Video Production

Restoring and Repairing: An Interview With Baumgartner Restoration

We talk with Julian of Baumgartner Restoration, a popular YouTube Channel that uses the ERA Bundle to deliver top content to an audience of millions!

In the last few years, the Baumgartner Restoration YouTube Channel has exploded in popularity. With over 1.5 million subscribers and more than 100 million views, the channel has found viewers from all corners of the internet. Today, we’re chatting with Julian Baumgartner, the man behind the channel! Julian uses accusonus ERA Plugins to help create his awesome content, so we thought we’d have a chat about his creative process. 

Art enjoyers, ASMR fans, /r/OddlySatisfying redditors - join them by checking out this short video for a good introduction to Julian and his work at Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration: 

Read on for the interview! 

Let’s start with a small question! Coming from an existing business, what prompted you to begin the Channel in the first place? 

Julian - Small question, big answer! I first started with Instagram, mostly as a way to find other people to connect with, given that I work alone. Instagram, while interesting, was really limiting and I couldn't tell the longer stories that these paintings and processes deserved. So, I started experimenting with YouTube. 

One thing led to another, a short video led to a longer video, a narrated video lead to a series of videos… Now, I guess I run a second business in the form of a YouTube creator!

So when you began, your videos were a mixture of diegetic sound and background music. How was that transition to adding narration? Did you encounter any problems with the change? 

Julian - I was really hesitant about adding narration to the videos. I thought it would take away from the atmospheric and ethereal quality of some of the early films. That being said, my audience was really hungry to know more about what I was doing, and why. 

Simply presenting them with an emotional visual journey wasn't enough. That’s why I began narrating the videos, mostly just as a way of explaining the process, step-by-step. As I've gotten more comfortable narrating, I’ve started to tell different types of stories; about the work, about the painting, about the owners, about the history, and so on. The viewers have enjoyed it, prompting me to do more. So, I continue to try to expand the narration.  

What has restoring art taught you about creating social media content? 

Julian - Patience. If ever there was a virtue that I learned from art conservation that is directly applicable to video work, it’s patience. There’s often a desire to finish things right away or to rush through them. Understanding that the creative process takes a lot of time and can't be rushed or forced is critical to giving the final product space to breathe. 

Do you treat the editing process in a similar way to your restorative process? 

Julian - My videos are less documentary and more narrative; I have a pretty clear vision of what I want from each shot and from each segment. Taking the time to map out the story beforehand, just like mapping out a conservation process, is very helpful. Sometimes one can get lost in the weeds of any particular technique or task, or even video shot. 

Understanding how that fits in with the overall vision, whether that's conservation or film, is critical to contextualizing that element and understanding its importance, or unimportance.

You often comment about art restoration is highly satisfying. Were you surprised by the ASMR community becoming part of your audience? 

Julian - I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised. The craft of art conservation is highly visual, very seductive, and fully immersive, so it’s a good fit. I'm not an ASMR person myself, however, so while there may be an intellectual understanding of the value, there isn't a direct visceral response when I personally watch ASMR content.

The space in which you work can be very important. When creating your current studio, how many decisions were influenced by your YouTube success and projects? 

Julian - Ultimately the new space was designed primarily for conservation as that is my main business. The YouTube aspect has always been, and always will be, secondary. So some of the decisions I made for the space such as polished concrete floors and a tin ceiling are absolutely terrible for the video aspect but ultimately work well for my conservation business. 

Any other decisions that made content creation easier or of higher quality? 

Julian - I have given thought to making some change,s like installing sound-absorbing panels throughout the studio to better facilitate some of the recordings. Ultimately, though, the YouTube stuff is still really just a side project and anything that complicates my main focus as a conservator must be secondary.

You restore art of varying sizes and mediums, with even more variance in tool and technique. This is all carried out in rooms of various sizes, at various distances, with various specifications. How do you balance all of those factors to create clean content in a timely manner?

Julian - I'm usually filming 2 to 3 projects at any given point, as it takes months to complete a conservation and video from start to finish. Always having something in progress is critical to making sure that I can continue delivering a product. I have found over the past several years that trusting my natural instinct is usually the best course of action; I try not to contrive anything, because I think that the audience can see that and read that it’s not genuine. So I really focus on the conservation work and trying to capture it in an interesting way that allows me to edit it into an interesting story. 

Of course, I do play around with camera shots and other things to keep me engaged in the video aspect and to keep the audience engaged. But generally, I'm just trusting my natural instinct which so far has proved to be correct.

Got a video that shows off just how many of these techniques, specifications, etc can be involved? 

Julian - Without a doubt, this five-part video series of the conservation of a Dutch panel painting was the most engaged and complicated project I've filmed thus far. It involves the creation of new tools, the use of new materials, the invention of new techniques, and all of the other stuff that I do on a regular basis. This is as close to a magnum opus as I have come, and shot during the pandemic, it honestly kind of kept me going. Having something disengaging to look forward to every day was absolutely critical to maintaining my own sanity and mental health:

Just as you repair and restore art, we help people repair and restore audio. We do this with algorithms and plugins - does that make us mortal enemies? Plugins are a staple in many workflows, but should people be using tacks instead? 

Julian - Mortal enemies? Hardly! I think that there is a real accord in what we both do. While an artist may set out with perfect intentions, their materials or technique may be fallible, and the final product may be subject to forces beyond the artist’s control. As a result, art conservators can step in to rectify those missteps. To that same end, I try very hard to light all of my shots well and to capture good clean audio but of course, I make mistakes because I'm not a professional filmmaker with professional-level equipment; I do the best that I can and try not to make perfect the enemy of the good. 

Were it not for your plug-ins I would find myself in much more trouble than it's evident in the final product. To have the ability to go back and salvage audio or video is absolutely critical because I very rarely get a second chance. That is, there is only one shot at cleaning a painting and if the audio or video is off the whole project falls into jeopardy. Being able to go back and make corrections that allow me to salvage that imperfect video or audio really does save the project. 

I cannot express how many times I thought something was good only to find out that there was a buzzing in the audio or the exposure was off on the video. I panic, thinking that weeks and weeks of filming just went down the drain. Being able to correct those mistakes has saved my life on many occasions. 

Finally, if you were to show a new audience one of your videos, which one would it be? 

Julian - That's a tricky one! There are videos that I think are really interesting that the audience seems to find boring and others that I think are relatively mundane and that strike a nerve with the viewership. The Brawler was a difficult, frustrating project, and the audience seems to love watching me suffer. While maybe not the most glorious painting, the work that was required to bring it back to a state of respectability was pretty intense and for that reason I think it mirrors some of the daily struggles that everyone is dealing with at this moment! 

Watch Part One of The Brawler Series, here 

The Baumgartner Fine Art Restoration channel uses ERA plugins and tools to ensure the audio’s quality matches the art being spotlighted. You can grab a free trial of the ERA Bundle and have a go yourself! Start Free Trial 

October 05, 2021
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