Learning to Vlog

Howdy all – this is a post I’ve wanted to do for a little while now. I’ve been taking my footage from the time I was away last October-November-December last year and producing Vlogs, as I write this I am working on the fifth one but as this goes to be posted only the fourth (Uzbekistan) will be up. I wanted to write a bit about my process and how I’ve found it because it hasn’t been quite as straight forward as I thought it would be, I’ve been trying to learn from my mistakes and hopefully identifying what I need to do in the future to make the better.

Me and Videos in the Past and Present…

Not that I am particularly unhappy with how they are turning out, I should say. But there are clearly aspects I wish I could do better. I have been into *very* amateur filmmaking I guess you could say for a long time. Those who know me beyond this blog will probably know I have my own Doctor Who FanFiction on Youtube ‘Professor Who’, and that began back in the late 1980s. Through this I’ve written, directed and acted in far too many Professor Who tales for my own good, and I’ve developed a basic skill set doing it. I should add that at no point have I studied filmmaking, editing or anything like that, so my abilities have basically been self-taught. Which also means – a lot of trial and error.

For those who are interested, here is a ‘Professor Who’ adventure from last year that I really enjoyed making, called ‘Confessions of a Record Store Owner’. This story sees flying records seemingly invading Brunswick! Not based on a true story.

But Vlogging is another kettle of fish again. And confidence in front of the camera explaining, introducing… basically ‘presenting’ is different from acting in front of the camera. I found myself stumbling over words left, right and centre when I spoke to the camera in the context of a Vlog. But the biggest issue I think has been lack of footage. Well, certain footage.

You NEED Footage!

I look at what I shot when travelling, and I have to say, I covered the journeys really well – taxi, bus, plane, I took loads of footage. But when in a city or hiking in the Tajik mountains for example, I had precious little footage. Photos I was not short on, and so I was able to put them in. I zoom in a bit and can create a pan, or an active zoom, which moves the photo so that the difference between the moving images is not contrasted too heavily with complete static pictures. But ideally, I would like to have more video footage.

The idea of a Vlog in my mind, contrasting it to a simple ’travel video’, is that you talk to the camera. I’m trying to present my adventure basically ‘as it happened’, so in some ways it’s almost a diary. But I didn’t turn the camera on myself an awful lot whilst travelling last year, mostly due to feeling self conscious and not as motivated as I should have.

There are bits and bobs I shot, but to be honest I don’t think there are any in the second half of the trip as far as I remember. To show your reactions to your situations makes them more real and I think helps the Vlogger connect with their audience, should they have one 😉

My friend Gino Pop, who came out with me to the ‘Twelve Apostles’ a month or more ago now, had no qualms at turning the camera on himself and chatting with his audience. I think I learned quite a bit from that day.

Turning the Camera on Myself…

What I have done is turned the camera on myself now that I’m home, and I’ve tried doing that in various locations. For the first couple I went with green screen. This way I could talk to the camera and put up photos or footage behind me. Initially I hoped to get away with just recording it all on audio, but I quickly saw that it needed more. In fact, there was an original edit of the first Vlog with no to-camera stuff, which I took off Youtube after a week or so and re-edited with new bits added.

The green screen… worked to varying degrees but it was annoyingly a fair bit of work and the editing process already takes a few hours. So in the last couple I have taken to just talking straight to the camera in my home office or in the park opposite our block of units. For Turkmenistan I’ve found there is an awful lot to talk about, I’ve already spent a number of hours working on the first Turkmenistan Vlog and there’s still plenty of work to do.

There are bits to the camera from when I was in the places in question which I’ve included. I found that the microphone on my action camera actually was that bad, and the audio, whilst far from perfect is at least usable.

How Others Do It…

I started really looking at a number of people that regularly post on Youtube, those who have hundreds of thousands of views per video. I’ve mostly kept it to travel related stuff, and have found a lot of interesting flight reviews online from a bunch of people including Sam Chui – whose Bhutan video I posted a couple of weeks back HERE.

Sam has a really relaxed, happy style. He seems to rub people the right way and because he is well known as well (he has made a lot of money Youtubing) he is afforded access to the flight cabins and gets onto the plane first – the stuff most of us can only dream about.

Noel Philips is a Brit who does flight reviews – mostly in Business Class. In fact, he seems to post at least a couple of times a week with new videos, and does trips just to review the airline so it must be working out reasonably okay for him too. I will be sure to feature some of his stuff as well on my ‘From Around the Web’ posts in the future.

There are others as well, huge followings, so I’ve noted basically just set the camera up in their room and chat for 30 plus minutes about experiences. All with huge viewing figures, hundreds of thousands allowing them to monetize. And whilst I sit here with my meagre figures and moan, the fact is that I KNOW it takes a hell of a lot of work. These people have worked their bottoms off vlogging regularly, researching how to pitch their video to find an audience, working out exactly what key words they should tag their videos with, wording the titles perfectly… Networking. It’s a serious business, and I guess they also have the time to devote to it as they are their own business.

And personally, at the moment I have never spent a greater portion of my time blogging and creating vlogs. Which is why I’m hopeful I can get somewhere. Not to hundreds of thousands of views, as nice as it may be that seems too high in the sky, but you know, the growing feeling is nice as opposed to the shrinking feeling, and the blog is getting more hits than it did a year ago, so that’s something.

The Process Itself…

So, anyway, back to the process. I’m basically getting home, sorting through and saving files in the right places and then bringing the ones relevant into a project. I edit presently with Adobe Premiere Elements. I use ‘expert mode’, which I’m told is the closest to using the more professional Premiere Pro. It was cheaper and I think I was able to buy it outright rather than having to pay a monthly subscription which, if you ask me, is just a cunning ploy by companies such as Adobe and Microsoft to make, I would think substantially, more money off customers. It stands to reason, They are constantly taking money every month. For as long as you use the software and don’t cancel. Heck, even if you’re not using the software, but haven’t cancelled you are paying.

At least a Vlog basically follows the order in which things were shot. Knowing how much footage to use can be tricky – when it comes to flights and journeys because it’s all about pacing the video and if you stick in 30 minutes of driving, the only driving that will happen is to your audience – driving them away.

And then in towns and sites, as I said, I just didn’t take enough (in my mind at least) footage. So where I am lacking in footage, I go through my photos and pop them in. I need to have put a bit of stuff together before I record commentaries and introductions. I recently decided to use my old digital video camera – a Panasonic – to record these because I found I could use it on the selfie stick (I can’t believe I’m using a selfie stick!), the microphone is decent and the screen flips so I can see what I am using. So the vlogs are actually shot using three different cameras. Glad I kept that one now!

And then for the Music…

Music is also a key element to any video you pop up on Youtube. There are a lot of different places online where you can find ‘royalty free’ music. I used to use music from CDs and the like, but all in all it’s less fuss to find royalty free stuff. Usually they will ask for a mention in the description of the video, which is fair enough. I also pop the details on the end credits of my videos.

I discovered ‘bensounds’ (www.bensounds.com) last year and have used it quite a bit since. It’s got a bunch of royalty free stuff, some free, some you need to pay a fee to use. The free stuff is only free depending on what you use it for – if it’s for a professional exercise then you will definitely need to pay.

I also found a Youtube channel called ‘No copyright sounds’ which is a similar deal. Their music is a little more ‘techno’ I guess but useful. I like longer tracks where possible but also I will do a little looping in the editing to make the music last longer. It’s background and repetitive too so it doesn’t seem to make a big difference.

Mapping it Out..

I had it suggested that maps would help the videos too, and so I’ve started putting maps in the last few vlogs. I found a website that claimed to make moving maps for you, but it seems to have closed down. So I have been screen shotting Google maps, then making a few version of the maps with the routes added leg by leg. It’s not as dynamic as I’d like, apparently Adobe After Effects has a map function, and if I move to Adobe Creative Suite (which includes most of the Adobe programs including Premiere Pro) I will look into it. But these ones, time consuming as they do because then I move them about, serve their purpose.

Final stages…

Then I render a file and watch it back, looking for glitches and sound imbalances. The  I do a little bit of neatening up, and that’s that. I’ve had them ready about 2-3 weeks before I need to upload them, I’m doing this so I can consistently pop them on the blog every couple of weeks on a Friday. I could probably spend more time editing, but I feel like the minimum I spend in the editing process is probably six hours, for a simple one, and there are only so many hours in a day.

Below are the first four in this Vlog series I am working on – Following me through Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Almaty, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. I feel like I improve a little with each one. They run from around ten to sixteen minutes. I’m deliberately trying not to make them too long.

Thanks for popping by again today! May the Journey Never End!

2 thoughts on “Learning to Vlog

  1. Wow Andy! This gotta be one of your most interesting posts. I learnt a whole lot, like the travel along shots, it’s really awkward sometimes when you travel some place and the only footage you have is on location. Thanks for mentioning that we need to show ‘how we got there’
    Again, I think the Professor Who series is funny, the African woman in this one definitely spins a bit of comedy on this.
    And I personally use Filmora for video editing, it’s pretty cool.
    Thanks for sharing your process, here’s to more journeys.

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