Behind the Media – Playback Media’s Process

We asked our friends at Playback Media to give us a glimpse into their creative process. How do they do what they do? Jason from Playback was kind enough to give us the inside scoop on his creative process.

Behind the Media: Playback Media

The process of creating church media can take you on a wild ride of design emotions. The end product of the work can be such an awesome source of satisfaction, but the journey to get to that final design can have you feeling like Frodo at the end of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

As a designer, it’s taken me about a decade to get a decent grip on the peaks and valleys, the strikes and gutters, the highs and lows of the creative process. Now that I know my way around a little better, there are a few things that I always try to ensure happen when I’m designing:

When I’m designing, there’s usually a thought bubble above my head with people worshipping in it. My therapist ensures me that this is ok.

Most of the time in the world of art, the purpose of a work is to generate a response from the viewer. For example, whether you think a Jackson Pollock painting looks like an abstract masterpiece or something that a kindergartner left on the bus, it still gets you thinking about what art is. Church media design doesn’t usually fit that mold, though. The goal in this art form isn’t necessarily to elicit a response, but rather to support an atmosphere and create energy.

That’s why the question that I try to keep at the forefront of my noggin when I’m creating church media doesn’t have much to do with how awesome the video looks to me. Instead, I want to know “How does this design reinforce the experience of the churchgoer who encounters it?” At each point in the design process, from concept to final product, it’s something that I try to tap into.

By keeping the audience in mind, I stay rooted in the purpose of what I’m doing and keep my decision-making process sharp. Whether I’m trying to determine the speed of a motion or the legibility of text, it helps to remain guided by what will best serve the churchgoer’s experience.

 If we’re being honest, there should really be a section in this image for ice cream sandwiches. Ice cream sandwiches inspire me to my core.

It may be cliché, but it’s true: there’s artistic inspiration everywhere that you look.

I am inspired by things that I hear in sermons, by the poetry of scripture and by the beauty of nature. It’s pretty common to see me snapping pictures with my phone of anything that catches my eye. The only downside is that I’ve likely creeped out a fair number of people by longingly staring at the texture of a wall or the sunlight peeking through trees.

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One of the really great, super smart people I get to work with recently gave me the book Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative. It’s been a healthy reminder of why and how to use the inspiration all around me to create original work. Lately I’ve found a lot of creative energy from movies, advertising, a museum trip and, um… signage. Man, I sound like such a dork! But so be it, I’m going to lean into my dorkiness: Marshall’s Home Goods has awesome signage around their store. At least my local Marshall’s Home Goods does.

So, if you’re keeping score, my suggestions here are that you creep people out with your cell phone and lean into your dorkiness. Psych, what I’m really trying to say is that if you’re looking for some good inspiration, just look around. It’s right in front of you!


Nothing about my design process is Hollywood, except for the fact that my stress level seems to follow the basic plot structure of a movie.

The longer I work in motion design, the more comfortable I become at letting the design process take its course. In other words, I’m getting better at not giving up on an idea or design, even when it doesn’t seem to be working. When I’m putting together a set of concepts, the process usually flows in this order:

  1. Try lots of different styles, throw as many ideas at the wall as possible and see what sticks
  2. Hmm, nothing seems to have stuck. Try a bunch of other stylistic approaches
  3. AAAUGH! None of this is working, frustration meter is about to blow, try a few more options as a last-ditch effort
  4. Blink surprisingly at computer because the last adjustment made one of the designs work
  5. Say a prayer of thanks, stash away the good concept(s) and start again at step 1

Occasionally, everything falls into place and I jump straight from step one to step five, but that’s kind of rare. It’s been rewarding for me to develop a trust in the creative process and learn that even when it feels like nothing is working, something great could still be right around the corner.

My teammates pick their favorite designs, provide great feedback and let me know when I’ve spelled basic words rong.

I’ve learned that it’s important to seek out and trust other voices.  I’m often too deep in the weeds to notice something obvious, or too critical of a design to know that it actually works.

When I first got into the business of producing church media, I was my own design critic (Spoiler alert: that’s not a great thing). I would create some content, decide whether I liked it, then I’d put it up for sale. Somehow it worked out pretty well, but when I look back I realize that there were no real artistic checks and balances in my process. After a few years of working this way, I received an offer to also create content as part of the Playback Media team. Joining Playback turned out to be like fertilizer for my creativity. I now get to work with a group of incredibly talented folks.

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Nowadays when I’ve finished developing a set of concepts, I get to sit down with a bunch of funny, intelligent, invested people and get their take on what’s working and what’s not. The team picks our favorite designs and offers feedback to take the content to the next level. It also really helps to work next to my buddy Jeremy, who’s a supernova level talent. He’s the guy that I drew above in the silly outfit because, well, we like to prank each other.

If you’re an artist of any sort, do your best to surround yourself with fellow creators that can provide healthy feedback, either online or in person. The critique has, at least for me, proven an incredible catalyst for growth.

Good news: there are no student loans, stressful deadlines, or smelly roommates at this school of higher learning.

I’m not always diligent about keeping my skills up, sometimes I rely too heavily on the toolbox I have and get a little complacent. That’s why it’s helped me a lot lately to redevelop both my design skills and technical proficiency by watching online tutorials. There are so many great teachers out there, like Andrew Kramer of Video Copilot. If I were a gambling man, and I am, I would say that about 85% of what I know about After Effects comes from the weeks worth of online tutorials I’ve viewed.

Just like physical exercise, working out your brain can provide a lot of awesome benefits. I’d encourage you to do the same type of online learning, no matter what field or industry you work in. There are so many tips, tricks and techniques that are available for free in online tutorials.

I still find the process of creating church media to be one of the most exciting things I’ve done in my career. It’s especially rewarding because, at least these days, I feel equipped with a better understanding of the design process and I have a HUGE amount of support to pursue creative ideas. Developing new concepts can sometimes take me on a wild ride of design emotions, but when I trust the process, the end product can be a versatile resource for churches.


Again, a big thanks to Jason and the team at Playback Media for taking the time to go through this process. They have a vast library of content on the site…over 18,000 offerings! Take a look at their full library and make more great environments!

Tim Southwick

Author Tim Southwick

Tim is the Brand Manager for TripleWide Media. He has 10 years experience in the event management world and has a strong desire to see visuals and media used to increase the user experience.

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