With her Youtube channel at now over 120 thousand subs, Tina Tran found recent viral success with her “Stranger Things Audition Tape Parts 1 & 2”. Using a green screen and editing herself in to the background of the latest season, she creates a perfect mix of Uncanny Valley meets peak Fan-Girling. FinalBoss reached out to the Upside-Down (in this case Toronto) and asked Tina for an interview.
FinalBoss: Hi Tina. How about you describe to us what you do online.
Tina Tran: Hi FinalBoss! I create online videos on YouTube. I have been working on and in these online videos since 2012. The content that I have posted, and post now, is always evolving. Although the type of content I post will always be changing, the purpose and motive behind them never did. I started making YouTube videos because I wanted to creatively display myself on the internet. This also gives me the opportunity to reach out to people who can relate to my content, people who want to expose themselves to different things through my content, and also people who can teach me new things and provide feedback.
Overall, my channel is quite personal. It showcases glimpses in my life but is displayed in a fun and entertaining way.
FB: How would you describe your YouTube channel on the whole?
TT: Out of the 15 categories that you can choose to identify your videos, my go-to is the “Entertainment” category. My channel basically contains videos based on my experiences and interest but in a more satirical and exaggerated method. Viewers may see events that are going on in my life or small skits based on my interests. For example, I posted a video that showed my journey where I was in a temporary unusual living situation because of random power outages in a span of a week. I also post skits where I green screen myself into pop culture products that I like, such as Stranger Things. Overall, my channel is quite personal. It showcases glimpses in my life but is displayed in a fun and entertaining way.
FB: How did you first discover Stranger Things?
TT: I actually first heard of Stranger Things around the time it had aired, especially since it was talked about in social media all the time. Everyone on Twitter was raving about the kids on the show and it made me think that the show was like a family sitcom. Because of this, I never really got around to watching it (I’m sorry).
Often on YouTube, I watch movies’ and TV shows’ cast interviews. When I watched the Stranger Things cast’s interviews at Comic-Con and their press tours for Season 2, I really found myself loving the cast members. I would also see fan video edits of the show on Instagram and I was basically like, “Oh, this isn’t like a new Nickelodeon/Disney style show”. When I finally watched the show, all the originality, genius, and creativity I saw made me regret not watching it sooner but I did enjoy the two-season binge I had.
FB: How long does it take to make one of these videos? What’s your overall set up?
TT: It really depends on what the video is. Generally, making casual sit-down videos will take me no more than 2 hours to film and edit it. With the green screen videos, filming them would take around 2 hours but the planning and editing process goes on throughout the week. With the two Stranger Things Audition videos specifically, before filming them I would create a list of the scenes I’d want to do and then create a playlist of them on YouTube. I play these videos on my TV during filming, so I know what to act out. For the most part I’m improvising since I’m just imitating an extra or an unimportant character of the show. There aren’t any lines to prepare or anything like that. However, for each scene I do around 5 takes which I look through after in “post-production”. The editing process takes much longer because it’s all about placing myself in the right place in each frame.
So, for example, if the camera was zooming in on the actual actors, I would have to enlarge myself at the same pace. In the Billy Sauna Test scene in my Part 2 of the “Auditions”, the lights would flicker, and I had to edit the exposure on myself to match the timing of the flicker. The biggest pain for me to edit, which takes the most time, is masking the moving actors when I’m supposed to be behind them. It’s just very tedious moving all the control points for each frame especially when the actor is so expressive with their hand gestures and movements.
However, I do recognise that there is so much more for me to learn and try when editing videos like this. I use Final Cut Pro to edit my videos, but I would like to try experimenting with the editing software Adobe After Effects a bit more. I’d also like to play around with colour correction to make the videos look more realistic, like I’m actually in the show. Although, I’m afraid that it will take away the meme aspect of it all because I want people to know that the video is supposed to be a joke of me just editing myself into my favourite shows and movies.
The overall set up for filming is pretty basic and affordable for people who want to start YouTube. I film with a Canon T5i which, personally I think, doesn’t have the best auto-focus. So, when I am filming, I connect it to my laptop which allows the screen finder to be enlarged on the EOS Utility software. This is especially helpful for me when I’m doing full-body shots since my bad vision can’t see the tiny camera screen finder. I also have a remote control for my camera, so I don’t always have to go up to my camera to press record. My green screen and backdrop are from Amazon. No more than $80. I also have a ring light while filming through the day to decrease shadows on the green screen. These videos are all done in my home.
FB: What made you start in the first place? What made you decide that you were going to crudely paste yourself into scenes?
TT: I first played around with chroma keyer, the effect that takes away my green screen, when I used to make fan video edits on Vine. For example, I would take the background out of an Ariana Grande interview and layer that clip on top of a “cutesie” background or something like that. I have also been into Pewdiepie for more than four years at that time and was super impressed when there was no background behind him in his gaming videos because of the green screen action. He also would release green screen footage for his fans to edit him on and as whatever. So, in 2018, I got myself a green screen to edit myself into music videos as I would always see in memes on Instagram or Twitter. The first video I made with it was editing myself in front the whole No Tears Left to Cry music video by Ariana Grande. My friends would tell me how the video was funny, and I planned to do more videos like that. Subconsciously, I feel like the idea of green screening myself into shows and movies came from Ellen Degeneres where she would put herself in movies and make it seem like she’s playing a major or supporting role. However, instead of that, I wanted to pretend to be an extra of the show or that one person that just doesn’t talk or doesn’t even get acknowledged at all but they’re just… there. Even though the videos are meant to be a joke and the whole “Strange Things Audition” thing is supposed to be a clickbait method (especially with the thumbnail), deep down I know that I have always wanted to be an extra of my favourite shows and movies to experience the set life and express my “fangirl” side. Although, if we were to talk more seriously about it, despite the satirical humour, I have always wanted to be an actor from a really young age. However, I have grown up quite a bit, so it would be harder to get into the industry and more expensive to take acting classes or fly out to auditions. So, nothing screams “cheap ways to act” more than editing yourself into already made and released TV shows and movies and uploading the footage to YouTube.
I wanted to pretend to be an extra of the show or that one person that just doesn’t talk or doesn’t even get acknowledged at all but they’re just… there.
FB: Although you don’t really say anything in your Stranger Things videos, your reacting is top-notch. Did you study acting, or is this something that the power of memes has made you fall in to?
TT: For the most part I genuinely feel like the facial expressions I make in these videos are expressions that I make regularly. I reacted to what’s happening in the scene as how I would if the situation happened in real life but with some exaggeration depending on the scene. As I said before, I film multiple takes for each scene. So, I test out different reactions in different takes or try to recreate the same reaction in each take to later choose the best one when editing. And yes, memes probably do have a huge influence on this. I studied acting in high school by taking drama classes for three years. Just the basic stuff, but I do hope that I would professionally study acting or theatre in the future.
FB: What did you think of the latest season?
FB: Lastly, when you get your inevitable bit-part in Stranger Things Series 4 will you promise to give FinalBoss an exclusive?