Form: YouTube Video/Informational Video/Video Essay
Roles: Writer, Host, Cinematographer, Editor, Colorist, Motion Graphics Artist
I've been making review videos of laptops, phones, and accessories on my channel since two years ago. In the beginning, I was motivated by desire for fame and influence, and nothing more. Then, I decided that a career on YouTube wasn't the goal that I really wanted; my YouTube video turned into a place for me to improve my cinematography and editing skills for other projects, like leading the media team for 2 Train Robotics and making narrative short films.
Unlike aforementioned 2 Train Robotics and making short films, the process of making review videos is a process that I have a lot of control over. There are no expectations other than the ones I set for myself. Since I upgraded from my family's old camcorder to a Sony RX10 a year ago, I've only made one review video, of the Sony XB950s.
At the time, I was pushing myself to the limit with that video in terms of color grading, editing, and motion graphics. It's been almost a year since, and I've grown a lot; judging it against my standards now, I'm actually dissatisfied with things like the color grading and audio mixing. While I've had many things to make review videos about - my new phone, a friend's laptop, my desktop PC - I haven't been able to find the time and motivation to write, shoot, and edit a full video.
That changed about two weeks ago, when a representative from Alien sent me an email offering to send over a pair of their brand Sound Intone's P6 headphones for review. I was tasked with pushing out a review video within 8 days of receipt.
Although I had never before put together a whole review video in less than two or three weeks, I had plenty of summer free time on my hands and so took up the challenge.
I'm really happy with the end result. The whole project, including scriptwriting, filming, and editing, took about 24 hours across 8 days. There were 3 b-roll shoots along with several inserts; all a-roll was recorded on one day to make lighting as consistent as possible.
My pre-production and production process basically hasn't changed since day one. Film as much b-roll of the product as I can; write a script based off of my experiences with the product; shoot the a-roll of me reciting the script; cut them all together; profit. What has changed is small things like lighting, and post-production things like color grading, motion graphics, and sound design.
Above: color comparison between XB950 review raw footage/final grade and P6 review raw footage/final grade. The reflector lights up the background in the P6 image, creating more contrast and re-introducing more light to the scene. Do I only have one t-shirt? No, I just happened to be wearing the same one in both videos.
I'm much happier with the color of both A-roll and B-roll in my P6 review compared to in my XB950 review. Part of this I attribute to my improved color grading skills. All A-roll was shot in flat Slog-2 picture profile, giving me a lot of room to push the colors to what I want; however, this also meant that a lot could go wrong for an inexperienced colorist. In my XB950 video I only had experience working with LUTs and basic tools, and not much with Adobe's powerful Lumetri color grading software. For my P6 project, however, I have a ton more experience and so was able to push colors farther, make them look more natural, and keep them more consistent.
Another new thing was the lighting. While previously I just used the "get as close to a window as possible" approach to lighting, this time I decided to set my bounce up and see what results I could achieve. With it and my wall, I accomplished a sort of three-point lighting system, with the window as my key light, bounce as my fill, and further bounce off the back wall as my back light. This helped improve lighting consistency and overall lit my A-roll better, making it easier to grade and work with.
One experimental thing I did was lighting was these shots:
These shots were filmed by putting a solid color up on my monitor, turning off all other lights, placing the headphones between my monitor and camera, and hitting record. As simple as it is, they isolate the headphones really strongly and add a unique look to the video.
The last thing I experimented with was with motion graphics, like the sequences below:
These were made entirely from scratch in Adobe After Effects, taking inspiration from various examples on YouTube and my own motion graphics intuition. I'm really proud of how they came out, making the video overall more interesting and polished.
Working in a controlled studio environment lets me grow skills that become increasingly useful when working on any other kind of filmmaking - documentary, narrative, etc. My P6 review is my most polished and smoothly edited video yet, and I'm very proud of it.