Writing Television Sitcoms!

IMG_5657One night I got caught in one of those youtube traps; clicking from video to video and not knowing how I got to one place to another. I came across an old web series of these two girls in New York called, Broad City. It was different and as a video director — do able! I enjoyed their interview with Amy Poehler about writing a sitcom.

If you were to see my Netflix Instant Queue, you would see nothing but sitcom’s being watched. Its a dying art that I cheer to come back! Give me can laughter, bright lights and punch lines! Maybe I’m just a child from the 90’s who grew up on this stuff or maybe I have a natural liking. Either way, I started to think about episode I would create.

My first amazon search gave me Evan S. Smith, Writing Television Sitcoms. This book is amazing! It was like going behind the scenes and sitting at the writers table. Of course that first thing I picture was 30 Rock.

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For a few weeks I listened to my friend’s jokes and pin pointing why it was so funny which made it difficult to find anything funny. When writing tweets, I started to think about how I was setting up my thought.

“‘displacement’ of an audience’s train of thought; as in, the setup for a joke causes to have certain expectations, but the punchline yanks the rug out by providing a very different, incongruous payoff. The result? Tension is discharged and the audience laughs.”

“On another level, all humor incorporates some elements of surprise within its structure. When we create a funny scene or joke, we try to reel the audience in with a realistic setup, then hit them with a surprise twist at the end.”

“…an unfortunate truth of the sitcom world is that “three-quarters of all writing is rewriting.”..It’s not uncommon for the staff of a show to rewrite a script five or more times.”

I started to see how I could use this new found knowledge in other areas of my work. Learning how many times a script is re-written before they go in production help me at work prepare to share drafts with other. Feed back is gold! I’ve always been the artist that would say, “Don’t look, its not done!” When I started to ask my co-workers to view my work and tell me what they think I would get very insightful help. Usually they would pin point what wasn’t working. Also allowing my clients to see the drafts before the deadline to get some feed back.

The biggest revolution was when I was reading the chapter about the premise driven comedy, which to me, means the story, (the- what happens question).

When You Can’t Find the Right Punchline, Here’s a tip: When you can’t find the right punchline, go back and check the setup. Once, I agonized over a joke through several drafts of a script, spending hours trying to replace a single weak punchline. A producer who was passing by my office tossed off a casual suggestion – “Change the setup?” Hmm. I went back, tweaked the joke’s premise, and suddenly – half a dozen great punchlines popped into my head. Problem solved.”

I started to edit my videos differently after I read this. How important the setup was! Especially when it came to testimonials. You build up the story and the best part of what happens becomes more powerful.

Half the book was about the writing and the other about the business. I forced myself to read the details about the business but I’m glad I did. It gave me a better idea about the piratical part of writing in as a career.

As for my web series, now I have no excuses. Time to write. But first, I must watch a few more sitcoms for research!

 

 

Random or a Master Plan

DSCN6279Its summer time and I haven’t blog in a few weeks. Life at work has been busy and this week I’ve been on vacation. I usually would take this opportunity to travel overseas but I am suffering from the student loan crises of my generation. Of course I am working hard to overcome but its requiring sacrifice that has left me discouraged. I ran away to central California for a small time out. The interesting thing is I’m learning a lot about life here. I’m on my own, renting a room and have too much free time that I found myself eating dinner at the local park. No one should ever stay in an apartment for too long. Too easy to lose your mind

rs_560x415-130405113849-1024.Office.mh.040513The past few weeks I’ve been in a Netflix coma completing The Office. I have been a fan from the start, and nine years later watching the last season made me realize why I enjoyed it so much. I find it funny because I totally relate to adults trying to figure life out. Doubting their journey, doubting their decisions, fearing the unknown, staying with the familiar. The Office captures American Culture from the 2000’s perfectly. The recession, the dreams and reality of adulthood. I imagine the writers behind these shows struggling with the same things their characters did. Who knew it would end with such a profound thought.
“It all seems so arbitrary, I applied for a job at this company because they were hiring I took a desk in the back because it was empty, but no matter how you get there or where you end up human beings have this miraculous gift to make that place home.”
Cred, The Office.

Before my trip I was asking myself a question:
Is life random or is there a master design plan? My common sense brain says random but when I look back at my life, its as if it was designed. At those moment of feeling lost, I know I can trust in Him with my journey and when I’m 80 years old looking back, I can share my life story as a beautiful tail, and transform every challenge into the victory that changed my destiny.

As an editor by nature, I am learning its okay to not have everything figured out, some how the story always comes together by stepping back to reflect and paying attention to the small details.

There’s a lot of beautiful in ordinary things. – Pam, The Office 

Audio Interview: Documentry Filmmaker, Tony Poon

I recently worked on a freelance project for a friend who lives in Hong Kong. Tony started his own film production company a few years ago and since then has worked with many non-profits around the world. He invited me to assistant with subtitles and color grade his latest documentary and to cut the trailer together.

We just completed the project and I asked him for an interview to discuss the different things he learned and to give some insight on being a freelance filmmaker.

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Podcast Guest on The Way We Tell

920!x300!_8803817I met filmmaker, Jesse Koepke on twitter a few years ago. Since then we’ve kept in touch talking about our faith, storytelling,  videos, and encouraging each other about working in post as editors. He recently asked if I’d like to be a guest on his new podcast The Way We Tell, a podcast about storytelling.

Hear about how I started making videos and what it’s like being a media director at church.

You can listen here at: The Way We Tell and subscribe to this new podcast on iTunes.

Toughen Thy Skin

Being creative requires one to be experimental when trying to produce something new. Coming up with new ideas isn’t always easy, and there’s never a guaranteed it will work. Last month I was working on a project that seemed to be missing one element. As I drove home I noticed a billboard that sparked an idea. The following day I tried to gather a young couple to film but no one seemed to be around. When I saw an older couple enjoying their lunch at work. I asked them if I could film them for a few moments. They didn’t really want to but I insisted.

When I completed the project I looked at it and was happy everything worked out. The next week, I received a mix of reactions. Some people liked it, other didn’t. I even heard some “hated it”. Which I admit, did hurt my creative feelings.

I took the stab like a grown up and deleted the file. I had one of my new editors give it a go, and create something new. That week, I had to start a new project that would once again require risk, time, imagination, and heart. I realized I couldn’t let the experience of the previous video stop me from being creative.

I was nervous about the next project I had to work on. Everything I was doing wasn’t working. I had over 5 drafts, and still kept refining it. I asked advice from others what they thought when I was stuck. I took notes and made adjustments. When I delivered the final product, everyone loved it.

I saw the value of being open and asking others what they thought of a project. Their feed back help me work out the issues I was stuck on. Being able to do this required me to ask the hard question and allow myself to be open to whatever their comments would be.

Maybe your last project only received 4 views or maybe it wasn’t as good as you hoped. Don’t let it stop you from trying again.

What helps you when you feel stuck on a project?

 

10 things I learned from Interning at The WB

When I was in college we were encouraged to find a place to intern. We we’re told this was our ticket in the door. My first interview for an internship felt more like a job interview which made me hope it would offer to pay me in the future. The new employee wanted me to start right away.

When I arrived at the place I was a little disappointed as the office building was old and run down. They say not to judge a book by its cover but I was judging this place, from the empty parking lot, to the smell of the hallways. I asked myself, “Is this where I want to work?”
When the employer was two hours late, I finally was let into their office space. He had me start on logo designs right away. During the day I over heard conversations of the owners marriage problems, and slow business issues. I went home with a dead end feeling, since I was working for free and the internship wasn’t what I expected. The second day I showed up, the owners was no where to be found. They told me where to get the key and to keep working on those logos. This internship was a dead end. I figured if the owners didn’t want to be there, neither do I. I left the office that night and wrote a note that I was thankful for the opportunity but it’s not going to work out.

1. Be honest with yourself. Allowing yourself to be honest will help you discover what you like by seeing what you don’t like.

2. Work for a place that you find interesting and values you as a person. Doing research before on the place and job will give you a better idea on what to expect.

3. Be a good listener to your surroundings. Are the people around you happy? Do those who work there enjoy their job?

4. If you have a feeling the internship isn’t what you want to do, say something sooner and respectfully. Be careful not to burn a bridge that you might cross in the future. Letting the place of business know you are leaving instead of just disappearing shows courage and respect.

When I told my college councilor the internship didn’t work out she pulled me aside. “This just came in the morning and I think you’ll like it but you have to get your information to me today.” When I looked at the letter head I saw the Warner Brothers logo. I ran to my desk and filled out the application. Later that week I got a call, the interview would be in Burbank.

At the interview I realized they were looking for a team mate who would fit in with them. She didn’t seem to care about what school I went to, she wanted to see how well I would fit in with the team. The team was full of laid back thirty something creatives that were extremely different from one another. Everyone seemed friendly and excited to be working there. If I got this internship I would be driving an hour everyday to work not to mention morning traffic.

When I learned I got the internship I was so excited and getting paid for my time there was a big plus. I couldn’t wait to start working as a graphic designer. It was there that I learned how much work goes into a career. I had no life for the next six month. I was either in the office helping everyone out or on the 101 freeway trying to get home. Overall, the experience working at Warner Brothers was amazing. I knew it was God’s favor on my life because getting a job at a big production place like Warner Brothers is nearly impossible. I was excited when they asked if I wanted to extend my internship five more months.

It was neat to eat lunch on the lot where the cast of ER would be walking around in their scrubs. I was able to watch episodes of their newest shows before the season even came out. I was assisting and helping the office by doing the small office task for them as well as have creative freedom to solve problems on my own.

The more I worked in graphics, the more I saw I really wanted to learn how to edit videos. I knew if I was offered a job, it would be hard to go to school for editing. This was before learning how to edit was so accessible. There was still so much I wanted to do before I settled down with a full time job.

When the creative director asked what I wanted to do after interning, I told her I was going back to school. They threw me a good bye party and said to give them a call when I was done with school. Having such a great internship experience made me thankful I was honest with myself about the first one I had.

5. Figure out your goals and where you want your career to go during the internship. This is the best time to discover what is it you really want to do, what field of specialty would you like to work in. What you enjoy most.

6. Try to be helpful with everyone in the office. Develop new skills that you can brag about on your resume or that can land you a job.

7. Don’t complain. Be grateful for whatever task they give you. The better the attitude the more responsibilities they will give you. I did a coffee run once, and enjoyed the walk to Starbucks.

8. Make a good impression on everyone you meet. Be sure to remember names and shake hands with those you are introduce to. Having confidences goes a long way.

9. If its a non paid internship, make sure you are getting your pay though experience. Make it worth your time and effort. What you put into it, that is what you will get out of it.

10. Act like you belong there, as if you are a full time employee. Take your internship seriously, take advantage of the opportunities it might bring. 

Interning at The WB at the start of my career let me know God had my career in His hands. He was leading me I never thought was possible. People doubted I could make a living off being creative, but I knew being creative is what I was born to do.

Interview: Harold M., New York Freelancer

It’s always cool to meet other editors around the world, even more exciting to see them succeed. I met Harold a few years ago when he left a comment on my blog. Since then I watched his instagram feed fill up with awesome jobs. I couldn’t help but notice and wonder how he got to where he was. When I asked him for an interview he said, “Me? I’m just an editor.” And of course I went into a “we change the world” speech. haha I asked him if he could answer 7 questions.

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1. How did you become an editor?
 
It was definitively not something I planned, but now that I think of it, it wasn’t a surprising choice.  My Dad has worked all of his adult life in television stations back in my native Dominican Republic, and me and my brothers basically grew up roaming around where ever he worked.  First he was a camera man, and for the better part of the last 25 years, he’s in the control room during live broadcasts.  Pretty much I had always been attracted to the idea of working in a TV station, but it wasn’t until my third editing class using Final Cut Pro (First one was cutting 16mm, and the second one was using tape to tape) where I saw it as something attainable.  I took an Avid class in my senior year of college, and was lucky enough to land a gig cutting 15 second promos at a station called Metro TV in NYC in the early 2000’s.  I guess becoming an Editor wasn’t a crazy achievement, but keeping at it has really been the challenge.
 
 
2. What kinda projects do you work on?
 

I do mostly short form programming: Magazine style shows, Field packages, and lately, News.  It’s been a really weird few years trying to figure out what kind of programming I like doing, and in between reality tv, scripted dramas and news programming, I have felt in love with doing small feature pieces for a few of my current employers.  I’ve been lucky enough to have been able to jump from one genre to another from project to project…but for the better part of the last few years, I have been doing news/short documentary type of projects.

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3. How did you land your current editor position?

I don’t have a position, or a 9-5 job if that’s what you are asking.  I freelance for a few networks (ABC, CBS, and FUSE right now) and production houses in New York City…and pretty much, for the better part of the last few years, I have been working non-stop.  The current nature of the industry, at least in New York, calls for people to freelance as staff positions are really scarce.  I’ve managed to get my name in the roster in a few places and have kept busy that way.  It’s fun, in the sense that from one week to the next I could be in one place, and then another.  I have learned about myself that I don’t really like a fixed structure when it comes to my professional life, and I have somehow managed to keep things interesting at least in the sense of working for several people.

4. Can you share some editing tricks that you’ve mastered along the way?

I really don’t know of any tricks I could share that haven’t been shared yet somewhere in the internet yet.  One thing, though, and I guess I might be the only editor I know who’s really crazy about this: I collect presets for effects on Avid.  I have bins, and bins of effects that I have either created, or “borrowed” from places I have worked on.  It’s very rare that I start an effect from scratch these days, but rather I would start with a preset and go from there.  It has really helped in terms of me being a faster editor in certain situations, but it mostly controls my obsessive compulsive disorder to leak into other parts of my life – as I am always organizing such bins, and tweaking effects with ideas that pop in my head.

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5. What type of dedication does it take to complete a successful project?

Lots of focus is the answer.  I’ve been in situations where I am the guy cutting a 30 second promo and have over 4 hours of footage, and the director is right there next to me trying to work in as many shots as possible, and literally screaming when I tell him I don’t want certain shot, and he makes me work it in because it took over 20 minutes to get that setup just right on the field.  I’ve also been the editor putting a piece on a plane that crashed just an hour before the 6pm broadcast, and we have to make that piece go on air, because that’s the news, and people need to know – and 15 minutes before air, there’s no script, let alone all the elements which are still being fed by our nearest affiliate.  Then magically, at 6pm, your piece is done and you are playing it to broadcast straight from your Avid, because there was no time to send it to the server, and you can’t recall how you did it.  So, I guess lots of focus is the answer, whatever the occasion…a little bit of sense of humor also helps too.

6. What have you learned from working with others on important jobs?

I’ve learned to get along with people mostly 🙂 – I heard somewhere, that editors are sly politicians and I have taken that to the heart.  I also heard that we editors are just like bartenders, and also implement that train of thought in the way I handle myself at work.  As far as important jobs…I see every job as important; Being freelance in a city where just about everybody is an editor demands that I do the best I can – or at least try! – every single time.

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7. What have you learned about life from peoples editing stories?

That there’s so much going on outside the edit room.  I’ve worked crazy hours for the past few years, full months at a time without a day off recently, and work has sort of become my window to the world.  Sometimes it’s really crazy what I am watching while I am working on it, and sometimes it’s really beautiful.  I really love what I do, and I don’t see it as work…hence working 7 days a week doesn’t bother me.  I am slowly, but surely, trying to get out there a little more and trying to take a crack at what most people call a normal life…but like everything I’ve done so far in my life, it’s a slow process.

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Pictures provided from his instragram.

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Its so cool to read that with hard work and lots of sacrifice, opportunities open up. Thank you to Harold for taking the time to write up the responds!

—- You can see all Harold’s work on site. www.hrldm.info

In 2015 we actually met up!! Had so much fun talking about editing, moving making and life.

The Editor Counselor

When I meet new people usually I am the first editor they ever met. I often have to clarify I am a video editor and not an editor for writers. I find it fascinating that years later they have become video editors too. Because I am the first they ever met working in the profession, I often receive calls in the middle of the night with emergency editing issues. I’ve even met new editors here on my blog through email with not just technical questions but about becoming an editor.

The conversation usually end up going deeper than editing. We talk about freelancing, self confidences and how to deal with current work situations. My heart goes out to them when I hear about their client who is paying them very little. When working freelance we have to use our best judgement but even more important we have to learn how to talk business with confidence. Over the years dealing with all types of people for all different types of projects, I’ve gotten better at making deals where everyone leaves happy.

Communication upfront is KEY! Making the price clear, how payments will be made, due date, final format and vision. So many problems come up when things aren’t clear.

Know your worth – Before you are caught off guard with someone asking you how much you charge, know their expectations. Ask questions about the person’s budget to see what you can give them for what they want to pay. Work out the amount of hours something takes and add some padding. Usually a project will take longer than you think. Under bidding is the worse, so try to over estimate how long it will take. Ask if you can talk at a later time when you have a better idea on what you might charge.

When Free is okay – There is a time and place to do free work. Its usually when you are still a “student”. You should no longer be free after two years of editing. There is always a ton of free work out there! Its the paid jobs that you want. Once someone has you for free, they will tell their friends and family you are happy to do work for them for nothing. Watch your editing reputation. I often hear people say, “She’s good but expensive”. If you want your project done well and on time, I am your girl and yes it will cost you.

Put it in writing! – I once heard, if its not in writing it didn’t happen. Write contracts to cover your back. Send invoices with details of what the clients are paying for and receiving. Include text about extra cost for revisions, etc. Keep in mind of duplicating, dvd’s, and even hard drive space. It all depends how big your project will be.

Make sure they have money – If you have a feeling a client doesn’t have much money, don’t risk doing business with them. I once did a job where I over heard a conversation that things were tight. I should have asked if the project was something they could afford. I completed the project and never got paid. The client said he wasn’t happy with it and not willing to do revisions to fix things. I didn’t have anything in writing, I was too shy to talk business and I wasted my time and effort.

Beware of the difficult cheap client – There will always be that client that is very picky and cheap. Do business with them at your risk but know this person will try to get the most out of you for very little money in return. If you pick up that the client is going to be difficult, over bid the job to turn them off. If they are willing to pay, well then maybe it will be worth it after all.

Deal with the issues and move on – If you are freelancing your client may want more and more. If you failed on your end to communicate extra cost of additions, take the bullet, make the change and fix the issues and move on. Don’t bother fighting it. If the client isn’t happy at the end, they’re not gonna wanna pay you.

Test your final product – If its a DVD, see if it plays on your player. Watch your final product. Don’t be lazy to fix your audio or jump cuts. Have someone else read your text to check your spelling.

Try to remain a good relationship with your client – You want them to refer you to others and hire you for more work in the future. The customer isn’t always right but let them think they are. Make them happy.

No matter what you’ll always have some freelance issue. If you learn how to do the business part well then you can focus on the creative part of the project.

Freelancing is differently a skill. What have you learned over the years?

Have Some Pride

Pt. 2
The more I thought about no pride allowed, I realized I was only able to give my pride because I had some in the first place.
One of my first jobs as an editor was to create promo’s for Vegas. This was a job I wasn’t at all excited about. My personal goal was to work on videos that would influence people to do more with their lives not to party all weekend. I worked at this place for a week trying to give my pride up, but by Friday I couldn’t do it. I told the company the job wasn’t a good fit for me. I realized I needed to work somewhere I believed in. After all, every project requires some heart.
Leaving that place meant I no longer had a job but I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders.
A few interviews later and no return calls, it made me wonder if I should have sucked it up, but I knew the right job was out there somewhere. While I was in line to a Hillsong concert I met a girl who was leaving her position as a graphic designer to my local church and told me to apply. I was looking for a video position but I knew this job could be the open door I’ve been waiting for.
Fast forward 6 years, I am the media dept. director at The Rock Church. I’ve had my ups and downs as to where I belong but everyday I go to work knowing I’m making a difference. And for me, that’s what matters. Imaged if I didn’t leave the job I didn’t believe in, where would I be? Who would I be?
Sometimes we ignore what our pride is saying to us. The key is to listen to God’s direction and to be honest with yourself.
What matters to you when it comes to work?
What have you learned about pride over the years?

No Pride Allowed

One of the biggest lesson I’ve learned as an editor is – no pride allowed. It took me sometime to understand this but the more I was confronted with my pride the more I had to see the importance of the sacrifice. I have a job to do and I am useless as an editor if I take things personally.
You see, if someone else is paying me to get a job completed, its my job to do the best I can. When an item is cut or never played I can leave the project saying I tried my best and it just didn’t work out. When I am told to go back to the drawing board, I have to remember what the overall goal is.
Its easy to take your creative work personally, after all you are the creator who is pouring heart and time in to it. But in order to move forward, you have to sacrifice some pride. Gather your skills, knowledge, and your experience and be prepared to make a compromise. Its about the greater purpose of the project.
Sacrificing your pride also helps you get better. If you don’t let it get you down, then you can reflect and see where you can approve. Even if you feel you were right, learn your clients style. You are expected to pour your heart and creativity in to a project and to care about your work but don’t get so attach to your version that it limits you. If you want to be an editor, be prepared to grow as a person. Your videos will benefit from it.

The Project Work Flow

I received an email from a reader after I wrote the post, “Making a Video – Do it fast!!” He asked if I could talk about my video workflow in greater detail. What caught his attention was a statement I made at the end. I said the video I made took two 8 hour working days.

In my freelance days, I use to spend up to a month on one video. Since working at church with a high demand of request for videos, two days is the minimum length for a 30 to 1 minute video.

At church the demand of quantity is greater than quality. But that doesn’t mean the quality of the production is poor. There are elements in video production that can not be compromise such as un-fixable white balance, bad exposer, focus and horrible audio. All those things can cause hours trying to fix, and there are even times that its easier to just re film.

When I say quantity is more important than quality, that really means, we don’t have a lot of time to spend on graphics for one promo. We can have an average of six videos every week that are due that weekend. The demand is high to complete videos fast.

We achieve every due date by time manage every hour. Here is a snap shot of a week on the calendar.

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You have to estimate each task. Such as, “I’m giving myself an hour to write up the script and record a voice over.” Arrange your lunch when an item has to render, export or upload. You have to be smart on using every hour given to you. If you are a freelancer with no boss pushing you, beware of spending too much time on a project.

I found the most time consuming element on a video are the graphics. I wait until the end to do that. Then I am able to see how much time I am allowed to create something. Our graphics are usually simple and basic but for special events we try to spend more time on creating something amazing.

Here is a practical break down –

My workflow —

1 hr- Create the script.

15 m- Book the filming.

30 m- Film: ask a volunteer who you trained to set up filming. Give them an hour.

30 m- Log and Capture: multitask by answering emails or look for music.

30 m- Find music: We have a hard drive called, “Sonic Pro”, that is full of stock music that allows us to change the track length.

1 hr- Normalize Audio levels: Normalize your audio on dialog so it can be louder than your music underneath.

1-3 hr- Edit: Depending on what it is, interviews may take longer – save time by having a volunteer add and name markers that will help you scan through your footage.

1-3 hr- Overlay footage: If you logged and captured well, this won’t take to much time. No “Untitled” footage is allowed. We keep overlay footage very organized by event name and date on a network that we can access to copy over to our hard drive. Example: “ConnectGroups_031413”

1-2 hr- Color Grading: I have saved presets in After Effects for each camera we own. Even depending on our studio backgrounds. I adjust colors depending on the person skin color and the way the lighting was set up.

No more than 3 hrs- Graphics: All depending on how much time we have until its due and the importance of the project. We use logos and colors that the graphic design dept. created for that event. I like to export this separate from the footage color grade just in case changes have to be made. Export lower thirds with an alpha channel so next time the video is used, you can change out the details.

2 hr- Render: Create a folder where all your renders will go. Place them on the project. Make changes if animation doesn’t work, etc.

30m- Export: Export a .mov, create an mp4.

30m- Upload and send for Approval: I upload to vimeo, sometimes I add a password -avoid letters and use numbers just in case the person you send it to has their caps lock on.

4 hrs- Changes made: Don’t get upset when you are told to make changes, it is apart of the editing life, set out a day for changes but try to send them another verison for final approval within 4 hours.

1.5 hrs- Approval: Once the video is approved, export to final format and deliver the video by letting who ever know that its completed and ready for show time.

There are times when a video can be made in a shorter amount of time given. The next time you work on a past project, your editing time should cut in half. The video I did that took two days, I saved time by having good audio, markers on the interviews, no changes were needed, and the submitter walked by and gave me approval instead of uploading and emailing a link.

Hope this helps those who work in video land. Feel free to share any tips you’ve develop over time in your work place.

One more thing, if you’re faster than your computer, maybe it’s time to upgrade.

Making your Shots Matter

I think we can all admit that no one is born with awesome camera skills. Most of my wisdom comes from times where I’ve failed horribly. I made a list for my team and would like to share it with all of you who are into production. Hope you can apply this knowledge to make every shot you film matter.

First things first –

Exposure – Before you take off and start shooting, you will need to pay attention to your exposure on your camera. You will notice there are two names, this is because the DSLR and Pro cameras use different terms. You will have to learn how to adjust your exposure to give you the right exposure to archive a shot that can be seen and also allow you to control the look and feel you want.

Iso / Gain – This will add noise to your footage but also will allow more light into your camera. I avoid high iso and high gain. If you are aren’t careful it can make your footage look like mud.

Aperture / Iris – You can control the look of your shots with a low aperture number. This also allows more light.  On a pro camera a low iris will make your shots really dark, so you will have to adjust your other settings to accommodate a low Iris number. For those who are new, a low aperture number will make the background blurry. Avoid changing your aperture while filming.
-a low aperture affects the focus, if you are filming with a DSLR and having trouble focusing, bring up that aperture and adjust your settings.

Shutter Speed – I adjust my shutter speed the most when it comes to getting my exposure. The goal is to keep this number 30, to give you a smooth film look but sometimes in order to get the exposure you want, you have to use a higher number. A shutter speed of 30 brings in a lot of light.

ND filter – A pro camera will have this on the side by the lens. You can turn this on when you are outside. You can buy a filter to put on a DSLR camera. This is like putting on sunglasses for your camera. One thing to remember, when filming inside make sure this is OFF!

White Balance – Your footage should never look blue or orange. It should look like what you are filming. You can leave the stylish tone to your editor to pick. Once you have your exposure correct, white balance on something white. Check your filming often to make sure the white balance doesn’t look strange. On the DLSR, it gives you presets of white balance, you can pick the best one that looks right for that moment. Sometimes putting on the sun preset looks better than a cloudy day preset even if its cloudy. Use your good judgement.

Remember, your exposure affects the amount of light that is going into the camera.

Exterior shooting – It took me years to finally realize how to film with the sun as my light source. I seemed to always return with footage I hated.

Lighting with the Sun – Look for a nice shaded away. Place the sun behind you, and in front of the subject. Avoid filming at noon because of harsh sunlight. You will find it will create shadows on the face, and even leave your talent making ugly faces trying to avoid the sun.

Sunrise or Sunset – Place it behind your subject to capture a glow on their shoulders.

Avoid a background that blows out your image. You don’t want the background to compete with the subject.

Interior shooting – If you don’t have a light on your camera, then you will be at the mercy of your camera settings to allow light into your shot.
– No ND filter
– low shutter speed
– low aperture
– high iso / gain (avoid gain due to lots of noise but sometimes you gotta use it)
– correct white balance

Movement – Adding movement to your shots is not only camera movement but also what is happening inside the frame.

Stabilizer – Always try to use a tripod, a monopod, or slider for your shots. If you are going handheld, you must know how to stand correct to avoid shaky shots. Make your body a human tripod. Place your feet apart form each other, bend your knees a little and tuck your shooting arm close to your body.

Point A to B – Start your shooting at one item then move to another. This will require knowing what you are going. If I am filming a kid playing pool, I would make point A the pool and point B the person playing.

Panning shot – Take a deep breath, point your foot to the direction you are headed towards.

Location – If you are filming a shot and it’s just not working, move your location to find a new perspective and angel.

Hold – If you are out shooting and find a beautiful shot, hold the shot for 30 seconds. This will give the editor time to pick which moment to pick from and how long we wants it on screen. Let the shot come alive, give it time for the subject to smile, laugh, think, wonder, move, embrace another person. etc.

Camera person – Don’t get nervous if the person you are filming looks at you, just hold your position. If you are allowed to be there, then don’t worry about being seen.

Interacting – Saying hi to people you are filming can help them feel more comfortable with being filmed. Interaction shots are great, having them smile or wave at the camera, if they are having fun ask them to do it again for the camera.

Avoid tunnel vision – Avoid moving your camera looking for what to capture, stick your head out instead and move to what is interesting. Your camera movement to one item to another can be called a reset. Those reset shots can be used.

Pull focus – Attempt to find layers of action to film, focus on one item then move it to another thats in the distance. Attempt this three times to give the editor the best pull focus shot.

Tilt zooms – Give your editor an option to add some fun energetic shots of tilt zooms.

What to look for – It all depends what you are shooting and who you are shooting for. For an event I look for people having fun, smiles, laughing, talking with friends, anything of action, people engaging in the event, people listening if its a church event, the main speakers, avoid shots of too many babies or kids if its not a children’s event. Also avoid capturing people bending down. I don’t know why but it seems to happen a lot. haha.
If you are filming an interview always make sure to get some cutaways to cover up those jump cuts.

Terms
– Wide shots – head to toe
– Medium wide – knees and waist
– Medium shots – waist up
– Close ups – Chest up
– extreme close up – cutting off parts of the face

Questions to Answer when shooting –
Who – Shots of the person or people
Where – Shots of the location
What is happening – What action is taking place

Always review your footage and see what you can do better next time. If you took the time to read this, your footage the next time you shoot is going to look so good! 🙂 Feel free to add to the list.

Making a Video

Thank goodness we don’t live in the early 1900’s, other wise creating anything visual would be difficult. Making videos are easier than ever but you will still face some big obstacles. You won’t know how to make a video until you try, more than anything, you learn by doing and each video is different, with different challenges. You will get better after each one. The mistakes you learn in video #1, you will apply to video #2.

As I am teaching new people who are highly interested in creating videos at work, I often don’t know where to start, there is so much to learn.

Here are a few areas you should try to grow in.

-Graphic design
-Story telling
-Communication
-Marketing
-Editing Software
-Codec’s, Formats, Compression
-Files Organization
-How to work a Camera, tripod, etc.
-Lighting
-The history of the technology of TV, history of film

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The list looks a little like a school curriculum and if you can go to school to learn how to work in post-production, go. But like many of my co-workers, they learned by interning at church. Internships are great, if they allow you to be apart of the projects. Regardless on how you learn, you learn by investing time, focus, passion, and heart.

Here are some tips on how to create a video.

1. Know what kind of video you are making. (Commercial, comical, drama, short film, documentary, music, etc.)
2. Know what you want to say. (This product is the best, come to this awesome event, look how fun this event is, here is our history, etc)
3. Look to see how others have done it, and see how you can make it different.
4. Create the Script, know what needs to be said and what text has to be on screen.
5. Create story boards or thumb nails for animations. Layout your Graphic Design.
6. Gather your gear, and people who can help out with filming. Audio person is key if you need good audio.
7. Film – make sure your shots are steady and help tell the story. Watch your white balance, focus, whats in frame, exposure.
8. Edit – Capture your footage, (Make sure you know where your files are going; be organized!) know what format your will be editing in (h.264 or NTSC), what aspect ratio, widescreen or box TV screen (16×9 or 4×3),create your cut, lay down the story, put music to it. Have someone look at it to see if it makes sense. Ask for their input, even if they don’t know about videos.
9. Export your cut into a graphic software (After Effects), follow your animation thumbnails, if the animation doesn’t work out, try something else. Check out http://www.videocopilot.net/ for after effects tutorials. Avoid fancy fonts or colors that maybe hard to read.
10. Import back in to your editing software, fix any audio. Export.
11. Convert your file in to the correct format: .mp4 for web, .mov for DVD or to load up somewhere else.

Being organize will help you out so much in the end, never “Untitled” anything or save on the desktop! Some twitter friends gave a great suggestions to name the file with the date and what it is. At work we all do this now. Put the date on our file that it has to be played. ( 030913 Intro)

Hope this helps, feel free to ask questions if you have any.

11 Years of Editing and Still in Love

It’s hard to believe its been 11 years since I made my first video. It was 2002 and mini dv was king, Youtube hadn’t been invented and the word, “social media” didn’t exist. My instructor in college was a hippie with large glasses. I remember him teaching us the history of television, and how NTSC and PAL came about. He taught it with such passion, I was at the edge of my seat. He ended his lector by saying, open up Final Cut 4.0.

When I opened up the program I instantly fell in love. I wanted to know all about it. I thought, “This is how they make movies.” I was young and naïve, and dreamt of one day making music videos for MTV. I had no idea what the future would hold for video and my career as an editor. I just knew, I was born to do this. I felt at home creating and piecing clips together. I was the first to arrive and the last to leave class. At lunch the boys and I would talk about our favorite movies and why we loved them. It wasn’t until the second term that I noticed I was the only girl. This made me feel even more special knowing that I wasn’t following the crowd but for the first I was doing what I wanted do.

Its been a long journey since then. I don’t think anyone in my college class stayed with the art. Reality hit and many couldn’t find a job, some got bored of it, and others just gave up. But for me I had no plan B. And I knew if I gave up editing I would have to give up a piece of myself. At age 19 I discovered editing was my language to the world. It is my voice.

There was a period where I was bored of it. In 2010, I went to photography. I edited to make money, but photography was my mistress. I would go shooting on the weekend and even introduce myself as a photographer. The more I shot the less I would talk about editing. And then one day, I looked at my book shelf and found a book given to me by a friend.

In the Blink of an Eye by Walter Murch

As I began to read this book by famous film editor Walter Murch he talked about the art form with such love and affection. I was drawn into his words and related to everything he was saying. He began to elaborate on what it is to be an editor. Reading this book brought me back to my passion. I looked him up on youtube, watched every video, read all his books. I was learning so much from him, it was bring me back to the glory days. After I read another powerful book called Story by Robert Mckee. This enlighten me even more!

People were noticed the difference in my work. The videos were coming alive. The love was back.

I saw that it was when I stopped learning and challenging myself that I got bored. I thought photography was a new career but it ended up leading me back to the core: story telling. Being an editor is in my DNA.

Once you find something you love and are good at, run with it. It will lead you to your destiny. I know I still haven’t arrived, I am and will always be a student. Challenging myself weekly, pushing myself out of my comfort zone. Reading books on the art, talking about it and connecting with others who love it too.

Who knew video was going to be so popular in 2013? Now just about anyone can be an editor but its those who never stop learning and never give up who will still be in love with it ten years from now.

Command D + Me

When I started editing for church the only thing I was worried about was me and my deadline. I’d often joke that I needed to clone myself. I remember working with other young editors and seeing them make mistakes while thinking, “they’ll learn.”

A lot has changed since then especially the way I work. I train others as if tomorrow I will not be there. I’ve learned that training other people will not only benefit me or them, but the team. I use to be hesitant to teach my job to others in fear of losing it but it took me years to learn, that is what suppose to happen. When I step out of my old position, I am able to move to a new level.

I now see each individual that is interested in learning production as an extra set of hands. Though it may seem easier to work alone, there are times when more than one person is necessary. The time it takes to teach another person will be time given ten times over in the future. In the video office, I want to create a culture of command D’ing. I am now training others to train others..  I love adding to the team, I enjoy witnessing a new comer give me a perfect shot.

When we teach others, it re-teach us and sharpen our skills.

On that occasion I have to critique, I then explain to them the ‘why’. The next time they are faced with a similar problem, they are able to find a solution on their own.

Though I wanted to command D+ me something better took place.. new artist and storytellers were born. And when its time to say good-bye to them. I can stand as a proud parent knowing that God is at work in their life and I was just a set of helping hands.

As you grow in skill and knowledge, also grow in number. Don’t try to do it all by yourself. Command Dimage*.

*command D is a short cut in After Effects that duplicates a layer.

Book: Story by Robert McKee

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The first time I heard of Story by Robert McKee it was 2008 and I was hanging out with my good friend/editing mentor Nick Khoo in Australia. He didn’t give me much details about the book but said, “You have to read this.” When I saw how thick the book was, I knew I wouldn’t bother.

Last year I was in Burbank visiting another editor friend when the book found me again. I walked in to a used book store, and there it was, in a pill of film books.

I often think books find their way to me at the right time. I finally finished the book and it has taught me so much about storytelling, humanity, God, the struggles of life, and how we long for story.

“…I slowly came to realize that stories mean much more than words and pretty pictures.”

Learning the art of storytelling has taught me how to better understand my story.

“Deep within these characters and their conflicts we discover our own humanity. We go to the movies to enter a new, fascinating world, to inhabit vicariously another human being who at first seems so unlike us and yet at heart is like us, to live in a fictional reality that illuminates our daily reality. We do not wish to escape life but to find life, to use our minds in fresh, experimental ways, to flex our emotions, to enjoy, to learn, to add dept to our days.”

I often see my life as I would see a movie, knowing that today’s struggles will build my character.

“True Character is revealed in the choice a human being makes under pressure- the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature.”

“..choice under pressure will strip away the mask of characterization, we’ll peer into their inner natures and with a flash of insight grasp their true characters.”

It was fascinating to learn how important conflict is to the story. In the long run, it is the story. How the character over came, how the battle was won…

“Life is conflict. That is its nature.”

“…conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music…as long as conflict engages our thoughts and emotions we travel through the hours unaware of the voyage…if conflict is kept on hold for too long, our eyes leaves the screen. And when our eyes leave the screen they take thought and emotions with them”

“The Law of Conflict is more than an aesthetic principle; it is the soul of the story. Story is metaphor for life, and to be alive is to be in seemingly perpetual conflict.”

As a writer, editor, photographer – an artist, its our mission to connect with the audience..

“If you give me your concentration, I’ll give you surprise followed by the pleasure of discovering life, its pains and joys, at levels and in directions you have never imagined…Insight is the audience’s reward for paying attention.”

“We go to the storyteller with a prayer: Please let it be good. Let it give me an experience I’ve never had, insight into a fresh truth. Let me laugh at something I’ve never thought funny. Let me be moved by something that’s never touched me before. Let me see the world in a new way. Amen.”

“If the audience expects to happen happens, or worse, if it happens the way the audience expects it to happen, this will be a very unhappy audience. We must surprise them.”

We all have stories inside us and sometimes sharing them takes courage and honesty. There is no telling the power a story can have on the listener.

Video: Know the Culture

Marketing says know your audience, as a mega church media director I say, know the culture.

The mistake I made in the past was looking too much at videos made by other churches. It took me years to realized what type of church I was apart of. It was only then was I able to create genuine projects that reflected the life of my church. The Rock is an inner city type church, a melting pot of different cultures, age groups and personalities. I had to connect my heart to what God was doing at the Rock. What works great in the OC may not work great for people in the IE.

When creating media, it starts with your heart and perspective. No matter the size of your church, if you are their editor, stop and see what is taking place in front of you.

Ask yourself what kinda culture your city is? What is the heart of your Pastors and leaders? The voice of the editor is important. You set up the details for guest who walk in to the building for the first time.

Become the eyes and ears of what God is doing. Don’t tell them, show them.


Here is a countdown I created to play before church. Though its on while everyone is walking around, getting to their seats, I wanted to show guest and those who’ve been coming to The Rock for years, what God is doing. We are moving and alive who cares about the people who live in our city.

I wanted to show the heart of what we believe in.
Helping people.

Blog: You Are More Than You Think

When I was in Australia for college, teachers from all over the world would come to do seminars. Most of the time I was day dreaming but once in a while they would share a story that would capture my attention.

One speaker told us about two bricklayers. One was asked what he did for a living, he answered, “I lay bricks down.” When the other was asked the same question he answered, “I build cathedrals.”

All through out college in Australia I was told, “Go after your dreams! Change the world.” When I returned home it seemed like all my college mates were doing just that except for me. For years I felt like I was, “just laying down bricks.”

I follow so many amazing people on twitter, sometimes it makes what I am doing seem small.

I started off in the graphics department at The Rock Church updating their bulletin. A year later, I was asked to help out in the video department for some of their conference videos and was soon promoted to be a video editor. Everyday I was learning and growing but I didn’t feel like I was, “changing the world.”

And that’s when I went on a journey.

During this time I discovered my dream is whatever God dreams of. His plan is better than what I can think of. Second is, I’m not just a video editor but I am a voice. I realized all the work I do behind the scenes, has great purpose.

My vision for myself 10 years ago was to create junk mail. God’s vision for me was to lead a media team of an amazing church. I am now the Tina Fey at my job.

We look at our self and only see our ability but when we look to God, we see His, which has no limits.

This song has a great line that spoke to me.

“I wanted fame cause I thought fame would prove to me that I was great. It never came, I was a failure to myself, its the weight of the world that swallow you alive…Spirit First.”

Now, I know I am building cathedrals.

How to Make a Music Video —

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I received an email asking how to make a music video. I may not be super qualified to answer this question because I make all kinds of other videos but that doesn’t mean you or I can not make a music video. It just means we gotta learn how to complete the task with what we have.

Here is the first part of the question:
“so as you know im trying to be a video editor but since i dont have video footage to edit 😦 i am trying to learn cinematography..do you have any advice or path as to where i could learn to be a good cinematographer/ photographer..do you have any crash course on cinematography or pointers on making a music video”

I know how you feel! I often say I will write and direct my own film just so I can edit it. I saw that I too needed to get better at my video cinematography back in 2009. I figured the best way to do this was to learn photography. I called photography the braces for camera operators. When we shoot video we are so use to moving, but with photography you have to stay still and make your shot interesting. You are now focusing on lighting, composition, exposer, the background, and the message of your photo. I challenged myself by buying a film camera. Now I only had 24 frames to use, and each one was costing me $1.50. My first major journey with film was when I traveled to Puerto Rico. Here are some of my shots.

When you get in to photography you will also learn a lot about focal length and how the lens you use is part of the story telling.

Using a fisheye lens makes thing appear distorted and from another world, it also brings focus to the center of the frame. I see this lens use a lot in music videos.
The type of lighting that is use sets up the mood. Hip hop videos love using lights, it makes things look flashy and adds contrast. Using the natural sunset light can make the video look romantic and hopeful.
The fun thing about making a music video is that anything goes. You can create a story to the song, or you can make it random. The task is to make it entertaining for the eyes and to follow the music. Some famous music videos cut every three seconds and some are of one continues shot. I’ve seen some where its just a girl singing, and others where its a party dancing. Watch videos from the 80’s and the ones of now – take notes on what you enjoyed and what you liked. Then gather all those ideas and let them inspire your own creative thoughts.

Keep in mind that when creating a music video – the more footage the better. Have fun and share what you create!

Here are some interesting examples:

multi- screens

using real elements

visual multiplication

One shot

What are your favorite music videos and why? Which ones stick out in your memory? Share them with us.

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Film Diary: Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) – “I want to make a film like this” – My first reaction to watching the trailer. It’s an entertaining film but more than anything I enjoyed the way the film looked. After seeing the movie, it was the compositions we were talking about. We even tried to set up our lunch to be symmetrical. Which wasn’t easy, after a few takes I just wanted to eat my food. 🙂

I found this film diary in Vancouver and thought I’d share my documentations. Here are some notes I made about the film. (you can get your own here: film diary)

Moonrise Kingdom Trailer