Making It Look Like 1975 (with video)

Did you promise to teach yourself a new skill during the pandemic and shutdown? Did you succeed? Here’s how far I have come in the last year. #digitalcontent #videoediting #adobepremier

I am often asked: what is the difference between what I do as a digital and print content creator versus what an artist does? Yes, both disciplines utilize many of the same core skills. The one glaring thing is deadlines.

Your project or the client’s project usually are not open-ended items, and dragging your feet because of excuses isn’t an option.

Purposely wanted the promo to look like it was from the mid-1970’s. The colors, cheesy effects and typography helped bring this forth. Note all of the very small pieces in this clip, which at one time had to be done with a manual cutting and splicing machine in the pre-digital era.

During the pandemic, when so many people in professional media lost their jobs or couldn’t find work, they promised themselves they would round up or develop new skillsets that would make them more marketable. Even though I had literally only a handful of projects for others, I still went about making things to bolster my presence and portfolio as if I was on a regular job.

Case in point: the weekly audio educational program I produce wholly on my own, “What You’re Not Listening To”, didn’t stop broadcasting. In fact, to make the program more attractive to potential new listeners, I started creating video promos for Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

A typical K-Tel Records television ad from the mid-1970’s. Yes, even then, it looked slightly washed out, and sometimes the edits in the images and sound would be very, very abrupt.

Some of them became very popular. I still find people viewing and liking even older show promos as well. The one here, from last month, is still attracting a fair number of new fans. It was for International Women’s Day 2021, about five weeks ago.

Many times the idea for a promo goes hand in hand with what I want to schedule for the curation of the program. Sometimes it doesn’t. Because this promo and show was tied to a specific date, there wasn’t a whole lot of time for waffling.

It has taken me about a year worth of practice, trial and error, to get this far. Even during the pandemic, I was incredibly busy at home, and wasn’t able to give it the full attention I would have for a new program with such a high learning curve as I did when I was in college. I got books from the library, went to professional sites to learn more online, and attempted to push myself into trying new things.

This is the finished promo. When people around my age saw this, almost all of them laughed, and on almost every occasion, stated how I nailed it.

This one was tough, as some of the source material is over 50 years old, and some of it hasn’t been archived properly. Some of it just shows up on YouTube, Vimeo or whatnot, and the quality is somewhat subpar.

With that in mind, when I couldn’t find a quality visual performance, I instead used a still image with 70’s iconography, colors and cheesy effects to bring it home. I wanted this piece to have the feel of an old, out-of-date, cheaply made K-Tel or Ronco commercial from that era. I even went as far as to emulate the carnival barker that was the announcer, and added a delay effect in Adobe Audition for the word “seventies”.

I did stop short of using words and phrases like “Lady” (pronounced Layyydaaay) or “what’s your sign”, but don’t think it didn’t cross my mind.

Took a little time, but I had a blast making all the pieces fit, which also demanded re-recording the audio on my cell phone (you read that correctly), bringing it into Adobe Audition and then importing it into Adobe Premier. The one thing that was lacking was the feel of the promo, as the image is too sharp and clean to have been in a cheap TV ad from the era.

Additionally, with a nod to current technology, it also had to be less than a minute long, so it could play uninterrupted on Instagram, and square so it could fill the screen format well on a cell phone and in online posts. Most of these original spots were also about the same length, and television sets were much more square back then, making the hommage perfect. The sound, however, had to be of very good quality, as it is an audio program.

Once I had the many small pieces together and was happy with the edits, I realized it just didn’t have the feel of the original ads. I realized it was because it looked too clean. I was running out of time, and didn’t have enough of said time prior to deadline to replicate a rickety old film properly. Undaunted, I did use the Camera Rolling effect only slightly. After a failed last attempt to get it right, I reverted to the difference between art vs. design: deadlines matter, and use whatever trick you have to make it happen.

Creating an aged film clip in i-Movie was very easy with a built in filter. I was then able to overlay it over my better-looking promo to make it look old.

I went into i-Movie on my Mac, which has an aged film filter. I quickly created a distorted still image in Photoshop, layered it, applied the effect and altered the color in each section. I looped this for 30 seconds, brought it into Premier as an MP4 file, dropped the opacity down and viola! Instant crappy old TV ad.

Is this professional level work? You be the judge, but it got the job done. I still have a way to go to becoming more skilled, but at the end of the day, it brought in people; In a world of Hi-Def everything, they weren’t ready for this. Additionally, the show was, so far this year, my most listened to program. It’s a new day, older and over 50 designers and content creators like myself. You have to write yourself in just to get seen, and meeting people on platforms with interesting new content that works within their framework is one way to do it on the very, very (read: DIY/no budget) cheap.

Once I had the aged film clip from i-Movie inserted, I simply reduced the opacity to give the promo the feel of something very old and weathered.

Trust me, I’m no Marcia Lucas. Not yet, anyway. Everyone has to start somewhere, so if you made yourself the promise of learning a new, valuable skill, don’t wait any longer. Because no one knows what 1975 looked like more than someone who was there.

Love to you all.

Ben “Daddy Ben Bear” Brown Jr.
www.aospdx.com
www.aceofspadespdx.com

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    […] for broke. For those employers looking for something different, here is some of my other work and a story on how I made the promo clip to one of my most-listened to […]

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