Content Creation Diaries - #2
31 Mar 2021
What is this series of posts about?
Time for something a little ‘meta’ - a new series on my blog where I talk about the process of making content online. Whether it’s blogging or YouTubing, which are the two mediums I’ve picked up, these posts will be in diary format, talking about progress, successes, set-backs, gear and goals.
I thought this series would be a great way to bring you, the awesome audience member, along for the ride to see how a content creator grows from the beginning - there are many routes, and things will work differently for different folks, so this is just one perspective (droplet) in the online ocean.
These are the main topics covered in this post:
- What happened next?
- Lessons learned from the tutorial video
- Using a new camera - and what that entails
- Bye bye iMovie
- What about the blog?
- Successes and setbacks
- Progression, and where to next?
What happened next?
To start with, if you missed the first post in the series, it’s right here. And if you missed any other installments, they are under the ‘content creation’ category for now (I’ll sort out their own category soon).
With two Sims 4 speed build videos under my belt, I thought it was time to try something new. Talk about taking a handbrake turn, but I made a tutorial video.
From the previous blog, the biggest changes to the process are as follows (and will be talked about later in this post in more depth):
Started using my dust-gathering DSLR for filming.
Editing is now in Final Cut Pro (FCP) as opposed to iMovie.
All the rest of the tech and programs used as of the previous post remain the same, bar the two above.
Lessons learned from the tutorial video
In all honesty, and whilst trying really hard not to sound arrogant here (jeez, I’m far from that!), part of me thought this video would have done better, as it is filling a gap and providing major convenience once the initial set-up pains are over with. I think every creator has a moment where they think they are making ‘that one viral hit’ and then it ends up flopping or not really getting that reach.
This particular video therefore taught me two things:
Just because YOU think it’s going to do alright, doesn’t mean it will do. You can’t predict the audience, or the YouTube algorithm. Sometimes what you think is a shining star is actually just a pile of turd. Even so, just keep going and doing what you enjoy regardless of ‘how well it does’.
It got my first ‘dislike’ - a hard pill to swallow for someone who will dwell on even the tiniest form of criticism / negativity for weeks on end. However, I reframed it and learned from it - tutorial videos can be very ‘hit and miss’, and they won’t always work for people / fix the problem at hand. Another source of comfort is just scrolling through your subscriptions list and being hard-pressed to find any video that doesn’t have zero dislikes.
From there, I decided not to do another tutorial video, at least for a while.
There were positive outcomes though, it wasn’t all doom and gloom.
Using a new camera - and what that entails
The tutorial video was the first one using my new-but-old DSLR camera - the Nikon D3400 that hadn’t been used since a holiday that took place years prior.
Going from a webcam to a DSLR opens the world up, as well as a can of worms. The most obvious benefit is video quality improvements out of the gate, but you are no longer using something that is ‘plug and play’ - the beauty of the webcam is the ease and not being able to do much in the way of improving your footage (perfect for lazy so-and-sos like me).
Using a DSLR now meant new considerations and a steep learning curve:
Settings on the camera - knowing the difference between shutter speed, aperture and ISO, and learning how to balance them for your creative goals and current lighting scenario. Not something I had the patience for initially (more on that later)!
Lighting - my webcam was fine with dismal lighting but the DSLR needed a lot more, especially as I was too overfaced with properly learning the settings and so just set it up on ‘auto’ mode. I also still only had the one ring light to light me and the green screen up.
Mounting and positioning of the camera for recording - a lumpy, heavy DSLR needs a good holder, whereas your webcam can just gracefully balance atop your monitor. Having an Ikea Fredde desk for the past few years has been a wonderful thing, but it has been challenging in the way of working out where to put recording stuff. This mainly comes down to the shelf across the top - meaning based on how I have a monitor and speakers, I can’t just have a DSLR and lights poking over the top of the monitor as there just isn’t the space. I recorded the tutorial video using a tripod but it was directly in front of the monitor the whole time - not ideal if you are also making gaming videos, and so I needed to find a better solution…
Microphone - a lot of cameras (including webcams) come with an internal microphone and for 99% of the time, they are never quite that good and end up picking up a lot of background noise. They can’t be completely written off though, as they are useful for synchronising external mic audio to videos. You can get mics that plug directly into DSLRs and sit on top, poking forward, but mine doesn’t have that functionality. Therefore my options are either the internal mic that comes built into the camera, or an external one to record my voice.
Recording to memory card - my DSLR takes standard SD card storage, but luckily has the functionality to connect to Elgato products (e.g. capture cards, or Cam Link) via mini HDMI. This means that you can record a continuous output from your DSLR directly to your computer, as opposed to recording straight to the camera’s memory card. For the tutorial video, I recorded onto the memory card but this was a nightmare as the camera would only allow me to record for 10 minutes, so if you forgot that the camera had stopped recording then… argh!! Yep, that did happen a few times, d’oh!
Battery - webcams tend to have a continuous source of power via USB, and so in using DSLRs, chances are you will need at least 2 battery packs (so you have a backup when the first one runs out). I eventually took this a step further in my endless quest for upgrades, but in keeping of the timeline of this blog series, I was using 2 battery packs for the recording of the tutorial video and was glad to have the two, although I did panic that the second pack would run out on me before I’d finished recording all the footage (and these batteries take forever to charge).
Lens - this ties in with the positioning of the camera and also depends on your creative goals. If you want a fancy blurred-background (depth of field) then you need a lens that has a small enough aperture for that effect. The stock lens that came with my camera, combined with its positioning during recording and the zoom factor that results from using the video recording functionality meant that I had a lot more to juggle than first thought. I started looking into getting a new lens quite soon after as a potential next upgrade.
Bye bye iMovie
I had a few aspirations and goals for the editing of the tutorial video, but the limitations of iMovie meant needing a different program to achieve them. I started toying with the idea of Final Cut Pro (FCP), or Adobe Premiere. Being someone who prefers using a Mac for any productive purpose, I was more drawn to FCP as it was also a one-off cost as opposed to a subscription model (and again, probably more Mac friendly / optimised).
Luckily (and it still is the case at the time of writing), there is a free trial of FCP, and 90 days was plenty of time to make a decision on the investment into it long-term. After watching some YouTube videos on the main differences between iMovie and FCP, it was clear that it was necessary to take that leap, so I started a free trial and started some self-learning on how to use it.
The tutorial video therefore became my first video fully edited on FCP. There were so many tiny differences between how I did stuff on iMovie compared to FCP that achieved the exact same result, but took half the time in FCP. For instance, green screening is so much easier in FCP and requires fewer steps. I could write an essay on how much better it is to use and achieve the stuff you want (but that’s not to completely downplay iMovie as it could very well be adequate enough for your use case and did the job for my first couple of videos).
A blank canvas within Final Cut Pro
What about the blog?
At the timing of the tutorial video, there was nothing on my blog yet at that point. It was still being properly ‘coded out’ in the background, ideas for posts were still swirling round and I was still trying to learn how to use the open-source software that manages the backend of it.
However, I am planning to write a separate post on that very soon.
Successes and setbacks
Some of these were already touched upon above, and so there’s no need for me to repeat the same stuff as the previous blog post. The pros and cons of the new process are as follows.
What went well:
- Final Cut Pro (FCP) allowed me to make a tutorial video using effects and features that were just not feasible in iMovie. Apple offering an extensive free trial of FCP meant I could get the tutorial video done as planned and with no cost obligation (yet).
- The quality of the DSLR is unmistakably a million times better than that of the webcam. With that in mind, it also leads into a setback which will be mentioned below.
What didn't go so well:
- I didn’t record any audio using the DSLR’s internal mic or film myself clapping for sync, meaning I had to manually sync up the external mic audio by lip reading.
- The output footage was all over the place and didn’t follow the logical order that it was going to be edited in, which then made editing even harder - there were no visual cues (e.g. me holding up bits of paper to identify sections of video) or anything to assist in this part.
- There was another steep learning curve in getting used to using FCP - a new and very-overfacing software interface to master, finding out where all the options where and how to do stuff etc. but once learned, it became a lot easier to use and figure out.
- I used the DSLR on the ‘auto’ shooting mode as a shortcut, rather than learning how to get a better image using the manual settings. The footage is therefore poorly lit and dark, making me look like a zombie short on caffeine.
Progression, and where to next?
My first three videos were mainly scripted or followed some sort of pre-planned structure. The next blog post will cover the start of my Shenmue Let’s Play series, where I moved from scripted videos to unscripted - all speech is spur-of-the-moment, and the camera is recording as continuous flow and real-time reaction. There is a big difference in how I feel about these videos (and how I feel during the recording process) - which will be covered fully in the next blog post in this series.
The story goes on…
Of course, that’s a shameless Shenmue reference right there - but indeed, this is a diary series and so there are parts to follow along from this one.
Stay tuned for part 3 where I plan to cover the next iteration of gear and process upgrades (I jumped through upgrades quite quickly cos again, that’s what I do - get too involved with a hobby too soon!).
I am also planning on covering the hosting of this blog in a post of its very own and not as part of this blog series. The post probably won’t be a tutorial, but more of a ‘this is what I did’ type of thing and then signposting off to the tutorials that got me going. Anyway, who knows, it’s not even been written yet. ;)
Thank you muchly for reading. See you in the next blog, or video!
The images in this blog post were actually photographically taken by me for once, rather than just taken. ;)