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  • PJ Ardies

My Story pt1. How and why am I a video freak?

I love it to put images and sounds together and tweak it to create something unique. Some call me an artist, but I rather see myself as a video editing craftsman.


As a child, I was quite solitary-minded as I lived in my own fantasy world. That inner world felt too big to share. I was fascinated by movies, stories, images, sounds, ... Somehow I could (and still can) come very close to small bits of sound or image. For example I've always felt very close to the way Bono sings "crawl" in the sentence "You ask me to enter but then you make me crawl" in the U2 song "One". It's like I have a personal relationship to that little bit of sound. Later I discovered that I could attach a sort of identity to bits and pieces of sound and image and that served me very well as a video editor.

In 1983 my grandfather gave me an AppleII computer at the age of 8. If you didn't program the thing, there was nothing you could do with it, so my inner world expanded with a new entity: software! In the early nineties I started working and experimenting with creative software. DTP/Lay-out was my first gig. Some years later I discovered one of the very first versions of Premiere and I remember very well the first time I heard about Adobe After Effects in the mid nineties. After Effects version 3 was the one I use for the first time and up until today it still is the most fascinating software I've ever encountered. Not exactly the software I am most specialised in, but more ont that later.


On april 12th 1999 I was very lucky to get my first job as a video editor. I had no experience and was not properly formed (I studied journalism), but very soon it was clear that the job fitted me really well. The software I worked with was Avid Mediacomposer and I was the one who went to the bottom of that tool. Joh Claes, chief editor in the company taught me how to work with it and I didn't realise at the time how profound he did that. He didn't teach me the functions of the software, he learnt me to look, to choose and to make things happen in the most effective way without using menus and mousing all the time, but through the use of keyboard shortcuts. I designed my own set of shortcuts, nicely put in the most ergonomic position of the computer keyboard. All the other keyboards in the company were coloured and marked (picture below), but NOT mine! I didn't want to loose time watching the keyboard and I wanted to make changes to the lay-out when needed. I once counted all the shortcuts I used (I threw away anything I didn't use) and in total I had 185 shortcuts (Shift, command and ctrl combo's included) and I used all of them on a daily basis.



Why was I so obsessed about fast & efficient editing? Quite simple. If it only takes a few seconds to test an idea there is a lot more room for creativity. And that's something that came in very handy when a director was sitting by my side all the time telling me to try this or that. It often happened that I finished a task before the director ended his explanation. "Did you mean something like that?" I asked immediately after his request, pushing the play button... I loved it when they reacted with a face full of question marks, expressing their unbelief regarding the speed of execution :-)

So yeah! I definitely recommend training on shortcuts if you want to dive into real hardcore editing.


Every spare time I had on my job I used to make horror versions of the pubs I had finished, using extreme color effects, sound bits, quirky and cheesy library scores.

I understood the how and why of everything that was happening under the hood of the software, how media files should be managed and I pushed myself to get better every day. I loved it to become a pro! And yes. Hardcore editing is my specialty number one. As much as I love After Effects, editing is my number one game.

In October 2000 I quit.

I was way too ambitious. My editing proficiency was confirmed many times since I got every important job that entered the company. Besides, the quality of work that left the company was from a rather poor level. Therefore I was convinced I was only at the beginning of my development as a video editor and I aimed higher. I was about to make it for nationale TV companies!



The very first client I got as a freelance editor was the one that stayed for a long time. Studio100! The company that was growing like hell and most of all, they did fiction! Large studios with sets. There is no place in Belgium that comes closer to Hollywood then Studio100. I didn't realise at the time that I was the very first non lineair freelance video editor they hired, but it's a fact. The first time I went I was nervous and I asked myself if I had what it took to fulfil the job and I was eager to learn new techniques. It turned out that there was no reason to be nervous at all. On the contrary. The second time I went I found sticky notes everywhere with "questions for PJ" on how to do this or that. I couldn't believe it. Some weeks later I got a call from Michel, the producer of studio 100 asking me if I could do an editing job for the series "Piet Piraat". He said that I had 10 days to do it. After 3 days I was done. It saddened me. I slowed down my pace. I started wasting time. It was -as I see it now- the beginning of the downward spiral that caught me.

I tried to make my career more interesting by buying a fancy camera, by directing video clips and other TV formats, by teaching editing techniques, by producing video clips and a documentary and ultimately by spending 2 years on an experimental documentary, titled "Freedom", released in 2012. After that I produced corporate video but I didn't like it and it didn't work neither. I tried to make a living in the drone business and finally, in the spring of 2019 I crashed.

I promised myself I would never return to doing things that bore me.

I don't want to live a boring life.

I've had it.

Fire.

Walk with me.

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Watou, Belgium

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