The life of a Tokyo-based freelance video creator: An interview with Y+L collaborators Pato and DIN.
Creative evolution, brand collaborations, and weekday sleep ins
Interviewer: Yoshiko Tezuka
A Japanese-Brazilian filmmaker based in Tokyo. Since his student days, he has been working as a freelance photographer and video creator.
Through his young but impressive career, he has worked for Olympus, Vanmoof, Renault Japon, J.P.Returns, Moncler, Asian Boss, Gridge, BIRKENSTOCK, HELLY HANSEN, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, and many others as a videographer and director. He joined Y+L Projects as a production director and leads the video department.
DIN (Yuya Harada)
DIN was born in Kagoshima prefecture in 1995. Moved to Tokyo for college and studied design for four years, then worked as a graphic designer and social media marketer. Later, he discovered the world of self-expression by making what he wanted to make on YouTube, and became a video creator.
On his own YouTube channel, he delivers travel-related VLOGs and cinematic videos, as well as tutorials on video production. He specializes in color, editing, and filming methods with a foreign flavor and travels with his camera to capture the beauty of the world. He has received high praise from overseas, and last year he established his own creative team, GRAPHERS TOKYO, to deliver human-centric content and regional reconstruction videos to young people.
As internet advertising spending continues to increase and demand for high-quality content that cuts through the noise more important than ever, video creators, especially independent ones, find themselves in a unique position.
With the rise of social media attention spans, and the need for shorter and catchier, instant communication, including videos that don’t rely on language, continues to take up a larger and larger percentage of the market. As demand increases, so will the number of requests for videographers.
In this interview, we asked two young videographers with different styles, who belong to YL community, about their work as creators for YouTube, how they work as freelancers, how they collaborate with companies and recent trends.
“To get to the point where I’m thinking about video 24 hours a day, I must love it.”
Could you introduce yourselves?
Pato (left): My name is Patryckyuto Satohshimizu. My father is a Japanese-Brazilian, born in Rio de Janeiro. He came to Japan when he was 19. I was born and raised in Japan, and I don’t speak Portuguese. I am of Japanese descent, so my face is Japanese, but I have both nationalities. In Brazil, it is possible to have both nationalities.
At YL, I work as a production director, and I’m in charge of thinking about the direction of advertisements and the actual hands-on production. Depending on the project, I may take on some of the work, such as just directing, shooting, or editing, or doing some of the production work.
Recently, an acquaintance of mine has been running a video school business to train video creators, and I’ve been helping him set it up. It’s a school for athletes who want to have their own YouTube channels as a way to communicate to audiences and fans. We are creating a curriculum that will enable people to shoot and edit their own videos.
DIN (right): My name is DIN, and I am 25 years old. My real name is Yuya Harada. My nickname in junior high and high school was Harada, so my friend named me Haradin to DIN. I liked it so much that I use it as my creator name as well. I used to be a graphic designer, but I quit and have been freelancing as a video designer for two years. I originally majored in design engineering at university, and that’s how I got into video.
I met Yoichiro of YL through Pato, who invited me to join him in a project. Currently, I’m mainly working on video production projects for clients, and depending on the project, I go to various places to create content. My own YouTube channel is mainly for travel-related video production and how-to videos.
“Individually, we produce pretty much anything, including documentaries, music videos, and interviews”
How did your careers as videographers begin?
Pato: The first time I bought a camera was for a friend’s wedding when I was 19 or 20. I didn’t have any money saved up, but I bought a ¥150,000 camera, shot and edited it, and gave it to them, and they were very happy, which at the time was the only goal. After that, a friend of mine bought a GoPro and we started shooting together when we went on trips, which led to a video job with a travel agency company that I knew.
DIN: I was a designer at first, but I got tired of it. At that time, I didn’t really feel comfortable creating what the client requested. Of course, it was fun, but even if I proposed something, a lot of it would be rejected, and feedback was repetitive.
I had a strong desire to be an artist and create what I wanted to create. I started watching videos by international creators on YouTube and realized that I could make money and a living with this platform, so I started making videos.
I don’t do design anymore, and I’m enjoying video more. My hobby has become video, and even when I travel, I do it for the sake of making video. Recently, I’ve been making cinematic movies as a form of self-expression, such as the ones I made during the lockdown.
Two types of videographers, one is a director, and the other an artist
Pato: Basically, I like to shoot and create with people in mind. I like to have people move and talk, and I like things that are real. DIN draws up his own story, decides on the direction, and creates a creative style to present to the client.
I try to avoid answering “yes” to everything the client wants to do. If I answered everything, the outcome wouldn’t be ideal, so I listen to what they want to do once and try to make a proposal that incorporates half of what they want and my own opinions.
We want to maintain the quality of our own creativity while creating something better that satisfies both parties.
With so many people creating content these days, it must be quite challenging to establish a unique style. What do you think your originality is?
Pato: I think there are two kinds of originality. There are people like DIN who are artists who want to shoot this with this kind of direction, and there are people like me who are creative directors who want to solve problems that companies have.
I believe that video is one of the tools to solve problems. If a brand or company has a problem and wants to solve it, or on the other hand, if someone doesn’t know what the problem is, the first thing I do is to think about the axis of the problem. Then I decide what to create by thinking about what kind of direction and talent would fit the project.
[Video credit: Pato’s work with MUKOOMI/ YL]
How do you maintain a balance between self-expression and the client’s needs?
DIN: I first determine the purpose of the video so that the axis of what I want to convey in the video does not blur. After that, I pay the most attention to visual expressions, like editing techniques and color grading. Since I am working for a client, I always want to challenge myself to create something that challenges me.
Pato: When I work as a director and with artist-type people, I first discover a few people who might fit the brand’s worldview. After considering whether they fit the world view that the client is aiming for, I introduce them to the client, and the artist is allowed to create whatever they want. The number of clients who are OK with that is increasing these days, and trust is important.
That’s helpful — it’s all about respect and trust in what and who you make.
Getting started, spirit and curiosity
Both of you started making videos as students or as a hobby and then turned it into a career. How did you first learn how to edit and learn the techniques?
Pato: I started out completely on YouTube. The first app I used was iMovie, but I learned how to use it and cut and join and insert songs one by one.
DIN: I search around to find out how foreign video creators are doing what they are doing. I do a lot of searching to find out how they do it, and then I try to interpret it in my way.
It doesn’t sound like you need to go to school to become a videographer. What do you think are the skills needed?
Pato: It’s a world where you don’t know what you’re doing until you do it, so I guess it’s the spirit of trial, error, and curiosity. If you have the skills to do everything on your own and have a good grasp of shooting, editing, directing, lighting, etc., you can suit a wide range of work as a freelance videographer.
Also, in my case, even though I’m a videographer, I also worked as a producer, so I learned that working at creative agencies like YL.
DIN: That’s what I’ve been doing, so I have no choice but to just try it. The other thing is whether or not you have something you want to make. I developed my own style because I was sending out a lot of different things, and then I realized that there were people who liked my work.
I’m good at color grading (color in images), so that’s the style I value and composition and storytelling.
What was your first job as a freelancer like?
Pato: I went to Cebu Island to shoot a video for a travel agency that wanted me to make a video to introduce their overseas Japanese guided tour packages using video instead of text or photos. It was my first job, and I made three 30-second videos.
DIN: I was working as a contractor for a video production company, so my first job was shooting without editing. The first job I did was to shoot a promotional video for my favorite beauty salon.
A freelance video creator’s flow from before accepting a job to delivery
How did you get involved with Y+L Projects?
Pato: I was working for a company that created a service like Uber Eats, where you can book a freelance photographer whenever you need. I was the main photographer, and I was also involved in planning and sales.
Yoichiro came in as the marketing director there. We shot some promotional videos for that service and planned and shot a video production for OLYMPUS. We filmed in Thailand and collaborated with two creators from New York.
We’ve been to Thailand and Bali, and we’ve also shot VanMoof, MUKOOMI, and Youtuber Hikaru’s “ReJeanne” project together. Last summer, Yoichiro and I had planned to go to New York and visit the local creators. We had even arranged tickets for the trip, but it ended up like this (COVID). We’ll try again next year.
DIN: I was introduced to this company by Pato. We worked together to create content for a Real Estate technology company in Osaka. I’ve been working with them regularly, producing videos for their youtube channel, and now I’m working with them on a luxury brand project. The first time I met Pato was when we went to Hakuba, Nagano, for a photoshoot. The rest of the time I was working at the cafe of the Trunk Hotel, and we used to meet up.
Yoichiro and Lucy were there too, but I guess Trunk Hotel is where freelancers meet! (laughs)
DIN: Before Corona, it seemed like if you went there, someone would be there (laughs).
Pato + DIN: Usually, when a project comes to me, the process looks like this:
Find out what the client wants to create. Is it advertising, branding, etc.? We will figure out the budget and what we can do.
If the client doesn’t have a specific idea of what they want to create, we start from scratch. In a proposal, we explain the concept in the form of a story. Once we get the OK, we make a cut list from the reference videos and photos and build the flow.
After one or two meetings in the planning stage, we decide on a schedule and start shooting.
4. Editing and delivery
After filming, we edit the film with a few feedback sessions with the client. If we want to add animation, for example, we may outsource it to a third party. We work flexibly.
Creative that fits the format and audience, and trends in the video industry
Are there any current trends that the two of you sense in your client work?
Pato: There are many different formats, so I feel the need to tailor my work to fit the desired formats. For example, when it comes to digital signage, Instagram, and TikTok, it is important to have something that is easily noticeable in the first three to five seconds. Recently, many TV commercials are shot in a way that is more in line with YouTube.
I think people are looking for something that conveys a sense of realism and rawness, as if it were taken with an iPhone rather than with a good camera and environment. I want people to feel closer to the service, so I include a lot of selfies.
DIN: Long videos tend to be difficult to watch on social networking sites, so I tend to fit the important parts into the first six seconds. The first few seconds of a video can determine whether the viewer will watch it to the end, so I try to edit it in a way that grabs the viewer’s attention.
Pato: If I had to pick a difference between the way Japanese and foreign videos are made, I would say that in Japanese videos, there are typically 100 pieces of information people want to convey, and you have to explain them all. Overseas, the image is that you have to leave a lot of space and cut down as much as possible.
With so much content out there, it’s getting harder and harder to capture everyone’s interest and patience to keep watching, so how do you develop a directorial perspective?
Pato: The only way is to watch a lot of other work. I have to watch a lot of stuff from overseas and try to do something that hasn’t come to Japan yet. Trends are constantly changing, so I think it’s important to keep your antennae up.
DIN: Of course, there are trends on YouTube as well, and international creators are leading the way, but in the case of the travel videos I make, the emphasis used to be on visuals and transitions between images, but that’s becoming the norm.
The mainstream is to add the creator’s thoughts and documentary-like storytelling. If you have a subject, you can ask them to do a little acting or add a narration. In my own videos, I sometimes appear myself.
You’ve been actively posting video production tutorials on your channel. For the viewer, it’s very informative, but for the person doing it, how do you benefit from giving away your skills?
DIN: I used to think that if I uploaded tutorials to YouTube, they’d be viewed, but lately, I haven’t been doing it. On the other hand, I would like to use the techniques I’ve accumulated and turn them into a school in the future.
You were making a lot of travel content, but now that Corona has made it hard for you to reach the places you want to go, what are you shooting?
DIN: Right now, I’m shooting a lot of Japan. I’ve decided this year that I’m going to try to send out pictures of beautiful places in Japan that are not as well known. Discovering new places is one of the themes I have in mind.
The sacred treasures of videography, a nomadic way of working, freedom and creativity
What’s in your bag?
DIN: A camera, a stabilizer to compensate for camera shake since I work with cameras that move around, and a drone to capture dynamic images that cannot be seen from a human perspective.
Travel videos are, of course, beautiful when you see the raw scene with your own eyes, but when you use a variety of equipment, you can see it from a completely different perspective, which makes it more fun.
Pato: I can’t go on shooting without my iPhone. iPhone, camera, and the 24–70G master lens are basically all I need. But now I want a cinema camera.
DIN: The pictures you can take are totally different. I want a digital cinema camera, a compact camera. I want to be able to do different color grading and expand my range of expression.
The applications that are indispensable for work are mostly Google applications. Maps, calendar, etc. I put a lot of pins on maps and use them for location scouting.
Pato: I also pin places that creators have been to on Instagram, so I pin places I want to shoot and places I’ve shot.
What does a day in your life look like?
DIN: On weekdays, I wake up around 10 am, get ready, and go to the nearby Komeda Coffee to work. When I have meetings or shoots in Tokyo, I usually work until 7 or 8 o’clock. After I get home, I watch Netflix and learn editing techniques by watching trailers and other videos.
Pato: I usually wake up at 8 am and eat breakfast. I can do all my work at home, so I have all my electrical outlets on my bed. I can do all my work in bed, so I play Netflix next to me and set up my cushions perfectly, which is my working style.
The barriers of turning what you love into a career and did you overcome them?
Pato: It was tough at first because I was stumped when I had to change from hobby-based work to client work due to a lack of knowledge. I had to ask senior videographers about what they do and how much it costs.
DIN: In my case, I think that to get clients to follow your expression, you need to be dynamic, and the work you produce each time needs to be better than the last.
Pato: I’d like to try anything interesting, so I’d like to try many things without being limited to video. I’d like to make good work on a large scale that I’ve never done before, involving many different people.
DIN: My works are becoming more and more like films, so I have a desire to create pieces that are more like films. I’m also interested in projection mapping and making the whole space my worldview.
A note from the writer (Yoshiko)
Even though they are many creators, so many different things are required of a videographer, from commercial expertise to creative. They’re both very different but can adapt. Both of them keep researching and absorbing what is required of them to keep up with the trends and algorithms that change every month.
In this age of creating new things by breaking down the barriers between art and commercial, digital and analog, there are many things that can be learned without going to school. It will be interesting to see what freelance creators will create with the careers they have cultivated themselves, and what kind of collaborations will be born.
(Writing by Yoshiko Tezuka, editing by Motota Sawabe, Photography by Matt Vachon, and translation by Lucy Dayman).