Benjamin Von Wong brings his behind-the-scenes work to the forefront
Award-winning artist and activist Benjamin Von Wong edits behind-the-scenes videos with Adobe Premiere Pro: a glimpse into his photo shoots.
Image source: Ben Von Wong.
By Meagan Keane
Posted on 02-25-2021
For award-winning artist and activist Benjamin Von Wong, it’s the people and the process that shape his work, with technology merely playing a supporting role.
“The process of living life and solving problems is often more interesting than a final product,” says Von Wong. “In a world where content is abundant, context is important because it creates a shared sense of humanity.”
Von Wong’s photography and activism focuses largely on environmental and sustainability issues such the impacts of ocean plastics, fast fashion, and electronic waste. “Art is a tool that can close the gap between the heart and the mind and make us better people,” he says. “I don’t create for myself. I create to accomplish something in service to others.”
That’s why his work resonates with so many, generating more than 100 million views. But his pictures provide only one perspective. Von Wong takes a layered approach to storytelling, relying on different mediums to tell parallel stories. “My final images tell one story, and for each major project I do I have a behind-the-scenes video that tells another story,” he explains. “Along the way, I might be documenting things on Instagram Stories, Snapchat, or in a blog, which use different aspects of storytelling skills.”
The result is a holistic, multi-faceted story about what happens on the other side of the lens.
Creating behind-the-scenes videos with purpose
Von Wong brings the same discerning eye that drives his photography to his video editing work. He has a vision — not only because his videos are an extension of his art, but because he also appreciates the time and effort his volunteers give to advance a cause that is important to them.
When he first started out, he didn’t have a budget and didn’t know how to use a video camera, but he knew how to tell a good story. If someone else shot footage, he provided direction on what needed to be captured to accomplish his vision. He even learned to edit his own video footage in Adobe Premiere Pro so he could have more control.
Von Wong says, “If you have a story, then you have an audience. And if you have an audience, what do you want them to see? What journey do you want to take them on? How are you going to invite them into the process?”
He works on two to three projects a year, so it makes sense that he pours a lot of time and energy into each individual piece. He commits himself equally to the video, making sure the footage and sequencing is just right. Over the years, he’s transitioned from creating videos that are purely educational to producing videos with a clear call to action.
“Ultimately, any piece needs to be entertaining on some level,” he says. “It begins with connection. It begins with igniting a sense of curiosity in people, because if you’re incapable of provoking people with a sense of curiosity, then they’ll never have a desire to actually learn from you.”
Technology that brings people and process together
The behind-the-scenes videos provide a glimpse into the grandeur of the photo shoots themselves. Von Wong relies on a few specific techniques when editing the videos in Premiere Pro. Letterboxing and captions are two ways he uses words as visual tools to build anticipation and help him tell the story. Text also gives him a way to engage the large percentage of mobile viewers who watch videos without sound. Speed ramps help him convey a lot of information quickly while slow motion effects let him focus in on specific parts of the story or include footage that isn’t as stable.
His goal is to capture the audience’s attention in the first millisecond, and then show something in the first three seconds that creates a sense of anticipation. His videos now reveal a photo within the first 30 seconds, which some could argue ruins the punch by showing people the end product too early. But Von Wong believes that these revelations provide the instant gratification that viewers crave, while highlighting key stages of the process.
“Unless I’m creating a video to be shown at a fundraiser or other event, I know that 80 percent of people are probably only going to watch the first 30 to 60 seconds,” says Von Wong. “That’s where I need to deliver the bulk of my message.”
He also uses Adobe Photoshop to put the finishing touches on his photography — which many people often assume, incorrectly, is edited more extensively than it is. And then there’s the music. “I spend hours agonizing over the music,” he says. “It can really set the tone, so you have to choose it wisely.”
Although some people prefer to edit behind-the-scenes videos on their own after a project is completed, Von Wong thrives in a team environment so he strives to release the videos on the same day as the project. “It’s challenging to get through, but it’s exciting,” he says. “There’s a sense of camaraderie when you’re building something as part of a team and working towards a deadline.”
At the same time, he acknowledges that he can be very particular about the final cut. “The only way that I arrive at what works is generally by process of elimination, which isn’t always easy for people collaborating with me,” says Von Wong. “So, I’ll often get my work to 90 percent, and then ask for help.”
This gives Von Wong what he wants: creative control over the final output. And not just for his brand, but for the people who help him bring his work behind-the-scenes to the forefront.
“These videos show people that they have the opportunity to take meaningful actions, no matter how small those actions might seem,” he says. “The viewers become the heroes of the story. I’m simply the guide.”
Topics: Customer Stories, Creativity, Media & Entertainment, Creative Cloud,
Products: Creative Cloud, Photoshop, Premiere Pro,