The Written Word

Tattoos: Didn’t That HURT?

Yes, the title is a complete bait and switch. Although there is a video with that title as well. So, if you want the tattoo story, scroll down to the bottom of this and watch. But if you’re curious about how the video was made, then press on. (I know I’m curious, which is why I’m even writing this).

This story is actually me trying to figure out how to get over a hump. A YouTube hump. For anyone who has never made a video, it’s dirt simple. And also far more complicated than you can imagine. On one end, just fire up your phone’s selfie camera and take a shaky video of you talking about your cat. Upload for free. Done. Viola. But the jump between that and running a great YouTube Channel is as wide as the Grand Canyon.

There is so much learning that has to happen, most of it physical trial and error. As a YouTuber, I’m a one-man show. I have to create the ideas. Do they serve the channel and will the audience find them interesting? Then I have to write the scripts. Find locations. Do blocking and figure out what B-Roll is needed. Then I have to be both an actor, director, and cameraman. Oh, and the lighting gaffer, sound person, props department, and script director. And at this point, I’m not even half done. I still have to edit it, select music and sound design, upload and promote. I have to create titles, thumbnails, and descriptions that entice. I have to have great SEO so the video can be found. And if I do this with a weekly video, I’m a one-man telenovela show that never stops. So when do you have time to sit back and learn?

Hence this story. My latest video was about my tattoos. I “just made it”. And I’m not really sure why. I most certainly have no clue if I learned anything from it. I’ve got four other videos in the process, so who has the time? Thus, this is me making the time. I’m going to dissect the video from bow to stern. See what I can learn from it, instead of just performing repetition. And you get to see what really happens in order to make a half-assed video.

The Story

The story is basically about my tattoos. Why I got them, what they mean, etc. But the real question I need to ask is … would a story about my tattoos fit my channel? Would my existing subscribers find it interesting, and would potential subscribers watch it and come join? This is how every one of my videos should start. And honestly, most really don’t.

My channel is about 45-65 year old folks and their quest for a life best lived. The tag line of Mastering The Second Half Of Life says it all. Everything I do on video needs to show someone mastering their existence. Sharing, teaching, learning. That’s what I think the audience is here for. So … does a video about tattoo ink serve that? Maybe.

When I first pitched the idea to myself, I envisioned talking about something that society generally looks unfavorably on when it comes to older adults. Explain why I had them. What it was like to wear them. Give some details to those who have never felt a needle.

So, did it fit? I’m still not sure. It’s pretty “narrow niche-y”. On a 1-10 scale when the top is “Hell Yes”, I’m guessing this is somewhere between a seven and an eight. Some would fit it interesting. Some would watch and think the channel is about alternative living, which would not be the case. Overall, I think I actually made the video just because I started it. I had a thumbnail, a title, and a rough script. And I didn’t want to throw it away. This is probably not the right script for the channel. At least not for a channel I want to grow the right way. Bottom line is that I really need to be more selective in what I “green light”. Define the channel’s scope and hold every idea up to it in a very critical way. And be willing to scrap anything that’s not a “9+” idea.

The Script

Scripts need to be created, even though I think that a big draw of the channel is “me being me”. The scripts shouldn’t be line for line what will be quoted, but rather focus me on what I want to semi-freeform on. Keep me focused on the topics and planned flow of the video.

Did this one do that? Actually, yea. I spent a lot of time creating the basic story flow, and I managed to follow it. Sadly (in a way) I did freeform a lot more content than I envisioned. I found myself really getting into the topic, and perhaps too much. But that’s a discussion for the ‘Edit’ section of this tale.

So, yea. I think I did manage to write a decent script, with topics covered in a proper narrative format. The right hooks. With one exception, it was a single topic with 95% of it scripted to be me being a talking head. And that’s boring. I was hoping to fill it with b-roll (next section), but 12 minutes of me talking to the camera isn’t a great way to keep viewers captivated.

What I should have scripted was at least two, probably three stories. All semi-related. Intertwine them so the viewer can feel the stories building. Lectures are only compelling if you’re 100% interested in the topic. Movies and TV shows compel when you are entertained and your brain needs to work to process them. If I had to do the script again, I would have scheduled an appointment for a new tattoo. Included that as a sub-story. Included another person and their tattoos perhaps. Found some other type of life-choice and included that as well. Looking at the script I made, as a new viewer I would have probably clicked away somewhere at the two minute mark.

Oh, and one more thing. I diverted from the script at the last second. Made a decision that I would start filming in the car and show me leaving for the location. Which wasn’t a bad idea. The sequence of getting out and walking to the quarry was pretty good. But opening a video of me talking in a car? Instant turn off. I despise the way it opens. I should have somehow filmed it with me outside of the car, perhaps gathering things. And them walking away. Right now, it’s 10 seconds of un-interesting backdrop, shitty sound, and no reason to continue watching. I tried to fix it with some titles in post but that was a fail. A serious fail. And one that will completely kill this video gaining any kind of traction.

B-Roll, Locations, Props, Details

A-Roll is all of the film that is the main presentation. For a lecture, it’s the person lecturing. B-Roll is everything else, like a sweeping panorama of some mountains that is shown while the voice continues underneath. It can also be a cut away type of mini-section of those same mountains with just music. B-Roll fills in the story visually. If it’s added correctly, it absolutely makes the story. If it’s missing or poorly done, it kills it.

I really liked the location I filmed this in, but I’m not sure what it really had to do with tattoos. It was just a place (in a limited place of places) that I thought would be pretty on film. I didn’t tie the location to the topic, so that was jarring. What I should have done was link the two better, perhaps saying I was taking a beauty break before/after my appointment. Something. Anything. Or picked a better main location for the shoot. Location choice for this was pretty much a fail.

As far as B-Roll, this could have been a beautiful spot for a mini-cinematic sequence. But I didn’t have the right equipment for that. What I should have done was include more nature shots and included them in the script. Make the video more “vlog like” in showing me walking around more. That would have allowed me to tie in that type of B-Roll. And had the location been really tied to the story, it would all have come together nicely.

Makeup and Wardrobe

I chose a shirt that had no sleeves, because I had to show my tattoos. And the one I selected wasn’t bad. Color was great, and lent some nice contrast. But it also had ‘Conch Republic Marine Army’ emblazoned largely on the front. And I never explained why I was wearing it.

I should/could have explained it right away. Perhaps using it to create a sub-plot somehow. As it was, it became a minor character that had no known reason for being in the story. And thus confusing,

And as usual, my hair was my hair. Messy. I had at least shaved, so that was something. But the absolute bottom line is that I ultimately am the video. I’m what is shown the vast majority of the time. And of the 40-ish videos I’ve created, I can count on one hand the number where I even slightly considered what I looked like.

Going forward, I need to plan for “makeup and wardrobe”. Meaning, I need to look in the mirror. Make sure skin, hair, beard, clothing, everything will look good on camera. It’s important, and something that I MUST stop glossing over. In this video, I look like an ex-biker who had one too many beers the evening before. Going sleeveless is fine, but polish up the rest. Make me look like what I’m talking about. So this was a semi-fail.

Acting and Directing

It’s like being Tarantino, being on both sides of the camera at once.

For this video, I had an idea of where I wanted to shoot, but it didn’t work out too well. The shots were basically handheld vlog, or a fixed talking head from 3 feet away, with me in the center. Boring. I need to seriously work on blocking. I don’t even know what to suggest now, except to go study it. I need better (and better flowing) shots to keep it interesting. Movement. Something. I just know this isn’t right. I need to find out what is.

As far as my acting … meh. I always say that, so let me elaborate. What I feel inside isn’t coming through. In my head, I’m animated, dynamic, happy, and out there. What’s on film is quiet and staid. So if I want what I’m feeling to come across, I need to … well … actually act. Exaggerate my motions, voice, and everything to make sure what I’m trying to express is actually expressed. This isn’t to be fake, rather it’s to show reality. This disconnect is why actors are actors. To sell something on film, one must act. And I need to constantly remind myself of that as a director, while I’m filming myself as an actor.

The Other Side Of The Camera (Lighting, Sound)

I made it a point to watch the sun this time. Make sure it lit the side of my face. And not too many shadows or jarring lighting transitions. And with the exception of the stupid “inside the car” scene, I think I did a pretty decent job. Far better than usual. But I did make a point to really focus on that detail. A true thought for the rest of this post.

Sound was pretty good. No unnecessary background noise. I was clearly heard. Overall, there’s isn’t much to critique on this topic. I feel like I’m getting better at it. At least outdoors.

The Edit

This one is tough. I think I edited the amateurish material present as best as I could. But it could have been better. I was hesitant to cut anything, and this should have been about 2-3 minutes shorter. And I should have included more B-Roll. But I didn’t shoot that much.

OK, what should I have done? For starters, during filming I should have included more pauses. Give the “Editor Me” opportunities to cut as needed. It’s hard to do in the middle of a sentence. And then I should have chopped out some larger swaths of lecture. It might have made the flow better.

As far as B-Roll, I needed more. And with a tripod. Better quality. And then figure out how to interweave it into the story. I needed B-roll of tattoos and tattoo machinery. That was the story, not the quarry. So this turned into a talking head video, because of what I had to work with.

I liked my music choices, although I do need to work on that. Just putting a nice soundtrack underneath everything isn’t ideal. I need to include it where I want it, and not just turn it on and clip it off for highlights. I need to watch some of the “masters” and take notes on how they use sound.

The Final Product

And the judges give this a:

  • Story = 7
  • Script = 5
  • Location = 3
  • Makeup/Warerobe = 6
  • Direction/Acting = 5
  • Lighting/Sound = 8
  • Edit = 7

So. Why write this post at the exact same time that the video was released, and still keep the damn thing if it was so ordinary? Why not just re-do it? Great questions. And the answer is …

Because I’m forcing myself to. I’ve made around 40 videos. I figure I need to make another hundred or so before they start to feel like what I expect of myself. And so I need to practice on each one. Yes, I’m somewhat embarrassed by these. I want to delete them and keep the channel hidden until I’m Hollywood-Worthy. But that’s not the way to learn. And without feedback from the analytics, I’ll never be able to refine things.

Bottom line is that I need to start taking this more seriously. Yes, still have fun doing it, but the Channel needs to have the same focus as any other major thing in my life. It needs my undivided attention when I’m working on it. It needs my patience. And it needs my passion.


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Captain Rick
Our dear Cap’n has been sailing the seas of life for 50-some years. Somewhere between impulsive and a stick-in-the-mud, he finds himself embarking on journeys that will either solidify his wandering ways, or give him a nervous breakdown. Come join him on his new adventures in moving pictures on YouTube at https://youtube.com/ThePirateWanderer.

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