One second a day: Documenting your life with video

One second a day: Documenting your life with video

  • photo of bubbles blowing in girls face by Francesca Russell

I am a self-professed project-a-holic.

I have completed five 365 day photo projects (two of all self-portraits!) and I am in the midst of my sixth year of taking a photograph every day.

I love the final product of having a complete record of a whole year. Looking back over all the happenings, big and small, through that span of time is such a treasure.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided that I wanted to take a leap and, in addition to my one-photo-a-day project, complete a one-second-a-day video project. That’s right, one second of video everyday for a year.

I have been intrigued by one-second-a-day projects for a couple of years now. I started delving into DSLR video in 2012, and at that time I discovered this amazing one-second project from 2012. The idea stayed in my head, and I decided that 2016 was the year. I started filming at least one second of video a day on January 1st and I am still going strong.

At the beginning of 2016, I decided that I wanted to take a leap and, in addition to my one-photo-a-day project, complete a one-second-a-day video project.

There is a 1 Second Everyday app that you can get for your mobile phone, which makes this sort of project a snap. But, I decided that I wanted to use DSLR footage, so in order to stay on top of the editing process throughout the year, I made a plan to put my clips together a month at a time, making twelve mini films. At the end of the year, I will put the twelve mini films together into one epic film of footage from every single day of 2016.

I started my plan in January, and I could not be more thrilled with the results. At the end of every month, I am so excited to put my clips together. Seeing the story of the past thirty days in thirty seconds is just magic.

And the truly awesome part about this project: IT IS SO EASY. I encourage all of you to switch your DSLRs to video mode and join in!

Here are the steps to making your own one-second-a-day film.

1. Shoot some video

I have a reminder in my planner to shoot one second everyday. Don’t overthink this part. The awesome thing about one second of video is that IT IS OVER IN ONE SECOND. So if you have some lame clips, don’t sweat it. They zoom by. Don’t forget to include little mundane details, like pouring your much-needed morning coffee, or tying your three year old’s shoe – all those little details will mean so much to you years from now when you are watching this video. I also like to include seasonal footage, like rain or snow or Christmas lights or autumn leaves falling. These clips really help to convey the passage of time throughout the film.

2. Organize your clips

I make a collection in Lightroom every month for all of my video clips taken throughout that month. Then I go through all the clips at the end of the month, pick my favorite clip from each day, and drag them into their own “One Second – <month>” collection.

3. Color grade the footage

This is totally optional, but did you know you can process your video clips in a similar manner to your photos in Lightroom? You use the Library module, and although you don’t have quite as much control as you do with editing photos, you can do quite a bit! I created my own tone curve preset and use that on all my clips for my one-second project. With color grading video, I really believe that less is more, so go easy and get your footage as right as possible in camera. You don’t have as much leeway, especially with exposure, as you do with photographs. If you have to adjust your clip too much it starts to really de-grade the quality of the footage. Here is a good tutorial about using Lightroom to color grade.

4. Pick a song

I found a song I loved at the beginning of the year that was six-and-a-half minutes long – long enough for my 366 seconds of video, plus a title and credits. If you plan on sharing your video via social media, you must license your music. There are many music-licensing sites out there; my favorites are Music Bed, Triple Scoop Music, and SongFreedom. For personal films, I love the Vimeo music store, where you can license songs for personal use for $1.99.

5. Put the footage together in your video editor

I use Final Cut Pro (FCPX), but you could easily do this in iMovie or another video editor. I import my folder of color graded clips to FCPX, pick which one second of each clip I want to use, drag the clips into the project timeline, add the music and titles, and I’m done for the month! I am usually a stickler for editing to the beat of the music, but since this is a strictly “one second” project, I ignore the music beats. It’s kind of freeing!

Once I completed my January film, I made things even easier for myself the next month. I duplicated my January film, deleting the clips, but leaving the titles and credits, dropped in my February clips, changed the title card to “February,” and moved the audio track so that the February film started where the January film ended. DONE.

6. Make a master project file

After I completed January’s film, I made another duplication of that project and labeled it “Master – 2016”. When the February film was completed, I copied and pasted all the clips from the February film timeline into the master film timeline after the January clips. I do the same thing every month. This means that at present my year-long film is already over halfway complete! No editing madness at the end of the year!

7. Share!

Upload the film to Vimeo, share on Facebook AND Instagram (how cool is it that you can now share up to 60 seconds on IG???) and shout from the rooftops to all your friends about how AWESOME this project is!

The monthly process, from organizing clips to color grading them to putting them together, takes me an hour and a half TOPS. I’m telling you, this project is SO EASY.

Along with being easy, it is, in all seriousness, my favorite personal project ever. I get teary every month seeing the life of my family captured on video. I am so looking forward to the year-end complete, epic film of our 2016.

I may film one second a day forever.

About the Author:

Francesca Russell is a photographer, filmmaker, stage manager, and mama, who resides just outside New York City on Long Island with her family. Francesca has been a Broadway stage manager for twenty years but is currently taking a break to raise her children and focus on her family documentary photography business, which launched last year. She specializes in storytelling sessions and family films. Visit Francesca Russell online.


  1. Jamie Bates August 12, 2016 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Francesca, this is tremendously inspiring! Please propose this as a breakout! I would love to really learn more about this process from shooting and collating and editing and organizing and producing the final film. I’ve got the jist here but I really would like to learn more to feel confidant and do it. I would love to make this my 2017 project. And congratulations on producing such compelling work with this one second project!

  2. Carrie Yuan August 12, 2016 at 5:12 pm - Reply

    You. are. awesome. Thanks for inspiring & encouraging me to jump in myself. I am really loving doing this project myself.

  3. Adriana Meixner August 12, 2016 at 6:04 pm - Reply

    I agree with Jamie, this project could easily be a breakout. You’v certainly touched on the highlights in this article but I bet a lot of us would benefit from a detailed breakout! Thanks for sharing, this is a wonderful project!

  4. Schoneck August 14, 2016 at 9:12 pm - Reply

    Really beautiful shots and great article Francesca!

  5. Anastasia Ryzhikova August 15, 2016 at 3:51 am - Reply

    Wow, thank’s for inspiring me!

  6. Leanne August 19, 2016 at 6:39 pm - Reply

    This is truly amazing Fransesca! I felt so emotional watching. I was inspired in our storymaking class by the time capsules you were creating and this is such a fabulous idea too. Thanks so much for sharing and inspiring me. I have a project brewing in my head for the school year ahead!

  7. Erin Oxnam August 21, 2016 at 8:17 am - Reply

    Absolutely love this post and your videos are so beautiful! I think I’m going to switch to this technique next year as this year I’ve just been using my iPhone and didn’t start the video until February 1st! I love the simplicity of your video so much. 🙂

  8. Melissa Stottmann August 24, 2016 at 9:08 pm - Reply

    FRANCESCA!!! I’m so inspired. I need to start this yesterday. I adore this project so much. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Christie January 4, 2017 at 7:40 am - Reply

    This is kust really beautiful. I love it.

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