The second weekend of college, I dragged heavy camera equipment through the neighborhoods of Mt. Vernon, Hamden, and Towson. One of my coworkers saw me with a tripod bigger than me, handed me a still camera, and said, “Play around with the camera and have fun.”
I’m happy to say I’ve taken that advice this semester.
If I had to list every single thing I’ve become obsessed with this semester, this blog would crash our servers. FFC cookies, proper pronunciation of the world nuclear, Downton Abbey, and mochas were some of the new things I became obsessed with, but nothing has seemed to make me stay up late and work long hours more than the art of video and still photos. I’d never had a real camera before coming to college, and in my high school broadcast media class I’d never had absolute freedom to make the videos that I wanted to make. Certainly when I graduated I didn’t expect to continue with any sort of work behind a camera or in an editing room. I was an international studies major, and I was going to have to give up my little hobby of videography until I noticed a post in the 2015 class Facebook page asking for someone with videography experience to send in a portfolio of work and interview for a job with the Admissions Office. I knew I needed to work first semester, so I applied, and three days after I started college I had a job as a videographer/editor.
So what do I do? It’s sort of a complicated answer. I shoot video, I take pictures, I edit video, and as of this Intersession I can create digital motion graphics.
Pictures are the easiest to explain.
If anyone has seen me at a school event, I’m usually running around with a camera. This sometimes has hilarious results, like Ghost JHU_Ian over here (caused by a problem with the shutter speed on the camera I was using, so the shot was exposed for such a long time that the shot both saw Ian in the frame and emptiness when Ian was not in the frame, hence his ghostly appearance.)
I also end up using photoshop a lot. I haven’t gotten to the point where I can edit out a Photobomber or airbrush JHU_Noah’s face so that he looks less like a Greek god and we don’t feel bad about our own appearance by comparison. This is really useful for when you have pictures that didn’t come out quite as light/bright/colorful as you’d like, and it ends up looking pretty cool by the end of it, like this picture of JHU_Lucie and JHU_Noah in Hamden (incidentally, this picture was taken on my first official day of work.)
Video’s where it gets a bit trickier. For those who take video, you know that just hitting the record button doesn’t mean your job is done. Making a full video requires a ton of separate shots, sometimes hundres, combined using audio and transitions in a way that makes it look like you planned to use those shots all along with exactly that piece of music. When I’m not out filming, much of my time is spent piecing together longer videos from shorter clips of videos in a program called Final Cut Pro. Every single video that comes out of our office, and in reality a lot of the movies and television shows you watch, all start out in this program looking something like this:
When you see the finished product, it’s hard to visualize all those boxes and lines and cross fades that made the video more than just a series of clips. This is the amount of sheer stuff that a relatively short two minute video takes. Now imagine editing a movie like The Social Network on this program.
There’s more to my job than just pure video editing. I’m working this entire Intersession on learning a program called Adobe After Effects. Essentially this program specializes in something called digital motion graphics, which is just a really fancy way of saying that this program lets you create graphics and then give the viewer the impression that there is a camera moving while focused on these graphics, when in reality this “camera” doesn’t exist at all and it’s just a very clever computer trick. This program is used to make a lot of title sequences for movies and television, and I’ve seen examples of people making everything from fully animated magic books to the beginning of Tron Legacy to the title sequence from Inception. As with Final Cut, it all starts out on a screen like this:
And sometimes you have to use math like this:
The final product took about 12 hours to figure out (it was the first project in this program for both my coworker Will and myself) and looks something like this:
I guess the simplest way I can describe my love for this is that it’s unlike anything else I do at school. A lot of my activities are built around rigidity and structure: debate team will always have tournaments on Friday and Saturday, mock trial openings need to be written in such and such a way, essays need to have one inch margins, definitions on tests need to be at least two sentences. But if you do something with a camera, anything at all, there are no rules. You can turn a knob and make everything go out of focus and snap a picture that way, or you can upload the file on your computer and alter the color so that everything is green and it’s like you’re looking at some alien planet. When you go to make a video, there’s no set formula for how to pick what music to use. There’s no page in a textbook to tell you that you should use that clip of the bluejay giving high-fives to students here, or that clip of your classmates dancing like maniacs at the Blue Jay Ball here. With my schoolwork, my debate, and my mock trial, I have to play by the rules, but with a camera you make the rules yourself.
People ask me all the time what my job is like. I usually just say, “Amazing”, but for the sake of this blog I have to go a bit farther than that. I have amazing coworkers who have turned into awesome friends. I get to travel all around Baltimore and interact with its people. I’ve fed a giraffe, stopped in the middle of the road to snap the perfect picture, spent 8 hours learning how to animate a turning page, and never been bored for a moment. I guess from now on when people ask me what I do for a living, I should probably just use a quote from Mr. Spielberg himself: ”I dream for a living.”