Blogger’s Notebook – Going Video, Part 2

(Silverdale, Washington; March 25, 2021) – I must apologize for my absence from the blogosphere.  Due to my impending move from Washington State to Tennessee in May, I had to sideline several projects, including this blog, to finish up editing on my forthcoming novel, The Norfolk Murders.

In retrospect, I might have done better to hold off on the video version of Sparks 1524 until after I settled in Tennessee, but that’s water under the bridge.  I’ve started the video blog, so I’ll crack on!

Now, let me welcome you to part 2 of this three-part series about going video!

I want to have a short discussion about the minimum equipment you’ll need to get your video blog going.  Now, please understand that I do not pretend to be an expert, but I did stay in Holiday Inn Express a few times back in 2018…

To get a video blog going, the first thing you’ll need is a computer with a fast internet connection.  Trust me on this; speed is important.  During my Navy career, I edited and uploaded video products for my sailors, but the Navy’s connection speed is abysmal.  This resulted in numerous lost connections with the host, meaning I and my shipmates had to upload a product multiple times because the arthritic, snail-like speed of the connection often botched the upload.

The next two pieces of equipment you’ll need are a camera and a microphone.  Laptops come with a built-in camera and mic, but these are often inadequate for the quality you’ll be needing.

Let’s focus on the camera for the moment.  There are many decent cameras out there, but I strongly recommend you find one that’ll allow you to film in HD and 1080p. 

I am NOT recommending ANY products here!!!!  However, I am limited in what I can discuss by the equipment I use.  For a camera, I bought the 2021 CASECUBE HD webcam with a built-in ring light.  This little thing can be mounted on the included mini-tripod, or it can be hooked to the top of my laptop’s monitor.  The camera cost me about $43.  You get what you pay for, so I recommend you do some research and don’t go lower than $40 or so.  The built-in ring light is very small, and it won’t illuminate your face by itself, but it does provide a nice bit of extra light that will help you ‘pop’ out of the background, and it does have a built-in mic that I don’t use.

Poor sound quality can wreck your video just as surely as poor picture quality can.  Professional microphones have a foam cover over the mic and a pop filter (a thin diaphragm between your mouth and the mic, sometimes called a spit guard).  These two items prevent the mic from picking up the pops and clicks our mouths make as our tongues cycle through the various sounds we need to form spoken words.  Believe it or not, you hear those pops and clicks all the time in your and other’s speech, but our brains automatically filter them out.  A microphone will emphasize these sounds to a distracting level, so get a mic with the foam cover and, most importantly, a pop guard to eliminate the problem.  (Side note—the foam cover over the mic’s head is also useful for cutting out wind noise when outdoors.)

I bought the Toner TC-777 USB Condenser Microphone.  It comes with a tripod assembly, a foam cover for the mic head and asmall pop guard.  If you’ve watched my videos already, then you can hear the lack of pops and clicks in my speech because of the pop guard.  The Toner mic cost me about $35.  It’s not expensive, but it is of good quality.

Both the CASECUBE camera and the Toner mic are USB plug-in-play.  Once they were hooked into my laptop, I went into the sound settings and set the default mic for the Toner.  No matter what else is running, the computer will only use the Toner when I’ve got it plugged in.   My system automatically defaulted to the CASECUBE camera for video, but you might have to set that one manually too.

Part one of this series (https://sparks1524.com/2021/02/25/bloggers-notebook-going-video-part-1/) discussed video editing software, so I won’t repeat myself on that.  However, the final piece of equipment you might need is a teleprompter.

Yep, a teleprompter.

Unless you wish to speak extemporaneously in every entry (and, hey, that might be the right style for you!), then you’ll need to read from a script while you film.  Basic teleprompter software can turn your computer into a teleprompter, and this is one you can do for free!

I can speak extemporaneously very well, but the subjects I usually cover are best served by using a script.  However, some YouTubers do best with extemporaneous broadcasts.  Check out Trillium at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCaLIHcc4xFLV47zlHbAIe7Q.  She talks about gardening and nature subjects, so most of her podcasts are filmed in the field as she’s working.  For the subject matter she covers, this approach is most entertaining and engaging.  Even were I not an avid (if minor league) gardener, I’d watch her simply because her presentation is very enjoyable.

You can find teleprompter software on the internet if you don’t want to buy a stand-alone system.  I use the online Easy Prompter at https://www.easyprompter.com/app#page=edit.  You can enter your script, set up the scroll rate, or scroll manually.  The only downside to the free version of Easy Prompter is that the system won’t track with your voice.  More expensive systems will track with you, slowing or speeding the scroll rate to match your pace and rate of speech.  Easy Prompter has preset speeds, so you’ll need to be mentally nimble enough to keep going if you can’t find the perfect scroll rate for you.

The teleprompter is important because you need to be looking into the camera when broadcasting a blog.  Having the camera mounted atop my laptop monitor puts the on-line teleprompter directly below it.  This results in my eyes reading the teleprompter at an angle that looks to my audience as if I’m looking directly into the camera, thus allowing me to make the personal connection critical to success.

Video blogging is pretty easy these days.  Anyone with a little money, time, patience, and a good sense of fun can go YouTubing at any time.  What will set your video blog apart is your professionalism, your quality in crafting your image, and your own skill at speaking on camera.  Have fun, take a deep breath, and give it a whirl!  You never know how successful you might be!!

Check out Sparks1524 on YouTube at: https://www.youtube.com/user/SparkyMiller1524

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Nathanael Miller’s Photojournalism Archives:

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