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The First 30 Days

What is one year like in the life of David Chen? We’re all about to find out.

Earlier this year, a woman named Madeline released an interesting video on Vimeo. She had shot one second of video for every day of her life during the year 2011. I found the result to be unexpectedly inspiring and moving.

Several months later, /Filmcast listener and all-around awesome dude Cesar Kuriyama took to the stage at TED to unveil his own “one second every day project“, which he’d been filming every day for the 30th year of his life.

Kuriyama is passionate about the project and believes everyone should engage in it. I think the final result is fascinating, a seemingly endless series of context-less images. Context-less, that is, to everyone but the filmmaker. It’s a compelling snapshot of one’s life, a video that is evocative for the creator and intriguing and enigmatic for the viewer.

So, I’m pleased to announce that I am also undertaking this project. My birthday this year was May 20th, right around the same time I uprooted my life from Boston and moved to Seattle. Starting on that day, I have filmed one second of video every single day. Around this time next year, I’ll plan to publish the result, a chronicle of my first year here.

In doing this project, I’ve made a few observations about how best to approach it. First of all, I think this project works best when the second that you record is somehow representative of the day that you had, or at least, how you want to remember that day. In practice, this can get a bit tricky; often times the most interesting that happens to me is an interaction I have with someone else. While I can frequently “anticipate” when a good “second” will arrive, it’s often inopportune to whip out a camera and start recording. Secondly, it’s useful to record multiple seconds for each day, giving you the option to choose from a number of them. As a result, it’s also important to have a robust cataloging system for all of your “potential seconds.” Finally, I don’t have experience with this yet, but it sounds like it’s useful to create a master file for the final video, then stitch the videos together intermittently and continuously add them to that file, as opposed to doing them all at the end. Alternatively, one could also create videos for each month, then bind them all together in the end. I may end up going this path because it will allow me to release regular video content, but it also robs the final video of some of its uniqueness. We’ll see. 

As a proof-of-concept, I’ve stitched together my first 30 seconds, representing my first month here. You can find this video below:

When I began working on the project, I asked Cesar Kuriyama, “What if you do this every day for a year and the resulting video ends up being incredibly boring?”

Kuriyama responded, “That’s good! Because then you’ll look back on how boring your life was and you’ll resolve to change things.”

Not a bad point, that. I don’t know what the end result will motivate me to do. I can only hope it will show a life lived full, with love, laughter, and friends, a humble aspiration for the beginning of my new life.

[I am indebted to Cesar Kuriyama for his counsel and for helping me to establish a workflow for pulling these clips together. Be sure to check out his other work.]

  • Wow David! This is really something. I haven't heard about this endeavor and I wasn't sure what to expect when you said it was 1 second of your day. I was thinking of first a video of you next to something but when it was just a single second of your day, it makes each second a single moment. I'm really curious to see how this goes!

  • If things work out, I too may be moving to a new city and starting a DREAM job, i couldn't think of a better start to start such a project. I heard about this a while ago, but thanks for reminding me of it.

    I enjoyed watching the preview of your first month. I agree that it's somehow so relatable and personal and interesting, even if it's someone you don't know personally. You can see your own life in watching these. I imagine it must be an utterly singular feeling to watch YOUR OWN compilation. Especially after the whole year or even better, looking back after a few years.

    I can't wait to start this.

  • Good to see you taking this on, Dave. Choose understated moments from events that mark your day and the video will have catharsis. I can point people only to the best example I know and that is Cesar Kuriyama's One Second Everyday video

    Look forward to your discoveries.

  • Pretty neat. If I did it the whole thing would just add up to 6 minutes of Family Feud re-runs, so it's nice to live see others get out of the house.

  • Uh, Nizar: did you even read the post?

  • Yeah, I was just urging others to see his work as well. I had been having conversations about this concept since last year and how to capture the best moments. Your post also advises on how to choose good moments. Best of luck.

  • Great stuff Dave! I might try this myself. I literally just got off the phone from a new job offer (which I'm taking), so it seems fitting.

    Also, as a big fan of your podcasting, I'd love to see a second or two from one of your many audio endeavours!

  • Interesting, can't wait to see how it turns out Dave!

  • After watching Madeline's video, I was contemplating doing the same thing, though I ultimately decided not to. Anyway, this turned out very well, and the footage you chose flowed very well, and was also aesthetically pleasing. I'm looking forward to seeing the finished product.

  • Jen Yamato at 0:37, or Saturday, June 9th.

  • Hey David, looks great. Did you cut this together using Final Cut Pro or iMove?