Thomas Alva Edison is the most iconic inventor in U.S. history. Most of us can list at least three of his contributions to modern scientific engineering. Furthermore, since he invented batteries, phonographs, incandescent light bulbs, and the motion picture camera, we are indebted to him for being able to do what we love to do for a living.
Beyond his electrical and chemical ingenuity, Edison was also known for his organizational and managerial skills. He was an astute leader of people, directing a team of inventors whose contributions would ultimately be patented under the Edison name. In particular, Nikola Tesla was one of his masterminds who eventually went out on his own and developed the superior AC power system in competition to Edison's DC version.
Since he was reluctant to share credit, Edison received most of the praise for his hundreds of patents. Does it take away from his legacy as a genius to know that he was not handcrafting every apparatus that would eventually bear his brand name? Not in the least! Edison was keenly aware of what it takes to maintain a personal brand when he noted that genius is "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."
As artists, we should rely on Edison's thought/sweat ratio in building our reputations as artistic geniuses. It seems, though, that as creatives, we have some misconceptions regarding what it will take to maintain our artistic image, relying more on inspiration than perspiration. We expect originality from ourselves at every turn, but in living up to that expectation, we run the risk of building our backlog more than our artistic credit. How, then, do we keep our artistic rep while kicking projects out the door in a reasonable amount of time?
For many creatives, "template" is a four-letter word. We imagine that relying upon templates is not in the method of an artistic genius; rather, it is the process of a poseur. For us, it feels like the difference between channeling Renoir versus surrendering to Kinkade, from being imaginative to becoming repetitive.
Using templates can mean the difference between spending Sunday in the office and spending it with family and friends. Considering how we could all stand to distribute our hours beyond editing, it is certainly worth the risk of client umbrage to eliminate backlog through the use of templates. At worst, it will only slightly affect our clients' perception of their pièce de résistance should they notice similarities between it and their friend's magnum opus. Since each DVD contains unique content from completely separate events, their videos will always be original to them. There really is nothing about which we should worry.
Consider "templatizing" the following steps in the production process. These are procedures that I have used myself, and I have not felt one single repercussion for daring to systemize. My clients never deny me the title of "artistic genius," nor do they refer me to others any less.
Begin with developing a template project file with your NLE that you can replicate and rename when beginning each new film. Create your standard bins and sequences, and compose graphic files for titles (names, date, location). Set up your preferences for waveforms, track size, codec settings, and anything else that can keep you from having to reinvent the wheel with every project.
Instead of spending an excessive number of hours searching for just the right song to fit every project (and then never using that song again), "residualize" your music searches by reusing tunes and their respective cuts/fades from one project to another. When you finish your highlight or your short-form edit, duplicate that sequence, remove everything except the recorded music, and add that sequence back to your collection of "soundtracks" in the template file.
"Templatize" your DVD authoring as well. Create three to five simple menus and use those throughout the year. Create templates that only require you to change the text and switch out the video files. Chances are, your clients are not paying you to do anything more.
Make your DVD printing and packaging as simple as possible. Use as little text as necessary or eliminate it altogether, as you always run the risk of misspellings, incorrect dates, or unappealing fonts. Overlaying text on top of images can be a time waster too. Many times, you will need to make adjustments to the color/shadowing because the text clashes with or disappears into the image behind it.
Rather than using text to spell out names and dates, create a few screen grabs from close-ups of the texture of the wedding dress, the flowers, and the cake. Use those images without text on your DVD faces and cases. The bride and groom know who they are and should know when and where they were married. I, for one, have never met a couple that needed me to remind them.
Avoid using images of the couple on the case/face as it can be difficult to fit them neatly into the media's measurements. Not to mention, any printed image of the couple will be compared to those produced by the photographer. While you could request images from the photographer, this puts the completion and delivery of your work in the hands of someone else, and it is always better to maintain control.
By implementing these suggestions, you will reduce your backlog and your delivery time, and this will make your clients happier than if you were to commission Danny Elfman to compose an original score. With more time to spend in your hammock on a Sunday afternoon, you will come to realize that you are, in fact, a genius!
Chris P. Jones (jones ar masonjarfilms.com), an Austin, Texas-based EventDV 25 All-Star, has been shooting weddings for nearly a decade and is a co-founder of the wedding filmmaking educational gathering IN[FOCUS]. Follow Jones on Twitter @chrispjones.