Building AWT: Talking head videos

Steve Sande, Kelly Hodgkins and I are building AWT into what it will be. There have been decisions to make and ideas to test. In this series, we'll provide an honest, behind-the-scenes look at the construction of what we know will be a vibrant community.

Last week I wrote about my desire to make gameplay videos to accompany game app reviews. This time I'll look at the "talking head" videos I've shot, for lack of a better term. Actually, I've only shot one, for reasons I'll soon explain. But first, a bit of Ira Glass.

The gap

I admire Ira Glass tremendously. He's an American Public Radio personality and, among other things, the producer of the fantastic This American Life.* He's gifted and so very bright, as the following quote illustrates (it's long, but stick with it):

"Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you.

A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work.

Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through."

The first video I made is good, but not great. It doesn't have the special something that I envision. For one, the sound isn't ideal. I need to order an external mic for my iPhone.

Second, lighting is hard.

I have this green screen lighting kit, and I'm figuring out how to use it. The three-point lighting setup makes sense but is harder to pull of than the diagrams make it look. I'm still working on reducing shadows behind myself.

I must admit that, after watching the first Province video over and over, I succumbed to the gap between my taste and my output, exactly as Ira describes it. But upon reflection I know I won't improve without doing it over and over. An external mic will be a huge improvement, and I'm going to buy one. After that, it's more education on lighting and practice, practice, practice.

Next week I'll be back with another entry into the "Building AWT" series that addresses a question that several of you have asked: Why Squarespace?

*If you haven't listened to the episode Fiasco, stop what you're doing right now and listen to it. Years later it's still my favorite episode. Hilarious, heartwarming and all too relatable.