What I’ve learned from recording one second of video every day: How to die happily

What I’ve learned from recording one second of video every day: How to die happily

[Originally published in Italian in November 2018; to this day I still am recording the videos]

A couple of months ago I started to record a couple seconds of video every day, and I learned a lot

First of all, don’t worry, thankfully I don’t have a terminal disease nor I have any intention of dying any time soon, but I assure you the title of this article is not clickbait.

recording a second a day? What is it that you are doing again?

A part of my snippets timeline
A part of my snippets timeline

Sometimes ads work, and even end up being useful. Two months ago I saw an ad for an app that made you record one second of video everyday to then compile them in a single video. I was familiar with the idea already, but I never put it in action, because I’m lazy. But then, in the laziest period of all, the summer, I decided to give it a go.

Downloaded the app, turned notifications on, and off we go. The objective is simple: to find a second of video to record every day.

At most this is going to take 10 seconds: 6 to take your phone out, 2 to open the camera, and then 2 to record. Then you open the app and put the video in the slot for the day.

The project itself was born in 2012, when Cesar Kuriyama made a TED talk about his 1 Second Everyday journey, after having recorded a second of video every day for one year.

His motivations were to remember those special moments that often slip by and to be driven to do something interesting and meaningful each and every day, but not only that; the restriction to a single second was in opposition to the anxiety of having to record video constantly instead of living in the moment.

What I’ve come to understand in these months

I’d like to start by sharing some considerations I’ve made in these months that may be useful to anyone who wishes to start such a project.

1. It takes less effort than what it seems

As I was writing in the introduction, I had heard of this sometime ago, but it looked like it would take up a significant time and effort, especially since it is something you have to do every day. Truth is, everyone has their phone at all times either in their pocket or in their hand, so the opportunities are always there, and to a first order approximation (which often is the only thing a physicist cares about) it occupies only an infinitesimal part of the day. A bonus point goes to the Live Photos introduced from the iPhone 6S and now available even on some android phones. When I switched to the iPhone I thought it would have been a useless space wasting feature, but in reality sometimes those few seconds of video really add something special and let you add a second of video just by quickly snapping a picture.

2. There are moments worthy of being recorded, but that it’s the right choice not to record them

During Kuriyama’s TED Talk comes a moment in which he speaks about the difficulty of recording in the more difficult days: his experience was that of a sick relative. Luckily I haven’t had such occasions in these months, but what happens is that you find yourself in important moments, the ones you know are the part of the day you would want to remember, but that it’s good not to record for whatever reason. Maybe you are occupied in actually doing that memorable thing and you can’t record it as well. Or maybe it’s a particularly intimate moment you should not interrupt to record.

Or it could even be an occasion in which you really cannot record (”sorry to bother professor, I know it sounds weird, but could you please repeat that I’ve passed the exam while I record a second with my phone?”). The easy solution to this may be to record a second sometime before or after; instead of recording the professor you can record video on your way to the university. I’d say as well that it’s okay it is like that: there will be times we won’t be able to record but it’s not worth to be desperate for. Otherwise recording a second of video will become more important than living our life with meaning.

3. You’ll forget to record a worthy, meaningful moment

This is somewhat similar to the last point: it’s happened to me that I completely forgot to record something because I was just so immersed in the moment.

First of all, that’s great!. Hear me out: our objective is not to make a cool video, the purpose is to live a good life, to remember it and to be able to be grateful for it; the app and the project are just means to an end.

Also, unless our memory is really blotchy, recording a moment right before or after works wonderfully. This summer I completely forgot to record during an evening with some dear friends, so I put in my timeline a clip of my cats that followed me while I was going out; people who see the clip may simply think I’d like to remember my cats (I do), but in the end every second we record has a deeper meaning, and it makes us remember the whole day.

Obviously with the passing of time these links may get weaker and this clip may not remind me anymore of my friends, but then again, it’s the friendship itself I won’t forget.

(Addendum from 2018-12-3) after some other time, I feel the need to remark again this aspect, because it’s easy to be deceived and let yourself down from the loss of a moment that is either significant or “spectacular”; more on that later.

4. Less significant days happen, but that’s ok too

It’s all fun an inspirational when you suggest to live to the fullest, but real life is often different. You wake up on a lazy Saturday and you don’t even want to get out of bed, let alone doing something meaningful or productive. I feel you, brother (or sister). If that happens, don’t put yourself down, what’s important is that you try to get yourself back up.

In these occasions it’s useful to have a pet; whenever I don’t have anything to record, a clip of my cats is sure to be well received.

5. Make the project yours

This is the part in which you can disregard every advice I’ve given so far. In the TED Talk Cesar says he doesn’t want to put videos in which he is present; he wants every shot to represent what he was seeing in first person. Frankly, I don’t particularly care about this, so there are seconds in which I appear, and that’s ok.

Don’t put constraints on yourself just because. Depending on the objective(s) you want to accomplish with this, you can have a different style. It’s your life!

6. Keep in mind your objective and your audience

I’m adding this paragraph after another month of recording, expanding on the “losing meaningful moments”. I’ve noticed this month I was falling in the trap of wanting to record too much because I was afraid to miss something interesting.

In particular I’d like to remark once again the utmost importance of keeping your eyes on the objective, which, I repeat, is not to shoot a very interesting movie, but to live a happy life (at least that’s mine).

I’d like to expand on that and advise you on which is the real target audience for the video: it’s yourself. Yes, I share my monthly videos on my instagram stories, but the video is not to show everyone how cool you are, what amazing places you go to or how many friends you have.

Obviously everyone sometimes fall to the temptation of thinking that your worth is determined by how many followers you have or on what other people think of you. But I’ll say that it’s far better to live an extraordinary moment without saving it instead of always being obsessed but the thought of which thing you’ll record next.

Of course and it goes without saying, this depends on your objective as I said before. You’re free to use this tool as an excuse to commiserate yourself in thinking how awful your life is. As every tool, you can use it for good or for bad.

7. This is not to record the MOST important moments of your life

This is another warning in order not to become too anxious about having to record intense moments; I feel it is particularly needed in these days since everyone now has a window to show to the world in the form of his instagram/twitter/etc. As far as I’m concerned, this exercise is not useful to have a memory of the most important and most beautiful (or tragic) events of one’s life; quite the opposite: I hope in those life changing moments you are not recording with your phone. What I’ve realized is that in the truly fundamental pivotal moments of your life, your memory will work on its own. I have recently had the occasion to reflect on my whole life story and I assure you that no matter how forgetful you are there already are instants forever sculpted in your consciousness you’ll never forget. Basically, you hopefully don't need to record the video as you kiss your wife or husband during your marriage.

What’s the point? Who made you do this?

or, what’s the use of this?

Let’s get deep in this matter and let’s talk about what brought me to start this habit, and what objective I wanted (and still want) to achieve.

We already said how this project started from Cesar Kuriyama’s TED talk, who was the father of this idea. As with every father-son relationships, the second (pun intended) will certainly take some characteristics from the first one, but will inevitably grow in unexpected and new ways; in the same manner, what brought me to start this video is at the same time similar and different from his original project, and this goes for you as well: I will explain my purpose in this, but everyone can have a different one; in fact, I’d love to hear them in the comments!

This might have seemed obvious, but I think it’s important to establish and remember how unique each one of us is even when you’re talking about some project to follow, especially in those cases of ”if you do this thing that Elon Musk does your life will COMPLETELY CHANGE!!”: everyone is different and has to tailor ideas and inspiration from other in his own way.

Let’s get back on track so I can clarify the title of this article: why did I decide to start this video? You have to understand I’m a big fan of remembering things.

I don’t even mean I have such a great memory, because I don’t; what I mean is that I try to care to keep my memories and not forget what I feel it’s important. Someone a lot wiser than me said that our taste finds its origin in our fears, and I have a fear of missing out on opportunities and moments that’s big as it can get. This results in my multiple backups of anything I deem important: I have photos backed up both on Google Photos and iCloud; I’ve had my contacts synced for years ever since I was young and people didn't even know what gmail was. When I switched to iOS I literally spent an entire afternoon trying to figure out how to best transfer my whatsapp history from Android and so on.

So, the first objective that comes to mind with this app is to have another source of memories to keep dearly. This was the first more trivial objective; the second, like the title says, is to be able to die peacefully.

I bet you didn’t expect that in a simple article about an iPhone app I would end up talking about the meaning of life and death eh? Well, you’re gonna take this dose of profound thoughts and you’re gonna shut up about it (or not, you can still close the page, you’re in control). I’ll tell you something else, later on I’ll even cite the Bible, so there, you’ve been warned.

The section that starts here pertains necessarily all of the most formative moments that have been in my life so far, the things that made me the person I am today. That same wise person I was talking about before also said that the best way to die is to die having loved who we were supposed to love.

Like Professor Oak says however, there’s a time and place for everything, but not now!: talking and explaining that would take a lot of in-depth analysis and some ulterior knowledge, which we don’t have as of now. I’d like to throw this seed nonetheless, hoping it may resonate in someone. Anyway, as promised, we come to the Bible, actually through Professor Oak, who stole his famous phrase from the Book of Ecclesiastes otherwise known as Qohelet. Ecclesiastes 3,1

”There is a season for everything, a time for every occupation under heaven”

Sounds familiar, professor?! I am not in any way qualified to comment on the book, and you don’t need to be religious at all to follow my thesis.

Let’s go on deeper:

” A time for giving birth, a time for dying; a time for planting, a time for uprooting what has been planted.A time for killing, a time for healing; a time for knocking down, a time for building.A time for tears, a time for laughter; a time for mourning, a time for dancing.A time for throwing stones away, a time for gathering them; a time for embracing, a time to refrain from embracing.A time for searching, a time for losing; a time for keeping, a time for discarding.A time for tearing, a time for sewing; a time for keeping silent, a time for speaking.A time for loving, a time for hating; a time for war, a time for peace.”

Let’s stop here before we get too depressed. The point is that there are moments apt for something and other moments for something else. Let me be clearer: there are moments in which it would be best for us to do a certain something, and moments in which it is good for us to do a certain something else. Every instant has its proper place. This comes opposed to every conception of multitasking and doing lots of stuff at once, but maybe we’ll talk about this some other time, but this is also opposed to the matter of productivity in a certain twisted way, because there is a time for rest, and I’m happy to see more and more people are realizing that.

In this particular sense, what I’d like is that every day sits in its rightful spot to give the right title to every day. Recording a second is something else that can help me do it, but also to remember it in the future.

And speaking of the future, watching the compiled video inevitably makes you dream: depending on whether we record one or two seconds a day, to arrive at a one hour video we need between 5 and 10 years.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

I’ve recently been rewatching The Office and (spoiler alert for season 3) it strikes me that the moment in which Jim actually decides his future and decides to act on the present is when David Wallace asks him if he sees himself there for the long haul.

I’ll close this motivational parenthesis right away, but I wanted to add this question since it came to mind by talking to someone about these seconds, and it’s a good question to pose to oneself every now and then. Moreover, it’s a good question to have while thinking about any further second, which brings me to my final point about the purpose I have for this project.

If until now you were thinking ”wow, this guy is such a loser with his Bible quotes in a post about a simple iPhone app”, you’ll see exactly in this paragraph how lame I can be, because now we’ll talk about boyscouts, the ones who help old ladies to cross the road etc..

Be prepared for what? Do we need a bug out bag with military rations and become preppers always ready for the apocalypse?

Here’s the deal: you can think about your video in 5, 10, 30 or 100 years, but the truth Is that all we have is the present moment and the seconds we’ve lived so far. Maybe tomorrow you don’t wake up at all and sayonara, who knows?

Now instead of going towards an epicurean pessimism of Horace’s Odes (”pulvis et umbra sumus”), the point which I want to address is to live each day to the fullest, with obligatory reference to Kung Fu Panda about how today is a gift.

Having to record a second everyday is another push:

how did you use the gift that was today?

If you had to die tonight, would you be happy with your life?

Is today a good day to die?? Did you love who you were supposed to?

Obviously it’s all easy to say but I’m victim of this as well. I mean, I probably wrote this more for myself than for you, to codify my motivation, and so we walk this route together, my friend.

How can I do this?

Let’s get to the practical side: if you’ve read these 3k words maybe you’re interested in how you might get started as well. There are a number of apps for this project; I will limit myself to suggestions for iOS since that’s what I have; feel free to send me suggestions for Android and I’ll add them below.

[most of the technical aspects from this point on are outdated; 1SecondEveryday is the best app and has gained a number of features like unlimited snippets per day]



This is the app straight out of Kuriyama’s Kickstarter, the one from the TED Talk; we could say it’s the original one and it’s the one I use at the moment. It works very well and it has recently gone free. It lets you use photos, Live Photos, and obviously video. In the free base version you can make the clips either 1 or 1.5 seconds which comes in handy. The video export is 1080p and you can add up to two clips per day in standard projects (you can make custom ones with clips not restricted by day or anything, cool for vacations or maybe other events I guess). It has some random notifications with various quotes during the day to remind you of shooting the video which I found pleasing enough. There is a pro subscription as well for 30$ a year or 4$ a month: this lets you make clips longer than 1.5 seconds, some basic video controls like volume and brightness, some background music, the removal of the watermark (which frankly is not really instructive), and more importantly, the backup of all clips. As a con, and this is kind of silly, it only works in landscape mode, and the notification badge vanishes if you open the app even if you haven’t added a clip yet. I’m very picky about apps I allow badges for, and this would be ideal to have present until the clip for the day has been added, but still, it’s a very minor thing.

Leap Second


I’ve briefly used this one as well. Like the previous one it is free with a subscription. It works well (even in portrait orientation!) and you can add every more than two clips per day which might come in handy. The pro version recently became a subscription (previously it was a single app purchase which seemed unsustainable): the free version allows for 720p HD exports, whereas the pro allows for 1080p FullHD and 4K videos, in addition to music and cloud backup, and the price is on par with 1SecondEveryday. It’s worth noting you need the pro subscription to add footage from a different day (which can happen especially since I usually consider events from past midnight to be part of the evening of the previous day) whereas this is free on 1SecondEveryday. Also, another difference is the absence of multiple reminders but the is only a single one. There are workarounds for both these issues obviously but they were worth pointing out.

Daily Snap


I just don’t recommend this one. It has a nice UI but it’s very bare bones: you can’t upload videos or photos from you camera roll, which means it’s useful for a very specific type of project, for example taking a specific picture everyday to see change in your beard or whatever. Moreover, it’s very aggressive with its subscription: as soon as you open the app it pushes you to purchase the subsciption, and if you click the x to close it it shows the 3 day trial with the purchase of a monthly subscription, so maybe you use the trail but then forget it and a couple of days later they take 4$. The only feature worth noting is the possibility to collaborate for a single video project with other people, but I haven’t tried it since I have nobody to try it with (insert sad emoji).


I’ve talked (written?) for long enough already so I’ll wrap it up. I don’t know how many people this post will reach, but like I was saying, sometimes you write for yourself rather than for a public, isn’t it? Anyway I just hope this post may be of inspiration to someone.