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Curating a Visual Library

Curating a Visual Library

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One of my all-time favorite books is “The Art of Curating Worship: Reshaping the Role of Worship Leader,” by New Zealander Mark Pierson. In his book, Mark offers up an idea: seeing the worship event as art – art that has a “worship curator.” This person oversees and designs the experience with a holistic approach that is slightly more than you might find in today’s typical modern worship services. Being a curator is much more than leading songs, and it’s much deeper than being a producer who simply executes the event flawlessly.

From ideation to execution, we all have our own way of creatively processing thoughts and transforming them into reality. When I read Mark’s book, I felt for the first time that someone else understood my process. And when someone provides a language for describing the way you create art, you learn to see your world more clearly and more intentionally. You should go read the book for yourself. Trust me.

Without giving too much away, I’d like to give you a brief overview of the curating process and how to apply it when building a visual media library. I believe this approach will help you create stronger media presentations that can impact the visual experience of community worship. At the end of the day, it’s all about choosing the right image for the right moment.

Aggregation

“Aggregation is one of the core concepts of content presentation … it simply means pulling together things which are not necessarily connected.” – Mike Shaztkin

You are already aggregating content whether you think you are or not, because at some point you’ve collected loops and images, as well as tools to help you project them. But it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and constantly use the same motion loops repeatedly. After a while, it can become monotonous and stale. To keep things fresh, you should constantly be on the lookout for new visuals.

To keep things fresh, you should constantly be on the lookout for new visuals.

It’s a lot of pressure having to come up with new ideas (and new images) for every single worship event. So for me, I choose not to aggregate simply on an event-to-event basis. Instead, I am always on the lookout for content that moves me. The content I am looking for may not have anything to do with next week’s event, nor are the images I’m searching for connected in any way. But this is the best way for me to stock up and build a powerful arsenal of imagery. Then, when the time comes for a certain image, I have it locked, loaded, and ready to go. Do this for a few years, and you’ll have quite the stockpile!

“Rather than thinking of aggregation as a task, however, I suggest thinking of it as a lifestyle. It involves developing an ability to see the stuff of ordinary life.” – Mark Pierson

If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, here’s where I get all of my backgrounds. Maybe that will help.

Filtering

The next step is filtering, or as Mark Pierson says, “pruning.” It’s deciding what works and what doesn’t work. You have to say, “yes” to a few things and “no” to hundreds of others. You are faced with a myriad of criteria when selecting images, which demands a good filtering process.  And in order for you to filter effectively, your media needs to be categorized and organized properly.

The key to this is having a solid, yet simple, system that supports the way you think but is also volunteer-friendly. Keeping your hard drive and software’s playlist system in order will help you (or your volunteer) quickly find the right content at the right time.

There are two aspects to organizing media:

  • File and folder organization on your hard drive.
  • Playlist/bin organization in your software.

When it comes to deciding which file goes where, filter your content through these categories:

  • Resolution: Is it single-wide, triple-wide, SD, HD?
  • Format: Is it a motion (video), still, quartz, or _____?
  • Color: What’s the dominant color of the content?
  • Producer Name: Like bands, producers have a certain artistic style.
  • Volume: Producers usually release their content in volumes, which can help you in remembering when it was released and how fresh the loop is.
  • Image-Content: clouds, mountains, particles, snow, dirt, stars, galaxies, water, rain, stained-glass, cathedrals, abstract, candles, long-play montages, text, scripture, names of God, etc.
  • Speed: Is it a slow, medium, or fast-paced loop?
  • Real vs Fake: Is the content of something in the real world (i.e., film-based) or is it fake (i.e., CG)?
  • Story vs Atmosphere: Does the content tell a story? Or does it simply provide a backdrop and create an environment for telling a story?

I usually keep my hard drive organized by this hierarchy:
Resolution > Format > Producer Name > Volumes

I then go into my presentation software and create playlists according to most of these categories. This way, I can find what I need very quickly and in the moment, as many times VJ-ing (video jockeying) is dynamic and on-the-fly. If I have time to prepare, I’ll go one step further and create playlists for each song/moment, and filter content into those playlists.   Some content even calls for literal “pruning,” such as setting in/out-points for the section of video I want.

Curating

Curating is arranging and presenting the visual media in time and space in order to tell a story and create an environment.
The last step is the actual curating or presentation of the content. It’s arranging and presenting the visual media in time and space in order to tell a story and create an environment. The filtered playlists might become a linear presentation, and many times they turn into a batch of ideas that I can chose from in the moment. (I live for the adrenaline rush. What can I say!) This is the essence of true VJ-ing, which is more or less “PowerPoint on steroids.” You can read more about VJ-ing here.

I can’t tell you what images you should be projecting. But this process can help you make better, stronger decisions – decisions that will affect what your community sees when they worship together! What an amazing opportunity we all have, and what a responsibility, too! Let’s steward our tools, resources, and images well.

About The Author

Stephen Proctor

Stephen Proctor is a VJ, media producer, and curator of visual worship who travels all over the world seeking to illuminate the Church's imagination through moments of wonder and astonishment. He's based out of Nashville and shares resources, stories and his passion for visually creative worship on his blog, worshipVJ.com.

1 Comment

  1. Alex

    Great post! I’ve found that just constantly being on the lookout for new visual media can really help build the collection, especially if your eyes are open to freebies! Looking back I’ve probably gotten close to 100 backgrounds in freebies. Another thing is that as you just look around you can find some great inspiration and new ideas!

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