Challenging Seconds

Posted by on Dec 7, 2011

It’s been a while since we talked about photography or video work. Let’s fix that.

Tonight I submitted four entries for the MontBlanc one second video contest. I’d recommend you do the same.

But, that’s not the challenge. It can be if you need it to be, but I have a derivative that I’m going to try, and I’ll invite you to do the same. This idea is a direct inspiration from what’s happening on the MontBlanc site, so I’d recommend you take a little time to go check out the cool stuff being posted there.

I’ve talked about living in the seconds before. It’s something I still think a lot about. The MontBlanc contest reminded me that we can do a lot with a second. Yet, often we try to work in minutes, if not hours, if not days. But it’s the individual second that comprises each of those. And too often in video work, we try to use too many consecutive seconds to tell a story that suffers because of it. Watch this to see just how effective a string of one second clips can be.

So, here’s the challenge

  • Make a video.
  • The video must be from 30 to 60 seconds long. Anywhere in between, but not outside of either threshold.
  • The video must be composed of one second clips. The clips can be either photos or video. But each clip must be exactly 1 second.
  • Make the video tell a story.
  • Post a link to your work somewhere. Preferably in the comments below so we can all enjoy, but anywhere where others can enjoy it is really the important part.

That’s it.

Go. Be creative. Make something you’re proud of.


  1. David Pohlmeier
    December 7, 2011

    What kind of prize do we get for winning?

    • Ben Grey
      December 8, 2011

      David- If you win, you get to redesign my blog. Again.

  2. Michael Wacker
    December 8, 2011

    That was kinda fun! I am no photo/video maven as yourself Mr. Grey, but I like editing and watching my kiddos in clips. I made this initially without sound, but I put it back in, because it captures Drew and his personality. I’m sure it breaks some rules of the contest (I like breaking stuff) but I dig it and already linked it on our site. Look forward to seeing what you’ve put together.

  3. Ben Grey
    December 8, 2011

    Michael- Awesome.

    I agree with you entirely about the sound. I’ve played around with a couple concepts, and I’ve found that, depending on the content, keeping the sound in adds a very important layer to the video. It’s very much what Joe Lambert of the Center for Digital Storytelling means when he talks about the economy of the piece. How do all of the elements work together to help tell the story. I’d be very curious to see what happens to your piece if you add a soundtrack as a layer in the background. I think keeping the audio of each clip was absolutely the right choice in your video.

    What I love about this project is watching how people choose the edit points in the clips. And, of course, which clips are selected. I really enjoyed watching your video, and seeing each second you chose work together to tell the overall story of the clip was powerful.

    And, since this is a challenge, not a contest, the rules are probably meant to be broken to some degree. The important part is that you were purposeful when you broke them.

    Thanks for playing and sharing. You made a great piece.

  4. Jodi
    December 9, 2011

    Here’s my submission! First attempt…thought it came out pretty good. Made me focus on the little things i have seen a million times!

    Thanks, that was fun!

  5. greg huguley
    December 9, 2011

    Can I submit mine on 8mm?

    powerful video Ben. i have to constantly remind myself to cherish those seconds, as they pass so quickly. Beautiful!

  6. Ben Grey
    December 9, 2011

    Jodi- Thanks for participating. I’m glad you enjoyed it. One of the things I really like about the exercise is how it makes you think about each second and how significant it is even though we often take them for granted.

    Greg- I think you meant microfiche. Thanks for the comment. I expect to see your video in church on Sunday.

  7. Ben Grey
    December 9, 2011

    Here’s my entry for the challenge. I wrote a bit about it in the video description on Vimeo, so I won’t rehash it here.

    I will say this was probably the most enjoyable video project I’ve yet made.

    I hope you enjoy it.

  8. Eric Moccio
    December 10, 2011

    Thank you for this challenge – you got me thinking and inspired.

    Here is my first product of many to come!

  9. Beauty in a Second | Ideas and Thoughts
    December 13, 2011

    […] Ben Grey, who despite his poor taste in music and clothes, has a great eye for composition and design. He introduced me to the one second video contest and challenged anyone to create their own version. The way in which we play with media is fascinating. Taking stills and making them move, mashing up content, playing with new formats are emerging storytelling ideas that enable us to share our world in rich and powerful ways.  […]

  10. Ben Grey
    December 16, 2011

    Eric- Thanks for posting your video. Some really cool shots in there. The music works very well for the feel fo the piece, and the sequence right around the shot of your son on the ice is very cool. It’s neat, as someone who doesn’t know you, to have the chance to peer into your family’s life over the course of one year in such a focused, powerful way. Hope to keep seeing more of your work.

    Dean- I really like the composition in many of your shots. The perspective of items close up on the counter, or down on the floor makes each shot highly interesting even though we only get to have one second to process the image. I think that’s part of what makes this an interesting exercise. You only get such a brief instant to tell your story in each shot that every aspect of it from subject to lighting to composition is critical. I especially liked your closing with turning off the light. Really good stuff.

  11. Wesley Fryer
    December 21, 2011

    Spectacular work, Ben. Thanks for throwing down the glove, I’ll get to work on it tomorrow. 🙂

  12. Our 2011 Family Christmas Card
    December 29, 2011

    […] == "undefined"){ addthis_share = [];}Inspired by Ben Grey‘s December 7th post, “Challenging Seconds,” I’ve opted for a sixty second video this year in lieu of a family Christmas Card. […]

  13. Nicole Gamble
    January 1, 2012

    Super video! Great kid!

  14. Holly Dysart
    January 4, 2012

    Wesley Fryer’s post about this challenge inspired me to send a video as our New Year card to family and friends. I couldn’t pare it down to only 60 images/video clips so my original video tells the story of our year as a family in three and a half minutes. 🙂 Here is a link for a 60 in 60 version of that video:

    (“Happy Xmas” cover by Cursed Arrows)

  15. Seconds, A Look Back at 2011 | My Hullaballoo
    June 24, 2012

    […] video post by @bengrey where he used one second video clips to create a video story. (check it out here) Then I saw @shareski’s post using the same concept (here). The thought of a one second clip […]


Leave a Reply