Creative Spotlight: Director Ross Ching and Empty America
Director Ross Ching has mastered the art of the time-lapse video and has recently done it in very innovative way. He has created an eerie video series, titled “Empty America,” by removing the hustle and bustle that normally is the heartbeat of major U.S. cities, using Creative Suite 6 applications, Photoshop, After Effects and Premiere Pro. Check out our exchange with Ross on his inspiration and some of his quick video tips.
Adobe: Can you give a quick description highlighting your creative process/creative workflow for Empty America?
Ross Ching: People really find connections with things they recognize in situations that they don’t recognize. It’s almost as if the viewer is in on an inside joke. It’s something that I always try to incorporate into my work, and that’s why time-lapse, super slow motion and stop motion are so prevalent on the Internet. So when deciding which cities to feature in this series, I wanted people who have never even been to the locations to be able to pick out landmarks that they’ve seen before.
What was your inspiration behind the project?
I live in Los Angeles. I drive in Los Angeles. I think about traffic a lot in Los Angeles. A couple years ago, I discovered Matt Logue’s Empty LA photographs. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but every time I was stuck in rush hour all-hour traffic, I found myself thinking, “What if tomorrow everyone’s car disappeared?” What would that scene look like? How would people react? How quickly would the atmosphere rebound from centuries of fossil fuel emissions?
So I took Matt Logue’s still photography concept and applied it to something that I do best — time lapse. That Los Angeles video was very successful, and so I pitched an expansion of it to Thrash Lab, a destination for digital filmmakers created by Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst Network. They really liked it and believed in my work, and it’s now the biggest set of videos on the channel.
Do you have any useful tips or techniques to share with the community?
When creating something for the Internet, people’s attention span is VERY short. Think about how you look at other videos on YouTube and think about the how long it takes you to either skip through the video or click the back button. Our main goal as a video creator is to get the viewer to watch from beginning to end without skipping or hitting the back button. If they’re able to do that, they’re MANY times more likely to share the video with a friend — and that’s how seeds of viral videos are made. So let’s look at the elements to do that:
Must be short — 3 or 4 minutes or less. I’ve got many other tabs open and my pot of water on the stove is about to boil.
The 10 second hook — Probably the most important aspect. We need to WOW the viewer right off the bat. That means either showing them something they’ve never seen, or some kind of filmmaking technique that’s really unique. Whatever it is, if your friend doesn’t say WOW when you tell them the first 10 seconds of the concept, it’s back to the drawing board.
Sustainability — Once you have them hooked, you need to create a device that pulls them to the end. Some examples: a story, beautiful cinematography, creative art, exciting visuals that are rarely seen. Anything that will get them interested in seeing what happens at the end.
Check out more from the Empty America series on Thrash Lab’s Facebook Page.