tip strip

Making the cuts

Back in the day, I really enjoyed making mix tapes. I would spend ages in my bedroom planning a playlist, making sure each song came nicely after the one before it without being a jarring change of tempo or style, then put together an epic C90 with my twin cassette deck HiFi.

Naturally, in step with the march of technology, I progressed to making playlists on Minidiscs, then CD’s for the car, and still got a kick out of compiling a playlist that would hold its own against a commercially available compilation album.

However, by the time I transitioned to listening to mp3’s and the streaming music services that followed, my previously meticulous attention to detail in crafting musical continuity became a forgotten art. In short, I somehow stopped caring and these days I will just stick a playlist on shuffle and ride the randomness it throws at me. When Moby’s Porcelain is unceremoniously followed by The Prodigy’s Smack My Bitch Up on my shuffled classic electronica playlist, I only have my own apathy to blame.

I’m not sure why the motivation to ensure my music smoothly fitted together eroded over the years, but my fledgling efforts at video editing have stirred the embers I long since thought had gone cold. In the past six weeks since I decided to have a go at creating regular content for my YouTube channel, I’ve found it’s the editing I’ve enjoyed more than the actual recording of the content.

Disappointed with the results of the first couple of vlogs I created, I made an effort in the third one to make it a bit more slick. Gone were the amateur looking page curl transitions and in their place I had gentle fades or simple quick cuts if there was continuity between scenes and the result was more pleasing.

By the time I had edited together a lot of video from our family holiday I had also started using black colour boards with a text overlay between segments that didn’t naturally follow one another.

It’s been adding touches like the above that have made it quite good fun to edit a video together. Obviously I’m learning as I go and what I’m producing is still a bit rough, but the difference between my first couple of vlogs and my fourth, for example, really makes me want to delete the first two and pretend they never happened!

I hadn’t realised beforehand, but it turned out that there’s a wealth of free music to be had from YouTube that you can either crudely slap in place in the online editor or download and accurately edit onto position offline. I added some background music to footage of us riding a train in Thomas Land and although it made that section more interesting, because I used the no frills online editor I couldn’t crop the track and it inadvertently drowned out the dialogue a little at the end of it.

Still, although I cringe a little at the result, stuff like that is all part of the learning process and some constructive feedback I’ve had is helping me to improve.

For vlog four I put a lot of thought into what I wanted to go into it and got up early that day to ensure I had time to record the intro segments. Whilst I was on the train to work that morning I reviewed the footage and decided upon what I was going to use to fill the lunch time segment I’d record.

To that end, I have a Trello board with a list of ideas that I’ve been putting together. When I have an idea I’ll add a card to the list and, if it warrants it, I’ll add a check list of shots that I can work my way through so I don’t miss anything on the day.

As I wanted to make a really good effort of the fourth one I decided to burn a couple of idea cards to help flesh out the 10 minutes I wanted to have after editing. If anything it was probably too much content and, although I was happy with the end result, I was told it was a bit long.

In fairness, I had wanted it to be about 10 minutes long because that seems to be what most people seem to do for a day in the life videos on YouTube. I’m not precious about it, though, and if I don’t have the content I wouldn’t want to just string one out for the sake of it. That said, I’ll need to be careful to avoid cramming too much into a single one.

As I’ve progressed I’ve got more comfortable with recording myself in public. I mean I’m not swaggering through crowds of folk with the confidence of a pro, but I have gotten over my “wait ’til the coast is clear” approach of my first couple of attempts. It’s hard to shake off a lifetime of feeling awkward in front of camera in short order, but I can see progression there and that was one of the things I hoped to get out of doing this.

On the subject of being comfortable in crowds, I put together five minutes of footage from a few of us attending a fairly large Independence march in Glasgow. The atmosphere was incredible and with the number of people holding cameras aloft, I don’t think I looked too out of place recording myself amongst the throng.

During the day of the march I was already thinking ahead to the editing process as I recorded different segments. I wanted 5 minutes of footage and knew I’d have to record about 8 minutes to give me some leeway when I was editing. In the end it was a quick turnaround – I parked editing of my fourth vlog to get the Independence march one published within a 24 hours.

Compared to that, the fourth vlog was a slog. Even when I was done with the painstaking editing process I took a late decision to export it at 24 frames per second to see if it would look more cinematic. It took an age to upload to YouTube and when it was there it not only looked awful but I noticed a bunch of editing errors I felt I had to correct, so I deleted it and spent a bit more time on the final cut.

Unfortunately, each time I cut something out of the main timeline it meant all the things on the second or third layers got out of sync. That was a total pain to sort out and now I don’t add anything to other layers (overlays, text, music) until I’m happy with the main video timeline. Wish I’d know that sooner!

Another lesson learned the hard way was when I introduced a microphone into the equation after the audio was badly affected by wind buffeting on vlog three. Unfortunately I didn’t really test it properly and only used it in anger on the day I recorded vlog five – a day on the Waverley.

The microphone seemed to cause a weird electrical noise that ruined everything I recorded using it. I realised it was happening during the day, but by then I’d already recorded a lot of stuff that I couldn’t use and it made it really hard to get a decent video together. It took me a week to get the salvageable footage into a six and a half minute vlog and I haven’t used the microphone again since – good job it didn’t cost me much.

Everything I’ve learned over the last couple of months went into making vlog six – cruising Loch Lomond a very solid effort. We enjoyed a day out on Crazy Uncle John’s boat – something we do every summer, usually multiple times, and from recording bits here and there in the past I knew it’d make great content for a vlog.

We had fantastic weather for our  day out on Loch Lomond and the footage I got was so good and so varied that I had it edited and published in just a couple of days. The only part of the video I wasn’t happy with was the bit where we get the boat out of the water. I had sped it up, but in the app on my phone it’s too choppy to preview double speed sections so I didn’t check the length of that section and it was just a bit too long.

Still, I’ve had some encouraging feedback on it and that’s good enough for me – I’m probably the only one nitpicking that kind of thing.

Finding a balance between that nitpicking and still enjoying the process is probably going to take a while for me to find, but it’s great to have a creative outlet like this to fill up my commutes with. If only I could mix in the perfect soundtrack to accompany a video without eliciting a copyright claim. At least that was never a problem with my mix tapes. 🙂

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