Final Cut Pro Timeline for a 40 minute video…
Although my job is in graphics, I’ve always enjoyed the process of taking images and music and creating video projects for myself. Through the years, I have made a few things I’m proud of…a reunion video for my 1987 high school class, music videos for my family & a few friends, little things here & there to pass my time. For my son’s senior football season last October, I decided I wanted to do something for he and his teammates so I made the longest project that I had done up to that point. Clocking in at just over 25 minutes, I honestly assumed that would be the longest project I would ever put together. But…I was wrong.
When a virus decided to upend my senior’s final couple of months of high school and there is nothing going on to keep my mind busy, I decided to start to put together a video for Chris for his senior year. I figured I could put it together and he could watch it for his last day of school. But then my wife created a private Facebook page for senior parents to post photos & memories of their kids and an idea blossomed…why not make a video for his entire class?
The funny thing about how these projects go is…I don’t have any idea what I’m doing when I start to put the storyboard together in my head. Usually I rely on the music. I love finding songs that fit my mood for making these videos and for this particular project, I had found one early. The song was called “Senior Year” by the country artist Drew Baldridge. It’s a perfect song for a graduating senior. So…with that I started processing how I wanted to create this single video accompanied by a 4 minute song.
As the years have passed, I have a pretty good library of photos of Chris. I mean…he IS my kid so…who doesn’t take a million photos of their kids? But his classmates? Well…not so much. Honestly…other than his best friends that he’s had since he was 6, I don’t really know his class very well. Chris has never been one to stray out of his social group so I’ve heard names through the years, met parents at school events but for the most part? I didn’t know a lot of his class. So I asked my wife what she thought of me making a video for the entire class. She loved the idea and encouraged me to ask the parents on her Facebook page to allow me to use their posted photos. So…that’s what I did.
After posting this on Facebook…all hell broke loose.
Look…most projects that I have done in the past have been videos that I can control. I use photos & video that I have already and I put it all together and viola! A cool little video. But this became insane as far as organization is concerned. On average, I would say I probably use a couple folders for photos, a folder for video and a miscellaneous folder for scenics and such. For THIS project, the flood of photos on Facebook kept growing and I was getting email with photos attached and video sent over Messenger and more photos texted to me and before I knew it…there was NO way this was going to be a 4 minute music video.
Ok…so I needed more music. Which is fine because I love listening to music and this was a good reason for me to hop onto iTunes and check out some new stuff. I found a song by Tyrone Wells called “Time Of Our Lives” which was, at first initial listen, a perfect song for the video. I asked my kids what they liked. Ava said “Memories” by Maroon 5 would be a good song…so I added it. Chris liked “Forever Young” by Alphaville. No wait…”Forever Young” by Jay-Z. “NOT Alphaville Dad. That song sucks!” (Nevermind that Jay-Z basically took the original song by Alphaville and sampled it to make his own song. Heavy eyeroll here). I voted the Jay-Z song down, but I liked “Memories” so…it’s in. Anything else?
Chris told me a story about how, whenever he and his friends went to pick up their friend, Ethan, they would crank up the music in the car and play this song that he liked. They always recorded him when he came out of the house and it was like at basketball games when they announce a player before the game. Ethan would pump his fist in the air and come running to the car. It was all kind of preplanned and they did it every time they went to his house. The song was called “Runaway (You & I)” by a dance group called Galantis and from the moment he showed me the TikToks of Ethen coming out of his house and after hearing the song? My creative brain was turned on. I now had a 3rd song.
So I started searching the photos and videos, taking a lot of the group photos, hoping that I was getting as many seniors as possible. As is the usual, there are a handful of parents who take millions of photos of their kids (I raise my hand) and there are parents who have, throughout the years, maybe taken 10. So trying to sort through those millions of photos became my full time job for maybe 2 weeks. In that time, I thought…why not interview a couple teachers? Maybe get them to say a few words to the kids? So I emailed the principal at our school and asked him if he would be interested in doing a Zoom meeting and he could give me a couple soundbites for this video I was trying to produce. Mr. Kaiser couldn’t have been nicer and we set up a time to virtually meet.
Here’s the thing…I can’t record a Facetime call of the person I’m interviewing (something to do with privacy issues). The person being interviewed has to record it. So we did the interview but for some reason it didn’t record. So we decided to meet at the school (at a socially acceptable 6 foot distance) so I could interview him there. I figured I would ask him a couple questions at his desk and that would be that. But he decided he would give me a tour of the school, talking about a couple classrooms and places in the school that could provide memories for the kids years down the road. It was a BRILLIANT idea! So…we walked the deserted hallways at Beechwood, me shooting video wherever we went. Now…at this point I had thought this was just going to be a couple music videos and a couple teachers talking about the kids. But now this had turned into something a little bigger than that.
After that interview, I started editing the first music video for this project. I knew I wanted to highlight the kids when they were in elementary school, but I wasn’t sure at this point HOW I wanted to work it into this project. Mr. Kaiser was hired when the kids had entered 7th grade, so he really didn’t talk about the early years at all. I figured maybe I could “guide” a teacher into talking about them at a younger age but getting teachers to talk on camera can be a test. Most don’t want to be on camera (or so I learned) so getting someone to talk to me about the kindergarten years was problematic. I found a new song from a new artist named Conan Gray called “Little League” which was PERFECT for their early years. I had tons of photos and it literally took me maybe a couple of days to put the video together. But I still didn’t know how to work it into the storyline of the seniors. Then I asked my daughter what she thought of it and she said…”Just put it at the beginning.”
“No introduction or anything?”
And so…that’s what I did. The first stage was in place. After that, it all started to come together in a flood. Mr. Kaiser’s interview was the centerpiece of the project and I realized that it was the glue to keeping this thing on track. I already had a football video edited that I had created on the fly when the team made it to the state semifinal. I figured I’d stick that in there somewhere. I found a news story online, a video that was produced by the school and some band footage. I found another song I really liked called “Time Moves On” by Phantom Planet that stuck in my head. I really wanted to do something with it if I could. So now I’m up to 5 songs to edit music too, plenty of photos and videos and my head is swimming from trying to keep it all together. The only thing missing?
Video of teachers and students.
Look…at this point, teachers are still working. They had virtual classes to conduct, their classrooms and lives have been upended and here I was, asking them to let me interview them for a music video? Obviously…most don’t have time for this kind of stuff. They have things to get done. But a couple of them generously gave me their time and their memories and together became the most important part of this project.
As for the students, it was announced that on April 27th, the school would be making chicken patty sandwiches for the seniors. Apparently this is a fan favorite at lunch for these kids and they were told that they could drive up and get a sandwich to enjoy for the final time. While I had no idea what kind of video I could get from something like this, it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t doing anything so I headed over to the school to see if any of the video could be useful. As I watched the first couple kids come through the drive-thru line, there were teachers helping hand out the sandwiches and they were talking to the kids while they stayed in their cars. The idea hit me that maybe I could ask them if they would say a few words for their classmates after they passed through the car line. Sure enough…maybe 10-12 kids stopped and gave me a quick comment. And just like that…I had everything I needed.
After a couple long days in my basement editing, I was pretty much done. The entire video was a little over 27 minutes long, had 5 music videos, the band, football team, theater ensemble, as many photos of kids as I could possibly muster and the teacher interviews. It really was fun to put together and I was all set to “put it out there” for all of the families to watch.
BUT…it wasn’t done yet.
The school was setting up a Senior Month in May. This video was going to be a part of that. And the school had plans of their own. They had asked all of the teachers to say something about the class of 2020 and had put together a 13 minute video of the teachers and senior photos of the kids. It’s funny how my mind works because after watching the video of all of these teachers talking about the senior class, I realized that honestly? That’s really all they need for now. My video, while a project of good intentions, really isn’t for now. Hearing the teachers all give their thoughts on Chris’ class and the students is what this class needs right now. They all miss each other, they miss their teachers, they miss the moments that should be taking place as they wind down this chapter of their lives. They don’t need music videos and photos they’ve seen and all of this pomp & circumstance. They just need those calming voices, the ones they’ve been hearing for the past 4 years, telling them that they miss them and love them.
MY video? Well…I imagine in 15 years, my video will be important to them. It’s fun and flashy and will hold memories that perhaps they had forgotten. And while I waited to release my dedication to the class of 2020, I discovered a couple more things to add onto the back end of it, some funny moments that didn’t work in the body of the piece. So I added some “Tiger Extras.” And then the school put up some signs of each student in the Class of 2020 that lined the main road outside the school…so I added one more music video. Not a lot of editing needed to be done. I chose that Tyrone Wells song for that because the lyrics spoke to me and I simply walked down Beechwood Road and recorded each sign. And that, as they say…was a wrap.
To my son and his friends, I hope you enjoyed the video. It really was a lot of fun to put together and I hope that in 15 or 20 years, you can play it and remember what a wonderful time in your life high school was. I can’t believe it’s been 13 years since I took Christopher to kindergarten for the first time. Time flies and I truly believe in the quote above, the one I ended the video with. Go and paint your own masterpieces and make the most out of your lives. It’s time for Chapter Two! #WeAreBeechwood
Editors Note: Oddly enough, the first song I had found for this project (Drew Baldridge’s “Senior Year”) never made it in. Funny how things change as the creative process works…