Over the last few months there’s been an influx of brand new blogs, vlogs and podcasts. It seems everybody and their mother is chomping at the bit to create digital content. This new wave (or .wav if you will) of new content creators comprises everyone from the full time professional broadcaster, through the reasonably competent and all the way to the ‘wouldn’t recognise a microphone if it hit me in the face (something which happens to me more frequently than I’d like) complete novice.
It’s up to you to decide which category you’re in. I’d put myself in the ‘professional performer embracing a new world of being locked in the house and trying to find ways to share ideas’ box. I’ve written many blogs, shared 4 entire months of my life with weekly vlogs and recently finished eight weeks of Live-streamed hour long ‘Chat Shows’ that featured two guests each week.
All of these involve little more than a GoPo/iPhone and a MacBook.
Now I’m delving into professional sound recording (something I’d always taken for granted as an accompaniment to video) to record podcasts and attempting to make a new weekly show from video captured during random live online events.
In this blog I will share my own journey and experiences. I hope you’ll find it some help.
1 YOU NEED AN IDEA
This is usually the hardest part. If you can find something you really care about and a way to communicate so that other people do too, you’ve got it made. Sadly, that’s not as easy as it sounds!
The popularity of this idea will dictate the size of your audience. Although it may be tempting to try and choose something populist for the sake of more followers, I’d suggest you not worry about it. Just do something you really enjoy and the right kind of people will find you.
You’re better off doing something you love to a smaller audience than something you hate to 5 million people. (Feel free to ignore this advice, I try to only do things I love and often can’t afford to buy a sandwich)
2 YOU NEED SPACE
Unless it’s a roaming vlog that’s recorded wherever you’re standing, it’s likely you’ll be needing a space to record/edit and upload. Having a dedicated space where everything remains set up is always going to make it easier to start working each day. If you have to use half of your energy setting up the space each time, you won’t have much left to be creative. Use a spare room, a small corner of a bedroom or anywhere else you can find that doesn’t get used for something else. Once you’ve painted the wall behind you and added some interesting pictures, almost any space can be camera ready quite easily.
3 YOU NEED TO DECORATE
Go look at your favourite Youtubers. The chances are the background of their videos is interesting. That recorder player, vintage toy or basketball jersey didn’t get there on it’s own. There’s a good chance that those items were chosen in order to make an interesting background. Bold light & coloured paint with some complimentary colourful uplighting makes for a great background. A few frames and objects can greatly add to the setting without being too distracting.
I’d recommend a trip to IKEA if you’re looking for cheap lights. They have strip lights and an array of lamps that can create interesting and colourful lighting on video.
4 YOU NEED TO BE SEEN
On the subject of lighting, the right kind of illumination can often be the difference between a professional looking production and something you’d be as well watching on a 1995 Nokia flip phone. Here are the three phases of lighting I went through:
The difference between the £11 solution and the £60 solution is clearly huge and yet I believe entirely manageable if you’re serious about creating a great looking set up.
Having said all of that, if you plan to make things during the day, being opposite a good size window can be more than enough to get good lighting into your videos. The last time I checked, the sun is still free.
These soft box lights at £60 from Amazon are what I use now:
There’s also the now ubiquitous ‘ring light’. You may get on just fine with one of these, provided that they haven’t been snatched up by every teenager with a TikTok account, but for me personally they never worked.
If you wear glasses a ring light will make it seem like Satan himself has altered your soul, leaving you with two glowing circles where your eyeballs should be.
5 YOU NEED TO BE HEARD
If you’re going to record a podcast or video, there’s a good chance you’ll also want to record your voice. Most cameras and computers come with an inbuilt audio recorder. While they’re entirely useable, they probably won’t sound as great as the stuff you’re used to listening to. When I made weekly vlogs I relied on the inbuilt microphone on my GoPro. I have to say I was always pretty pleased with the results. That probably won’t help you with a podcast so let’s take a look at your upgrade options.
I started out recording with a ProSound USB microphone plugged directly into a Macbook. I’ve gotten along with it fine and for the £45 it cost, it’s pretty unbeatable.
Currently I’m getting great results with a Rode PodMic plugged into a RodeCaster desk. The Rodecaster does everything you could ever hope for with ton of inbuilt features and vocal processing that work great in both live streaming AND for its primary purpose of recording podcasts.
The gap between these two set ups is around £600 so I’d think very carefully about your intentions before jumping in. I really believe that the difference between no microphone and an entry level mic is about 80%, the difference between entry level mics and a more expensive option is usually the last 20%. Don’t worry about over investing to begin with, a great idea will fill your audiences ears more fully than a big sound.
6 VIDEO KILLED THE RADIO STAR
The good news is you probably already own one of the best cameras in history and you’re using it to read this blog.
The camera in your phone is most likely capable of recording or streaming 1080HD quality, which is all you’re ever going to need. I can only speak to using a MacBook with an iPhone but in Zoom, eCamm, Skype, iMovie and any other place I need to capture and display images, plugging my phone in with the USB cable usually gives me the automatic option to replace my inbuilt camera for the one on my phone. I use an app called SHOOT to display my phone camera full screen with no icons over the top and then mirror my iPhone screen to the MacBook. Perfect HD picture every time. (See google for exactly how to do this)
If you want to get fancy and plug in a GoPro (apart from GoPro 8 Black which annoyingly needs a Media Mod, available from GoPro at £80) or a DSLR you’ll usually need a capture card and a HDMI cable . This is a small device that allows you to connect the camera directly to the computer via USB. New app releases and software may soon make this advice obsolete so please take a good look on Google for further advice. (In May 2020 this is currently correct)
7 YOU NEED TO GET STARTED
Don’t let these ideas sit on the shelf. The most important thing is to get started. None of the blogs, youtube channels or tv shows you love started out perfectly (American Office Season One anybody?) but they all got great by learning on the way. Don’t let the great be the enemy of the good. You can grow along with your audience.
- Remember the most important thing is a good idea that communicates your personality. All the professional equipment in the world won’t make up for having nothing to say or lack of ideas. Content is everything.
- Be prepared to have nobody watch or care but still keep going. You have to want to do this for you, if it’s good enough, eventually it’ll catch on. Don’t give up.
- Do everything you can to find a space to create. Half of productivity is having things in place that make it easy to work on an idea.
- Be enthusiastic about your project and tell everyone you meet. From the moment you decide to do something until word of mouth takes over and you’re a hit, you must remain a positive publicity machine. If you don’t shout about your idea, nobody else will.
As I write this blog I’m sitting in a work in progress home studio I’ve been working on for quite some time. I wanted to be able to sit close up at the table and also stand back and perform stand up magic routines with the same camera. It took some work but I finally found the angles and now just need to finish decorating my walls. Look out on this blog or my facebook for a finished picture when it’s done.
Finally, good luck. I can’t wait to see what you make.