My friends Leila and Brian offered their home to be featured on the Messy Homes Tour. The plan was to video chat with them as they went through their home and showed me all their messy things. This pre-recorded segment would be edited down to an energetic couple of minutes featuring just the best, most surprising and funniest parts.
In this post I’ll go over some of the considerations, issues, and lessons learned.
Tone and Plotting
Was this interview and tour going to be deadpan or sort of jokey? Both would work but ultimately we decided on mostly deadpan because that seemed more natural.
After a quick preview of the house, we decided to start with the messier room, move downstairs and then outside. That would create some linearity for people, as opposed to showing random messes without context of the full home.
This was tricky since we were on zoom and I couldn’t control any of the cameras. We decided that each of them would be on zoom using their phones. For the most part they used the camera on the back and when the needed to film themselves talking the other person did the filming.
This gave me a zoom video with three windows (my video and reactions being in the third). I’d record the zoom call and be able to crop down to individual people if I wanted, or keep it a full view of all three of us to give it more movement and feeling of action.
I ended up with 30 minutes of footage. I originally was aiming to edit it down to a one minute segment, but even with killing a million darlings I struggled to get it under 5 minutes. It’s possibly too quick cut. We’ll see what test audience things.
I also added some plugs for the calendar along with some intro and outro music. While I hadn’t factored that into my schedule, it did bring add a level of professionalism that I think was worth the time.
After seeing the clips a dozen times, the pacing was hard to be objective about. I’m not sure if it feels unrelenting or OK. I’d say it definitely doesn’t feel slow.
Fortunately zoom handled the audio well and levels were pretty good straight from the raw file. I did a little tweaking in Final Cut, but probably only 10 minutes or less.
Strategies and Lessons Learned
Overall, I spent about 45 minutes with them. Then another 3.5 hours right after editing. Then another hour in final editing the next day. I was pretty fast in the editing and didn’t worry about perfection, but it still is a long time.
Part of the issue was that I made multiple rounds on the raw files, slowly chiseling it down a little more each time and replaying the edits to see how they landed for me. I think I could have been more ruthless in the editing and looked for only the super-moments. That would have gotten me there faster.
Callbacks are hard. I love callback jokes and most of the ones we made (references to earlier comments) had to get cut. In order for them to work they all had to be included and often some of them were just not that good on their own. It wasn’t worth sitting through a boring setup for a later payoff.
Find the Best Moments. I should have been really be picky on which parts I kept after the first pull of clips from the raw files. I should have got it more in my head how long my 1-5 minute final file really felt like. (Fortunately, I learned from this and the next home I filmed had a much reduced editing process).
Make Exceptions for Super-Moments. Since people remember the best moments and forget all the mediocre stuff, I’m always on the lookout for the moments. There was one funny story and visual about a baby photo. But it lasted about 20 seconds. That was an enormous amount of time relative to the rest of the video but I thought it was worth keeping. Sometimes it’s worth making exceptions to form if it serves the core function (entertainment) really well.
Use Edits to Exaggerate Feel. Part of the tour didn’t consist of a huge mess, so I edited a bunch of quick clips together to make it seem more like a barrage of mess than it really was. Jamming the clips together created a sort of manical urgency of the hosts to show us their home, even if it wasn’t like that in real-time.