It’s amazing what you can learn on the internet

Last week I was asked to make a quick introductory video.  Having completed the project I think what they really meant was a short introductory video because the process was anything but quick.   

I had attempted to make an intro video once before, it wasn’t very successful, not really necessary at the time, and so gave up the project. Then came the request last week, but this time it was important, and I needed to do it. They didn’t want a ‘professional’ clip, just something that would let a specific group of people know a bit about me. I set to work by doing a little research on the internet. I watched a few introductory videos, some that caused me to cringe more than a few times, and I looked at sites that gave hints and tips. You know the sort of thing I mean, the ‘Idiots Guide to making Yourself Look Good on a Video’, and there were plenty of them.

In a perfect world I would have amazing abilities, and an in-depth knowledge of Photoshop-type effects, so that I could produce a video that made me look twenty years younger. Nicely softened footage, slightly blurry around edges, me looking young, spry, and slightly Greek Goddessy was the product I was thinking of. Laptop camera set up I was ready to roll, “Take 1”. I flew through my script, covered all the enlightening points that just had to be made, and finally hit stop. That was easy!

Playback left the fantasy of the Greek Goddessy me in tatters. I know I’m not young and spry anymore but I don’t have two chins. Who was that woman in my video? Had I done something wrong? She sounded like me but I didn’t recognise anything else. There was a gloomy sort of feel to it, more horror character than Greek Goddess. I was obviously missing something important here, so it was time to go back to the internet and more research.

Take 2 saw the laptop resting on three boxes and an assortment of Tupperware containers. Elevating the camera level makes you look up and helps to deal with shadows that create double chins, baggy black eyes, and all sorts of other characteristics women of a certain age are trying desperately to hide. I had also learned that I needed to think carefully about my setting. I wasn’t to choose somewhere that would distract my viewers from the star of the show (that being me) but I wasn’t to use a plain background either. Great, it was 43 (C) degrees outside with a blazing sun, humidity so high it was beyond registering on any scale, and in an area that noise pollution laws really should be enacted. So outside was not an option.

I am currently living in a resort but please don’t imagine that in downtown Korat that is actually as elegant and palatial as it sounds. My humble adobe, which is very nice, is made up of three rooms, a bedroom, a lounge and a bathroom, which limits the choice of setting just a little. The bathroom was out as I didn’t want to appear as though I was currently incarcerated and hence surrounded by tiles. I felt the bedroom might just send the wrong message, this intro video was for my new job and it wasn’t as a lady of the night. Not that I have anything against ladies that choose such a profession, it’s just that my brother told me many years ago that I had better make a good job of my degree and education because I’d be bankrupt in a day if I ever tried for a job that required me to remove my clothing. So the only option left for me was the lounge, a well-appointed room but not highly decorative with simply painted walls adorned with two very small, and fairly uninspiring, prints.

Apparently you need to illustrate your film and so cutaways are very important unless your story is very moving or dramatic! A fast lesson on what a cutaway was, and how to add it, was needed as I was pretty sure my intro video was not going to meet the very moving or dramatic criteria. The dictionary told me that a cutaway was, ‘A brief shot that interrupts the main action of a film, often to depict related matter or supposedly concurrent action’, not much help really. Does an intro video have a main or concurrent action? I opted to focus on the ‘depict related matter’ bit. I scoured my pictures library for some relevant still shots that at a push we could call related and thought I was a genius when I figured out how to add them to my film sequence.

Keep it short and simple was the mantra, more than 4 minutes was just a yawn fest and self-indulgent. But it must be descriptive, when it’s finished people must fully understand you, who you are, what you can do, and why you are special. Who I am in less than 4 minutes including pictures that don’t show me. Makes you wonder at the value of all those hard learned life lessons and experiences, fifty years to build them and you have to explain that in less than 4 minutes. But I’m always up for a challenge.

I finally had my text snippets, my screen shots, my imagery, and about 4 hours of video footage of me trying to say the same thing over and over again in an informal, off the cuff manner, just in case one of them was any good. All that was left was to put it all together.  After another few hours reading video editing sites I thought I might be able to create the masterpiece that was to be viewed by this limited audience of about 500!

The whole exercise took me a weekend to put together. The quick video was anything but quick, but it was short. I did manage to sum up me and my special qualities in less than four minutes. While I wasn’t too disappointed by the end product I never managed to get that Greek Goddess persona across, but neither did I look like the double chinned horror movie character of Take 1.

It was a huge learning curve, but it was also fun and there were plenty of hilarious moments. If I hadn’t been so exhausted after making the main feature I would have produced an ‘out-takes’ version too. That one would really have been a great video although my inner Greek Goddess might not have thought so.

I had huge (internet) help in the making of this production and there are far too many people to thank to list them all, but a few people deserve special attention and thanks in the creation of this video masterpiece;

The Blender Guru guy that tried to teach me how to make a Title that Sizzled.  The Guardian lifestyle website series called Making Video that tried to teach me all sorts of things not to do and finally Mevvy who had all sorts of great advice on how to make an ‘awesome’ introductory video.  I should probably actually be apologising to them for taking all their fabulous advice and not making quite the masterpiece they had envisioned.

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