The problem with laptops — making of my YouTube video
750 Words — Day #14
I thought I’d go over what was involved in this video’s creation.
First I wrote a script. I didn’t know how to write a script yet, although I did have a copy of Final Draft 9 bought a couple of years in a moment of optimism. I had to watch a few YouTube and Lynda videos to get the hang of the format.
I wrote five drafts before I started shooting anything. The first draft would have required a cast of several people and multiple venues to shoot, so I’m glad I managed to simplify it!
I wanted a list of scenes in check list format so I could shoot each scene in sequence.
Final Draft wouldn’t give me quite the format I needed so I wrote a little Mac app to help with this. Final Draft produces fairly straightforward XML files so it wasn’t too hard to parse these and output the content in a useful format.
The script called for demos of a couple of bits of gear I didn’t have. I managed to borrow an Ableton Push, and I decided to buy a Launchpad from Amazon, film with it, and then return it.
The most involved bit of filming was going to be the five different “band members”. I had to source wardrobe — I don’t own a cap, a trilby, or any sleeveless shirts. I borrowed jewellery and clothes from my girlfriend (thanks!) and bought some more things from H&M. I knew it would be in black and white so I didn’t have to colour-coordinate too precisely. I decided to pull the same “shoot with and then return” trick on the clothes. Just had to make keep the labels hidden when filming!
I wanted to track my motion when I was filming so I put together a quick iPhone app to have in my pocket while I was moving about. It recorded all accelerometer readings along with an audio file to make it easier to match up later. I wrote a script to convert the JSON and audio files from this app into a Motion project.
Unfortunately it turned out to be easier to keyframe the movements by hand in the end — it was less accurate but made better sense narratively.
I did most of the shooting on one day — it was all in my little studio at home against a white wall.
I kinda wish I’d put up a green screen as the white background became a bit of a limiting factor later on.
I did some stuff to camera for one scene.
This was my first time trying to deliver lines as-written, so I soon discovered that my writing wasn’t particularly up to scratch. I wrote and rewrote while shooting until I got this sequence to work.
I created a makeshift boom mic which worked okay.
It was tricky to nail the delivery — I’ve never really done it before. I felt good about the recording, even if it didn’t end up making it into the final edit.
Here’s how things looked after I’d finished. Not too bad really.
I didn’t have a visual style for my videos yet. I had to come up with this before I started on any graphics.
I bought this font “Core Circus” last year so that formed the basis of everything else.
I created a colour scheme using http://coolors.co. I settled on a dark background for a live music feel. I thought I’d want to see flashing red lights coming out of this, so this formed the basis, and I cycled through some random combinations before settling on the dark blue, red, light purple, off-white and green.
I set myself up for a lot of work with my “diagrams”. I spent a lot of time in Apple Motion trying to get it to work. I settled on a “blueprint” style for the angle diagrams.
It was challenging to find something that looked good with the on-white footage. At one point I was using an outlined style using edge-detection but I ended up coming back to what you see above.
The isometric diagrams were a little tricker than expected. I wanted to model an actual 3D space to make simplify the animations and ended up having to redo half a day’s work when I realised the camera was sort of “backwards” so further away layers were obscuring nearer layers. Got it fixed though.
Some of the layers were drawn already in perspective. I wrote a script to skew these layers so that when viewed at an angle they looked correct.
I wanted everything to flow musically, particularly through the diagram sections, so this took some work in Ableton Live — it’s a remix using the audio from the video footage.
In the isometric diagram I ended up throwing in some low strings and stuff make it feel more moody.
My title graphics went through a couple of iterations. I went with a flashing light sequence motif as a simple way to show the spirit of a post-laptop performance — you’re gonna be seeing a lot of lights flashing in this way!
“Leaving the” was written in a sort of dot-matrix display style, and the laptop evokes a laptop in its movement.
I decided to give the episode numbers and LCD feel as you may have seen.
All of these were done in a way that they show up in Final Cut Pro’s library and I can change things like the episode number easily.
To do the final voice over, I rewrote the script a few times alongside the final images to try to make it fit as perfectly as possible.
A couple of blankets — one in front and one behind — did the trick, and this was far enough away that the laptop fan didn’t interfere too much.
I matched-EQ to an episode of Melvin Bragg’s In Our Time to try to keep the tone nice and soothing.
The “buy now” animation
I did this by writing a script to download images from equipboard.com. Deadmau5 has the most gear on there so I downloaded pics of all his modular synths (using a script) and outboard gear into a folder. I batch renamed them using OS X to make an image sequence
I put in some lighting and drop shadows in Motion to get the 3D effect.
Video wall effect
The video wall was pretty simple really.
I keyframed the camera angle in Final Cut.
I created some more graphics as I went along — not least of which were the end cards where I had to check dimensions and safe zones against what YouTube requires.
I like to export renders and watch them on my TV as I go along. Draft 6 ended up being the final render. I shared it with a couple of like-minded(ish) musicians to get their reaction and they seemed positive.
I wish I’d shown it to a couple of pro-laptop musicians before I released it though! There are a couple of tweaks I’d make in the light of the discussion.
Here’s the video again. Let me know if you have any questions!