Videography and Promotion

Todd Hackbarth (Lake Mills, Wisconsin USA)

Archived discussion

About the presenter

Todd Hackbarth and his "wonderful wife" Donna [his words] have five kids, two at Lakeside, two at Martin Luther College, and one serving as a teacher in Illinois. After teaching in a one-room school in Des Moines, Iowa, and 5th grade in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, he is now at Lakeside Lutheran High School, Lake Mills, Wisconsin, where his courses include mainly math, but also Old Testament and videography – and he helps out with coaching.
Star Wars. My love of video started with watching the movie Star Wars in 1977. I quickly dreamed of making movies. Twenty-six years later, I was on my third call, and I finally got my chance to indulge this passion. I asked Scott Johnson, a high school student of mine that was knowledgeable about editing video, if he could help me make a video to promote our math team. He came up with a parody of the movie, "The Matrix." As we made the video, Scott taught me how to edit using an early version of Adobe Premiere. The program was incredibly powerful, but simple to use. The student body enjoyed the parody, and I began to wonder why our school, Lakeside Lutheran High School, wasn't using this powerful medium to promote our school.

Lakeside was blessed with an expensive Sony camera and Premiere software, but only a few students and one faculty member were using them. To my knowledge, the camera and software never had been used for promoting our schools to the congregations. After making a suggestion to use a video in our congregations, the idea began to circulate through various boards. Time went by and people were debating what should be shown, and no one seemed interested in taking the time to make the video. I decided to just make a video on my own. If administration didn't like it, at least there was an attempt. Here is my first attempt at a promotional video from about 10 years ago.

Though my videography techniques were poor at the time, people were thrilled to have something like this promoting our school. As I researched the beginning of Lakeside, I was greatly moved by the incredible sacrifices made to start the school. I thought it was important for this generation of adults to see how much the previous one cared about Christian education. Thousands of families have been blessed because a few individuals thought it would be worthwhile to start a Christian high school. With this video, as well as many others I have made over the years to promote Lakeside, I wanted to teach some truths of Scripture to those that saw it. Whether parents sitting in the pews sent their children to Lakeside or not, I wanted them going away encouraged by the Word. Young, old, or in between, I wanted them to hear about the salvation that is theirs through Jesus.

A blessing in disguise as I started to make more of these promotional videos was that I needed student help. I could not do it on my own. Sometimes I needed singers for background music, sometimes camera operators, sometimes editors, and sometimes just ideas. I used students that were more talented than I to do things I could not do. The students honed the gifts God had given them and glorified Him in the process. I cannot tell you how inspiring it is to see young people trying to figure out a way to glorify God through a video.

I have to admit I have never taken a course on videography, but I have been fortunate to have God place many people around me to teach me what I needed to know. I mentioned students, but there were some teachers as well. Damon Tracy, a teacher at Lakeside, helped me get a better handle understanding the editing software and was my primary help with any hardware issues. Later Ted Klug, another teacher, put together computers for me that were faster for editing. Chris Johnson, a professor from Bethany Lutheran College, helped me set up a course for students and taught me many tricks of the trade. Chad Johnstone, a professional videographer, hired me to work with him for a few summers. Then there were all the professionals and amateurs on YouTube. I can say that I have watched hundreds, if not thousands of hours of videos, to learn more about lighting, coloring video, sound sweetening, you name it. I started, however, knowing little to nothing about video. The most important thing, in my opinion, still is the message. Some videos done with a cell phone have millions of hits on YouTube. Why? It was what people wanted to see. Or better yet, it was what people needed to see.

At Lakeside Lutheran High School, our recruiter, Steve Lauber, brings in fourth grade students from the area Lutheran grade schools in fall. Each year two high school teachers will have a "class" with the fourth graders. It is an opportunity for the grade school students to get acquainted with the school and do some fun activities. A few years back, I was one of the selected teachers. I decided to make a video with the fourth grade students. I hoped many things would happen through this video. I wanted the kids to do something exciting that would interest them in the high school. I wanted something that would give parents an opportunity to see what the high school is all about. Finally I wanted a high quality video with a great message to be shared with others.

The fourth grader groups came two days a week for most of November. When the groups came to Lakeside, we first watched a video that was viral at the time on YouTube. I asked them, "If we could make a viral video that people around the world could see, what should it be about?" The majority of groups said the video should be about Jesus. Little did they know that is what we planned. While Steve and I came up with the lines, the majority of the video was done by the fourth graders. They filmed, did the sound, acted, and directed, under some guidance of course. Here is the resulting video.

Great videos are not worth much unless they are watched. This fourth grade video had an important message about Jesus, and we wanted it spread to as many people as possible. At our school, we have an incredibly talented publications director, Kim Winters. She daily puts items of interest on Lakeside's Facebook page. She has researched the optimal times of day to make posts. Every time she shares a link to one of the videos on our YouTube page, the video will get at least 200 views from that alone. Many times those video links are then shared with others. A different video of ours actually had over 2200 views in a single day. I find the combination of Facebook and YouTube is an incredible way to reach many with the gospel message.

This past November and December, Steve wanted to make a video again with fourth graders, but I did not have an open period to film them. We came up with a way to utilize both the high school and fourth grade students. The fourth graders did artwork for the video using the Paint program. Those students were encouraged to share their faith through their art. You can view the video to get a sense of how this worked. Make sure you pause during their artwork. The high school students not only helped me with the other scenes, but they also helped promote the video. We held a competition in which the students that shared the video the most times or did it in the most interesting way would win prizes. I think we had over 2600 views in the first two days. I feel I have only scratched the surface on the way we could use Facebook and videos as a witnessing tool in the high school. I was pleased to hear students talk about their public school friends seeing the video. Copy and paste this link to see that video.

A quick way to get people to unsubscribe to your YouTube channel is to put out poor quality videos. In my videography class, we strive for quality. That doesn't happen instantly. In Videography 1, a new video is due almost every two weeks. Each video focuses on a different skill. By the end of the semester, a number of students have reached a point where they can start making quality videos. In Videography 2, the students work on large projects that are meant to be used by Steve Lauber for recruitment in the grade schools, shown in congregations, or put on Lakeside's YouTube channel. A good number of my Videography 2 students have continued studying film in college. Although they are way ahead of the curve, they are finding the field to be very worldly. Please pray that God guard their souls so they can later serve his kingdom with these sharpened skills. Christians are desperately needed in the media industry.

Digital media classes in high school are an ideal way to witness Christ and give the students skills beneficial for virtually any place of employment. In the past year, Lakeside students posted YouTube videos answering common questions about the Bible, made a promotional video for a live nativity, edited videos for local congregations, and much more. The class this semester is making a video to be shown in a local theater as part of the advertisements before movies. This is an extremely low cost way to speak about our school and tell about Jesus. I envision one day Lakeside being a hub for all of our federated churches, helping them create promotional and spiritual growth videos. I would certainly encourage MLC to consider creating a Digital Media program. I believe all our high schools could be leaders in this growing field. Digital media skills matched with an exceptional training in God's Word would not just be good for videography teachers. With just some basic skills, my wife currently shares video links of her Word of God activities with parents, many of whom are non-members. Just imagine what missionaries and staff ministers could do with these skills! The fields are ripe!

Please let me know your ideas. I would appreciate hearing from you. The LORD's blessings on your work to spread the gospel!

Click these links to see various types of video promos for Lakeside Lutheran High School:

  1. What’s new at Lakeside? gives a funny look at what is new with a spiritual message at the end.
  2. Freshmen Orientation lets parents, relatives, and friends check out the first day of school. Students tell why they chose Lakeside.
  3. Promotional videos for camps connected with a message about God’s Word.
  4. Pass It On is a fun video with Christ at the center. Each student can make a part of the video. They take ownership and show their own creativity.
  5. Helicopter Fly-over - A student body and faculty video shows our school’s purpose.
  6. A student-made video allows students to expand their videography skills and show the school.
  7. A Lip Dub served as a school bonding experience and gave outsiders a peek at the various activities and groups at school.
  8. Kids Around the World - Special event videos show how Lakeside students are helping local and international communities.
  9. Ministry Partners – Congregational videos are shown in all the federated churches.
  10. Lakeside Lutheran News – A newscast created by the videography students.
  11. Final Words – Students say good-bye at the end of the year.
  12. Highlight films of fun events

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Judy Kuster 23 days ago
It is exciting to see where your interest in videography has taken you and helped you lead so many students. Thank you for your work at Lakeside and also for sharing how fruitful that work is in reaching others, not only to promote your school, but to promote Christian education.

Your early statement -- “Time went by and people were debating what should be shown, and no one seemed interested in taking the time to make the video. I decided to just make a video on my own.” – reminds me of what my own motto for getting involved in technology and the Internet is. “Just do it – and then do it better.” I watched you first attempt at a video on Lakeside and thought – how could he ever do it better? I loved the history of the school and was reminded again of why I just missed it. Growing up in Madison and graduating from Madison Lutheran in 1958 I went to East HS for 2 years and then to Bethany in Mankato for the next two – graduating in 1962, the year before Lakeside started. The timing of Lakeside didn’t work for me, but has been a blessing for many from Madison, including a niece and a nephew.

I plan on mentioning your paper in Amanda Buelow’s paper on involving grade school children in making a Gospel-bearing video.

What is your next project?
Todd Hackbarth 22 days ago
Thank-you for the kind words. I love your motto. It is so true.

Lakeside has been a blessing as much to me as it has to the students. I get to grow in my faith right with them.

I just finished a project for Lord and Savior Lutheran in Crystal Lake, Illinois, where my daughter teaches. Next my class and I have to finish a project for a movie theater. We are going to try making a commercial to run in the theater before the movie previews start. We are trying something new.

Thank-you for all your work setting up the conference! Outstanding work!
Judy Kuster 22 days ago
What a great idea for a commercial in a movie theater! When you get it done, is there any way we can see it?

And thank YOU for your active participation in this first conference.
Tom Kuster 22 days ago
Todd, I know it is a passion of yours that video production should receive some emphasis in all of our Lutheran high schools and colleges. I share that, along with a passion that screenwriting should get some attention as well. Your article above describes what you are doing at Lakeside. Do you have a sense for what is being done in other schools? (Could anyone else who is reading this page report what is being taught about production and screenwriting in their school?)
Todd Hackbarth 19 days ago
The only other WELS high school that I know that has a videography course is Luther High School in Onalaska, WI. I know some have clubs. I would also like to hear what other high schools are doing.

Thank-you for all of your work for the conference.
Steven Zambo 18 days ago
We also have a very exciting college level program that offers both a major and minor in Digital Cinema and Media at Wisconsin Lutheran College. If there is interest it would be wonderful to offer a summer crash program for educators.
Greg Schibbelhut 18 days ago
As Todd says below we are doing a digital video course at Luther High School in Onalaska,WI. Next year we start a digital video II course and will use it in a similar fashion as Lakeside. At Luther the class learns basic editing and filming techniques using HD cameras and Adobe Premiere Pro. As one part of the class students also produce two 15-min videos highlighting the events at Luther and we use these videos to show to our grade schools as we go out on promotional visits. The class is also in charge of our talent show as they help direct, produce the theme, and create some fun video content for the show. The DVII class will maybe take over this duty as well as take part in special projects that are always requested(examples-anniversary service videos-gradeschool promotional videos-Christian childcare center promotions-weddings-archiving school events-livestreaming events). I too have found as Todd aptly explained, that many of our graduates continue in this field and are having success using their God-given skills in video production to serve our communities and synod in a variety of ways. Some have gone to local news stations and continue to be a voice for our school with their camera (that sometimes aims at our fans for a longer period of time:)). Others continue and help with promoting awareness of Christian education in general as well as promoting the Gospel. I echo the encouragement that all of our schools at all levels should start incorporating more video production into their curriculum. Some examples of our work are on Luther's YouTube channel: or Ustream channel:
David Luehring 13 days ago
As a former student at Lakeside Lutheran I was able to see first hand the work you do. I was on campus during the Helicopter Fly-over, Pass It On, and Lip Dub videos. These videos did a great job of getting a whole school involved in spreading the gospel while making a visually interesting video. I can't wait to see what you come up with next.

Also many churches use power point slides and videos to promote new things happening within the church and synod. Have you thought of making a video that could utilize this medium to promote the quality christian education Lakeside provides.
Todd Hackbarth 10 days ago
Hello David,

It is good to hear from you. I have greatly enjoyed working with the students on these projects. The students often help me see that spreading God's Word can be done in many unique ways. They are so creative. We are almost finished with one we hope to show in a movie theater like a commercial before the previews start.

We have often talked about a Lakeside quarterly video that would go out to the congregations like a WELS Connection. Time has limited that from happening. Is this the kind of video you were suggesting to promote Lakeside?

The LORD's blessings on your day!

Judy Kuster 12 days ago
I really love what you did with the fourth graders!! What a wonderful way for children to do mission work! Thanks for posting the URL!!
Todd Hackbarth 10 days ago
Hello Judy,

That is my favorite video I have ever been a part of doing! The simple message of God's Word is so powerful! I think when young children say it, it helps adults remember that there are so many distractions in the world. God can use the small and frail and weak to do the incredible work of reminding us what is most important.

The LORD's blessings on your day!
Mark R. Harrington 11 days ago
Todd: The video samples you provided were awesome! They are very engaging, high quality, interesting, and provide a message that connects back to Christ again and again. One portion in your post that really caught my attention is where you stated you had never taken a course on videography, and that apart from drawing on the expertise of others that you watched hundreds, if not thousands of hours on You Tube on the videography process and if I may add, with amazing results! Would you say there is enough information on You Tube alone for the dedicated, disciplined, and determined viewer to learn how to do a lot of what we see in your video promo samples?
Todd Hackbarth 10 days ago
Hello Mark,

Thank-you for the very kind words! I certainly believe there is enough information on YouTube to learn how to do everything by yourself. You just can't learn it all in a day. When I first started, I was determined to learn and try one new thing with every video I made. Now I try to learn one new thing a day. Lately I have been into sound. I am trying to learn more about Adobe Audition, good microphones, etc.

One person I followed quite a bit on YouTube and still do is Devin Graham. Most of his videos have gone viral. What I enjoyed about him from early on was how he would mention what equipment he used and how to use it. He just recently has been putting out a tutorial day. He would be a good one to get you started. Here are some links to his work.

This is his YouTube page. You could watch some of his incredible videos.

This YouTube page has many of his tutorials.

If you want to do something in a video, there is almost always a tutorial on how to do it. Of course, you need the proper equipment sometimes. At Lakeside, we have slowly gathered equipment over the years. However, I will say I feel content trumps everything. Even without the greatest equipment in the world, I feel God has allowed us to see unbelievable success at Lakeside. I try to keep this passage before me often. Proverbs 16:3, "Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed." When we have a video committed to glorifying God or spreading the good news of salvation to others and I hear it encouraged someone in their faith, it was well worth the time. Some videos we have done have turned out much better than I ever planned. I have received unbelievable donations for equipment at just the right time. This is the work of God. It has been miraculous.

The LORD's blessings on your day!

Tom Kuster 7 days ago
Todd's YouTube suggestions are excellent. There are other resources as well. The online publication "Videomaker" contains lots of product reviews, but look past them to their "how to" section for lots of useful instructions for lifting us closer to how the pros do it.