The client saw this video of mine and it was enough to convince him that I was the man for this particular project. Phone calls, emails, meetings, 3 days of shooting, hours of editing and even more hours of uploading and file transfers later, voila!
About The Video
This video was made to be screened at an event celebrating the 60th anniversary of Otsu JC, a community based organisation rooted in the capitol city of Shiga, Japan. The mayor of the city, distinguished community members, and around 300 young entrepreneurs and business owners attended the event.
This video was played immediately before the live performance of Any Soon, the band featured in the video. Therefore, I was asked to arrange the video so the ending would be a nice intro for the beginning of the live performance.
What I Learned
From very start to finish, I’ll share as much as I think is relevant to all the other aspiring filmmakers like myself out there. Just remember, no amount of reading can beat getting your camera out in the field and trying any and everything! Also, if you have any advice or ideas of how I can improve, do not hold back! I welcome constructive criticism!
I was in a love triangle. I was asked out by Ysan who was having a fling with JC. Although Ysan sprinkled me with promises, ultimately he had to make JC happy. By extension, so did I. Oh, but a tool.
The axe built the house but sleeps in the shed
Well it wasn’t that bad actually. I did have a lot of creative control as far as shooting, editing, sequencing, music, and video structure. Ysan actually helped me out a lot. (Ysan runs his own wedding video company, so he is a pro with experience. I was very happy to work with him. In fact, during and after shooting we talked a lot about the industry here in Japan. I might have learned more during our non-shooting time!) He organised logistics for every shoot as well prepped the interviewees for questions. He also brought his LED light (I NEED ONE!!!!).
What you just saw is nothing like the first cut I made. This is what is left after multiple, and I mean MULTIPLE, reedits.
Minute details that Ysan wanted this or that way, I had to oblige. Things like transitions, flashy text, particles and generators. In this video there isn’t much use of particles but in the separate intro video I made for the Spirits Baton Cheer Team, I went H.A.M with the particles.
In short, I learned that there is a certain style that appeals to Japanese visual tastebuds when it comes to event/promotional/hype videos. I hereby call said style: the purikura edit.
This does not fit my taste. However, I understand a filmmaker on a job is there to provide a product that satisfies the client.
Was a nightmare.
I use a Rode VideoMic. The sound quality is fine… given the conditions are also fine.
The Spirits interviews were taken in a loud gym at Ryukoku University. On top of two stereos blasting different music on the baton team’s side, there was a judo team on the opposite side of the gym yelling as they flung one another through the air. Plus, the interviewee with the pink shirt spoke so softly, even after asking her to speak up.
We interviewed Any Soon at a department store. (Yeah, I know… not the ideal location. Original plans had us shooting a practice session in a studio. Plans change!) I threw on my widest angle lens because the space for interviewee, tripod, me and Ysan was a narrow walkway in between the windows and the escalators. The floor we were on was the parking floor so ALL throughout the interviews customers were moving to and from the parking lot on these escalators directly behind me. Seriously, my heels were against the rails.
In the raw footage, you can hear the annoying mechanical hum of the escalators as well as the white noise created by lots of people in an open space. Yes, even though the Rode VideoMic is a shotgun/directional mic and claims it’s polar pattern cuts out 150% of sound from the rear, it will pick up sound from the rear.
I used the following Audio Effects on a number of clips: Denoiser (Change the Preset: White Noise Filter/Reduce Hiss. Also change Parameters: here I just mess around with switches aimlessly), Noise Gate, Voice Over Enhancement, Rumble Reducer.
As for the Otsu JC member audio taken in the hallway – it’s fine. Finally, a quite location and the interviewees were well prepared. BUT upon reviewing the footage I realised the quietness was actually working against me! Why? Because the mic was picking up the sound of the rollers on my slider!!
Dam, I watched a video somewhere sometime on YouTube warning about this exact situation too!! But hey there’s nothing I can do about it. Can’t re-interview all 3 of them. Live and learn, right?
You’ll notice background music plays throughout the interviews. This was not my original plan. I felt there was too much competition between background noise, background music and subject voice. I wanted to give the subjects voice more room to breath. After all this is the most important audio.
Since I had lots of background audio from clips I didn’t plan to use, I wanted to use that as a sort of background music, or audio B-Roll so to speak. I figured it would enhance the feeling of being in that particular location. Some of this is still in the final cut from 1:18 – 1:21 (It’s where I have the playhead positioned) You can hear the Spirits girls cheering.
In the end, Ysan thought it best to have background music running throughout all the interviews. In my opinion, there’s a bit too much info for your ears to keep track of.
This is why I try to give the audiences’ ears short little breaks by switching up the background music for each question. Speaking of giving the audiences’ senses space to breath, let’s talk about text, baby.
Ysan had his hand in the wording. After all, he came up with the questions. Here they are in order of appearance along with the interviewees responses:
What do you like about Otsu?
The fresh clean air and quietness. – F. Ayaka
I like the nature in Otsu. – T. Kusuka
I like the summer fireworks festival in Otsu. – I. Azuki
I like Biwako Tower. I remember when I was a kid my parents used to take me there often, so it’s one of those unforgettable places for me. – S. Yoshiki
For me, it’s Otsu’s beautiful scenery. I live right by the lake so during the summer I can watch the beautiful fireworks shows from my house. – M. Meguru
Like everyone else I think the scenery in Otsu is amazing. On days off I like to ride my bicycle around the lake and it feels… it feels good, I think this is a precious part of Otsu, Shiga. T. Yoshiki
What do you like about being from Otsu?
Sharing an environment with other animals. [for example] When I’m in class I can hear birds singing through the window. – T. Kusuka
The fresh clean air and nature. – I. Azuki
The very fresh clean air and quietness. – F. Ayaka
How do you want Otsu’s next generation to grow up?
We Otsu JC members work daily on making the city of Otsu a better city with a high quality of life. We want to pass the torch to this wonderful cities next generation. – H. Hidenori
To the future generation, please make Otsu an even better city than it is today. T. Kaisaku
Please grow up into happy and genki children. – B. Chizuru
Us Otsu JC members love this city. We were brought up here. Kids who were born here too, be proud of that. – K. Yoshihide
Dream big and stay hopeful on your endeavors, thus making Otsu even better. – H. Hidenori
Be someone who can say proudly with confidence, “Otsu is an awesome city.” Otsu youth, gambare! – K. Yoshihide
You can see here we’re holding the Otsu Ko Festival. I’d like to pass this on, and see the youth of today and tomorrow working together with community members in this way. – T. Yuji
What are your future goals and dreams?
This year we want to make it to the All Japan National Baton Cheer championships. – F. Ayaka
I want to be a cheerleader who can really cheer up an audience. – T. Kusuka
As of now, I don’t really have a dream job that I want to do. For now I’d be happy to continue playing with my band. – M. Meguru
I want to make it to the All Japan National Baton Twirling Championships. – I. Azuki
I’m going to university to become a PA technician. I’d like to continue playing in this band while doing PA technician work. – S. Yoshiki
I’d be really content playing with these guys for as long as we can. – T. Yoshiki
[Intro for the following live performance by Any Soon]
I had to include ‘Otsu JC Member’ for 5 interviewees, as well as a long tittle for the bossman. Instead of having ‘Japanese name’ + ‘English Name’ on screen for 3-4 seconds and then fading out to allow the ‘title’ to fade in into the same place, I just put it all on at the same time. Again, Ysan relayed JC’s request to me, thereby overruling my judgement. I think it works out OK though.
I did some research (which is to say I watched a lot of documentaries on YouTube) and counted how long a persons name and title appeared and in what fashion. I counted an average of 4 seconds not including fade in and fade out. Also, titles are usually only shown for an interviewees initial appearance. However, with longer programs the same interviewee may have her name and title show up again after a commercial break/change in topic. This also depends on the pace and style of what you’re watching. For example, news will usually have someones name and title up longer and far more frequently, whereas a PBS/NOVA special will show it more sparingly.
One for usolee is coming shortly, trust.
Since I didn’t have one ready, I simply put my name, “Kenji DuBois Lee” in the very beginning, before the JC logo.
Word came back that I had to remove my name.
Now I understand though. The client wants a product that represents itself, and nothing else. This is an event celebrating the 60th Anniversary of an organisation. Not necessarily the kind of situation calling for attention to some individual who makes films (a.k.a some dude no one knows and has no connection to the 60 year history of the organisation).
No hard feelings though, I get it. Plus, I trust this video did it’s job. In fact, I just got an email from Ysan: 先日の映像、会場内大絶賛だったそうです！！！(They tell me yesterdays movie was a big hit!!!)
Oh. Yes. That video has become my logo, my business card, my gateway to more opportunity, my network expansion kit.
In the end, I want to make videos so good that my clients are not only thoroughly satisfied, they also become my unofficial promotion team. “Hey, if you’re looking for someone to make a video for your event try this guy. Check out what he did for us…” Thus allowing the buzz to keep on buzzin.
I stopped counting the amounts of reedits I had to do. Little things, like name corrections, logo positioning, wording, interviewee order, length of fade outs/transitions, background music being extended. These edits do not require much brain power. HOWEVER, THEY REQUIRE LOTS OF TIME.
What was extremely frustrating for me (at first, now I’ve grown accustomed to it) was that one of these small minute changes is so easy to ask for but the process to review said change is long and annoying.
“I want the title to read ‘JC Staff’ for these 3 people.” says the boss. On my side of things this change takes 2 minutes. It’s what happens from here that was such a pain in the ass.
Ok, so in 2 minutes I made ‘JC Staff’ titles for the 3 individuals. But now I have to send the entire project over to Compressor. This will take 45 minutes. Then I have to take the compressed file and upload it to Firestorage. This will take another hour or so. Then I have to email the download link to Ysan. Then Ysan will have to download the file, and show JC.
From the time Ysan and JC decide to have titles say ‘JC Staff’ until the time they actually see the video file with that adjustment takes at least 2.5 hours.
And then they show it to their boss who says “Hmm, I also want to see what it looks like with ‘Otsu JC Member’ as the title.”
Start process all over again…even though it’s midnight and I have to go to school tomorrow.
This whole thing would be non-existant if I were working in the same place as Ysan. It’s because I was working at my home studio while in a separate location Ysan and JC could easily meet for discussion. A couple times throughout this project Ysan was on speaker phone guiding me through documents outlining the reedits JC was asking for.
If only I could have shown the project to Ysan without having to go through the compression and uploading process, it would have saved so much time!
Is there a way to stream a live view of your screen?
How can I re-compress a portion, leaving the remaining untouched parts of a video preserved?
I might just hold up a mirror to my computer and Skype next time! DIY ghetto fix.
Again, Ysan was a huge help. As I learned from doing the Gensho video it helps to have someone else asking questions allowing you to focus entirely on the camera/sound/light. (Ideally, I’d have someone to focus on each one of those things, but c’mon, we’re ballin on a budget). Ysan handled all the interaction with the interviewees, occasionally asking me if we needed to do another take. He made sure interviewees kept their eyes on the camera, helped keep them in the proper standing position, reassured them making mistakes was OK because we’ll only use the best takes. He was also the light stand. He held up the LED light for every interview!
I focused entirely on framing, sound monitoring, lighting, focus, and timing. When I say timing, I’m talking about camera movement with my slider.
Since we had each interviewee answer the same question 3 times with 3-5 second pauses in between, by the 3rd time I knew exactly what they were going to say. I would try and start camera movement at the beginning of their answer and time the lateral movement so that by the time they finish they would be on the opposite side of the frame.
Obviously, I didn’t accomplish this every time. I think my best take is K. Yoshihide.
In theory, the first take is a throw-away to get used to the interviewees pace, the second take is a confirmation, and the third should be golden. But hey, how boring is a perfect world, huh? A lot of the takes that ended up in the final cut are first and second takes. For instance the background noise was too loud and distracting during some takes of the Spirits interviews. In another case, some kid jumped into the background during a good take at the Otsu Ko Festival. Can’t really hate on him though, we all get a little excited when we see a film crew and want our shot at fame. Here you go young gun. You didn’t make the final cut but I hope this video below satiates your thirst for stardom.
The only reason there was a 4th day of shooting is because JC reviewed an early cut of the video and decided that the content of the Otsu JC members was not substantial enough. One interviewees answer to “What do you like about Otsu?” was “The delicious fish from Lake Biwa.” True as it may be, that’s the kind of comment you’d expect from a junior high student, not from someone who is supposed to be passing on the torch to the next generation.
This can be remedied with preparation, by asking interviewees to prepare responses so that on the day of the shoot they are ready to go. Wait a minute… Ysan did this and even confirmed with them on the day of the shoot. So why then, did this particular interviewee take 6 minutes to brainstorm only to say “the fish is delicious”… hhmmm? Maybe I just need to try more Lake Biwa fish.
On Day 1 we showed up late to the Spirits practice because we couldn’t find our way to the university gym. Practice was scheduled for 6:00 – 7:30. We showed up at 6:45. Run and gun shooting.
On Day 2 it was raining at the Otsu Ko Festival. We arrived at 1:00 and the JC Otsu organizing members decided to call it off just before our arrival around 12:30. When we showed up people were already packing up and leaving. This meant I had to say good bye to my hopes of getting shots of kids enjoying the festival. It also meant I had to take the interviews quickly while I could still frame the shots to make it look as if the festival was alive and well.
Even with my full-time job teaching I was able to make the 4 shooting dates. It wasn’t easy, but it was possible.
Day 1 Shoot: Me/Ysan/JC Rep. Location: Ryukoku University gym. Subject: Spirits Baton Cheer Team
Must get shoots: 3 interviews, members practicing
Day 2 Shoot: Me/Ysan/JC Rep. Location 1: Otsu Ko Festival. Subject: 3 Otsu JC member interviews. Must get shots: location shots, children smiling and having fun
Location 2: Department store. Subjects: Any Soon (band). Must get shots: interviews from 3 band members, B-role of band practice
Day 3 Shoot: By myself. Location: Otsu at night. Must get shots: Keihan train, Otsu Harbor, Michigan
Day 4 Shoot: Me/Ysan/JC Rep. Location: Otsu city office. Subject: 3 Otsu JC member interviews (re-take) plus additional take from the event emcee.
Working in Japanese
English is my first language, Japanese my second. I consider myself functional rather than fluent (in both, lol)
Seeing as this line of work is what I’m pursuing I should step up my game to at least a semi-fluent level. I took some steps in that direction with this last project. Fellow aspiring filmmakers from abroad living in Japan, here’s some brain candy. Bold words are the ones that I became more familiar with through this real world experience.
バンド練習取材撮影は17か18になりそうです。It looks like we’ll be shooting coverage (しゅざい) of band practice on either the 17th or 18th.
ご覧戴きたいと思いまして、確認の為にサンプルアップ致しました。Just to confirm (what direction to take the video) I uploaded a sample video I’d like you to watch（ごらんいただきたい） . This was my first time seeing 頂くwritten with this kanji.
本日、JCI様より打ち合わせがあり、エンティングムービーの変更修正の要望が出ましたので、指示書をお送り致します。The JCI staff had a meeting today in which a request （ようぼう）to re-edit the ending video was made so I am sending you the instructions（しじしょ）.
使わないといけない素材を明日迄には送りますね。I’ll send you the materials （そざい）we have to use by（まで）tomorrow. MIND BLOWN! I didn’t even know there was a kanji for まで!
[transition] [effect] [look] をかける。I figured this out though our many conversations/down time on location. You use the verb かける where ‘apply’ would be used.
訂正（ていせい）、修正 （しゅうせい）These both mean correction, revision, adjustment
カメラ目線 （めせん）look at the camera
収録素材 (しゅうろくそざい) recorded/taped material
添付 (てんぷ) attachment
編集終わり次第 (へんしゅうおわりしだい) when editing is complete
また確定次第連絡致します when things are settled (かくていしだい）I’ll contact you again. I’ve been familiar with 次第 as it is a very common phrase but this was the first time I saw it used with 確定 so I thought I’d share it.
I ended up making 3 separate videos. Ending video. Spirits Intro video. Respect Otsu video.
The ending video was basically the credits part of a longer video which I had no part in making. Very simple video but LOTS of reedits.
The Spirits Intro video was played at the event right before they came out and performed live. I had creative control… except for the purikura edits.
By now you are very familiar with the Respect Otsu video.
4 days of shooting, 30 emails, 3 videos and all umpteenthousand versions of reedits I received compensation. Was it worth all those hours in front of my computer? No.
I think I was compensated greatly in terms of experience, networking, exposure and opportunity.
Panasonic GH2 (Driftwood Cluster v7 ‘Apocalypse Now – Nebula’ 6 GOP settings)/ Nokton 17.5/Lumix GX Vario 35-100/SLR Magic HyperPrime 12/ Konova Slider K3/ Manfrotto Ball head/ monopod/ sticks/ Rode VideoMic/ CPL filter for the nature shots/ I don’t know what kind of LED light Ysan brought but it was probably about 126 bulbs?
Having a camera that can take quality video and stills is priceless. During the Spirits shoot I was very rushed. When Ysan was not pulling interviewees from the group I was running around, switching gear, shooting this and that and trying to focus on 18 things at a time. Then at the end of practice Ysan gathered up the girls for a group photo. They were in a rush to catch the university shuttle bus to the nearby station. Apparently they had another practice to go to in at the Kyoto campus. Times running!
I still had my camera on the slider.
I took a knee and put my head down to set up my gear (transfer ball head and camera off slider and on to tripod/change lens) and before I knew it, these girls were all ready with poses decided upon.
I must say, these girls got their stuff together!
“Whoa… they’re already waiting for me?!”
All of a sudden, the pressure was on so I just fumbled my way to the settings I thought would work best. Ysan filled the silence with some small talk allowing me to set up and take the pic. Here’s what I got! (straight out of camera and resized)