Yay, I am finally able to show you the absolute final version of the TLW-video!
In case you didn’t know: TLW stands for The Longest Way, a project which saw me attempt to walk home from Beijing to Germany in 2007/08.
I didn’t make it.
I did, however, walk for a year, during which I let my hair and my beard grow. When I got home in the winter of 2008, I had thousands of photos on my hard drive.
The plan was to make a video showing the transformation I had gone through during the walk. I had developed this idea before I even started walking, when I saw videos like Noah Kalina’s “Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.” or Matt Harding’s “Where the Hell is Matt? 2006”.
I called my video “The Longest Way 1.0”. In the early days of the walk I would only take one picture a day, but later, when I cut the first previews of the video, I figured that it would be more fun to shoot in burst mode and and show some action going on in the background.
In the end, I chose more than 1.400 pictures and a few short video clips. How did I make sure my eyes were in the same position in every shot? I didn’t. I simply aligned every single shot in a photo editor. Every. Single. Shot.
It took me four months to get the video done. At one disheartening point I realized that I hadn’t prepared my photos for the new HD-standard, so I redid the whole thing. Every. Single. Shot.
I almost went mad.
Once the video was getting there, I chose two songs that I figured would go well with the story.
One is the Chinese song “Olive”, performed by singer Zhu Fengbo. The lyrics were written by tragic Chinese traveler-poetess Sanmao, and they have a longing sadness to them. Here’s a fun detail though: young Chinese audiences are generally put off by my choice of this song, because they like the Taiwanese original (performed by Qi Yu) better.
The second song is “L’Aventurier”, a cover version of an Indochine classic. This one is performed by The Kingpins from Canada. I chose this song because I love its energy and its lyrics. They are about Bob Morane, star of a series of children’s adventure books. He is ridiculously brave.
Almost as brave as my friend Teacher Xie, whom I dedicated the video to. When I showed it to him he burst out laughing.
“Why would you use a black and white photograph like that one?” he asked: “I am not dead yet!”
I put the video online in March 2009, and it went viral shortly after. One morning, I woke up to a crashed website, hundreds of emails and thousands of Facebook friend requests. The reason for this was that the friendly people at MSN.COM had put my video on their main page. They had, however, not linked to the video itself, but downloaded it onto one of their own servers. I wrote them an email inquiring about this matter. I am still waiting for an answer.
As of now, “The Longest Way 1.0” has gathered about 10 million views on YouTube and on Vimeo each. It has been a part of the EOFT and got awards at a number of outdoor film festivals like Boulder (2009), Banff (2010) and Vertical (2011). TIME.COM put it on their list of “Top 10 Viral Videos of 2009”. And I keep getting feedback by people who feel inspired by it in some way.
So I guess it was worth it, editing all those pictures.
Every. Single. Shot.