Today was the day that months of effort, research and investment would have paid off if I hadn’t failed on video.
I have been talking to a couple local photographers to figure out lighting equipment and environment issues. I bought the softbox lighting, and light stands. I bought the backdrop, then secured it in place with copious velcro. It took me hours just to first create a loop at the bottom using fabric tape, then fill the loop with a bag of black aquarium gravel to weigh the fabric down evenly across the length of the backdrop.
After talking sound with everyone I know, especially Justin Vincent, audiophile extraordinaire (you should hire him, but he’s not looking), I have purchased and returned many hundreds of dollars worth of handheld recording devices, microphones, and recording interfaces. When the guy at Guitar Center sees me coming, he thinks “Oh shit, not this guy again…”
I went through two cameras and a tripod before talking to my friend Richard Thompson who is an incredible photographer and video guy (you should hire him too, but you can’t afford him). I finally settled on the Panasonic TM700 based on his advice.
Even though I knew it would barely be visible in the final product, I searched high and low for the perfect table, which is 2 feet by 4 feet long, and has a black, reflective surface. IKEA had it.
I hired a great designer named Jeff McIntosh to do a slick video opener, and worked with him to fine tune it (you should hire him, but only if you promise to be nice to him).
I brought it into my new copy of Adobe Premiere, and did a couple test projects to learn the ropes, all the while leaning heavily on my good friend Fidel Watlington to help me beat the learning curve (you should hire him if you want some real talk).
I wrote and polished a few of my talks over the course of some months in my Toastmasters club (you should join it). I practiced each talk over fifty times and delivered them multiple times to multiple audiences.
And finally, after all that expense and months of effort and planning, I spent all day on Sunday shooting my first video. It’s a modified version of my About page. Shooting video for the site will introduce a new group of people, so it makes sense to introduce myself to them the way they found me.
I cut all the video together, and rendered it glorious 1080 high definition.
But it sucks.
This is how much time, effort, and learning I had to put in in order to fail valiantly.
- The sound equipment worked admirably, but the workflow to sync the sound and video files is unmanageable. That’s why I just have sound from the onboard camera mic (yuck).
- The lighting in the studio isn’t strictly controlled because I thought I could get away with just softening the light from the windows. In reality, I began shooting when it was light out, and ended when it was dark, and the lighting visibly changes when I cut between shots. Plus, my rim light was too far forward so it blew out half of my face, while the back light was positioned too close to me so every time I moved my arm back, it lit up brightly.
- I didn’t have a good technique for organizing each clip, so I had to rewatch hours of footage over and over to find the decent takes.
- I didn’t have anything to drink while I was shooting, so my voice becomes more gravelly as time goes on.
- Despite my best efforts looking at the lens, I’m still not quite looking directly into the camera.
- The list continues.
This is how much time, effort, and learning I had to put in in order to fail valiantly. So how do I move forward?
Picking myself up
- The first and maybe most important part of the answer is that I have a video that actually exists, shitty though it may be. This is a critical starting point to creating success out of failure.
- I hoped that everything would come together right away, but I know from experience that learning curves can be steep, so the next part of the answer is that I’m not going to let my initial failure deter me. Tenacity is your best friend if you want to do great work.
- I have the good fortune of having an amazing group of friends who can support me too. But remember that we create our own luck by working hard to be available to opportunities as they arise. I’ve spent years getting to know most of the people I mentioned here, and countless others. I’ve spent years producing valuable work, and supporting them when they need my help. Just this Saturday, I spent five hours of my free time implementing a cute HTML5 physics simulation for a friend of mine who was out of his coding element. That guy is an amazing graphic designer. It’ll be pretty “lucky” to have him around when I need some help with visual work, won’t it?
I won’t be sharing the shitty video with you, but I will show those very talented friends of mine, who can catch mistakes that I don’t know about already. I’m going to use what I’ve learned about my studio to rearrange and improve the lighting. Based on my hands-on experience with the audio workflow, I’m going to head back to Guitar Center yet again and pick up a boom mic that can plug into my camera.
I worked hard to produce something, instead of nothing, and I’m using that learning experience as a building block toward producing success. That’s what I write about here week after week, and that’s what I’m doing. That’s why this post, even though it isn’t what I planned, is a success.