Tw1tterband – a video editors point of view

You might not know this, but I’m quite the little Twitter-addict. Ever since I got my first iPhone I’ve been on there typing out my life’s ups and downs, likes and dislikes, wins and fails. I’m not sure why I like it but I do. The chance to say whatever is in my head that second, even if its a little wrong or random appeals to the repressed exhibitionist in me I guess. I get a sense of community with my followers and the people I follow, even if we’ve never met. I find that an amazing part of the site but the hardest to explain to non-Twitterers. Its that community spirit that led me to record guitar parts and eventually edit a video for Tw1tterband.

One friday morning @WH1SKS got fired. It was a pretty nasty way to get fired and came out of blue to us as followers and probably to him to. So when later that day he asked for people to record something for a song he wanted to make using Twitter I thought ‘why not, it might cheer him up and I haven’t done anything musical in a while’. The result was a bunch of Twitterers making a demo rough mix of Maggie May in one day.

A weekend past and @WH1SKS piped up again, now in the form of @Tw1tterband, to suggest we all re-record our parts and make a proper song. It didn’t seem such a bad idea and the mention of charity donations to Macmillian Cancer Support which has helped my family a lot recently cemented the deal. It was mid-week when @Tw1tterband asked for someone to edit a video for the song and as I had the kit and some spare time I volunteered. The deadline for publication on YouTube was 8pm Sunday.  In for a penny and all that!

So what did I do as editor? Three things really.

The first was work out how to approach this from a technical standpoint. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to all film at the same speed or resolution and that these would be my main stumbling blocks so right away I knew there’d be a fair bit of transcoding to be done to normalise the footage ready to edit. I wrote a quick set of guidelines for the band to follow while recording their parts that I hoped were simple enough for anyone to follow but that also made my life a little easier once it got down to editing the thing.

The second was to do my producing thing and beg/plead/annoy/shout-at the band members to film something ASAP and get it uploaded to Dropbox so I could get it downloaded and transcoding. I set a deadline for this but in reality people were uploading stuff right up until the final morning.

The third and final part of my master-plan was to edit every waking hour until the thing was safely uploaded to YouTube and I could relax. So what followed was two days off getting up at 8am, downloading, transcoding and editing until 9 or 10pm. Saturday I had to work but managed to grab an hour on the train and time between programmes to do more trimming and tidying. Once home I was straight back on it until bed. Sunday I was at work again but managed to find time to add the completed mix, export and upload it by mid-afternoon. It was all a bit frantic and my tweets over the last few days went from confident to freaking-out to uncertainty about the quality of the product. I finally got home at 7.50pm Sunday night and watched as the view count and donations climbed way past my expectations. For about an hour I just kept refreshing the JustGiving page to find another tenner had been added to the total. I was alone at home and just wanted to run out into the street and shout about what was happening, I was so proud of what we’d all done in a week.

The technical bits. Look away now if you don’t like geek stuff.

The transcoding was done using MPEGStreamclip. If it hadn’t been for this free bit of software I wouldn’t have been able to get everything into a format that matched for the edit (I chose ProRez422LT 720@29.97 as this was the original format for most of the footage sent to me, iPhone4’s I guess). I edited using Final Cut Pro (version 6 I think it is, its from Studio 2) as that’s what I’ve got on the laptop and what I’m used to. In an ideal world I’d have used the new version of Premier as it would handle H264 and variable frame-rates in one timeline. But hey, you make the best of what you got! Plans for using the multi-clip sync’d facility on FCP were dashed by most people only submitting parts of the song rather than one constant clip but in the end syncing then muting the background audio didn’t turn out that difficult.

The final product, while not the most polished edit ever, isn’t a bad result giving the time-frame and material to work from. I was nervous as hell when I sent @Tw1tterband a link to watch it before anyone else, and felt even worse as the clock ticked to 8pm on the Sunday. I’d seen it evolve and knew every single frame of it back-to-front. I could see the bits where holes were covered and where a different angle or shot or performer would have been much better. All I could see were the bad bits. When other people watched they saw what it really was, part of an amazing achievement by a bunch of link-minded people for a great cause. The feedback on Twitter made the long hours and (continued) backache worth it. People have said it made them cry, something I’ve never done with a video before. The thought that it moved someone to tears brings a grin to my face every time. At the time of writing this the video for the song (which was first played on BBC 5live) has been watched over 1600 times. The @Tw1tterband account has over 1000 followers and the JustGiving page has made £2245, 224% of its target amount, all in just a week from the first tweet.

You can download the song for free from SoundCloud and please don’t forget the reason we did all this, the amazing charity Macmillian Cancer Support. Thanks.

[Link to YouTube for mobile users]

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