I recently had the chance to sit down with Brian Lam, the amiable and enthusiastic founder of Lam Creative Solutions, where we talked about learning from your mistakes, the emotionality of sports and solving life’s problems with YouTube.
Tell me a bit about your background, what’s brought you to this point in your career?
I was an English major at Michigan State and I had a variety of careers throughout the years, all of them revolving around creativity in some capacity. In 2010, I decided to start my own marketing and PR firm and that was when I began dabbling in video, just around the time it started to become popular.
What was it that attracted you to working with video?
I really love the creative process. I like to write, I like the storytelling aspect of it, but I can get bored with writing. I found with video I could tell stories in a way that felt much more emotional and much more, I don’t know if real is the right word, but there was more of an emotional hit to it. You can sit and write five pages and look back and go, this sucks, and you’ve wasted two hours, but with video you can constantly tweak and re-work it during the process.
Have you had any formal videography training or are you self-taught?
I’m 100% self-taught. In this case it wasn’t that the video drove my clients, my clients drove my video learning. I had clients I was doing design work for and they would say, can we do a video? And I had just a little junky camcorder, with no real audio equipment, I didn’t even have editing software. I really had nothing and I managed to make a video. I used iMovie on my mac and it was the first time I had ever edited something and I sat and tried to figure that out. I still have some of those old videos and they are so horrible (laughs).
Every time I made a video I would learn, so when something sucked I would say, ‘what can I do different?’ When I realized the camera really sucked I got a DSLR camera. Then I realized that my audio still sucked, so I started researching how to get good audio and I bought some lapel mics. It was really such small steps, nothing but failure, failure, failure as I learned how to create videos.
What equipment do you use now?
I use a standard DSLR camera. It’s super user friendly and I’ve never had anyone say they were disappointed with the quality. Actually, when you look at video, the actual video quality itself is not the biggest determinate of the professionalism of the video, I would put audio way above it. I also began learning how to do logos, graphics, title cards and animation, and those features along with audio can really make a video.
What are some of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
I love doing sports stuff, that’s super fun. I’ve done a lot of soccer and marathon stuff, I’ve done football and training videos. I like those a lot and I think the reason I like those, not that this isn’t true for other videos, but there is an emotional component that I can tap into. I’ve got a sports background so I know what to look for when filming and I get excited about it.
Walk me through the process of starting a project, say you were working on a promotional campaign for a local race, what would your approach be?
First, I would want to know what their intended outcome is, what are they trying to do and who do they want to reach? Are they trying to get people to sign up or are they trying to increase promotion?
Some clients will tell you, ‘we want a video and here’s a script and we want it to look like this’. Other times they won’t know exactly what it is that they’re looking for.
I once did a football camp video and asked the camp what they were looking for and they said, “just capture the camp.” These kinds of jobs can be a little bit more difficult, but they’re way more fun. You go and you start shooting not knowing what you’re looking for and in those situations, you just never stop filming. You film everything you can think of at every angle, so it’s longer to edit and it’s more difficult to pin down, but damn is it fun when you get to create this vision of how you see it.
Have you found it difficult to adapt to the changing digital media landscape?
Yes and No. Yes, because it changes quickly, but no because all the information you need is out there. YouTube is so easy, anytime I want to learn how to do anything I just YouTube it. In fact, I YouTube not just for video stuff, but also for design work. I still to this day, even for advanced stuff, I look on YouTube. You can learn almost anything on YouTube.
What advice would you give someone who was looking to get into the world of digital creativity?
Do it a bunch and fail a bunch and that’s how you learn. And use YouTube (laughs).
This interview has been edited & condensed for time and clarity