Features

Navigating Written and Video Content – Feat. In Third Person

I:  Introduction

Hannie:  Hey everyone!  Today, I’m excited to introduce my first ever collaboration post!  I’m here with Jett from In Third Person today to discuss our experiences, both positive and negative, as bloggers that have started creating video content.  Why don’t you introduce yourself a little, Jett?

Jett:  Thank you Hannie! First off, long time reader, first time writer. You’ve been doing great work on your blog and your YouTube channel. It’s an honor to collaborate with you!

As for me, I’ve been writing about video games, board games, and other nerdy pursuits on my blog for about a decade now. Somewhere along the way, I decided to try my hand at making video content. Partially because I didn’t want to get left behind as video became a popular platform for the types of enthusiast content we make. But also because as a writer, the medium of video opens the doors to communicate my ideas in new ways. Right now, my primary video focus is on streaming, but I have made attempts at producing video content like you are now for your YouTube channel.

Hannie:  Thanks for agreeing to do this with me!  I’m looking forward to this discussion, as nailing down the differences between blogging and video production, as well as the benefits to doing one versus the other, is a pretty tricky subject to tackle solo.  Since you touched on this topic in the introduction, let’s get started by digging more into why we decided to make our on-camera debuts.

II:  Going In Front of a Camera

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Photo by Terje Sollie on Pexels.com

Hannie:  Now, you mentioned that part of why you decided to start working on video content is because it opened doors for you.  Could you elaborate on this?  I know that, for me, I love the more casual tone that I can take in a video.  I feel like people get to know me better through seeing my mannerisms on camera, as opposed to just reading my writing.

Jett:  You have a valid point there! There’s a different level of comprehension and connection that comes with communicating with a video camera and microphone. You get to hear the words from my voice, with my exact tone and inflection, paced exactly how I want you to hear it. You see the emotion in my face. You also get my body language. I don’t have to necessarily tell you that we’re having a casual conversation because that can come through in the way I communicate verbally and non-verbally. All of that additional info adds to the message while giving viewers more of me to latch onto.

Seems like we’re both in alignment on the ways in which being on camera can amplify our message. But now let’s tackle what I think is the elephant in the room. How much of your decision to do video content is driven by the increased prominence of video and perhaps a perceived decline in demand for/importance of written content?

Hannie:  This is a complicated question to answer.  I love to blog and have met a lot of great people here!  While I enjoy creating content and interacting with the community, it’s hard to build much of an audience these days with a blog.  Video content is increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why in today’s ever-busy society.  When I’m cooking dinner and want to multitask, I can’t really read a blog post, but I can put on a Twitch stream.

I’m never going to give up blogging because I do still believe that written work has its time and place, such as in more formal or nuanced discussions.  Regardless, as someone who would like to build an audience that reaches outside of the blogger community, it is hard to ignore the allure that creating video content gives off when it comes to increased growth potential.  How about you?  Did the additional potential for growth influence your choice to start creating videos and streaming?

Jett:  I have no plans on quitting my blog either. It will always be a space where I can articulate complex thoughts and feelings by going through the process of writing and iterating until every word is right. It may take a few minutes, days, or months to get there, but time is on my side when I’m behind a keyboard. Going through that process is almost therapeutic for me, especially when I’m writing about a personal subject. In instances like that, it’s more important for me to just get those thoughts and feelings out of my head than it is to worry about how many pageviews it might generate.

That said, you make a great point with regards to growth potential. It’s hard to ignore the sensation that the audience for blogs – or written content as a whole – isn’t what it used to be. I see the types of performance numbers that other creators on video platforms put up and think that there’s no way I’d be able to generate some sort of equivalent with just my blog.

At the very least, it seems like the vast majority of comments and followers I get on my blog are from other bloggers. As much as I respect them all, and as much as I value the interactions I’ve had with other bloggers over the years, we’re a small crowd. Based on the feedback I get on YouTube and Twitch, I reach an audience that is broader than the blogging community.

Hannie:  It seems like most people who read blogs also have a blog, whereas not everyone who watches video content produces it themselves, which leads to a higher potential for overall growth.  In fact, I suspect that gaining an audience from video creation could have a ripple effect that leads people to my written work that may not have discovered it independently.  I do still feel, regardless of how many views I get on either platform, that both written and video-based content has its time and place depending on what I’m intending to accomplish.

Now that we’ve both shared our reasons for going multimedia, let’s move on and discuss our early experiences with the performance aspect of being in front of a camera.

III:  Performing

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hannie:  I know that one of the aspects of creating video content that can be intimidating is being on camera.  As a shy introvert, it took me a long time to work up the courage to actually start filming myself.  There’s a vulnerability to people being able to see you that can be difficult to overcome.  In particular, I know that I get very self-aware of how often I’m moving my hands or looking away from the camera.  How has your adjustment to being in front of a camera gone?

Jett:  You touched on what I think is the biggest difference between blogging and video. Behind a keyboard, I’m not worried about how my appearance, pronunciation, or mannerisms impact my message. When I’m talking to another person in a regular scenario, I’m not really thinking about those things, either. But when I’m in front of a camera and I’m trying to convey my message exactly as I envision it in my head, all of those nuances in my performance can ruin a take.

Making the transition to being in front of the camera has been a struggle. I’ve thrown away many takes that I didn’t realize were bad until after the fact because my hands moved spastically, or I glanced away from the camera for a moment, or because I made an awkward facial expression at a key juncture. With blogging, I can fix a mistake with a few button presses. On camera, it feels like there are many more ways to mess up and you have to go through a whole process of reshooting and editing to address mistakes.

The biggest hurdle I face comes from trying to sound natural while still eloquently articulating my points. If I try to wing it, I tend to stumble a lot. If I script it word-for-word, my voice can’t hide the fact that I’m reading off a script. If I try to use an off-screen visual reference like bullet points on a page, I tend to break eye contact with the camera.

In a funny way, it takes a ton of work to look and sound natural. Got a long ways to go before being the next Ryan Seacrest. What’s your process for trying to perform your best in front of the camera?

Hannie:  My YouTube channel is very much in an experimental phase at the moment because I don’t always know how to approach my ideas.  I’m uploading videos even when I’m not thrilled with the end result because the best way to track my own progress is to just be honest about how I’m doing.  Ultimately, the main thing I’ve learned is that I am a writer first and a speaker second, and my writing skills far surpass my public speaking abilities.  Therefore, the main thing I do to get ready to go on camera is to write out a script.

I don’t read off the script when I’m actually filming because, as you mentioned, my voice would give it away.  Still, there’s something comforting in knowing that I have a full script I can glance at between takes, and it legitimately makes me feel more confident about the words I’m saying because I know I’ve planned them out in advance and they sound good together.  Maybe in the future, I can whittle the full script down to simply having an outline or some bullet points on a page prior to filming, but for now, this is the life preserver that I need in order to not drown in a sea of my own rambling when I film.

Of course, I don’t want to only talk about the bad of video creation.  While it can be really difficult to go on camera because I’m on display, there are some benefits to the performance aspect, as well.  One positive is that it can be easier to avoid miscommunications in a video format.  Sometimes, written pieces can be misconstrued because readers can’t tell what tone or emotion the author is going for.  With a video, people can see whether I’m joking or serious by reading my body language, as well as hearing what I’m saying.  Have you found any positives to being in front of a camera, as far as the performance aspect goes?

Jett:  The area where I’ve seen the most success in front of a camera has been with my Twitch channel. Some may perceive the act of streaming as just playing video games with a webcam on, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Viewers may first arrive at one’s channel because they’re interested in the game being played, but they stay, chat, and follow because of everything the streamer adds through their presence on camera. That includes how they play the game, their facial expressions during tense situations, their ability to speak intelligently about the game they’re playing, and any other intangibles the streamer may bring to the table.

Can’t speak for all streamers out there, but I’m not a compelling person to watch while playing video games in my normal environment. If there were a spycam on, all you would see is me slumped in my chair, alone in my basement, staring blankly at the screen while I play, letting out the odd grunt here and there. That said, when the camera is on, I’m not going to flip a switch and become a lightning rod, either. I don’t have the kind of personality that jumps off the screen in real life, and couldn’t fake it well even if I wanted to.

It’s been a process trying to figure out how to bring out the best version of myself for that environment. That said, I strongly feel that my background in blogging helps me as a streamer. I try to approach every stream as if I were making a blog post or any other piece of content. The medium is different, but it’s still an opportunity to entertain, inform, inspire, and connect with an audience through my thoughts and feelings. Oftentimes, ideas that would make for a good blog post also work as good discussion points on stream. I try to inject as much of that into my shows as part of my overall approach to providing value to viewers.

Getting my stream off the ground has been quite the climb, but so many positives have come from it. It warms my heart to see a community take shape around the channel, as familiar names populate the chat across multiple streams. Between my regular game stream, the Boss Rush talk show, and any other streaming events I host, there’s been no shortage of highlights, laughs, and heartwarming moments shared. It’s served as a platform for collaborating with friends old and new. Most amazing was our Extra Life marathon, where we worked together to raise awareness and funds for the Children’s Miracle Network of Hospitals, all while gaming together for 26 hours straight! That achievement in itself has made this journey worthwhile and I can’t wait to see where the channel goes from here.

IV:  Technology

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Photo by PhotoMIX Ltd. on Pexels.com

Jett:  As I’ve venture deeper into the world of video, the one aspect of writing that I realize I’ve taken for granted is how low the barrier is to create. Taking a second to break the 4th wall, I’ve written most of this correspondence on my phone, while sitting on the train to-and-from work. One can do a lot of video work on their phone as well, but making video content tends to be a more involved process that requires more tools and a “studio” of some sort. Take me behind the scenes of how you make your video content come to life.

Hannie:  Since I’m still new to YouTube, my setup is pretty simple.  I set my phone leaning up against a chair and start recording.  After I’ve gotten the footage I need, I go into whatever free editing software I have decided to try out and attempt to cobble together something that resembles a coherent video.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to improve my technology over time, but I estimate that it would cost several thousand dollars to buy everything I would need, so I plan to work on getting the items one by one over time.  I am thankful that phone technology is strong enough these days that, with a cheap microphone, I can create reasonably high-quality videos.

Editing is definitely the biggest roadblock that I have faced so far in the early stages of video content creation.  The learning curve is high and I can’t quite seem to find the right editing software that does everything I need.  I have a lot of respect for people that manage to get daily videos out because it takes me multiple days to edit a single piece of content!  What is something that you have found surprisingly difficult about the technology aspect of video creation?

Jett:  Editing can be a pain! It can be such a time-consuming process just to trim each clip just so and piece them together. That’s before factoring in the fact that my computer was under-powered for the task at hand. Every action moved slow as molasses, my computer would crash constantly, and saving a 5-minute video could take upwards of an hour! It’s a far cry from being able to whip up a blog post in a few minutes or hours just by writing.

Editing can’t fix every mistake, either. Nowadays, it’s popular for creators to use jump cuts to piece together lengthy sections of monologue, as recording everything in one clean take is extremely difficult. However, I’ve found that it’s more complicated than just snipping the mistakes out and mashing the clips together. If I don’t make “clean” mistakes, or I don’t give myself a “clean” starting point, the transition between the two can generate awkward results. Whether it’s hair suddenly moving into a different position or a dramatic change in facial expression, it can be jarring to see as a viewer. The worst transitions occur when the cuts piece my voice together in a way that sounds overly unnatural. When that happens, I find it best to just reshoot that whole part rather than to find some technical trick to smoothen things out.

One aspect of video creation I completely overlooked until I started was that the space you film in is incredibly important. Having a space with good lighting and no external noise can be really hard to find or create. What does your “studio” setup look like?

Hannie:  My studio has evolved over the short time that I have been filming.  Initially, I assumed that the brightest room in my house would be the best place to film, but I quickly learned that my heater could be heard on camera and that there were actually too many windows in this room, which made the resulting video far too bright and noisy.  After some time fiddling with settings to try and make my initial filming location work, I gave up and started filming in a more dimly lit, but more consistent, room of the house.

I touched on this a bit earlier, but part of the problem I currently have with my filming process is that the start-up cost to get quality equipment is quite sizeable.  With writing, there’s very little investment necessary apart from having a computer.  For videos, however, where and when I can film is limited by my lack of a decent camera and professional lighting tools.  In fact, it has been my experience that there’s a lot of pressure on creators to invest in good equipment in order to have long-term channel growth.  Have you felt any internal or external pressure to spend more money in order to improve your channel?

Jett:  Absolutely! Could be anecdotal evidence, but it feels like every creator regardless of size hits a production quality threshold that one isn’t going to reach with just a phone in their bedroom. Production quality isn’t the be-all-end-all, but when there are so many great creators out there, it’s easy for someone to bounce off of a creator’s work at first glance if their video is blurry or their mic is scratchy.

For my streaming setup, I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on equipment, lighting, and software. Spent countless hours trying to figure out how to use it all. Only recently have I gotten to a point where I’m content with the output from a production standpoint. That said, I’m still tweaking stuff and looking at new gear to add all the time. It’s a far cry from being able to create a full blog post on my phone from pretty much anywhere!

For all the headaches that it’s caused, knocking down those production barriers makes it easier for me to communicate more clearly and reach beyond the bounds of my blog. And it’s not just about having a better microphone so that people can hear less static.

A few months back, I figured out an entire infrastructure that allowed my group to play the board game Codenames on stream together. Even though we’re separated by hundreds of miles, we laughed and bonded over the game and each other’s company as if we were all in the same room. Meanwhile, the rest of our audience got to watch, play along, and laugh with us. Before that, I ran into a nasty issue where my voice and my lips would fall out of sync after an hour or so of streaming. The effect made my streams unwatchable after that point. Had I not figured out how to fix that, I may not have had this really touching heart-to-heart talk in hour three of a late-night stream with a viewer about how we’ve used video games in the past as a means of running away from our real problems. It’s easy to get stressed out over having to learn new tools or spend money, but it’s an investment towards being able to reach others in ways that I couldn’t have otherwise.

Hannie:  The story you just shared about your conversations with others on stream gets back to the main reason, above all else, that I am willing to persevere through the multitude of issues that I have run into with my technology.  Yesterday, I was editing a video and the editor crashed during the rendering process, taking my save file along with it.  I could have given up, but instead, I thought about all of the fun interactions I’ll get to have with others once I get my video up and running.  When it comes to the filming and editing process, I have a lot to learn and an extensive learning curve that I still need to climb, but the personal connections that I make with others are worth the effort.

V:  Final Thoughts

Hannie:  We have covered a lot of topics in this post, so I think a good way to bring everything together is for each of us to share the most important piece of advice we want to give to anyone who is starting out with video content.  My advice is to double whatever amount of time people believe they need in order to learn the ropes.  This is not to dissuade anyone from giving video content a try, but instead to keep expectations in check.

The truth is, it’s really hard to get a new YouTube or Twitch channel off the ground.  Filming, editing, and promotion will take up a lot of time and the learning curve is steep.  When I started, I figured I would pick up the skills I needed in a few weeks, and not budgeting more time made me feel like a failure when I still didn’t know what I was doing after some time had passed.  Until I realigned my perspective and realized it’s common to feel confused for a while when it comes to making video content, I was demotivated and wasn’t sure I wanted to continue on with this path.  It’s okay to be confused and ask for help, but just don’t expect to become a star with perfect editing and a strong on-camera personality overnight.  What advice would you give, Jett?

Jett:  Will add to your point about expectations with a note about streaming. The Twitch system for discovery heavily slants in the favour of large streamers. When you search by game, all of the streamers with the most viewers are at the top. If you’re streaming the most popular games, it’s almost physically impossible to scroll all the way to the bottom to get to someone with zero viewers. If you try to play a game where you can appear at the top, it’s because it’s a game that very few are interested in watching. Until Twitch gives users better tools to find smaller streamers, the odds are heavily stacked against them. I streamed for months with an audience of zero, hoping someone would dive to the bottom of the results to find me.

To combat this, you have to be actively involved in drawing viewers in. I use my blog to show VODs of every stream. I also cut highlights specifically for social media to show potential viewers what they could be enjoying by hanging out with me. Putting your channel out there at least gives you some control of where it goes, versus relying on brave stream viewers to scroll to the bottom of the results page.

And when you do get a viewer on your channel and they engage with you in the chat, make a connection with them. Be ready with things to talk about and react to what they have to say. In most cases, being able to connect with your viewers on a personal level will go way farther towards building an audience than any of your in-game exploits.

Hannie:  Understanding the algorithms for your platform of choice is definitely an important and overlooked aspect of any form of video content, so thanks for bringing this up! With that said, I think we have officially wrapped up this post! We’ve covered a lot of topics, and it’s been great to have you on board to discuss this with, Jett. For all of our readers, feel free to leave any questions or advice down in the comments and we’ll do our best to respond. Thanks again to Jett for working on this with me, and hopefully we can do it again!

If you want to see Jett’s video content in action, check out his Twitch channel!

Categories: Features

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7 replies »

  1. First of all, I want to say that I adore how well the words flowed between the two of you. The transitions between topics were smooth and natural, and it made this post a very enjoying read. Well done!
    Secondly, the content of this post is fantastic. I love the angles that you two touched upon, from the initial setup and equipment to contrasting the differences between building audiences with blog posts and with video productions. This was a lovely collab post, guys, and I thank you for sharing it!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Decades ago I gave some talks to audiences so learnt to use cards with prompts – not easy – but I had to rehearse. I’ve only been on one side of cameras as a photographer and video make, but nowadays my voice is terrible – as my Dragin dictation playbacks show. Video blogs will be in another lifetime. For now, I’ll just enjoy others like your.

    Liked by 1 person

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