Kodak Zi8 1080p Pocket Camcorder

zi8A few days ago I heard about the soon-to-be-released pocket camcorder from Kodak, the Zi8.

It is the first 1080p pocket camera. It also does 720p @ 60fps or 30fps. Unlike the Flip cameras, you need an SD card to capture more than the onboard 128MB of storage. But you can use up to a 32GB card, which they claim results in 10 hours of video.

It has the facial focus system, sort of like the new iPhone 3Gs, and image stabilization. Also, it takes 5.0 MP still photos. You still use the built in USB plug to transfer files, and it comes with some sort of video editing software. H.264 compression in a QT .mov shell. That all sounds great, but the best new feature?

It has an external stereo audio input. That means you could use something like the Beachtek DXA2s or Shure A96f to convert a signal from a microphone using an XLR. You could use a professional microphone to capture sound. My biggest complaint about these small cameras has been the lousy audio quality. of course, to upgrade to professional capture you will spend more than you spent on the camera, but still the overall cost is a lot less than other pro audio input HD camcorders.

It’s no professional video camera. I doubt we will see any kind of decent low light performance. There is no zoom function except 4x digital zoom. I only guess it is as easy to use as the Flip HD.

$180 plus the cost of an SD card and case. I may have to pick one of these up this September.

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Mickey’s Commandments #10: Keep it up

Part 10 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt, former Disney “imagineer”, in a recent conference.

10. Keep it up.

Maintain it. Right now if you go to Magic Kingdom you may be disappointed because Space Mountain is closed for remodeling. One of the store fronts on Main Street USA is covered over (in a very attractive way) while Disney works to keep the appearance and safety up.

The upkeep of what you have is critical, because while people who have been around a while may not notice something that’s broken or faded, for new people part of their first impression is the state of repair of your facility. Our church is over two decades old. There are a lot of things we should update, and will very soon.

When talking about this commandment, Michael Lingerfelt said something very interesting:

“Spend an extra dollar now, you will get a $6 return over it’s life.”

This goes to the heart of stewardship. How can we best utilize the resources available? Less expensive isn’t always better. Sometime less expensive means cheap. I have adopted the philosophy of spending that says if you can’t tell the difference, get the cheaper one. If you can tell the difference, get the better one, regardless of price.

Almost 20 years ago someone at First Orlando did the right thing. They bought a great quality broadcast capture system. I don’t know how much they spent, but we have state-of-the-art broadcast equipment for 1989. As a testimony to how good it is, we can still use it today to get a good quality picture. It’s old, and dying, but for over 19 years this equipment has helped us broadcast to tens of thousands of homes in the Orlando area every week.

As we look at replacing this gear with new HD broadcast equipment, we are taking a page from their book. While we are not buying the most expensive equipment available, we are buying top level, high quality broadcast gear from professional manufacturers. There are many kinds of gear that can do basic HD capture, but they are not true broadcast quality. Because we know we want this new gear to last a long time, and work without failure, we will replace our TV cameras and switchers with professional products. As it turns out, we are going to be able to get a great deal on this, too.

If Lingerfelt is to be believed (and I do believe him), paying a little more now for high quality equipment will save us a lot of time, money, and trouble over the next few years.

When looking at replacement or new purchases, can you tell the difference? If so, buy the better one. In the long run, it will save you more than any extra cost.

Mickey’s Commandment #9: An ounce of treatment and a pound of treat

Part 9 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt, former Disney “imagineer”, in a recent conference.

9. An ounce of treatment and a pound of treat

If you must ask people to go out of their way, or to do something unpleasant, make sure it’s worth their while. Make sure the payoff is worth the hassle. if you have to fix something, make sure the guest gets the benefit of the fix. I think the key to this commandment is that I can’t think of an example where Disney asked me to do something I didn’t want to do, mainly because any hassle I ever went through was overshadowed by what happened at the end. All I can think of are things I have experienced at other parks, which I don’t think Disney would ever do.

For churches and ministries, I think this applies in this way: When you have to say no, or have to take something away, make sure that the reasons for that are known. How will this change benefit? How does this further the calling God has placed on the church? How is the kingdom of God being advanced because we no longer do whatever it is we are no longer going to do? Is it a better use of resources, money or time?

We should never operate in darkness, but walk in the light. People will understand why we are taking things away if they hear the benefits of it.

This past year we stopped printing our bi-monthly magazine. The reasons were two-fold: money and effectiveness. We had just launched a new website that could do more than the magazine could ever dream, and was getting more traffic in a week than our mailing list. Plus, we could save tens of thousands of dollars every year, and get back hours and hours of production time to use on other projects.

We went out of our way to talk about what we were doing and why before we did it; platform time, bulletin content, even the entire last issue of the magazine was devoted to explaining how stopping the magazine was a good thing. From a mailing list of about 8000 we got six real complaints. Most of the people we heard from said that they were sad the magazine would stop, but they understood why we were doing it.

When making changes that might be seen as taking something away, or seen negatively, make sure you are communicating the reasons why and the ways it will help.

Mickey’s Commandments #8: Avoid contradiction

Part 8 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt, former Disney “imagineer”, in a recent conference.

8. Avoid contradiction.

If you could be everywhere in Walt Disney World at once you would never find more than one Mickey Mouse. Why? Because there is only one Mickey Mouse. So if he is at Magic Kingdom signing autographs he cannot be at Animal Kingdom in a parade. Why does it matter if someone in a character costume would appear in two different places at the same time? Because there is only ONE Mickey Mouse.

Avoiding contradiction relates to yesterday’s post about telling on story at a time, but another major area where ministries can accidently cause confusion is in brand identity.

Before I go on, let me quote Phil Cooke on what branding actually is:

“At its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product, organization, or person with a powerful and compelling story.” (“Branding Faith“, 2008)

I am not going to explain how to brand something, or to go into detail about the differences between a brand identity and a logo, between an actual brand and how your ministry, church, or organization is identified. There are lots of book out about that. Suffice it to say that when your logo or name is seen, it evokes a brand identity.

Our goal at church is that when people see our logo or read our name, it brings to mind the story of who we are as a church. One of the things we fight is a confusion of brand identity when people use different logos or different names to refer to our organization. A few years ago, before I came on staff, the whole church went through a rebranding process, to reflect the new vision of the new pastor. With that re-branding came a new way to refer to the church. New logos and a new way to name the church were adopted.

To this day, people still name the church something else. Specifically, before it was a common practice to refer to the church as FBCO, or worse FBC/O. Now, under the new rules from the rebranding, we refer to the church as First Orlando or First Baptist Orlando, or if you must abbreviate, then it is FBO. We even fight this for email, because fbcorlando.com domains still work, but we want people to use firstorlando.com.

Why does it matter? As we develop our story, our brand in the community and within our walls, we want people to bring to mind immediately the brand of the church when they see our logo or read our name. We want no confusion or contradiction. FBC/O brings to mind a different, older brand. It’s not a bad brand, there was nothing wrong with that story, but it’s not our current story. It’s not who we are now. We have moved on to a new chapter.

Part of my job is to be the brand police and help educate people on how we refer to the church. Just yesterday I was talking to a group of staff from our church, and mentioned the brand changes, reminding them of the rules in how we refer to our church. A few jaws dropped. Old habits die hard.

But the effort to keep the brand unified, and to keep our story compelling and not confusing is a worthwhile one. We still have a ways to go.

Mickey’s Commandment #7: Tell one story at a time

Part 7 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt in a recent conference.

7. Tell one story at a time.

This one really resonated with me.

The Magic Kingdom is a great example of how Disney does this. They use the “utilador” under the main park to get people from area to another. You will never see someone dressed for work in Tommorrowland walking through Frontierland. You can’t even see Frontierland from Tommorrowland. There is one theme in each area, and they have gone out of their way to make sure you only experience one at a time. Part of this relates back to the previous commandment.

They know that multiple stories distract from each other. They know that mixing up stories can confuse people.

I asked a question about this commandment: When you work with very talented people, who have a lot of stories to tell, how do you limit them to just one? If you use the storyboard analogy, it may be that the new story could fit in another time, and the main story progresses. Or it may be that while the new story idea is amazing, it just won’t fit into the overall story line. That doesn’t make it a bad story, just not the right for one.

I see the “storyboard” as the vision for the church, the plot. And the various story lines that come into play as ministries an events, and mission endeavors that help bring that vision to fulfillment. If a “story” doesn’t progress along the main plot, it’s a distraction. it shouldn’t make it past the edit. Not because that story is bad, or worth less than another, but because it doesn’t fit with the plot of the storyboard.

Telling one story at a time helps us keep consistent in our messages. I can’t say that going on a mission trip is the most important thing you can do if I have already said that the most important thing you can do is get involved in a small group. If I am telling the same story, then I am telling people to get into a small group and grow, and then look for ways to serve through local and global missions.

When we are not all telling the same story, we find ourselves in competition for attention. And we are not competing with the world, we are competing with each other.

What is the purpose of your local body? What has God called your church or ministry to do? Do it, and keep all your efforts working toward that common goal. Don’t let good things distract you from the things God has called you toward.

Mickey’s Commandments #6: Avoid Overload

Part 6 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt in a recent conference.

6. Avoid Overload

It seems simple enough. Yet, here is Walt Disney World, with every kind of distraction, attraction, and whimsical pastime known to man. Avoid overload? How does Disney avoid overload.

They pace themselves, or rather, they pace us. As you enter the parks you can’t see everything at the same time. The characters don’t stay out too long. They create an environment that allows or stimulation, but not overload.

We are going through something related to this at work. We are not the only church that is doing this. In a culture filled with images and messages, trying to communicate clearly to the church body is more and more difficult. We know that too much information becomes overload, it becomes noise. So, we are trying to pull back, and limit the amount of communication… to limit the sheer volume.

For the past few weeks we have been classifying event promotion based on size of the potential audience. The smaller the potential audience, the more targeted the promotional strategy must be. It has been a change, which some have not embraced. It’s mostly the smaller events we are filtering out of the main communication tools which are causing the complaints. Once we explain why we are doing what we are doing, balancing the requests for promotion with the ability of the audience to process it, most people understand. What this means is that smaller events must use alternate methods of communication; Use your mailing lists, send home notes to parents, announce things in age related classes, make some phone calls.

If we don’t do this we will overload the audience. We just do too much stuff. Large churches always do a lot of events, and have a lot of activity (it’s one of the bonuses of being a large church) but in order to help us reach our ministry goals it is important that e focus our congregation’s attention on the most important messages. We have to pace the congregation’s process of information.

Mickey’s Commandment #5: Communicate with visual literacy

Part 5 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as presented by Michael Lingerfelt in a recent conference.

5. Communicate with visual literacy

Simply tell stories visually.

From theme parks to movie, Disney tells stories. Everything they design is laid out in a visual storyboard. Every attraction communicates a story. And they do it in a post-literate society.

For a few years now I have been talking about the shift toward post-literacy. More people get more of the information from audio and video sources than print. Magazines and news papers are declining, and not just because we can read the same content online, but because we can listen to the same content, and watch the same content. Print isn’t dead, but it’s in the hospital.

Nothing will replace the feel of reading a good book, but soon (if not already) that will be a small part of gathering information in an average person’s life. People will watch TV, movies, podcasts, web streams, and listen to radio, music, podcasts and web streams on their home, car and mobile devices.

Christians could be described as people of the Book, of THE Book. The Holy Bible, the Living Word of God is a text. It’s print. Written by men under the diving inspiration of God, preserved through history, and the message contained in its pages is available for anyone. Anyone who cares to read it.

Western society is changing. If people are moving away from reading as their primary source of information how can the message contained in those pages be communicated? We must use the media people are consuming to communicate eternal truth. In this respect, using imagery to convey story is critical.

Lingerfelt talked about his work at Saddleback Church in California. Their design for a Children’s Ministry building incorporated over 40 points of story communicated visually, communicated experientially. Their use of visual image helps kids lean and understand the story of creation.

How are we using visual stories to communicate eternal truth? What imagery have we created? What stories are we telling through video? That environments are we creating that convey truth visually?

Mickey’s Commandments #4: Create a visual “weinie”

Part 4 in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments, as related by Michel Lingerfelt at a recent conference. This one needs a bit of explaining…

4. Create a visual “weinie”

While no one seems to know for sure what Walt Disney meant by “weinie” one explanation I like is as follows: Disney had a dog. He would train it to follow him by feeding it piece of hot dogs. The theory is that this commandment relates to that. A visual “weinie” is something people see that draws them toward a place.

During our conference our speaker Michael Lingerfelt talked about when MGM (now Disney’s Hollywood) Studios opened there was no giant magician’s hat. The main visual element was an imitation of Grauman’s Chinese theater. While impressive in it’s own right, the theater failed to draw people toward the center of the park. Without the visual draw people congregated at the front, and cast members had to actually move people along toward the attraction, away from the entrance.

Now, every park has a central “weinie” which visually draws people in; from the hat at Hollywood, the Tree of Life in Animal Kingdom, Spaceship Earth at EPCOT, and of course the castle at Magic Kingdom. These images are iconic, almost like a logo for each park.

This commandment is more difficult to apply to church life in general, unless you are in a building program. Having a strategically placed, large iconic structure on property could help draw people toward your main worship center, or focus them toward other areas.

But if we shift this a bit, you can also see that a strong brand identity, which may be symbolized by a logo or image could draw people toward information about your ministry. An easily identifiable ministry logo may help someone who is looking for help know where to go, who to ask. For example, if you have a children’s check-in location at your church, you may want to use the children’s ministry branding to help guide parents and families to that location.

Mickey’s Commandments #3: Organize the flow of people and ideas

The 3rd in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments, as related by Michel Lingerfelt at a recent conference. Building on the last two Commandments, this one starts to put into practice what you learned.

3. Organize the flow of people and ideas.

You know your audience, and what their experience is like, now take steps to help people hear and understand the messages your are trying to communicate.

From the time you exit the airport, Disney has tried to move you through an experience. You head down to the lower levels of the airport, and check in for the Disney’s Magical Express. They tag your bags, which later appear in your room. Once you arrive at the resort, you may find that your room is not ready. No problem, they check you in, give you a number to call, and let’s go ahead and activate your park admission on the room key. Feel free to go enjoy one of your days at the park. When you come back your room will be ready and your bags will be waiting. No waiting or worrying. They are moving you through the experience, toward the attractions.

As you enter the park the experience is still controlled. The next time you are in Magic Kingdom, notice the forced perspective used in the construction of Mainstreet. Everything drives you toward the large castle at the end of the street. People naturally flow into the center of the park. As you get closer to the castle, the upper levels of the buildings shrink, giving the illusion that the castle is much larger than it really is. The upper balconies on the castle have rails about 2 feet tall, which give the illusion of scale and size. From here there are clear paths to take. Tomorrowland? Maybe head for Big Thunder Mountain or Splash Mountain? It’s a Small World or Dumbo?

In larger churches especially, it is easy to forget to give people clear paths toward discipleship, involvement, even salvation. We do a lot of things, and have a lot of ground to cover. At my church, research shows that most of our people move from a large worship experience to small groups, and then into service. This mirrors our vision statement, which is, “Passion for God, Passion for people, and Passion to serve.” In most cases, people follow a path that is similar to the order of those “passion” statements. This doesn’t mean that this is always the case, but our data suggests this is the norm. This is something that we want to continue.

So, it is our job to make sure that people in worship learn about small groups, and people in small groups learn about opportunities for service. We don’t always do this well, but we are aware. Like a lot of churches, we can get people to come to an event, but we are running about 50-60% of worship attendance in small groups. Our challenge is how we organize the flow of ideas and people from large services to small groups. How do we do that in this culture? In this tourist-destination town?

When people come through your ministry, do you throw information at them and hope something sticks, or do you have a strategy to present ideas, and motivate people toward movement? From the review of the experience of your guests, how does everything from parking lot to pew to pot-luck help move people toward the things God has called your church toward?

Mickey’s Commandment #2: Wear your guest’s shoes.

The 2nd in a 10 part series on Mickey’s Commandments as shared by Michael Lingerfelt.

2. Wear your guest’s shoes.

Just like #1, this one was not a surprise either. Disney invented themed experiences at amusement parks. They take very seriously the guest experience. Magic Kingdom is designed so that you have to leave your car far away, and get transported across the Seven Seas Lagoon to the park. From the moment you enter the park, everything is designed to direct you, and guide your experience. Even as simple as “coming attraction” posters on the walls as you enter under the train station, which increase anticipation.

You can bet that Disney has people walking through the experience at every one of their properties on a regular basis. They want to know what people see, feel, and hear as they spend the day. If something is wrong, or getting outdated, they will make changes.

I doubt that any new program or attraction was ever constructed without some sort of pre-visualization. They storyboard everything. They pour over the details of the experience before they execute it.

When we have new ideas about programs or events, do we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the target audience? How will this feel? Are we missing something? Have we made it very clear what the steps are? Do we know what we hope to see happen from start to finish?

Are we going back and looking at our current practices through new eyes? Have we been doing some things so long that we don’t realize there are better more effective ways to reach the same goals? Are we driving people away without even knowing it, simply because we have not taken the time to review what we do, and how we do it?

Put yourself in the shoes of a newcomer. What is that experience like?

What does the used-to-be-single person experience in the transition to married life?

What are the people you are ministering to experiencing in your ministry? Do you need to change some things?