A Senior Year to Remember

by Joseph Gallivan

More than friends...

With time on their hands and no prom, graduation or terminal rager to attend, it's no surprise some Lincoln seniors pieced together a video montage for their friends.

Class of 2020 Video Montage

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At 8 minutes and 26 seconds, the slice of life tries to capture every face from the class of 2020, and remind them that although their year ended with a whimper, not a bang, they have some fine memories and footage from before the coronavirus arrived. The video came out in mid-May.

Students Cara Iwanaga and Nikita Novokhatniy took the initiative in April.

"Someone in Lake Oswego did one and posted it on their Instagram and I was touched by the message and inspired," said Iwanaga. Like everyone, this spring she was stuck inside. "We started this about two and a half weeks into quarantine. Personally, I was having an extremely hard time myself, just swallowing the situation and I was absolutely heartbroken hearing about all the things being canceled. Then I was like, 'You know what? I have my laptop and my phone, what can I do now? I can cure my boredom and then maybe help other people."

Iwanaga started an Instagram account, @LHS2020grads, and was hit by a barrage of video clips as word spread. She asked Novokhatniy to use his technical skills to help edit them together with some tunes.

The Instagram account, @LHS2020grads is public and it and the video have had recognition from college prep classes and college counselors.

"I did a lot of videos this year and I have access to the Leadership and Yearbook drives," Novokhatniy said. "I went into (Adobe) Premiere and just started combining clips and sending templates out."

He estimates they spent two weeks on it daily, followed by a 40 hour weekend to finish it off.

He has no idea how many hours of video he had to work with, he just measures it in total file size: 30 gigabytes. (He has 15 terabytes of photos stored on his personal drive.)

They gathered a lot of sports videos, because they are plentiful, and tried to get a shot of everyone's face, although that was elusive.

"We tried using the more exciting video, because the whole point was not going back to school doesn't matter, we had a good year. It's not one of those really sad, like, 'I'm gonna miss my friends' videos," offered Iwanaga.

Novokhatniy took stills at the Flock Party in February, and subscribes to the take as many photos as you want school of thought. Then he can hunt through looking for the one that works.  

"The hardest part was, a lot of people shoot vertically." So if it's blurry it's probably because it's been stretched, and Premiere auto-sense has tried to put the face in the center. And with SnapChat, the quality of the video is low. The original is high quality, but all that's left later is the lower-quality version saved on SnapChat's server.

The chemicals are kicking in

But you have to have a vision when shooting. It's the same with making a montage – the video has to match the song's rhythm or drama.  

"We sat down with Cara and the second song was supposed to be Pitbull's "Time of Our Lives" song. We spent days on it, making six minutes of video, then found out Pitbull doesn't allow the use of that song unless you pay them thousands of dollars." (A lot of songs can be used for promo videos like this, so long as any ad revenue goes to the copyright holder. But not Pitbull's.)

The video starts with a drone shot of school, the librarian speaks, and then the seniors running in for color wars – that's when the video has to match the music.

The songs are "Good Old Days" by Macklemore and Keisha, "Don't Start Now" by Dua Lipa, and "Animal" by Neon Trees. 

Nikita Novokhatniy places cameras on the runway.

He'd line up a bunch of clips and stagger them, lining them up on the screen and choosing which frame to start on when the beat dropped.

Did he learn this in class?

"We have a video class, but most of it is my friend and I have drones and we make videos, and I've helped out friends in Europe making music videos." They do however use the music studio at Lincoln.

Doing the credits, which mention every kid who appears, took a few days because it was a lot of typing and proofing in Adobe After Effects. They could have used facial recognition software, like the yearbook, but it would have been too much hassle for video. If he was looking for someone he'd just go by his memory.

"When me and Cara were making it we wanted something the seniors can all watch. I got so many text messages from the seniors saying, 'Thank you.'"

Cara Iwanaga cures her stay-at-home boredom and helps other people.

Life moves on.

Novokhatniy is taking a gap year and hopes to make more videos. He has a DGI Maverick 2 drone, and is fine shooting with an iPhone as long as he's using a DGI gimbal. He's a Nikon guy, but sometimes borrows his friend's Sony A7, a DSLR which shoots very smooth video. He hopes to get a job too, and is happy to do marketing videos for social media for anyone who's paying.

He doesn't like the sound of paying for college if it's mostly online. "I mean if it's online school, I can go to PCC. I can do the same online courses from my house or YouTube. And there's Masterclass. Some of their courses are better than the colleges' who just don't know how to do it yet."

Iwanaga, who ran track and played football and basketball, is going to the University of Oregon this fall to study human physiology and sports business. (It costs $26,000 a year. USC in L.A. would be nice, she said, but it's not worth it at $60,000 a year.)

The pair are also working on the official senior video with the leadership class. Staying home so much has been hard. Iwanaga has two siblings, a high school freshman and a 5-year old sister. "She's a bit of a handful, but we're hanging in there."

Iwanaga wrote the speech that is voiced at the start of the video, to make its intention clear.

"We wanted to make this very inclusive," she said. "So we tried reaching out to numerous different groups of kids, it's not just our friends. It took a long time to get everything because not a lot of people have very good videos. But I think it was done really well."

Lincoln seniors will receive their diplomas in a Drive Through Commencement this Wednesday, June 10, 2020 at a makeshift stage outside the cafeteria, marking  the end of a very unusual end school year.

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