Grain-Wrapped Dice Towers, Thoughts on Video

Published Monday, January 8, 2024 by Bryan
Click to watch the video on YouTube.

For our holiday gift exchange this year, I made dice towers. Grain-wrapped red oak, in three different styles of joinery. The video covers the making of them. This post is about the making of that video.

"Ugh. Why is everything a video now, and not text?" — Me (and others), 201X through today

I am really good at following written directions. Some even say I'm good at writing them. I'm good at searching for them. I'm good at searching through them. I think text is a fantastic way to archive and share knowledge.

But especially with the demise of genuine, human-written text content, and with search engines' unwillingness to rank it highly in results, I've begun to consume more video. I've always known that there are cases where video can demonstrate something better than text (with or without accompanying still images). But seeing the rise in well-produced, informative videos on sites like Youtube in the last few years, I've found that there are times I do actually prefer it over text (or at least in addition to text). And that made me wonder if I should be producing video myself.

I now have a number of videos published on my own Youtube channel. The majority of them are about riding my motorcycle places. These videos were "easy" to shoot, and have become "easy" to edit, now that I have a format nailed down. Go out, do the ride, come home, download the footage, trim it to the important parts, add title/credits/labels, and publish (for the most part).

I also have a smaller number of woodworking videos. The videos before today's were recorded and edited in a very different manner. I wrote at least an outline of a script, set up each shot, stopped and started the camera to get what I wanted, reshot a few times if it didn't go right, etc.

For today's video, I wondered if I could use the motorcycle-recording method instead. I set up cameras generally pointed at where I would be working, and just let them run. I accumulated the footage on a large hard drive over the several days of work, and then attempted to assemble them into a single movie.

A table saw in the foreground and a bandsaw in the background have four tiny cameras pointed at them, hanging off of gangly bits of wood and tubing. The positions of the cameras are highlighted with green arrows.
My motorcycle dashcams mounted on tripods, for recording woodworking activity during the unrideable winter.

What I ended up with was something around twelve hours of footage. There was no way anyone would want to watch me build something for twelve hours - I hardly wanted to myself. So I set about cutting out all the segments that were me standing semi-still, planning the next cut. And trimming out as many repeated cuts as I could. That brought my footage all the way down to about an hour and ten minutes. Still too long.

A lot of project-documentation video turns to time compression at this point. Run the video at 2x, 8x, 20x ... whatever it takes to get it down to the time alotted (e.g. a 30-60sec "short"). There are very few creators that I think do this well (hi, Pask Makes!). The rest just become buzzy blurs of visual noise to me.

I opted for an alternate technique, keeping the video playing at recorded speed, but cutting each action down to the 3-5 seconds of the core action, or a bit more occasionally to "take a breath". It's jumpier, less continuous than I've made before, but I think it works without feeling like a constant buzzy rush. I wonder if that's what someone without the full context of every scene in their head will think.

From twelve hours down to 20 minutes. Not even 3% of the raw video made it into the final cut. Now that this video is posted, I'm going to delete the raw video, freeing up 150GB on that drive.

It has been a ton of work to cut that. I'm not a video professional, so my methods are crude and slow, but wow did this take a lot longer than writing a blog post with pictures normally takes me! The dice towers took me ten-ish days to complete. The have been finished for a month. I haven't spent all of my time working on the video between then and now, but the hours have been significant.

So will I produce more woodworking videos? Probably. It's too important of a medium to completely ignore. I'll need to revamp my methods again, though, because this was too much. I have thoughts of entering 2024's Great Guitar Build Off. That would be an even larger, more involved project, but building another guitar is something I've had on my TODO list anyway. Would you be interested in watching me build a guitar?

But also, don't worry - I'll still be producing written content too. I hope my written woodworking content from last year is proof. I love writing up my projects to share with you. It's also something I enjoy re-reading myself. If you also enjoy it, let me know! It's really motivating to hear when people appreciate what I've created.

Categories: Woodworking Meta