Happy New Year, and happy GURPS-Day.

I was asked recently how I do my interviews. I answered this a while back from a logistics point of view, but I was asked a bit about the tech and tools, since the interviews go fairly well and people were curious.

First, check out the logistics part. There’s some important stuff there.

The Hardware

I use a Microsoft Lifecam Studio HD as my webcam. In truth, I recently updated drivers on my system, and now it still will capture video, but I can no longer control the camera zoom. This seems to be an issue MS has been told about but won’t/can’t/hasn’t fixed yet. It’s annoying but not crippling just yet. I’m considering upgrading, but I really don’t want to. Logitech stuff works flawlessly for me, so if I go, I’ll go that way unless research shows there’s a much better option.

My headphones are a pair of Razer gaming phones that I pressed into service. I can theoretically use my Lifecam, but I often get terrible echo when I do. Fortunately, +Rob Conley diagnosed and fixed the issue for me (turns out you need to set the speaker/microphone settings from within the Google or Skype app itself for any sort of results). Again, there are better microphones out there – I’ve heard good things about Blue Microphones – but the gaming setup works well enough.

My preference would be to have an audio-visual setup that does not require headphones, honestly. But until I can guarantee relative quiet, this setup gives me relatively echo-free audio, which is important when +Christopher R. Rice starts transcribing.

The Software

For video capture, I simply use Hangouts On Air when I can (meaning the other party agrees and/or has access). It eventually makes an MP4 file available for download, though it can take a while to process. I almost always download the file from YouTube and mark it “only available with the link” for a while. I also remove the link from Google+ as soon as I’m sure I have the raw file. I have no problem with people watching it live, of course! But the version of the interview I want people to watch is after I put in the work of post-production.

For post-production, I use the Movavi video suite. It’s not free, but it has the features I want. Mostly what I do is look for “um, uh, what?” pauses and delete those, as well as excising any unwanted interruptions or noise. Or pee breaks. Sometimes there’s a section of interview that either I as primary editor or both parties decide needs to go. For example, there as a very long conversation in the old Pyramid Panel about the details of getting paid for including maps in Pyramid articles. That was very esoteric stuff, and was primarily a dialog between two parties. So I cut it.

When the video is all done, I spool it out at relatively low resolution 480p or so for YouTube, and also make an MP3. The video spooling can take all night – hours and hours – due to some of the added content.

Because recently I’ve started to insert more video post-production into my stuff. You can see this in my interviews with +Steve Jackson and +Hans-Christian Vortisch, where as they bring up covers or products I will flash up images for a few seconds. I’ve not gotten a ton of feedback on this, but what feedback I have had has been positive.

The last piece that I use periodically is Snaggit and it’s accompanying Snaggit Editor. Highly recommended screen capture program and image editor, though obviously a program like Photoshop would be more powerful, it’s often overkill. I also use Snaggit to capture screenshots when I game and do my transcripts, and it’s proven surprisingly helpful when it comes time to make and edit tokens (also using TokenTool).

And that’s really it. I don’t over-complicate things, but they get complicated, or at least time-consuming, quite enough by themselves. It usually takes me a couple of days to get the video and audio ready to post.

Then it’s a matter of getting the rough transcription from Christopher, and editing that. It’s usually pretty good, just words here and there, or audio he can’t make out but that I can, since I was there. I also have a good ear for garbled speech, since my day job has me on trans-pacific conference calls several times per week. Between poor lines and accented speech, I’ve gotten good at it.

That usually takes 2-3x as long as the actual interview to finish up.

At that point, it gets posted, and then bask in fortune and glory.

Fortune and Glory, kid. Fortune and Glory.

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