The Joys of Video Blogging

Last week I decided that I wanted to start posting some videos.  I have a plan to post a series of 10 questions that are most asked by clients.  However that will take some time, and I wanted to get started on something last week.  So I decided to do a video blog post.  I thought I’ll just whip out the old web cam find a subject matter, ramble on for a few minutes, and then make the magic happen in post production…”Man I was way off.” – (Jim Carey as Loyd Christmas, Dumb and Dumber)

I started out by trying to decide my topic. First off, I went to google trends to see what topics where hot. I figure if I’m going to be giving my 2 cents, it might as well be about something people are interested in hearing about.  Searching through the top trending topics, I come across only a few that were regarding tech.  And then I saw it!  The perfect subject matter!  It was about an app that was controversial, being used by musicians & actors, and even had the possibility to be dangerous.  It was everything I was looking for.  I read the article and have to admit I was anxious to try the app myself.  But I decided to wait to download and use the app until I was ready to record  insuring a genuine reaction.

The next step was to do a quick screen test by turning on the old webcam to see how everything looked.  I had used it countless times for Skype calls, Fantasy Football Drafts, and various other web conferencing applications.  It quickly became apparent to me that the shot the webcam was picking up did not convey the feeling that I was looking for.  So I decided to use the green screen.  For those of you who don’t know… green screening is a process where a bright green screen is placed behind the subject during the shooting of the video.  When the video is edited the green part is removed, and any background can be inserted (Hollywood does a lot of this…A LOT!).  So I asked my buddy Mac if I could borrow his green screen and a couple of stands.  The process is not difficult if you have an all in one green screen solution.  But the one I borrowed was not one of those.  It had more wrinkles than than an assisted living center.  So I decided to wash it, or more accurately rinse it.  I put it in the wash on a rinse cycle and then threw it in the dryer.  I’m pretty sure it came out more wrinkled than when it went in.  So I thought about ironing it, but the thing is HUGE and would have probably taken 2-3 hours to iron.  Had I known then what I know now it probably would have been worth it.  Anyway, through trial and error I finally got the green screen where I felt it was serviceable.  Next came the lights.

If you want to make a video look good (and I did), in my humble opinion the thing that makes the most impact is being well lit ( so I downed a fifth of Jack…j/k).  Most books I’ve red and cenematographers I’ve talked to will tell you the same thing.  I grabbed some old clamp light fixtures and a couple of fairly powerful light bulbs and went to work. 2 hours later I had ALMOST gotten completely rid of all of the annoying shadows that I knew would ruin the effectiveness of the green screen.  It was like a game of whack a mole.  I would fix one, then it would cause another one to pop up.  I decided it would probably be good enough and moved on to the screen test.

I turned on the lights, shot a couple of minutes of useless dribble, and decided to watch the playback.  I was amazed at how red the webcam made my face, but figured I could fix it in post production.  There were issues with framing where the green screen didn’t cover the whole frame causing me to move it back and forth.  Then there was the angle of the webcam.  Too low and it made me look like a chinese phone book (lots of chins).  Too high and I looked like I was looking up to the heavens talking to a supreme being.  Finally I decided to start editing thinking that I could maybe fix some of the issues.  But that’s when things really got crazy.

 I noticed that apparently my webcam was only capturing 5 frames per second at full HD resolution.  Turns out that because of the age of my web cam it will capture HD, but only at 1080i not 1080p and only at 5 frames per second.  Needless to say it did not look good.  So I would have to roll it back to 720p or find another option. I did some research on successful youtube videos and they said they really suggest shooting in 1080p.  So I got out my camcorder that I have had for several years.  Finding a place for it, framing it right with the green screen, lighting, and testing took the better part of another day. So that is 2 full days to set up a freaking video shoot under the current conditions.  I think I finally have something figured out that is acceptable but not quite as professional as I was hoping for.

I feel like I am at the end of a journey that started with a single step, and ended up hundreds of miles down the road.  At least I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  All I have to do know is find some software to capture the screen on my phone, and shoot the damn thing.  Sounds easy right?  If this process has taught me anything I’m expecting it to take another 3 days and probably 2 more to edit.  So with any luck I’ll post my first video blog sometime in late 2019 or early 2020.  Just kidding, hoping to have something this week.  Keep an eye out for it, I’m sure it will not even come close to living up to the time and effort I’ve put in it. #worthit?probablynot