Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 5: Promoting Your Video & Engaging With Your Community

This is the final post in my series on starting a YouTube channel.

In my previous posts, I’ve gone over:

For this final post, we’ll look at promoting your YouTube videos and engaging with your community of subscribers and other viewers.

Promotion

Now, you can always wait for people to come across your videos in the YouTube search results. And in the previous post of this series, we talked about how using the right keywords in your video’s title and description can help people who are searching for a similar topic find your video.

But just because you’ve used similar keywords that people are searching for doesn’t mean your videos will show up at the top of search results. In fact, when I first launched my channel with my first few videos, even though I had video titles like “Learn Hawaiian grammar”, my videos were not in the top search results when I searched “Hawaiian grammar”. Even now, my videos are fourth in the search results.

That’s because keywords are not the only thing that dictates search result rankings. YouTube also uses engagement metrics like video views, likes and comments to determine the order of search results. But how can you get views if people can’t find your videos in the search results?

That’s where promotion comes in.

When I settled on the name of my YouTube channel, Ke Aloha No Hawai’i, I also set up a Facebook page, Instagram profile and Twitter account with that same name. For every video I release, I do an announcement post on those three social media channels. I also publish other social media engagement posts in between videos.

But how do I get people to see my social media posts? Well, of course, I shared my new branded social media channels with my personal network, but not many of my friends or family are interested in learning Hawaiian. 

So how could I reach Hawaiian language learners?

Well, that is where hashtags — particularly in Instagram — have been extremely helpful. Here’s my first Instagram post:

Another Hawaiian language-focused Instagram account with a large community follows one of those hashtags. They checked out my videos and shared one of them with their community on Facebook, which drove people to my YouTube channel. And then, other accounts that follow that first Page also shared my video with their Facebook fans, driving even more traffic to my channel, as well as my social media accounts.

Community Engagement

If people are watching your YouTube videos, hopefully they are leaving comments. By liking and replying to comments, you are helping to build fan loyalty. According to the YouTube Creator Academy course Use comments to connect with your community: “When you jump in, it shows your audience that you’re listening and interested in what they have to say. This can help make them feel loved, and may encourage others to write positive things.”

I try to respond to all comments on my videos within 24 hours of receiving them, giving thoughtful replies.

In my videos, I always end with a request for viewers to leave a comment below. I’ve also been testing out requesting comments earlier in my videos. For example, for some of my videos I give my viewers “homework” to practice what they’ve learned and ask them to type their practice sentences in the comments. I haven’t yet had any viewer do that, but I’ll keep trying!

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

For anyone who has been interested in starting a YouTube channel and hasn’t quite gotten around to it, I would remind them: It doesn’t need to be perfect. Start small and then build upon that.

There is still so much I want to improve and iterate on:

On the production side, I want to streamline my process for writing, filming and editing my videos. I release new videos at least once a week, and in the immediate future, I want to get to the point where I am filming multiple videos at one time so that I don’t need to go through the full production cycle each week. And then, down the road, I’ll look at upgrading my equipment and editing software. I may also explore new creative formats for my videos.

On the promotion and community management side of things, I want to expand my activities and be more proactive. I can find Hawaiian language or Hawaiian culture groups on Facebook, for example, and try to promote my videos there. I can reach out to other Hawaiian language YouTubers or organizations to see if they want to collaborate, either on a video or a promotion. I can use my comments sections of my videos to post prompts, asking people to reply.

Starting a YouTube channel was a journey. And now, maintaining and growing my YouTube channel will be a whole new adventure.

Content Creator, Uncategorized, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 4: Working in the YouTube Platform

In this blog series on starting a YouTube channel, I’ve reviewed:

In this week’s post, I’ll go over the process of creating a YouTube account, setting up the channel and working within the YouTube Studio to upload videos and get them ready to publish.

Creating a YouTube account

Creating a YouTube account is relatively simple; you just need to enter some basic contacts information and a name for your channel.

However, choosing your channel’s name is where you need to do some early thinking about the branding for your channel. Ideally, you’ll want a name that gives viewers a sense of what your channel is about.

For me, I knew that the core videos (at least at first) would focus on Hawaiian grammar lessons. So, I initially considered straightforward names like:

  • Learn Hawaiian
  • Hawaiian Language

However, I wanted room to expand the scope of my channel to cover Hawaiian culture, history, art, music etc. as well as my own personal connections and stories. So, I didn’t want a name that limited my channel to just language-focused videos.

I also thought about how learning the Hawaiian language was really a personal quest for me to connect more with my culture. So, I brainstormed names like:

  • My Hawaiian Journey
  • Discovering Hawai’i

But I thought, these names could easily be mistaken for travel-related channels.

I ultimately settled on Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i, which means “love for Hawai‘i”. For me, this phrase really covered the scope of what my videos might feature and described my motivations behind learning the language. Also, for people who don’t understand enough of the language yet to know the translation, they would still easily recognize the words “Aloha” and “Hawai‘i”.

Setting up the channel

The biggest things you want to focus on when first setting up your YouTube channel is:

  • Channel icon (profile picture): shows up not only on your channel page but is also the icon that shows up next to any comments you make.
  • Channel art (page banner): the first thing visitors see when they visit your channel.
  • Channel description (About section): allows you to tell visitors and potential subscribers what to expect from your YouTube channel.

I kept the artwork simple with clear branding for my channel name. I looked up the size specifications and other recommendations that would allow the artwork to look good on both desktop and mobile.

Other parts of the channel set-up that are good to think about, especially once you have videos uploaded:

  • Featured content: Toward the top of your channel’s page, you can feature a video or playlist and differentiate the content for new visitors vs. returning subscribers. For new visitors, YouTube recommends a channel trailer; I have not yet made one, so I feature my first grammar lesson. For returning subscribers, I feature my latest video.
  • Sections: As people scroll down the home tab of your channel, they can see featured collections of videos. I created sections for my various playlists: Learn Hawaiian, Hawaiian Grammar, and Vlogs.
  • Playlists: It’s a good idea to organize your videos into playlists, especially once you have a lot of uploads. There is a whole tab section on your channel for playlists. This will help visitors to your page find the content that is most relevant to their interests.

Uploading and Publishing Videos

Videos are uploaded and published through the YouTube Studio. Be prepared to wait a while for videos to upload. My grammar lesson videos are about 10-12 minutes and anywhere from 1-2 GB, and their upload times in YouTube Studio can be about 30-45 minutes.

Title & Description

Videos need a title and description, and this is where you want to be strategic about SEO. Use keywords that your intended audience would likely use in their search. Make the beginning of your description clear and to the point. You can also include relevant links.

For the descriptions of my grammar videos, I start with a brief summary of the lesson. Under that, I include links to the earlier grammar lessons. After that, I include links to other Hawaiian language learning resources. And then I include links to the Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i social media pages.

Cards & End Screens

You can link to other videos or playlists from your channel, throughout your video (cards) and at the end (end screen).

If I reference a past lesson, I include a card that pops up during that part of the video and links to the past video I mentioned.

And for my end screen (clickable overlays that can appear at the end of your video for up to 20 seconds), I feature a subscribe button and my Hawaiian Grammar playlist.

Publishing

I publish new Hawaiian grammar videos every Monday. I try to get everything uploaded and set up on Sunday. Then, I just schedule my videos to publish the next morning. That way, even my East Coast subscribers can find a new video first thing in the morning.


And that’s it! Next week, I’ll go over engaging with your community and promoting your channel.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 3: Editing

I am continuing my blog series on starting my YouTube Channel Ke Aloha No Hawai’i this week with a look at my editing process. If you missed my posts on planning my content and filming, check them out now.

Editing has been my big obstacle in the past, with technical limitations grinding to a halt past video projects. However, last fall, I pushed past my frustrations last, simplified my production and successfully produced my first video.

This time around, I was determined to learn from past attempts: keep it simple. 

Programs & Assets

I use three main programs for editing my videos:

  • iPhone Photos editor: I do an initial trimming of my video clips (which I film on my iPhone) in the Photos app before transferring to my computer.
  • iMovie: I cut together all of my clips, transitions, and sometimes add music in this program.
  • Keynote: I create my text overlay in this program.

Editing Process

Trimming the Raw Footage

As I wrote about in my previous post on filming, I shoot my videos on my iPhone. Before transferring the clips to my computer, I edit them in the Photos app, trimming the beginning and end of the videos. I could do this on my computer in iMovie, but if there is a large section to cut, I find it easier to do on my iPhone.

After I trim the video clips and choose which takes I want to use, I Airdrop the assets to my laptop.

Creating a Rough Cut

On my laptop, I use iMovie to do the bulk of my editing. I import all of my video assets into my iMovie project and start putting the clips together. Here, I can do more precise trimming of the video clips to get the right timing.

My initial videos were designed as just one long, uninterrupted take of the entire lesson, which required less editing in iMovie. However for subsequent videos, I worked with different takes, so I had to do more splicing together of separate clips. I also will cut up a single clip into chunks and vary the crop on those in order to (a) provide more visual variety and (b) make the integration of separate clips more seamless.

During this phase, I also add in transitions and any music. I will also typically bump up the volume on the clips.  For later videos, I also created and added a static end card to the last 10 seconds of my video, which allows me to add a subscribe button when I upload to YouTube.

Once the rough cut is complete, I export the video and transfer it to a separate device. 

Adding the Text Overlay

The last step for my videos is to add text overlay. Because I’m teaching a language in my videos, it’s important for my viewers to be able to see the words and sentences they are learning. 

While iMovie has some text overlay functionality with it ‘Titles’, I found it very limiting and didn’t fit my needs. There isn’t an ability to place the text exactly where you want nor make it move across the screen.

I needed a way for text to fade in and out and sometimes move to a different part of the screen, similar to how it might in a PowerPoint presentation. Turns out — that was the solution! Well, technically, I use Keynote, but it’s the same concept.

I create a Keynote presentation with the text and animation I want for my video. And the key — I make the slide background green. Then I record myself running the presentation. In order to make sure the text movement syncs with the video, I play the exported rough cut on another device and trigger the presentation animation along with the video. After I’m done, I export the recorded presentation as a movie.

Then I go back to iMovie and typically start another project. I import the rough cut video and my recorded Keynote presentation as media assets and sync them in iMovie. For the Keynote recording, I use the ‘Green/Blue Screen’ setting, so that only the text is shown, overlaid on my video. If the recording wasn’t completely synced, I can edit the text video and shift it slightly.


Then I export the final video! Next week, I’ll go over setting up a channel on YouTube and uploading videos.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 2: Filming

In this multi-week blog series, I will go through my journey starting a YouTube channel. Last week, I talked about planning my content, covering everything from deciding on a theme to writing my video scripts. This week, I’ll feature my filming process.

Starting Simple

My goal for these initial videos was to keep things simple — from using equipment I already had to choosing a single set-up format. In my past attempts to launch a YouTube channel, I had filmed videos that required a lot of different camera set-ups and lots of equipment, requiring a long shoot day (or multiple days) for a single video and leaving me with little energy by the time I got to editing.

This time around, I decided to start pretty basic. Once I become more skilled at this basic set-up, I can explore more complicated videos.

Equipment

As I mentioned, I was determined to work with what I already had. Moreover, I actually opted for simpler equipment than what was fully available to me, as it would streamline the process and make editing easier. The only equipment I used to film:

  • iPhone 8: I used the back camera and the built-in mic.
  • JOBY GorillaPod: This iPhone/iPad tripod has flexible legs that allow it to grip onto other things.
  • Adjustable mic stand: I attached the tripod to this so I could get the camera at the exact height and angle I needed.
  • Natural sunlight: Instead of relying on artificial light, I opted to use sunlight. While this limited my shooting location and time, ultimately, it provided the best coverage and light quality.

Set-up

In order to keep filming relatively quick and simple, I planned for videos that would just require a single camera set-up — single-shot videos with me seated, looking at the camera.

I ended up setting up against my TV. This allowed for a couple of things:

  • I would be facing the window and could take advantage of the natural light.
  • I could drape cloth over the TV for a good background (I ended up using a Hawaiian pareu).

I made sure my camera had the grid displayed and followed the ‘rule of thirds’, making sure the center of my eyes lined up in the top left intersection.

And interesting enough, I found that for the best look, I actually have to place the camera pretty high above my eye line. During filming, it seemed weird looking up into the camera so high, but on screen it looked great, with my eyes nice and open. I guess anyone who takes a lot of selfies could attest to the fact that shooting from above is the most flattering!

Filming

As I mentioned, for my first videos, I designed the shoot to just be a single take of the entire video. The idea was to keep editing pretty simple, just needing to cut out the beginning and the end. 

I downloaded a teleprompter app on my iPad which uses voice recognition to advance the text so that I could have a reference for my script.

I ultimately decided to shoot some additional footage that I spliced in to give the video a little more personality. I kept the same camera set-up but did move the chair (and thus my position on screen) to provide more visual interest.

Limitations and Learnings

Throughout the process of filming these initial videos, I had a lot of great learnings and ideas to improve future shoots. 

First, while I decided to use the back camera because it’s higher quality than the front-facing camera, that did make it hard to review footage in between takes. It was nearly impossible to review shots while the camera stayed in the tripod, which meant that whenever I wanted to check on a take, I had to remove the phone, look at the clip and then re-set up my shot (it was hard to not shift the tripod when taking the phone in and out of it). 

Second, while my idea behind doing single-shot videos was to make the editing process easier, it made the filming process pretty difficult. With a single-shot video, if I messed up at any point, I had to stop and start from the beginning again. For subsequent videos, I decided to change the format to videos that splice together different clips, allowing me to work with alternate takes when I make a mistake.

Next, while the teleprompter app I used was pretty impressive, it ultimately didn’t work out for me. First, while it does use voice recognition to advance the script, large sections of my scripts are in Hawaiian, which the program doesn’t recognize and thus gets stuck. Secondly, it was impossible to find a good location to place my iPad where I could look at the script while keeping eye contact in the camera. I ended up having to reshoot my first two videos because I found it so distracting watching my eyes flit over to the side to look at the teleprompter. For future videos, I ended up memorizing the talking points rather than obsessing over following the exact script. Not only did this allow me to keep eye contact with the camera, but it also made the videos sound more natural and easy.

Finally, things are a lot harder when just filming by myself. While Ryan is able to help me a little with setting up the shot, I have to film alone, so Ryan can keep Artie quiet and entertained during the shoot.


As I film more and more videos, I’m sure I’ll continue to try out new techniques and, eventually, new equipment. I get more and more learnings every shoot!

Stay tuned next week when I review my editing process.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 1: Planning Your Content

A few weeks ago, I wrote about revisiting my plans to start a YouTube channel. I have started this creative pursuit a few times in the past, but always found myself hindered by overwhelming technical roadblocks. Recently, I decided to do some free training through the YouTube Creator Academy to reinvigorate my efforts.

Well, I am proud to announce that today, I launched my YouTube channel, Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i! My channel will focus on Hawaiian language lessons and will be a place where I can also document my journey learning the language.

Over the next few weeks, I will give you all a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating a YouTube channel. This week, we’ll look at planning your content.

It’s start with an idea

The first step to creating a YouTube channel is asking yourself: what is my channel going to be about?

As I learned from the YouTube Creator Academy, it’s a good idea to create videos centered on something you’re passionate about. That’s one of the easiest ways to guarantee that you’ll have plenty of content ideas.

There are a lot of things that I’m really interested in, so the question was — how do I choose the best topic out of my many interests? Well, another good tip is to focus on what type of videos will be easy enough to make that you can create them regularly. So, for example, while I love DIY projects, those can be a little long to film with all of the camera angles, supplies and space needed. Instead, I focused on ideas that would allow me to create simple single-shot videos.

This left me with a few contenders:

  • Comedy videos where I would talk about the latest pop culture phenomena
  • Comedy videos featuring one of my original characters reviewing the latest TV shows and movies
  • Educational videos focused on the Hawaiian language

I decided I would work on a spec script for each idea to see if one idea was easier to write and plan compared to the others.

And this is where I was surprised. The Hawaiian educational video took the longest to write (as I needed to confirm I was getting all of the content correct), but it ended up being the topic I was most energized to work on.

So, I had my winner!

Planning the videos

I knew I wanted my channel to focus on Hawaiian language lessons, but where should I start? 

Well, I looked online to see what was already out there. While on YouTube and other websites, you can find a lot of lessons teaching common phrases and vocabulary, it was hard to find a simple, straightforward resource on the basics of the Hawaiian grammar.  

One of the recommendations from the YouTube Creator Academy was to try to fulfill a need or speak to a niche audience that is underserved on YouTube. Since I didn’t see that many grammar resources, I thought this would be a great thing to focus on and help me stand apart from other channels that teach the Hawaiian language.

Figuring I could release 1-2 lesson videos a week, I start plotting out my lesson outlines.

Thinking about what I wanted to include in each video.

From here, it was time to write my content.

Writing my scripts

Starting with an outline for each video made the script-writing process very easy.

Because these are educational videos, this writing phase included a lot of research, as I needed to verify that I was explaining the concepts correctly. In fact, I took an entire week to pore over grammar textbooks and other documents before I even started writing my first script.

It was also during this phase that I thought a lot about what the tone of my videos will be. I knew I wanted them to be positive, encouraging and accessible to people of all levels.

I made sure my script was friendly and easy to follow, even for beginners.

And during the writing process, I was already thinking about how the videos would be shot, as this would affect my scripts. I knew I wanted to do videos where I am talking to the camera, with text overlaid to help illustrate the lessons. For some lessons, I would also want to cut in screenshare shots from my computer.

The writing process was interesting because in some cases I realized that a topic I had initially planned to be a single video really needed to be split up into two videos.

With my initial scripts written, it was time to shoot the videos. Be sure to check out my blog next week, where I will go through the filming process.

Content Creator, Video Producer

YouTube Creator Academy

Almost a year and a half ago, I began this sabbatical with a pretty daunting task: to explore nine new potential career paths across varying fields, all with very different scopes of work. 

Rather than creating a strict plan and schedule for this exploration, I opted instead for a more organic, flexible approach. I knew that early findings would inform later pursuits. I found that some paths — like web development — were really easy to learn and take on but ultimately not as interesting and fulfilling as I thought they would be. Other areas were energizing but with a much steeper learning curve. And in some instances, clearing certain obstacles seemed like too much of a ‘time suck’, so I ultimately decided to shelve the pursuit, to free up resources to explore something new.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on some of these early pursuits that I left unfinished — these dreams deferred, to put it poetically. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my exploration of video production, tied to my interest in being a YouTube creator.

Previous roadblocks

In the first few months of my sabbatical, I actually did a lot of work to build my video production knowledge and skills. On the content strategy side, I analyzed some of my favorite YouTube creators and identified the aspects of their channels that were most compelling. On the production side, I received video 101 training from an experienced filmmaker.

And I even tried my hands at making my own videos, a test of what could ultimately become my own YouTube channel. Based on my interest in DIY, I first filmed a tutorial on a woodworking project. This was good practice in production planning and setting up shots. Based on how many resources were needed for the DIY projects — in terms of supplies, tools and space — I started to doubt the sustainability of these types of videos.

I quickly pivoted to a new topic that I was equally passionate about: food. I created a concept where I would feature some of my favorite, yet lesser known, restaurants. We filmed one episode, which was a lot easier and quicker than the DIY video. However, when it came to editing, my computer didn’t seem powerful enough to handle synching the video and audio nor handling the multiple media files I had to cut and splice together.

This is, ultimately, where I decided to take a break from this path. Outside of purchasing a new computer, it didn’t seem like there was a way for me to continue on.

However, months later, I revisited video creation — with a much simpler format. As an anniversary gift, I made a basic slide-show type video in iMovie with an overlay of music and narration. I worked with still images rather than video files, but it was still good practice on using video transitions, figuring out the best timing, and synching audio with the visual. And luckily, my computer had enough processing power to handle the project.

Starting from the beginning

Being stuck at home during this ‘shelter in place’ period has reminded me how powerful video and platforms like YouTube can be in connecting to a community. While we may not be together physically, we can still stay in touch digitally. And this has all motivated me to revisit my exploration of video and YouTube as a promising platform for content creation.

But I want to be mindful of what derailed me in the past — namely, I jumped into the deep end before learning how to swim. I made things too complex. I wanted things to match the production level and sophistication of my favorite YouTube creators. But ultimately, that became all too overwhelming.

So now, I want to start with the basics. Focus on the simple and doable — the MVP. Embrace the journey of learning, iterating and improving along the way.

YouTube Creator Academy

In one of my earliest blog posts, I outlined the nine careers that I wished to explore during this sabbatical and listed a few resources I might take advantage of to test out and learn more about these professional paths. For Content Creator, the YouTube Creator Academy was one such resource, so it seemed like a good place to start for this renewed exploration.

The YouTube Creator Academy is a free online learning resource that teaches the ins and outs of starting, maintaining and growing a YouTube channel. It offers various areas of instruction,  including content strategy, production, and channel optimization.

Over the last week, I’ve completed courses in:

As I’ve gone through the lessons, I’ve also been brainstorming what my YouTube channel would focus on. Here are some of my biggest take-aways:

Focus on your passion

When it comes to having a steady flow of inspiration and content ideas for your YouTube channel, nothing is going to help you better than making videos on something you’re passionate about. 

And here’s where I start to get nervous. My passions seem to span a wide variety of things (see above about exploring nine different career paths!). And my interests can be pretty fickle and meandering. I’ll get really into learning a new language, for example, and then shift my focus to baking, only to then get my attention pulled to a fitness challenge I want to attempt. Part of that is just my personality — I love to sample a little bit of everything (tapas bars were made for me!).

Light bulb moment! Why don’t I use this interest-hopping to my advantage? Instead of focusing on just food or just DIY projects, I could create a channel centered around me trying different things  — sort of a ‘Laura Tries’ type of theme. One video could be about tackling a recipe I’ve always wanted to attempt. Another video could be about trying out a new skincare routine.

The brainstorming began! 

Think about what’s sustainable

It’s one thing to have a lot of content ideas but you always need to be able to execute them. Releasing videos often is key to keeping your audience engaged, so you need to create videos that fit within the scope of your own time and resources.

One of the biggest tips, especially for beginners, is to consider a topic and format that allows you to shoot multiple videos in one day. 

This made me revisit my initial brainstorming. The ‘Laura Tries’ theme may not lend itself easily to shooting multiple videos in one day. While some of the videos — like trying a make-up tutorial — could use a single camera set-up, others  — like trying a recipe or a one-month exercise challenge — would require multiple set-ups, thus making the filming process pretty time-intensive.

So, what could I do that just required a single camera set-up? I came up with a couple of ideas that would just be me speaking to the camera. One idea centered around explaining the latest popular culture trends (e.g. Tiger King Explained in Less Than Five minutes); though informational, the videos would be conversational, light, and funny. Another concept was more comedic than informational: I’d bring back an old Halloween character — an old woman from Jersey — who would review T.V. shows and movies; the tone would be silly and humorous.

Identify your audience and carve out your niche

It may seem counterintuitive, but with YouTube it’s not always best to focus on appealing to the broadest possible audience. Sure, you may get a lot of views for a video or two, but will that audience be loyal?

Often, you can find more success going after a smaller, more niche audience where there isn’t so much saturation in content. It’s good to consider — am I filling a content need for a specific audience that doesn’t already exist on the platform?

I returned to my brainstorm. My latest two ideas centered around broad topics: popular culture and entertainment. And the audience? People interested in T.V. and movies who like to watch funny videos. Not very specific. 

I think there is a way to carve out a unique voice, so I don’t want to abandon the ideas completely. However, I did go through an exercise of brainstorming topics that I’m still passionate about but may have more of a niche audience or may not have as much existing content on YouTube.

Lately, I’ve been learning the Hawaiian language on the Duolingo app. My paternal grandparents both grew up in Hawai’i, and it’s a culture I strongly identify with. And while it saw a revival starting in the 1970’s, the Hawaiian language is still endangered, so I take pride in being part of keeping it alive. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about how I wish there were more resources to complement my lessons in Duolingo. So, I’ve also been ruminating on a channel focused on Hawaiian language lessons, essentially people following my journey as I learn the language and in turn put together some of my own lessons. There are a few existing videos with Hawaiian language lessons but not many; still, I’d need to figure out how to differentiate mine.

It’s ok to start with what you have

The courses on production go over a lot of possible equipment you can use to film your videos. However, one thing the lessons emphasize: smartphones have pretty powerful capabilities and you can get some decent quality videos with the devices.

From specialty lights to external microphones and DSLR cameras, I do have access to more advanced filmmaking equipment, and in fact, I used this type of equipment for my earlier videos. However, the set-up is definitely longer when you use more equipment. And it also made things a little more complicated on the editing side, as I had separate audio and video files that I had to then sync.

I think for my initial videos, I’ll just focus on using my iPhone or iPad to film along with a simple ring light. It will make both set-up and editing a lot easier. As I become more experienced, I can then explore more advanced equipment.

Next Steps

I’m going to do some planning on a couple of the concepts: writing scripts and figuring out the set-up. This exercise in pre-production may give me an idea of which idea seems most feasible from a preparation standpoint. 

From there, if both ideas look easy to prepare, I may film a test video and edit for both concepts. I can see if either concept was easier to film or edit. 

Finally, I’ll look at the final products and see which one feels more engaging & authentic and was more enjoyable to work on.

Video Producer

Start Simple

I’ve written a lot about video. From finding inspiration from my favorite YouTube content creators to getting a crash course in the basics of production. I even tried my hand at creating my own videos. Multiple times. But I always got stuck somewhere in the process.

I think I was starting too big and too complicated. I dove into the deep end when I should have been wading out from the shallows. I was already considering making another attempt at video production, but this time with a much simpler format. Then, during my interview with him, Tasi Alabastro brought up a good idea: why not do a slideshow video to the narration of one of my blog posts?

I really liked the idea. It made use of existing content (my blog posts) and relied on a relatively easy format. Programs like iMovie make it easy to splice together photos into a film. And it wouldn’t be too hard to record myself reading one of my blog posts.

Well, I did it! … kind of.

I didn’t start with my blog posts. I actually started with the piece of writing that I’m most proud of: my wedding vows.

You see, yesterday was my wedding anniversary. And instead of buying Ryan more stuff, I wanted to put together something special. So, I gathered photos of us from throughout our relationship and put them together in a film to the narration of my wedding vows and an instrumental version of our first dance song.

And before you get your hopes up, I’m not sharing that video in this post. I gifted that to Ryan, and he wants to keep it to himself.

But I can talk a little bit about the process.

Creating the Video

This was definitely a learning experience. Since I was combining existing content elements, a lot of the production mirrored the editing process that had stalled my previous projects. And there are steps that I would do differently in the future.

Narration

I knew I wanted the film to be a photo slideshow to the narration of my wedding vows. Ryan’s uncle had filmed our ceremony, so I tracked down that video to try to extract the audio. 

But as I reviewed the footage, I realized I wouldn’t be able to use the audio. There was just too much background noise, and I didn’t have the skills to clean it up.

No problem — I would just re-record my vows. I used my headphones and the iPhone Voice Memos app to record. I did notice a little bit of background noise, likely from me jostling the microphone on my headphones. I made a second attempt using Ryan’s Tascam recorder, but (a) it picked up street noise, (b) I realized I didn’t know how to transfer files from the recorder to my computer and (c) I preferred my rendition from the first recording on my iPhone.

So, despite the small background noise, I opted for the iPhone recording. And all I had to do was simply Airdrop the audio file to my laptop.

Music

Listening to the recording of my vows, I knew they would need to be paired with music. At first, I was just going to use some of the built-in music that GarageBand provides in their library. But then I had the idea of using music from our wedding.

Our first dance was to the rendition of “No Day But Today” that Idina Menzel sang during one of her concert tours (we bonded over musicals, so it seemed appropriate). I searched YouTube for an instrumental version and found this piano version. Since this was just a private gift, I didn’t worry about copyright, but obviously if this were a more public video, I would have sourced different music.

I found an online tool to extract the audio from the YouTube video, and then set out to make some adjustments and sync it with my vows narration using GarageBand.

I first slowed down the music to about half speed.

Then, I simply added the audio file from my vows recording as a second track.

Photos

Sourcing photos for the video took a lot longer than I originally anticipated. The first step was to type out my vows and mark which lines would have their own photo. Then I looked back through my Facebook photos and my iPhone photos to find the pictures that best matched the text.

It was a long process, but I finally came up with a selection that I was happy with. Then I uploaded all of the photo to my project in iMovie, the program I used to create the video.

Putting it all together

When you use photos to create a video in iMovie, you simply upload your pictures and then drag and drop them in the timeline.

iMovie will automatically set the image to display in your video for four seconds, but you can adjust that length. I listened to the recording of my vows and marked the timestamp for each line so I knew how long to display each photo. 

iMovie also allows you to create some movement with your photos, using the Ken Burns tool. You simply choose your beginning frame for the photo and the ending frame and the movement will happen during the time length you set.

So, I inserted in all the photos, adjusted their length, and set the movement. Then, I added the audio to make sure everything lined up. But wait, there was one more step — adding transitions! 

Transitions took a lot of trial and error. From choosing the appropriate type of transition to setting the best time length, it took a lot of time fiddling with the options to get the look and pace I desired.

But after a lot of adjustments and fine-tuning, I had a finished video. That’s right, a FINISHED video. I finally completed a full video project from start to finish!

While the video took longer to create than I anticipated, the tools I used were pretty intuitive. I’m definitely inspired to do more of these type of slideshow videos in order to get more practice and improve my skills in the process. I’ll use the learnings from this project to improve future videos!

Content Creator, Video Producer

And the Winner Is …

During this sabbatical, I’ve written a lot about exploring film and video. I mean, Video Producer is one of the careers on my list.

I got a crash course on the entire filmmaking process. I tried my hand at making my own video, only to get stuck at the editing stage due to the frustrating limitations of my technology. I helped write lyrics for a musical short film that went on to win the Best Use of Genre. I got more experience in front of the camera. And I’ve connected with other video producers to understand more about their creative process.

Through this exploration, I’ve not only learned a lot about filmmaking, but I’ve also gotten more insights into the parts of the process that really energize me. Screenwriting was never something I thought I’d get into, but it’s been an amazingly fulfilling creative outlet. I also really enjoyed set decorating (no big surprise, I suppose, given my interest in interior design). And though I don’t have much experience yet on the video side, my work on the podcast makes me think I’d like being a producer on a film.

Well, I was back at it a few weeks ago, when I volunteered to be a co-writer for a team competing in the San Jose 48-hour Film Project. For those who missed my earlier blog about the 48-hour film project, here’s an overview of how the competition works:

  • Filmmaking teams sign up to take on the challenge of creating a 4-7 minute film in 48 hours (one weekend).
  • Friday night of the competition weekend, teams draw two film genres. Their film must be one of those two genres.
  • All teams also have three elements that they must include in their films: a specified prop, line of dialogue and character. Unlike genre, these required elements are the same for every team for that city’s competition.
  • Fully finished films are due Sunday evening.
  • Films are judged and eligible for a number of awards.

Well, I am proud to announce …. we won Best Film

As winner, the film will go on to be screened at Filmapalooza next Spring. The film also won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Angie Higgins as Tonya). And to top it off, we also won the Audience Favorite award.

Check out the film:

The success of this project has reinvigorated me on video, and I have a few upcoming goals around that:

  • Write more scripts! I have a ton of ideas floating around in my head, many of which came out of our brainstorm session for the 48-hour Film Project. 
  • Work on a film that isn’t time-sensitive. A lot of the videos I’ve helped out on have been on a bit of a time crunch. It’d be interesting to see what I can help produce when we have the luxury of more time.
  • Get more experience as a film producer.
  • Execute some small, easy videos. Inspired by my conversation with Tasi, I think I need to scale back on the complexity of the videos I attempt to produce all on my own and just start simple. Maybe an easy to-the-camera video or a film with a slideshow of images and a voiceover.

In the meantime, congrats to the Ovation Pictures team on their win!

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!

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!