Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Making a video

Not everybody, it seems, appreciates just how much work actually goes into making even a deceptively simple video. My latest video, for example, consists of me talking to camera in pretty much one take for five minutes, plus a few modest visual effects. It is, in fact, this video:

Nothing to it, right?


Here are all the stages I had to go through to make this video. It took me the best part of two days (I probably could have done it in one if real life didn’t get in the way).

Initial research. This involves finding out about what I want to talk about, which is things you might want to do if you’re in Germany in June. And this involves trawling the internet, looking for likely candidates. Out of countless hundreds on offer, from barbecues to rock festivals, I noted down about twenty-four that caught my eye.

Narrowing down. Having got my shortlist, I had to whittle it down to a small number (I ended up with seven), because frankly, a half-hour video was never going to be an option. The goal was to end up with a mix of different types of festival scattered about Germany. Among those that, for different reasons, went by the wayside were Luther’s Wedding in Wittenberg, the Strawberry Festival in Wolgast, the Ironman contest in Berlin, the Kite Festival in Wyk auf Föhr and (most regretfully of all) the Great Boiled Potato Feast in Nienburg.

Further research. The things left on my final list had to researched more fully, including looking up the official websites (if any). It’s no good, for example, just saying that there is a festival called the Röbeler Fischtage; you might want to know what happens at that festival, and what kind of fish is involved in what way.

Graphics. Each one of the maps is a separate graphic. I don’t have graphics for every single town and city in Germany, so I have to make new ones.

Rehearsal. I want to speak as fluently as possible without reading off a script (although having a list in my hand is pretty much necessary). That means walking about the house talking to myself for a couple of hours.

Setting up. This means setting up the camera and the lighting, and making sure everthing is working properly.

Filming. Even after all that rehearsal, nothing ever goes smoothly while filming. I managed to get through the piece in one go about three times, but each successful attempt was preceded by several false starts, fluffed lines and the like. Because I wanted to do it in one take, each mistake meant starting from scratch. At one point, the battery died, so I had to take the spare and refocus the camera.

Editing. This is almost the easiest part. First I got the most successful shot, added the intro and outro, and then added the other visuals on top.

Rendering. This is the name given to the process whereby the video editor takes the project and uses it to generate an actual video file. This takes half an hour or so.

Review. Simply watching the video to make sure everything went according to plan.

Writing the subtitles. Now I have to write the subtitles, which I do by hand as this is much more reliable and actually less hassle than letting some unpredictable automated system loose on it.

Thumbail. The custom thumbnail comes next, a simple design which takes just a few minutes.

Upload. This took about an hour to upload to YouTube on my connection. This is nail-biting stuff, as any little glitch or power failure could wreck your plans for the rest of the day. This is also where I get to write the video description, with all the handy links to websites for all the events I mentioned.

Adding subtitles and testing them. Subtitles are uploaded separately. I then have to review the video to make certain the subtitles are completely correct, making final edits as necessary.

Publishing. That's just a simple matter of switching the uploaded video to “Public”.

So there you have it. One simple five-minute video: that’s how totally not easy it is.

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