I have to reveal something – in a former life, I had some experience in music performance and audio recording. I was able to work in a few commercial recording studios on a variety of projects. Some of those projects involved adding music to video.

While I’ve never shot video myself before, I’ve been around some talented people who really knew what they were doing. So when the video contest was announced, I thought that would be something I could try.

I knew I’d need to do some brainstorming – you know – come up with some ideas. And I had a few, I jotted them down on a post-it – no judgment at first, just some random thoughts:

1) The Ideas…

First was the excited kid, trying to wake up the parent on Christmas morning, whispering – except being excited to start the Thirty Day Challenge.

Next, I thought a conversation in the car might be interesting – kind of like the commercials they run for “Sonic.” If you’re not familiar with those, it’s okay…

My other idea was to just sit down in front of the camera and have a conversation.

2) The Script / Storyboard

I roughed out some script notes for each idea on the computer trying to see if I could cover the main points and stay under 2 minutes. At this point, I was trying to flesh out each of the ideas – still without judging. With some notes, I could begin to imagine a storyboard.

Now that part was interesting. Just the night before, we were watching the movie “Aladdin.” In the bonus material, they went through several minutes of storyboards from the movie. It was fascinating and as it turns out, well timed.

I took the boys and myself for haircuts and picked up a sketching tablet so I could draw up some storyboard frames for my notes.

3) Location

With some script notes and sketches, I needed to think about the location. Not easy. It turns out that shooting the way I wanted to in the car would probably have required removing the windshield. And the excited kid waking up Dad was going to be dark and take a lot of movement and cutting.

I wanted to get it uploaded by Sunday evening, so I needed to go with simple. We picked a space along a wall in our basement.

4) Equipment

I knew I would need my Laptop, a WebCam w/mic, Video Capture Software, Camtasia for rendering, and an account to upload to on YouTube. Fortunately, I had all of that already. I knew video was going to become more and more important. I’d used my income tax return to upgrade the RAM in my laptop to 2 gigs and bought a $100 Logitech Webcam. It’s not the best camera in the world, but it’s decent. Now, If I could just get to a place where I can pick-up a MAC – hopefully sometime before the end of 2008.

Here’s a basic overview of how we arranged the main equipment and seating – we’ll come back to this a little bit further down…

5) Lighting

Once we had our equipment and chairs in place, we turned on the capture software and did a few tests. Our faces and skin tones looked horrible. So we started turning lights on and off and moved a couple of lamps around until it looked better. Yes, lighting is important – obviously it’s not critical all of the time for everything – but if a video is going to be judged in part by how it looks; taking a few minutes to improve the lighting is worth doing.

6) Background

After a few test takes and looking at our results – we decided the plain white wall with the clock wasn’t going to cut it. I tried a dark blanket with a nice pattern on it – but it was too dark. I wish I had a more professional background, but the light striped blanket worked and I could hang it on the wall with thumbtacks…

7) Sound

While the picture was improving, the sound was awful. I double checked all the sound card settings and re-ran the audio wizard for the web cam. Big improvement – I wouldn’t have been able to upload any video if I hadn’t been able to fix the sound.

8) Quiet, Lights, Camera and Action

Time to actually start recording. We did several takes and kept messing up. I would miss a line, Stephen would miss a cue. We’d already spent a few hours in prep on Saturday evening and most of the afternoon on Sunday just making it work. Now we were feeling the pressure and couldn’t seem to remember our lines…

9) Takes, Takes and More Takes

I think THE smartest thing I did was type up our lines on the computer. Of course, I wasn’t smart enough to start there, but after blowing lines for 15 – 20 takes, we needed to do something else. So, I typed in Stephen’s lines in Wordpad on my side of the monitor and my lines on his side. The camera was positioned on a stand in front of the laptop. This forced us to look “through” the camera to see our lines.

I’m hoping this diagram will help illustrate:

9) Re-writes and revisions

Once we got into a rhythm, it didn’t take too long. We made a few revisions to the script, trying to keep it upbeat and fresh and real. At one point, I thought we had it. Then in reviewing the latest take – we both realized that Stephen was pronouncing a word in a way that was not understandable on playback. Back to the drawing board. We recorded about 5 more takes and decided we had it “in the can.”

10) Save, Render and Upload

I opened up Camtasia and went through it’s wizard for web video. I’m honestly not sure I did it right or in the way a video veteran would recommend, but it worked and I got it uploaded by about 7:30 PM my local time…

11) The ideas that came after…

Like a lot of projects, once it was done – and we put everything back – I had a few more ideas, like:

A) Make sure that veteran marketers know there’s a good chance they’ll learn something too.

B) Say $1 in 30 days, not $10 in 30 days. I mean it could be $10, hopefully more – but the point is the process, not the money.

C) This one’s still my favorite – When the line – “There is no charge for awesomeness” comes up – put on sunglasses in sync – and them take them off. I just thought that would give the line some extra “pop.”

That’s what we learned, I had Stephen working on making sure he was all caught up – We’re all set to kick off this year’s Thirty Day Challenge.

P.S. Our entry for the contest is here – Our YouTube Entry for the Thirty Day Challenge

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