One thing that we tried to do with this project was document our creative process while creating our pieces.
Most of the educational value of a project comes from the creative process the creator goes through. Whether that's with a whole crew on set or just a solo project with an artist. You can learn so much from someone's process.
What we were aiming for was to document a transparent process with these projects. Record the choices we made with the project and also the different obstacles we hit. The project you think that you are going to make can be totally different from the actual project that gets developed. You may hit different walls and sometimes what we want to do isn't necessarily how it turns out.
So that's the purpose of this post. To go through the thought processes I had with this project. I wish I documented the process a bit better, but hopefully through this post you will be able to get a sense of how this project came to be.
The first thing we did was decide on a theme we will all be tackling. The theme was decided to be "beginnings". There were no other constraints on the project. You can do whatever you'd like with that topic, but that's the theme of the projects.
Once that was decided, I began to work on the project. The first thing I needed to figure out was what I wanted to do with the project.
The first thing I did was write a script. You guys saw when I wrote that script. I included some of those clips into the project. I didn't record it with the intentions of it actually putting them into the final project. I knew I might choose to do so, so I recorded the portions of the script that I felt would be important to record. These portions I decided to record felt like important beats within the story.
The main reason I recorded myself writing out the script was for this portion of the project; to show the process.
After I wrote the script, I edited it down. Much like what you would do with a paper in your English class, I went through the script and started to mark it up and rewrite different portions. I was lucky that the sections I ended up putting in the project did not get edited down.
Once the script felt right, I turned on my camera, hooked up my mic and began to record my Voice Over (V.O.). (Please excuse my appearance LOL).
And from there, I had no idea where I wanted to go. How do you visually depict this script where it's mainly conceptual? I'm not really a conceptual person when it comes to visuals. Abstract visuals just is not my strong suit in anyway. There needs to be some tangible logic to it in order for me to visualize it.
The first idea I had was to use the footage I had shot over the past 4+ years; but once I went through the footage it didn't seem like it would work out. It didn't feel right.
From listening to the audio portion of the project, it felt like I was going to have to go with an animation approach. Either with character rigs or something. I was also thinking about taking pictures of different things and animating them as parallaxes.
With a parallax, you would separate the different layers of a photo through a photo editing software, like Photoshop. Export the separate layers, import them into a video editing software and then animate the separate layers to create faux movement within the frame. Here's a tutorial on the basic idea of it.
I was pretty stuck for a while. I didn't love the idea of the animations or parallaxes. It would be fun to do and make for the hell of it, but the idea didn't feel right for the project. I still had no idea what I wanted to do visually.
If I couldn't figure out the visuals, I might as well work on the audio portion of the video. So it was time to look into music.
I use Epidemic Sound, not sure if it's the "best" music library to use, but it's what I have a subscription to and it has been pretty solid for me. I have yet to look for music on there for a project and not find anything that works for it.
If you want to sign up for a membership, feel free to use my referral link. You don't have to use it if you don't want to. But, it'd be cool if you do LOL.
I basically just go through the library, searching through the different moods they have. I then just press play on all of the different songs. It's not coordinated at all. It takes forever to find a good song. Once I find a song that might work with the project, I play the song over and play the project at the same time. If it feels right, I choose the song.
I landed on "Ambiance" by Johannes Bornlöf. What I liked about the song is that the slow pace made you really absorb the different components of the song. It makes you sit with the song. It makes you go on the journey with it. The pacing of the keys and the tone of the song just felt right for the mood I was going for. It feels very introspective. There is also that feeling of being unsure and insecure that comes from the music. It was perfect for the project.
Epidemic Sound lets you download the different stems of the song. A stem is basically just the solo'd instrument used in the song. For this song, the stems were separated as "instruments", "bass", and "melody".
I then use the stems in my timeline instead of the main mix in order to have more control of the soundtrack. I started with just the instruments. I wanted the music to feel more stripped and empty at the beginning. As the project progresses, I add in the melody stem to add more vibrancy and character to the music. Then I add the bass last to give it the fullness that is needed in the music.
Each stem is added at a different beat of the video. The melody is introduced when I say "but, is it only that choice?" Then the bass is introduced when I ask "what if I never reach that peak?"
I introduce those stems at those points because at those points I'm going deeper into my thoughts. I'm having this conversation with myself that I constantly need to answer. As I progress with this conversation, I wanted y'all to feel the different layers through the music.
Once I had the song inserted, I needed a "turning point/climax" song. In my script, I unintentionally added a turning point. It might be engrained in my mind through film school to add one, but it wasn't on purpose.
The turning point for me is the acceptance of my journey when I say "but this is where I need to be". It ended up working out that the song ends very close to that story beat.
"Ambience" leaves you very empty. The ending has this rise, where there is no pay off. It leaves you feeling like there needs to be a 2nd portion of the song where there's a pay off. I needed to find that payoff. One that transitions out of the Ambience well and exudes the energy needed for the turning point.
I go through Epidemic again. This time I'm looking for "payoffs". Songs that can build off of "Ambience" and deliver a sense of confidence and victory. Because throughout the video so far, it's a lot of me being unsure. Now, I am sure where I need to be. I need that confidence to be translated through that music.
I land on "Lens Flare 3" by Peter Sandberg.
The instruments in it is very similar to the ones in ambience. The tone is very similar and honestly, I was very surprised with how well it worked. I chose the first drop of the song because it got the job done. It wasn't over dramatic. If I chose the last drop, it would've been too much. So I chose that drop, then cut the very ending of the song to let the song end satisfyingly.
So now I have the music done. I now have a better grasp on the rhythm of the video. What beats I now need to hit. And I can now begin to fill in the timeline with video clips.
Populating the Timeline
This portion was difficult. I went through this project over and over again, trying to find a place to start placing clips. The line that felt like I could fill in was "that unknown path has so much to offer."
With that line I decided to look at clips from when I traveled to Japan and Hawaii. I chose a couple clips from my family's road trip to a mountain top on Maui. On that day of the clip, I didn't really care to go watch the sunset and go on that little roadtrip. But, I'm glad I decided to go with. It was beautiful seeing the clouds underneath us and then being able to capture that vibrant sunset that I wouldn't have been able to see from below. It felt right to add those clips to that moment.
I added the Japan clips because it was also a journey I nearly didn't go on. On the trip, I was able to be very present and just observe a different portion of the world that I haven't seen before. You can watch the vlogs from that trip here.
After adding those clips, I was at a mental block again. I had no clue what else to add. The clips I had just didn't feel right. Decided to close it out and try again later.
A few weeks pass, and somehow at our weekly meeting we get into a conversation on how Ricky and I first met. I met Ricky back in 2019 when I was filming the beginnings of 4th & Orange, a newly formed reggae band. Ricky was the guitarist. During that time I was recording the formation and journey of the band. Flict, the band's director, brought me on to record this project of his. The plan was to film their rehearsals, create a mini-doc to pitch to the eventual label they would be signed to and become the band's contracted videographer. It didn't work out that way, but I still had all of that footage and the edits.
We watched a few of the edits and then we decided that I should use these clips for the project. It's hard to explain, but it was a gamble to use these clips. The label didn't want to use the edits I had and I was still on good terms with the people at the label. I didn't want to publish anything and then get backlash from those people. Ricky assured me I would be fine, so I decided to add it to the project and it fit perfectly.
From then on, I decided to add in clips I had from different projects I worked on. Some behind the scenes of projects I worked on in the past. A lot of clips from projects that have just been sitting in my hard drive.
At this point, I have about 50% of the timeline populated with clips. I have the intro, the band scene, the behind the scenes scene, and the traveling clips. The rest is unpopulated.
The idea I had next was for the team to finally physically meet up and meet each other and film that. Surprisingly we have never met up before and the rest of the team has never met each other before simplex. I was friends with all of them from different areas of my life, so they went into this without knowing anyone else besides me.
We had a date set up to meet up and then I get covid. Of course. We had to cancel the meet up and I had to figure out a different way to visualize the turning point. This then turned into the blog screen recordings that ended up in the final project.
So now, I have about 60% of the project populated. I still need to add in the concluding clips and fill in the blank space. This took me a long time to figure out what to put in there.
The last 40%
This is where my timeline gets more foggy. I don't know what comes next, but I decide to add in subtitles. The V.O is what is supposed to take center stage for the video, so I decided to show that importance by subtitling it.
Mind you this is taking like weeks at a time per decision. I was hard stuck on this project. This took me forever...
I added in the writing clips from when I first wrote the script at the beginning to show that this is like a journal piece. You are just in my thoughts. This is what I'm thinking about. I'm sitting at my desk, just writing in my journal.
I decided to keep some of the empty space blank. These points were at lows. The points where I just start losing hope. I didn't think any clips I had would visualize these thoughts better than blank space; where your eyes aren't distracted on anything and you just have to focus on my thoughts. It's just you and the subtitles.
The last section is where I had the most difficulties.
How do I end this video?
Initially I decided to use these clips I had from filming my grandfather draw. My grandpa loves to draw and during the beginning stages of the COVID pandemic I spent a lot of time with him.
Here's what that ending looked like:
I didn't really love it. The clips look nice, and they're edited together well. It just didn't feel right with the prompt. At this point, it was taking months for me to finish this project. I just kept hitting different walls that I just didn't know how to figure out.
I didn't want to delete the ending... I color corrected it. I added effects. But I just couldn't end it that way. I hated that it didn't feel right. At this point, I was just trying to get it done instead of actually completing it the way I wanted to.
So I end up deleting the end.
Then I remembered all of the footage I had from when I was freelancing in 2018. I then added that footage and it felt really good. I then remembered an interview I shot of Ronny Chieng at the Crazy Rich Asians premiere and it was literally perfect to end the video. I was there on assignment from the company I was freelancing with. It was a last minute thing where Trace and I were pretty unprepared for it. We didn't understand or realize how big of a movie CRA was actually going to be. Knowing that it was an all Asian cast, we went into there asking, "What would you say to all of the Asian-Americans out there trying to make it in the entertainment business?" Then Ronny gave us that beautiful clip. Here is a longer version of that clip
For the full Crazy Rich Asians Green Carpet interview with more cast members click here.
From there I was really happy with the video. It was now just time to tweak it and get it ready to deliver.
The ending process was just making sure all the clips lined up right and the clips were ready to be exported. The thing with grabbing clips from all over different projects is that all of the frame rates didn't match up. Some were 24fps, some were 25fps, some were 30fps, even 60fps, and 120 fps. Every frame rate my camera could shoot, I had. I had to make my project 24fps in order to make sure there would be enough frames for each second to make the footage as smooth as possible. I had to adjust the timings of every clip to match the 24fps. If the initial clip was 30fps, I would have to adjust its speed by 80%. 25fps by 96%, etc. etc. All of that math to make sure that every clip was now running at 24fps.
Then I color corrected the clips. I wanted the clips to have more contrast to make it punchier, so I would go through the different sliders in order to achieve that look. I would also adjust the color temp (blue/yellow) and the tint (green/pink) in order to get the skin tones to be as accurate as possible.
After that, it was done. And you get what you see in the project today.
I'm really happy with it. I hope you enjoyed it as well. Those were most if not all of the decisions I made for this project. There were a lot of times where I did not know where this project was going. Ideas changed and I had to adjust. It's not the prettiest of processes, but it's what happened. I'm not going to tell y'all that there weren't hiccups in the process, because there were.
I hope this allows you to understand that there are bumps in processes. It's not always going to be a straight process, especially for something you haven't done before.
Just start that project and figure it out. You'll get to where you want to be.
Here's the final project.