Why I Gave Up Video (And Why I'm Back)

I didn’t give up video. I just got busy.
You know how it is, right? You want to do something and then you make this grand list. Then you do a bit of it. And you do some more. And some more. And you get results. And then you do a spectacularly stupid thing.

You give up.

Why? No one knows for sure.
It’s not like video took me more time. In fact, the first time I tried to make a video  (I say ‘try’ because I didn’t complete the video) it took me five hundred and eight hours.

A couple of hours of shooting. Five hundred hours of wondering how lousy I’d look and sound on video. And the remaining six hours of fiddly stuff with the right location, video software etc.

And yet a month or two later, we were shooting eight videos in an hour

My wife, Renuka would set up the camera. We’d switch on the lights. And I’d speak. No teleprompter, no reading from notes, nothing. Just speak as though I was speaking to a client.

And no, I didn’t start out that way. I needed the notes. I bought several teleprompters. Then I just got sick of the whole process and decided to shoot whatever I possibly could in an hour.

And it was ONE take. No second take. The less I focused on getting it right vs. getting it done, the more videos got done. But it was killing me to script, shoot, edit, put titles, keywords and upload the darned thing.

Bah! It was maddening!

So I hatched a devious plan

I contacted some kids at school and one of them showed up, keen to edit video. Now he had standing instructions. He had to show up and never call. If he called, I might say something like, “Let’s skip this week”.

But if I knew he was going to show up anyway, I had to do the video. This kid was free for a few hours on Saturday. I’d shoot on Friday evening. One hour. Eight videos. Back to back. Then I’d need a beer or two.

But something happened along the way

I can’t remember the details. But I just gave up. The kid stopped showing up. Maybe we went on vacation. Maybe something else happened. The point is irrelevant. I just stopped.

And that’s what we all do. We stop. And we have to be re-booted once again.

So towards the end of last year, I did the reboot. I contacted a film school and asked if their alumni were keen to earn some money. Three eager beavers showed up. Two dropped out, for some weird reason. One stayed. And he’s good!

And that’s a lesson in itself

Trying to do the scripting, shooting, editing, rendering, uploading is a pain in the you-know-where. You may start off all nice and cheery, but projects come in the way, chaos drops in for a beer and then all hell breaks loose. You definitely need to get some help. Kids all around you know how to use video cameras and all tend to have access to a computer.

And they will spend the time editing, if not shooting for you. I prefer to have the person shoot and edit, and that is the best way going forward. That way you, the talent, can do the prep work, get time to actually comb your hair and then do the shoot in one go.

Or two. Or five. But at least once it’s done, it’s done.

And so in two weeks, we’ve shot seventeen videos

Not in two weeks. In two hours, just spread over two weeks.

I know, I know. It sounds intimidating, but it’s only intimidating for the first five hundred and eight hours. After that you get used to the camera, just like you get used to looking at yourself in the mirror.

And while those seventeen videos were the live videos, I got back into making screencasts as well.

Now screencasts are tough

They’re tough if you want to do a good job. Because there’s no live movement, you have to create the movement. So a 30-minute video may have as many as 250 slides and about 300 specific animation points.

That’s not counting the audio recording time (which I do separately) and the graphics. And the layout. And the storyboard. And another half a dozen things. In short, it’s a big production. And often people make screencasts because they’re afraid of facing the screen.

Well don’t let me stop you from making 250 slides

But if you’re looking to save time, live action is better. It’s quicker. It’s easy to trash and start again. You may not like your voice and you may not like your face on video, but you’ll get over it sooner or later.

Probably later, but there will be a time (and get this) when you will actually like your voice. No, I’m not kidding. Then people have to shut you up.

The final reason for making screencasts is because you have something that needs to be demonstrated, rather than spoken.
Of course the final reason is just that you’re a sucker for punishment—which I am.

So why did I start making video again?

Well, I don’t know about you, but if there’s a page of pretty pictures to see, or if there’s text on this page, I still click on the video. I will head to an Apple.com page in all its glory and pretty pictures and bingo—it’s the video I want to see.

Well-made video is quicker and more tidy than reading a whole page of stuff. But let’s say you’re not me. Let’s say for instance you are the one who reads the pretty words and loves the pictures. Well, then there’s a good chance you have a client like me.

A client who wants videos. And so you may not be a video-watching person yourself, but your client loves video. And so you do what’s needed.

So I buckled down and made the video.

I made live videos.
I made screencasts.
And I’m going to make videos for our sales pages as well. Because I know they work. I’ve seen them work on painful people like me, who don’t want to read or see pretty pictures. And while it’s not always fun to get the script, the topics and do all that speaking etc., it’s now a lot of fun to see the finished product. It’s nice. It’s effective.

And more importantly, it doesn’t take five hundred and eight hours any more.


P.S. If you’re considering video, and especially if you’re considering screencasts, you will want to look at Black Belt Presentations. It really, really helps.

Do you have a similar story to share? Post it here.

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  1. says

    Last time I made a face to camera video and posted it online the viewing stats dropped dramatically, needless to say my confidence took a bit of a battering :( I am about to embark on a big video making session in the next couple of weeks as I know I can do better than last time and really want my clients to have the face to face experience.
    I think I’ve clocked up more than 500 hours of procrastination and will just have to jump into it.
    Great article!!!

  2. says

    Thanks Sean,

    I can certainly relate to that. A few years ago I made our first movie for a Guggenheim design competition on no budget and taught myself Windows Movie Maker as I went (from zilch knowledge), working till 3 or 4 or 5 in the morning after hours, cutting in early rough CGI animations that I had no time to rerender and was unhappy with. As we say in the profession. ‘Better a good set of plans today, than a perfect set tomorrow.’

    Then I got Swine Flu the day I had to submit it and was shivering uncontrollably with cold fever sweats and that battery operated monkey cymbal clasher going hammer and tongs in the squishy tender parts of my brain .

    Divine assistance was required so I prayed for help, miraculously got it all tied together, uploaded it to YouTube and chose some roylaty free music with minutes to spare… and the music works perfectly with the scene transitions. The song is called ‘O come, Emmanuel’

    Live video is definitely easier! And it doesn’t matter how you look or sound- or how you look in photos- ‘cos that’s how you see yourself in the mirror is always better than the way the world sees you!

  3. says

    I know exactly what you mean by 580 hours later you have one video. I started making them for a course I’m teaching on Painting Digital Watercolours with Corel Painter in mid Dec. and it still takes me 8 hours to produce a couple (if I’m lucky). At least I get to record my screen, which is me painting and not my face. Then I narrate them afterwards and add captions, callouts and Zooms etc.
    I have to do it this way because I find it really hard to talk and paint at the same time. It beats screen captures and lots of text though for PDF’s. My students want both!
    I like your videos and appeciate how much work goes into them. It does get easier!

    • says

      Oh, Painter used to be my favorite program. I used Painter way back in 1993, I think. I started out with Painter 3, then went on to Painter 4. I still have the latest copy of Painter, but I don’t use it as much.

  4. says

    Great article Sean. And damn necessary, too!
    In fact we have just rebranded my web site (www.franzandrini.com) and for the first time introduced a video channel ( I call it Channel 60). However, I prefer, for the beginning, just simple up to 2 min long videos of my classes, testimonies from the students-sort of a peep into the yoga teaching I do. I feel those short and personal (not too professional), taken by the HD cell phone camera with a good resolution are fun to watch. None of painful editing for short messages. Well, the professional ones are shoot for the specific work and for special offers.
    Maybe you can elaborate more on short and personal videos in your future newsletter. Would love to improve on that.
    Keep the great work.

  5. says

    Hi Sean

    Somewhere deep in your Brain Alchemy workshop, you made the comment “do one thing twenty times, not twenty things one time”. Brilliant. One of the ways I apply this is through my video content.

    Each month I write a 3 step article on how to boost your management skills.

    One day I opened those articles on my laptop, put a camera facing me in front of it, and read what I had written. A bit like a teleprompt. I made videos of lots of my articles and they are now dotted around my site.

    I think it’s good to have a mix of audio, video, text and pictures on a website.

    So thanks for your great advice! :)


  6. Paul says

    Hey Sean,

    This would explain why all of a sudden there are so many videos coming out of the Psychotactics Stable!

    Love them, keep it up.




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