Music major tests his video skills in Adobe Creative Jam


If you had 24 hours to make a video, what would you do?

Music major Thomas Levine had to come up with his answer fast when he signed up for the Adobe and Disney Creative Jam. The event opened in a straightforward fashion: via live-stream, Disney representatives explained the history of the company and the Disney Channel, and why video creation has become an important part of their business. Then they delivered a succinct prompt to students—highlight diversity in their school or local community in the span of a minute-long Tik Tok-style video.

How do you optimize your time with a 24-hour deadline? Levine says he spend most of those hours brainstorming and strategizing.

Adobe and Disney emphasized “planning everything out before,” he says. “Planning your shots, planning your locations. That was really the first time I had even gone through a process like that. It was a large learning curve.”

Levine had applied to the Adobe and Disney Creative Jam to sharpen his skills as a multi-talented artist. While pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in Music degree, he’s also taken courses at the Center for the Creative Economy, and enrolled in the Capital CoLab Digital Technology Credential program at the VCU College of Engineering, where he took a coding and programming course. Levine was next looking to apply to a research grant for international travel, and sought to submit a video with his application. The Creative Jam seemed like a great way to prepare.

However, Levine was on his own for this—his project partner had unexpectedly taken a trip to Roanoke and was unavailable. He was up against two other teams from VCUarts, so he had to learn how to produce his video solo.

He soon settled on a concept that involved filming as he rode his bike from Carytown to VCU campus and into Downtown Richmond, to show how the city morphs and changes block-to-block.

“I’m a huge fan of cities, and every way that a city exists,” says Levine. “The architecture, the different people, the art. Cary Street is an example of how the city and the campus interact with each other.”

For inspiration, he looked to Casey Neistat, a YouTube vlogger whose lifestyle and travel videos often feature him running or exploring his surroundings. Neistat uses some clever camera tricks to get stable selfie shots of him moving around, so Levine thought he would give that a try.

Having a single day presented unique challenges for someone filming outside. Levine had a limited time to get well-lit footage, and he was stuck with whatever weather would occur. Traffic was also an issue, too, and something he couldn’t wait out.

It left him with just four hours to edit, which means he had to make some compromises in post-production. He added a voice over to unify his shots and underscore his message about Richmond’s unique character. Thankfully, Adobe had provided tutorials on how to use their Premiere Pro editing software, as well as how to transfer files between participants’ phones and computers.

While he didn’t win, he’s very glad that took part in the creative challenge.

“Putting myself in a new situation is something that’s kind of been the theme of college, for me,” says Levine. “When I find myself in a new situation like that, I have to stretch my brain and my skills in a new way.”

Levine has been drawn to new experiences like this since he first began playing the saxophone in sixth grade. He fell in love with that instrument, and jazz in general, through that music elective. Now, he hopes to bring his varied skillset together to share his appreciation for music with a wider community through YouTube, as a content creator producing videos that explain music theory and performance.

“I’m trying to find new ways to rebrand what it means to have a music degree,” says Levine. “I don’t want to be isolated. That’s what the professors say, too: the reason you’re here is to be acquainted with people from different backgrounds and to have a more holistic view of everything.”