the interviews and finding the right places to end sentences, or start them, was tough. I spent a lot of time with each clip, but there were still parts I probably could have gotten tighter.

My Last Story

The perfectionist in me wants to keep working on this video, but we have a deadline quickly approaching. A ten minute video can’t really give the experience of the day justice, but I do think that adding in the stories of these amazing individuals does add depth and further meaning to an otherwise regular recording of a ceremony. This project has given me the opportunity to learn more about these three friends, dive deep into video/audio editing, and has given me many more ideas of things that need storification!



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