/META: Behind the scenes and why I got fired!

Making videos certainly is a part of who I am now – here’s a look at what goes into creating them!

Behind the Scenes

Hi everyone, Tom here, and today we’re gonna take a look behind the scenes of this YouTube thing that you’re watching right now. We recently hit 25 thousand subscribers, 100 videos uploaded and 2 million views total, which are numbers I still can’t wrap my head around, so huge thanks to everyone who’s contributed to that. I don’t know, maybe someday, with a million subscribers, I’ll be able to look back at this day, open up my photo album and go “oh yeah, those were the days”. I don’t know, maybe not.

And because it fits into this “meta” episode quite well, I want to start out with how I’m involved with BQ, a spanish smartphone and 3D printer manufacturer. They hired me, along with Nils, in December 2015 to bring their educational efforts to Germany, and in mid-March 2016 they fired me, along with Nils, because ██████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████████ and I don’t even want to go on about the entire BQ thing, it’s just a mess. I’ll take a regular full time job as an engineer again and the world will just keep on turning.

So let’s start with the “why” before we get into the “how”. Basically, this channel exists because of Thantik – Thanti-K. Whatever. Anthony, made me a mod in the 3D Printing community over on Google Plus and he was like “well, you seem like a nice guy helping people out in this part of the Internet; here, have a bit more power” and basically got me invested in the entire DIY community part of 3D printing.

I kept seeing the same questions pop up over and over again, like “how do I calibrate my extruder” or “should I print ABS or PLA” and I thought, well, there’s got to be a more efficient way of answering those kinds of questions instead of typing out the same answer over and over again.

And since I also wanted to try out that entire video thing anyways and YouTube provides a great platform for sharing that kind of content with the world, that’s what I ended up doing.  So I grabbed my mom’s camera, a Canon 5D Mark II, which supposedly is a decent camera for video, but compared to today’s standards, it’s absolute garbage, so I set that on a tripod and started explaining how the resolution of a filament-based 3D printer worked. And for those of you who’ve binge-watched all of my videos, you might wonder why you’ve never seen that one.

Well, it’s because I never published it. I didn’t even edit it because it was just so horrible. Check it out. Uaghh. No. The one big thing I realized, I needed a script. And I still do, I’m holding on to that script with my dear life, some of you might not realize it, I’m not a native English speaker, I’m German, and while, these days I probably read and write primarily in English and routinely don’t consciously register if I’m reading an English or German text, speaking freely about a subject that isn’t, like, everyday small talk, and following a structure that makes sense in the end, is still hard for me, it’s not impossible, but spending a bit extra time on writing a full script beforehand saves a proportionally greater time afterward in editing.

And it allows me to upload said script as subtitles to my videos for the hearing impaired. So creating a script is actually almost always the first step for creating a video for me, unless it’s a review, of course, then the testing comes before that. So the first two or three videos I actually had printouts of those scripts taped left and right of the camera, so the first half of the video, I’d be staring towards camera right, and the second half towards camera left, which looks ridiculous, so I built myself a teleprompter from an old laptop screen and a piece of glass from a picture frame.

This is the second revision of that prompter and it works beautifully. The only thing I had to buy was the LCD interface and a few camera mounts and stuff. I’ve got that hooked up to my Laptop, which runs Proverb Teleprompter, the only software I was able to find that was halfway usable for this kind of application – if you’ve got any better recommendations for Windows, please let me know in the comments below. I’ve also got a keyboard on the floor that lets me pause and resume the prompter scrolling with my foot whenever I need to do that.

So the rest of this studio setup is relatively unspectacular, there are even a few pieces of furniture stored in the corner over there – the desk I’m using here is nothing more than a $20 kitchen work surface on a few legs, the lights I’m using are fluorescent tubes on the ceiling and two spare softboxes that I’ve fitted with 3D printed lightstand mounts and E27 fixtures to hold some fluorescent bulbs. And behind this huge softbox, I’ve built myself a pair of shelves to hold my gear. Now, I have to admit, I love tech and I love having decent gear that is made for the job and not just a hack job. Gotta satisfy those engineering itches somehow. I do shoot, edit, and publish in 4K. Not because it’s necessary, but because it’s going to get me the best possible quality I can reasonably achieve. It’s probably a German thing. My camera of choice for this is the Panasonic G7, basically a cheaper, and arguably better GH4, which, for me, was a direct upgrade from the G6 is used before that. I love the G7, it’s a great camera, but it’s only got a relatively small sensor, so to get that juicy bokeh, you’ve got to pull some tricks. In my case, that trick is the Samyang F2.0 16mm manual lens, which, again, I love, but being all manual, it’s kinda slow to use. So for any additional footage, aka B-roll, I use the Panasonic 14-140mm kit lens, which works out for that job just fine and still delivers that crisp image quality. The two-camera receptacles I use, other than the teleprompter, are a newly acquired Manfrotto head on some cheap, but solid legs, that I wanted forever to get those super silky pans, and my DIY slider, which I’ve used just with the openbuilds carriage for a while now, and I haven’t quite finished adding this flywheel and a stepper motor to it, but the flywheel makes it run really smoothly and, one day, the stepper is going to allow me to do some fancy time-lapses.

Audio-wise, I’ve been relying on this tiny lavalier mic for a while now, which is the Rode SmartLav, a really cool little thing. It plugs right into a smartphone, which means the quality is going to be completely dependent on the phone you use. Any seriously, every single phone I’ve tried gives a completely different sound. Right now I’ve got that plugged into my OnePlus One, which works out pretty much perfectly. I had tried a shotgun mic for a while, and that was pretty good, too, but recording straight to the camera and having wires dangle from the ceiling wasn’t really optimal.

So that’s the “recording” part, but what also takes a lot of time is editing, because I typically only start shooting B-roll, once I finish editing the A-roll, so the part where you actually see me, talking. I work entirely in the Adobe hemisphere with Premiere Pro and Audition for the video work and Photoshop for anything that’s not moving. And I guess as, with anyone using the Adobe tools, it’s kind of a love-hate relationship. Yeah, sure, they’re incredibly powerful tools and basically an industry standard, but they’re way less stable than you’d expect for such a high-end software suite. And that’s the most frustrating part of the process, other than occasionally corrupting an SD card and having to redo an entire shoot, but when you’ve got your video all done and edited and Premiere just won’t export it properly and you keep grinding at it for days, it takes quite a lot of self-control to stay calm. Whoosa…

Of course, any editing workstation takes a beating when you try to natively edit 4K on it, so I’m running an Intel 8-core Extreme Edition, 64GB of RAM, a GTX970, 12TB of redundant magnetic storage and a 500GB SSD, the entire thing’s water-cooled, you know, just your average desktop computer, and it’s just barely enough for editing 4K.

But in the end, when a video is all finished and done, and I typically only release things once I’m happy with them, you know, that is the most satisfying moment of the process.

So one more thing I want to cover is money, and most of this is probably the same for any Youtube channel. Of course, you can absolutely make videos on zero budget if you need to, but honestly, that’s no fun. So somewhere, you’ve got to make some revenue to pay for gear and space and what not. One part of that are ads, those ads before, after and all around Youtube videos are split 40% to Youtube and Alphabet, and 60% to the creators. I personally don’t like them and use AdBlock, and I don’t blame any of you if you do the same. I don’t want to lock my content behind paywalls like Vessel, either, so, I mean, if you want to block ads, what am I going to do anyways. The other thing that actually generates quite a bit of revenue as well are the affiliate links from Amazon and eBay, but they’re not quite as consistent as the ads, as they actually depend on people using them to buy stuff. But the good thing is, just like ads, they don’t cost my viewers, you fine people, anything, so it’s another feel-good thing where nobody loses anything. Sure, I also have a Paypal.me link if someone totally needs to throw some money at me, and I totally appreciate that when somebody does, but it’s kinda the same thing with Patreon, I don’t want to charge people for watching my stuff and learning things, that will always be freely available.

Now, one thing I’ll never do is to accept money for doing a review or for praising a product that I personally don’t think is worth it. Some of the printers and parts I reviewed are review samples that I got to keep, but I do understand that a lot of times it’s just more work for the manufacturer to retrieve it than just letting me keep the used product. And it’s not like I need so many printers anyways, so one extra one isn’t something I’d sell my soul for.

Considering I’ve spent hundreds of hours on making videos and hundreds more on researching and experimenting with 3D printing in general, the income from Youtube I’m getting isn’t really something to brag about and probably not even at minimum wage, so financially, I’d be better off just working a regular job, but what doing this worthwhile isn’t the money, as you might have guessed. It’s being able to create something that is bigger than me. It’s seeing that I can put my knowledge to good use and having people appreciate it. And for me, it’s also all about learning new things, whether it’s about 3D printing or video making – and honestly, I still have no idea what I’m doing when it comes to the video stuff.

So thanks for watching, I hope that answers some of the questions you might not even know you had. Leave a like if you feel like it and I’ll see you all in the next one!

Musik: Glude – Breathe [NCS Release]

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