4 Reasons Making Video Is More Fun Than Writing
As a longtime writer dipping my toes in video, there are aspects of this mode of creative expression that already excite me more
About six months ago, I finally got around to acting on a long time desire to “get into” the whole world of videography.
To do so, I began posting more regularly to my (very small) YouTube channel — which I still think is in the early stages of its infancy. And the more I learned about video, the more I got entrenched — to the point at which I began dreaming about perfect wireless mic setups (yes, really).
So that you don’t feel alone while a hobby unexpected consumes your life, there’s an amazing and passionate community of rookie videographers that centers around both YouTube — as you’d expect — and Reddit (useful communities: /r/videography, /r/newtube, /r/locationsound, /r/soundengineering).
Videographers — perhaps more so than other creatives — seem unusually generous in proferring advice to us rookies.
I’ve had a Hollywood boom operator steer me away from a Neewer boom pole and onto a Rode (thank you!).
My local camera store in Tel Aviv doubles as a kind of technical support department for me. And if you want to troubleshoot or sound out advice on a technical issue — would running wireless audio over XLR be appreciably better than over a 3.5mm system? — there’s again a world of passionate amateurs willing to share in your journey (this, I’ve learned, would be one for the location sound guys).
That support community comes in handy virtually every day because — as anybody who gets into this quickly finds out — there’s an almost infinite amount of information to absorb about the nuances of lighting, video, and sound design. People go to school for years to master this stuff. But the good news is that in this day of ridiculously easy information sharing you can pick up the basics as a passionate hobbyist.
There’s also gear to pick up and (or the ongoing temptation to) and — of course — there’s video to shoot.
And once the SD card is out of the camera that’s only half the work done: learning about video editing and post-production is its own fascinating fiefdom too. As a Linux-user, my plan is to migrate from Kdenlive to Da Vinci Resolve. I’m not sure either can do speed ramps. But getting from where I am now to where I want to be is part of the fun.
Truly, this was more like my second go at attempting to pick up video as a hobby. My best childhood memories involve making — and scripting — stop-motion Lego movies with a friend. One of my high school summers was spent attending a short film school. And as a postgraduate journalism student I spent plenty of time in a mock TV studio — even if I ended up choosing audio as my broadcast module.
I’ve also been writing professionally for close to or more than ten years (the difference depends whether you include an internship; it’s long enough that I find saying “a long time” sounds more suitably haggard.)
As a somewhat longtime writer and definitely newbie videographer, these are some things about the video-creation process that I already find more appealing.
Without wishing to take a swipe at writing — it’s still what I do for clients and I still love it — these are some unique facets of the video-making process that really stand out as advantages for me.
Making Video Involves Using Your Body. And Travelling.
As a writer, it’s entirely possible to do this job while essentially never leaving your home.
Of course, if you’re a travel writer such an approach isn’t likely to get you very far. Unless your home happens to to be a notorious travel destination.
But assuming you don’t live in the Taj Mahal, then it’s probably safe to say that you could get all your writing done from the confines of a home office.
There have been days where I have spent hours working for clients only to come over to Medium to pour my last creative energy for the day into a post or two. And then to go to sleep.
While such days are oddly satisfying — if your brain were a cloth it’s kind of like wringing it of the last mililitres of creative inspiration — it’s nice to make it past your front door now and again.
I love the fact that making video is a process that uses both your body and mind. In a strange way, it also forces you to (at least attempt to) align your workflow with nature. If you’re planning on shooting a scene in daylight, then rocking up at 22:00 isn’t going to be of much use.
YouTube has allowed me to see the city I live in — Jerusalem — through entirely new eyes. I’m now constantly prowling through Google Maps to try find locations that haven’t been shot by a thousand tourists. In the process, I’ve discovered an abandoned urban forest, a serene nature walk, and discovered that yes you really can walk from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (I just needed a camera to give myself an excuse to try).
Even planning out a short YouTube video can involve some amateur location scouting. Followed by the shoot itself (in Israel, while baking in the hot sun). The evening can be spent editing. And the part after the evening while you lie in bed exhausted spent watching other video creators on YouTube to gain inspiration — or learning about the differences between key lighting and fill lighting.
Video Is An Oddly Social Hobby
Something that’s become apparent to me after only a few months:
As you get into video, you slowly begin accruing more gear. Slowly, the joy of upgrading your shooting equipment begins eclipsing the need to …you know, eat. Well hopefully not. But it can provide a new outlet for your disposal income, whether you want it to or not.
There’s one additional aspect of this that I haven’t seen discussed much.
As you go from looking like a guy messing around with the manual settings on his iPhone to somebody who looks vaguely like they know what they’re doing, you begin attracting plenty of attention from strangers.
The odd gimbal enthusiast will jump over to ask whether that’s the Ronin SC or the SC2. Plenty of random strangers will ruin otherwise good clips by waving frantically in your frame. And you’ll meet amateur people with the same passion regardless of whether you might have connected around other subjects.
For the curmudgeons and misanthropes of this world (ahem), writing is almost too good of a way to sequester oneself from society.
The writer needs only a screen and a keyboard to practice his or her craft. But there’s a bigger downside to that technical simplicity than saving money: you also risk foregoing the joy of connecting with other creatives who are interested in the same form of creative expression — or just in creative expression in general.
Video-Making Is A Kind Of Mental Tonic
I’ve mentioned, on this Medium page, the fact that I was diagnosed with ADHD.
I’ve also mentioned that fact that — like a disproportionate amount of ADHD patients — there are days where I have what could euphemistically be described as a low level of enthusiasm about the world.
Oddly enough I’ve found that video-making is a sort of unexpected tonic for the latter.
For the former, it’s been my observation that a disproportionate amount of ADHDers are involved in creative pursuits, including video.
While many hate the thought of having to keep tracking of 10 moving parameters, the short focus quick burst decision-making process that choosing lenses, lighting props, and audio tools involves is something that our brains thrive upon.
How does video-making help with bouts of depression, you may ask?
It’s a bit like when you’re feeling too bummed out about life to go running. But then you do and you’re so grateful that you didn’t just linger in bed.
If I’m in a bleak mood, getting out of the house to do something creative is about the last thing on my mind to do.
But it’s also about the best thing I know I can do for myself.
Getting out there, exercising, seeing people, and getting distracted in something that takes you away from your problems. It’s kind of the perfect tonic. And it’s free (minus the cost of electricity, time, and gear!).
Video Is An Outlet For Both Technical Geekery And Creativity
If there are two aspects of the professional package I bring to clients that I have struggled enormously to reconcile during my career to date, it’s a love of creativity — which draws me to writing and marketing — and a love of technology — which brings me to love things like Linux and backups.
During my first day on a previous job, after I whipped out my laptop and booted into Ubuntu, the development staff told me bluntly that I was wasting my time in marketing and should come over to their side of the divide where I could probably boost my earning power four-fold.
Video has oddly proven itself to be the elusive technical field that can bring these two parts of my personality together.
As a rookie video-maker, there’s an almost limitless amount of tech to come to grips with: if I’m narrating a scene from behind, should I use and mix two microphones or just wear a lav mic? When I have my next $1,000 to invest in this, should I go for a 4K-capable cam or update my sound gear?
Again, while there’s a to love about the fact that writing takes nothing more than a keyboard and a screen to produce, that simplicity also contributes to a trope that has dogged writers for years, undermined rates, and caused me enormous professional pain and even emotional slights: the mistaken belief that “anybody” can write. For the most part, people don’t make the same claim about setting up a camera on a jib or flying a drone.
But all that tech geekery that goes into producing video is really just about finding the ideal tools for story-telling.
And that’s what ultimately gets me out of bed in the morning — as in this morning when I strolled over to the Tayelet to see if I could capture a Jerusalem sunrise well enough if I tried to nail the white balance.
Writing is a field that I continue to feel passionate about. It’s what I’m doing right now. Nevertheless, I resent the fact that I bought into way too many fallacies about video to not even try it for too many years.
It’s too expensive (it’s expensive, but you can upgrade your kit slowly). And it’s too hard (it’s hard, but you can get better by just repeatedly trying and not caring too much about how bad your initial results are).
Video is an enormously joyful hobby and form of creative expression. And for writers, it offers some unique advantages that can you know … get us out of our homes.