Sunday, December 28, 2008

Bringing it all back home

Despite the not-too-shabby website and the four-plus hours of original video it currently hosts, I'm not a video veteran. I don't have much formal training (I hope that's not too obvious). I picked up a video camera for the first time 11 months ago. I sat down in front of Final Cut Pro, the editing software, for the first time last February. It's funny how one little throw-away decision can totally change your life.

Last winter, I registered for a video-journalism class for my last semester before graduation (basically, because I didn't think I'd have to write papers or study for Scantron exams in a video class). I ended up falling head-over-heals for this video medium and decided to pursue it professionally. I started filming bands in Austin on weekends as a hobby back in July, while I was living and working in Dallas during the week. I moved back to Austin in mid-August and launched 'Nites a month later. The decision to start a videoblog was pretty sudden and unplanned. But it's a decision I'm glad I made.

It's that time of year, I guess, where people get all sentimental and nostalgic and whatnot. So this is just me saying thanks. I'm unendingly grateful for my University of Texas video professor, Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon. One of the few profs at UT that made me think Hey, this guy is an interesting cat, not just some stiff with no personality and dreams of tenure. To put it crassly, the man knows his shit. He's currently a videographer for the Austin American-Statesman. You should check out his stuff. Secondly, I want to thank Jazmine Ulloa, one of the few classmates I had that made me think Hey, this chick is an interesting cat, not just some stiff with no personality and dreams of Summa Cum Laude.

I produced two videos last spring, and if I hadn't made both I wouldn't have had the confidence to do what I'm doing now. One of those videos, a short documentary called Drag Music, was an extra-credit assignment. I didn't even need extra credit. I just thought it would be interesting to film street musicians on Austin's Guadalupe Street, known as The Drag to locals. And I didn't want for me and anyone bored enough to skim my MySpace videos to be the only ones to ever watch it. What resulted was a nine-minute video with almost no dialogue. The second video came together even more haphazardly. Picture four students with no money, cramped into a two-door Pontiac Sunfire driving six hours south to the Rio Grande Valley to write stories, snap pictures, and shoot video about immigration and life on the border for a newspaper no one's ever heard of and probably no one will ever read (it's called Adelante, by the way, and it no longer exists). Again, I just wanted an excuse to use my video camera while it was still checked out to me, courtesy of UT's College of Communication. We spent a weekend in late April interviewing folks close to the illegal immigration debate and the proposed border fence, specifically. What resulted this time was an eight-minute video called The Wall.

Looking back at these videos, it's clear I had no idea about good video compression: The audio is uncompressed, tacking on an extra hundred megabytes in file size. The video isn't properly deinterlaced for online viewing (hence those weird lines in Drag Music), and the aspect ratio is almost a perfect square. Color correction? Nope. The first two minutes of Drag Music could've used some. But it shows how much I've progressed, and hopefully how much I will continue to progress. I don't know where I'll be five, ten, twenty years from now. But I'll be able to look back and see that I was in a special place at a special time capturing some beautiful and interesting moments on tape.

Anyway. Enough of all that. Here are the two videos that started me on this little video journey....