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A YouTuber?

A NewbTuber... December 17, 2019

I've been wanting to create youtube videos for quite some time. For whatever reason, I just didn't. Or... Well, I did make a short video to try my hand at editing in 2017, just filming the process of making a french press coffee, with a soundtrack over over it (my own of course). I also posted it to youtube, but that video was more about seeing what was involved, rather than sitting down and thinking about content, or trying to interact with people through video.

So, finally with varying degrees of success I started down that road in Early 2019. The first two videos I posted are of me playing piano, one of my own pieces, and a short Bach prelude. I quickly realized that something needed to done about the lighting, audio quality and resolution. I needed a camera upgrade, to at least be able to capture 1080p video, proper 3 point lighting, and a brighter piano sound. After finding the cheapest possible decent quality upgrades, I made a few more piano videos, trying to capture my progress of relearning the piano after 20 years, each time trying to finesse the video quality (Saturation on older Samsung cameras is super high) experimenting with lighting, editing, camera angles, overall style, and level of cheekiness. :) And silly little things happen like forgetting to turn off an overhead light, or forgetting to double check the focus before shooting, or even cleaning up my desk a little. Does my dirty coffee mug need to be in that video? All of the things I would never think about when sitting down to simply create away from the camera. There is so much to talk about here, because there was/is just so much to learn (still). I plan to talk more about the learning experiences in the future; so this post will just serve as a quick introduction, highlighting a few of the videos.

By the “numbers” this is my most successful video on YouTube so far. It is actually the second highest next to my arrangement of Moonlight Sonata for synthesizer, but that is just a still image with an audio track, so it can't be compared when it comes to video production. (There is also some weird controversy associated with that video so I'll save it for another post).

How to Play It Runs Through Me, by Tom Misch:

The above lesson is by no means perfect but as well as being a challenge to make; it was also enjoyable to make. I haven't taught guitar lessons in about 20 years, so it's a nice reminder that there is still value in it, for me in the role of teacher and for those looking to learn new songs. I've also been fortunate to get some solid feedback that I can use in future videos.

This next Lesson Video is for John Mayor's Neon

I felt the need to do this one as a bit of a self-affirmation, first to make sure I could learn and play the piece, then to see if I could teach it. I plan to do a lesson of his acoustic solo section as well in the future (time and skill allowing). This video includes some completely unnecessary Hamming toward the end, but I've certainly tried to create a solid lesson, looking at both the studio and live versions of this song.

This one isn't a lesson. Bolero on guitar!

I thought this might be considered funny and entertaining by at least one other person on the planet... oh well... I still like it. This was on my musical bucket list :)

This was created by recording the recording process. If that makes sense? So I would read through the score, memorize each part, then sit down and record myself recording myself playing each part! In this case it went pretty smoothly because aside from the solo I added, and some changes to the ending, the parts are pre-written, (by Ravel, obviously). So unlike what I'll describe in the next video, all I needed to do was click record on the camera and go about my usual business of recording music, but with a camera in my face! Once I had each of the parts recorded, I imported them as videos and mixed them as tracks in the video editor, which also involved grouping the videos into mixdown tracks that were then reimported as a combined video. I simply don't have the computer power to run 6-8 videos simultaniously and have them cue up properly. My computer would play dead. So slowly adding a couple videos together then exporting and reimporting as a single video was the only option. This of course, also meant that there was no easy way to go back and fix any slight offsets in the previously exported groups, so, for example with the "snare" video track you'll see that there are a few times where there is a slight offset.

After Having completed the entire arrangement and mixdown in the video editor, some of the audio was starting to degrade, due to the constant grouping and exporting/importing. So I went back to the original audio files and built up an audio only multi-track version that I could import as a fresh audio track over the video. Needless to say, this was a good amount of work.

I also made an official release from this recording through Spotify, Apple Music, Google etc. There is small difference in the official release where I removed some of the post-production wah-wah that I had added in the video version. Oh, and for those who know the piece... hehem, yes, yes, I neglected that triplet... shame.

This video also includes one of my rock/alternative tracks called Back To Back, this is the background music during the introduction.

Let's Arrange it for Synthesizer - Get your Cringe on!

This one makes me cringe... and comes across as much more of an experiment than anything else, and really I guess that's what it is, but it actually helped me get a handle on editing. It's also one of the the video ideas I'm most excited about, a series called "Let's arrange it For...", where I'll go through the process of arranging pieces for Synthesizer or Guitar, explaining my various choices, having a good look at the original piece, focusing on elements that I will choose to highlight, or maybe blasphemously remove etc.

What I realized while and since making this video, is that I need to be able to plan all stages of production so that I can arrange/plan my process of filming: deciding where to put the camera, roughly script out what I'll say (so I don't do 50 takes) and of course set up the necessary audio routing to properly record the audio, which is audio of me recording audio. This can get diffucult. It's actually a bit of a recording nightmare; in that my actual recording for the arrangement needs to co-exist with my voice over and audio for the video, all inside the same multi-track file. Theoretically I could use a second computer to record the audio that I'm creating with the first computer, but get this; my synths for this arrangement are already running on a seperate windows machine which route into my linux machine for tracking and recording, which is where my live mic feeds into for voice over recording, so that would mean 3 total computers needing to be in sync for each shot... No Thanks! Nevermind requiring another audio interface to record at low latency. As I said, a nightmare... so I had to rethink the recording process (and I still am).

I also need to say quickly that I really just want to create the arrangement, but I know I'll regret not documenting at least some aspects of it's creation. I'm very happy with the first sketch I've created for it, so I'll at least do a video about that in the meantime.

To top that off, when I create; I go into Hermit mode. I go into my zone. No people allowed. Everything else gets tuned out. I do my music and only my music. And... this does not mix well with trying to present myself before a camera, or trying to talk to a camera, or worse, yet much more common: saying the same thing several times, in slightly different ways so that I can select the most intelligible version when editing. Not to mention mistakes, flubbs, strange background noises and all the other little problems that need to be tended too when filming - especially low budget filming where I simply do not have, nor can I afford to use endless gigs of harddrive space to simply leave the camera running. Anyway, for me; these 2 worlds produce nothing when they collide. So I'll just need to change my expectations and create a video that will present what I had planned to do, what I ended up doing, why I did what I did, and how I did it; rather than trying to document the entire process and edit it down. The good and bad thing about making these videos is that so many problems are solved as the production comes to an end. This is of course great for the next video, and well... too late for the one that is complete. That's what this video is about for me. I took the time to play and experiment, and while those efforts did not contribute to creating the video I had in my mind, they had a huge pay off in helping me understand editing concepts that would be required later (in the above videos). Also, taking the time to be silly and play with "gimmicky" ideas helps one loosen up and adds a bit of energy to the learning process, which makes bigger challenges seems much smaller.

As I said above, there is so much that I could talk about and I hope to at some point, but I'll stop this post with a final word of encouragement for anybody that wants to try making these kinds of videos - go for it. I use free and or donationware software on linux (which is free), I use an old samsung phone for video (cost me $60 on ebay - the screen is burned and cracked, but the camera is perfect for this), I bought some cheap lights from the dollar store(2 x $2), as well as a larger light that I made from a cardboard box, some recycled parts from a broken TV (for diffusing light) and an old lamp. So don't let let lack of money prevent you from doing it. My point of view is that if you can make a decent video with this kind of "ghetto" set up, then you can only get better with time and equipment upgrades.

~ Cory

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Cory (Daniel) Todd is a Canadian Artist and Musician. | Listen: Spotify and iTunes. | Watch: youTube | Visit for more info.
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