Posts tagged video
Back in the USA
Watching and waiting for election results on Tuesday November 6, 2018.

Watching and waiting for election results on Tuesday November 6, 2018.

I’ve been back in the US for about a month now, and while this international move has predictably been filled with unpredictable surprises, I’m happy to be back exploring Las Vegas and the southwest. I went to high school here, and while it was a weird place to be a teenager, I always thought Las Vegas would be a fascinating place to be a photographer. It’s interesting getting re-acquainted with the city through some of the assignments I’ve had so far.

Since I last lived here full time, old downtown Vegas has been revitalized and transformed into a prime hipster hangout spot, there are all kinds of interesting things happening politically here, and issues like immigration, homelessness, and mental health are all big topics here. It’s a dynamic place and it’s good to have some time to explore some of this.

Last Tuesday night I was hired to film the Nevada Democrats election night party - my footage was used at the tail end of this League of Conservation Voters video here. I put together a belated rough cut of favorite moments from the night, which slowly turned into a giant dance party as more and more blue wins were announced in Nevada. (Note: the best soundtrack for this video is really “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire - which everyone was dancing to - but I can’t afford those licensing fees!)

Staying Organized on Long-Term Video Projects

This year was the first time I had video projects that spanned more than one or two field visits - in one case, there were several field visits, interviews in multiple languages, different locations, spread out over several months. How do you stay organized (and not have panic attacks every time you have to dive back into editing)? This is an ongoing learning process for me, but here's what's worked well so far.

1. Rename and keyword on import
I started using Prelude for this - which is mostly useful if you're then going to edit in Premiere, but even if you're working with FCP or Davinci Resolve (which I love love love for color correcting), it helps to get your files named something more useful than - and do it ASAP after the shoot, before you have time to forget anything or confuse your notes. So, each shoot gets its own folder organized by date/location (and sometimes subfolders if I want to break up a lot of b-roll or interviews) and gets named something like or You'll waste hours scrolling through hundreds of tiny thumbnails of footage if you don't do this from the start.
If you really have terabytes and terabytes on multiple hard drives to keep organized, you might try a program like NeoFinder.

I use pen & paper because I can't type for sh*t in Arabic - and actually, I think I can write in Arabic faster than English - thank you, Semitic root system.

I use pen & paper because I can't type for sh*t in Arabic - and actually, I think I can write in Arabic faster than English - thank you, Semitic root system.

2. Transcribe & mark up interviews for subtitles
This is lots of fun to do in a language you're not fully fluent in. Obviously, this is something that might have to be subcontracted out, but if you're still going to be the one editing the footage, the interviews have to be marked in a way that you're going to be able to understand it, cut it and put together the main audio track without having an interpreter next to you all the time. For me, I break out a pen and paper - because I'm incredibly slow typing in Arabic - and alternately jot down as much as I can in Arabic, or just write down words I'm not sure about in Arabic, or jot down my rough English translation for reference. As I'm watching the video in Premiere/FCP/Resolve, I'm marking in and out points of interest that will go into my timecode sheet.
Then I open up Word (or a Google Doc) and make a timecode - a table with four columns and about a million rows. From left to right, I label my columns as "Time, File name, Arabic, English". Then each row is a ~10 second space of time in a particular file. I fill in the Arabic and what I think the subtitles should read in English. This makes it easier to copy/paste as you're filling in your subtitles. And from my experience, it makes sense to save the actual subtitling until the very last - if you make any edits to your video/audio tracks, you'll have to adjust the subtitles accordingly, and at least in Premiere, this is a lot of tedious work. At some point, I have a native speaker watch the video and read my translations and let me know if it all matches up right and makes sense to them. As with any kind of translation though, you'll have people insist that an expression should be translated a certain way that makes zero sense in English - and you'll have to find a compromise.

3. Organize by Themes & Numbers
If you have a lot of different interviews and know that you're going to have to take the good bits on certain topics and organize them into a sequence, you can make another kind of table document. So, for example, if your themes are Women's Employment (1), Agriculture technical info (2), Environment (3), you can make a chart with who said what under each category, listing the file name, what they said, and when they said it. Then all you have to do is go back and search this document for the person who said it, or the topic, or a few keywords you remember. Much easier than scrubbing back through dozens of clips if you can know the exact file and exactly when it was said.

4. Shoot and Edit for Sequences
When editing, I always like to get my main audio track (usually interviews) down before I start working on visuals. But if I know I have an interview that talks about helping kids get over trauma, and I have b-roll of kids playing or in class or with their parents, I can start putting little sequences together from that and then drop it in over the relevant audio. It helps me to break even a short video down into smaller chunks - then it's just putting together a few of these sequences, an intro, a closing, some transitions - boom, done.

5. Keep all relevant documents together
This isn't just your video files. This could be folders with still photos or logos you have to include, your transcripts and timecodes, libraries and project files, possibly even contracts, releases, and other paperwork. Assuming you have about a dozen external hard drives like me, this makes it a lot easier to share files or plug into a different computer and keep working.

When and Where I am

It's been a little over two and a half years since I moved back to the Middle East, and two years since I'd updated my portfolio in a major way. I discovered my subscription was up this month, and with me embarking on new projects and a new job soon, I figured now was a good a time as any to change it up. Hello Squarespace! (No shade toward Visura at all - maybe I'll be back someday. Squarespace just seems like the right thing for me now).

A lot has changed since I left DC: I spent half a year in Turkey, finding my feet (personally and professionally), wound up back in Jordan, I got married, there were a couple times when I stood on three continents in one day, and there were months where I didn't unpack my suitcases.

But in more recent history, I've been taking on more and more video work for clients, and have discovered it's finally no longer something I feel like I have to force myself to do in order to stay relevant and competitive. I'm excited about finding where those "decisive moments" lay in moving pictures.

And in a few short months I'll be starting a master's program in this stuff - one that combines visual anthropology and documentary film. At some point, I'll have to shoot and produce a ~30 minute film, so I'm looking forward to being in a space with critique and mentorship again.

So anyway, this website is a leaner version of the previous one. No more old projects or repetitive galleries that don't look strong anymore. ("Killing your babies" as an old photojournalism professor would call it). So I have a few simple photo galleries, and video is front and center.

I pretty much tend to blog when I'm excited about something (which is the case right now) or when I'm bored and not doing enough work and want to feel productive. But I think I'll try to make this a place where I talk about (hopefully) useful editing/organizational techniques, talk about how projects develop over time, cultural experiences, sources of inspiration, etc.

Onward and upward.