Category Archives: working in Japan

Applying for a video producer job

Summary – I’ve applied for a video production job with Culture Japan, and in this post I’ll be talking about how I found the role, why I applied (ie. because it matches my skill set) and then going through the editing process explaining the thought process behind each trailer.

N.B. At this time I do not work for Danny Choo and I am not associated with Culture Japan in a professional capacity.

This is quite a long post, so here a some short cuts:

Thought Process and pre-planning
The 1 minute trailer
The 5 minute preview
How they were made

Hajime!!

Although it’s still a little while before we’ll leave on our trip I have seen a couple of jobs advertised that, even without the working holiday, I would definitely have applied for. I’m a big fan of Danny Choo’s ‘blog’ Culture Japan, so when I saw that he was expanding the Culture Japan brand my ears pricked up (wait, saw…ears…that doesn’t make sense but I’m sure you get what I mean).video-producer

Anyway, cut to the chase and one of the positions is Video Producer \ ^ o ^ / but there was a pre-requisite of Level N2 JLPT. If you know what this is, great, if you don’t it’s basically a Japanese Language Proficiency Test. I don’t have it. “But…” I thought “I’m going to apply anyway”. I have all of the other skills and it says in the post that if you don’t have the language skills but have the rest, this shouldn’t stand in your way (although I guess editing interviews might be a little tricky if you don’t know what they’re saying).

Normally I wouldn’t be so cavalier when it comes to applying for jobs, especially one that takes pretty much a whole weekend to prepare for, but sometimes if you want something you’ve just got to reach for it. Culture Japan work with some amazing clients all within the fields of why I became interested in Japan in the first place. They’re innovative with some fantastic projects on the horizon (like the Mirai Suenaga Smart Doll) That, and because I want to continue working in video I thought if I do a good enough job it gets me seen and there’s always a chance of some freelance work. After all, a lot of video agencies are based in the big cities, but I’m planning on going everywhere with my own gear.

You can read the full spec on Danny Choo’s website here. The bit I’ll be concentrating

on in this post is the video trailers :

Part of the application was to download series 2 of Culture Japan from YouTube, and

  • “Make a 1 minute and 5 minute trailer choosing the bits which you feel are most interesting from the whole season using the video footage available. When you have finished, upload the rendered files to a location of your choice and share the link with me at jobs at mirai dot fm.”

The Thought Process – Pre Planning

As you can see, there is no audience or style in the brief, and I could have just whacked together five minutes of clips that I liked, but that wouldn’t get me noticed, and in a professional capacity I knew that so much more could be done with a considered project. The idea of a trailer is to act as a promotional tool for a show or movie, so while an action movie will have suspense, a few explosions and a car chase, for something as varied as Culture Japan, getting across the sheer range of topics covered in 60 seconds was going to be quite difficult.

After giving it a bit of thought I decided the best way to showcase the series was for shorter trailer to be aimed at people who maybe didn’t know anything about Japan, and to break it down into topics covered by the show. This would get across that it wasn’t just about otaku and sub-culture, whereas the five minute trailer allowed just enough time to show each episode’s focus in more detail and give a view of the whole series

I deliberately left out Episode 13, as this was a “making of” and while I personally found it quite investing it didn’t quite fit with the rest of the series and when trying to cut every 30 minutes down to (less than) 30 seconds that’s quite a chunk of time.

A bit of quick maths was needed in order to start, and I worked out how much time each episode should be allocated with allowance for a transition. In my head the transition would show the full series each time so people could skip through and see the bits they were particularly interested in. It also served as a reminder that this was a full series covering a massive range of topics. The timings were only rough but it gave me a target for knowing which episodes I should cut more out of.

For the one minute trailer I used a similar method, but instead of fixed timings while watching through the episodes I looked at the various elements covered and tried to allocate an amount of time that suited that topic as a percentage of the overall series, so when talking about history there are clips from several episodes, covering Edo Wonderland, Asakusa and festivals.

 The 1 minute trailer

 The 5 minute trailer

 How they were made

The first task was getting the videos from YouTube. I knew it was possible, but had never needed to download anything before, and unlike Vimeo a publisher can’t make the videos publicly available. A quick Google search later and there were a few recommendations for Fire Fox browser add ons that would let you rip things from the site. Naturally this comes with the caveat of respecting copyright, don’t pinch other people’s videos etc.download-button

The add on was good, but not perfect. After several attempts at downloading everything in one go to get started my efforts were marred by computer crashes, corrupted files, limited resolutions, lack of sound. I would need to download one at a time, check it and then import each episode individually in to Premier Pro (I use 5.5 on a PC at the moment).

When working on a large project with a number of files it’s important to have a tidy workflow process and this is made easy with sequencing and folders.

A sequence is basically a file within a project that allows you to create a separate ‘mini-edit’. Sequences can then be placed on a separate timeline as one new video clip without having to copy every individual clip. This makes things neater while allowing you to tweak various elements of a section without affecting the rest of a project if you find you need to balance sound, graphics etc. It also means a transition or motion can be applied to the sequence as one clip rather than having to work out a whole row of cuts.

folders

So I placed each episode in it’s own sequence and skimmed through to various time codes I’d noted. As each episode had already been fully edited and subtitled this meant it was easy to find some nice sound-bites despite not being fluent in Japanese, just match the subtitle with the start and end of a defined sentence. On the other hand it meant that some clips I wanted to use without audio looked a little odd but I just took it that this was something I’d have to live with and did my best to edit clean shots. While scrubbing through each episode (running it at high speed to spot interesting shots) I also took anything that looks like it might be engaging and moved this into the one minute trailer which I would edit down after the five minute project.

Once I had each episode’s sequence down to roughly 30 seconds, each one was imported into the main feature. There would be some tweaking to do later, but now came the fun part. How to create a feeling that this was a whole series preview, rather than just a bunch of random clips.

Personally I’ve always been a fan of video walls as long as they’re not overused

video-wall-screen-grab

(otherwise you just get a headache!). I thought having each episode ‘pop out’ of the wall similar to a news style wall might work well and started thinking about how to achieve this without it looking plain bad. I opted for a simple motion control to zoom in and out and left a little time (1 second) between each motion so the watcher had time to take in the whole series at a glance, but without leaving it on so long as to distract from the main purpose of showing each individual episode.

One second – I ran out of Jellybeans……Back

After working out there were twelve episodes in the trailer this left me with two ‘spaces’.

As this was a job application to make more of the series I thought it would be most appropriate to have a logo, and then a ‘coming soon’ box. To make the coming soon a little more prominent I quickly create a sequence and made the frame full of static, which seemed to work nicely.

The next part of the video wall was to get everything showing at once.

sequences

To do this I stacked up all of the sequences on a timeline and use motion settings to shrink each individual video and place it, then it was just a simple case of copying the group of sequences and pasting so I had one for each transition. The ‘real’ video for each full sequence was then placed on the top track to ensure the right episode always popped forward when it should. I also wanted to make sure that each time it went back to the video wall it wasn’t exactly the same clip showing, so before trimming the video wall clips down I shuffled them backwards and forwards to random time points.

I also created a folder for each episode, and the a separate one for both the five minute and one minute trailers to hold extra elements like titles. This meant that if and when I had to find various elements to make final tweaks and changes everything was much easier to find, speeding up the workflow.

Finally, after each trailer was sequenced and set to the right time, I’d shuffled about all of the time codes, trimmed some episodes to allow others an extra second here and there, I need to make the titles. Again, just making a random title wouldn’t make this look like a real trailer, Culture Japan’s branding is very defined using a range of oranges and a none standard font. using a cropped screen shot and a handy site called What The Font I figured out Culture Japan uses the Ronda family in it’s titles. Again, taking to the search engines I managed to find a website where I could download the font for free, and then it was just a case of using Premier’s title editor to select the right colours (using colour picker to make sure they were spot on) and adding the outer lines.

Adding the titles was a bit of a pain because again, the subtitles and other titles that were already on the videos meant that there was often an overlap, but in the end I opted for the top left corner to display as this seemed to be the least intrusive.

Now that the video was complete, I uploaded it to YouTube and I chose YT as the hosting platform for two main reasons. The first being that it allowed me to use custom thumbnails easily. I got a couple of my own photo’s I’d taken and designed a title screen that I thought would help sell the mood of the program, and also allow the title to stand out against the image.

The second reason was to take advantage of YouTube’s annotation feature. The world of video has moved on from just staring at a screen. The internet has opened up a world of saturated content where anyone can have their say, and this has made modern marketing very exciting indeed. No longer can you guarantee someone will watch your trailer as part of an ad break, if they don’t like it they’ll click back and find something else, simple as; ‘content dissemination” and fast access are key to winning your audience’s precious time.

youtube-annotations

One of the ideas I had when planning the five minute trailer was that it shouldn’t just act as an advert, if I’d made it right people would go “Wow I want to watch that right now!” and the easiest way to capture their viewing figures was to take them straight to the episode they wanted to watch. For this I used the highlight annotate to make every video in the first wall clickable as a link to that episode on YouTube. You just watched the trailer for ‘Otaroad’, bang, go back to the video wall, click the video and you’re whisked straight off.

If you’ve read this far, thanks. I hope you like the trailers and watch the show. If you want to know more specifically about how any part was created and the process involved leave a question in the comments.
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