How To Complete a Project When You Feel Overwhelmed
Last month I finished the most ambitious project I’ve ever thought about tackling. I used all the knowledge I have about filmmaking from conceptualizing it, pre-production, production, and finally to post production. I came up with the idea while basically joking around with a co-worker about putting one of our news anchors in space. From there, the idea turned into the three main anchors having super powers. I was really into the idea of how I would go about shooting this as I’ve never done that kind of compositing before, but I was really excited about trying it out. As we riffed back and forth, the story for the spot just kind of unfolded itself.
The story is the weather man can control the weather. One anchor has a heavy social media following, so she has super-fast hands to keep viewers up to speed on the latest news through social media posts. The final anchor can make portals like in in the movie Doctor Strange, so she can be on the scene to give you news as it breaks.
The whole premise of this spot was very simple. The weather man, conference calls the other two anchors and tells them to be in the news studio in five minutes. Most of the action takes place in the timespan between the phone call up until the news broadcast starts. The weather man clears up the cloudy weather; the social media anchor makes tons of Facebook posts; and the final anchor creates a portal from her desk directly into the new room. The voice over reveals, “You don’t have to be a superhero to save the day. The news cast does it every morning!” followed by a call to action, which is to watch the news show in the morning.
All of that was figured out during the "goofing-off" session my co-worker and I were having. Well, I wrote the ideas down and started planning out shots. I was extremely worried that I wouldn’t actually be able to pull off the post production side of this shoot, but I kept pushing those doubts to the back of mind and kept thinking about how cool the spot would be if it were completed.
To make things easier for myself, I drew some story boards so that when I pitched the idea to the creative director, he would hopefully understand what I was talking about. With the storyboard, script, and shot list in hand, I entered my boss’s office. I pitched him the idea of the news anchors being superheroes. I actually didn’t think he would go for it, but my confidence in pulling off the shots, my preparedness of knowing what the spot would look like, and my knowledge of composting convinced him. He was in; and he loved the idea!
According to the storyboards, the whole spot only had eight shots; however, within each shot there were three different shots going on. That meant there would actually be a total 18 shots within the thirty second spot!
Looking over the shot list and storyboards, I was convinced... I had made a terrible mistake and bit off WAY more than I can chew. I just kept telling myself, “If I pull this off, it’ll be really fun to edit and it’ll just be cool!” So I kept pushing forward.
I contacted the anchors, and scheduled to shoot their parts. The shots weren’t too difficult to set up. I’d say the hardest thing, was shooting the anchor who was creating the portal, just because I wasn’t quite sure yet how that would animate on and the actions the anchor would have to do to make it “create”. When her shoot was all said and done, I had about 15 takes of her doing different actions. I probably should have planned that out better, but I had never shot anything like this before that.
Once all the footage was shot, it was time to edit. I started like I usually do, sifting through all the footage and grabbed my selects. I made an extreme rough cut, just to visualize the timing. Once I had a very rough edit, I started using Adobe’s Dynamic Link from Adobe Premiere Pro to Adobe After Effects to begin compositing. Needless to say, I sat back in my chair face palming at the amount of work that was still ahead of me. All 18 shots needed color correction, color grading, a more defined edit, and some sort of visual effects to happen. Even as basic as the shot with the phone ringing is, I still needed to animate and create the screens for each phone. That’s not all that had to be done! I also needed to recompose every shot. Once I did that, I realized all the videos just sat on a black background which was very dull looking.
I started to scour the internet for some inspiration of what I wanted the background to look like. I knew since it was superhero based, I wanted it to have sort of a comic book feeling. I looked at a ton pics of different comic book references, and came to the conclusion that I wanted that old school comic book feel. Then I saw a bunch of action pop-outs like “Bam!” and “Pow!”. I knew I wanted to incorporate that into the spot as well. I also came across an action/comic style YouTube video that had these “slice” transitions. I though they added a great deal to the video I found it in, and want to add those too!
Now with a plate already overflowing with work, I just added two handfuls more to my workload. I had certainly stressed myself out with all my plans, but I just kept telling myself, “This is going to be so worth it! This spot has the potential to be the coolest thing I’ve made, and I’m definitely adding some of these shots to my demo reel!”
I just worked on it one shot at time. I did nearly all of the work on one shot before moving on to the next. The best was that every hour that past during the edit, the render got slower and slower! Obviously, that’s sarcasm.
After about two full weeks of creating things I’ve never done before, making numerous masks, and duplicating layers upon layers, I was finally done!.... with the editing...
I exported the entire spot straight from After Effects. It was far too much of a render hog, to rely on send the edit back through the Dynamic Link to edit in Adobe Premiere Pro. I imported my new export file, and began choosing where I wanted sound effects and what they should be. I chose the music before I even started editing, so at least I had that going for me! Anyway, the spot doesn’t not have very much voice over or on-screen dialog, so I really needed the sound effects and music to drive the spot. Guys, this is a side note, but sound effects and music are just as important in editing as anything else! That’s my tip of the day.
Once I was done leveling the music and burring the sound effects, the spot was complete! All the time I spent dreading moving forward with this thing had paid off. It was definitely the longest project I’ve worked on professionally, but I feel like the product really speaks for itself. I’m really proud of it!
My final thoughts are, if you are feeling overwhelmed with something you decided to start, just breathe and keeping moving forward one step at a time. When you get to the end, you feel such a sense of accomplishment it will make every dreary moment worth the struggle!