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Last month, I took a quick trip up to NYC for the second time this year (which also happens to be the same number of times I’ve been to New York in my life, but I’m trying to change that number as often as possible). While my first visit was superlatively short, I tried to squeeze as much out of this trip as I possibly could (not knowing when I’ll be back to one of my new favorite cities is one hell of a motivator). And this time around, it was all thanks to Lowe’s.*
But let’s start at the beginning. Back in September, one of the reps from Lowe’s sent me an email asking if I could think of some quick, handy tips that might be suitable for their DIY series on Vine, called “Lowe’s Fix In Six” (or the hashtag #LowesFixInSix if you’re searching for it). Being a DIY blogger, you would think I would know a little bit more about handy tips from the internet (it’s even been featured on Buzzfeed), but nope. These days I’m the ostrich of the DIY blog world, completely oblivious to new things until someone else clues me in. But hey, I get to be excited when others think it’s old news, so at least there’s that.
I’d never heard of the series before (technically I’m on Vine, but I have never posted one), but it turns out that Lowe’s has a super helpful collection of six-second-long stop-motion videos geared toward helping the average do-it-yourself homeowner. To think that each video is only six seconds long is a pretty cool challenge; and as it turns out, is both no time at all and a lifetime for these skilled animators. I checked out a few briefly before rattling off a list of things I’ve tried before (their exact words were “three or four”, but I had no idea which would be the most appropriate for the series, so I sent them more like twenty). After some brief back and forth, they sounded really excited about one in particular: using real mayo to remove water stains from wood furniture. Their production team sent me a story board via email to check out the concept they drafted:
Instead of what I expected to see (water rings on an old piece of furniture, a common scenario for this tip), they created a story of the water glass tipping over to form a water stain in the shape of a piece of bread. Then, a floating hand would smear mayo all over it (as though making a sandwich), and the water stain would then magically disappear. The Vine would then loop, so the scene could replay many times over. Some of the Fix in Six tips that I’d seen already were on the whimsical side (like this one of a Moonwalking mosquito), so I thought it was a good fit for their series. Fun, right?
In exchange for providing the tip, they offered to fly me up to their studio in New York to see how each Vine is filmed. Presumably, there’d be a handful of other bloggers with tips of their own, so they would also show us around New York while we were there, take us out to dinner, and put us up in a hotel during our overnight stay.
As you might in the same situation, I said yes faster than Muhammad Ali turns off lights. For one, I was already anxious to get back up to New York to see a few more landmarks. I’d never been to Times Square or Central Park or really anything that I’d always wanted to visit, and Lowe’s was happy to let me fly in early and out late so I could do a little touristy sightseeing during my stay. New York, here I come. Again!
I took over a thousand pictures during my four-day trip, most of which I’m still editing. I guess I just honestly loved every minute and never put the camera away. So for the sake of not having a post that would make it into the Guinness Book, I’m breaking things up into smaller bits (behind-the-scenes today, but walking around Brooklyn, pics from landmarks around New York, and a few other fun details – like celebrity spotting – will come later).
The Vine Shoot
I had to be ready by 7am the morning of the shoot and load into the convoy of vans that would carry myself, nine other bloggers, and a handful of Lowe’s staff to the studio in Brooklyn. I made a beeline to the coffee the second I spotted the craft services table to remove the scowl etched onto my face (let’s just call it Early Morning RBF).
Until I’d had a second cup, I didn’t quite come to terms with what I spied when first walking in:
Yep, that would be a guy on a stage, standing in a giant lizard foot. And then, I spotted these guys hanging out in the corner:
So… apparently my tip was going to be tame in comparison. What on earth had these other bloggers suggested? I mean, zebra feet too?
After breakfast, we flooded the room where all the cameras were set up. Each part of the studio had been divided into designated areas to film multiple tips at once. I then learned that the colorful guys from earlier were supposed to be germs, and the plan was to film them meeting their end in a nearby microwave (a tip from Bright Bold & Beautiful):
The finished product was going to take the whole day to film, but in the meantime, we could check out each one as the (incredibly efficient) crew created each Vine. Evidence of their initial concepts were also lying around for us to discover:
Clever. I was hooked and taking photos of everything. As it turns out, the feet were related to a tip from Old Town Home (Wendy and Alex were also hilariously fun to hang out with). The concept was simple, using walnuts to remove shallow scratches on hardwood floors. But the way it came together was pretty neat to witness. First, they filmed lots of feet trampling the floor (lizards, elephants, zebras, and even an actual cat and dog “actor”). Then, they “casted” for a few good-looking walnuts to use on a bluescreen (they used both blue and green ones; I’m not sure of the difference).
Then, they put it all together while Wendy and Alex played with the fake feet. Ok, ok… I did too.
Since it was October, there were a few spooky-inspired tips as well, like using cookie cutters to carve shapes into a jack-o’-lantern (from Sarah of Emma Magazine). One of the directors (producers? I have no idea) had to sit under the staged area and gradually turn the pumpkin to create the spinning effect you see in the finished Vine.
The crafty side of me was most impressed by the detail work on the tip from Timothy (Charles & Hudson). His video was about using sawdust to help clean up garage spills… or perhaps to help fish learn to walk (click on the link & you’ll see what I mean).
The Making of My Vine Tip
Then, of course, there was my tip. I think the part that surprised me most was how much collaboration it took to bring it all together.
After each shot, they would check their progress on a nearby computer (with stop-motion software that allowed them to compare each frame and make sure nothing moved).
Between the lighting and getting the water stain to look just right, there were a lot of elements involved. And to think, just for six short seconds of video!
The water stain, for those of you who like this kind of stuff (i.e. me), the liquid version was first made from glycerin rather than actual water. It stays put longer while staying clear enough to look like the real thing when it “spills”.
For the stain, the animator used a mixture of watered-down paint (and glycerin too I think, to keep it shiny). I could see nearby that they had also tested out other materials, like chalk, in order to figure out what gave them the right look.
I think having to hold the knife, frame after frame, also made this one of the more tiring shoots for the animator picked to be the hand model (I have a video of this as well, so I’ll update the post soon once it’s ready).
Finally, it all came together to look like this (click over to the Vine feed if you want to hear the audio):
And yet, they let us stay. To give them the occasional break from all of our nosiness, Lowe’s also planned for several blogger presentations in the back of the studio. Buzzfeed staff, Lowe’s, and Vine directors gave us helpful tips on branding, how the videos are shared, etc.
Filming took two days, and we stepped out both afternoons to do a little exploring around Brooklyn. But that’s for another post, since I’m fairly certain I’m just as tired of typing as you are of reading (but thanks for doing it anyway… you rock).
*While Lowe’s did send me to NYC on their dime, they didn’t obligate me to post about my trip at all (not even on social media, if you spotted some of my photos there last month). But I find that I’m happiest when I’ve got a suitcase in tow, and behind-the-scenes stuff is just so damn interesting, so I thought it would be fun to share all of the details with you. Be on the lookout for more about the trip in the next few weeks!