Thursday, November 18, 2010

Video = Nasty

I think I need to come to the conclusion that my skills only lie in certain areas.

For example, I think I am a pretty good writer, not that I have ever made a living out of it. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can make a living out of something like writing, whether it's fiction or non-fiction, for magazines, newspapers, online or books. It takes a lot of self-belief and commitment to write for a living. Procrastination rears its ugly head in so many weird and wonderful ways when you're trying to disgorge that particular phrase or spark of an idea around which your piece revolves. And the chance of writing waffly shit is also high.
Currently, I am writing two books, and by writing two books, I mean "thinking and rethinking points of conjecture over and over in my head before getting a single line down". One is a complex mystery story, the other is a balls-out kids adventure novel. One is very involved and requires a lot of forward planning, the other just needs to be fully plotted before I get into the actual act of writing.
My biggest dilemma is deciding which one I should work on first. Once I can decide that, I'm sure the writing will just happen...

I can wrestle Photoshop to the ground and give it a nipple cripple.
But I'm not that great at taking photographs. Sure, I can shoot the shit out of a booklet on a white surface for the company portfolio, but when it comes to taken photos of life and real people and events, I always end up with the most candid of candid photos. Not the candid shot that you look at and think, "Gee, I really like how he's captured that moment where she's just let her guard down that little bit, imbuing the image with depth and quality." more like, "Did the subject matter just step out of frame?"

I can write songs, but I can't play instruments. I have basic guitar down, and can play basic bass (which is like basic guitar, only deeper. And with a bigger penis.) and I can tap out a rhythm on drums. But without a group of talented musicians to actually reproduce what's in my head, I'm reduced to mostly Bobby McFerrin-style body percussion and over-dubbing vocal strands. Like this.

But one talent I don't have is video production. It's just not my thing. I do not have the diligence to be anal about little things like lighting and sound, which apparently are the sort of things you need to care about when you're making videos.

Take, for example, the video above. This was an entry in the "Live and Love" Herpes Awareness Competition, where you needed to produce a 30 second "short movie" about herpes. Firstly, my movie was an ad, it wasn't a narrative, so I'd lose points for that. Secondly, the sound is awful, absolutely dreadful. Thirdly, frankly, it looks shite. And no matter what competition says it's all about the idea and not the production values, a shite-looking entry ain't gonna win.

So why did I enter it, looking and sounding and being so half-assed? Well, it took me so long to get to that point, I had just about lost interest in the project, and in the end, I just wanted to get it completed so I had something, anything, to show for the hours I'd spent trying to get a "green screen" setup in my lounge room to work, or drawing out and animating a bunch of figures.

Prior to the Herpes competition, I'd also entered the Doritos Make-An-Ad comp, making two ads that I thought were fun, funny and sellable.

The first was a two-hander called "Love. Doritos.", starring the beautiful Stephanie:

I liked how this turned out, but the production values are still woefully low. The sound recording quality is pitiful, which means that some of the dialogue is almost garbled, and I think most of the shots are slightly out of focus. But all up, I liked the ad, and I'd like to think that, reshot with actors and money, it would be funny on TV.

Once I'd entered that ad, I decided to have another go at something else.

"Serving Suggestions"

OK, maybe not the most original concept ever, but I'd like to think the jokes and execution gave it a bit of a twist, and as a polished ad, I think it would retain the interest of the viewer for longer than the usual 2 second scan that most people give an ad, and would offer repeatability (How many of the suggestions can you remember?) It took two nights to shoot and another two nights to edit and add music (which fortunately was my own, so that was a bonus - another example of simple percussion and vocal layering).

Once again, I liked the final product, and I think the production quality of this beats the other two easily, mainly due to the audio, but I also think the editing plays a part: it's tight, well-timed and fluid.

When it comes down to it, maybe I should stick to getting my concepts down on paper and leave the production side of things to professionals. After all, everybody has their thing, be it writing or lighting or audio or really good make-up (or plumbing or baking or juggling - the list goes on, but I'm trying to stay on-theme here), and they deserve to let their light shine.

So maybe next time, I'll ask for help.
And maybe we'll produce something a lot less crappy looking. Something that dazzles with its wit, power, panache, structure and beautiful cinematography. And great sound recording.
And next time, it will win, because let's face it, everybody wants some recognition for their hard work. And cash. Cash is also nice.

Next time winning will be my thing.

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