“One of the hallmarks of Kurosawa’s style are his fluid camera moves… that go from a close-up, to a full shot, to an over the shoulder [shot] in a single unbroken take….What’s important here is every camera shot has a clear beginning. middle, and end.”
Tony Zhou has a voice, and a voice. And an audience. In fact, as I write this his Every Frame a Painting video on Kurosawa has over 1.8 million views.
Back in 2014 I became familiar with Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting You Tube channel and it’s one of the best ways to get bite-sized information on filmmakers and filmmaking techniques.
And while video essays have been around for decades—Alain Resnais’s Night and Fog (1955), Chris Marker San Soleil (1982)—and probably since the silent film era, there is an entertaining as well as informative way that Zhou puts together his video essays that make them part of a new Internet-era way of communicating about movies.
He conveys information that normally would be buried in film theory books and tucked inside film commentaries and makes them visually accessible. Film is a visual medium so it makes perfect sense to marry film theory and film clips together in video essays.
What makes Zhou’s work exceptional is they are so well done. His does his research and takes his time on the edit (80 hours of editing on the above Kurosawa video). He’s a freelance editor in San Francisco and his professionalism shows. He also has a enjoyable voice to listen to and comes with a distinct point of view (his other voice) on each topic.
Ever since being introduced to his video essays I’ve been encouraged to start producing my own video essays as an extension of this blog, and a way to reach some new plateaus. So look for my first one this summer.
“ I would encourage anyone who would like to make films or video essays—or would like actually to make anything— go out and make it….It sounds so simple and so banal, but it really is one of those things where I didn’t realize until I had done it how gratifying it is emotionally and psychologically just to get it out of your system….The crazy thing is that if you make something like this it could be successful, it could not be, but I would argue don’t try to replicate anyone else’s success, just make something that you would want to watch. And the crazy thing about the internet is there almost certainly will be someone else out there who wants to watch it. “
Patreon Podcast Extended Interview
As far as copyright laws are concerned Zhou believes what he does falls under fair usage (education, commentary, criticism) and is transformative in nature. He says some of his videos have been flagged and temporarily taken down, but he has not been sued and all his videos have been restated. (Welcome any lawyers to chime in here.)
For those interested in technically how he edits his video essays, he uses Final Cut Pro X, in part because of the ability to use keywords. (For instance he could go though a bunch of Kurosawa’s films and tag all the dolly shots “Dolly” that would add the meta data so he could easily find so the all the dolly shots from the films he’s tagged.)
He also talks about writing, recoding, and editing simultaneously so the process is organic. And it’s worth noting that Zhou did not attend film school. He was an English major at UCLA and simply loves watching and analyzing movies.
P.S. I do have a question for Zhou (or any of you editing existing footage). I have used Hand Brake and MacX DVD software to convert standard def DVDs to mp4 files. But I need a recommendation on converting Blu-Ray or iTunes moves to be able to edit them on Final Cut Pro X. Put your solutions in the comment section or email me at email@example.com.