Hollywood Here I Come! My Life as a Filmmaker

Last year, after a fun alumni weekend at my husband’s school, The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind, we came up with the idea of putting together a little video to remember his days as a student; academics, athletics, school life; and to document the changes that had taken place on campus due to a massive renovation project the last few years. So much of the campus and buildings had changed that this was a way to preserve the memories of his days as a student.

Fast forward from June of last year to May of this year and I decided I had better get going on the video. I mean, how hard would it be to put some pictures and video clips together, record a narration track, and add in a little background music? Easy peasy, right?

First we had to create our outline and a storyboard. I had ideas of how the video should flow but they were, of course, contrary to my husband’s ideas. And since he was the former student, I had to defer to his wishes. Next we had to gather all the pictures and videos, which were scattered across two computers, an external hard drive, and in print form necessitating scanning. So I moved all the images we needed to my husband’s laptop since it was newer than mine.

Then I started researching what video software I wanted to use. Perhaps, I should have done that first. But who does things in order? What fun would that be?! Well, my software search revealed that neither of our laptops had the memory to handle the video files, so guess what? I had to buy a new laptop. I mean, I HAD to, right? There was no other choice. Now I had to learn how to use my shiny new machine and it came with Windows 8, of all things! But on the good side, it came loaded with the software I wanted to use and had intended to buy. All right…things are looking good. I downloaded the user instructions for the video software and promptly neglected to read them. Why read instructions when you can muddle through and enjoy the pangs of frustration?

OK, now we were ready to get this project going. But first, I had to move all the pics, scanned images, and video clips back to my computer. My husband and I sat down and spent a laborious afternoon getting all the images in order. We were exhausted so we didn’t touch the project for a few days (and by that I mean weeks).

Now we were ready to write the narration. Since the intended audience for this masterpiece would be his former classmates, with varying degrees of vision, I had to write a detailed, descriptive script. Hubby helped with the images of the school from back in his day and I wrote most of the description of the new changes that had taken place.

Time to record the voice-over. This is what it involved:

  • Record
  • Playback and trim
  • Re-record if necessary (and it was)
  • Move the trimmed audio file to the timeline and line it up with the video
  • Adjust the pictures to fit the audio or talk really, really fast to fit with a video clip
  • Repeat this sequence over and over and over and over and …well you get the idea

My script was 14 pages of bulleted points – one for each image. I recorded a total of 374 audio files to accompany about 328 video clips, pictures, and title slides for a total length of one hour and 21 seconds.

I learned several things about doing voice-over work. It. Is. Not. Easy. There are endless retakes, lots of waiting, one explosive tickle in my throat, and at times, a non-operational tongue. I also learned that I do not have the voice for this kind of thing. I sound like I’m holding my nose and recording from the inside of a tin can. If I ever do this again, I really need to use a hand-held microphone and not the built in mic. I would have found out those kind of things had I read the instructions for the software and played with it, doing a few trial runs. Hey, I’m not a professional and I tried this at home.

Time for some background music. Hubby had put together a playlist way back in September so I just had to decide which songs went with the visuals and fit time-wise. That was the easiest part of the project. Adjusting the volume, now that was tricky. And I learned what those little dots on the timeline meant and why it was not good to put a red dot in the middle of your track. (They are start and stop points and can wreak havoc if you’re not careful!)

I was feeling pretty confident about now. I actually read the instructions about producing and burning discs. I had burned a DVD way back and it took a really long time so I was pleasantly surprised when the producing of the file only took 12 minutes. Things were looking up. I clicked on BURN DISC and learned that my version of the software – the pre-loaded version – did not offer that feature. I knew they would get me sooner or later but I tried to sneak through without buying the latest and greatest. So now I had to spend about an hour and half downloading and installing the new version and hoping that my video file with all its narration and music didn’t get messed up when I opened it. It worked!   However, upon reviewing, I found that I misread a word on the last audio file and since the correct word was on the screen, I had to re-record that file.

Time to burn the DVDs! We planned to make 50 copies and I had 52 DVDs in my stash so things were looking good. Just in case, I burned just one DVD to try out and make sure there weren’t any glaring errors. My laptop locked up when the burning was complete so I had to exit the program and was worried that the DVD wasn’t finalized. When I tried it in my portable DVD player, the dreaded words NO DISC displayed on the screen! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!!! OK, remain calm. Think. Go try the disc in a different DVD player. Eureka! It worked. I disconnected that DVD player and banished it to the garage.

I was making good progress burning discs when, with 15 more copies to go, the disc in the computer started making strange scraping and clicking noises. That is not good. I cancelled the burn but it wouldn’t stop. I exited the program and it continued to scrape and click. I shut down the computer and it finally got silent. I had to use a paper clip to push the emergency exit button to get the disc out. I started everything back up and tried another disc. All seemed to go as normal but just to make sure, I tried the newly minted disc in the player. NO DISC. I tried another with the same results. It seems that this particular brand of discs wouldn’t work. And they were the last ones I had. Off to the store for more DVDs! I bought a pack of 50 even though I only needed to make 15 more. Can’t be too careful. The last discs burned successfully and I was done.

But not quite. There was also the matter of printing labels and applying them and the laptop and printer weren’t playing nicely with each other. (So what’s new?) All told, it took me 53 hours of work from start to finish to make this “little video”. Was it worth it? I think so. I was happy with the finished product and got some positive comments from the alumni who viewed the DVD, but thought of a thousand ways I could have made it better. Maybe next time.


4 thoughts on “Hollywood Here I Come! My Life as a Filmmaker

  1. Pimla,

    So are you going to put it on the email so I can see it? Now that you are a pro, can you re-try Amy’s graduation?????????? The VCU one?I didn’t have any video at the time.


  2. I have known Pam sense 1985. I have seen first hand all the different things she can do. I think this has been one of the toughest things she has ever done. All the techno work is one thing but just imagine having to describe every shot you see on a TV show and then create a story board to go with it and have it make sense. Although I can see many of my friends can’t so she was there eyes. Everyone loved it and said that the narration was the best they have ever heard and they were so happy someone though enough of them to make the DVD and narrate for them. I don’t think I have ever been more proud of Pam and all she h can do especially this project. To hear all the comments from my blind friends and all my sighted friends were overwhelming and made me so proud.

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