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.

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.

Content Creator, Video Producer

And the Winner Is …

During this sabbatical, I’ve written a lot about exploring film and video. I mean, Video Producer is one of the careers on my list.

I got a crash course on the entire filmmaking process. I tried my hand at making my own video, only to get stuck at the editing stage due to the frustrating limitations of my technology. I helped write lyrics for a musical short film that went on to win the Best Use of Genre. I got more experience in front of the camera. And I’ve connected with other video producers to understand more about their creative process.

Through this exploration, I’ve not only learned a lot about filmmaking, but I’ve also gotten more insights into the parts of the process that really energize me. Screenwriting was never something I thought I’d get into, but it’s been an amazingly fulfilling creative outlet. I also really enjoyed set decorating (no big surprise, I suppose, given my interest in interior design). And though I don’t have much experience yet on the video side, my work on the podcast makes me think I’d like being a producer on a film.

Well, I was back at it a few weeks ago, when I volunteered to be a co-writer for a team competing in the San Jose 48-hour Film Project. For those who missed my earlier blog about the 48-hour film project, here’s an overview of how the competition works:

  • Filmmaking teams sign up to take on the challenge of creating a 4-7 minute film in 48 hours (one weekend).
  • Friday night of the competition weekend, teams draw two film genres. Their film must be one of those two genres.
  • All teams also have three elements that they must include in their films: a specified prop, line of dialogue and character. Unlike genre, these required elements are the same for every team for that city’s competition.
  • Fully finished films are due Sunday evening.
  • Films are judged and eligible for a number of awards.

Well, I am proud to announce …. we won Best Film

As winner, the film will go on to be screened at Filmapalooza next Spring. The film also won Best Editing and Best Supporting Actor (Angie Higgins as Tonya). And to top it off, we also won the Audience Favorite award.

Check out the film:

The success of this project has reinvigorated me on video, and I have a few upcoming goals around that:

  • Write more scripts! I have a ton of ideas floating around in my head, many of which came out of our brainstorm session for the 48-hour Film Project. 
  • Work on a film that isn’t time-sensitive. A lot of the videos I’ve helped out on have been on a bit of a time crunch. It’d be interesting to see what I can help produce when we have the luxury of more time.
  • Get more experience as a film producer.
  • Execute some small, easy videos. Inspired by my conversation with Tasi, I think I need to scale back on the complexity of the videos I attempt to produce all on my own and just start simple. Maybe an easy to-the-camera video or a film with a slideshow of images and a voiceover.

In the meantime, congrats to the Ovation Pictures team on their win!

Content Creator

“Oh, I Can Do That”: Interview with Tasi Alabastro

Tasi Alabastro is a San Jose based actor, gamer, designer, and filmmaker. I sat down with him last week to talk about his work as a content creator.

When people ask you “what does it mean to be a content creator?”, what do you tell them?

I’ll define it as: it means that I’m producing work that I’m interested in on any platform that I want. So, for example, if it’s live-streaming where I put on a show twice a week, pulling together communities from around the world who are also invested in me as a person because they find me (1) entertaining and (2) personable, then I build the content around that. 

And content feels like a very loaded word. Like what’s content exactly, right? Content is whatever a viewer or a fan or someone who subscribes to you — it’s whatever they consume. Whatever they take in and find value in. You can make content that has zero value to one person but also has tremendous value to another person. 

What’s been your history with content creation? Where did you start?

The first time I started really creating content was when I got into gaming. At the time — I think it was like 2000s — having online forums was a thing, and in the forums people had really distinct signatures, like graphic signatures. So, I used to take screenshots of conversations from the forum that, read out of context, were kinda funny. And I would make signatures based off of that. And eventually people would reach out to me, saying, “hey, can you photoshop my name and my avatar”. So I had to figure out how to do that. I learned how to do that. And that really created the fundamentals of my understanding of graphic design.

Recent design for a local charity event.

And what about acting and performing?

In 2003, I moved out to Hawaii, where my brother was living. And while I was there, I decided to take an acting class at the community college. First day of Acting 101, I was madly in love. It felt like the things that I was feeling at that time had a better way to access the surface than drawing. Nothing really resonated with me like standing in front of an audience and being really scared and not dying. It’s kinda why people like spicy food, right? Because they can go really hot but know they’re not going to die.

And eventually, I found a jazz club in Hawaii, and after some talk with the owner, they allowed me and my friends to do monologues right after the band had set up and they had like an hour and a half before people really started arriving. So, every Monday — Monday Night Monologues as we billed it — we would do that.

When did you start filmmaking?

I got into film because I answered a Craigslist ad from a guy named Richard Gali. We started doing a lot of short films together because we really vibed. So flash forward years later, we’re really good friends now, and we started a group to do 48-hour film festivals. I grew my network out that way, got to know more filmmakers, learned how to use a camera, and I started watching movies differently. 

We won some awards, that was fun. And now Richard is in escrow on a house being paid for by a filmmaking background. In fact I have a vlog about it — he’s unboxing a RED camera. He’s just one of those people that just never stops and he has a partner, his wife, who absolutely believes in him. 

That’s inspiring. Is that the kind of stuff that motivates you?

Yeah. You know, something I was talking to my girlfriend about the other night — she was like “I have no idea where these motivations come from.” I have had enough time now to think about where some of these motivations come from and for me, a huge jumping off point for actually doing things is if I ever find myself saying “Oh, I can do that” — like in a dismissive way — then, I go and do it. 

Because I found that after I said it, I felt like that was really negative. Why am I dismissive of someone else’s creation when they put time and effort into creating what I am now seeing, even if I have a negative opinion about it? And so it put me in the mindset of: ok, let me do it. Let me attempt it. Let me finish it. Let me execute it to the completion. And then let me have an opinion about it based on my own work.

So, you do graphic design, theatre, videos, and on top of that you also stream on Twitch! When did that start?

The Twitch streaming started when I was watching a YouTube video and the guy said, “I’m going to start streaming on Twitch”. So, I clicked on the link and I saw — at the time — a very small directory of streamers, and I literally did say, “Oh, I can do that.” And so, I started streaming.

With content creation, there’s the other side: audience building and promotion. How much time does that take compared to creating content? And how do you tackle that?

So, if I spent 2 hours streaming, I would spend an hour outside of that making sure that whatever I was creating made it to Instagram and Facebook. I would download and cut clips, edit it. 

And then it’s the relationship building that I think is probably the hardest and longest aspect of it.

Your latest project is this new vlog series. Can you walk me through a typical process of filming an episode of your vlog?

I have to think about what I’m doing for that day. I have to be ok with calling out the mundane things that happen in my life, while also being delusional enough to think that someone would be interested in watching this and really dig into what I think is valuable about that.

And then there’s the aspect of: “how do I present the things around me in a way that adds value to that community, too?”

So, I will generally start off with turning the camera on and talking to it. Which makes me think things like, “Oh I gotta adjust the lighting.” But I can’t be too nitpicky, otherwise it’ll be two hours later and I haven’t done anything. 

Then I’ll go about my day and I’ll carry this camera around. And the hope is, at some point, the structure starts to show itself in the process. But that doesn’t always happen. So, I’ll shoot and I’ll shoot and I’ll shoot, and I’ll start to develop a shot list in my head. I will start to develop the who, the what, the when, the why.

At the end of the day, I will take all that footage and put it on my computer. I will organize it, and then I will start that timeline. I’ll trim all the video clips — all the things that I think are necessary to tell the story. Then I will line them up and make sure they look ok. Then I will go back and look for b-roll to fill in.

After I’m done editing and I’m happy with it, I will then find a minute within there, I’ll snip that out and I’ll export that along with the main video to use for promotion on social media. And at this point, I’ll also have a thumbnail picked out, too.

Through any of your content creation, has monetization ever been a consideration for you or something you’ve attempted?

I get paid on Twitch. The way it works is they give you a subscription button; people just click on that and then every month, if you hit a certain threshold, they’ll cut you a check.

For YouTube, I used to be monetized on my gaming channel by being on a network. But now, monetization on YouTube is a little different. You need to hit a certain threshold, which I’m not eligible for yet. You need 1,000 subscribers, I think, and like 10,000 hours of watch time from viewers. Once that hits, then I can actually apply for AdSense. 

But that’s through that avenue. I’m also in the process now of exploring Amazon affiliate links, creating courses that people can purchase online, and Patreon. So, all of it. It’s all about stacking your different ways of making money.

What’s next?

The next big thing is expanding this network of local creators. I have a separate channel called Art Time Job, which is a hub of curated work from other channels — mine included. And I’ll have playlists. So you can watch the videos in the playlist from this hub but it’s the individual creator’s channel that will get the view.

There’s also Somewhere Street, which is the title of a project that’s yet to be cemented. It’s my way of amplifying the voices of the community that haven’t been heard or haven’t been represented in a way that is true to me as a creator and true to the people who are going to be in it. That’s the next big one. And that one requires me to hone my craft on camera but also my craft as a writer and also assemble a crew.

Lastly, are there any final tips you have for someone who wants to become a content creator?

As a content creator, you really need to hone in on your sense of observation. Everything around you is content. Everything around you has value in some way. Whether that’s digital content. Whether that’s driving to work. Whether that’s grocery shopping. There’s something there, and it’s really about finding what your story is in relation to that. And that’s something that I’m working on every day.


Be sure to subscribe to Tasi’s YouTube channel and catch him on Twitch.