Interior Designer

Interior Design Careers

I’m one week into my interior design courses, and my eyes have already been opened to a much bigger world than I expected. When people think about interior designers, they might just picture professionals picking out pretty furniture and accessories for the home. And yes, residential design is an avenue one can go down. But the field includes a plethora of positions, including many interesting specialties.

Here are a just a few of the many careers one can pursue after studying interior design:

Kitchen & Bath Specialist

Kitchen and bath design requires special technical knowledge.

With plumbing, ventilation, and gas needs, kitchen and baths are rooms that require special technical knowledge when it comes to design. That is why you will have find interiors designers who specialize in kitchens and/or baths.

In fact, there is a separate professional organization dedicated to this speciality, the National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). This organization administers their own exam, which paired with professional experience, distinguishes someone as a Certified Kitchen Designer (CKD), Certified Bath Design (CBD) or both (CKBD). Cañada College offers a special Kitchen and Bath Design Certificate.

Kitchens are probably one of, if not the most renovated room in a home, so I can see the advantage of specializing in that area of design.

Home Stager

Staged home
Home staging often gives real estate a competitive advantage.

Home stagers furnish properties that are on the market so that potential buyers can better picture themselves in the home. Because it needs to appeal to a wide variety of people, these designs are often less personal than traditional residential design.

With real estate so hot in the Bay Area market, the home staging business is booming. My professor informed us that she has a lot of home staging companies reaching out looking for new hires.

Cañada College offers a special Home Staging Certificate.

Color Consultant

Color can have a huge impact in a room.

For those with a really good eye for color, there is an opportunity to specialize in color design. Some interior designers enlist the services of a separate color consultant to find just the right hues for their project.

Color consultants can also work directly with clients looking to, say, repaint their home but who are having a hard time deciding on the right color. Color consultants might also work on the home decor or furniture supplier side, specializing in textiles.

Lighting Designer

Lighting is an important element in the home.

Requiring both aesthetic instinct and electrical knowledge, it’s no surprise that lighting design is a separate specialty. Lighting designers can keep up with the latest trends and technologies, bringing expert knowledge to this essential element in the home.

Aesthetically and viscerally, lighting design can help distinguish spaces, highlight areas of focus, and set the mood for a space. On the more practical side, lighting design which employs the most up-to-date technologies can also help curb energy costs for a homeowner.

Space Planner

floorplan of office
Offices and other commercial spaces require thoughtful space planning for optimal utility.

A space planner is responsible for diagramming how an interior space should be organized to create an optimal balance of space and utility. Their services are particularly sought out for office and retail spaces, rather than residential spaces.

Sometimes a space planner’s job is done after the drafting is complete, and they do not need to oversee the actual execution of the plan.

Commercial Designer

restaurant interior
From restaurants to medical facilities, commercial design is a booming field.

This is an umbrella term for interior design for businesses (so essentially, non-residential design). Professionals in this area will almost always work for a design firm. And often, these design firms will specialize in an area within commercial design, such as:

  • Hospitality design – hotels, cruise ships, restaurants
  • Medical facilities – hospitals, clinics, other care facilities
  • Retail – boutiques, department stores, shopping malls
  • Office design

Because these spaces are used by a wide variety of people, designs are often less personal, which some designers may find creatively stifling. It also requires a lot more knowledge of codes, particularly for things like accessibility.

And unlike residential design, this area of interior design almost always requires working with a large number of stakeholders, which can be a little frustrating.

However, there is huge opportunity in this arena and it can be an area of interior design that is quite lucrative.

Keeping my options open

As I continue with my courses this semester, I want to continue to explore these various paths within the interior design field. Luckily, if I decide to continue with Cañada College’s Interior Design certificate program, there are a number of classes which provide a deep dive into many of these specialities.

If I do decide to pursue interior design, it will be interesting to see if there is an area that I find particularly fulfilling and want to specialize in, or if I would prefer being more of a generalist. Only time will tell!

Interior Designer

Back to School

My textbooks are packed, my outfit picked out. That’s right — it’s the first day of school!

Textbooks are just as expensive as ever.

This winter and spring, I am taking a couple of introductory interior design courses to learn more about the career. I hope to not only get an overview of the ins and outs of being an interior designer, but also get some insights into the various ways to make a living in this field.

I have been interested in interior design for years. I grew up on home improvement and design shows. As an art history major, I learned to appreciate the beauty and thoughtfulness in space design. More than anything, I love that interior design is not just about picking out pretty things; it’s about creating an environmental experience.

Find the right learning resource

A few years ago, my interest in interior design had grown enough that I started researching certificate programs. As with any design field, experience and a portfolio is key, and I figured that a structured program would provide not only the education, but an opportunity to build up a portfolio through sample projects.

A quick online search of “interior design certificate programs bay area” quickly netted me this San Francisco Chronicle article titled “So you want to be an interior designer”. The article gives an overview of a number of academic institutions throughout the Bay area that offer interior design education. That’s how I found Cañada College’s interior design program.

At a fraction of the cost of, say, UC Berkeley Extension’s interior design certificate, completion of Cañada’s program fulfills the educational requirement for the IDEX exam to become a Certified Interior Designer (CID) in California. And according to the article, a typical student as Cañada College is “older, often with a degree in another field, and often with an already established career.” Indeed, that is reflected in their class schedule — most classes are just one day a week for three hours, with many courses having an evening option.

My classes

I decided to start with two introductory classes as part of Cañada’s interior design certificate program. I thought this would allow me to get a good overview of the field while not committing too much time or money. And if I do decide this is a career I want to pursue, I can go on to complete the certificate program through Cañada College and already have two classes under my belt.

Introduction to Interior Design

Examination of the interior built environment with emphasis on residential design. The elements and principles of design along with historical and cultural influences are examined as they relate to the functional and aesthetic aspects of interior spaces. Students develop skills in critical analysis of interiors and create individual solutions through design projects.

Interior Architectural Drafting

Introduction to the tools and techniques for drafting interior spaces. Emphasis is on creating a set of architectural drawings using hand drafting standards and techniques as related to producing interior architectural drawings.

New for the sabbatical

In addition to moving on to a new career as part of this exploration process, I am also trying a new approach to my research. It will be interesting to see if I get more out of this very structured learning, as I delve into a new field. I’ll report back within the next few weeks with my first impressions on the classes.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Making a Video, Part 4: The Trials and Tribulations of Editing

We’re back with another update on the saga of producing my own video!

After planning out my script and shots and then shooting all of the footage, my video project was stalled while I waited for my computer to be upgraded with enough memory to download the editing program and handle all of the video files. In the meantime, I did take the opportunity to film a second video, using a lot of learnings from my initial shoot.

Well, my computer finally got upgraded and I was able to dive into editing.

Syncing video and audio

After waiting so long to get started on post-production, once my computer was upgraded, I was raring to go … and immediately hit a snag.

Because my camera doesn’t have an audio input (it only has the option to use the built-in microphone) but I wanted to use a better microphone, we ended up recording audio on a separate device as the video. That meant, in post-production, one of the first steps was sync up those video and audio files.

I am using Adobe Premiere to edit the video. When I inserted a video file and audio file into the editing bay to line them up, I ran into issues with getting a true sync on some clips because when I would drag, say, the audio file to try to match the video, it would snap to a grid and not be completely lined up.

You can drag your audio and video lines separately, but it’s hard to make a small movement because it snaps to the grid up top.

My husband ended up synching all of the video and audio files on his computer using Logic and then transferred the new clips to my machine. Some of the original clips I left as-is because there is no accompanying audio, but rather, I will be adding voiceover or music in those sections.

Adjusting file formats

With the video and audio synced, I was ready to jump back into editing … and once again stumbled.

When I added the freshly synced clips to the video project in Premiere, the video would not play back, and instead all I saw was a green screen. The clips that were not altered played back just fine. All clips were .mov files, so it was a little perplexing why I would have the issue with the synced clips but not the unsynced clips.

A friend suggested that working with mp4 files was probably better. I converted one of the synced clips into an mp4 file, and that solved the video playback issue. Then I had to go through the slow process of converting all of the files to the new format.

I used VLC to convert my files from MOV to mp4.

It’s like the starting pistol had gone off only to discover my running shoes were stuck in tar.

Dealing with playback lag

Audio and video synced … check.

Formats displaying properly in the editor … check.

With my shoes unstuck from the tar, I was ready to sprint to the editing finish line … only to trip over the first hurdle.

Using Adobe Premiere is pretty easy and relatively user-friendly. You start by adding your media (clips) to your project.

Add your media files from your computer or directly from your camera.

Your uploaded clips are now in your project assets, and then it’s as simple as dragging and dropping the clip you want to work with into the editing bay.

Drag clips from the Project Assets folder into your desired location in the video timeline.

Once placed in the timeline, you can play your clip and decide where you want to cut it. Making cuts is as easy as dragging from either ends of the clip.

Drag from either end of the video clip to trim to your desired length.

But this is where I’ve run into some issues. Once I edit a clip, suddenly the playback is very choppy, with lags in the video. This makes it close to impossible to see if I actually like the way I’ve edited the clip.

I’m still trying to troubleshoot this issue, but in the meantime, I’m powering through. However, it’ll probably be a long process.

Good learnings despite technology issues

Sometimes shorter is better

Just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a 1-2 second video clip can go a long way. When we shot our original footage, particularly the B-roll that will be used under voiceover, we did these long shots. Once I got into editing, I realized that I only needed a few seconds of each clip to create my visual narrative.

Plan your edits like you plan your shots

One thing the playback lag has forced me to do is be a little more thoughtful in my editing plan. Because I can’t easily just trim and test, I’ve had to view my original clips in a separate video player and then make notes of sections I might want to include, and what I would want to cut away to in between those sections. It’s been a good exercise in trying to visualize ahead of time the final product I’m looking for.

The magic of storytelling is editing

Creative editing and combinations of clips has opened up what I can do with my visual narrative. For example, for the food video, we set up the camera and just let it run while I ate the meal and gave natural commentary. There are some good bits, but taken as a whole, there are lot of awkward silences throughout the video. However, by taking the clips that work and splicing in cuts from other footage, suddenly I have a snappy storyline.

I cut different sections of the “Laura Eats” clip and combined it with cuts from other clips.

Next Steps

I’m going to trying editing in a different program, like iMovie, to see if I have better luck with the preview playback. If I still run into issues, I’ll have to go through the long arduous process of troubleshooting.

It’s been a little frustrating that technology has been such a barrier to this phase of the filmmaking process. I feel like I have the artistic vision in mind, but I’m handcuffed by technical issues.

I hope to be back with more updates once the technical issues are resolved!

Content Creator

We’re Making a Podcast!

A couple of months ago, I wrote about being brought on as the producer for my friends’ new podcast, Bring Your Own Movie. After working with them to understand their ideas and goals for the podcast, I set out to create a detailed project plan that would get us from concept to launch.

We then spent the next two months preparing and getting things in order to record our first few episodes:

  • Confirming the episode format
  • Obtaining the necessary recording equipment
  • Selecting and scheduling the first few guests
  • Creating our episode prep checklist and assigning duties

Well, this past Sunday, we recorded our first official episode!

Armed with Belvedere martinis, the crew discusses The Shining with guest Carla Lee.

The concept for the podcast: Each episode, co-hosts Tonya Narvaez and Sam Bertken, along with audio engineer and permanent guest host (and my husband) Ryan Lee Short, invite a guest to talk about their favorite movie. For this episode, the crew discussed The Shining with guest Carla Lee, producer and head writer for sketch comedy company Nice Tan.

Oh, and there’s drinking involved, of course. Over drinks, the group talks about the featured movie, their impressions, and any personal connection they have to the film. And there’s also a rousing (and alcohol-laden) round of trivia.

In preparation for each episode, the entire team does background research on the film — when it was released, who directed and starred, reactions from critics and audiences, and interesting facts. As producer, I also research and come up with all the trivia questions, which I then share with that episode’s trivia master. Oh, and of course, we all watch the movie being featured, noting our own thoughts and reactions.

On the logistical side, for each episode, we secure a recording location and schedule the guest. We also purchase the alcohol (in addition to their favorite movie, the guest also tells us their favorite alcoholic drink) and snacks (key during the sobering up phase).

I am happy to report that our first recording went incredibly smoothly!

Toasting to a successful first episode!
From left to right: audio engineer Ryan Lee Short, guest Carla Lee, co-host Sam Bertken and co-host Tonya Narvaez.

During the recording, I took notes of points where we might want to make cuts to the episodes. I also noted areas of improvement for the subsequent episodes. Next steps for the episode are recording a voiceover for the intro and editing the episode.

With our first episode recorded and the recording process and checklist ironed out, I can now move on to tackling the items we need to address for the public launch, such as:

  • Choosing a media hosting service
  • Setting up our website
  • Creating the cover art
  • Putting together a social media strategy and promotion plan

Our plan is to record three more episodes so we have them queued up and ready to go when we officially launch around the time of the Oscars. This podcast is going to be hilarious and entertaining, and I’m so excited for the launch next month!

Career Exploration, Reflections

Year-End Review

It's been a busy year!

With 2018 coming to a close, it seemed like a good time to look back on the first 2 ½ months of my sabbatical and reflect on what I’ve experienced and learned.

This fall, I mainly focused on careers related to the online and digital space:

  • Web Developer
  • Video Producer
  • Content Creator

My exploration was mainly self-led, relying on free online resources, as well as training from friends. I enjoyed having the flexibility to own my schedule and to jump between the different career areas. However, I did find there were certain weeks where I wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped.

Here are some highlights:

Web Development

I started my sabbatical exploring web development, through FreeCodeCamp, a website with free online lessons. I breezed through the lessons, enjoying the interactive element to each lesson.

I completed all of the lessons in the Responsive Web Design certification area. However, when it came to the sample projects, I had a hard time getting through them. I found I hadn’t retained that much information and constantly had to go look up how to do things. But more than that, I just didn’t find the projects very fulfilling to work on. I found myself just doing the bare minimum requirements to get the project done and wasn’t inspired to go above and beyond with set-up or styling.

I do think it’s useful to have basic web development knowledge, and I could see myself doing some part-time web development work. However, I don’t think I would get enough creative fulfillment out of being a fulltime web developer.

Video Producer

I had the chance to work on a film shoot, as well as try my hand as producing my own video. I also got a great filmmaking 101 lesson, where I learned everything from pre-production and planning to using a camera and editing.

It’s been interesting — and at times surprising — to see which elements of the video production process I’ve particularly enjoyed. For example, I found that I have a talent for and really like script-writing; since the Four Points Film Project (for which I helped write lyrics), I’ve written two short-film scripts. I also loved set dressing, which I suppose shouldn’t have been that surprising since I do have interior design as a career area of interest.

I definitely need more hands-on experience, and I’m excited to continue to explore video production, even if it ends up being just a hobby. My next steps here are to continue to get more production experience and to build up a portfolio.

Content Creation

This has been the area of career exploration that has been the most varied because there are so many different outlets and media for content creation.

When I first listed this career, I was focused on video content creation, so obviously there’s a huge overlap with my exploration into being a video producer. I analyzed my favorite YouTube channels, picking out elements that I particularly liked and would want to include in my own videos. I even started working on my very own video, which is currently on hold as I wait to upgrade the storage on my computer so that I can start editing. And I’ve created a plan for a whole series of food-related videos, the first of which I’ll be shooting this weekend.

I also worked on a content medium I didn’t expect to when I first started this journey – podcasting. After volunteering to help a couple of friends produce their new movie-themed podcast, I learned a lot about putting together and managing a project plan for the podcast launch. In fact, we are recording our first episodes starting in January, aiming for a launch around the Oscars. I’ve really enjoyed working with a team on this creative project.

Finally, I’ve kept up this blog! I’m proud that I’ve been able to regularly post two times each week. There have definitely been a lot of learnings and a lot that I could do better. But at the very least, I’ve reaffirmed how much I really do enjoy writing, when it’s a topic I’m passionate about.

Even if I don’t end up being a fulltime, paid content creator, I think this will be an element or at least a side project of any career I pursue. For example, if I end of being an interior designer, I could see myself also having a blog or video series about home decor and design tips.

What’s Next?

I will continue to explore video production and content creation because, as I mentioned above, even if those don’t end up being careers, they are hobbies I really enjoy.

However, this winter, I see myself shifting into the home-related careers:

  • Interior Designer
  • Furniture Upcycler
  • Real Estate Agent

I’ve signed up for a couple of courses through Cañada College’s Interior Design Certificate Program, and I’ll be starting classes in mid-January. I’m excited to go back to school again! This will be a much more structured approach to career exploration, and I’m interested to see if I get more out of it.

For furniture upcycler, I’ll probably try my hand at giving new life to existing pieces we have or free furniture we find. I think this could also be a good overlap with video production and/or content creation, as I can create a video or write a blog about the upcycling process.

I’ll need to do a little research about the best way to get a taste of the real estate world. This may be a career area where interviewing people in the field could be the most fruitful first step.

And that’s actually a good segue for another big sabbatical goal in 2019: connect with and interview more people who work in the various career areas I’m interested in.

It’s been a great first few months. I’ve learned a lot — not just about the careers I’m exploring, but also about what I really want to prioritize in life and what fulfills me. I’m excited to continue this journey in the new year!

Actor, Video Producer

The Other Side of the Camera

For the last couple of months, I’ve been doing a lot of exploration into video production: planning a shoot, learning about the different equipment needed, editing the video. I’ve even had the opportunity to work on a full film shoot and try my hand at putting together my own video content.

Well, this past Sunday I found myself in another position – in front of the camera. I booked a small acting gig filming a training video to be used by the Stanford School of Law. I played a woman being interviewed for a job.

When you think about pursuing acting as a career, you probably think of three major outlets: feature film, television or theater. But in many cities — especially the Bay Area — there is a lot of opportunity for corporate or training videos.

About the gig

The process of booking this job was pretty easy. I’m a member of a number of Facebook groups where auditions are posted. These are mostly theater auditions, but you’ll occasionally see film auditions, as well. It was in one of these groups, that I saw a post about this video.

From there, I emailed the contact with my headshot and resume; eventually, it would be good to put together a reel of my on-screen work.

About a week later, the contact from the video production team reached out to those actors they were interested in with a script and asked us to film ourselves saying the lines so that the client (in this case, Stanford School of Law) could review and choose who they’d like cast. I’ve been on the other side of this when I helped manage some video production at Facebook; I remember listening to submissions for voiceover artists and choosing my favorites.

And then, a week after that video audition, I learned I was cast!

It was a short, two-page script, and it only required about 2.5 hours of my time. It paid $200, which is a decent rate. I’m not sure if these type of gigs pop up enough to make a full living from it, but it’s a good way to make some extra cash and could pair well with another part-time job.

Pursuing future gigs

I want to research more outlets for finding these types of video gigs. I’ll explore more Facebook groups for free postings. I know there is also SF Casting, which requires a paid membership.

It’s also good just to network and keep in contact with people you’ve worked with before. For this video shoot, the production team was really impressed with me (for most of my shots, we only had to do one take). I told them to keep in touch and let me know if they work on future videos where I might fit one of the roles.

I also want to set up my website and put together a reel, which will help when submitting myself for castings.

Learning more about video production

Though I was there as an actor, it was interesting doing a little reconnaissance from the video production standpoint. It was a pretty small production team — just three people. In addition to the shoot, the team was also in charge of putting together the script and working with the client to get approval. And I saw that they had also created storyboards, which I assume they also reviewed with the client.

For the equipment, they just had a DSLR camera with tripod (and different lenses), a shotgun mic hooked up to a recorder, and a couple of box lights. The cost of equipment does seem to be a barrier when starting your own video production company, so it was comforting to see that they were working with equipment that isn’t too expensive.

It was nice that this gig allowed me to explore two of the careers on my list — actor and video producer. Maybe my future path will see me on both sides of the camera!

Content Creator, Uncategorized, Video Producer

Making a Video, Part 2: Shooting

I'm ready for my close-up!

This past Sunday, my husband Ryan and I shot the first part of my DIY project video, featuring the handmade Christmas gifts we are making this year. Armed with the draft script and shot list I had put together earlier in the week, along with some basic equipment, we were ready to go!

Filming in workshop
I’m ready for my close-up!


Since this is my first video shoot running on my own, and it was just two of us working on it, I kept the equipment pretty simple.

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera

Nikon D3400 DSLR Camera

RØDE VideoMic

RØDE VideoMic

Tascam DR-07 Digital Recorder

TASCAM DR-07 Digital Recorder

Vidpro LED-330X Light

Vidpro LED-330X Light


Vista Explorer Tripod

Organizing the shoot

We started with an overhead shot, featuring all of the supplies needed for the project. As you can see, this definitely required a lot of Macguyver-ing, as we didn’t have an overhead camera support, so we had to attach the camera to the tripod and then secure the tripod legs to a ladder.

Setting up overhead shot
Sometimes you have to get a little creative when setting up your shots.

From there, we shot the actual steps of completing the DIY project. Ryan had done a prototype of the project and talked me through steps, which is how I was able to write the initial script and create my shot list. Once in the actual space, I had Ryan walk through the actual motion of each step in order to figure the best angle to shoot and to light the shot.

While the narration of the video will be a voiceover and can thus be recorded separately, I did want to capture sounds of the tools, so we also recorded sound for those shots.


This first project was a lot of fun. It definitely took longer than I expected, and we hit a few snags, but that all resulted in a lot of great lessons for my next video project

#1: Do a test project first

While I had a basic understanding of the steps in the DIY project before the video shoot, I wasn’t familiar with all the tools and how they worked. That meant setting up each shot took a long time, as I needed to first see the action and then decide on the best angle.

If I do future DIY videos, I’ll want to complete a test project before even writing the script so that I can prepare a more specific shot list and make the filming day go more quickly.

#2: Prioritize the video shoot (or accept that it will take longer)

The DIY project I’m featuring in this video is for actual Christmas gifts, and we are making ten of these items. So, obviously, that made the process longer because for each step, we worked on all ten. If I wanted to focus on just getting the video done, I could have gone through and made one item first and filmed that.

#3: Figure out where you can simplify

Another factor that slowed down the shooting process what that I was obsessing over all the details – getting exactly the right angle, setting the perfect lighting, trying to capture the sound of the tools, and getting multiple shots for certain actions to give myself options during the editing process.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing to care about those little details, but with this being my first video, I could have scaled back and really put my energy into one thing. Toward the end of our first shooting day, for example, we ended up ditching the Vidpro LED light and just used the existing environmental light. And I also scaled back on the amount of shots I captured per action.

#4: Embrace the things you didn’t plan for

No matter how much you prepare and how much you plan, something unexpected is bound to come up. Instead of beating yourself up over it, it’s better to just pivot and make the best out of it.

Our shooting day started off with one of these unexpected moments when I realized I left a key supply for the DIY project at home and we had to drive all the way back to get it, significantly delaying our start time. Instead of bemoaning my mistake and how much time I’d wasted, we actually decided to feature the mishap in our video, infusing a lot of humor and personality that I think was missing in the first draft.

So, what’s next?

Laura at computer
Checking my shot list

I’m hoping to finish shooting by the end of the weekend. And then it’s on to editing, which I know is going to be a loooooooooong process because I have some pretty fun, but time-consuming, ideas of how I want to cut together the footage. I’ll definitely be able to use a lot of these learnings from the first day of shooting as I film the rest of the video. And my mind is already abuzz with even more video ideas!

Be sure to check back here for more updates on this video project. And if you missed it, you can go back and read Part 1 of this series, where I talk about writing the script and preparing my shot list.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Making a Video, Part 1: Scripts and Shot Lists

I'll shoot two options for the intro of the video, so I've included both in my shot list.

Inspired by my Filmmaking 101 lesson earlier this week, I set off to get started on my very first video project. A perfect blend of my exploration into video production and content creation, I will be shooting a DIY video featuring the handmade Christmas gifts Ryan and I will be making this year.

This is my opportunity to not only scope out how much time and resources are required for these type of videos but also to start feeling out the style and tone I’m going for.


The first step was to draft a script. As a DIY video, most of this script will be the instructions for the project.

I will likely narrate the script as a voiceover rather than speaking to the camera as I go. This means, that the final script will likely change, depending on what the final edit of the video is like or if something happens during the actual DIY project that requires us to change some of the text.

However, it was good to have a tentative draft of the script in order to plan out the shots I want to capture during the filming process. This will make filming go a lot smoother and help make sure I don’t miss any important shots.

Since this video will simply be me speaking, I just drafted the script in a Google doc. However, when drafting more narrative scripts with characters, dialogue and actions, I like to use the online tool WriterDuet. This tool makes formatting a breeze!

Script in WriterDuet tool
WriterDuet allows you to easily mark text as action, character, dialogue, etc. and will apply the proper formatting.

Shot Lists

With my tentative script ready, the next step was creating my shot list. Again, I could just wing it and just set up my shots on the fly, as I completed the DIY project. However, I may miss an important angle I wanted to get.

And there might be shots that are good for the video but not necessarily a natural part of the DIY project. For example, I’d like to get an overhead shot of all the required tools laid out.

There are a lot of shot list templates available online. I used this one as a starting point and customized to my needs.

There are a few places in my script where I actually want to film a couple of different ways and then decide during the editing process which version I’ll use, so I’ve included both options in my shot list.

Shot List spreadsheet
I’ll shoot two options for the intro of the video, so I’ve included both in my shot list.

Ready to shoot!

With my script and shot list in hand, I’ll be doing the first shooting on Sunday, when we’ll be actually completing the DIY project. Look out for the next post, where I’ll be talking about filming the action.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Filmmaking 101

Yesterday, I got a crash course in filmmaking from my friend, Christian, who was the director for the Four Points Film Project I wrote about. A film major, Christian has done gigs ranging from filming weddings to making corporate videos, but his real passion lies in narrative filmmaking.

We did an overview of the entire filmmaking process, with some deeper dives on some of the technical aspects, like choosing lenses and using the camera. In this post, I’ll go through the topics we covered, highlighting some of the learnings that were particularly interesting.

Film Project Types

Before we dove into the production process, we went over the three overarching types of film projects Christian has worked on:

  • Narrative
  • Corporate
  • Events

It was interesting to look at these three types of projects because there are different considerations and requirements for each type.

Event filming is more of a documentary style. It’s important to know the event timeline and important aspects you should capture, but you don’t have much control over the action.

The content of corporate videos can range, but the big thing here is that you are working with a client. That means there is a whole phase of understanding the client goals, scoping the project and managing expectations. The thing that really stood out to me here is the importance of being very specific with the client what you will and will not deliver.

Narrative film — depending on the level of quality you’re going for — can be the most complex with regards to roles and steps in the process. But this is where, at least as a director, you can really have the most creative control.

When I put video producer on my list of careers, I was thinking more about corporate videos, working in-house, as a freelance video producer or as part of a production company. I’ve also been focusing on video when talking about my exploration of being a content creator, which could include a lot of elements of the narrative filmmaking process, depending on the style of videos I’m going for.


We looked at pre-production, mostly from a narrative film point of view. There’s everything from securing your talent and crew to preparing your equipment.

A few things that really stood out to me:

First, it’s important to start with scheduling. With a narrative film, you’ll want to break down your script by scene locations, actors needed in each scene, props required, etc. Then, you can schedule your shoot accordingly – e.g. grouping your scenes that take place in a certain location and shooting those back-to-back.

From a director’s standpoint, an important step is storyboarding and getting your shot list. Storyboards are a good way of explaining your vision of the film to stakeholders, such as a client or producer. And the shot list is essential in running a smooth shooting schedule and making sure you don’t miss any shots. I found this good example of a storyboard:

film storyboard


Here’s where I got a deeper understanding of all the technical aspects of a film shoot.

First, I learned all about lenses and, boy, is there a lot to learn! There are a number of settings on a lens that will affect the image you capture. Starting with the size of the lens, the higher the size, the more close-up you’ll be to the subject of your shot and the more out-of-focus your background will be.

Here’s a shot with a 24mm lens:

Screenshot from filming dog with 24mm lens
24mm lens

We see the whole dog (a very cute pup named Lily) and the blanket she lies on in focus. Then in the background, we get the TV on its console and the wall with the pictures, all a bit out-of-focus.

Here’s a shot with the camera in about the same location, but using a 50mm lens:

Screenshot from filming dog with 50mm lens
50mm lens

In this shot, we’re much closer up on Lily, only seeing part of her body and the blanket. And in the background, we’ve only captured a corner of the TV console, which is a lot blurrier than in the 24mm shot.

There were other things on the lens, like the f-stop, which affect the image you capture but I won’t get too much into that.

We also went over lighting — when to take advantage of environmental light versus bringing in your own light. Natural sunlight vs. indoor light. How to control the light with things like reflectors. One cool thing is that a lot of modern film lights will have knobs that let you adjust the temperature of the light to replicate either indoor light or sunlight, using the same device.

Finally, we looked at sound. For corporate videos you might use a lavalier for something like an interview. But for narrative, you’ll be using a shotgun microphone. When filming, it’s always a good idea to rehearse a scene to understand the volume of the dialogue and if levels will need to be adjusted mid-scene (e.g. if someone is going to yell).

And a good rule of thumb for scheduling — 1 page of dialogue is typically about 1 minute of film and 1 hour to shoot.


We didn’t go to deep into post-production because we will have a follow-up session all about editing.

One really interesting thing we went over is color grading. When you are shooting your video, there is a setting called Log recording, which will make the image a bit flatter and more desaturated when filming but will give you more flexibility to adjust the colors during the editing process.

Here’s an example of some color grading we did:

The original video capture used the Log recording setting. Color grading during post-production allows us to bring back the vibrant colors.

We also covered things like cleaning up audio levels and adding music. One important thing in the post-production process is thinking about where your video is most likely to be viewed — YouTube, on a blu-ray/dvd, in a theater, etc. This will have a huge effect on how you export your final product.

Putting these learnings into action

One big thing that became clear during this lesson — filmmaking can be expensive! Ok, I know you are all exclaiming a collective “duh!” at me, but I don’t think I really understood the magnitude of how much equipment you’d need and the cost of that!

But even without the most advanced equipment, I can still try out a lot of these learnings, particularly around the planning process and basic production elements.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be doing a couple test videos around topics that I could see myself having a YouTube channel around. I can start by plotting out the script for those videos and thinking about the shots I want to get.

I also have a short narrative film I’ve written, and I’ll start creating a shot list for that and maybe even try my hand at storyboarding!

Big thanks to my friend, Christian, for taking the time to be a pro bono film teacher. You can check out his work here.

Content Creator, Uncategorized

My Favorite Content Creators

As I explore becoming an independent content creator, I realized there are a lot of things to consider:

  • What medium do I want to focus on?
  • What topic will my content center around?
  • What style am I going for?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, my inspiration for this career choice was drawn from my favorite YouTube channels. So, I thought it might to helpful to examine what I really enjoy about these videos, and what elements I might want to incorporate into my own content.

Mr. Kate

What are the videos about?

Kate Albrecht is an amazingly creative interior designer who, together with her husband Joey, executes some pretty impressive room transformations. The channel include different playlists or sub-series, such as videos where they makeover a room on a budget, videos where they feature renovations to their own home, videos where they transform office spaces, and more.

What is the style?

These videos are very similar to an HGTV show. You’ll have the hosts talking to the camera to introduce the room they’re going to make over and interviews with the homeowners. But a lot of the video features the actual makeover process, including, of course, before and after footage.

What I like about the videos?

The personality of the hosts really come out, and they are so genuine — Kate is upbeat and quirky and often has fun banter with Joey. Kate also walks through a lot of the transformation projects, making them seem like things that I could replicate; I always walk away inspired to do some creative project of my own. They have also cultivated a supportive community of what they call ‘creative weirdos’ and will often shout out their online community in their videos.

Abroad in Japan

What are the videos about?

Chris Broad is a British YouTuber who has lived in Japan since 2012, after moving there to teach English. His videos give us a glimpse into life in Japan, and often focus on food or things to do in the country.

What is the style?

The videos will typically begin with Chris speaking to the camera and setting up what we’re about to see. And even once we get into the core of the content, a lot of the video features a lot of speaking to the camera, along with shots of the food they’re eating or the activity they are doing. Most of the time, the action looks natural and not staged.

What I like about the videos?

Chris is very genuine with his sarcastic, British humor and isn’t afraid to poke fun at himself. He also has recurring guests with big personalities. With the videos focusing on travel, food and Japan, I of course love the subject of the content. Chris will often do videos in response to requests from the comments sections, and I like that interaction with his online community.


What are the videos about?

April is a seamstress and designer extraordinaire, and in her Thrifted Transformations video series, she takes thrift store clothes (often outdated and ill-fitting) and transforms them into stylish designs.

What is the style?

The videos start with an introduction from April, explaining the thrifted transformation we’re about to see. The rest of the video features a time-lapse of the sewing process with a voiceover from April explaining the steps. We get before and after shots at the end.

What I like about the videos?

Though the projects are probably pretty complicated and require some skill, April walks through the process in a way that’s easy to follow and not overwhelming. I like how she will be honest about the mistakes she has made throughout the process or things she would do differently if she were to do it again, bringing us along on her journey. The transformations are inspiring and also get my own creative juices flowing. The filming process seems pretty simple with just a few basic set-ups, but with the editing choices, the videos are still engaging.


What are the videos about?

Josh is a language fanatic who creates educational videos about the history of languages and interesting linguistics facts.

What is the style?

These videos are actually animated, often with a mix of still images and animated characters. Josh provides the voiceover. He’ll often include an anecdote of his own personal connection to the subject of the video.

What I like about the videos?

The videos are pretty light-hearted and include humor, while still providing really interesting facts and historical background. I like that the host often talks about his own personal connection to the topic of each video.

My takeaways

There are many other YouTube channels that I follow (special shout-out to Dr. Pimple Popper and Naio Nails) but I figure this was a good mix. The list was varied but there are definitely common elements that I’d love to incorporate in my own content:

  • Authentic voice and genuine personality
  • Humor
  • Connection with the online community
  • Tips or creative inspiration

I think my next steps will be to create a few videos myself, either centered around local food places or crafting projects. I can test out what types of shooting styles work for me, what content topics are fruitful enough for a whole series of videos, and how I can best incorporate my favorite elements from the video series that I follow.