My Project Week 2017 – Creating ‘My Filmmaking History’ Short Film

Haven’t updated in a couple of weeks.  Had a half week two weeks ago with student-led conferences in the latter half, then last week was Project Week.  While Project Week is primarily for students, I like to take the week to create my own project as well.  This year I wanted to create something that was an amalgamation of a few different videos I’ve seen in the past year.  A lot of people do a draw-my-life on YouTube, one YouTuber did a film-my-life, and another YouTuber shared his filmmaking beginnings.  My short film ended up being mostly a ‘filmmaking history’ that naturally was a short glimpse of my life on camera as a whole.  Here’s the final product:

A little bit on the process if you’re curious:

GATHERING FOOTAGE
  • I digitized all of our home movies a few months ago.  Took a couple days but was fun to watch through and gave me and idea of what I had to work with.
  • I sifted through all my old computers and hard drives for all of my previous movie files.  Couldn’t find a lot of the original YouTube channel files but just downloaded them off my old channel.
  • Starting the project meant bringing just about every video I’ve ever done into the video editing software and then starting to pull small clips of things that I could possibly use.  This took the longest with the home movies as I not only could potentially use the big stuff like birthdays and Christmas but thinking through the everyday footage…how could I incorporate that?
  • The post home-movie era was a little bit easier as those videos were already edited to have just the best shots and I could pull the best of the best.  I knew a challenge would be the videos that had me saying something that I wanted to use but also had music in the background…whatever music that was there would likely conflict with the music I planned on using with this video.  You can kind of hear that in the clip of me when I arrived in Athens.
WRITING THE SCRIPT
  • Once I had all my clips (which totaled out to about 25 minutes), I started to write my script.  I knew I wanted my video to be 6-8 minutes long so as I wrote, I would read it out loud and time it, knowing that it would probably be even longer than that since there would be pauses while the video plays.
  • I separated out my script into four sections (or acts if you will).
    • Act 1 – home movies
    • Act 2 – first real edited videos in college
    • Act 3 – starting to make videos as an educator
    • Act 4 – creating YouTube content

I wanted to make sure I communicated that I love the craft of telling a story through video as well as the satisfaction of finishing and sharing.  I thought I could tie it all together since the very first home videos were actually made to share since my dad and his brothers would send the home videos back and forth to each other when we lived in Germany and they lived in the US.  I thought I could connect that to how I now share on YouTube.

  • I kept reading the script out loud and changing things to make them sound more natural and conversational; my writing voice is slightly different than my speaking voice.  I thought about having one of my fellow English teachers revise it for me but I knew some of the grammar would be off since I don’t use perfect grammar when I speak so I didn’t end up getting any feedback.  I probably should have though; I could have gotten some valuable ideas.
ROUGH CUT
  • I recorded a voiceover of the script and started to line it up with the video.  I continued to make note of changes to the script based on what was working and what wasn’t.  I was adding things that I felt connected a lot more with what was actually being shown in the footage.  A few big holes were how I wanted to start and end the video.  Also, in my effort to sound more conversational in the original voiceover, I found myself sounding very hesitant, as if I was unsure of what to say.  I decided my next voiceover would be a bit faster and more sure.
  • I had a 10 minute rough cut and a new script to record.
  • I tried a few things for the intro footage.  I thought it’d be cool to have this one shot where the camera was is in focus but the background is super out of focus and you see me walking up in the background and grabbing the camera.  I then split that into two ideas where I walked up to the camera and came into focus right when I got into the frame.  It ended up looking a little awkward so I nixed it.  I did end up keeping the part where I grab the camera though and figured out how to get the text to show up behind me as I walked by the camera.
  • Later I got a bunch of footage of me working on the computer.  I originally was going to put that in the middle during the Greece portion because I was talking about the craft of putting a video together, but it didn’t fit since these shots were not of the equipment I worked on back then.  BUT, the footage made for a really great intro and matched my outro a lot more which I planned to have as a timelapse of me editing.
  • As far as music, it didn’t take as long as it usually does.  For the past few weeks, I’ve known I wanted to make this video.  Whenever I go running and listen to music, I’ll often visualize a video in my mind going with the music.  When I find myself getting excited about it, I know I should use that song.  That happened with a couple of songs a few weeks ago on a run.  I pulled those songs in and I felt they worked well so I went with them.  I realize that if you look for ‘the perfect song,’ you’ll likely never settle on anything; just go with the first songs that you feel work and match the mood you’re looking for.
FINAL STEPS
  • With the new voiceover and a few portions cut out, I was able to get the video down to about 7 minutes.
  • I started working with the audio, making sure that my voiceover was always the most prominent and pulling the music down in the appropriate parts.  Had to pull it down more during those home video sections since the sound quality was so poor.  I thought about adding subtitles but didn’t think it was bad enough to be necessary.  I cut up some of the songs so that high energy parts came in at appropriate times.
  • Lastly was to do some color effects and make the footage a bit more bold.  Didn’t have to do that on the more recent YouTube videos (it was already done), but boosted the contrast a bit on the home videos and gave each of them a slightly yellow tint to look older.  Also worked on the color of those overhead shots of my cameras as they were a bit too yellow.
  • I watched the video a few more times and made minor tweaks, usually just cutting certain clips a few frames shorter if I felt they were going on too long or making some of the transitions go to the beat of the music.
  • Exported, uploaded, made the thumbnail, and shared to YouTube and Facebook.

I’m really happy with how it turned out 🙂

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