Tips for Starting Your Own “One Second A Day” Video Project
A few years ago, Director Cesar Kuriyama started a personal project that would go on to become a worldwide phenomenon. He titled it his “One Second Every Day” video. You can view his original TED Talk here.
Think about all the little things that happen to you every day—how you burnt your toast yesterday morning, helped your sister paint her nursery, or that time your Uber driver had a disco ball in his car. There are thousands, even millions of moments that paint the picture of your life each year, and most of them go forgotten.
Our memories are fickle things, pliable and impressionable, subject to manipulation and change (unless of course, you’re Rebecca Sharrock). But most of us are average (at best) at remembering what happens to us. Humans are great at remembering beginnings and endings. We have a strong aptitude for mentally recording the highs and lows, both the successes that we celebrate and the tragedies that define us. But what happens to everything in the middle?
This was the question that Kuriyama sought to answer. For the next 365 days, he recorded footage from every day of his life. He then created a short video compiled of the best second from each day. The final effect is striking: seeing your life flash before your eyes.
When I first heard of the project, I was instantly intrigued. Most people who don’t know me well would consider me to be a “right-brained” thinker; someone who sees the world abstractly, from a primarily creative focal point. But I have very deeply ingrained “left-brained” tendencies as well. I like to categorize, classify, and quantify my life. It’s how I make sense of the world. It’s why I love photojournalistic photography, why I conduct annual reviews for myself, why I once tracked every hour of my day in a calendar for a year, and why I’ve dedicated the last five years of my life to writing in a journal every single day.
Documentation projects are totally my thing. And Kuriyama’s video project seemed right up my alley.
Since completing my first video after turning 24, I’ve had a lot of friends ask me about starting their own. They like the idea of seeing their life played back on screen, but they don’t know where to start. Or they think it’s too hard. Or their lives are too boring. All of these are really silly reasons not to do it, as I’ll explain in a moment. Creating a “One Second Every Day” video is a deeply rewarding and gratifying experience, and it’s absolutely worth the effort, but before you start, I want to share a few tips, concerns, and thoughts I have on the project after completing it for my second year in a row.
What kind of equipment do I need?
A camera with recording capabilities, to start. Your smartphone will be more than enough. If you’re anti-tech and still living off a RAZR or something, you can grab a nice point-and-shoot for very little cash nowadays. I suggest the previous generation Sony RX100, Canon G7X, or an original Canon PowerShot if you’re really tight on budget. All of these options are relatively inexpensive and small enough to carry in your pocket with you wherever you go.
As far as editing your final video goes, you’ll need video editing software. If you’re a Mac user and are thinking of going with iMovie, please, DON’T DO IT. I made this mistake with my first video. The newer versions of iMovie completely nixed the ability to take out caption transitions, which means you’ll be left with a head-bangingly-annoying date in the corner that flashes in and out for every clip. If you value your sanity you’ll stay far, far away from iMovie for this project.
There are a few alternative free options to consider. If you have access to paid programs (or don’t mind splurging on one), I’d suggest Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro. I use Final Cut and it’s been perfect for both videos, and I’ve heard awesome things about the latter as well.
Another alternative is to use the official app (you can find a review for it here). This is a great tool if you’re looking for a more casual approach. The editor will trim your clips automatically and add in date captions for you, so there’s no editing work to be done at the end of the year. If you’re a control freak like me and want a little more creative freedom in terms of font choices, export options, etc., then it might be worth putting in the extra effort to build out the final product on your own.
But my life is too boring!
Okay, so currently things are a little more exciting than usual because I’m on the road, but last year was the complete opposite. It was probably one of the most mundane years of my life. Sure, I had some nice nights out and went on a few trips, but 90% of my time was spent in the car or in front of the computer (#adulting). And yet, my final video felt exciting. My long year of nothingness came back to me as a masterpiece of laughter, silly dancing, good food, and lazy nights at home.
And that’s the beauty of it. Your video makes you see how unboring your life is. There’s magic to be found in the mundane. The whole point is to celebrate the moments that you usually don’t honor, but are just as important as the big stuff, just as part of your life.
Remember, it’s not about proving yourself to other people. Don’t think of it as an Instagram post, to be filtered and curated for likes. Think of it as an honest look into the life you live every day.
IDK Anna, this all sounds like a lot of work…
Just try it once. Come back to me in a year and tell me it wasn’t worth it. 😉
What if I miss a day?
Don’t sweat it, seriously. I’ve missed a handful of days during the last two years and it’s virtually unnoticeable in the final videos. Try your best to keep up with it by setting a daily reminder on your phone or adding it to your to-do list every day.
There are no real rules to this, and if you do miss a day, it’s up to you on how you want to handle it. I’ll admit that there were one or two days that I missed and ended up filling with an extra clip from the previous day (if it felt right). There’s a lot to be said about “happening-truth vs. story-truth” (as Tim O’Brien refers to it in The Things They Carried), and filming a second of you brushing your teeth the day after won’t suddenly call into question the validity of your whole year. The same goes for deciding what your “cut-off” is for each day—does a late night out clubbing count towards the previous night, or the morning after? Again, the choice is yours.
Which brings me to my final point: this is your video. It’s made about you, for you, by you. You can choose to share it with others (and I hope you do!), but in the end, it’s your creation, to build and cut as you please.
General Tips for Filming
Diversify Your Shots: Even if you’re life is fairly routine, there are ways to make the ordinary moments seem more visually interesting. Alternate shots of your morning coffee with traffic jams. Film yourself looking through your closet one morning, then petting your cat the next. Start thinking about your life in “scenes” and consider how you can stitch them together to tell a story. One of the best ways to add visual appeal is to focus on movement—a puppy sniffing at the camera, cyclists riding by, flipping an egg. Take a few minutes to brush up on basic filming techniques (alternating still shots with panning, etc.). Don’t overcomplicate it.
Plan to Fail: If you have a busy day ahead or an exciting event that you’re waiting to shoot for, film a short backup clip earlier in the day, just in case. You might get so caught up in the moment that you forget to record it all together (it’s happened to me more than once!). A clip of you tying your shoes is better than missing a day.
Edit as You Go: You can start building the beginning of your video after the first month or two to see how it’s looking (and get an idea of what changes you’d like to make for future shots). It’ll also help keep you motivated if you can see early on how cool it looks when sequenced together! And make sure to pay attention: double check that your fonts are aligned correctly, the dates are in order, etc. It’ll save you the grief of editing your whole video only to go back and do everything all over again.
Cheers to Two Years on Camera!
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