Life is Cool – The Tripp Through My Life Finale

Well I guess this is it.

I know, I know, I’m being a bit dramatic, but this is my final project for DS106–and I am completely and utterly in love with my work.

I think to some, it will look like a well put together video, but I want to make it clear, that every clip, the timing of them, the overlays, the photos, the transitions, the words/handwriting, etc. all had probably too much thought put into it… but I guess thats a good thing.

Let’s start breaking this down.

I focused on a couple main aspects in this piece: video, editing/design, photography, and audio. We will go into each of those separately later, but for now, I’m going to explain what exactly my final project is.

WHY “LIFE IS COOL”:

I exercise gratitude every single day in my life. It is the one thing that I believe can get someone through anything and everything. When this semester first started and I read the syllabus to see our final would be basically up to us, I started brainstorming right then and there. I knew I wanted my final to display this feeling of gratitude.

Earlier this semester I produced “What I Would Have Missed” and that really inspired this work.

I guess overall this was the second part to that video. “What I Would Have Missed” showed the major moments with important people to me. “Life is Cool” focuses on the (not so) little things that myself, and those people, love.

About three or four weeks ago, I reached out to those who have had the biggest impact on me this year, and I asked them to fill out a Google form answering the question, “What is a little thing in life that makes it worth living?” A couple years ago, when I shifted my mindset to a grateful one, I realized the little things are the only consistent everyday thing you can count on to make it a good day. There is always a little thing that makes waking up worth it.

My friends gave some pretty good responses, and over the past few weeks I’ve been coming up with my own too.

STEP ONE – COLLECTING THE WHAT:

About two weeks ago, I asked my friends to handwrite that same answer(s), or if they wanted to add/change they could, on a blank piece of paper. If it weren’t for quarantine, I would have had them write on my bright green paper to save myself some time, energy, and printer ink, but I had to work with what I had. I then had them send me pictures of their answers and I printed them out. Next, I took pencil and colored on the back side of the paper, placed it on top of the green paper, and traced their hand writing to transfer it over to the green paper.

Pictured: Green paper with my friends responses in pencil.

This was a large factor in the design process. I wanted to not only show my interactions with my friends through the footage/pictures staring them, but with a piece of them–their handwriting. The green paper would allow me to green screen their words and have them pop up. I intended to go over this in white paint marker, but that comes up later.

I then collected the footage and photos.

I think this project is something I’ve been preparing years for. I’ve been filming my last few years of my life, so for some of the prompts (like the one on impacting people’s lives or positivity), I had some footage I could work with. But for the most part, once this final project started to get brought up more and more (around Week 9) I made sure to turn camera on even more to catch as many moments as I could. I think I did just that. Videos are something I naturally just take, but photos don’t really cross my mind, so I had to be more attentive to those.

I did have to pay extra attention when it came to more cinematic shots though (like the intro/ending, sunrise, water, trees, adrenaline rush, etc.). All of these were shot pretty much alone, so I had to get creative when it came to the how. In the opening shot when I am sitting on the beach, I had to stack my camera on my shoes and my phone in order to stabilize it and angle it in the right direction–otherwise, it would sink in the sand. When it came to the shots of the water, trees, and grass, I wanted it to look cinematic not like I was holding the camera at eye view. So I didn’t hold it at eye view. I crouched, laid on the ground, and bent my body in odd ways to capture these shots. As for the adrenaline rush portion, I attached a camera to my dad’s car and had him follow, while I was in the bed of my brother’s truck with another camera filming my POV. All in all, these shots were taken with the thought of them looking professional (or as professional as I could make them). However, the other half of footage looks more hand held and personal, another intended move on my part in the design process. If all of the shots were fancy and overdone, the product wouldn’t translate over a personal aspect. I wanted the audience to feel something. I wanted to connect with the human in them.

When selecting the photos I wanted them to all be personable. Initially, I was planning on making them green screened in the shots as well, but while editing, I decided against this and didn’t like it. I tried really hard to make it something I was a fan of, but it wasn’t connecting the way I wanted it to. So, I took my collection, uploaded it to PicsArt and edited a polaroid frame on all of them. I then made them black and white, as to not distract from the videos in the background, but also to give a nostalgic feel. I love reflecting on my experiences, and I wanted to showcase that in a way in this piece. Looking through old photos to remember old moments and feelings is one of my favorite ways to do so, so I thought would be fitting.

The final “what” of the project, was the audio. A couple months ago, the song I used, “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea” by M83 was trending on Tiktok with people editing cinematic shots together. I wanted to participate, but I didn’t know what I would do. So when I came up with this idea, I thought it would fit perfectly.

STEP TWO – EDITING HORIZONTALLY:

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned how I edit horizontally, and then I add on top of it (vertically). In essence, the horizontal is if there was solely the silent video clips and the song.

The first step to this process was making the song longer. Originally, “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea” is only two and a half minutes long. For what I wanted to include, and in order for it to be in a way the viewer could comprehend it, I needed it to be longer. So I took the beat drop and when it ended just added the intro of the beat drop (basically the same beat drop back to back). When I later hit the final product, I realized that I couldn’t even tell where this cut was, so I was very proud of myself to say the least.

Then when it came to editing horizontally, I had three general parts to work with: intro, ending, and middle.

I wanted the intro and ending to feel like a full circle moment, so they both include footage from the beach and a quote. The intro includes a quote I found that I feel like represents not only the video, but a fundamental belief in my life…

Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

Robert Brault

And the ending includes my friend Dmitri’s response to what he think’s makes life worth living…

Time is short. Money fades. Memories stay. Living a life in the pursuit of happiness to all.

Dmitri Jordan

As for the middle, I wanted to move back and forth between answers I put in and ones my friends did. I also blended in cinematic shots with “home video” type ones. I really liked getting to blend together the shots between jump cuts and other transitions too.

One thing I had to consider was coloring. In some of my work, I have started out with the footage faded to symbolize something and then transitioned to brighter footage to symbolize another. I wanted everything in this piece to stand out, so I used the coloring as a way to show this. Every video is bright and adds to the happy feeling.

Overall, the horizontal aspect to editing is easy in the sense of how, but more difficult when it comes to order and timing. “My Tears Are Becoming a Sea” gets its emotional reactions from the intensity of the beats. It would have been stupid of me not to use this to my advantage, hence the footage changes when each beat hits.

STEP THREE – BUILDING:

Once I finished the horizontal editing, then it came time for the tricky part… the part that makes the video what it is… the vertical editing. In this aspect, I make the video more than a video. I combine audio, photography, and design.

Laughter is my favorite sound. I see it as a universal sign of happiness. So in the clips of me or my friends laughing, I made sure to include it. However, if I just turn the audio on, it will seem to choppy. To combat this, I detach the audio, extend it, and fade it on both sides. This can be seen through the uncontrollable laughter part the best because all of the laughs overlay with the clips next to them to make it seamless; however, because it fades in/out you can tell there is a distinction between each bit of laughter.

Then, when it came time for the photos to appear, I used a polaroid camera sound effect so the mind subconsciously sees it as printing. After deciding where I wanted the photos to appear, I used a watercolor fade transition for it to actually feel like you were seeing the picture print in front of you.

The design aspect came through the most when it came to placement of the words/phrases and the pictures.

Initially I didn’t know what color the words/phrases should be (black or white). Black tended to give me a darker vibe, while white gave me a youthful and bright feel. So, I went with white. Tracing my friends’ handwriting was harder than I had anticipated, but I tried my best to keep it as authentic as possible.

But when it came to placement I had to make sure the screen was busy, but not cluttered. It had to be balanced when it came to the footage, pictures, and words, and make sense to the viewers subconscious in a way that they processed that fact, but didn’t know they were. I wanted them to know it was “right” without knowing why they thought that. I timed when the photos/words entered for either the beginning/ending of that time the footage was showing that idea, or when the footage became generally bland to add something. I realized if a period went too long without an overlay after they were incorporated throughout the entire piece already, it felt “wrong” and like piece was missing something.

This time of vertical editing is definitely the most tedious part because you aren’t working with the one aspect you are adding, you’re working with the entire video and how that one aspect affects it.

Pictured: A screenshot of the overlays and underlays of audio. It is important to note that I literally could not fit all of the layers in one screenshot because I needed to scroll to fit them all. I have about 4 more layers of pictures/green screens above what I’m showing and about 3 more layers of audio below what you can see.

STEP FOUR – THE THUMBNAIL:

Pictured: The thumbnail for my final project.

The main thing the thumbnail focuses on is design.

I wanted the thumbnail to relate to my work by including aspects in my piece, yet use parts I didn’t get to use in my work because they didn’t flow as nicely.

The last clip I use is during the sunset at the beach. I am on the East Coast, so the sun rises on the beach and sets on the bay. The photo I used on the thumbnail I actually got during the sunset, the same time as the final clip. However, this photo was not actually a photo. It was a video I paused and screenshot to capture the moment of me walking to the water.

Again, I was alone, and had to get creative as to how I set up the camera. Believe it or not, this was stacked on top of a book bag, my shoes, my phone, and a tripod–yet, it still feels very low to the ground. The sand being sand and very much influenced by weight, wind, and other influences, was difficult to work with in order to capture this moment. But after I got it set up, I think I can say I got the image I pictured in my head.

In the top corner I added the words “The Little Things” because that is what makes life cool. That’s what the video shows, so I think this about sums it up. The font I used looks like handwriting, which I used throughout my video and makes it feel more personable.

As for the bottom corner, I wanted to include some form of photos, so I chose ones of me and three of the most influential people in my life this year. My roommate and friend Maria who has taught me to not care what people think and to stay true to myself (even if that means 3 naps a day) in every situation is pictured on the right. My friend AMC, who will become my suitemate next year, has taught me I really can do everything if I put in the effort to do so (while also showing me the necessity of ice cream in a healthy diet), is pictured in the middle. And finally, my best friend Tyler, who I have written about multiple times in this class, and is the perfect example of how to show love and kindness to everyone you meet, while expressing complete confidence every second of the day, is pictured on the left.

MY FINAL THOUGHTS ON MY PROJECT:

This final has been on my mind since the day this course began. Not in a “Oh my gosh I’m going to fail this, it seems so hard” type of way, but in a “I am going to challenge myself to make the best thing I have ever created” type of way. I did just that. This is the best thing I have ever made. I think it was really cool to push myself every week to make something better, something more meaningful, than the week before.

The little things make up my entire story. Like I say in the video, they are the big things. Quite frankly, if it weren’t for the little things saving me, I don’t think my story would have progressed this far.

The main thing I want to show with this piece is that although I’m telling my story in this and in “What I Would Have Missed“, my story is unique to myself, but not special. Many people have been through the struggles I have, and many people rely on the little things to get by. The little things aren’t unique to my story–I just show how I interact with them, while interacting with those around me.

The people in my life, are the most important (not so) little thing to me, and I’m glad I got to include a piece of them in this final. They are my story.

How I interact with them, and the other little things important to me, is the story I tell in this piece.

What “little things” for those around me and myself that make life worth living.

Moments I experience with those important to me shown in a beautiful way to music.

My laughter in front of and behind the camera, showing my emotions.

The footage being in color to signify the joyful emotions I get.

The photos being in black and white to show my reflection on life.

The footage changing on beat to add intensity, and show how strongly these little things impact me.

My friends handwriting–a piece of them–forever being a part of this project because they will forever have an impact on me.

Overall, this will probably be my favorite final project for any class ever. I put my entire heart into this project to create a multi-medium masterpiece showcasing design/editing (thumbnail, what I used throughout the video, placement, layering, green screens etc.), audio (music, sound effects, sound–or the absence– from the raw footage), video (using old and new footage, camera placement, planning the shot, recording basically everything from the past few weeks, etc.), and photo (editing photos, taking photos, searching through old photos).

I hope you enjoy this project, not only because I’ve spent way too long on it, but because I hope makes you feel something.

2 comments

  1. Cailyn,
    this is SOOO GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You put so much thought and work into this and it is really special! I love it– not only as a final project but also this is something you will have forever to look back on and smile!:) Great job!

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