There is a need everywhere for sound Bible teaching, especially in developing countries and cultures for Bible college content where availability and low cost availability make them scarce. Desiring to add value and teaching helps to ministries requesting assistance, I desired to put together an online course that would not cost participants anything, but add value and depth to growing leaders or dedicated followers of Christ and his word.

Goal: Provide or offer instruction across borders circumventing security issues, pandemic lock downs or travel costs. This would also address the just-in-time training challenge - some would like to learn as their schedule allows, not waiting for the ability to attend a formal setting or wait for a semester to start. Additionally, the materials can be referenced multiple times.

The requirements:

  1. Technically high quality audio/video to be uploaded to YouTube, which automatically subtitles audio.
  2. Supported by notes, quotes, verses on motion graphic overlays - a chalkboard will not be easily views on a screen or additional camera operators will be required.
  3. Motion graphics are to give materials an up-to-date appearance and hopefully hold a modern attention span.
  4. 20-40 graphics per 30 minute teaching session - automation would be desireable in order to reduce redundant design, propagating and producing the graphics.

Preparation: It is my strong impression that redundant tasks should be automated as much as possible. Human error in typing, reproducing, reuploading, etc consumes time.

Since I design my motion graphics in Adobe After Effects with an alpha channel (meaning a transparency channel which allows it to overlay over another video or graphic layer.) I came up with three types of graphics required - lower thirds, left half of the screen or a full screen. The larger formats give additional real estate when conveying lots of information - quotes, bullet points, notes, etc. To start, I wanted a spreadsheet option to enter information which informs After Effects which composition to choose and produce, plus the tool to auto-populate the information properly, then render the video followed by producing the next video. I wanted that to run for all required overlays, then helps a producer to follow the process and rerender any chosen video / videos if so chosen from the list. I went to work and coded a script that would automate that process. Additionally, I knew that audio would need to be normalized and run through a limiter, so that the quieter parts are not overwhelmed by the louder parts. I created my own automation process for those audio files that are going to be produced and requiring attention.

Steps: At this time of this article, I am 66% complete with the production of the videos for the online course - those already uploaded are being used in Pakistan and ministries in the Philippines have expressed interest. I have a pretty understanding of my own work flow to get these sessions online. This is an overview of that workflow.

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    1. Study and bring the content onto paper notes. Time required: 6-8 hours per lesson.
    2. Take the notes and information onto an Excel spreadsheet (Tab based, since commas are often in the verses and quotes.) Time required: 2 hours.
    3. Render the motion graphics: Time Requirement: 30 minutes. Thanks to the automation script a 6 hour job is just 30 minutes, of which is spent performing other tasks.
    4. Record the class session. Time requirement: 1 hour per 30 minutes classroom session. One camera / director assists me for camera controls, focus, and audio. Often, multiple sessions are recorded on the same day.
    5. Edit the recordings. Time Requirement: 2.5 hours per session. Audio is enhanced, then video overlays (including intro and outro) are placed at the proper time over the recorded class session. Then it is time to render the full HD session. It requires about one minute to render 1 minute of running time - I have a pretty fast computer.
    6. Upload and title the YouTube video. Time Requirement: 20 Minutes per session. The resulting 30 minute files are roughly 1 gb per video. Then the information is entered and a thumbnail is uploaded. Only a faster upload rate saves me from having additional time spent on the upload process.
    7. "Rinse and repeat" - 17 sessions are required for my presentation of the coursework for Christology. Feedback: To this early stage, feedback has been helpful and inspirational - I have received photos and videos from small groups that meet to view the materials. Implementing a smart tv (internet access) they have easily been able to access the materials at a time convenient for their requirements. I have not had to travel, they do not have further security issues and it continues to be a lasting source of instruction and edification. Those uploaded sessions are at: My personal YouTube channel.
    8. For what it is worth ... all of the automation processes are bash scripts that I have written for my own needs - they run on a linux server I have installed (free open source software).

Photocredit: wirelessrev.ca

On a recent Friday afternoon (local time in Germany), I was invited to preach live via Skype on a video projector in Pakistan. I preached from Philippians 2:1-8 to a crowd of between 120-130 mainly rural poor people near Lahore, Pakistan - in english translated live into Urdu, the local dialect. At the conclusion of the sermon, seven people responded to the invitation, repented and placed their trust in Jesus for forgiveness and salvation!

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Photocredits: Keith Gandy

Thinking outside the box - not just a slogan for Taco Bell (of course, their slogan is "Think outside the bun..."), but I digress. When we are not passionately focusing on the Great Commission, we can get into a rut.

Are there tools and resources that are readily available to expand our reach and impact, yet to be explored?

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 Photo credit: Stock photo

In the attempt to find an ever cheaper and easier video recording solution that is repeatable, I have searched for various microcomputer solutions - and decided to attempt to build one on a Raspberry Pi system. If you are uninitiated to that electronic gadgetry, it is not a pie to consume, but an inexpensive computer system that can be programmed to do various tasks.

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 Photo credit: Stock Photo

Spending time in the hospital has given me time to work on my video workflow. I have done so by recording Grimm brothers fairy tales for my four year old granddaughter, Emily. If you are desiring to include video messages in your communication tool box, there will be a learning curve, and there is no way to become proficient without practice. I would encourage you to make many messages, that are just for learning experience.