“Needed tooth picks to keep my eyes open!”
Ms. Hiller is a first rate builder and meticulous with her layout and cutting! With that being said, she is dry as mud in her presentation! The video could use better editing (such as “fast forward” over several repetitive procedures). She also violates several safety rules while working, such as loose sleeves while at the table saw. The project is what I bought the DVD for and that is almost worth the money.–Don (Posted on 8/8/2015)
I’m sorry that what you call my dry-as-mud presentation made it hard for you to keep your eyes open while watching the video I did for Popular Woodworking last spring. Your metaphor’s a new one on me: I think of mud as wet and sticky.
Don’t look back
When the online content editor at Popular Woodworking wrote to ask whether I’d consider doing a project video, I made clear to him that I do not consider myself an obvious choice for display before a video camera. It’s not being filmed that gets me; it’s talking–ideally in sentences that are concise and well organized–while being recorded. I’m a reasonably articulate person, but talking to a camera still comes hard. “Have you seen the floating vanity video series I did for Fine Homebuilding?” I asked him when we first spoke. He assured me that no one likes the way he or she looks or sounds on camera, and a few weeks later we moved ahead.
But look here, Don: This dry-as-mud demeanor? It’s just my shtick. For some people, the film crew’s clapper is a shot of adrenaline. “Look at me! I’m a star!” For me it signals responsibility, provoking a gut-wrenching desire to avoid fucking up. (Hence my lifelong preference for dead languages. No chance of clumsy conjugations or subject-verb disagreement in extemporaneous speech.)
My demeanor is modeled after some of my favorite teachers: people with high standards and real knowledge of their field who expect their students to be sufficiently interested that they don’t require cajoling. So, yes, I turn into a cabbage with bottle-glass spectacles when speaking on camera. Teachers who entertain make me a little uneasy. It feels, to me, like pandering. As a student, I never needed it. As a teacher, I don’t want to engage in it, even though I know it’s increasingly considered essential by pedagogical experts.
I agree with you that some sections could have been trimmed, others expanded. No doubt the powers that be at Popular Woodworking will give your comments due consideration. But I think it’s worth bearing in mind that this type of video isn’t necessarily intended to be “watched”; I think the idea is that all the steps are provided in sequence, with lots of detail shots, so that those who want to build their own piece can refer to the video for guidance at various steps along the way. You can press the fast-forward button yourself. You can also jump from one section to another depending on what you want or need to learn.
I share your concern over the dangling cuff, which appears far closer to the saw blade due to the camera angle than it was in real life (though you’re correct; it should have been buttoned).
I was impressed by the skill and professionalism of this crew, as well as their efforts to put me at ease. They were actually quite successful at this; just not while the camera was rolling.
In the interest of keeping the world of woodworking videos somewhat grounded in reality, I think it’s good to have variety in presenters’ age, gender, appearance, and demeanor. As in any field, those with much to teach are likely to be those with many years of experience (translation: who don’t look like the buff stars of HGTV and are not necessarily so engaging). At the end of the day, are the length and occasional slow pace of this two-disc video really so bad when you contrast them with the wacky distortions of the commercial how-to genre, where everyone looks like a model, no one makes mistakes, and viewers come away with a completely unrealistic sense of how long it takes to build a cabinet or remodel an entire house? You could try thinking of this video as a metaphor for woodworking, especially the field as known and loved by those of us who engage in it for a living, over decades: We’d go stir crazy if, along with so many other skills, we didn’t cultivate patience in the face of what many would consider mind-numbing monotony.
I appreciate your honesty and am glad you found the content ultimately useful.
Finally, I do offer my signature toothpick guarantee. If you need some to prop your eyes open while referring to the video as you build the cabinet, send me a stamped addressed envelope and I’ll mail you a pair.