For those interesting in creating videos, I thought I'd pop on some of my rough notes from Saturday's panel (ie the presentation without a presentation due to my missing chord!) as well as the final version of my video on Potter versus Potter, Harry versus Andrew, and the Search for Authenticity in a theme park -- complete with the TBEX cameo. Thanks for chipping in everyone!
Making a blog video.
1. 'Just Do It,' as Nike says. Or as I prefer, 'If you're thinking about making videos, you ought to execute these ideas now as opposed to later-- rather than waiting, that is.' Really, just try it.
2. Raw ain't shabby. A shot and brief talk of a 99-year-old shoe shiner in Caracas who will retire on his next birthday can be a raw, 30-second piece, with three clips crudely pasted together in a flash (I learned Mac's iMovie by playing around on it -- very simple) -- AND be effective. What you see around you, SO MANY will never see. And so much of what we experience doesn't make it into our blogs either.
3. Develop your style/format/template, live. In my humble opinion, don't wait for perfection to begin -- I found my general 76-Second template as I went, which now gradually settled on: starts with question of week, credits, then pulls point as far from
subject while still ostensibly connected, then brings back. With jokey video outro after end credit over dark. The music is from failed bands I've been in. (Mostly.)
4. Call it a 'show.' A sense of consistency can help build a following. For starters, try to load five or so videos on YouTube to start things, so someone who sees a clip can immediately scroll others on your channel. (Otherwise, they won't remember to come back.) And calling it a 'show' seems to make it one. People really take that word seriously (evidence: tricking Kim Mance to allow me to speak at a TBEX panel).
5. Be brief. Some say you can go three or four minutes and hold attention. I really try for two. And occasionally make it. Also in each shot -- I try to trim and trim and trim, to get to most basic element of shot. Just like cutting unnecessary adjectives after rough draft. Sometimes a 14-second interview goes to six seconds. I like the quick-cut edit, and try for that whenever possible.
6. Flippant/offhand interviews may work best. When writing, a drawn-out conversation with a brilliant person leads to memorable quotes in an article or blog post. Not always with video. Sometimes my least satisfying interview makes the point I need best -- a two-second shot of someone going 'these TRAVEL PANTS changed my life!' etc.
7. Use the phone. Some of the time, reality is, we're cubicle travelers -- digging up things from a computer. The phone is almost always better. You really can learn a lot by calling and asking questions. For example, where to luge or who would win in a fight, Vikings or pirates? When writing college town features for ESPN's College Game Day website last year, I tracked down an Ohio State guy who hadn't missed a Buckeye home game since 1946 -- his take on tailgating, game-day traditions was classic 'travel' for me, even though I've not yet been there. Just saying.
8. Shoot loads. Back when we used to read actual newspapers, clipped-out and saved articles were almost always more interesting for what was on the back side of the piece we thought we'd want to keep. Ie, It's hard to know what to document in the moment, in any moment.
So I try for lots of things -- the details I see in a place, and may want to use later. A street sign in Berlin, chuckling donut eaters in Plovdiv, a badger crossing sign in Bismarck. Video classes teach to be economical in what you shoot, but, me, I don't always know where the story's heading (like Def Leppard's recording techniques on 'Pour Some Sugar on Me') -- like some articles/posts on travel experiences -- so I get a little of everything on the way.
Sure, I'm probably wrong. But I'm not a video professional and don't claim to be. And sometimes you can pull out something (eg the Bulgarian traditional dance in the video above), you never thought you'd need.
9. Mix up interview styles. In one video on the African
Burial Ground museum in New York, I had 30 minutes of stiff interviews with park rangers wearing those cute park-ranger hats. The last was a woman who moved up specifically to work there from Arkansas. I gave a conversational question, not looking into view finder as if the 'formal interview' was done -- and got a fairly emotional outburst. It ended up the only quote I used. The rest informed my voice-over and subtitling.
10. Re-read point 1.
Lastly, here's a bit more on what went into the video above.
Spent about five hours editing this -- always longer than I want, but with simply the goal of getting something out quick, immediate. No intention of being 'professional.' Added talking-head bits last second to fill gaps.
I edited with an old version of iMovie (older version than Kim Mance's fancy one from the other day). And shot with my Sanyo Xacti (because Matt Gross told me to); the Bulgaria bits are old FlipVideo files. Xacti allows external mic, which is huge. Flip doesn't have it.
On occasion, I doubled the audio track and bumped to '10' to help balance. Audio is often biggest problem, sometimes I add subtitles to help -- or fake dub quote with fake Russian accent.
The story is simply the enthusiasm of the Potter fans -- often I try to stay out of subjects' way in videos. Let them talk. But I did have to address the other Potter a bit.
I'm still learning as I go, pleased by some results, less by others -- and not afraid to show the process as I go.