How did the idea for the video series come about?
I love art in various forms, and I am always engaged in some artistic hobby. It helps me stay balanced since I spend most of my time engaged in intellectual activities. The latest hobby I picked up a few years ago is nature photography. The practice enabled me to become familiar with professional equipment, and, at some point, I figured I could try to combine my main interests—art and theology—and capture some key theological ideas in video format.
At first, I intended to use my equipment and produce some interviews, but after more research I thought explainer animated clips would be more fun. I noticed in my teaching experience that students appreciate such videos, and I also liked the flexibility this sort of project offered—I only need a computer, some books, and Internet access. So I suggested we give this a try, and The Compass Magazine was very encouraging.
Who is the target audience for the videos? Why did you choose animated videos as the best way to reach this group?
Our main interest is in reaching younger generations of Christians with some level of biblical literacy, but I think the clips could be of interest to people of various ages, Christians or not. It depends on how much they want to engage with these ideas. I chose short animated clips because we are a fast-paced generation with a short attention span. People ignore whatever doesn’t get their attention in a few seconds and get bored easily even once they start watching. I wanted to produce concise, creative, and dynamic clips with solid content as a way of delivering key ideas briefly and creatively.
Why did you choose the subject of salvation for the first series?
The theme reflects the magazine’s current focus. The metanarrative of the great controversy, including the origin and fate of evil, the way of salvation, and the connections between free will, morality, and the atonement, provides a helpful background for going more in-depth on key issues in the future. The specific topics I chose for this series are subjects I found interesting when I studied them and which I now consider important for a Christian’s identity and her/his overall grasp of salvation.
Some videos are more topical in nature, while others are more historical. I think both approaches are necessary to provide a more complete picture on a subject. For example, it is helpful to know that not everyone understood atonement in the exact same way over the two millennia of Christianity. Even the most dedicated Bible students using the best available tools at hand may, over time, be corrected. The historical development of biblical teachings helps put things in context. I also like comparisons (as in the video on free will and salvation) because I think ideas are best understood when put in contrast with each other (notwithstanding the risk of oversimplification).
What is your background in creating videos? How did you get interested in this medium?
This was the first time I produced explainer animated videos, and I delved into it because I wanted to create what I envisioned. I did some research to decide which program to use (there are quite a few out there) and what sort of explainer videos to produce, and I settled on a drawing software. I like hand-drawing, and although I didn’t have to draw the graphics myself, I enjoy the process and the artsy feel of the final product.
Aside from the artsy feel, I think pictures are a good way of impressing ideas. A picture is worth a thousand words. And while I might spend as much time producing one scene as I would spend writing one thousand words, the viewer can watch it in twenty seconds as opposed to reading about it for two minutes. Time is gold.
Talk about the process of creating the videos.
For me the process included three steps (once I settled on a program). The first step was researching and writing the script. Next, I sent the script for recording the voice-over, and finally I created the animation.
I outsource the vectors (graphic files) and the voice-overs. Both are fun processes, sometimes slightly overwhelming as there are lots of options. The graphics are available online and in the animation program I use, while the voice-overs are done by freelance talent. I was surprised to discover how much goes into the delivery of a good voice-over. I have more respect for people who can produce good results, because it is so much more than clear pronunciation and professional recording. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of the writer is a gift, and I certainly appreciate the voices we have had so far.
As for what goes into the production, it took me some time to choose a program, but learning it was easier than I expected. (For the first video I tried a more complex program, but I learned quickly that it wasn’t the direction to go). The animations require some imagination and, in my experience, a significant time investment (to some extent this depends on how much dynamism one is aiming for). A creative mind would consider the production fun work except for moments of frustration when you can’t find the right vectors despite the vast resources. I wrote the scripts without having in mind specific scenes and then I worked on the animation step-by-step, usually in 15- to 20-second segments.
The scripts also took time because concise writing is more laborious than lengthy articles. Concise writing requires editing over and over again to eliminate all redundant words and to find the shortest expressions. A few years ago, I read a book on writing that helps me in all my writing projects, but I found it especially useful as I worked on these scripts.
Do you think that more Adventists could and should be using videos like these to share key truths?
I wish more Adventists produced videos in some layout or another because a large number of people can be reached with online content. I happen to be studying in a thorough program that requires a significant amount of reading, but most people prefer nutshell ideas, preferably in a fun format. The animated videos take time, but the explainer video programs are easy to learn and use and do not require a formal background in media production. We need to keep up with the mediums available.
What sources have you found useful in writing the scripts?
A source I used and would continue to use is a book published last year by Andrews University Press: Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology. Most of the authors are seminary professors whose expertise I trust after years of studying at Andrews, and the recent publication date means it is an updated volume that puts the topics in the context of today’s challenges. I am also considering Norman Gulley’s Systematic Theology and some of John Peckham’s books as good sources for topical/historical videos, besides some classic Christian writers (Augustine, Calvin, Luther, etc.). For videos on Bible narratives (also possible in the future) I like to do my own study using literary study tools and then consult some commentaries to understand the historical and cultural context.
What do you hope to accomplish with the videos? How will you measure success?
I am interested in viewership as well as engagement, especially in the forms of comments and shares. Do people find these videos worth sharing with their circle of friends? Are they inclined to engage with the topic? Do they express interest/appreciation for the format and/or content? Can the clips serve as resources in teaching environments (schools, churches, etc.)? We try to meet people where they are with the means within our reach and always improve.
The future of this project depends partly on how our audience responds. We want to produce articles and videos that resonate with them, that answer their questions or raise relevant questions, and that engage them. We certainly welcome feedback!
Watch New The Compass Magazine video series on Salvation below! And Don’t forget to Subscribe to our YouTube Channel!
(1) The Dawn and Doom of Evil
(2) If God is Good, Why is There Evil? (Wheat and Weeds)
(3) Free Will and Salvation
(4) Why Did Jesus Die?
(5) Love and Morality
(6) Freedom and Foreknowledge