The Move Towards Video Creation
A year and a half ago I published my first book, Retrieving Knowledge: A Socratic Response to Skepticism. Shortly after publishing, my college students repeatedly told me that they don’t enjoy reading. This was a source of discouragement since they were my audience. Then, last November, my students asked me to create short videos (vlogs) for them instead. They said YouTube was more popular than books with their generation. They pointed to the rise of YouTube sensations such as Jordan Peterson and Sam Harris — talking heads with huge followings. But what is their content? Could I deliver better content? Perhaps.
I was resistant to the suggestion of making videos at first, but with enough encouragement, I decided to try it out. I was going to become a content creator and not just a book publisher. I started creating videos with a borrowed DSLR camera, which turned out to be too complex for my liking and so I recently transitioned to the iPhone 11. The iPhone 11 had an improved camera for video recording than previous generations, and using it simplified my recording process. I could do this.
I began the vlogging process by creating a list of topics on a subject that I was passionate about — thinking — and then I wrote short scripts for each vlog post. I created a regular schedule for releasing the vlog posts (Monday and Thursday morning). I publicized new posts using social media: Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, and sometimes Instagram. I don’t prefer Instagram. I held to the schedule for the whole Spring 2020 college semester, then recently relaxed the schedule a bit to catch up on life during the pandemic.
Having become comfortable with the vlogging process, I scripted a book I was writing, Retrieving Reason: The Foundation for Epistemology, into a weekly podcast. I will not stop writing just because people don’t read. I am crafting each chapter into a public podcast as I write the text of the book. I release the podcast each Saturday in both audio and video form. This has provided a regular writing schedule and a means of sharing ideas with others for feedback before I publish, which has been a very fruitful process.
Recently, a colleague asked me what I am doing to create my blog, podcast, vlog, and online teaching videos. He wanted details so that he could do something similar. Since I have relied on others to learn, and I also learned from painful trial and error, I want to pass on what I have inherited in order to spare others from undue struggle. If I can help others to streamline the process, that would make me happy.
Website and Podcast Hosting
I have been posting on my Retrieval Philosophy website for a few years. I use the website for blogging, announcing events, and book recommendations. For website hosting I use WordPress and I purchased a domain name. I find WordPress to be fairly straightforward and easy to use, but I also use GoDaddy for hosting my publishing company business website and like it just as well.
For podcasting audio hosting, I use Anchor.fm. It is a free host that is super easy to use and automatically shares your podcast with the most popular podcast listening platforms such as Spotify and Apple Podcasts. I record my podcast with Garage band (a native app with Apple products) or Audacity for audio-only recordings.
Lately, I use my iPhone 11 to record a video and I mix down from video to audio in Davinci Resolve, which you can download for free and install on your computer. In this way, I can use Davinci for the production of both the video and audio version of the recording for my podcast. I find Davinci pretty easy to understand. If you are having problems with editing, there are many instructional videos for Davinci on YouTube.
Technology, Programs, and Apps
For using the iPhone 11 to record videos, I plug the mic into the iPhone port. I have purchased an app called FiLMiC Pro. I have to select the mic that I am using in the app. This app allows you to improve video quality by adjusting lighting and focus. It also allows you to use a second iOS device, such as an iPad as a monitor for the iPhone 11 when you use the back-facing camera, which is the better camera, but you cannot see what is going on without a monitor. I use the iPad as my remote control and monitor for the iPhone 11. I have FiLMiC Pro on the iPhone and the companion app Filmic Remote on the iPad and link them via Bluetooth. On the iPad screen I am able to see my sound input from the mic — a lifesaver for me since I always forget to check sound — and am able to adjust lighting, focus, and push record imperceptibly. I love this app and highly recommend using it if you are going to video record with the iPhone. It will improve image quality, serve as a monitor, and is a remote control on a second iOS device.
Having recorded a video on the iPhone 11, I use Airdrop to transfer the video from the phone to my MacBook Pro. This is so convenient and simple. I love it. But, one thing to remember is that you have to give the video a title as soon as it is uploaded on the computer, and then you have to save it to a place that you will be able to easily find. Airdrop uses a long number as the title for the video and it automatically goes to the download file. I have gotten confused a couple times when I have downloaded numerous videos in a row and failed to title them.
For podcasting video, which is basically a video recording of my podcast episode, I use the iPhone 11 with the Blue Raspberry mic (or Blue Yeti with adapter) and edit in Davinci Resolve and then upload to a public playlist on YouTube.
A note about the Blue Raspberry mic: I love this microphone, and I bought a refurbished one from Amazon for a decent price. I was using it with both the iPhone 11 and the MacBook Pro and everything was great. To switch between them I had to unplug the back of the mic and change the cord. After doing so about 50 times, the socket became loose and the mic started to crackle. I must have a reliable mic, so I also purchased the Blue Yeti for use primarily with the computer for recording class material and the podcast, and for better sound in Zoom meetings. The Public Philosophy Society has a monthly Zoom meeting that is recorded for members who are not able to attend. Having good sound is important for these instances. I now reserve the Blue Raspberry for use exclusively with the iPhone. I will be using it to record some short audio readings for some of my online classes. I will be making “mixtape” recordings for online classes, an idea I am borrowing from Michael Wesch. He has some very good advice for teaching online.
For vlogging I use my iPhone 11 to record with the Blue Raspberry mic (or Blue Yeti with adapter). I edit in Davinci Resolve and then upload it to a public playlist on YouTube.
Online Teaching Tech
For screencast video recording for online teaching, where I want to share my MacBook desktop with my students, I use Wondershare Filmora Scrn, which costs about $20 to purchase. I choose the highest quality screen capture because the perfectionists in my life have taught me to appreciate good quality. Since I also like to use the small picture of myself in the bottom right corner, I use the Logitec c920 HD Pro webcam to record video and the Blue Yeti mic to record audio, both plugged into the USB port on the computer. If you are using a newer MacBook Pro, you will need to purchase a USB adapter with multiple USB ports (mine has three ports). After recording a lesson in Fimora Scrn I use the native editing program in Filmora to edit and process the video, then I upload the lesson to a playlist on YouTube. For courses that I offer at the college, I upload my videos to an unlisted playlist named after each course and then create a link in Canvas, our college’s Learning Management System (LMS).
Sometimes for online teaching I do a more “talking head” style of lecture without the screencast. For these videos I use the iPhone 11 with the Blue Raspberry (or Blue Yeti) and edit in Davinci Resolve and then upload to a private playlist on YouTube and then create a link in the college LMS system Canvas.
As a side note, I have been experimenting with using the iPhone 11 as a webcam instead of the Logitec webcam. To do so, I use an app on the phone called EpocCam, and I use the USB cord connecting the iPhone port and the USB port on my computer rather than using the Bluetooth option the app comes with because I get a more stable video connection. I like the video quality better using the iPhone as my webcam, but there are extra steps to take to use EpocCam. For me, extra steps mean more potential for error. I will continue experimenting, but if the errors override the usefulness, I will continue with the Logitec webcam.
It is helpful to make a checklist of items to do before you push the record button. Too many times I have messed up a perfectly good 25-minute recording by failing to simply do something like turn on the mic or choose the correct audio input selection. You may prevent much waste and frustration by developing a system, writing down your steps, and then following your steps.
It is important to have a process for saving your work. I have a thumb drive on which I save all my edited videos. I have made folders for each category of video, which corresponds to my YouTube playlists. For example Thinking Vlog, Retrieving Reason Podcast, World Religions, Intro to Philosophy, etc. The computer will quickly run out of space if you do not save videos elsewhere and delete them from the computer. I also have to delete videos from the iPhone 11 as soon as they are uploaded to the computer. Just be careful and pay attention. Use specific titles for everything so you can find it again and do not delete anything unless you know it has been saved. Trust me, I have learned this the hard way.
Recording Studio Setup
I have created a video recording studio for my vlog, podcast, and class video recordings. I have benefitted from Zach Arias’ advice in this video for creating my studio and recording process. I have to admit, I am still working on lighting, which seems to be the most challenging aspect of filming for me. My brother, John, has loaned me a softbox light, but I am not sure I have been using it correctly. My advice is to do some research about lighting and get some appropriate lighting for your space. I am still learning.
If you are stepping into vlogging, podcasting, or making videos for online teaching, I suggest you take this up as a learning process. It is a content-creating journey. You need to start somewhere and then make it your goal to continue to improve. It is fun to learn and grow. Ask others who have gone before you. Educate yourself by watching instructional videos on YouTube.
If you look at my videos over the past few months, you will see that I am an amateur that is still improving. But I had to get the courage to start. My students asking for a vlog was the stimulus to begin the process. The encouragement that I receive on a regular basis from viewers and listeners is what helps motivate me to continue and makes me desire to improve with each video. Check out my YouTube channel and support what I am doing by “liking, subscribing, and sharing” my videos. My hope is to grow my channel and gain a greater voice in public philosophy. Maybe one day I can give Jordan Peterson a run for his money.