Content Creation Diaries - #3
14 Jul 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?
- Filming with no script
- Starting the Shenmue Let’s Play series
- Trying a Sims 4 build challenge
- Successes and setbacks
- Progression, and where to next?
What happened next?
If you missed any other instalments in this blog series, they are under their own category, right here.
After the tutorial video and a couple of Sims 4 speed builds, I decided to try something really out of my comfort zone - a continuous filming scenario, with no script (except for a stream of bullet points as discussion prompts for the intro).
With this in mind, here are the minor kit adjustments as a result:
Got a C-clamp camera mount with a ball joint screw attachment, to attach my DSLR overhead for facecam footage. The tutorial video was filmed using a tripod which is not what you want in front of your monitor when trying to play a game and recording yourself at the same time.
Purchased an Elgato Cam Link to connect the DSLR directly into my computer, allowing for a continuous camera output feed. This allows me to monitor the facecam footage on the DSLR whilst it is recording directly on to the camera memory card. The app used for monitoring is Elgato 4K Capture Utility.
Made use of Duet Display for iPad - I only have a single monitor set-up on my desk due to having stereo speakers (as a music lover) and the Ikea Fredde desk being quite cramped in the space where the monitor sits. The Duet app has let me use the iPad as a second display for Windows, having the game on the main monitor and then having OBS, Audacity and the Elgato 4K Capture Utility on the iPad.
iMovie is well and truly retired at this point - made the decision to purchase Final Cut Pro at the end of the 3-month trial period (the trial lasted until March 2021).
All the rest of the tech and programs used as of the previous post remain the same, bar the changes above.
Filming with no script
The first few YouTube videos I’d made so far had one thing in common - they were mostly scripted or had pre-planned talking points to follow. The next video ideas lined up were to try something new - going completely unscripted, and just letting the camera roll to collect real-time responses. These next set of video ideas were:
- Starting a playthrough of the Shenmue video game series, in sequence.
- A one-off build challenge video on The Sims 4 - using a random number generator to determine the outcome.
Starting the Shenmue Let’s Play series
If you didn’t know by now, the Shenmue video game series is one of my biggest interests in life. Yes, many will say that it’s ‘old’, ‘dated’, ‘clunky’… but I love it, from childhood and still right up to this day.
It is quite popular in the sense that fans of the game are undoubtedly die-hard (me included) and highly active in discussing the game on social media platforms, but I wasn’t really seeing much ‘modern’ video content about. There are a number of Shenmue Let’s Plays (LPs) / playthroughs dotted about on YouTube, but many are of the Dreamcast versions of the games. Although saying that, the games are also regularly streamed by players on Twitch so there is something out there.
Either way, I decided to step forward and make my own Shenmue-related content.
It was the first time for me doing any sort of continuous unscripted recording, so it was nerve-wracking! However, I wasn’t doing a live stream so it was less pressure in that sense - whatever I didn’t like could easily be edited out before it hit YouTube.
The nature of Shenmue is that it plays out like an interactive movie in some parts, so it is laden with cut scenes. I had to make a decision between doing the series as:
- More of a ‘Long Play’, where the videos are fully stretched-out playthroughs of the game with no deep chops and stuff cut out.
- As a typical ‘Let’s Play’, where the content is heavily edited and chunks are taken out, making for a shorter video but with a lot of stuff missing.
I opted to do Shenmue as a ‘Long Play’ series - with each episode ending up being quite long, but with all cut scenes remaining intact, as well as any dialogue with NPCs. Very little editing was done on the stream of footage.
Technology-wise, the gameplay footage was recorded via OBS, mic audio recorded via Audacity and facecam recorded directly into the camera’s memory card. More on this in the ‘successes and setbacks’ section later.
As the episode was quite long, I left a disclaimer in the video description to encourage viewers to watch the video on a faster playback speed if the pace was too slow / cut scenes were too long. That way, nothing was missed out and the viewer ultimately has the choice on how they ingest the video content.
The intro to the video was the only bit that was semi-scripted, with the rest of the video being real-time response and reaction to what was happening on-screen in the game. A big change I noticed whilst filming this video was that I felt more comfortable and relaxed as the recording went along, with more of my personality and thoughts able to come out freely, and my voice feeling less ‘robotic’ as there was no sort of ‘speech reading’ going on.
I therefore felt more comfortable with filming in this manner, and wanted to do more stuff like it.
At the time, I’d split the Titch content into ‘Titch Plays’ and ‘Titch Talks’ - with gaming content under ‘Plays’ and any other content under ‘Talks’. This was a lot of faff in having to update two different websites, social media accounts etc. so I decided to merge the two and become ‘Titch Life’.
Even though the new name is a lot more vague, it meant my content could be less niched into two things and that I could do other stuff all under the same umbrella. Content at the moment has mostly been gaming-related and focussed on ‘life’ games, so the merger has been working so far.
Trying a Sims 4 build challenge
Next up on the filming agenda was a build challenge on The Sims 4. I’m not sure if the idea had been done before, but it did merge two common ideas together (hence becoming a ‘double’ build challenge) - using a random number generator to determine room tile count and the number of items to be placed in a room.
Much like the Shenmue LP, this was recorded as a continuous stream with real-time reaction. The challenge wasn’t timed but still presented a level of duress in having building creativity restricted to numbers. To differ from the Shenmue LP, it was heavily edited and chopped down as the footage was a couple of hours long. It eventually got shortened into a < 20 minute video.
Successes and setbacks
Here is a quick-fire summary of how the recordings went:
What went well:
- Recording in real-time without following a script meant I sounded less like a monotonous robot reading an autocue and meant for more personality to shine through in the content. More like I was talking to a friend rather than giving a presentation.
- Having the second screen (iPad) was a god-send - meaning being able to monitor that OBS was still recording, my camera was still turned on and not out of battery, focus or whatever issues it decided to have.
What didn't go so well:
- Started off the Shenmue LP with a broken Xbox controller, which wasn’t great! I had to run out to the shop in the middle of recording to get a cheap-but-functioning one just to finish the video (although, I’m still using that controller full-time, as it’s quite good considering!).
- Recording straight into the camera memory meant there was a restriction on the footage only recording for 10 minutes at a time - so I had to keep checking to make sure that the camera hadn’t stopped filming. This happened in the middle of the gameplay and so there is a section of the LP where there is no facecam as a result.
- On top of that, I had to also be conscious that the camera battery was still OK. The recording process became a plate-spinning exercise of actually trying to present myself on camera, concentrate on the game and also keep monitoring the recording equipment to ensure it was still alive and kicking.
- I still kept using the DSLR in ‘auto’ shooting mode as a shortcut. The lighting scenario for The Sims 4 build challenge and my over-excitement and excessive movement during filming meant that the auto-focus / auto-exposure made the footage absolutely terrible. I still went ahead with editing and uploading it and put a disclaimer in the video description.
Progression, and where to next?
With a small handful of videos under my belt, currently just covering Shenmue and The Sims 4, I wanted to bring in another gaming love - Animal Crossing. This meant using a new bit of kit - an Elgato HD60S capture card.
Even though Final Cut Pro remains a steep learning curve, I started venturing into silly effects to start to bring out my personality in future videos a bit more. To assist in this, I picked up an Epidemic Sound subscription.
More on these in the next blog post!
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 4 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!).
In the previous Content Creation Diaries instalment, I promised a blog post on how the main Titch Life website and blog is hosted - this is now here for your perusal!
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. ;)