Wendy and I work with the "tech" ministry at Third Church. Since we both have communication backgrounds and have experience in radio, video production and theatre, it’s a good fit for us. Most of the time, we work as Video Directors. The church has three cameras around the auditorium to video-tape the service. Wendy or I sit back in the bowels of the church looking at three monitors, telling the camera operators where to point their cameras, and then choose what goes on the final tape. The final cut is sent to subscribers, shut-ins and is available on VHS and DVD for anyone in the congregation who wants it. The cool thing about being Video Director is that, for that hour, you call the shots and everyone listens to you. It’s sort of like being Czar, but without the palace, the servants, the cool wardrobe or the horde of treasure in Swiss banks.
Yesterday, Wendy was slated to direct. A cameraman was sick so I was asked to sit in for him. I don’t usually operate a camera but I had fun filling in. I found myself on the stage-left side of the auditorium, camera at my command and Wendy’s voice in my headset, telling me what to do [insert sarcastic comment here]. The service started, and the lovely voice of Czarina Wendy announced, "Honey, you need to turn down the iris on your camera. The light is way too bright on Sarah’s forehead."
There was a short pause and Marilyn, one of the other two camera operators, said "Joel, I think it’s safe to assume that when Wendy says, ‘Honey’ she’s not addressing us." Everyone chuckled in the whispered tones you have to use when you’re trying to communicate via headsets during the actual service.
One of my assigned tasks during the service was to get "crowd shots" so that Wendy could mix in shots of the congregation listening between shots of Pastor Kevin’s preaching.
Getting crowd shots is sort of a crap-shoot, but with worse odds. You scan the congregation to find someone enthusiastically listening to the sermon. But, seriously, these people are Reformed and they’re Dutch. They don’t get enthusiastic about much of anything. You get your yawners, your stare-off-into-spacers, and then there’s the "bury your head in your hands and look like you’re praying while actually catching a few winks" people. This Sunday happened to be Mother’s Day, so I tried to find shots of mothers and their children.
Yep, there’s one – a young mother with her little daughter snuggled up next to her. I panned the camera and began my zoom, just in time for the mother to look down at her child, roll her eyes in disgust and mouth the words, "You have to go AGAIN?"
Okay, that didn’t work. So, I pan the camera to the sweet child nestled in daddy’s lap. I get in nice and tight. It’s a beautiful shot with the little girl embraced in the strong arms of her father. Yes! I got it! Wendy’s proclamation is music to my ears, "Nice Tom! Hold that shot!" Now comes the tricky part. Between telling me to hold that shot and when she actually toggles the picture in the control room anything can happen. That precious child will suddenly get ants in her pants and decide to go into toddler convulsions, the morning’s feast of cocoa-puffs will decide to regurgitate themselves all over her pretty Mother’s Day dress, or little brother will smack her for no reason and send her into tears. Like I said, it’s a crap-shoot.
Being a cameraman is a doctoral study in Murphy’s Law. Just when you think you’ve got the perfect shot, the person in your frame does the unexpected. Case in point: Yesterday, the cute little boy of about ten looked so sweet and innocent with his chin resting on his hands and his blue eyes fixed on the pastor. I pulled in nice and tight and waited for Wendy to praise me for my camera work. Then, the boys finger started to twitch. Murphy’s law kicked in and I watched helplessly as his grimy little pointer finger began to slowly inch toward his nostril. No….no…NO!
Yep. There goes Mr. Digger mining for booger gold.
Happy Mother’s Day. I’m sure she’s very proud.
When the service was over, I headed back to the "tech suite" where my beautiful, video Czarina waited. We put away the cameras and shut down the monitors. It’s a wrap. The tapes will be distributed to shut-ins across the community, who will watch and be blessed. They will watch the service on their televisions in complete ignorance – never guessing that a faithful group of nameless, faceless people have once again gone to great lengths to shield them from the sight of a ten-year-old picking his nose.