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.

Content Creator, Video Producer

YouTube Creator Academy

Almost a year and a half ago, I began this sabbatical with a pretty daunting task: to explore nine new potential career paths across varying fields, all with very different scopes of work. 

Rather than creating a strict plan and schedule for this exploration, I opted instead for a more organic, flexible approach. I knew that early findings would inform later pursuits. I found that some paths — like web development — were really easy to learn and take on but ultimately not as interesting and fulfilling as I thought they would be. Other areas were energizing but with a much steeper learning curve. And in some instances, clearing certain obstacles seemed like too much of a ‘time suck’, so I ultimately decided to shelve the pursuit, to free up resources to explore something new.

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on some of these early pursuits that I left unfinished — these dreams deferred, to put it poetically. Specifically, I’ve been thinking about my exploration of video production, tied to my interest in being a YouTube creator.

Previous roadblocks

In the first few months of my sabbatical, I actually did a lot of work to build my video production knowledge and skills. On the content strategy side, I analyzed some of my favorite YouTube creators and identified the aspects of their channels that were most compelling. On the production side, I received video 101 training from an experienced filmmaker.

And I even tried my hands at making my own videos, a test of what could ultimately become my own YouTube channel. Based on my interest in DIY, I first filmed a tutorial on a woodworking project. This was good practice in production planning and setting up shots. Based on how many resources were needed for the DIY projects — in terms of supplies, tools and space — I started to doubt the sustainability of these types of videos.

I quickly pivoted to a new topic that I was equally passionate about: food. I created a concept where I would feature some of my favorite, yet lesser known, restaurants. We filmed one episode, which was a lot easier and quicker than the DIY video. However, when it came to editing, my computer didn’t seem powerful enough to handle synching the video and audio nor handling the multiple media files I had to cut and splice together.

This is, ultimately, where I decided to take a break from this path. Outside of purchasing a new computer, it didn’t seem like there was a way for me to continue on.

However, months later, I revisited video creation — with a much simpler format. As an anniversary gift, I made a basic slide-show type video in iMovie with an overlay of music and narration. I worked with still images rather than video files, but it was still good practice on using video transitions, figuring out the best timing, and synching audio with the visual. And luckily, my computer had enough processing power to handle the project.

Starting from the beginning

Being stuck at home during this ‘shelter in place’ period has reminded me how powerful video and platforms like YouTube can be in connecting to a community. While we may not be together physically, we can still stay in touch digitally. And this has all motivated me to revisit my exploration of video and YouTube as a promising platform for content creation.

But I want to be mindful of what derailed me in the past — namely, I jumped into the deep end before learning how to swim. I made things too complex. I wanted things to match the production level and sophistication of my favorite YouTube creators. But ultimately, that became all too overwhelming.

So now, I want to start with the basics. Focus on the simple and doable — the MVP. Embrace the journey of learning, iterating and improving along the way.

YouTube Creator Academy

In one of my earliest blog posts, I outlined the nine careers that I wished to explore during this sabbatical and listed a few resources I might take advantage of to test out and learn more about these professional paths. For Content Creator, the YouTube Creator Academy was one such resource, so it seemed like a good place to start for this renewed exploration.

The YouTube Creator Academy is a free online learning resource that teaches the ins and outs of starting, maintaining and growing a YouTube channel. It offers various areas of instruction,  including content strategy, production, and channel optimization.

Over the last week, I’ve completed courses in:

As I’ve gone through the lessons, I’ve also been brainstorming what my YouTube channel would focus on. Here are some of my biggest take-aways:

Focus on your passion

When it comes to having a steady flow of inspiration and content ideas for your YouTube channel, nothing is going to help you better than making videos on something you’re passionate about. 

And here’s where I start to get nervous. My passions seem to span a wide variety of things (see above about exploring nine different career paths!). And my interests can be pretty fickle and meandering. I’ll get really into learning a new language, for example, and then shift my focus to baking, only to then get my attention pulled to a fitness challenge I want to attempt. Part of that is just my personality — I love to sample a little bit of everything (tapas bars were made for me!).

Light bulb moment! Why don’t I use this interest-hopping to my advantage? Instead of focusing on just food or just DIY projects, I could create a channel centered around me trying different things  — sort of a ‘Laura Tries’ type of theme. One video could be about tackling a recipe I’ve always wanted to attempt. Another video could be about trying out a new skincare routine.

The brainstorming began! 

Think about what’s sustainable

It’s one thing to have a lot of content ideas but you always need to be able to execute them. Releasing videos often is key to keeping your audience engaged, so you need to create videos that fit within the scope of your own time and resources.

One of the biggest tips, especially for beginners, is to consider a topic and format that allows you to shoot multiple videos in one day. 

This made me revisit my initial brainstorming. The ‘Laura Tries’ theme may not lend itself easily to shooting multiple videos in one day. While some of the videos — like trying a make-up tutorial — could use a single camera set-up, others  — like trying a recipe or a one-month exercise challenge — would require multiple set-ups, thus making the filming process pretty time-intensive.

So, what could I do that just required a single camera set-up? I came up with a couple of ideas that would just be me speaking to the camera. One idea centered around explaining the latest popular culture trends (e.g. Tiger King Explained in Less Than Five minutes); though informational, the videos would be conversational, light, and funny. Another concept was more comedic than informational: I’d bring back an old Halloween character — an old woman from Jersey — who would review T.V. shows and movies; the tone would be silly and humorous.

Identify your audience and carve out your niche

It may seem counterintuitive, but with YouTube it’s not always best to focus on appealing to the broadest possible audience. Sure, you may get a lot of views for a video or two, but will that audience be loyal?

Often, you can find more success going after a smaller, more niche audience where there isn’t so much saturation in content. It’s good to consider — am I filling a content need for a specific audience that doesn’t already exist on the platform?

I returned to my brainstorm. My latest two ideas centered around broad topics: popular culture and entertainment. And the audience? People interested in T.V. and movies who like to watch funny videos. Not very specific. 

I think there is a way to carve out a unique voice, so I don’t want to abandon the ideas completely. However, I did go through an exercise of brainstorming topics that I’m still passionate about but may have more of a niche audience or may not have as much existing content on YouTube.

Lately, I’ve been learning the Hawaiian language on the Duolingo app. My paternal grandparents both grew up in Hawai’i, and it’s a culture I strongly identify with. And while it saw a revival starting in the 1970’s, the Hawaiian language is still endangered, so I take pride in being part of keeping it alive. Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about how I wish there were more resources to complement my lessons in Duolingo. So, I’ve also been ruminating on a channel focused on Hawaiian language lessons, essentially people following my journey as I learn the language and in turn put together some of my own lessons. There are a few existing videos with Hawaiian language lessons but not many; still, I’d need to figure out how to differentiate mine.

It’s ok to start with what you have

The courses on production go over a lot of possible equipment you can use to film your videos. However, one thing the lessons emphasize: smartphones have pretty powerful capabilities and you can get some decent quality videos with the devices.

From specialty lights to external microphones and DSLR cameras, I do have access to more advanced filmmaking equipment, and in fact, I used this type of equipment for my earlier videos. However, the set-up is definitely longer when you use more equipment. And it also made things a little more complicated on the editing side, as I had separate audio and video files that I had to then sync.

I think for my initial videos, I’ll just focus on using my iPhone or iPad to film along with a simple ring light. It will make both set-up and editing a lot easier. As I become more experienced, I can then explore more advanced equipment.

Next Steps

I’m going to do some planning on a couple of the concepts: writing scripts and figuring out the set-up. This exercise in pre-production may give me an idea of which idea seems most feasible from a preparation standpoint. 

From there, if both ideas look easy to prepare, I may film a test video and edit for both concepts. I can see if either concept was easier to film or edit. 

Finally, I’ll look at the final products and see which one feels more engaging & authentic and was more enjoyable to work on.

Content Creator, Podcast Producer

We’re Going Live!

Well, we’ve survived a week of ‘sheltering in place’, and as I wrote about in my previous blog post, I’ve used this housebound time to explore new creative projects and skills.

About a week ago, a friend shared an article about a Chrome browser extension — Netflix Party — that allows people from different locations to all watch the same Netflix title together in real time and pipe in with their own live commentary through a chat thread that appears on the side of the screen. Since then, I’ve seen a number of articles floating around about the Netflix Party extension, as it’s the perfect tool for this period of quarantine — a way to stay connected with friends and family virtually, when you can’t physically.

For me, I immediately thought about how Netflix Party could be a new and interesting way to engage and build the Bring Your Own Movie audience. As I mentioned in my last post, one of my creative goals during this period of quarantine was to do more with the podcast social media channels, and this was a great opportunity to try something new.

This was also a great opportunity to see how quickly I could put something together. Facebook used to have an internal tenet: “Move fast and break things.” While they may have shed the latter part of that motto, employees were still encouraged to move fast. But I often had a difficult time moving at the speed they wanted, as I always wanted to develop a well thought-out, perfect product, while teams were really just looking for the minimal viable product.

As it became clear that people were going to be spending more and more time at home, looking for things to alleviate their boredom, this was a time when that speed was paramount. The very day I saw the article, I was texting the BYOM crew about hosting a watch party with the tool and the next day we were promoting the event. A lot of that speed relied on me just making a call on things, not waiting for 100% consensus and not necessarily having the whole thing figured out before we announced the watch party.

Organizing the watch party

There is such a thing as moving too fast, and before we announced our watch party, I wanted to see the Netflix Party tool in action and make sure everything worked smoothly, with no lag. So I enlisted a friend to help me test. Once I confirmed it worked great, we were ready to announce the watch party!

Oh wait, but what movie would we watch?

That could have been a decision-by-committee kind of thing, with a lot of back and forth among the BYOM team, delaying the announcement of the watch party. Or we could use this as an opportunity to engage with our audience — why not ask our fans for movie suggestions?

And that’s exactly what we did. We received a lot of suggestions. It was a great way to get the conversation going. In the end, I just made an executive decision on the film from among the options. We announced the film the next day and started promotion with social media posts and a Facebook event.

I also read up on the reviews to see if there were any common issues people were experiencing with Netflix Party. It seemed like the tool did work well as long as people were already signed into Netflix in their Chrome browser. I made a note to include that in our instructions to people.

Movie was selected. Instructions were given. We were ready for our watch party on Friday.

Hey, how about a livestream?

Ok, you know me — I can’t do anything small. I was inspired by a number of my friends that have been doing livestreams during this time. They got quite a lot of comments throughout the video and, once again, I thought this might be a really great way to engage our own fans.

At first, I thought simple — Ryan and I would do a watch party pre-show through Facebook Live (we get the most engagement on Facebook compared to Instagram and Twitter). It could be similar to our podcast, where we would talk about the film, maybe do a little trivia and ask for our viewers to pipe in with their own thoughts.

But I thought about what a shame it was that we couldn’t have the other two hosts included on the livestream to make it even more like our podcast. This is where, since I had some free time, I thought that maybe we wouldn’t just settle for the minimal viable product.

I researched our options. Was there a way to switch the host of the livestream, while keeping it the same video? Was there a way to bring multiple people simultaneously into the same livestream.

It turns out Facebook Live used to have a feature where you could bring multiple presenters into the same livestream; unfortunately, they had sunsetted the feature last November. However, there were a number of third-party tools that still let you do that. After a bit of research, I decided to use Streamyard, as there was a free membership level that allowed us to bring in three hosts.

I worked with the BYOM crew to brainstorm topics for the livestream. We tested out Streamyard to make sure it worked. And we were ready to go.

Putting my audio skills to the test

We promoted the watch party all week through our social media channels. But we are a podcast after all, so it only seemed right to record an announcement about the watch party and pre-show livestream and publish it to our feed.

This was a great opportunity to practice recording and editing audio. I wrote a script, recorded a few takes, popped the audio file into GarageBand to edit, and uploaded it to Libsyn.

Show time!

Well, Friday came around … and everything went wonderfully!

The livestream was fun, looked really professional and got a lot of fans engaged. The watch party tool worked smoothly and the chat thread was lively and funny. We got great feedback after the event.

It was amazing how with one event, I was able to touch on four of the creative projects I wanted to accomplish during this quarantine.

I am definitely looking forward to hosting additional online events for the podcast — more watch parties, virtual movie trivia nights, podcast live shows? It’s a great way for us to engage with our fans, and hopefully will result in even more downloads of the podcast.

Content Creator, Podcast Producer

All About Audio

I’ve written extensively about my work on the Bring Your Own Movie podcast. The project was never part of my sabbatical plan, but it’s been one of the most fruitful and rewarding endeavors during this time of exploration. 

It taught me a lot of skills that would have served me well in my past jobs, especially learning to cope with (and seeing the value of) launching a less-than-perfect product, and then iterating on that. It’s also been one of the most entrepreneurial undertakings of my sabbatical, forcing me to learn how to get something completely new off the ground.

And most importantly, it’s just been plain fun!

Obviously, the hope is that one day down the line, we can make some money off of this podcast, but that is likely a long way off. However, it got me wondering — what type of professional podcasting opportunities are out there?

What is a podcast producer?

As I wrote about in a previous post, I defined my own role as producer for our podcast. For the most part, I’m the person managing the logistics — booking the guests, making sure we have a recording venue, coordinating episode prep and launch, and overseeing promotion.

But what are the typical duties of a podcast producer? Well, I went to LinkedIn to find out.

Here are the responsibilities for a podcast producer role open with CBS Interactive:

  • Support high-profile partnership by writing scripts, produce, record and edit 5-6+ audio stories on a daily basis
  • Record, edit and contribute to the development of content for podcasts.
  • Conceptualize and pitch programming ideas/segments and show formats
  • Project manage production schedules, workflow, roles and responsibilities
  • Attend regular meetings to discuss and refine strategy, programming, and tactics in pursuit of our editorial and audience goals
  • Use analytics to clearly communicate best practices and give timely feedback

And I see similar tasks required for the podcast producer position open at SiriusXM:

  • Produce, edit and publish podcast content to Pandora, 3rd party platforms as well as the SXM App.
  • Collaborate with relevant programming counterparts to develop podcast formats of existing content as well as new content, lending additional production assistance, as needed.
  • Participate in creative and production discussions around new podcast formats with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Act as primary point person for all podcast needs within assigned content verticals.
  • Gather and package all relevant audio, metadata and creative assets for delivery in SXM Publish platform.

Essentially it seems like podcast producers do everything short of hosting the show (and I’m sure some do that as well!). The whole lifecycle seems to be helmed and executed by the producer: coming up with creative concepts and scripts; coordinating the production; doing the actual recording; editing the episode; making sure it’s uploaded and published; and analyzing stats.

Looking at these responsibilities, I identified a big gap in my skills and experience: recording and editing the audio. Luckily, I happen to be married to our podcast’s audio engineer and editor, so I had the perfect teacher!

Podcast Recording and Editing 101

Although Ryan records and edits our podcast in Logic, he taught me about recording and editing in GarageBand, as that program is free. 

Recording

We began our lesson with a review of the equipment. Now, you can record a podcast with something as simple as your phone, but luckily, we had the Bring Your Own Movie equipment on hand. We use proper microphones and a USB audio interface, which then connects to a computer and audio recording software of choice (again, we used GarageBand for this lesson). Ideally, you would be recording to an external hard drive, but for this lesson, we just recorded to my computer’s hard drive.

Once the equipment is set up, it’s all about getting the right settings and levels in place. As Ryan told me when talking about the recording equipment: “More important than getting the ‘right thing’ is using the thing you have in the right way”. Two of the biggest factors in getting a quality recording and making editing a lot easier:

  • Microphone placement: while distance away from the microphone can make a difference, what is most important is that the host keeps a consistent distance from the microphone throughout the recording. That way, not as many adjustments need to be made throughout the recording process, and if there are any level changes that need to be made during editing, they can be applied to the entire track rather than bits and pieces throughout the recording.
  • Setting up gain staging: Without getting too much into audio terms, gain is how loud something is before it goes through any processing; it’s the volume level being sent into your plugins, preamps, and amplifiers. There are multiple places along the recording path where gain can be adjusted, but it’s best to do it in as few places as possible (we focused on the dials of the interface). For our interface (and because we’re not in a studio environment), Ryan recommended turning the gain knobs all the way up and then backing off just a little.

As for setting up the tracks in GarageBand, the only thing that Ryan typically does is place a limiter, which essentially flattens out parts of the audio that get too loud and prevents clipping.

Then it’s time to record! Throughout the recording, you can make adjustments to the gain knobs if people are getting too quiet or too loud, too close or too far away from their mic. It’s also good to note time stamps of notable parts of the recording that will be helpful during editing. For example, did somebody hit their mic and you want to edit that out? Noting the time stamps can make it a lot quicker to edit.

Editing

Once recording is done, it’s time to edit. For our podcast, Ryan has five main steps for his editing process:

  • Step 1: Raw cut listen OR making just the large obvious cuts (bathroom breaks, large tangents, hitting the mic, etc).
  • Step 2: Go through again and listen for more nuanced things: weird sounds people make, longer than comfortable silences, off-topic bits, etc.
  • Step 3: (if necessary) Mastering pass (EQ, compression, volume adjustments, etc.)
  • Step 4: Put in other clips (music, movie quote, etc).
  • Step 5: Export. For spoken word, usually just low quality, no more than 96 kps.

We did our own sample recording so that I could practice my editing skills. I really enjoyed this part. The big challenge is when you cut out a section but need to find the right place to make the edit so that the final piece sounds seamless. It felt like such an accomplishment when I would edit out a large section, and it would sound like it was never there.

I also got practice adjusting the EQ, compression and volume, as well as adding in music clips for the intro and closing. 

Here is the final product:

Next steps

I want to start by getting more practice editing. Even if I don’t even become a full-time podcast producer, there could be good opportunities to do freelance editing. I’ll get some practice with our own podcast episodes and may reach out to my network to offer my services for additional practice.

Career Exploration

Methods to the Madness

Last week, I presented a sort of year-in-review, looking at the various careers on my list that I’ve explored, with updated thoughts on each of those careers.

Today, I want to do a deep dive into the ways I’ve explored these various professional paths.

Self-Led Lessons

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the first approaches I took was online courses through freeCodeCamp.com, as part of my consideration of web development as a career. As the name of the website implies, the lessons are completely free and you just go through them at your own pace.

I really enjoyed going through the lessons. What helped was that the courses were highly interactive, teaching you a concept and then having you practice writing some code yourself. Where I got hung up was the end-of-unit sample projects, which I found tedious and uninteresting to work on. And since these were self-led lessons, there was nothing and no one to push me to complete the projects.

Conclusion

Self-led lessons — particularly free ones — can be a good way for me to get an initial taste of a new career, but it’s best for me to then transition to something more structured so that I’m pushed to continue my exploration, even when I hit patches where my motivation or interest wanes a bit.

Teacher-Led Courses

In contrast to the previous method, at the beginning of this year, I enrolled in interior design classes at Cañada College. So far, I’ve completed three courses and am currently taking two classes.

These classes have been a great way to get a breadth of knowledge of interior design, as well as some practical experience through the various projects we have to complete. There are some weeks when I’m uninterested in the lecture. And I will occasionally get some assignments that I find myself less motivated to get through than others. But because these are formal classes that I’ve signed up, paid for and are graded on, I still push myself to get the work done.

It has also been a great environment to hear from actual professionals in the field, whether that be my professors themselves or guest speakers.

Conclusion

Teacher-led courses are a little more helpful for me when it comes to really digging into a new career path. I seem to benefit from the structure of a set syllabus and deadlines. 

However, these courses only get me so far with understanding what a real day-to-day looks like in the career.

Interviewing people in the field

I will admit that this is a method I thought I would be doing a lot of, but I’ve really dropped the ball here. I interviewed Ryan to hear about his experience making a major career shift. And I interviewed Tasi to learn more about what it’s like to be a content creator.

Conclusion

Interviews really just give me one perspective and, from that standpoint, can be pretty limiting with regards to getting a good sense of a certain career path. However, I have found these interview sessions inspiring, so they serve as a good way to kick-start an exploration or reinvigorate something I had waned on. For example, after my conversation with Tasi, I went back and finally completed a video from start to finish.

Learn by doing…for fun

This method is the approach I’ve taken for my exploration of video production and content creation. From working on short films to producing the podcast and even writing this blog, it’s all been work that I do in my own time and sort of as a hobby. Even my acting— while requiring just as much work, diligence and dedication as a paid, full-time job — is still something that I do more for fun.

I would say that this method helps me gain the skills in doing the type of work (whether it be writing or producing or acting) but it gives me no insight at all into the actual business of these careers — i.e. how to actually make a living off of the activities.

And by approaching these new pursuits as simply a hobby, it’s easy to limit myself to activities or parts of the work that come naturally to me or things that I know I’ll enjoy rather than pushing myself to learn the parts that are harder but necessary if I want to actually have a career in this field.

Conclusion

Much like the self-led lessons, I think this method of ‘learning by doing as a hobby’ is a good way to get a taste of a new career. However, once I’ve identified that a certain path might be something I’d like to pursue professionally, I need to supplement with some more structured training or exploration.

For example, podcasting is something that I could see myself potentially doing professionally. But just working on the current podcast is not enough. I need to take the time to understand what types of roles are available in the professional podcasting space and what skills I may be lacking. These are skills that may not come easy to me, so I’ll need a structured way to develop them.

Internships and Jobs

This summer, I did an internship with a home staging company. I learned a lot about what goes into a staging project and got tons of hands-on experience with the work. I was lucky to have a mentor during that internship that took the time to explain the business to me.

And a few months ago, I started a part-time job as a design assistant for a local interior designer. This job has already been an invaluable experience not only with gaining more knowledge and skills in design work but also better understanding the business side of the interior design field. 

Conclusion

For any career path that I am seriously considering, an internship or a paid job is vital to understanding what the day-to-day looks like and really gauging if this is something I would enjoy doing full-time.


As I move forward with my sabbatical, I want to continue a variety of methods of exploring new career paths. But I want to be more aware of how these different strategies best serve the distinct stages of exploration.

Interviews will be good in the beginning, when I need to be inspired. Self-led lessons/research and trying things out casually will be good ways to get an initial taste of a career. If my interest is piqued, I can then move into more structured learning and even an internship or part-time work in order to really immerse myself in the career and see if I enjoy doing it on a daily basis.

Career Exploration

A Year of Exploration

Two days ago marked an important anniversary: my last official day at my corporate job and my first step to finding a more fulfilling career … and life!

It’s been an interesting year, to say the least. I’ve learned a lot about what drives me and how I like to work. I’ve broken some lifelong bad mental habits and learned to have a different mindset about work and life. I’ve dealt with unexpected developments and changed the plan along the way, but kept true to my goal of finding a new path I’m passionate about.

Over the next few weeks, I will be reflecting on my sabbatical so far and looking ahead to what the future holds. I’ll give an update on the careers on my list. I’ll look at the different methods I’ve used to explore these new paths. And I’ll go over my plans for the future.

The Careers

I kicked off this sabbatical with a goal: to find a new career path that was more creatively fulfilling and sparked my passion. And the plan was simple. I would use my time off of work to explore a list of careers that had always piqued my interest but that I had never pursued.

Well, a year later, and I’ve really only touched about half the list. But nonetheless, I do have some updated thoughts on each one. In case you missed it or need a refresher, you can take a look back at one of my early blog posts to see why each career originally interested me.

Video Producer

How I’ve explored

I’ve worked on a few short films, doing everything from being a production assistant to a set decorator to a writer. 

I also got a good crash course in video production, from planning to shooting. After that, I tried my hand at producing a couple of videos on my own, but got stalled in the editing phase.

I recently decided to scale back and just start simple, with a slideshow video, which I successfully executed to the end!

Updated thoughts

The part of video and film that I’ve found most rewarding has been writing, and I definitely want to continue that pursuit … as a hobby. I think, in general, I haven’t found myself driven enough to learn and improve my video production skills to truly pursue it as a career.

But it’s definitely fun as a new type of creative outlet, especially projects where I’m working as part of a larger team rather than running everything on my own.

Web Developer

How I’ve explored

This was the first career I tackled. I opted for self-led exploration with online lessons on freeCodeCamp.com. I completed the curriculum for their first certification — Responsive Web Design — through which I did a deep dive into HTML and CSS.

Sample lesson - ordered lists

Updated thoughts

While I really enjoyed going through the lessons, when it came to completing the end-of-unit sample projects, I found that (a) I hadn’t retained as much information as I thought and (b) I didn’t find them interesting to work on.

I just don’t think web development provides the creative outlet I thought it would. While it’s a great skill to have and I might enjoy it being part of a job, I don’t think I’d be interested in a role that was strictly web development.

Content Creator

How I’ve explored

This is definitely the broadest and most vague career on my list. So, it’s no surprise that my exploration here has taken me places I never expected it would.

I was originally inspired by my favorite YouTube creators and my exploration of video production has doubled in this arena.

I also have gotten a good taste with written content through my work on this blog.

And then there was the most unexpected project — the podcast. As a producer, I’ve gotten to learn how to launch a new show, manage operations and logistics, and market a podcast.

Updated thoughts

I’ve already spoken about how I think I’m going to leave video production to my hobby list for now. But I could definitely see myself exploring work in both blogging and podcasts.

For blogging, I’d be interested to see how much I’d enjoy freelance work, where I may need to write in a different voice or about topics I don’t really care about. Of course, there is also the option of monetizing my own blog, but even then, I think I’d have to be a bit more strategic about the content and may end up having to adjust topics and tone to appease an audience.

I’ve really enjoyed my work on the podcast! I’m just sorry that I can’t dedicate as much time and energy to the project. I want to continue my work on the podcast but also look more at the type of roles available in the professional podcasting space. For example, I notice that the role of “Podcast Producer” can vary wildly, and some opportunities require actual hands-on technical work with regards to recording and editing.

Furniture Upcycler

How I’ve explored

Well, in short, I haven’t explored this area at all. I do find myself inspired whenever I see an abandoned chair on the side of the road or a desk on the Craigslist free section. But this is the type of project that requires a lot of time, space and access to the right tools.

Updated thoughts

Given that this career would require a dedicated shop and collection of tools, I don’t think it’s feasible at this time. I can see this being an area that I may start as a hobby, which could then potentially turn into a business. But again, given that this demands the proper space and tools (that we don’t necessarily have access to, now that my husband has switched careers himself), even starting this for fun is far off.

Real Estate Agent

How I’ve explored

This is also an area I haven’t explored yet. I have some minor insights into the career from my previous house-hunting experiences, but it’s not a career to which I’ve dedicated exploration time.

Updated thoughts

From the beginning, I’ve had doubts about this career, given that the typical schedule conflicts with one of my biggest passions — theater. I’ve also heard from a previous real estate agent that it’s a career where you often have to be accessible day and night, and I’m not sure I would like the lack of boundaries.

Interior Designer

How I’ve explored

This is the one the career area that I’ve explored most in depth and most formally. At the beginning of the year, I started classes through Cañada College’s interior design certificate program. I got a good introduction to the field, learned all about drafting and am currently studying space planning and color theory.

I also started working part-time as a design assistant for a local interior designer. Through that work, I’ve gotten hands-on experience with many phases of the design process. I’ve also learned more about what goes into running your own interior design business.

Updated thoughts

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’m still on the fence as to whether or not this is an industry I want to pursue professionally. I do find interior design interesting, and I’m having fun redesigning my own apartment. But I’m not sure how much I enjoy the business side of things and the potential of dealing with difficult clients.

With the baby’s arrival, I will likely need to take Spring semester off of classes, and I will also take a bit of a break from work. It’ll be interesting to see how much I’m itching to get back to interior design work after that break.

Major Gifts Officer

How I’ve explored

This would be a big … not at all. Actually, when I was trying to recall my list of careers (I knew I had nine different ones), this was the one position I couldn’t remember!

Back when I was hunting for a part-time job, I interviewed for a fundraising position with a theater company, and that would have given me exposure to major gift giving work. But I didn’t get that job and got the design assistant work instead — and the rest is history!

Updated thoughts

When I think about being a major gifts officer (again, this is someone who solicits large donations for a nonprofit), I would, of course, need to work for an organization that I was really passionate about. And that would likely be a theater company.

I am interested in learning more about theater administration, in general. But I’m thinking I would thrive more or enjoy work better at a smaller to mid-size theater company, where my work could span many tasks (including major giving), instead of strictly focusing on one specific area of fundraising.

Theater Company Executive Director

How I’ve explored

Again, not much exploration here. But this is one area I’m determined to explore soon. I think I’ll start with getting more experience (volunteer or paid) with theater administration, in general. And, of course, I know many theater executive/managing directors that I could interview to learn more about the work.

Updated thoughts

This is still something that interests me. Whenever I see roles for open Managing Director positions at theater companies, I do get excited about the potential of that type of work.

Actor

How I’ve explored

Well, I’ve continued to act. But I haven’t done anything to explore or pursue acting professionally. And this is really a failing on my part. This is the one career where I know how to do the actual work; it’s just the business side that I need to learn about. 

And I have so many resources that I haven’t tapped! Actors who have gone equity or are doing commercial work. Programs like the Theatre Bay Area ATLAS program, designed specifically to help actors create their career plans. 

Photo by Michael Kruse Craig.

Updated thoughts

I’m obviously still very interested in this as a career, even if it was something that I would ultimately need to supplement with additional work to get by. 


Next week, I’ll do a deeper look at the way I’ve tackled my career exploration. And the following week, I’ll preview what’s next on the sabbatical roadmap … included an additional career or two? New posts every Friday!

Video Producer

Start Simple

I’ve written a lot about video. From finding inspiration from my favorite YouTube content creators to getting a crash course in the basics of production. I even tried my hand at creating my own videos. Multiple times. But I always got stuck somewhere in the process.

I think I was starting too big and too complicated. I dove into the deep end when I should have been wading out from the shallows. I was already considering making another attempt at video production, but this time with a much simpler format. Then, during my interview with him, Tasi Alabastro brought up a good idea: why not do a slideshow video to the narration of one of my blog posts?

I really liked the idea. It made use of existing content (my blog posts) and relied on a relatively easy format. Programs like iMovie make it easy to splice together photos into a film. And it wouldn’t be too hard to record myself reading one of my blog posts.

Well, I did it! … kind of.

I didn’t start with my blog posts. I actually started with the piece of writing that I’m most proud of: my wedding vows.

You see, yesterday was my wedding anniversary. And instead of buying Ryan more stuff, I wanted to put together something special. So, I gathered photos of us from throughout our relationship and put them together in a film to the narration of my wedding vows and an instrumental version of our first dance song.

And before you get your hopes up, I’m not sharing that video in this post. I gifted that to Ryan, and he wants to keep it to himself.

But I can talk a little bit about the process.

Creating the Video

This was definitely a learning experience. Since I was combining existing content elements, a lot of the production mirrored the editing process that had stalled my previous projects. And there are steps that I would do differently in the future.

Narration

I knew I wanted the film to be a photo slideshow to the narration of my wedding vows. Ryan’s uncle had filmed our ceremony, so I tracked down that video to try to extract the audio. 

But as I reviewed the footage, I realized I wouldn’t be able to use the audio. There was just too much background noise, and I didn’t have the skills to clean it up.

No problem — I would just re-record my vows. I used my headphones and the iPhone Voice Memos app to record. I did notice a little bit of background noise, likely from me jostling the microphone on my headphones. I made a second attempt using Ryan’s Tascam recorder, but (a) it picked up street noise, (b) I realized I didn’t know how to transfer files from the recorder to my computer and (c) I preferred my rendition from the first recording on my iPhone.

So, despite the small background noise, I opted for the iPhone recording. And all I had to do was simply Airdrop the audio file to my laptop.

Music

Listening to the recording of my vows, I knew they would need to be paired with music. At first, I was just going to use some of the built-in music that GarageBand provides in their library. But then I had the idea of using music from our wedding.

Our first dance was to the rendition of “No Day But Today” that Idina Menzel sang during one of her concert tours (we bonded over musicals, so it seemed appropriate). I searched YouTube for an instrumental version and found this piano version. Since this was just a private gift, I didn’t worry about copyright, but obviously if this were a more public video, I would have sourced different music.

I found an online tool to extract the audio from the YouTube video, and then set out to make some adjustments and sync it with my vows narration using GarageBand.

I first slowed down the music to about half speed.

Then, I simply added the audio file from my vows recording as a second track.

Photos

Sourcing photos for the video took a lot longer than I originally anticipated. The first step was to type out my vows and mark which lines would have their own photo. Then I looked back through my Facebook photos and my iPhone photos to find the pictures that best matched the text.

It was a long process, but I finally came up with a selection that I was happy with. Then I uploaded all of the photo to my project in iMovie, the program I used to create the video.

Putting it all together

When you use photos to create a video in iMovie, you simply upload your pictures and then drag and drop them in the timeline.

iMovie will automatically set the image to display in your video for four seconds, but you can adjust that length. I listened to the recording of my vows and marked the timestamp for each line so I knew how long to display each photo. 

iMovie also allows you to create some movement with your photos, using the Ken Burns tool. You simply choose your beginning frame for the photo and the ending frame and the movement will happen during the time length you set.

So, I inserted in all the photos, adjusted their length, and set the movement. Then, I added the audio to make sure everything lined up. But wait, there was one more step — adding transitions! 

Transitions took a lot of trial and error. From choosing the appropriate type of transition to setting the best time length, it took a lot of time fiddling with the options to get the look and pace I desired.

But after a lot of adjustments and fine-tuning, I had a finished video. That’s right, a FINISHED video. I finally completed a full video project from start to finish!

While the video took longer to create than I anticipated, the tools I used were pretty intuitive. I’m definitely inspired to do more of these type of slideshow videos in order to get more practice and improve my skills in the process. I’ll use the learnings from this project to improve future videos!