Four months after we created the Post-It Note mosaic of our boss at work, we decided to take it down. Ever since I published the accompanying time-lapse video, ideas have been batted around on how to memorialize its removal. When the big day came a few weeks ago, we didn’t record another time-lapse video… though you wouldn’t know it, looking at the final video. You might like to watch it without spoilers before I start talking about it.
The idea to play a video backwards had been talked about for months. It was an idea that I immediately warmed to, but it wasn’t until the day of the shooting that a couple coworkers and my boss helped me brainstorm how we were going to do it. Just coming up with an idea and hammering out how we could pull it off took us most of an hour. Communication was difficult; we soon realized that there just isn’t a tense in the English language that allows one to talk about reverse chronology. “Okay, from the beginning-” “Wait. The beginning-beginning or the end-beginning.” “What?” “Which beginning? The beginning of our routine – which will end up being the end of the final video – or the beginning of the final video?” “You know what sucks? There’s no reverse chronology tense in the English language.” It only got more confusing when we tried to think about and practice the individual segments. Eventually, though, we hammered out a little backwards skit and practiced it a few times. Once we thought we had it down, we fired up the video camera and recorded a test run (without yanking off any of the Post-Its!) If ever there was a get-it-right-the-first-time job; removing all those Post-Its was it. We watched our little 2-minute routine in reverse on the camcorder’s LCD screen and, after noting a couple places where it could be tweaked a bit, deemed it “good enough.” Time to do it for real. Earlier, when someone asked what the shortest amount of time I thought I could pull off all those Post-Its was, I threw out a total guesstimate of about three minutes. Oh, we had all the information necessary to make a real estimate, but that would have required using math. Which I stupidly didn’t think of. Three minutes to pull off 2872 Post-Its. Another 2 or 3 minutes to act out the backwards skit. We’d be done in 6 minutes; 10 minutes tops. No need to change tapes, this miniDV has 45 minutes left on it! Let’s do some retrospective math, just for fun. 2872 Post-Its taken off a wall, one at a time, in 3 minutes. That’s 2872 / 180, or almost 16 Post-Its every second. I don’t move that fast. So, if we figure I can yank off 1 per second, it’d still take 2872 seconds or 47 minutes, 52 seconds. Let me tell you, all this became apparent within minutes of starting. While Mark had the relatively easy job of sitting down and pretending to catch the falling Post-Its, I had to actually peel them off the wall. The ones that were flush were almost impossible to get a purchase on, and by the end the skin on the corners of my thumbs had been buffed smooth. Once I realized that we were going to run out of videotape (after all, we couldn’t risk an unsightly jump-cut resulting from a tape change) I began to hurry. For 45 minutes my arms were flailing above my head as sweat stains swelled on my shirt. As Mona periodically called out the time remaining on the tape, I worked faster and faster. At only the half-way point, my arms felt like jelly and my lower back threatened to lock up whenever I arched forward to shrug off the strain in my shoulders. It was far more strenuous that I would have thought possible. We did manage to finish just as the tape passed the 60 minute mark. Immediately after our little act was done, I grabbed the camera, tripod and all, and used it to record a few extra seconds of the colorful mayhem left behind on the floor. 2872 Post-Its were stuck to everything: The floor, desk, walls, cabinets, our clothes, and most especially our shoes. That night, I took the video home, digitized it, and spent an evening listening to music. I was looking for a song that had a build-up for the introductory segment, pumped it up a bit for the actual mosaic destruction, and had a pace-shift or two so that I could show off the Post-It notes floating up (or down, depending on how you look at it) in real time. I settled on Ready to Go by Republica. After that, it was a simple matter of reading up on After Effect’s Time Remapping function (a tool I’d been wanting to learn how to use, anyway.) It turned out to be very easy to sync the action to the music; all I had to do was identify key points in the audio and video tracks, slide the video keyframes along the timeline to match them up with their corresponding audio keyframes, and then tweak the Bezier splines so that the speed transitions were somewhat less abrupt. Render, review, compress, and upload! Nothing to it! (The only thing I don’t like about the final video is the pulsing brightness. I think it’s a combination of the auto-exposure setting on my camcorder, fluorescent lighting, and variable time-lapse speeds. Sadly, I don’t think it’s one of those “fix it in post” kinda things, either. But, hey. Maybe you didn’t even notice that on the first viewing.)