On Monday, we braved the humidity and traveled by two trains to get from our Manhattan office to Brooklyn. Author, illustrator, and Viner Meghan Doherty was hosting a “Vine shoot” with a handful of friends in her 3rd floor BedStuy apartment. We were there to take a look behind-the-scenes and find out just how much work and time goes into making a truly excellent 6-second video.
We’ll start off with the end result. Meghan and her friends created this Vine in Meghan’s apartment.
For a social media platform that just celebrated its first birthday this past winter, Vine is becoming something of a massive viral content phenomenon.
Users have just 6 seconds for a video that they must create within the app. You can start and stop recording along the way, but when you’re done and the Vine is uploaded, it will then play on a loop in the user’s stream and the streams of the users who follow along. There are limited editing tools. Basically, you’re given a canvas and a brush and you’re told to create something that people will feel compelled to look at over and over again.
For the uncreative, it can be a huge, discouraging challenge. For Meghan and her friends, it’s a fun social activity, complete with pizza and beer.
Here’s a breakdown of how much work goes into making six seconds.
12:15pm: We convened in Meghan’s living room. Her adorable dog Polly ran around the room, which Meghan had blocked off with gigantic swatch of green fabric, a long curtain rod and poles and duct tape. This would be one of the backdrops for this particular Vine.
“We’re calling it GIF IRL,” Meghan explained to us, and then looked over at her friend and fellow Viner Anne Horel. “Anne, how do you pronounce GIF?”
“We say JEEF,” Anne said, with a flourish of French. Anne is from Paris, and had flow into NYC a few days earlier to record some commentary for a film documentary about Vine.
Meghan and Anne spent about 15 minutes covering the green backdrop with handmade paper emojis. The taped-on heart eyes, slices of pizza, and piles of poo fell off several times during the shoot, and Anne would patiently reattach the pieces of construction paper with duct tape.
Meghan and Anne weren’t alone in making the six-second, stop-motion video — a handful of friends had been recruited to help her.
The ladies were joined by Sylvio, who only appears on Vine as his gorilla alter ego, and Shaady. Brooklyn-based Nick Gallo works in the same building as Meghan, and the two met when Meghan spotted him making a Vine one day outside the office. She recognised her regular coffee cart guy in one of Gallo’s Vines.
Between the five, they have nearly 400,000 followers collectively, and each of their videos get thousands of likes. And while the content of their videos varies — Sylvio’s Vines are an anthology of the gorilla’s antics, while Anne makes mostly stop-motion, GIF-inspired videos — they convened on Monday afternoon in this sweaty living room because of Vine, the platform where many of them met.
“For me, Vine was the first time when the term ‘social media’ made sense,” Sylvio said. “You watch these people’s videos every day and you feel like you really get to know them. Whereas with something like Facebook, you can’t interact with strangers. When I met all of these people, I knew them all really well after months of watching their videos.”
Here’s the other thing about big social platforms — if you do something great, you could potentially strike gold. It seems like a lot of work for one video, but Viners like Logan Paul, who just a year ago was a regular college student, now cashes in big because brands hire him to create massively popular Vines with their products. Instagram has Liz Eswein, who created a lucrative business with her username @NewYorkCity. YouTube has tons of its own celebrities, like PewDiPie, who makes $4 million dollars a year.
This isn’t chump change; there’s always the chance that you could be the next big thing.
1pm: The set looked ready to go. The group drank beer and talked to us about their love for the platform and for each other. They all excitedly discussed their plans to Revine Meghan’s video after she put it up.
Finally, show time. At 1:15pm, Meghan called places. The five Viners donned suit jackets, animal masks, and sunglasses.
Sylvio, Shaady, Anne, and Nick took their places in front of the backdrop, covered in emoji, and Meghan attached her iPhone to a tripod with a $US5 device that held the phone in place, and turned on the front-facing camera feature in the app.
She switched on a synth-heavy song and took her place in the family photo pose.
This was their “sound system,” a song fed through to the phone via the Apple headphone mic (“better than the speaker,” Meghan explained.)
1:15pm: We were put to work! The point of this Vine was to create a “GIF” so Caroline was asked to tap on the phone’s screen 10-15 times in rapid succession while the 5 friends sat in their places. (Author note: I was very afraid of messing up.)
After 15 seconds, Meghan gave a cue to stop tapping and everyone broke free of their place to mill around again.
1:30pm: Meghan confirmed we did not mess up our one task. (!)
Then it was time to swap out the green background for a white background. This meant taking down all of the emoji (they would go back up again later.)
A feature of Vine that we weren’t aware of until we met up with this crew is the “ghost.” Created specifically for those making stop motion Vines, it overlays an image of your last frame over what you are currently shooting. This is to help you get flawless stop motion effects.
(Scroll to the bottom of the post for a detailed explanation of what each editing tool in Vine does.)
Once Meghan tapped the “ghost” button she was free to set up for the next shot. Meghan and Anne got the emoji back to where they needed to be while Nick would look at the screen and make sure everything matched up perfectly with the shot before.
Anne and Meghan moved some of the emoji slightly (changed direction) so it would look like a GIF once you watched the full Vine.
2pm: Ready for round two? Almost!
We were put back to work to tap. Just like last time, the crew stayed completely still, but they had new props, and they were sitting against a new background.
2:03pm: 15 seconds later, it was over once again. Then it was time for individual shots.
Everyone got their own half-second shot standing by themselves in the pose of their choice.
And here’s Anne (and her unicorn!)
Then it was time to edit. Everything Meghan does is through the Vine app on her phone. One of the most frustrating things, they all agree, is when people “cheat the system,” ie hack videos made with DSLR cameras or produced with software into Vine.
“There’s an #AllNaturalVine hashtag,” Meghan explained. It serves as a divide between those who are playing the game right and those who are in it for the glory of being popular. (Not all too different from how people use Instagram.)
She also explains how she’s done some of her other popular Vines, like this one, part of her “Beyonce Glitch” series.
Meghan actually prints various frames of what you see above (think of it like a flip book) onto card stock. Then she rapidly shoots the image of the cardstock. It’s super creative. We asked her how much time she spent making the cards.
“I’m embarrassed by that answer,” she laughed.
2:15pm: The editing process of “GIF IRL” is going strong. Meghan takes each take against the different backgrounds and splits them up, alternating them with one another.
After the pieces of the video with the alternating backgrounds are set, she splices up the individual shots all together so that they look like a flash.
It’s about 2:30pm now and Meghan & Co. crowd around to watch the final product.
With a few suggestions and several more minutes of rearranging things to perfection, Meghan finally posts. It took a grand total of 2 hours and 42 minutes to make this 6-second Vine, and that doesn’t count the time it took to make the emoji cut outs.
“I like putting it up and walking away from it, then I’ll come back and see how it did,” she tells us.
Currently GIF IRL has 1.5 million loops.
Here’s the full GIF IRL Vine again. Do you see it differently now that you know what it looked like behind the scenes?
BONUS: Vine Editing – A Quick Explainer
1. Use this feature to switch back and forth between your front-facing camera and your phone’s standard camera.
2. The grid feature can be toggled to perfectly frame any Vine.
3. The focus option lets you pinpoint and focus on one specific person or object in the frame, adding a cinematic touch to your Vine.
4. The ghost tool is perfect for stop-motion videos, letting you match up your next shot with a previously taken still.
5. A draft-like “Sessions” function lets you stop working on your Vine, save your work, and exit. Unavailable in previous versions of the app, Sessions gives you the freedom to shoot a single video in parts, or at different times.