Mobile Media Ministry #1: Getting Equipped with the Hardware and Software You Need

Hardware/Software For Gathering and “Mobile-izing” Existing Audio/Video (A/V) Materials

Often times there are good A/V outreach materials available for use among a people you work with but getting those materials into an appropriate format for sharing via your mobile phone requires some amount of technology and knowledge. You may need special tools to access and alter existing audio/video media in order to be able to use it in mobile media outreach including tools that allow for:

1. Converting materials from analog to digital format

In order for you to get A/V media onto your phone it must first be in a digital format, rather than tape format

  1. Converting Cassette Tapes- You need some hardware to do this (at a minimum a tape player and a cable with two-male ends in order to connect your tape player’s earphone jack to your computer’s microphone in-jack. An MP3 player with audio recording function or a specialized digital audio recorder may be even better. You can use the Windows Sound Recorder program (which comes pre-installed in Windows PCs) to record the audio to a file or try Audacity, a freeware download with more capabilities for editing audio.
  2. Converting VHS Videos- Here is where having a miniDV tape-based digital video recorder with A/V “in” ports can help. If you can play your VHS tape on a VHS machine that has its video out cables attached to the video in ports on your video recorder, you can record the video into digital format as it plays. You can do the same with a computer if it has a Firewire (IEEE 1394) port, a cord to attach your video player and the Firewire port, and specialized software. I don’t know which software to recommend for this. A relatively cheap alternative which I have yet to try but which seems to get decent ratings at Amazon would be to use a device like the Mygica EZGrabber2 or Geniatech iGrabber One Touch Video Grabber to connect your computer and a VHS player and digitize the VHS tapes.

2. Downloading videos from the internet

You may find some videos on the internet that you would like to use for your outreach but not know how to download them (sites like make it difficult). An excellent freeware program that allows you to download and save web videos as they load and play is Freecorder 4.  Other free programs include Miro, Real RealPlayer, Orbit Downloader, and      DownThemAll (an add-on for the Mozilla Firefox browser).  Another alternative that works for many, but not all, videos is copying the website URL address for the video and then pasting it in such websites as which will then convert the video in the digital format of your choice which you can then save on your computer hard drive.

3. Editing Videos

You need software that will allow you to accomplish various editing tasks on your videos.  You will want to check and make sure the software works with the various file types your initial video will be available in.  Some of the file formats that the program should work with include .avi, .mp4, .mov, .flv (from video sharing websites), .dat (from VCDs), and .vob (from DVDs).

Specific video editing functions the editing program will need to be able to perform include:

  1. Cutting out short clips from longer videos. Often times you will find yourself needing to clip out shorter sections of a longer video.
  2. Combining two or more segments of video (whether combining clips you have cut out from the same video or putting clips from different videos together).  Please do not worry about what kind of transition effects are available in your editing software.  Using inappropriate transitions is much worse than not using any transition effects at all.  If you really feel you must use a transition effect when combining segments only use “cross fade” and only use it when the story is changing location or you want to show that a period of time has passed.
  3. Adding text to a video. Providing a follow-on step/connection to allow those listening to/viewing mobile ministry media is key if you want the materials to move from being a dead end to being a door-opener to their interaction with God’s Word and people. Adding text to a video sharing a website, SMS contact number, radio station, etc. is one way to provide such a follow-on step.
  4. Adjusting audio levels (you oftentimes need to increase the volume for playback on mobile phones- this may be able to be done with a file formatting program at a later stage in the process).

Free Video Editing Software

You can use video editing software that you already own or which came pre-loaded on your computer (Windows Movie Maker on PCs running Windows XP/Vista or iMovie on Macs). For those using Windows 7 computers you can download Windows Live Movie Maker which is built for that system but has been described as “woefully lacking in features”. Some recommend combining the Windows Live Movie Maker with Windows Movie Maker 2.6 which apparently works fine on Windows 7 (it was intended for Vista computers) and has more powerful video editing features. One other editing program you can download from the web is Avidemux.  A list of other free and open source video editing programs can be found at Wikipedia 

Video editing programs which can only be used online and are free include YouTube Video Editor and the extremely powerful Lightworks (be aware that Lightworks is quite complicated and has a significant learning curve).  A list of other online video editing programs can be found here.  Additionally, some video editing can now be done on smartphones and tablets.  VideoMaker Magazine has a guide to potential apps and Cloud based video editing programs here.

Low Cost Video Editing Software

I am currently using Roxio Creator 2010 ($28 at time of writing). Although Roxio Creator seems to get consistently bad reviews I have found that it 1) Accepts most formats of video I want to work with, 2) Has an easy work flow, and 3) Has a lot of helpful settings for outputting to low end and high end mobile phones. It also has a ringtone creation function 🙂 ..  I previously used Videopad but ran into two issues that Videopad does not fully resolve.  First, if the video is in a .dat file (as is the case for many VCDs) Videopad will initially convert the video into another file format but that conversion process un-syncs the audio and video tracks.  VideoPad does give you the capability to manually re-sync the tracks but this adds an unhelpful level of complexity to the project.  Second, I have yet to find a program that allows me to segment and edit a DVD that contains multiple language tracks.  I have been recommended to try the Pegasys TMPGEnc MPEG Editor 3 ($65 USD) by a ministry that says it will work on multi-language DVDs but have not yet tried it.  Additionally, at a recent missions media conference, a number of individuals suggested using Apple QuickTime 7 Pro ($30 USD, For Mac, For Windows) but I do see that it has very poor reviews and I am not sure if they were Windows or Mac users so take that recommendation with a grain of salt.


4. “Mobilizing” Videos

Once you have edited out the video you need to convert it into a format that can be played on mobile phones. The two of the main video formats that mobile phones play are 3GP and MP4. I have had success in using the Freecorder 4 program (listed in #2 above) to convert .flv and .vob files to MP4 and 3GP as well as to convert MP4 files to 3GP (using it with other formats will also likely prove successful).

The program that is a consistent top pick for converting the file format and even tailoring the video for optimal viewing on particular mobile phones or for particular screen sizes is Format Factory.  Top notch features of this free program include a library of mobile phone models you can choose from, the ability to adjust audio volume and the ability to convert multiple files at one time make this my go to program for “mobilizing” videos.  Other programs with a strong reputation include Mobile Media ConverterHandBrake and Super.
5. Transfering media from the computer to a mobile phone

There are three ways to transfer media from your computer to a mobile phone

i)  If your mobile phone has a memory card (miniSD, microSD, etc.) you can use a USB microSD card reader  (such as the Sandisk MobileMate Micro SD & M2 Reader– $4 at Amazon) or a multi-card reader (such as the IOGear 12-in-1 Pocket Card Reader/Writer– $10 at Amazon) to upload materials from your computer onto the memory card. I purchased a simple multi-card reader where I lived in SW Asia for $3 and it has served me well.

In sending out materials to different teams I’ve been using the Kingston 2GB Multi Kit/Mobility Kit ($7) which allows me to give the team a 2GB microSD card with the outreach materials as well as a SD card and USB microSD card adapter that can be used for getting media between their computers and their phones’ microSD memory cards via either a USB port or SD card reader on their computer.

ii)  If your computer has Bluetooth you can send files by Bluetooth from the computer to your mobile phone. You could also purchase a USB Bluetooth “dongle” (such as the IOGear USB 2.1 Bluetooth Micro Adapter– $13 at Amazon) to allow for this.

iii)  If your phone has a mini-USB port you can use the included USB cord (or purchase an aftermarket one if it wasn’t included) and transfer files via the USB connection.


Hardware/Software For Creating New Mobile Media Ministry Audio/Video Materials

Perhaps you’ve got a great cultural insight into sharing the Gospel among the people you’ve been called to but you’ve always wished there was a way you could get it out to a wider audience. Praise the Lord that you don’t need a Hollywood budget nor Steven Spielberg credentials for creating new media that can dramatize and spread that Gospel presentation. Here’s some tools that can help in putting together simple mobile phone outreach media

1. Creating New Mobile Phone Audio Recordings

Good audio is crucial.  Lower quality video is more easily “forgiven” than low quality audio.  Depending on how high a quality result you want you can go anywhere from using the microphone on your mobile phone or computer on up to renting out a professional sound recording studio to produce new audio recordings.

I recommend using an external microphone when audio recording using a computer or cassette recorder/player.  Potential models to consider include the lower-end Nady SP-4C or Nady SP-5 (less durable, better for “studio” settings) or mid-range Azden ECZ-990 full size mics, Sony ECM-DS70P table top mic, or a lapel microphone like the Audio Technica ATR-35S or ATR-288W.

While a $50 digital recorder such as the Olympus VN-5200PC will work (it will have a hiss unless you use an external microphone) you will get much better results from the  Tascam DR-05 ($77). The Zoom H1 is highly recommended by amateur video producers and can be found for approximately $90.  If you really need very high quality recordings and extra features like XLR connectors recommended high-end digital audio recorders include the Tascam DR-40 ($158, make sure to update the firmware following this video tutorial) and the acclaimed Zoom H4N ($299).

One big recommendation would be to ALWAYS use headphones when recording as you will then be able to hear what is being recorded (like the scratching sound made by your subject rubbing their hands on their jeans, papers shuffling, etc.) and thereby avoid nasty surprises.  One low price recommendation would be the Behringer HPM1000 headphones for only $12 shipped (note that the jack fits into both large size stereo ports and, upon screwing off the larger adapter, fits the more common 3.5 mm port after screwing off the adapter)!

All aspects of audio editing can be handled using the Audacity freeware program.

2. Creating Video Out of Still Pictures/PowerPoint Type Slides

One of the easiest options for creating mobile phone video is by combining audio with pictures or PowerPoint type slides. Two options can help you to create videos out of still pictures/slides. The first is a using a specialized program meant to make videos out of pictures. One of the more popular freeware programs that does that is Microsoft’s Windows Live Photo Gallery 2010 (formerly Photo Story 3) which provides everything you need to create excellent video from pictures. A second option is to combine a slide presentation program such as Microsoft PowerPoint (a free alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint called “Impress” can be downloaded as part of the Open Office Suite) with a PowerPoint to video converter like Leawo’s Free PowerPoint to Video (to get free version scroll partway down the page and use download button under program on right) .  PowerPoint 2010 has a built in video conversion utility that allows you to turn self-running PowerPoints into videos (note that both Leawo and Microsoft’s products convert the PowerPoint files into WMV files which will need to be then converted into MP4 or 3GP files for play on mobile phones).

3. Creating New Video from Video Footage

This way of creating new media requires the greatest amount investment both financially as well as in skill development. You will need a video recorder (you could always just use the video recorder on your phone!) as well as the same video editing equipment listed in the beginning section of this paper.

Getting acceptable output to show on a three inch screen requires far less resources than producing for the large screen but you may still find yourself wanting a tripod, lighting, external microphones, etc.

Some sub-$500 recommended video recorders you could consider (in order of ascending price):

The video enabled pocket point and shoot or mobile phone you already own! (FREE)

Kodak PlayTouch ($110)  *poor reviews for video quality but has an external microphone in port which is not found until $285 elsewhere

Samsung W200 ($120) *waterproof

Sony WX9 ($150)

Canon Powershot 300 HS ($175)

Canon SX230 HS ($200)

Zoom Q3HD ($285)  *Excellent onboard microphone as well as a microphone-in port

Sony HX9V ($300)  *Highest quality pocket point and shoot video

Canon M400 ($320)/M40 ($350)/M41 ($380)  *M400 is my pick for fullest capabilities/best value for the money!

Panasonic HDC-SD90K ($350)/HDC-TM90K ($410)

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