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Show Your Work! is a kind of sequel — if the last book was about stealing influence from others, this one is about influencing others by letting them steal from you.
So it made sense for the new book trailer to echo the last one. As I joked then, I sort of hate book trailers, so I decided to make a cute dog video disguised as a book trailer instead.
The thing I hate about most video production is that it just takes too much money and time. I made this trailer in two afternoons, using equipment I already owned, with software that came standard on my iMac — I shot the footage with my Panasonic Lumix, made the animations in Keynote, recorded the music and voiceover in Garageband with my Blue Yeti USB mic, and hacked it together using iMovie. (I do NOT recommend ever using iMovie for anything, but I knew it would work for what I had in mind.)
I thought I might show a little bit of my work, below. (See what I did there? Ha.) It ended up getting a little long, so skip to the end if you just want takeaways.
I like to start all videos with a script — if you can have the narrative pinned down, I think it’s easier to come up with the imagery.
I’d had this little ukulele ditty I’d been noodling around with that I figured would work okay, so I recorded that in Garageband, then recorded the voiceover.
If you look closely at my tracks there, you’ll see that there are some muted — that’s because I recorded several voiceovers that I ended up scrapping completely. One thing that happens when I’m doing the production work myself is that my ideas change as I use the tools. The standard way most think about this stuff is that you nail the ideas down first and THEN do the production, which is how you pretty much have to work if you’re not doing it yourself, but the reason I like doing it myself is because I like the idea to change as I’m working. If somebody else was doing the work for me, I wouldn’t be as free to screw up and change things. So there’s that.
Next up was filming the dog. This required patience and a whole bag of treats.Again, I had really big plans — I was gonna film him with all kinds of props and costume changes, but that all got thrown out the window. I was trying to shoot while also watching my son — in the video, you see the blanket start moving when the voiceover says “to take away from what you do.” This was a total accident. Owen likes to antagonize the dog, so he started tugging on the blanket. I decided later in editing that it actually fit pretty well.
Next up was animating the book with the list, the writing, and the diagram. Apple’s Keynote slideshow program does really simple, neat animations, but its really helpful unsung feature is that it will export HD video. (You can also dump video and audio into a Keynote, so you could actually do the whole trailer using nothing but Keynote.)
I didn’t have this animation in mind when I started the trailer—it came around from me drawing on my Wacom Cintiq and pushing stuff around and monkeying with the animate window. There are actually only a couple shapes in that animation — the “Process” writing, the arrow, and the circle-dots. The movement is just done with the “wipe” and “appear” animations — when the whole thing zooms out it’s just using the “magic move” function in between two slides. Really simple, but it looks cool.
After the animation was done, then it was just a matter of editing it all together. iMovie truly sucks and I don’t know why they don’t just have a timeline like in Garageband, but whatever. Maybe for the next trailer I’ll splurge for Final Cut Pro.
With all that said, here’s what I’ve learned from doing (web) videos:
1. Use the tools you have. I could’ve shot the Milo footage just with my iPhone. (Hell, it might’ve even looked better.) The tools have limitations which you can turn into constraints that help you get the work made.
2. Start making and throwing something together as soon as you can. Work in a cheap, DIY fashion and get your hands dirty right away. Even if you have to throw half your work out, it’ll lead you to something better. (A friend of mine who does amazing video work offered to do this trailer for free, but I didn’t have any ideas for him, so I decided to go home and make a crummy one myself as a demo, then let him redo it. But by the time I started making the demo, it was already half-way done.)
3. Be open to accidents. Let your “mistakes” during the process actually feed back into the idea. Absorb the mistakes into the piece.
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