How Recording One Second Every Day Could Change Your Life

When Cesar Kuriyama started selecting one second of video to represent each day, it changed his life. Now he's building an app he hopes will change yours.

Two days after launching a Kickstarter project, Cesar Kuriyama found himself bombarded with questions and requests. It was tempting to work around the clock. But at 6 p.m., he got up from his desk and went for a bike ride. Because he needed to find a moment worth recording.

Kuriyama is fundraising for an app that makes it easy for anyone to record one second each day of their lives. It’s based on an experiment he has been conducting on his own life since February 20, 2011, when after saving for years, he quit his job to take a year off from work. To chronicle what he assumed would be the most adventurous year of his life, he started selecting one second of video footage from each day. His plan was to compile the moments into a six-minute memento. Soon, however, he found the project was doing more than documenting his life—it was changing the decisions he made about how to spend time.

"[The project has] made me realize I need to do one interesting thing to make today count," he says. "It’s been an incalculably positive influence on my life. The reason that I’ve really decided to stop everything and try to build this thing is that I genuinely think it can have that same influence for others." Here’s how he believes chronicling a life in one-second chunks can change it.

Remembering The Good Times

Initially, Kuriyama started his one-second-a-day project in order to chronicle the adventure of his year off. Others have put the method to similar use. Kevin Kelly, the founding executive editor of Wired magazine, for instance, recorded one second each day during his two-month vacation in Asia in order to create the 90-second video above.

Remembering The Bad Times

During Kuriyama’s year off, his sister-in-law became severely ill, and many of the moments in his video for that year (above) document the two months she spent in the hospital.

"It was horrible to record those seconds," he says. "I hated doing it. It made me miserable. But looking back on it I’m glad I forced myself to record those hard times… In order to appreciate the good times, you have to be aware of the bad times. We always want to take our cameras out and record awesome moments. But we don’t even remotely think about doing that when there’s a bad day, obviously."

Even if the day is gloomy for reasons less severe than the life-threatening sickness of a loved one, having a documentation of it can provide some perspective in the long run. "You realize those days are far less often than the good ones," Kuriyama says. "And I think that’s really good information to have on your own life.

Detecting And Correcting Patterns

Before taking off on a 95-day road trip, Kuriyama spent the first weeks of his year off working on freelance projects. When many of the most representative moments of his days involved sitting in front of the computer, he noticed.

"It’s really difficult for me to just close my eyes and say, what has your past year been like," he says. "Up until now, that was extraordinarily difficult to do. Now, all the sudden it’s like, wow, if I just take this one moment every day to record something that signifies what the day has been like and be able to easily replay that, I see the patterns in my life. You can say, oh, how much time am I spending at work? And you can see how many times you decided that work was the most meaningful moment of that day."

Not everyone approaches the one-second-a-day project the same way. The woman in the video above, who recorded her life in 2011, set the video to music, and it has an artistic quality to it. Another woman records a self-portrait every day. But the opportunity for reflection is constant.

Putting Yourself In Someone Else’s Shoes

In partnership with development studio Alchemy50, Kuriyama plans to release a $1 iPhone app within the coming months. The app will remind users to record video clips every day and make it easy to stitch them together into a movie like the one created by David Chen above. But Kuriyama's ultimate goal for the app goes a step further. In addition to allowing users to look back at their own lives, he wants to give them some capability to look into others’ lives as well. "I think what I’m building is a way to give basically access to anyone who might be interested in what life is like at any particular place at any particular time," he says. "To be able to see 500 lives in 500 seconds I think would be really interesting and potentially have some really good outcomes."

[Image: Flickr user Woodleywonderworks]

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29 Comments

  • Jesse

    I have only been doing this for two weeks now, and I can honestly say it has changed the way I live my life. There are things that you would never expect that you learn from this project; things that most of you are skeptical about. For example, many of you are saying that one second clips is pure chaos. There is some truth to that, however that is what YOU see. When it is your own video, it is remarkable to be able to relive those moments, and remember those days. Sure, one second is not a long time, but that's exactly the point. This project is not meant to be a documentation of your life, its supposed to be a reminder that life happened.

    I understand the skepticism, but again, it is a project meant to be what you want it to be. It changes as you do, and you will learn things you never thought imaginable. I find this a life changing project that makes you WANT to go out and do something interesting everyday.

    As far as the apps do, I don't find that an effective way to do this project. There is so much you could do with a project of this kind, and You will want it to be personalized to you. The apps are all preset fonts and durations, and they take the fun out of it.

    Again, I highly encourage you to try it, even if for just a week. You will realize just how important the power of memory really is.

  • Evan Ames

    This is a great idea. There is an amazing app in the iTunes Store called "One Second Epic". I've been using it to capture highlights of events or even general scenes from throughout my day. You can capture 1-5 second clips and make a movie out of it. Pretty cool!

  • kelso

    In the spirit of self-reflection, I understand the concept.  As many other readers pointed out this is really just another medium and discipline for journaling.  However, after a few seconds each of these videos made me feel anxious.  Arguably this could be on purpose. But, rather than chronicling happiness or adventure or sadness in some cases, these films felt more like a reflection of the frantic, fragmented, frenzy we increasingly call life.  I didn't see peace here.  I felt like I couldn't catch my breath.  For me, I only saw a panic to do all that one could each day to feel that they led a fast and full  life.  We are all in such a hurry to get somewhere...what about a paced and meaning-full life, instead?  That's the kind of journaling that would inspire me - the kind that tells me to slow down and smell the roses... 

  • Mike W.

    Isn't this just a modern twist on writing a journal?  The break through for Kuriyama was in self reflection, which can be accomplished in any number of ways.

  • Mafeking Walker

    That was pretty cool, wish I had a decent phone so I could record footage like that.

  • Matthew Fassberg

    Years ago I loved the "10 Second Films" director David Wild made.  While I like the idea of a seeing second a day, in the end it doesn't satisfy. Too jumpy for too long.  Not enough of anything to really take it in.  I think I'd rather see more of each day (5 seconds?), or look at a still image in slide show format where the viewer can easily pause and contemplate something if they desire to do so.  "Second a Day" sounds better as an idea than it looks in the end.

  • Katinka

     Check out Bosh! What's the Story?  An app that will be out in January...users take :15 second snippets and they get stitched together into a 2.5 min story...www.facebook.com/boshwhatsthestory

  • qgIrene

    my first thought after reading this and watching some of the vids is that I would LOVE to have 1 second of every day of my daughter's life strung together as a video and may look for a way to do that myself if the android app doesn't follow closely behind

  • solovieve

    It sounds similar to how Twitter was first used in documenting the mundane. One could benefit from the reflection in their lives. It appears to be a digital journal or moving sketchbook. The written word will soon be an antiquity in our society.

  • paul_lundahl

    I applaud this type of activity. When you are noticing the fleeting moments of life and sharing them with others, transformation does occur.
    I've been beta testing an interesting iPhone app that has a similar intent. It's out now and worth checking out:https://lightt.com/One of the aspects of it that's most compelling is that it streams everyone in your networks one second little moments and you get a very unique view of what all of your friends are doing right now by how they pop up in the stream. It's fascinating to see parallels where one of your friends is going down a hallway, followed by another friend going down a hallway, etc. Another simple activity is to turn your years worth of photos into a time lapse movie. There are lots of tutorials to do that, here's one:
    http://vimeo.com/20668065

  • Zschmiez

    @Jodie:  But thats just it.  It keeps you wanting more, to experience it a bit more.   when i think about yesterdays lunch, i dont remember 3 seconds of eating, i remember quick actions or thoughts.  

  • Jodie

    Watching one second frames hurts my head, because I don't have ADD. I'm 50 and my brain is wired to jump that quick from scene to scene, so this is too fast for me to appreciate. I think 3 seconds each would be a little easier to watch. 

  • Jodie

    I meant to say "isn't" wired to jump that quick, not "is"  See that's what I mean. I even have to be careful how fast I type, or I end up saying the complete opposite of what I meant to say.  ;)

  • rosemai

    You don't have to film a second each day. Go out and take some photographs. Same thing.