8 Questions with Catholic Videographer, Lisa Johnston

The Archdiocese of St. Louis is hosting a Eucharistic Congress, June 24 – June 26. To promote the event, they launched a website, and also produced an impressive video (see below) that demonstrates the potential of multimedia in the work of evangelization.

The videographer, Lisa Johnston, has a background in photojournalism and has her own company, aeternus design, which specializes in visuals (photography, fine art, web design).

Johnston answered some questions from Craig Berry by e-mail from her home in St. Louis.

1. What equipment did you use to make the video? (Computer, Camera, Microphone, Software)

Lisa Johnston


Shhh, don’t tell anyone but did you know that Nikon DSLR’s now have full screen HD capability?! Canon users have an edge right now (the overall image quality of Canon already has that warm cinema look to it) and there is even a “hack” for the camera’s firmware called Magic Lantern. The software is open platform and used to manipulate things such as on-screen audio meters, manual gain control with no AGC, custom cropmarks for 16:9. I would love to give the system a try but am not comfortable leaving Nikon just yet. I am looking forward to what I hope is the near future where the Nikon D3s will have full screen HD instead of just their D7000 and more control for independent film makers. Maybe though Santa Claus might bring me a nice new RED One camera for Christmas. (not very likely!)

Sound must always be recorded separately from your camera. There is NO way to get around this. When building a multi-media piece you can not cut corners on the sound. I try to really build a complete package with a story and every component is as important as the next. I have a Zoom H4N and it is a brilliant little piece of equipment. This particular little film actually just has a soundtrack though so I didn’t have do any mixing. And, I applaud everyone involved in the project for going with such an invigorating and cinematic musical theme!

Software? Well, I’m pretty loaded up on my Mac. From Adobe Creative Suite to Final Cut Studio I’m ready for most media. A great tool for quick and easy multimedia slide show building is called Soundslides. Its made for journalists and is pretty straight forward to learn. I also use Sound Studio for audio. I am sure there are other simple audio editors to choose from but this has been in my toolkit for years. I think I first discovered it back in 2005 when I began working on a Podcasting apostolate here in St. Louis.

2. What was your biggest ‘technical’ challenge in putting this video together?

I think my broken tripod leg was my biggest adversary!!

3. You’re originally a photographer. Do you think it helped the end-result?

You know, I feel really quite blessed to have some sort of visual ability. All my life folks must have thought me quite odd when I would stop on a dime to look at amazing light or a fascinating play of shadows. Light just mesmerizes me and I get caught up in it. I seem to see some wisp or subtle gesture of God in these moments and they turn into a time for meditation for me. I can’t wait to someday witness the true source of this light – may it be His holy will!

To try and answer your question better I would say that yes, being a photographer does certainly help, but it is a matter of seeing with the eyes of the heart which I believe is most important and perhaps key to my approach. Each day of shooting begins with prayer and continues with quiet prayer as I am working (even if I sometimes feel like I’m moving at 200 mph I try and maintain an inner quiet. However, no matter how much I try to maintain this quiet, I certainly acknowledge the quiet is really nothing that comes from my own strength but is a grace which comes from God — I thank Him for that!!!) In this project since we were making a film about Jesus in the Eucharist, I wanted especially to “be” with Him as closely as possible so that I may “show Him” to others.

4. How did you export it? That is, file type and resolution.

I used Final Cut to produce the film. The raw Nikon footage is first converted using Compressor to Apple ProRes 422 because this is the format which is most friendly in Final Cut. Once things are complete, I output via Quicktime conversion using H.264 Codec and compression at 24fps at best quality. The output size is 1280?×?720 HD. The working video files are immense and the timelapse sequences are incredibly big. My little iMac with just 4GB of memory was always out of breath after it was done compiling.

5. How long did it take to shoot all the footage and how long to edit?

There was a zero budget for this production which makes creativity all the more fun. And I mean that it was really fun and exciting to think outside of the box a bit. I love a challenge and I loved the time spent focused on the Eucharist. I think from the initial idea to make a video to coming up with the concept and beginning to shoot plus edit the final project was about 6 or 8 weeks. The concept was most important to get in my head so we could be narrowly focused on obtaining the right style of footage.

Shooting took place in many locations throughout the Archdiocese. The “crew” was mostly just me with great contributions from 6 members of the core marketing team who volunteered to help on some scenes. May they have many, many blessings for their help to me!!! It has been a long time since I felt so a part of a true team and that is the relationship which formed between us all during this project. The experience was so completely wonderful because we were/are so excited about this Eucharistic Congress. When we realized the evangelization potential for this video was perhaps even greater than promoting this one single event it motivated us all the more. Everyone gave 1,000% of themselves because we love our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament and want to serve Him by showing Him to the world. How awesome is that!

6. Did you have any difficulty in getting permission for the shots or did anyone need to sign a release form?

Everyone involved in this project was thrilled to be involved with it. There were no “actors” just souls who wanted to participate in helping bring other souls to know Jesus in the Eucharist. Most of the scenes were shot during real Eucharistic events like Benediction and Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Mass. What you see are authentic views of Catholic worship. It is that true quality of faith which draws a soul to long for what it sees hidden under the guise of a small white host.

I think the most wonderful surprise you get in the film is to see the cloistered Discalced Carmelite Nuns! The Nuns have a special apostolate in the Archdiocese as they were asked many years ago by the Bishop to provide perpetual Eucharistic Adoration in their chapel for the faithful of St. Louis. On one side of their chapel the monstrance is available for public adoration but the Sisters are also always praying on their own cloistered side. It is not usual to gain such special permission to see inside their cloistered area. I credit the Sister’s true humility and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for making that possible. Certainly the Archdiocese owes so much to these wonderful and courageous souls who lead a hidden life with Christ as they intercede for all of humanity. They are so inspirational to me and I personally have such a great and deep love for the sacrifices they make on our behalf. It’s pretty awesome too that we get to see the beautiful face of their youngest novice. What another amazing inspiration!

7. Who ‘championed’ the cause inside the Archdiocese?

The champion (and I do mean champion!) would be the Director of Marketing, Elizabeth Westhoff. She really understands the need to communicate “socially” as well as traditionally and is so full of enthusiasm to do so. She had a great way of rolling this project out to give it the most local impact within the curia and to get the word out to the Parishes. The “launch” of the video came during an all hands curia meeting with the Archbishop. It was the final presentation of the meeting and everyone was eager to watch. The lights went down low, the sound went way up and the film played on a 20 foot rear projection screen to a captivated audience. The film is not what you might ordinarily expect to see as a promotional video so we could only pray the reaction would be what we hoped for. It was great to get such a positive response! The entire focus of publicity for this event has been to use social media. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, blogging outlets have been the outlets to spread the word.

8. Is there any interest in doing more videos like this in the future for the Archdiocese?

There has already been quite a number of requests so I think this is only the beginning!

Contact Info for Lisa Johnston

email: lisa@aeternus.com

twitter: http://twitter.com/aeternusphoto

LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/lisajohnston2009

Eucharistic Congress Promo Video

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Author:Craig Berry

Craig Berry is a Catholic web developer and musician.
Connect with him online.
  • Elizabeth Westhoff

    Lisa was such a gift to have as we were attempting to create the promotional materials for the Eucharistic Congress.
    I hope your readers will enjoy the video–and that it will move them to attend the Congress, if possible–and will be able to lose themselves, a bit, in the imagery of the Blessed Sacrament that Lisa was so masterfully able to capture.
    Thank you, very much, for taking the time to give us a “shout out.”  It is much appreciated!
    God bless,
    Elizabeth Westhoff
    Director of Marketing, Archdiocese of St. Louis

  • Sid Hastings

    Another beautiful production from the talented Lisa Johnston. Great work!

  • Brad

    That’s a great production.  Video is a lot different than photography.  Unfortunately there is little in terms of direction especially compared to photography.  

  • Sid Hastings

    Here’s a link to another absolute gem from Lisa over on Vimeo:

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