by Terry Wilhite
Imagine creating a video Bible study series that you can distribute on a CD so that members of your congregation can watch it on their computers at home or enjoy it on their PCs at the office during their lunch hour. With a software application called Visual Communicator Pro, you can deliver the Good News with all the video dazzle that Brokaw, Jennings, and Rather use.
All of this is possible using your computer, a video camera, and Visual Communicator Pro, which costs about $399.
“We’ve just returned from the missions field in Africa,” says Marcus Carruthers, who is in charge of technology ministries at First Baptist Church, Spring Dale, Arkansas. “We used Visual Communicator so that our pastor and staff could ‘file’ reports that we emailed back to the congregation to show during the worship service,” he said.
Right off the bat you might think we’re reviewing a video editing application. We’re not. When you launch Visual Communicator, a set-up wizard appears that “holds your hand” to set up your entire “news operation.” First, you choose your news set. That’s right, this software uses what it calls V-screen technology, the famous green screen that your favorite weatherman and newscaster use to project maps and graphics. Your computer will replace the green screen with the graphics of your choice. Visual Communicator Pro even includes the lapel microphone to plug into your computer, and the green material that you can tack on the wall behind you.
After you’ve chosen your news “look,” you’re asked to choose your name and title graphics. Then you’re asked to type in the title of your presentation. The program is so smart that the type resizes automatically to fill the allotted space precisely and tastefully. It takes your computer about five or six seconds to “build” your news look. Then a “window” appears on your computer that offers all the tools you need to “do the news.”
Your computer screen is ingeniously divided into segments; the most prominent part is a teleprompter where you type your script. You can paste your text from your favorite word processor into the teleprompter field and copy Scripture from your Bible software and paste it into the prompter also. If you don’t have a video camera, you can purchase a relatively inexpensive “web cam” for around $100 and tape it to the top of your laptop or computer monitor so it appears you’re looking into the camera when you’re actually reading from the prompter. This type camera connects via the USB port—or if your computer can handle it, via a Firewire connection. Of course, if you have a digital video camera, you can connect the USB or Firewire from the camera to the computer.
That done, on the left hand of your computer screen, press “rehearse.” You’ll see on the preview television screen (top left corner) the countdown: 4, 3, 2, 1. The dazzling news opening graphics (that match the look you chose at the start) begin with the accompanying news music. The news graphics peel back to reveal you on the television preview screen. Then you read from the prompter, making it seem that you have laboriously memorized every single word. (You can easily adjust the speed of the teleprompter scroll.)
On the right side, adjacent to the teleprompter words, are little trays. (Just by watching one of the demos you can pick up on the purpose of these.) You can choose video clips, Bible maps or pictures from the mission trip and drag these into these trays. (You can even import PowerPoint slides into these trays!) Position these audio-visual trays on the right side to appear at the point of your choice in the script, and presto, when the prompter gets to that point, your computer (and what is being recorded) switches to whatever is in the tray. When you’re finished with your presentation, the news music fades up and the news graphics flip onto the screen over your live camera presence, signing you off for a successful, network-caliber broadcast.
That was practice—remember you pressed “rehearse.” Want to present for keeps? Press “record” instead. Once all is successfully done, you can save the file to a myriad of formats, including ones that can be emailed or ones that can be “burned” to CD or DVD disks. You will need software like Easy CD Creator (www.roxio.com) to actually transfer these files to CD or DVD.
Visual Communicator by Serious Magic (www.seriousmagic.com) lets you do the news without knowing any technical terms or anything about television production.
As many of you know, I was once a television news anchor, director, and producer. In my opinion, “amazing,” “easy,” and “mind-boggling” are just a few words that describe this software. Be sure to check www.seriousmagic.com for minimum computer requirements and scaled-down versions of the software with even lower prices.
Terry Wilhite is a music and multimedia specialist.
He welcomes your questions and article ideas.
His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.