life lesson

5 Lessons I’ve Learned from Video Editing

During my first month at Breaking Even, I was introduced to video editing in iMovie. Okay, “re-introduced” is probably a better word- I’d dabbled in iMovie  back in 2002, when the state received a grant for public schools to get Macs for 7th graders. So in 7th & 8th grade, we all learned how to do some basic film editing (Ken Burns was basically my hero). There are some significant differences between the type of video editing I do for Breaking Even and the editing I did as a 12 year old, the most notable being that now, I have to edit myself.

VideoCam

Seeing yourself on camera can be unsettling at first. While you’re editing, you have to learn to detach from being hyper-focused on what you look/sound like. Otherwise, you’re going to be super distracted and it’ll take you a week to edit 10 minutes of material, assuming you can even bring yourself to complete the task. Being on camera and learning how to edit video footage were both out of my comfort zone six months ago, but I’ve grown accustomed to it, and have learned a thing  (or five along the way:

1. The camera is your friend. 

At least, that’s what I try to remind myself. There’s something about seeing that little red light flick “On” and suddenly, my mind goes blank. I’ve always had a “deer in the headlights” response to stressful situations. As it turns out, performance anxiety happens to the best of us, no matter how experienced we are with public speaking or performing stand-up in front of a live audience. It happens to amateurs like myself, and there are a ton of recommended ways to cope with it. For me, having a set time for filming helps the anxiety: I know when it’s going to happen, and can mentally brace myself for it. If you have anxiety about public speaking, you aren’t alone, and this article offers 10 tips for handling it.

2. The best material is unscripted.

The first time I showed up on camera for a Tech Thursday video, I had written out my 20-30 second blurb (I think it was about re-sizing photos before uploading them to a website), and basically recited it verbatim for the camera. It wasn’t terrible, but to be honest, when I was editing later, I actually got bored. It was like watching a drone. Eventually, over the course of filming, the script became unnecessary, and Nicole and I more or less learned how to get in the zone with ad-libbing. Not only did this make the actual filming process fun, it was more fun to edit (and hopefully, watch).

Scripts are fine, and in some cases, necessary. Then again, there are times when something unplanned happens, you roll with it, and hey, it’s even better than the original! (This totally happens in Hollywood. And life in general). You can also just go in with a general plan of attack, and see what happens. Which reminds me of a joke told to me by a wise 4 year old: How do ducks learn to fly? They wing it!

Screen Shot 2014-08-14 at 3.16.23 PM

3. We’re our own worst critics. 

After you overcome the anxiety of performance anxiety and learning what to say, you have to watch yourself saying it. Multiple times.

The first time I watched a video of myself, I thought Wait, why is my face shaped so weird? Does my voice really sound like that? Is that a lisp? I had no idea my skin tone was so uneven…My hair is stupid. And so on.

But guess what? Fixating on the way I perceived myself on film wasn’t getting the video edited. It only wasted time. More than I’d care to admit. And hey, that’s kind of saying something about life in general, right? Instead of being disappointed that one of my eyebrows is higher up than the other, my energy would have been better spent editing the quality of the video itself.

4. Show, Don’t Tell (Round 29,823,409)

Yeah, yeah, we’ve discussed this idea hundreds of times, but hear me out (again): often, if it seems like there’s part of the video where we’re just talking or explaining something, I’ll usually insert a relevant screenshot that highlights or complements what we’re discussing. If we’re talking about a specific website, boom, in goes a screenshot of that website. If we’re explaining the process of researching a hashtag, we might usescreenshots that show each step, so that viewers can see it rather than just watch us talk at them about it. Every now and then, a funny (yet not completely random) image works wonders. It breaks up the visual content of the video, and the people watching are better able to understand the tutorials we’re giving.

5. There’s always room for improvement.

After I’ve put a video out into the universe (aka YouTube), I sometimes think, “Wait, I’ve made a huge mistake. I should have done X, Y, and Z oh no what was I thinking?!” But, as Nicole has said to me several times, if we wait until something is ABSOLUTELY perfect before we share it with others, nothing would ever get done. And that’s really not great for a business. As long as you put the effort in and gave it your best shot, you can’t keep obsessing about what you might have done differently. Hindsight is 20/20, and all that jazz.

Along those lines, there’s more than one right way to edit a video. For instance, I might make the executive decision to cut out 30 seconds of footage, while Nicole might’ve chosen to keep that 30 seconds and cut out 15 seconds in one place and another 15 somewhere else. That doesn’t mean either of us are wrong, it’s just artistic differences.

What Running 20 Miles in the Middle of the Night Taught Me About Life

Many months ago, one of my friends jumped out of bed and proclaimed (with meaningful background music), “I’m going to go for a 100 mile run this summer!”

Actually, I’m not sure how it all went down, but I like to imagine it with a dramatic flair.

Once I determined that he was still sane, I agreed to help to run a fraction of it with him. After all, this is the person who convinced me a couple years ago that I could totally run a marathon, and has dragged me through a couple so far. So, I figured the least I could do was return the favor.

And that’s the story of the (first) time I volunteered to run 20 miles in the middle of the night on the Sunrise Trail. My friend started running around 4 p.m., and I joined in from midnight to 4 a.m. (aka The Graveyard Shift). Here are a few life lessons I learned along the way:



1) Sometimes, you need to readjust. Less than 2 miles in, I got vague pain in my head. No worries, I reassured myself, this is all new territory, you had a lot of caffeine today and are running at midnight. But by mile 5, this headache had grown to epic proportions.  I didn’t want to say anything, partially because of the searing pain and partially because I felt responsible for getting my friend through the next few hours of running. Don’t be a flake! screamed the voice in my head.

And then, we made a brief pitstop to adjust headlamps (this was my first time wearing one). Almost as soon as I took mine off, a surge of blood rushed back into my head. That’s right. My headache was the result of cutting off circulation to my own brain via headlamp.

A crude artistic rendition of the incident. Note: There was actually a bunny, and the stars were amazing.

A crude artistic rendition of the incident. Note: There was actually a bunny, and the stars were this amazing.

While this was, to say the least, uncomfortable, there’s a good life take-away: as you move about your day/life in general, if you feel like your head is about to explode (literally or figuratively), then something needs to change. The answer may not be as simple as oxygen deprivation, but once you find the solution, moving forward becomes a lot easier.

2) Trading passion for glory isn’t worth it (that’s right, Eye of the Tiger). So, the biggest question people had about the whole running 100 miles was “Why?” Well, my friend basically said, “Why NOT?” It amazed me that someone could be so passionate about, well, anything. The fact that there was no tangible prize at the end of this thing baffled me. He was just doing it for the sheer sake of doing it.

This reminded me how refreshing it is to do something you love free of ulterior motives. I’m guilty of getting a bit too competitive when I run, despite the knowledge that it’s bad for my mental well-being. In this undertaking, my friend reminded me (note: he has also told me this on many, many other occasions) that relying on external factors, be they medals, praise, a promotion, etc., isn’t a great reason to do something. Do it because it’s what you love to do, and let that be all.



3) It’s an adventure! Towards the end of my shift, neither one of us spoke unless necessary (me due to sleep deprivation, and my friend because he’d been running for almost 12 hours at this point). The only noises were our feet hitting dirt, some bullfrogs, and an owl. At one point, probably around 3 a.m., it was dark- as if all the light but our headlamps had been sucked in a vacuum. And then, the sun started to rise.

Perhaps delirious, I got inexplicably excited by this. We were running toward the sun! It was all an adventure! Life is an adventure!!! My brain was full of exclamation points.

This was definitely the song playing in my head.

This was definitely the song playing in my head.

At this point, I was reveling in the craziness of running 20 miles at midnight, and was struck with how awesome my surroundings were- the trees, the frogs, the flowers, the sky. Finding joy in the simple things genuinely makes the world seem like a better place, no matter where you are.

4) Never underestimate your friends. I know I’ve said this before, but I’m going to say it again: it’s comforting to know that other people will support you, no questions asked. Even if they think you’re a little off your rocker for wanting to run 100 miles in the heat of summer. I was just one of many who participated in this run, and there was a ton of support via Facebook. Sometimes, just showing up is enough. No matter what your goals are, it’s always good to have a support team.

5) Push your limits, but know when enough is enough. Ultimately, due to the heat and humidity, my friend decided to stop running after 85 miles. It was a smart decision, anddifficult to make. Setting goals and aspiring to do things you didn’t know you could do (running 85 miles, learning how to use Photoshop, teaching yourself how to breakdance) leads to personal growth (which you probably already knew), but the tricky part is balancing this with knowing when it’s time to tap out (and not viewing it as ‘giving up’). This is something that I struggle with, and don’t have a cookie-cutter answer for (maybe because it doesn’t exist).

I’m thankful that my friend asked me to be part of this run, and am so proud of what he accomplished. It was a tremendous feat, and it all happened because, quite simply, he wanted it to happen. How many times will you get to run the Sunrise Trail at midnight with a good friend? As many times as you want.



Sometimes You’re the Windshield, Sometimes You’re the Bug

Windshield_vs_Bug

And, this past month, I tended more towards the bug.

May was a difficult month for me, which included tough life events and just having a lot going on. Part of it may be considered self-inflicted, and the other part, the universe working its magic.  Here’s the highlight reel:

1. I decided to move. After living in a place I haven’t been comfortable in for almost a year, something inspired me to (finally) act. So, I talked with my landlords, and began the quest for a new castle.

And, like many things, this was easier said than done. I’d conveniently forgotten that the process of apartment hunting isn’t exactly rainbows and butterflies. In fact, the moving process in general kind of sucks. I’m not much of a planner, and ended up packing everything in my kitchen without considering how eating was going to work out for the next week and a half.

In the end, I reached out to a close friend, and will be living in new place that I’m really excited about. The moral here: it’s okay to admit you need help sometimes. People’s generosity will surprise you.



2. There was a death in my family. In my adult life, I haven’t really encountered death, and especially not the death of someone I love. Pain and hurt (and lots of tears) are all natural to the grieving process, but I also discovered the roses that come with these thorns.

Spending time with my family, even in sorrow, made me realize just how much I love and need them. Plus, I was reminded that my great-aunt was a kind, loving and overall wonderful human being who inspired many people. And maybe, that’s what life is all about.

3.  A couple weeks ago, I ran my second marathon (which had been planned since New Years). While I finished in the time range I’d wanted, I still felt a little disappointed in myself, wondering what I could’ve done differently, done better. It was almost 80 degrees that day, and toward the end, I was struggling. Luckily, an awesome friend jumped in, water in hand, and helped me get through the last push (over a mile).

After the race, I drove back to Bowdoin College to hang out with my brother, and wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention to how my body was doing. I hadn’t really eaten anything, or drank nearly enough water. A few hours later, my brother and his girlfriend graciously took care of me when my body started, well, shutting down due to dehydration.

Driving home later that night, weak and exhausted (maybe a little delirious), I felt incredibly frustrated. I’m still not sure what was more upsetting: finding out the hard way what my limits are, or the knowledge that I have them at all.



4. Steve’s Graduation: Last but not least, my little brother graduates from Bowdoin this weekend (woohoo!). The only negative thing here is Bowdoin (as a Bates alum, this caused some tension during the holidays), but I can look past that, I suppose…

All of these things, good, bad, in-between, made me realize a few things. First, I had the opportunity to reevaluate some things in my life (big and small), and gained some invaluable perspective on what it is I want. Hint: it basically boils down to love and happiness.

Second, you may have noticed the general theme in all of these events: friends and family always bailed me out. Time and time again, it amazes me how many wonderful people surround me. After this month, its a blessing I’m grateful for. If you’re struggling with something in life, even if you think it’s “too trivial” or not worth “bothering” someone over, go ahead and reach out. People can be pretty amazing, and there’s someone out there who’ll take your hand and help.

I lost my debit card and spilled unholy amounts of coffee on myself in the midst of all of this, but hey, maybe in June I’ll be the windshield.



What I Learned On Katahdin

This is part way down Knife's Edge, and still six hours to go in our hike. Phil coined the phrase 'blue blaze of sanity' since the fact that there are trail markings is what makes doing this not completely insane.

In the entire history of my blog, I have never thought about and rewritten a post so many times. I didn’t want to sound nonchalant about doing some stupid, dangerous things and at the same time, I didn’t want to sound overly dramatic. Here is my attempt at balance, and my cautionary tale.

This past weekend, I hiked Mount Katahdin with my British friend Phil. He had always wanted to go but thought it was too dangerous to attempt alone. I said when he visited Maine again, we’d do it.

He arrived on Thursday from London and Friday morning, we headed into the North Maine woods (Millinocket more specifically) and made camp. The next morning (3:30 am more specifically) we took down camp and headed into Baxter State Park.

The plan was to park at Roaring Brook Campground, hike the Helon Taylor trail, take Knife’s Edge to the summit of Katahdin, hike down Cathedral then Chimney Pond trail back to Roaring Brook. It is a long and difficult hike under normal circumstances. Attempting this in October is not something I plan to do again, mostly because I was really stupid about it.

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