Style Guidelines for Media Producers and Video Editors

Phil Cooke is someone of whom I have a great respect for his heart, work and vision. I…

Phil Cooke is someone of whom I have a great respect for his heart, work and vision. I mention him often on my blog. Recently, for TFWM, Phil Cooke shared his company’s thoughts on style guidelines. He said, “Today, to cut through the media clutter, the best method is often a whisper, rather than a scream. At Cooke Pictures, we’ve been working lately with our clients on some guidelines for video editors to help them understand how to make their programs contemporary and effective. In that process, I was talking to the Senior Producer and Editor at Cooke Pictures, Brian Mead, on some tips to help video editors give their programs more impact.” Here’s Brian’s thoughts:

1. As a general rule, stay in touch with current television, web design, and art. Secular TV will especially expose you to current style trends and ideas. We want faith-based programming to be up-to-date, contemporary, and relevant, and keeping up with current styles and formats is the key.

2. As a form of practice, record several hours of television and watch commercials, frame by frame if necessary. We recommend you begin by copying others work and style exactly until you are able to produce the same quality. Turn off the sound, and you’ll begin to focus on the production techniques and style. Look at graphic effects, and graphic animation. At the time of this writing, subtlety is what’s hot. No raging, blaring graphics, just simple, clean, and stylish.

3. Enjoy art of all kinds from traditional to current. Have a deep bench when it comes to your own personal knowledge of design, camera framing, and art.

4. Read the latest trade magazines. Production and post magazines from the entertainment and media industries help keep you up to date on what’s working for other organizations and give you new ideas.

6. Refer to fashion magazines for the proper use of current colors and fonts. Oddly enough, these types of magazines use color and font choices well. They are a great source of ideas.

7. Keep graphics clean and simple. Again, not screaming graphics. Today, people are expecting something much more unobtrusive as they watch the program.

8. Lower 3rds and graphics should not be busy. Make them readable and clear at first glance. Lower third does not mean lower two thirds. Use you screen space wisely, and if you have too much information, either change to a full page graphic, or use two successive lower thirds. Don’t be afraid of white space.

9. Rule of thumb when creating a spot or graphic – If you don’t understand it the first time, it’s failed. Meaning: If a viewer doesn’t understand it completely on first viewing, it doesn’t work. Chances are, the audience will see your TV spot only once, so you need to be clear and simple with your art, ideas, and info.

10. Use Avid or Final Cut vendor plug-ins that make sense, just don’t use a plug-in because you have them or because they look cool. We recommend not using any until you can push pure creativity to it’s limits. The top editors rarely use plug-ins. The key thing to remember regarding the look and feel is that it must reflect the story you’re telling. For instance, don’t use a grainy look just to make it different. In a similar way, wacky cam works wonderfully well on a movie like Man on Fire, but on The Gilmore Girls it would be a huge mistake. Your shooting and editing style should not be chosen in a vacuum. It must reflect the story you’re telling.

11. Use music to enhance your work, and use it to tell a story and accentuate the visuals. Today, music is a key element in all spots, segments, and programs. Choose your music cuts carefully and be very selective. Once again, use music to help you tell the story.

12. Keep to the style guide. The programs ALL need to have a uniform look and feel. If your church or ministry has a logo design and style guide, chances are, they were created after a lengthy branding and identity process and with many factors in mind. Therefore, focus your creativity on telling a great story, or capturing a powerful message, not creating unusual and unique graphics. All producers and editors need to work together to create programs that reflect the new branding direction. Having the Photoshop and/or After Effects elements determined ahead of time will free you up to focus your time and creativity on the program itself, and not be bogged down in creating graphic templates.

Phil goes on to say, “We encourage all the producers, directors, and editors to have a real desire to grow and be the best you can be. The media industry is changing at light speed, and if you’re not learning, you’re falling behind. Let’s commit to focusing our efforts on becoming the leading edge of television, and creating the format and template for what television should look like in the 21st Century.”


Wanna create your own countdowns? Marathon Church (via SermonSpice) is offering a chroma key countdown. It might be worth checking out for your media ministry.

*Anyone use Windows Vista, yet? What’s the word? I hear it’s pretty amazing. I know the beta has been out for a while. I’m curious as to if any of you have purchased it and are using the real deal.