There is no doubt that Selfies, Vlogs and Instagram are all the rage in today’s society. People love taking photos and videos of everything and anything. But have you ever thought what it would be like to become a professional videographer or photographer? Last week, the Audio-Technica team caught up with Director of Photography for Tree Potatoes, Ho Zhen Jie, to find out more about his role in the industry.
1. Hi Zhen Jie! First of all, we would like to know a bit of your background story. What made you pick up videography?
It was an interest that I picked up in secondary school. I had a friend that had a video cam and just took videos of random stuff. I was supposed to sign up for film, sound and video in poly but sadly I missed the application by one day. Because of that, I ended up doing Business IT, a course that I didn’t really want to do. However, I just knew at that time that I wouldn’t want to do Business or IT as a career. My passion lies in videography and while I was in poly, I bought myself a second hand DSLR which allowed me to further develop my photography and videography skills.
2. How did you get involved in this industry?
I started out in this industry as a freelance videographer at the age of 17. At 24, I carved out a career as a wedding videographer for two years. Thereafter, I did wedding photography for 1 year, before moving on to become a full-time camera operator. Two years ago, I helped out in this other channel called The Hidden Good, which basically compiles videos of social experiments to demonstrate the good in everyone. For that particular episode, we wanted to go on SMRT to see if people will give up their seats to the needy. Aaron, Janice and Elliot, who were the crew from Wah Bananas were guests for that episode. That was the first time we started talking. In November 2013, they approached me to come on board their upcoming n`ew channel and in December, we officially launched as Tree Potatoes. Currently, I’m the Director of Photography for Tree Potatoes. My job is to light the frame to best tell the story that the director wants to tell. It’s a bigger and broader spectrum of work with Tree Potatoes where we cover a larger production scale comprising corporate work, YouTube branding, advertising, mini skits, short films, etc.
The Tree Potatoes Crew
3. What is your favourite video from Tree Potatoes?
Hmm if I have to choose, it would be “If adults acted like kids”. How the idea came about was pretty spontaneous. We were scripting for something relevant because of what Aaron saw the other day about a grown man asked his mom to buy something in the supermarket and throwing a fit when his mom refused. During the brainstorming session, I shared my own personal experience that helped to further build and firm up the story. This was one of the times when I am more involved in scripting and sphere heading the idea for a video. I am glad that it turned out to be one of Tree Potatoes’ better performing videos with over 1.2 million views.
“If Adults acted like kids” episode by Tree Potatoes
4. How did you first hear about Audio-Technica?
As a youngster, I have already heard about Audio-Technica and its products. Back in those days, carrying around a headphone was considered super cool and the word in the industry was that Audio-Technica carried very intricate ones. Over the years, Audio-Technica has grown to be a powerhouse in terms of headphones and microphones. Being a Japanese brand, there is no doubt to the quality.
5. How do you incorporate the System 10 Camera Mount in your work?
The system 10 Camera Mount came in at a very competitive price point. I use it when the talent is too far away from the camera. First of all, it’s wireless. It gives my talent and myself freedom to move about without wires. We don’t have to worry about someone tripping over and I can be further away from the talent if needed to be. As a whole, it allows me more options and ease of use.
6. How is it working out for you?
It’s great. I haven’t pushed it to the limits yet with regards to environmental elements. But for my kind of work it’s working very well. The 2.4GHz digital bandwidth is much more convenient. The System 10 finds the bandwidth and frequency for me. Dual antennas also help to constantly search for the best frequency to ensure that there is no signal drop out when I move into crowded areas.
7. What is the greatest challenge in your work?
Tough question….. I think the big challenge is how I can present something new and fresh every time. I am also trying out new ways to do things more effectively. And of course how to challenge the boundaries of film making and video production in today’s context.
8. What problems do you see inexperienced videographers making?
Inexperienced videographers tend to focus on one aspect of video production. I am not saying this is bad but in order to be a good videographer, we need to understand how everything works. It is normal to find ourselves preferring one aspect to another but it still important to understand the work flow and inner workings so we can understand the difficulties of each department. Many young videographers also tend to focus too much on gadgets and gears when instead they should be focusing on telling stories that they want to tell.
9. What are your plans for the future?
I hope to educate more people on small-scaled video production. I feel a lot of people who want to step out in this industry do not have the guidance required. YouTube and books only provides the theory. Many still lack the resources to go out and really experience videography for themselves. What I aim to do is to come up with a curriculum or company that teaches video production geared towards hobbyists who wants to turn pro. There is no one-stop information centre for video production. If someone really wants to learn, he/she needs to be exposed to more hands-on projects.
10. Any parting tips for aspiring videographers?
Get out there, shoot more and experiment more. Personal projects will hone yourself as an individual to find your style and give you the opportunity to use the moving image to tell your story.
The Audio-Technica team would like to thank Zhen Jie for taking out time from his hectic schedule to share his story and valuable advice. We are sure many amateur videographers out there would find comfort in the fact that there are still professionals like Zhen Jie out there in the industry who are always ready to share their experiences and knowledge so as to hone the next batch of videography talents in Singapore.