Actor, Career Exploration, Content Creator, Video Producer

Upgrading My Video Skills

As my job saga search trudges on, I want to make sure I’m still reserving time to continue my exploration of new fields and improve my skills. And hey — if I get to have fun and eat ice cream along the way (more on that later), even better!

My filmmaking journey

I have spoken extensively about my video production journey throughout this sabbatical. It has been the one area of exploration that has been a true roller coaster, with a lot of ups and downs, and a few false starts.

I sprinted out the gate with a crash course in filmmaking and naively dove into the deep-end, trying to produce a pretty complicated and time-intensive video. Being inspired by a number of YouTubers, I strived for a high-production, super polished product, forgetting that even those creators started with much simpler videos.

When I eventually decided to go back to the basics, it felt like my study of filmmaking finally started to have an upward trajectory, gaining new and more advanced skills with every project.

A shelter-in-place video

Well, in case you didn’t already guess, I recently completed another film project that, once again, pushed me to learn new video techniques.

For a while, I’ve been wanting to work on a video project that really embraced the new “way of the world” during shelter in place. That is, a video that didn’t just use social distancing tools such video conferencing and remote filming as unfortunate but necessary substitutions for more traditional filmmaking, but rather embraced and intentionally integrated these tools and techniques into the story.

I looked at some of my favorite stories and plays and imagined how the characters would have adjusted to shelter in place. How would Gwendolen and Cecily’s confrontation in The Importance of Being Earnest play out over Zoom? In an Animal Crossing version of Pride and Prejudice, would it be a truth universally acknowledged that a man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife … and turnips?

With the holidays approaching, I instantly thought of one of my favorite musicals, She Loves Me, whose story culminates on Christmas Eve. The play centers around Amalia and Georg, two co-workers who are constantly bickering, unaware that they are also each other’s secret pen-pals, met through a lonely-hearts ad.

Laura Benanti and Zachary Levi star as Amalia and Georg in Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2016 production of She Loves Me. Photo credit: ©2016 Joan Marcus

In one of my favorite scenes, Amalia is home sick after a heartbreaking night of being stood up by her pen-pal, whom she calls “Dear Friend”. Unbeknownst to her, “Dear Friend” did show up — it was Georg all along! But he was conflicted at the revelation that Amalia has been his pen pal this whole time (which he discovers by seeing that she has the copy of Anna Karenina and a rose — the way that “Dear Friend” was supposed to identify her). Instead of revealing that he is her “Dear Friend”, he instead teases her, and Amalia ends the night thinking she has been abandoned. The next day, Georg feels guilty and brings her some vanilla ice cream, which, according to him, is “the best thing in the world when you’re sick.”

Remember when I mentioned I got to eat ice cream for this project? 🙂

But what would that ice cream delivery have looked like during shelter in place? That is the story I set out to tell!

In this blog, I’m going to give a behind-the-scenes look into the process of creating this video. If you don’t want any spoilers, go ahead and skip to the end of this post, where I’ve embedded the final video.

Starting with storyboarding  

Though I was going to film in an unconventional way, I still followed a lot of the traditional production planning process.

So, as will any other video project, I started with the script and shot list. Well, the script was easy since I was adapting an existing story; though, I did make a few changes to reflect the new setting for the scene. As for my shot list, this is where I had to decide on my vision for the film. How would I translate the story from 1930’s Budapest to 2020 pandemic Bay Area?

I knew I wanted to incorporate shelter in place into the setting. That is, I didn’t want to film each actor remotely and try to pretend like they were in the same room. I wanted a socially distant interaction to be an integral part of the story.

Ok, so what are the main elements in the scene and how do I adapt them to shelter in place?

1) Georg visits Amalia and has a surprisingly friendly interaction with her. 

Easy. Instead of an in-person visit, Georg would drop in on Amalia via some type of video conference. I ended up going with Zoom, since the waiting room feature could easily replicate a surprise knock on the door, and I could get footage of Amalia before and after Georg joins the video call.

2) Georg brings Amalia some vanilla ice cream.

Georg was no longer visiting Amalia in person, so how exactly was he going to give her ice cream? Well, this was an easy solution because I just did what I’ve seen so many people do during shelter in place. He has ice cream delivered to her via DoorDash (or whatever your favorite food delivery app is).

On a related note, this adaptation resulted in the biggest script change. While in the original scene, Georg is there with Amalia in person and so he simply hands her the ice cream, in this shelter-in-place version, Amalia needed to go off screen to answer the door and get her ice cream delivery. This, of course, created a lull in the scene that doesn’t exist in the original script. So, I scripted in an improv section where Georg would practice his confession to Amalia (that he is really “Dear Friend”) but ultimately realizes there’s not a good way to admit it. This not only filled the time but also gave context on the story for viewers of the video who were not familiar with the play.

3) Amalia writes a letter to “Dear Friend”.

The scene ends with a musical number (“Vanilla Ice Cream”) in which Amalia starts writing a letter to her pen pal “Dear Friend” but keeps getting distracted as she remarks how uncharacteristically friendly Georg was. 

So how to adapt that for my new setting? She writes an email, of course! (The Hungarian play, Parfumerie, which serves as the source material for She Loves Me, was also the inspiration for You’ve Got Mail).

In general, I wanted it to look like the viewer was getting a glimpse of Amalia’s computer. So, we’re really seeing the interaction through Amalia’s eyes. Here’s how the scene was going to play out — a pseudo shot list of sorts:

  • Amalia has a Zoom meeting started, using it as a sort of mirror to see how she’s looking.
  • Dejected, she pulls up her browser to Google “how many cats makes you a crazy cat lady” (a little bit of comedy and storytelling, showing that after being stood up, she fears she’ll be single forever).
  • Georg requests to join her Zoom, being put in her “waiting room”.
  • Amalia admits Georg into her meeting and they play out the scene over Zoom.
  • Georg leaves the meeting and Amalia starts drafting her letter, only to get distracted (the song “Vanilla Ice Cream”).

With my creative vision in place and the changes to the script made, it was time to figure out how I was going to make it come to life on the screen.

Planning the production

I was on a quick timeline for this project. Because the musical culminates on Christmas Eve, I wanted to release the video at the beginning of Christmas week. That means I really only had a week and a half to prepare, film and edit the entire thing.

How could I do this as quickly and easily as possible without sacrificing quality?

Well, for filming, I knew the characters were going to interact over Zoom, and it would have been easy enough to just record the Zoom meeting and call it a day. However, I also wanted viewers to see other things happening on Amalia screen, such as when she drafts her latest “Dear Friend” email in a text document. So I needed a way of capturing the action on the larger screen. 

Luckily, from my time making tutorial videos at Facebook, I was well-versed with using QuickTime’s screen recording feature, where you can essentially film your whole screen or a portion of your screen. Ok, filming plan set!

As for the song at the end? Well, of course, I could have sung live while filming the action of the scene. But I was worried about how well I’d actually be able to pick up my audio while performing the song. So, I decided it would be best to pre-record the song, and I’d lip sync during the actual filming.

I was going to play Amalia and quickly set out to cast Georg (one of my best friends and film mentor, Christian Pizzirani). I sent him the script on a Wednesday, reserving one rehearsal for us that Sunday, with filming scheduled the following weekend.

Everything was planned; now, it was time to prepare for the shoot.

The recording studio

One of my first priorities was recording the song. This is the whole finale of the scene, and if it didn’t work out, I wasn’t sure there was a point in doing the video at all. I found a great instrumental version of the song on YouTube to use as the backing track. Then, I set up a little recording studio in my closet.

Fun fact: Clothes make for good sound proofing.

And the great thing about pre-recording the song? I didn’t need to sing it perfectly in one take! I knew I was going to edit the vocals onto the back-tracking anyways, so I could splice together bits from different takes. In fact, I didn’t even sing the whole song in one take. The penultimate note in this song is a high B, which can take a toll on even vocals on even professional singers.  So, after getting warmed up, I actually recorded the end of the song first!

I combined the vocal tracks and the instrumental track in Logic. I did end up splicing together multiple takes. My husband and expert audio engineer Ryan Lee Short did all of the sound mixing and EQ. And the end result is a studio-quality track!

The song was done, and I spent the week practicing lip syncing to it. During actual filming, when we got to that point in the scene, I had the song queued up on my iPad and discreetly pressed “play”.

Now I had to test out the filming set-up.

Preparing to film

After rehearsing the Sunday before filming and solidifying how the action would play out, I spent the week testing out all of the technology I’d be using to shoot the scene.

And it’s a good thing I did. 

Remember that plan about doing the scene over Zoom but actually using QuickTime to “shoot” the scene so that I could film not only the Zoom meeting but the larger desktop? Yeah …. turns out, when you run QuickTime and Zoom at the same time, Zoom gets really choppy.

Uh oh. 

Luckily, I quickly pivoted. Instead of filming everything in one go, I would film the different elements in pieces and then composite them in my video editing software.

So, now the interaction between the character would just be recorded in Zoom. And then I would do a separate screen recording of the action on my entire desktop using QuickTime with just a blank Zoom screen and combine the two together.

While this was going to add more time in editing, I realized it was actually going to make filming quicker.

The scene plays out in one shot, which means every element needed to go perfectly or the take was ruined. Now that I was splitting up the action happening on the desktop and the conversation happening on Zoom, it eased the pressure on that front.

Lights, camera, action!

Filming the scene actually went really smoothly. Saturday was scheduled as a technical rehearsal to practice things like Georg entering and exiting the Zoom meeting and Amalia turning off and on her camera. And in the end, we filmed a couple of takes of the scene. Again, because this is filmed as just a one-shot (recorded over Zoom), it was actually really quick to shoot the scene.

I used Zoom’s record meeting feature to capture the action of the scene.

That night I viewed the footage and there was actually a take I was pretty happy with. But we had already set aside time on Sunday to film, so I took the opportunity to note little changes I wanted, particularly on my end.

That was one big learning — it’s difficult to direct and act in the same project, as it’s hard to catch a lot of the visual things you (and to a certain extent, the other actors) are doing until you go back and view the footage. For example, a lot of my notes for filming the next day were about eyelines — it read better when we looked directly into our webcams, even though normally when you’re in a Zoom meeting you tend to look at your screen (meaning your eyes are focused below the camera).

So Sunday, we filmed a few more takes, and that was a wrap! Well, at least for the other actor.

On my end, I had to choose my favorite take, and get the right edit of it. Then I played the footage while I recorded the desktop action, perfectly choreographed and synced with the action of the scene. 

I actually broke the screen recording up into three elements:

  • Recording the entire desktop with a blank Zoom meeting going and the action of pulling up and later minimizing the browser and pulling up a text document
  • Recording just the action of the Google search
  • Recording just the action of typing the “Dear Friend” email

Filming was complete, and now it was time to put it all together. To the editing room!

Snip, snip, snip

Ok, the editing room is just my living room, but you get the picture.

First, I worked on the scene recorded in Zoom. Again, since I wanted to show the action in “one shot” there wasn’t much visual editing that needed to be done — mostly trimming the beginning and end. 

However, there was a lot of audio editing required, which I didn’t originally anticipated. One drawback to recording over Zoom — it’s hard to control audio levels. I couldn’t even monitor them while filming! This is one big difference between the way this project was filmed and a more traditional video shoot.

So I ended up doing a lot of audio adjustments to the scene in Logic. This ended up being a good thing, as it allowed me to learn a lot more about the program, such as using nodes and adjusting little bits of an audio track. 

In one portion of the scene, my audio levels were really quiet while my scene partner’s level were a bit too loud. Luckily, I was able to even it out in Logic.

In Logic, I also applied a lot of the same EQ settings to the spoken scene that were used on the song, so that there wouldn’t be a huge disconnect between the two.

And finally, I synced the song with the scene.

The Zoom portion of the video was done; now time to composite it with the screen recordings. 

For my previous videos, I was able to use iMovie — a more beginner’s editing tool. But because I was going to be combining one video on top of another video, I knew I would need more advanced capabilities, so I got to learn a whole new software — Final Cut.

Final Cut makes it easy to combine two videos together. You started with your base video — in my case, that would be the screen recording of the desktop. And then you layer the other videos on top and resize them to fit within the space on the base video. So, for example, I had recorded just the text document as I typed the “Dear Friend” letter, and I resized that video to fit in the blank text document on the recording of my entire desktop.

The action of the words being typed is actually a separate video overlaid onto the video of the entire desktop.

And I could have done the same for the Zoom scene except … I knew I wanted the browser and the text document to overlap the Zoom window.

The browser window overlaps the Zoom window, so I couldn’t just resize the video of the Zoom meeting. As you see here, it needed to be an L-shape for this section of the film.

So, simply resizing the Zoom video wouldn’t work. Instead I used green screen technology. When I did the screen recording of my desktop, the blank Zoom meeting had a green background. Then when I combined the Zoom recording, I used Final Cut’s keying feature to splice in that recording — the video showed up wherever the green showed.

When I recorded the desktop, the Zoom window was a green screen. Then, I used Final Cut’s keying tool to composite in the Zoom recording.

I also used Final Cut to insert a few sound effects — the doorbell and typing sounds.

The last bit was creating an intro and the credits — also something new for me. Luckily, with the switch to Final Cut, there were a lot of built-in templates for me to use.

The final video was complete! Now to share it with the world.

Exporting and sharing

I knew I would be primarily sharing via Facebook and so the final video size couldn’t be too large. Luckily, Final Cut has an export option optimized for Facebook:

The “YouTube & Facebook” option exports the video as a lower-resolution SD version, but with a small enough file size that it’s easy to upload to social media.

I also exported a higher resolution master file and used that to upload to YouTube.

And here’s the final video:

I learned a lot of new technical skills and got more practice as a director. Now, on to the next video project!

Content Creator, Video Producer

Before You Know It

When it comes to personal development, there are some things you work on where progress is slow. Day-to-day, it’s hard to notice any significant changes or improvements. It usually takes a sudden reality check to realize just how far you’ve come:

Fitting in that dress you haven’t worn since college after a slow weight loss journey.

Discovering you’re more fluent than you thought when a foreign tourist asks for directions.

I had one of those “aha!’ moments recently for one of my career exploration areas: video production.

Now, I’ve talked about video a lot on this blog. From getting a crash course on the medium to working on some film sets. And even the many times I’ve attempted (and failed) to put together my own videos.

A few months ago, I was finally successful in seeing a video production project through to the end when I put together some Hawaiian language lesson videos and launched my own YouTube channel, Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i. It felt great to have an actual finished product. And as of the date I’m posting this blog, I have successfully produced and published close to twenty videos for that channel!

Now, I’ve kept the videos relatively simple — that was the key to actually completing them. And in fact, over the weeks, I have simplified my videos more and more to make the process more efficient.

So, while it feels like an accomplishment just to get something done, it was hard to feel like my video production skills were improving in any significant way.

That was, until last week.

Last Wednesday, my son turned 9 ¾ months old. A while back, someone in my mom’s group on Facebook had posted a video of her baby doing a Harry Potter sorting ceremony when they turned 9 ¾ months old. The mom had gotten pajamas for each Hogwarts house and then filmed her baby crawling to one of the sets to choose their house. 

Such a cute idea!

Of course, me being the overachiever that I am, I knew I wouldn’t be satisfied with just a simple home movie. I wanted close-up shots and b-roll. Titles cards and music.

So, using the skills I’ve learned along the way, I started with planning. In the weeks leading up to the day, I slowly obtained any props and set decor I needed. I also started brainstorming what shots I’d need.

The night before, I dressed the set — Harry Potter themed backdrop, Hogwarts banners and, of course, the house onesies. I also wrote out my shot list and made the Keynote presentation for my title cards. I did a brief storyboard in my head, so I knew exactly what I wanted to capture the next day.

The morning of filming, I started with all the b-roll footage, knowing that I’d have limited time to shoot Artie before he got impatient. I was even quick on my feet and captured unplanned shots, like when our black cat perfectly walked around the set.

Filming my son was the most difficult part, but that was to be expected, given he is a baby. And actually toward the end, he did great, and I was able to get shots in one take!

All in all, filming went smoothly and didn’t take that much time because with my shot list, I knew exactly what I wanted to capture and what order it made sense to film.

Then came editing. This was the part I thought would take quite a few hours, as I had over 30 clips plus the title cards to sort through. However, because I had already done a basic storyboard and have had some experience putting together different clips for my Hawaiian lesson videos, editing actually only took me less than an hour!

And I even gained a few new skills with this project. This was the first time I had adjusted the speed on parts of the video. And it was also the first time working with music for the entire video, adjusting the clips so that they lined up with key moments in the soundtrack.

In much less time than I anticipated, I had a video that was more polished, dynamic and complex than I thought I had the skills for. I pulled from my experience and learnings from that last two years and made a video I’m really proud of.

Check it out:

The moral of the story? I guess, sometimes you’ve come further than you realize. And maybe you just need to challenge yourself to do something you think pushes the limits of your skills, in order to really see how much you’ve achieved.

Content Creator, Planning

Continuing My Search

As I wrote about several months ago, my plan had been (and continues to be) to return to work on a more full time basis at some point this year. At the beginning of the year, I was thinking late April or May would be a reasonable time to wrap up my maternity leave as it were and go back to work.

And then, the pandemic hit. Businesses and whole industries in peril; companies instituting hiring freezes; and droves of people — now furloughed or unemployed — now flooding the job market.

The outlook seemed dire, but I continued with my plan; and in fact, I started my search a little earlier than originally planned, anticipating that the hunt may take a little longer than it has in the past.

And in short — it has. I still haven’t returned to work.

Now, granted, my job hunting during shelter-in-place has gone in waves. Sometimes, I see jobs that I’m motivated to apply to, and sometimes it’s a desert. And then there are times that I’m just not feeling confident in myself or my direction.

I am being extremely selective in what I apply to. As tempting as it is to just return to a position that I’ve done in the past because I know I could probably get it, I am determined to only pursue opportunities that I honestly think will energize me.

When I first started my search, I talked about really having two general options when it came to find a new job that aligned with my sabbatical goals:

  • Finding something new in my old field: for example, a marketing role that involved a lot more creativity.
  • Pursuing opportunities in a brand new field: for example, podcasting, livestreaming, design — work I have not done professionally, but have gained skills in during my sabbatical.

And I’ve applied to both types of opportunities during this period. However, five months in, I’m facing a little bit of a reality check. Given the state of the job market — few jobs and tons of candidates — I will likely be more competitive when it comes to pursuing roles in my old field. 

And even then — it’ll be a challenge. For some positions, hiring managers probably have the luxury of considering hundreds of candidates who have done that exact position for years. And seeing as how I’m trying to branch out from roles I’ve done in the past, I’ll have to work really hard to make my case.

So, where does that leave me?

Well, right now, I have been looking at social media or digital marketing roles that include a lot of hands-on content creation. And I’m focusing on companies and brands that seem like the content could have a lot of personality and fun. In general, that seems to be B2C (consumer marketing) over B2B (business marketing) and organic/engagement marketing over content for paid advertising.

And bonus points, if the role allows me to gain some experience in influencer marketing and/or community management  — areas that have really piqued my interest.

So, that’s the game plan for now. And we’ll just have to see where this path takes me.

Career Exploration, Content Creator, Writer

I Want

As I’ve talked about before, I have a long, complicated history with writing. There have been many times throughout my life when I have been made to feel that writing just ‘wasn’t for me’.

But ones of the best things about this sabbatical — and particularly keeping up this blog — has been reclaiming my identity as a writer.

In addition to this blog, I’ve been playing around with some creative writing, so I want to share a little of that in this post, with my piece I Want.


I Want

I want to go to a cabin. In the middle of nowhere. By myself. Basking in the silence. And cry. And scream into the ether. And cry some more.

I want someone to hug me. Tight. Without saying a word. One of those hugs that lasts just a little longer than ‘normal’, where before you know it, you are no longer being hugged but being held. And there we are, in silent embrace, remembering what it’s like to be touched again.

I want to make plans. Remember making plans?

I want to be able to dream about the future again.

I want to go to Paris and sit at one of those sidewalk cafe tables, with my coffee and croissant, and just watch people.

I want to believe in human beings again.

I want to believe in humanity.

I want to hope again.

I want to not be so tired anymore.

Sometimes I wish I could go to sleep and never wake up.

Sometimes I think I must already be sleeping, stuck in an endless dream, and I need to wake up.

I need to wake up.

I want to take in deep breaths of cool, fresh air. Big gulps of it. I want to fill my lungs with the coolest, freshest air and feel it spread throughout my body.

I want to feel free.

I want to stop waiting for someone — or something — to save me. I want to find the resilience and confidence to save myself.

I want to trust myself again.

I want to stop being afraid.

I want to have clarity.

I want to know what I’m doing is right. If for no one else, at least right for me.

I want to not hurt anymore. To be hurt. To cause hurt. I’ve hurt for so long and inflicted hurt so profoundly, I’m not sure I remember how to live without hurting.

I want to find stillness. In my head. In my heart.

I want to find peace.

I want to believe I deserve peace.

And then I want to discover that peace belongs to anyone who opens their arms to it.

I want … to know how to finish this.

How do I finish this?

When is it finished?

Is it finished?


This piece is can also be found on my Medium account, where I will be publishing more of my creative writing. If you liked what you read, please give me a follow on Medium.

Content Creator, Reflections, Video Producer

What We Do When We’re Doing Nothing

It feels like lately my career exploration has been sparse and unorganized. I don’t know if it’s because my fitness and diet goals have been taking up so much of my time. Or maybe it was my focus on the recent play I filmed. Or likely, it’s just the messed up state of the world.

Whatever, it is, I feel like I haven’t done much.

But it’s not like I’ve done nothing. I don’t think there’s ever a time when I do nothing. It seems like I don’t know how to not be busy.

So, I thought it’d be interesting to reflect on the things that filled my time when I wasn’t actively and purposefully exploring career paths:

I watched a lot of YouTube

Of all the subscription services we have — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Disney+, etc. — I actually consume most of my video media on the one free service — YouTube. 

Maybe it’s because most of the videos I watch are relatively short and, therefore, easily digestible. Or maybe it’s because of the endless variety of content you can find on the platform. Whatever it is, some days, I’ll put on an interesting video and the next thing I know, I’ve been watching videos for hours.

It has definitely reinforced how much I enjoy consuming video and particularly on the YouTube platform.

I’ve been cooking … and start filming it

As part of my work to lose weight and improve my health, I’ve done an overhaul of my diet, cutting out almost all processed foods and focusing on eating well-balanced meals. This, of course, requires me to make nearly everything I eat from scratch, which means I’ve been doing a lot of cooking.

And remember when I talked about watching a lot of YouTube … I mean, literally two paragraphs ago? Well, some of those videos have been around healthy food recipes.

So, I thought: “Well, I’m making these healthy meals anyway. Why don’t I just film myself doing it?” 

It obviously added a little time to my food prep, but not too much. Learning from my past video projects, I kept things simple with minimal camera set-ups. And I plan to just do voiceover rather than narrating as I film, so I didn’t need to worry about optimizing sound as I filmed.

I haven’t started editing yet, but I’m thinking this could be a potential new YouTube channel for me, with a wider audience.

I’ve done a little job hunting

I have hopped on LinkedIn about once a week to see what type of jobs are available. Since I’m not set on which direction I want to pursue, I cast my net wide when it comes to looking for opportunities, searching keywords that cover some of the areas that I’ve enjoyed:

  • Podcast
  • Video producer
  • Interior design
  • Content creator

I’ll say that the well is pretty dry.

There aren’t really many professional podcast opportunities here in the Bay Area — I mostly see things pop up in L.A. 

For video production openings, companies seemed to be looking for people who have a lot more experience than I do, specifically on large-scale shoots with all the professional equipment (understandable!). They also often are looking for candidates with a full portfolio and list of freelance production contacts.

The interior design opportunities haven’t been that interesting to me or they are looking for experienced interior designers.

The only area that has both piqued my interest and lined up with my qualifications has been writing opportunities — whether that be social media or website content. 

Moving forward

Looking at how I’ve spent my time these past several weeks, I want to continue my work on video, understanding that it may always just be a hobby. I’d like to do an initial edit of the food footage I’ve shot in the next couple of weeks.

And I’m also going to work on putting together some resumes tailored toward the various writing opportunities I’m seeing.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 5: Promoting Your Video & Engaging With Your Community

This is the final post in my series on starting a YouTube channel.

In my previous posts, I’ve gone over:

For this final post, we’ll look at promoting your YouTube videos and engaging with your community of subscribers and other viewers.

Promotion

Now, you can always wait for people to come across your videos in the YouTube search results. And in the previous post of this series, we talked about how using the right keywords in your video’s title and description can help people who are searching for a similar topic find your video.

But just because you’ve used similar keywords that people are searching for doesn’t mean your videos will show up at the top of search results. In fact, when I first launched my channel with my first few videos, even though I had video titles like “Learn Hawaiian grammar”, my videos were not in the top search results when I searched “Hawaiian grammar”. Even now, my videos are fourth in the search results.

That’s because keywords are not the only thing that dictates search result rankings. YouTube also uses engagement metrics like video views, likes and comments to determine the order of search results. But how can you get views if people can’t find your videos in the search results?

That’s where promotion comes in.

When I settled on the name of my YouTube channel, Ke Aloha No Hawai’i, I also set up a Facebook page, Instagram profile and Twitter account with that same name. For every video I release, I do an announcement post on those three social media channels. I also publish other social media engagement posts in between videos.

But how do I get people to see my social media posts? Well, of course, I shared my new branded social media channels with my personal network, but not many of my friends or family are interested in learning Hawaiian. 

So how could I reach Hawaiian language learners?

Well, that is where hashtags — particularly in Instagram — have been extremely helpful. Here’s my first Instagram post:

Another Hawaiian language-focused Instagram account with a large community follows one of those hashtags. They checked out my videos and shared one of them with their community on Facebook, which drove people to my YouTube channel. And then, other accounts that follow that first Page also shared my video with their Facebook fans, driving even more traffic to my channel, as well as my social media accounts.

Community Engagement

If people are watching your YouTube videos, hopefully they are leaving comments. By liking and replying to comments, you are helping to build fan loyalty. According to the YouTube Creator Academy course Use comments to connect with your community: “When you jump in, it shows your audience that you’re listening and interested in what they have to say. This can help make them feel loved, and may encourage others to write positive things.”

I try to respond to all comments on my videos within 24 hours of receiving them, giving thoughtful replies.

In my videos, I always end with a request for viewers to leave a comment below. I’ve also been testing out requesting comments earlier in my videos. For example, for some of my videos I give my viewers “homework” to practice what they’ve learned and ask them to type their practice sentences in the comments. I haven’t yet had any viewer do that, but I’ll keep trying!

Final Thoughts and Next Steps

For anyone who has been interested in starting a YouTube channel and hasn’t quite gotten around to it, I would remind them: It doesn’t need to be perfect. Start small and then build upon that.

There is still so much I want to improve and iterate on:

On the production side, I want to streamline my process for writing, filming and editing my videos. I release new videos at least once a week, and in the immediate future, I want to get to the point where I am filming multiple videos at one time so that I don’t need to go through the full production cycle each week. And then, down the road, I’ll look at upgrading my equipment and editing software. I may also explore new creative formats for my videos.

On the promotion and community management side of things, I want to expand my activities and be more proactive. I can find Hawaiian language or Hawaiian culture groups on Facebook, for example, and try to promote my videos there. I can reach out to other Hawaiian language YouTubers or organizations to see if they want to collaborate, either on a video or a promotion. I can use my comments sections of my videos to post prompts, asking people to reply.

Starting a YouTube channel was a journey. And now, maintaining and growing my YouTube channel will be a whole new adventure.

Content Creator, Uncategorized, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 4: Working in the YouTube Platform

In this blog series on starting a YouTube channel, I’ve reviewed:

In this week’s post, I’ll go over the process of creating a YouTube account, setting up the channel and working within the YouTube Studio to upload videos and get them ready to publish.

Creating a YouTube account

Creating a YouTube account is relatively simple; you just need to enter some basic contacts information and a name for your channel.

However, choosing your channel’s name is where you need to do some early thinking about the branding for your channel. Ideally, you’ll want a name that gives viewers a sense of what your channel is about.

For me, I knew that the core videos (at least at first) would focus on Hawaiian grammar lessons. So, I initially considered straightforward names like:

  • Learn Hawaiian
  • Hawaiian Language

However, I wanted room to expand the scope of my channel to cover Hawaiian culture, history, art, music etc. as well as my own personal connections and stories. So, I didn’t want a name that limited my channel to just language-focused videos.

I also thought about how learning the Hawaiian language was really a personal quest for me to connect more with my culture. So, I brainstormed names like:

  • My Hawaiian Journey
  • Discovering Hawai’i

But I thought, these names could easily be mistaken for travel-related channels.

I ultimately settled on Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i, which means “love for Hawai‘i”. For me, this phrase really covered the scope of what my videos might feature and described my motivations behind learning the language. Also, for people who don’t understand enough of the language yet to know the translation, they would still easily recognize the words “Aloha” and “Hawai‘i”.

Setting up the channel

The biggest things you want to focus on when first setting up your YouTube channel is:

  • Channel icon (profile picture): shows up not only on your channel page but is also the icon that shows up next to any comments you make.
  • Channel art (page banner): the first thing visitors see when they visit your channel.
  • Channel description (About section): allows you to tell visitors and potential subscribers what to expect from your YouTube channel.

I kept the artwork simple with clear branding for my channel name. I looked up the size specifications and other recommendations that would allow the artwork to look good on both desktop and mobile.

Other parts of the channel set-up that are good to think about, especially once you have videos uploaded:

  • Featured content: Toward the top of your channel’s page, you can feature a video or playlist and differentiate the content for new visitors vs. returning subscribers. For new visitors, YouTube recommends a channel trailer; I have not yet made one, so I feature my first grammar lesson. For returning subscribers, I feature my latest video.
  • Sections: As people scroll down the home tab of your channel, they can see featured collections of videos. I created sections for my various playlists: Learn Hawaiian, Hawaiian Grammar, and Vlogs.
  • Playlists: It’s a good idea to organize your videos into playlists, especially once you have a lot of uploads. There is a whole tab section on your channel for playlists. This will help visitors to your page find the content that is most relevant to their interests.

Uploading and Publishing Videos

Videos are uploaded and published through the YouTube Studio. Be prepared to wait a while for videos to upload. My grammar lesson videos are about 10-12 minutes and anywhere from 1-2 GB, and their upload times in YouTube Studio can be about 30-45 minutes.

Title & Description

Videos need a title and description, and this is where you want to be strategic about SEO. Use keywords that your intended audience would likely use in their search. Make the beginning of your description clear and to the point. You can also include relevant links.

For the descriptions of my grammar videos, I start with a brief summary of the lesson. Under that, I include links to the earlier grammar lessons. After that, I include links to other Hawaiian language learning resources. And then I include links to the Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i social media pages.

Cards & End Screens

You can link to other videos or playlists from your channel, throughout your video (cards) and at the end (end screen).

If I reference a past lesson, I include a card that pops up during that part of the video and links to the past video I mentioned.

And for my end screen (clickable overlays that can appear at the end of your video for up to 20 seconds), I feature a subscribe button and my Hawaiian Grammar playlist.

Publishing

I publish new Hawaiian grammar videos every Monday. I try to get everything uploaded and set up on Sunday. Then, I just schedule my videos to publish the next morning. That way, even my East Coast subscribers can find a new video first thing in the morning.


And that’s it! Next week, I’ll go over engaging with your community and promoting your channel.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 3: Editing

I am continuing my blog series on starting my YouTube Channel Ke Aloha No Hawai’i this week with a look at my editing process. If you missed my posts on planning my content and filming, check them out now.

Editing has been my big obstacle in the past, with technical limitations grinding to a halt past video projects. However, last fall, I pushed past my frustrations last, simplified my production and successfully produced my first video.

This time around, I was determined to learn from past attempts: keep it simple. 

Programs & Assets

I use three main programs for editing my videos:

  • iPhone Photos editor: I do an initial trimming of my video clips (which I film on my iPhone) in the Photos app before transferring to my computer.
  • iMovie: I cut together all of my clips, transitions, and sometimes add music in this program.
  • Keynote: I create my text overlay in this program.

Editing Process

Trimming the Raw Footage

As I wrote about in my previous post on filming, I shoot my videos on my iPhone. Before transferring the clips to my computer, I edit them in the Photos app, trimming the beginning and end of the videos. I could do this on my computer in iMovie, but if there is a large section to cut, I find it easier to do on my iPhone.

After I trim the video clips and choose which takes I want to use, I Airdrop the assets to my laptop.

Creating a Rough Cut

On my laptop, I use iMovie to do the bulk of my editing. I import all of my video assets into my iMovie project and start putting the clips together. Here, I can do more precise trimming of the video clips to get the right timing.

My initial videos were designed as just one long, uninterrupted take of the entire lesson, which required less editing in iMovie. However for subsequent videos, I worked with different takes, so I had to do more splicing together of separate clips. I also will cut up a single clip into chunks and vary the crop on those in order to (a) provide more visual variety and (b) make the integration of separate clips more seamless.

During this phase, I also add in transitions and any music. I will also typically bump up the volume on the clips.  For later videos, I also created and added a static end card to the last 10 seconds of my video, which allows me to add a subscribe button when I upload to YouTube.

Once the rough cut is complete, I export the video and transfer it to a separate device. 

Adding the Text Overlay

The last step for my videos is to add text overlay. Because I’m teaching a language in my videos, it’s important for my viewers to be able to see the words and sentences they are learning. 

While iMovie has some text overlay functionality with it ‘Titles’, I found it very limiting and didn’t fit my needs. There isn’t an ability to place the text exactly where you want nor make it move across the screen.

I needed a way for text to fade in and out and sometimes move to a different part of the screen, similar to how it might in a PowerPoint presentation. Turns out — that was the solution! Well, technically, I use Keynote, but it’s the same concept.

I create a Keynote presentation with the text and animation I want for my video. And the key — I make the slide background green. Then I record myself running the presentation. In order to make sure the text movement syncs with the video, I play the exported rough cut on another device and trigger the presentation animation along with the video. After I’m done, I export the recorded presentation as a movie.

Then I go back to iMovie and typically start another project. I import the rough cut video and my recorded Keynote presentation as media assets and sync them in iMovie. For the Keynote recording, I use the ‘Green/Blue Screen’ setting, so that only the text is shown, overlaid on my video. If the recording wasn’t completely synced, I can edit the text video and shift it slightly.


Then I export the final video! Next week, I’ll go over setting up a channel on YouTube and uploading videos.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 2: Filming

In this multi-week blog series, I will go through my journey starting a YouTube channel. Last week, I talked about planning my content, covering everything from deciding on a theme to writing my video scripts. This week, I’ll feature my filming process.

Starting Simple

My goal for these initial videos was to keep things simple — from using equipment I already had to choosing a single set-up format. In my past attempts to launch a YouTube channel, I had filmed videos that required a lot of different camera set-ups and lots of equipment, requiring a long shoot day (or multiple days) for a single video and leaving me with little energy by the time I got to editing.

This time around, I decided to start pretty basic. Once I become more skilled at this basic set-up, I can explore more complicated videos.

Equipment

As I mentioned, I was determined to work with what I already had. Moreover, I actually opted for simpler equipment than what was fully available to me, as it would streamline the process and make editing easier. The only equipment I used to film:

  • iPhone 8: I used the back camera and the built-in mic.
  • JOBY GorillaPod: This iPhone/iPad tripod has flexible legs that allow it to grip onto other things.
  • Adjustable mic stand: I attached the tripod to this so I could get the camera at the exact height and angle I needed.
  • Natural sunlight: Instead of relying on artificial light, I opted to use sunlight. While this limited my shooting location and time, ultimately, it provided the best coverage and light quality.

Set-up

In order to keep filming relatively quick and simple, I planned for videos that would just require a single camera set-up — single-shot videos with me seated, looking at the camera.

I ended up setting up against my TV. This allowed for a couple of things:

  • I would be facing the window and could take advantage of the natural light.
  • I could drape cloth over the TV for a good background (I ended up using a Hawaiian pareu).

I made sure my camera had the grid displayed and followed the ‘rule of thirds’, making sure the center of my eyes lined up in the top left intersection.

And interesting enough, I found that for the best look, I actually have to place the camera pretty high above my eye line. During filming, it seemed weird looking up into the camera so high, but on screen it looked great, with my eyes nice and open. I guess anyone who takes a lot of selfies could attest to the fact that shooting from above is the most flattering!

Filming

As I mentioned, for my first videos, I designed the shoot to just be a single take of the entire video. The idea was to keep editing pretty simple, just needing to cut out the beginning and the end. 

I downloaded a teleprompter app on my iPad which uses voice recognition to advance the text so that I could have a reference for my script.

I ultimately decided to shoot some additional footage that I spliced in to give the video a little more personality. I kept the same camera set-up but did move the chair (and thus my position on screen) to provide more visual interest.

Limitations and Learnings

Throughout the process of filming these initial videos, I had a lot of great learnings and ideas to improve future shoots. 

First, while I decided to use the back camera because it’s higher quality than the front-facing camera, that did make it hard to review footage in between takes. It was nearly impossible to review shots while the camera stayed in the tripod, which meant that whenever I wanted to check on a take, I had to remove the phone, look at the clip and then re-set up my shot (it was hard to not shift the tripod when taking the phone in and out of it). 

Second, while my idea behind doing single-shot videos was to make the editing process easier, it made the filming process pretty difficult. With a single-shot video, if I messed up at any point, I had to stop and start from the beginning again. For subsequent videos, I decided to change the format to videos that splice together different clips, allowing me to work with alternate takes when I make a mistake.

Next, while the teleprompter app I used was pretty impressive, it ultimately didn’t work out for me. First, while it does use voice recognition to advance the script, large sections of my scripts are in Hawaiian, which the program doesn’t recognize and thus gets stuck. Secondly, it was impossible to find a good location to place my iPad where I could look at the script while keeping eye contact in the camera. I ended up having to reshoot my first two videos because I found it so distracting watching my eyes flit over to the side to look at the teleprompter. For future videos, I ended up memorizing the talking points rather than obsessing over following the exact script. Not only did this allow me to keep eye contact with the camera, but it also made the videos sound more natural and easy.

Finally, things are a lot harder when just filming by myself. While Ryan is able to help me a little with setting up the shot, I have to film alone, so Ryan can keep Artie quiet and entertained during the shoot.


As I film more and more videos, I’m sure I’ll continue to try out new techniques and, eventually, new equipment. I get more and more learnings every shoot!

Stay tuned next week when I review my editing process.

Content Creator, Video Producer

Starting a YouTube Channel, Part 1: Planning Your Content

A few weeks ago, I wrote about revisiting my plans to start a YouTube channel. I have started this creative pursuit a few times in the past, but always found myself hindered by overwhelming technical roadblocks. Recently, I decided to do some free training through the YouTube Creator Academy to reinvigorate my efforts.

Well, I am proud to announce that today, I launched my YouTube channel, Ke Aloha no Hawai‘i! My channel will focus on Hawaiian language lessons and will be a place where I can also document my journey learning the language.

Over the next few weeks, I will give you all a behind-the-scenes look at the process of creating a YouTube channel. This week, we’ll look at planning your content.

It’s start with an idea

The first step to creating a YouTube channel is asking yourself: what is my channel going to be about?

As I learned from the YouTube Creator Academy, it’s a good idea to create videos centered on something you’re passionate about. That’s one of the easiest ways to guarantee that you’ll have plenty of content ideas.

There are a lot of things that I’m really interested in, so the question was — how do I choose the best topic out of my many interests? Well, another good tip is to focus on what type of videos will be easy enough to make that you can create them regularly. So, for example, while I love DIY projects, those can be a little long to film with all of the camera angles, supplies and space needed. Instead, I focused on ideas that would allow me to create simple single-shot videos.

This left me with a few contenders:

  • Comedy videos where I would talk about the latest pop culture phenomena
  • Comedy videos featuring one of my original characters reviewing the latest TV shows and movies
  • Educational videos focused on the Hawaiian language

I decided I would work on a spec script for each idea to see if one idea was easier to write and plan compared to the others.

And this is where I was surprised. The Hawaiian educational video took the longest to write (as I needed to confirm I was getting all of the content correct), but it ended up being the topic I was most energized to work on.

So, I had my winner!

Planning the videos

I knew I wanted my channel to focus on Hawaiian language lessons, but where should I start? 

Well, I looked online to see what was already out there. While on YouTube and other websites, you can find a lot of lessons teaching common phrases and vocabulary, it was hard to find a simple, straightforward resource on the basics of the Hawaiian grammar.  

One of the recommendations from the YouTube Creator Academy was to try to fulfill a need or speak to a niche audience that is underserved on YouTube. Since I didn’t see that many grammar resources, I thought this would be a great thing to focus on and help me stand apart from other channels that teach the Hawaiian language.

Figuring I could release 1-2 lesson videos a week, I start plotting out my lesson outlines.

Thinking about what I wanted to include in each video.

From here, it was time to write my content.

Writing my scripts

Starting with an outline for each video made the script-writing process very easy.

Because these are educational videos, this writing phase included a lot of research, as I needed to verify that I was explaining the concepts correctly. In fact, I took an entire week to pore over grammar textbooks and other documents before I even started writing my first script.

It was also during this phase that I thought a lot about what the tone of my videos will be. I knew I wanted them to be positive, encouraging and accessible to people of all levels.

I made sure my script was friendly and easy to follow, even for beginners.

And during the writing process, I was already thinking about how the videos would be shot, as this would affect my scripts. I knew I wanted to do videos where I am talking to the camera, with text overlaid to help illustrate the lessons. For some lessons, I would also want to cut in screenshare shots from my computer.

The writing process was interesting because in some cases I realized that a topic I had initially planned to be a single video really needed to be split up into two videos.

With my initial scripts written, it was time to shoot the videos. Be sure to check out my blog next week, where I will go through the filming process.