Hey! So tomorrow, 1 August 2016, is the one year anniversary of a pretty nifty online movement called FemTube. It’s a community of online content creators coming together to discuss the challenges and changes in online video. They do a lot of cool stuff, including monthly hosted chats on Twitter, playlists, and a blog, so if you’re at all interested in online video and feminism you should definitely check it out!
To celebrate this milestone, FemTube started a tag called #YouTubeGirls where creators make a video explaining how they make their videos (videoception…) I always get questions asking about how I edit, equipment I use, and how I review albums, so I thought that this was an excellent opportunity to not only explain those things but also to connect with the wider YouTube community.
So, whether you’re a veteran video maker or just starting out, I hope that this video is useful to you 🙂
As I mention, I’ll be making a follow-up Q&A video about this so please send me any questions you have – they can be as specific or as broad as you like!
So how do I make my videos? Well, the truth is it takes a lot of time and a few different kinds of skills. I’ve broken my production process down into four stages and I’m going to take you through each of those, and yes we will be getting into the nitty gritty details.
So are you ready? You’ve got your notepad out?
It all starts with an idea, whether that comes from an album I can’t stop listening to, an event that I hear about, or a suggestion that I get in my comments. I wish I could tell you more about this process, however it’s the one that I understand the least. An idea is an idea and if you have one you’ll know it.
But obviously just having an idea isn’t enough. The next thing I do is research the topic. So, for an album review I’ll listen through multiple times and takes notes, I’ll look for interviews with the artist about the album and its context, I’ll look up any intertextual references that the artist makes in their work, I’ll read any articles, books, literary theories I need to. Basically I take in a lot of different ideas at this stage, and as you can imagine this process takes a while.
When I’ve finished my research I like to let all of the information sit for a while, kind of percolating there. I find that this allows me to come up with connections and ideas that might not have been analysed by anyone else yet. It can be frustrating because there’s no real way to explain to other people what I’m doing at this stage, and sometimes I don’t know how long it will last, but I have to say it is SO satisfying when I come up with a theory or connection and feel like I’ve cracked the code of an album.
Because my ideas at this stage are still in discrete pieces, I like to draw spidergrams. So I’ll draw a new leg for each idea and then see what connects. I find writing all my ideas out on a page helps me to organise them, and as I do this I start to get a feel for the structure of my video. This is actually how I used to plan essays when I was at school and university – the only difference is now I get to write about whatever I want.
From that spidergram I’ll write a loose bullet-point outline, double-checking at this point that the structure actually works, so I’m not talking about the same idea at 5 different points in the video. Then, I use that outline to type up a script. My actual writing process isn’t something that I feel I can explain, just because it’s always come naturally to me. That’s not to say that I find it easy – sometimes it feels impossible – however I don’t think that it’s something that can be taught and I don’t think that good writing can be ascribed to any of these systems and tricks that people have invented on “How To Write”. You just do it because you need to.
Once the script is finished I’m ready to shoot. I should mention: I don’t always script my videos, especially for hauls, so sometimes this stage happens a lot earlier.
I like to create a certain aesthetic in my videos, so I do spend quite a bit of time in the “Art Department Area” – in my case, set, wardrobe, and hair and makeup.
I usually film in my bedroom, but it is nowhere near as neat and ordered as it appears in my videos. I’ll maybe light a candle, arrange a stack of relevant books, and – oh yeah – sweep all of the rubbish that somehow ends up everywhere just casually out of frame. No one needs to see that. Trust me.
I also plan my outfits – I try to match outfits to albums, I tend to go for a lot of darker colours, but also just things that I think look cool. Like, this T-shirt just sums me up, so,
My makeup takes a while, maybe an hour. I like to take my time, practice what I’m going to say, and just generally try to get in more of a performing mood. I find the process of putting on makeup a transformative process where it’s like I’m putting on a character. In the everyday, I’ll wear quite natural makeup but when I’m filming I need a look that will translate onscreen, under my lights, so I do cream contouring, dark winged eyeliner, and a bold lip colour. This is so that my features will project on-camera.
So, equipment. Disclaimer: I didn’t go to film school so everything I know about equipment is what I’ve gleaned from friends, online tutorials, and YouTube workshops. I’ve always used cameras and shot stuff but it’s been more from a storytelling perspective as opposed to a technical one. There are many amazing videos and websites that are much better resources for this than me.
I use a Canon 70D – it’s a DSLR with a flip-out screen and you can plug in an external mic. It records onto an SD card and you can also change the lens.
I set that up on my old slightly broken, slightly too short tripod.
I have two softbox lights – I got them far too cheaply online. I’m not 100% happy with them as I can never get them far enough away from me to avoid them washing me out. I hear a lot of people recommending sitting in front of windows – I don’t know where you live but I live in England, and we don’t have that thing called “sunshine” here. Just clouds and rain. I need my lights.
For sound, I use a lapel mic from Audio-Technica – same guys who make my turntable. I think it was £20 on Amazon. I clip the mic onto my clothes, turn it on, plug it in, and it records straight into the camera so I don’t have to worry about syncing the sound later. DSLR in-camera mics are notoriously annoying so I’ve always used a separate mic. I’m planning on getting a Zoom soon as well.
With my set ready it’s time to shoot. I generally rehearse my videos quite a bit prior to shooting, and make sure I know exactly what I want to say. I do this partly so that it’s easier to edit, but also because I’m quite self-conscious about my voice and my cadence – I always want what I say to make sense and sound good. I do as many retakes as I need to, and generally shoot sentence by sentence. I make sure I get some thumbnail poses in at the end as well.
Once I finish the script the shoot’s still not over. I reset the camera and get any close-ups or extra shots that I need, for example vinyl close-ups for a haul. This is always a nice way for me to chill out and relax after being on camera, but still be doing something.
Finally, I take the SD card and transfer my footage to a hard drive. I name all of them after Game of Thrones Houses so at the moment I’m editing on Lannister.
Now it’s time for the edit. I use Adobe Premiere Pro – I have a monthly Creative Cloud subscription as I also use Photoshop and After Effects. I also have Final Cut X but I much prefer the freedom of Adobe.
First of all I create a new project in Premiere Pro. Then I import all of the files I need, including any b-roll or extra footage.
Next, I log my footage, going through each clip and finding the take that I want to use. I also name my files, especially the b-roll, so that when I’m covering sections later on I can easily find exactly what I want.
Then I start building my timeline. Sometimes this is very straightforward. Sometimes it is horrific. Again, hauls are so easy for me – just bing bang bosh – but a review can require rescripting in the edit, sudden random revelations and ideas, and just general fuckery.
Once I have my basic structure I’ll go through and neaten up. I get rid of ums, ahs, long pauses, boring sections, sections that don’t actually make sense. Even with portions of the script that originally sounded great: sometimes when I’m editing I’ll realise that I don’t actually need them, or like them, or I’ll realise that I can get that point across in a different more interesting way.
When I’m finally happy with that I’ll add b-roll and any extra footage or reference clips. Then I’ll do a visual pass of the video, where I’m watching for anything that looks weird. If I have time I might attempt some colour correction, although I’m such a novice at that.
Then comes the audio. I fix weird jumps, clicks, hums, add music. Sometimes even just ambient sounds. Again, I’ll do a few audio passes to check that everything sounds good.
Next I’ll add titles and credits – pretty straightforward but a bit fiddly.
I’ll do a final watch through to catch anything I’ve missed. I try to be as critical and picky as I can at this stage. Then I’ll usually make an endcard in photoshop and import that.
So, in case it wasn’t obvious, editing can take a really long time for me too. I’m very picky and there usually is at least one crisis moment for me during this stage when I want to throw the whole thing out. I’ve just had to train myself to finish the damn thing.
Then I export the file as an .MP4.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA
Now for the easy bit – I hit upload on YouTube. I’ve started scheduling my videos so that I know exactly when they’ll be live.
While I wait for the video to upload I’ll make my Thumbnail on Photoshop – so I’ll scrub through that thumbnail video I shot and find something that works. I also write the description, add tags, and draft any social media posts.
When the video goes live I’ll Tweet and sometimes I cut a teaser video to upload to the Record Review’s Facebook page. I try to make it as visual as possible because I know a lot of people don’t turn the sound on when videos autoplay on Facebook. Since I’ve started using Snapchat I also try to keep everyone updated about what I’m working on through that, so I’ll usually add something to my story when a video is going live.
And then we play the waiting game…
So that’s how I make my videos. It seems like a lot to do and I don’t mean for this to seem daunting. I think it would be dishonest if I were to sit here and say “Oh, I just think of a random idea, chat to a camera, and quickly edit it.” No, it’s a difficult process, and not always fun, but then again nothing worth doing is ever easy. I think it’s important to be mentally prepared for what goes into making a video. There’s a rule about comedy films which I think applies here, that the more fun the cast and crew had making it, the less funny it will actually be.
I hope I went into enough detail as well. If you have any questions, either about making videos or generally about my channel please leave a comment or you can also tweet me. I’m going to make a follow-up Q&A video because I think that that’s the best way to ensure that this is a true dialogue.