Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Musings And Inspirations

About three months ago I decided to start shooting videos teaching programming concepts to put on YouTube. When I first started it, I didn't think it would take off. In fact, I thought it'd be just another failed attempt at trying something new. But three months, 11 videos, nearly 700 subscribers, over 17,000 views and 1.5 man-months of viewership later, I can't really complain. I've missed a few videos over the past few weeks, and missed another one today. And I feel that you deserve to know why.


The Process

When I go to make a new video, I start off by thinking. I pick a topic and I think about it for a while. I try to come up with a unique, interesting or just easy to visualize angle. Once I figure out how I'm going to visualize the topic, I start writing a script. This is more-or-less what you hear me speaking in the video. The script usually takes a little while depending on how inspired I am. I've written a script in 10 minutes, and I've also taken 3 weeks to work on one.

Once I have the script where I want it, I start recording the video. I record all of it in a single take, and if I need to re-shoot something, I just do it in that take (I can edit things out in post). The video shot usually takes about 10 minutes per minute of completed video. Once I start shooting, I just let it flow and put down whatever comes to mind for visualizing the block of the script that I'm working on.

After that, I'll re-watch the recorded video and read the script in my head. This allows me to see if any parts of the script need to be adjusted or added to. Sometimes I'll tweak it slightly, sometimes I'll rewrite it. Mostly so that I am comfortable with the flow of the video.

Then, I setup my audio recording system, and record the audio. I'll usually just read the script over and over a few times, then re-read any parts that I wasn't happy with. This usually takes a few minutes per minute of finished video.

Finally, I import everything into Adobe Premiere and start editing. Sometimes this process takes twenty minutes. Sometimes it takes four hours. It really depends on the complexity of the audio and video I'm working with. But it's pretty straight forward and is just a linear process.

From there, it's just a rendering and uploading away from being the next public video... So from start of shoot to finished and rendered video takes about one to four hours, depending on length and complexity of the video.

My Target Audience

When I work on the script and concept for a new video, I'm trying to make it so that exactly one person likes it: myself. I'm not trying to make a video that everyone will like. I'm not trying to have every video be useful for everyone. I target myself, and try to keep the video high level enough that it would be something I would have wanted to watch 5 years ago. If I can make a video I want to watch, I feel I can make videos that others will enjoy as well.

This is a concept that I've stolen from ViHart in a video that she did on the subject. If you do ANYTHING creative, I HIGHLY suggest you watch it. In fact, I think it's so important that here it is:

The Past Few Weeks

I've been suffering from writers block the past few weeks. I keep trying to think of a video to make, and how to present it. I've started writing a few draft scripts. But they always come out in a way that I'm not happy with. They always leave something for me to want. 

So rather than making a video for the sake of making a video, I decided to not make a video. I decided to wait until I find that spark again. I want to make videos that are easy for me to make. Not because I'm lazy, but because I have tried to make content for the sake of the content, and it's usually garbage. The best blog posts that I've written were on-a-whim posts that took me 20 minutes to write because I was inspired to write them. The ones that I've tried to write because of a schedule just didn't have the same mark.

Inspiration And Ideas

I'm constantly on the look out for inspiration and ideas to shoot. I really have to thank you all for responding every time I have asked. Please keep them coming in. But more so than ideas, if you have thoughts on how to shoot something, or a visualization, even if it's just a minor concept, float it on over. I've found inspiration in all sorts of odd places, so any idea can be golden...

I have a github repo setup for scripts and ideas. https://github.com/ircmaxell/programming-with-anthony I will always accept pull-requests to the ideas page (and possibly to other sections)...

Monitization

So far, I have a fair bit of money invested into this effort. From cameras and audio gear to software and sharpie markers (they are freaking expensive!). And I'm currently planing on building a new desktop because video rendering on my laptop has been painful (understatement of the week). All in all, I will have invested over $3k into this flight of fancy. 

I'm not complaining. It's not like I had to take a loan out for it. And it's not like it's special equipment that I can't use for other things. But I'd like to recoup some of that investment if possible. I'm not doing this to make money, but at the same time covering travel costs to conferences would be nice...

So here's my open question to you. How would you like to see Programming With Anthony monitized? I'm never going to charge for the videos, so that's out. They will remain free (via YouTube or another medium). I also don't want to spoil the spirit of the videos which should have the feel of freedom of information. 

But I've been throwing around some ideas and can't really settle on any of them. Here's a few that I've thought of:

  • Selling a DVD or BlueRay of a "season's worth" of content (10 to 30 episodes)
  • Selling individual 1080p no-drm downloads
  • Selling (auctioning) completed text-pads with about 10 episode's worth of content on them
    • These are the pads I draw on in the videos
  • Sponsor slots in the video
    • Either explicit ("brought to you by") or implicit (the topic is related to the sponsor)
  • Sponsored Guest Videos
    • Similar to the two guest slots I've shot already, but sponsored (in addition to the normal community guest spots).

What do you think? Would you be interested? What would you be willing to pay for it? Do you have any other ideas?

And remember, if it wasn't for you, I'd never be doing this. So thank you!

PS: If you want to make a suggestion in private, you can email me at ircmaxell [at] php [dot] net.