Recording Audio & Video for Prolific Repurposing | Content Stacking #7
We've now covered how you might create your media. The previous chapter took you through a process that can end up producing great audio, video AND text. In this chapter, we're going to look at how that works in practice.
I'm well aware, too, that most people will need to work their way up to the full range of media output. Writing can feel safe and anonymous, after all. In an article, you can hide behind the works, editing, refining, tweaking. No-one can see you. But, as soon as you start to present, then you're out there, in full view.
So, this chapter aims to give you a set of stepping stones to work your way up, right from text on it's own to full-scale media.
Let's see how it works.
Choose Your Recording Method
Before we start, remember, this is your moment. It's time to get something down on tape. Don’t down-play this. I’ve no idea how many hours of audio and video I’ve recorded now, but still, nearly every time, I get a little nervous.
Once it’s done, though, once you know you have a good bit of content in the bag, the satisfaction is immense.
How do we achieve it? Well, let's look at the methods. The way you do this determines how prolifically you can repurpose, and how smartly.
Level 1 - Audio Only
Why? Because, in many ways, audio is easy…
Everyone can talk if they have a plan in front of them. With audio, noone can see you scanning your notes, or spot your shaking hands. They also don’t care about the background, the lighting, or the way your hair looks.
Recording audio helps you to get used to recording and presenting in the first place, and that’s important. Because it’s your style, your confidence and the design of the content itself, that really determines how much the audience will enjoy what you do.
At this level, our stacking approach is either to repurpose text to audio, or audio to text.
Text to Audio - The Directly Spoken Blog
Let’s start with the former - text to audio. If you’re blogging already, then try creating an audio episode based on that blog post. The simplest possible way is to read it out. This isn’t going to be great, I’ll be honest. It’s not the most interesting thing in the world to listen to someone read. But, do you know what, it’s still an upgrade.
I know blogs that provide audio versions of blog posts, and it works. It helps the readers, because some prefer to listen. And it helps with your discovery, because suddenly you're appearing in a range of audio search engines, like iTunes. So, even though it might not be the most exciting delivery, it’s offering more value to your audience and expanding your reach.
Text to Audio - The Well Repurposed Blog
The better alternative is to record an episode using the same structure as the blog post, but ad-libbed. This means looking through a previous blog post, putting together a brief bullet point script, and then recording based on that. You're not reading, you're just talking through a subject that you know well, based on a rough plan.
This approach will produce a much more engaging show. Plus, it’ll be a bit different from the blog, probably introducing a few new insights based on your revisit. That makes it even more worthwhile for your listeners to consume both.
Text AND Audio - Supporting, in Tandem
Once you're right into the Content Stacking approach, you wont be thinking of audio, video and text as separate entities. We think in terms of content ideas and we create an outline plan or script for that idea. You’ll then use that plan as a base for both your recording AND the blog post that accompanies it. Again, they’ll produce different results, and they’ll cater to different consumption types and contexts. So, people will often consume both.
Which one you do first is up to you, as we talked about in the previous chapter. Some people find they work best by recording the audio first, and THEN writing a blog post. They process a concept really well by speaking it out loud, and that leads to a really insightful bit of writing.
Others prefer to take the time to write first. This means you can going through the topic with a bit more thinking space, really making sure you cover every angle you can. Once you’ve done that, it can lead to a really tight, focussed audio or video recording.
Then there's the 3-step process that I've already covered. It combines both processes to create a clarity that I think can't be easily found any other way.
I have to admit, I aim for 3-step every time, but sometimes fall back to either of the other two methods. It can depend on the topic or the purpose of the content, but, if it's important, I'll always aim for 3-step. As I've said before, try them all - you’ll find your own style.
Level 2 - Video: The Screencast
The next step is to introduce video. This brings us into real content stacking territory. As soon as we introduce another medium to the mix, our repurposing possibilities multiply.
The easy video option is to screencast. That means introducing a screen recording, whether it’s a capture of your computer screen (think of a software demonstration) or a slideshow (simply a powerpoint capture to accompany the speech). Either option can add a second dimension to your content. Now you can show images that clarify your spoken points, or text that highlights the key ideas.
The advantage of this approach is that it’s still low barrier. You still avoid putting yourself and your surroundings on camera, and that makes a lot of people feel safe.
The downside? Slide-only, or screen-only, can work well, but it’s not the most dynamic thing to watch. Slides remain the same for minutes at a time and screens can get a little dull.
This approach is, again, a great starting point - a first foray into video - but, you need to be very careful on length. It can work brilliantly for 2 or 3 minute videos (maybe 5, max!) but don’t go much beyond.
I’m afraid I’m not talking green and red specs here - rather the extra dimension of face-time. It’s time to get your face on camera. This adds a new, or 3rd, dimension to your videos, and a screencast approach is an easy entry point.
Screencasting software, like Camtasia or Screenflow, allows you to overlay a webcam image onto your slides or your screencast.
I can’t overestate how worthwhile this is, if you can stomach it. After all, when a fan chooses to watch your video, they’re committing their full attention to you. That’s a BIG thing, not to be taken lightly. If they're willing to make that committment, then have the nerve to speak to them in person.
If a fan chooses to give you their full attention, then have the nerve to speak to them in person
Like I said, the webcam option is the easy option. It’ll be a small image within the larger screen, so background, lighting… and your hair… don’t show up, full scale. You can get away with a lower quality camera, less lighting since it's more you and less background.
Level 3 - Full Presentation
This is the highest level in our plan, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the best option. Some topics are best done through a screencast - showing people how plan a budget in Excel, for example. But, when it comes to video, for impact, professionalism and engagement, you can’t beat a person, front and centre, speaking directly to the camera.
Now you have to worry about the lighting, the background and how you look. They’re all important features of the video, and have en effect on how you’re perceived. But, you can get creative here, introducing personality and colour.
You might have a fancy background like a bookcase with some of your favourite things on it like Amy Schmittaur, or you might be out and about, recording on the move like Casey Neistat. You might have people around, showing your context like Gary V, or you might just spend a bit of time creating a really nice setting like Maria Forleo.
Whatever you do, you can do it quick and easy (selfie stick in the park) or you can spend a bit of time creating a permanent recording space. As long as it reflects your personality and it looks good, it doesn’t matter. The important thing is to choose a format and make it your own. If you can pick one and stick to it, then you'll be able to record at the drop of a hat, every time you need to.
How to Record for Repurposing
Full content stacking requires video, so at this point I’m going to assume you’re recording at level 2 or above.
Remember, I talked you through the engagement stack in Chapter 1, and justified podcasting as the most engaging method out there. But, we want to add video because it allows us to be much more prolific, reaching people way more widely, and draw them into our stack of content. Once they’re in, THEN we get them onto the podcast, and turn them into fanatic fans.
Plus, of course, tastes vary. For some, they don't enjoy listening. You'll find people who are video folks, through and through.
Anyway, first things first, how do we put together these recordings? Well, it’s all about the structure.
I’ve been encouraging you to think about a really solid, consistent structure for your content. That structure is what enables our video repurposing. Here’s how it works.
Think Audio First, with Video Support
When you record your show, you’re going to record it in video every time. But… you’re going to think audio-first.
Audio-first means two things.
Great Audio Quality, Every Time
Firstly, make sure the audio quality is great.
- If you’re using your mobile, stick on a Smartlav+ microphone and you'll dramatically improve the sound quality.
- If you’re recording with a DSLR, get yourself a good shotgun mic, or a lavalier microphone that’ll work with it.
- If you’re screencasting then get, at least, a good quality headset mic.
Make sure the audio quality is good, at least, and aim for excellent. That’s because we’re going to use that audio, on it’s own, for a podcast episode later.
Visual Enhancements, Not Essentials
Next, it means recording the video with visuals that support the topic, but aren’t essential. So, once we separate the audio from the video, and use it on it’s own, the listener isn’t going to miss those visuals.
You’ll be surprised, once you start thinking like that, by how easy it is. You speak alongside the slides or the visuals, but never refer to them directly. You explain the concept in the visuals as clearly as if they weren't there. This is good teaching practice, even with visuals, because it really helps to cement the concepts in your listener's mind.
Next, to capturing the video. And the first option for many, is screencasts.
This requires two things:
1. Screencast Software
First you'll need some software to record your screen.
There are a few free options out there, and my favourite of them is Jing. Jing has a 5 minute recording limit, but you can record a few clips in series to edit into one larger episode if you need to.
If you can invest a little into this, I think Snagit is a good purchase. Snagit was designed originally as a screenshot tool, but they later added video. I use this all the time to capture quick and simple videos and it does the job brilliantly.
The next option is to buy something which offers a lot more features, and video editing to boot. For me, Camtasia is the leader of the pack here. Camtasia offers a tonnes of fancy options, such as zoom, callouts and much more. The editing interface is good too. It's really nice and simple - a quick learning curve - for those not yet used to media editing.
For the Mac users out there, you also have Screenflow. It's a little cheaper than Camtasia but offers most of the same features.
Both Camtasia and Screenflow allow you to record your Webcam alongside the screen, so you can put your lovely face alongside a slidedeck, for example.
Talking of which...
2. A Webcam
A webcam is the super-easy way to get video into your screencapture. You plug it in via USB and it can place an image into either Camtasia or Screenflow.
Webcams come in all shapes and sizes, and it's worth spending a little more than average on one with High Definition output. That means you're looking for 720p, or HD, video. You don't really need to know what that means, as long as the camera claims to have it! In a nutshell, though, it means it outputs much higher quality video which you can use any way you like.
The Microsoft cameras have always served me well here, such as the Lifecam HD-3000. And if you can afford the extra outlay, the best quality camera I've found is the Logitech C920. That's what I use in all of my webinars and screencasts these days.
Recording Full Video
Time to look at options for full video. That's you in front of the camera, presenting like a pro! When it comes to this, one of the biggest factors in recording decent video on a consistent basis is the reliability and complexity of equipment.
First, you need a minimum level of camera, so that the image you capture is good quality. And second, you need that camera, and the process it takes to get the images off it, to be quick, simple and reliable.
To give you an example, a DSLR camera can be a great tool for web video. With the right lens you can create stunning images, with blurred backgrounds and amazing lighting. But... without a lot of knowledge, at least half of your recording time is going to be spent playing around with the settings, fiddling with White balance, ISOs, shutter speeds, aperature, and all the rest. Therefore, for most people, that's going to stop you recording on a consistent basis. It's time consuming and frustrating.
So, for the average person, you need a balance. Good quality, but push-button simple.
For me, there are a few options here.
Mobile Phone recording
I actually record a lot of videos simply on my mobile phone. I have a Samsung Galaxy S6 so it's got a good quality camera, but most Smartphones are more than adequate just now. It's quick, simple, and I always have it on me. Plus, add a Smartlav+ microphone and it's great quality on both audio and video.
One downside is that I often run out of space on the phone's storage, thanks to legions of baby photos and hours of podcasts. Another is that you need to remember to put it in airplane mode. My Mum's ruined more than a few recordings by calling at just the wrong time!
Finally, because we're using our phones every day, we tend to fill them up with all sorts of stuff which can slow them down. I've had audio/video syncing issues with many longer mobile videos and have traced at least some of them to the phone just struggling to keep up for 20 minutes or more. This is the case any time you use a multi-purpose device for one particular activity. It can do well, but it might sometimes struggle.
Despite these downsides, though, a mobile, a Smartlav+ and a basic phone tripod is often a great option. It's certainly a good starting point.
If you spend enough, then a Webcam can be a legitimate option for full presentation videos. The Logitech C920, for example, can record good quality visuals at a resolution high enough to use on their own.
With good lighting and a decent backdrop this can be a really quick and simple option which offers a super-efficient workflow.
For me, if you're investing in content and looking to build a fan-base, it's worth investing in a dedicated camera.
This gets around the 'multi-purpose' device issues right away. You'll buy something dedicated to video, and so it'll do it well. You're only using this for video, so it should be organised and space wont be an issue. But, what to go for? Well, I've tried a few options.
First, there are a couple of good cameras from Zoom - the Zoom Q4n and the Zoom Q8. I like these because they're set up to allow great quality audio. The Q8 in particular has two XLR inputs, so you plug in professional level microphones, but even the Q4 allows an external mic input. There aren't many decent cameras out there that have external inputs for this price.
The video quality on these cameras is good, but not amazing. With decent lighting, though, I've gotten good results.
Next, I've been trying out a GoPro Hero 4 as my regular video recording device and the Hero 5 is out now too. The Hero series do great quality video, of course, and offer narrow, medium and wide recording angles - handy if you're recording in both small rooms and out on the move. They also take an external mic through an extra adapter, so you can plug in a decent microphone.
I'm liking this setup so far for the ease of use. It's so simple to pull out of the bag, clip onto the tripod and just start recording. Getting video off it is a breeze too, so it makes the workflow sustainable for the long term.
Time to Record?
In this Chapter I wanted to really nail down how you go about recording. That includes the formats and approach you take, as well as the equipment you use to do it. I hope I've managed to clarify the range of options you have in front of you, and led you to the right one for your context.
Remember, when it comes to equipment, it's easy to get carried away. Keep in mind that you'll succeed based on consistency and practice, and they depend on quick and simple setups. If you can achieve both, then you'll improve your skills quickly and steadily grow an audience.
Your task in this chapter is simple - record an episode!
- Start with the equipment you already have, perhaps a webcam or your mobile.
- Choose one of your existing blog posts which has proven popular.
- Record an episode based on that post, either reading direct or riffing off the idea.
- If you can do video, go for it.
- If you want to start with audio, then that's great too.
- Congratulations, you're now in media!
Good luck with this. It might feel totally alien to start with but trust me, you'll love it in time.