Sunday, October 20, 2013

Book Review: Build Your Career As A Sound Engineer

Fantastic Live Sound Resource
"It’s like sitting down and having coffee with 20 AV professionals at the same time"

Nathan Lively's ebook "Build Your Career As A Sound Engineer" highlights some of the most interesting interviews he has recorded over the years.  I started listening to Nathan's podcast, "Sound Design Live" in early 2013.  It's one of the few podcasts that I really enjoy keeping up with.  The conversational mix of audio tech talk and input from industry veterans offers a unique perspective into the sound design and live sound segment of the AV industry.

The conversations that I found most interesting had to do with S.A.C. (Software Audio Console), live streaming, microphone technique, AVB (Audio Video Bridging) and working within a tight budget.  In addition to being able to think on your feet and troubleshoot in a stressful situation, sound designers are expected to do more with less.  Hearing other industry professionals discuss new technologies and alternatives to traditional sound reinforcement solutions challenged me to think outside the box.

From time to time people on social media ask me about being an "AV tech" or getting into audio engineering as a full time gig.  It's very difficult to respond thoroughly to those questions about the different career possibilities in 140 characters or less.  I will gladly point any curious folks to this book because I know it will give them a glimpse into a number of audio related career paths and probably introduce them to some new trends in technology.

The only negative I would point out is the conversational style that flows so seamlessly in a medium like an audio podcast can be difficult to fully grasp in it's written form.  Full disclosure: I suffered through a program called Hooked On Phonics as a kid cuz I didn't read good.  So take that with a grain of salt.

In summary, I haven't seen anything quite like this assortment of pro audio interviews.  It's full of great people with really cool jobs talking about the newest technology.  A fantastic live sound resource for anyone trying to gain some perspective on the industry.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

8 Tips For Creating A Successful YouTube Channel

YouTube processes 3 Billion video searches per month according to research conducted by Mushroom Networks.  People are searching for, watching and creating new videos in mass proportion.  My YouTube channel reached 1 Million upload views in August of 2013.  I've learned a few tips along the way that I believe have contributed to my success and I'd like to share them with you.  If you're trying to get noticed on YouTube how do you compete with the pure volume of videos out there?

1. Don't Use A Long Introduction
By "long introduction" I mean anything more than 3 seconds.  I've seen this a lot with new YouTubers and I think it turns people off.  These YouTubers use a fancy 15 second introduction with a cool animation that looks amazing.  The problem occurs when that same intro gets used repeatedly at the beginning of every 3 minute video they upload.  Don't get me wrong, the concept of branding your videos is good but in the world of video production for YouTube there are better ways to accomplish this.  The main thing you need to do right out of the gate is capture people's attention.  The first 15 seconds are crucial because this is when potential viewers decide whether to click on something else or stick around and watch your video.  This isn't just my opinion either.  It's in the YouTube Creator Playbook on page 6.  I personally find long repetitive intros very annoying even if the effects and production values are top notch.  Think about how it becomes a roadblock to the real content that people are searching for.  The whole idea is to keep people watching the video and hopefully have them watch multiple videos back to back.  If they have to sit through the same introduction every time they probably won't stick around very long.  The only exception to this would be if you create videos that run 30 minutes or more.  Longer content can merit a longer television style introduction.  Other than that, in the world of short clips and sound bites, a 15 second intro is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot.  Just say no.  Don't do it.

2. Be Natural On Camera
Some people pick up on this right away but for most people (including me) this one takes practice.  You'll only get comfortable on camera by jumping in with both feet and learning through trial and error.  Talking into a camera can be a little awkward at first, mostly because we've never taken it seriously before.  My first few videos were pretty rough as I was learning how to present myself and speak effectively on camera.  After reviewing my early videos I noticed that I tended to come off as a little bit grumpy.  I was forgetting to smile.  Even though a YouTube video is a one-way line of communication it's important to keep a conversational and friendly attitude.  If you can muster up an authentic smile before you hit the record button your content will probably be more engaging.  While I was earning my bachelor's degree in sound recording technology at UMass Lowell I learned a valuable tip having to do with recording authentic and engaging dialogue.  I can't recall the source of this advice but it went something like this: If you imagine yourself speaking to thousands you will reach no one, if you imagine yourself speaking to one person you will reach thousands.  Something magical happens when you turn the camera on and capture an authentic conversation versus speaking generically to a crowd of nameless faces.  Be yourself and be real.  People are excellent at sniffing out a phony.

3.  Use A Creative Closer
8 Tips For Creating Great YouTube Videos
BigNate84 YouTube Video Closing Sequence.
Closing sequences have a little more flexibility compared to introductions.  You can make your closer longer than your introduction primarily because if people made it that far into your video, chances are they like what you have to say and they want to see more of your stuff.  I would recommend a closing sequence to be 15 - 20 seconds long.  You might be thinking back to point one above where I just said long introductions can be a roadblock to your content.  If that's true then how are long closers any different?  Hear me out.  Long closers are acceptable if they are designed to direct people to other content you have created and other places you hangout on the web.  You want people to be exposed to more of your content and give them a sneak peek of your best work while you have their attention.  Don't forget to showcase your website and any social media sites where people can connect with you.  The closing sequence seen here was created using a free photo editing program called Gimp.  What you're looking at is a screen shot from the last 20 seconds my video.  The original picture file created in Gimp was 1280 x 720 pixels.  This file contained my logo, avatar and all the information in the side bar on the right.  Next I imported the still picture file into Final Cut and added the 3 channels of video featured in the middle.  The end result is a combination of still pictures in the background and video thumbnails in the foreground.

4. Create Links With Annotations
Make it interactive!  Once your video exists on YouTube, open up the video manager, go to edit, then to annotations.  When you add an annotation you can select "spotlight".  Once the spotlight annotation has been created you can position this overlay on a specific portion of your closing sequence.  You are basically creating an in-video button that exists for a specific duration of time during video playback.  For example my closing sequence featured above has a total of six spotlight overlays.  Three overlays located over the video thumbnails that link back to those videos.  The other three links to go with the buttons in the side bar.  Annotations allow you to have multiple overlays that become clickable buttons to the viewer.  Whenever I create a video about consumer electronics I always link back to my most popular consumer electronics videos.

Video Link Annotation Tip: Taking things a step further, when you look up a link to another one of your videos for use in an annotation, I highly recommend linking back to a video within a playlist rather than linking back to the YouTube watch page.

8 tips for creating a great youtube channel
Live Sound 101 Playlist - Notice the fancy navigation bar on the right.
5. Organize Your Videos With Playlists
Playlists are a great way to keep your channel organized.  In addition to keeping things in order they can help increase views.  Playlists are nice because after one video ends the next video in the list will automatically begin to play.  This is great for a chronological multi-part video series like Live Sound 101 for example.  Videos in playlists have additional navigation functionality so that the viewer can see what's coming next and skip around as they wish.  As mentioned in the tip above if you retrieve and share a link to a video when it is being viewed within a playlist this will take people to that video within the playlist.  As opposed to taking people to the standard YouTube watch page.  This may seem like a minor difference but it can help introduce your audience to more of your content.  When someone is watching a video on the standard watch page, after the video ends YouTube will generate suggested and related content.  However if you link to the video within a playlist, you can ensure that another one of your videos will come up next.

6. Adjust Start & Stop Times Within A Playlist
This is a great skill to keep in your tool belt.  YouTube has gotten pretty slick.  In the event that you have already created many videos with long and repetitive introductions, it would be nice to optimize the playlist viewing experience.  When you create a playlist you can adjust the start and stop times of each video within that playlist.  This won't affect the start and stop times of your video when it's viewed on the standard YouTube watch page, only when it's being watched in a playlist.  To play with these settings just go to your video manager, locate your playlist and click on "edit playlist."  Notice a little play button in the bottom right corner of the video box.  This is the feature that will allow you to change the start and stop time of that video specifically when a viewer is watching it in a playlist.

BigNate84 8 tips for a great youtube channel
Adjust start & stop times within a playlist.

7. Superimpose Your Logo On Every Video
This is assuming you already have a logo.  If you don't have a professionally designed logo I would recommend adding text of your name or brand to the corner of every video.  Text or picture logos can be added to your video during the video production process in a number of ways depending on your video editing software and work flow.  When adding a picture logo during video production I recommend using a picture file format known as PNG.  This format type has an alpha channel.  Since I am not an expert graphic designer I can't explain in any great detail what an alpha channel actually is but I do know why it is important.  PNG picture files support transparency.  Transparency is very beneficial in the world of video production.  If you were to superimpose a JPG version of the same logo, transparency information would not exist.  If you import a JPG logo and superimpose it over your video there will always need to be a solid background color.  I think a picture would do a better job explaining this.  See the picture below comparing my logo (PNG) with Eli The Computer Guy's logo (JPG).  Special thanks to Eli for giving me permission to use a screen shot from his video to help illustrate this point.

The BigNate84 logo on the left is a PNG image which supports transparency.  The logo on the right is JPG which does not support transparency.

Logo Design Tip: Mark Marianelli of Six AM Comics designed the BigNate84 logo.  If you pay him handsomely maybe he'll design one for you too?  Tell him Big Nate sent you for 10% off.

8. Create Closed Captions
YouTube supports closed captions just like traditional TV programming.  Viewers can turn them on and off as they wish.  Closed captions should not be confused with titles or lower thirds, which are others forms of text within a video which cannot be turned off or customized according to the preference of the viewer since they are typically baked-in permanently to the final rendering of the video.  Closed captions are different in that they can be controlled by the viewer.  There are many reasons to invest time into adding captions to your videos.  The main reason is that it makes your content more accessible to the hard of hearing and others who speak different languages.  The auto-caption feature is fun but it is not very accurate.  The auto-translate feature is not perfect either but tends to get the job done.  Typing out captions manually does take some work but it just got a whole lot easier.  Last month YouTube rolled out a new feature specifically designed to help YouTube creators type up closed caption files.  Just navigate to the video manager and edit an existing video.  Under the captions tab you can add a new track.  Once you create a track you will find a feature that automatically starts and stops the video based on your typing rhythms.  This allows you to listen to a small portion of your video and when you start typing the video will automatically pause so that you can focus on typing what you just heard.  Once you stop typing the video will automatically begin to play again so you can move on to the next caption.  Your fingers remain on the keys the whole time.  I love this time saving feature since I was used to doing things the old way.  Check out the video below for more tips about how to create closed captions for YouTube videos.

My good friend George just launched a brand new YouTube channel this month.  With these 8 tips I'll bet the Civilized Caveman gets a million views by next year.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Amazon Prime: 5 Things You Need To Know is offering free trials of its Prime membership.  Here's the quick rundown.
Free Two-Day Shipping  |  Amazon Instant Video  |  Borrow Kindle Books

Full disclosure: I will get a small commission if you use the link below to sign up.  If this info helps you decide I'd really appreciate the support.  In the end I thought Prime was worth it for me so I’ve paid my $79/year to become an Amazon Prime member.  That said, Amazon Prime might not be for everyone.  Here are 5 things you need to know before signing up for your Amazon Prime 30-day free trial.

1. You Get Billed After 30 Days
If you don't cancel your membership before the 30-day trial is up you will automatically be charged $79 for a one-year  membership.  This is the most important point to take note of. True story: My wife signed up for Amazon Mom and received a free 30-day trial of Prime that was extended past the 30 days if she spent a certain amount of money each month. Yep… we had free Prime for a year.  With a baby on the way you tend to buy a lot of stuff.

2. Instant Videos - Navigating The Amazon
Amazon Instant Videos can be elusive river monsters.  The videos that do qualify for free unlimited streaming will often appear next to paid videos in the search results.  If you're looking for a Netflix replacement keep looking.  The user interface needs some work if you're going to consider canceling Netflix for Prime.  Yes you can browse "Prime Instant Video" but it’s very easy to find yourself about to purchase an instant video that is not free.  Don't let little kids navigate the tropical forest of Amazon Prime Instant Video or you will have a huge one-click bill in no time.  Maybe there is a Prime Instant Video app that I'm not aware of?

3. Limited Videos For Unlimited Streaming 
Not all Amazon Instant Videos qualify for free unlimited streaming.  This can be a let down if you think your gaining access to the entire Amazon video library.  Currently you'll get access to about 41,000 older movies and TV episodes. Good news for all you fans of “My Dog Skip” but if you’re into the current stuff, you might want to browse the library first.  If you happen to be a Netflix subscriber you will realize that many of the Amazon Instant Videos you have access to are also available on Netflix.  Not all titles are available in both libraries but it's good to be aware that there are some redundancies if you’re considering paying for both services.  Prime Instant Video does have Duck Dynasty Season 1 which Netflix does not.  So if you're into watching rednecks tool around in a swamp (which I am) that may be a plus.

4. Free Two-Day Shipping?
Not all Amazon products qualify for the free 2-day shipping.  When an item does qualify for Prime rest assured it will be there in two days.  It's just good to know that not all items qualify. Sometimes a Prime item I want is more expensive than the same exact item being fulfilled by a third party Amazon vendor.  Now you have to figure out the math- does the shipping cost for the non-prime item still make it cheaper than the prime item that has free shipping?  I'm not horrible at it but math is not my favorite thing.  Nor do I like the idea of spending $80 in membership fees to be required to do this type of math.  If you decide to skip membership just order things in $25 increments and Amazon will give you free standard shipping.

5. Limited Books For Borrowing
All my friends seem to be big fans of permanent borrowing, but that's my problem.  Not all Amazon Kindle books qualify for borrowing.  Currently there are about 350,000 books available for you to borrow.  I'm sure some of them are good.  To my friends reading this - Nate & Stephanie's personal library will now only provide limited titles.  Sure, borrow our second copy of "How to Win Friends & Influence People" but that's it!

*UPDATE* Feb 2, 2014

6. Amazon Hit with Class Action Lawsuit
Looks like Amazon Prime may have been quietly increasing the sticker price of "Prime" products to make up the cost of free 2-day shipping.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Convert VHS To DVD: 3 Methods

Convert your family treasures to DVD before it's too late!  Remember that box of old VHS tapes you have in the closet?  The magnetic material that makes up your tape is slowly rotting away.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.  This happens due to fluctuations in temperature, humidity and normal wear and tear.  The tape is gradually disintegrating with every use and slowly losing it's magnetism.  Eventually you will start to see signs of this in the form of noise and distortion in your audio & video signals.  Check out the video above to see which VHS to DVD video conversion method is best for you.

Joe was awesome enough to let me feature his old VHS tape in the video.  I'm glad he did.  I think we all can agree it made things a little bit more fun.  This is my first ever YouTube collaboration video and it was a blast!  Joe and I go way back.  In middle school and high school we played in a garage band called Unauthorized Use.  Joe is stilling rocking out.  If you're in Boston, look for Joe Greaney & The Chasers playing live music at John Harvards Brewery.  Looking forward to doing more collaboration videos in the future.  Send me a message or leave a comment below if you have any good collaboration ideas.

Friday, August 23, 2013

1,000,000 View Giveaway

1,000,000 view contest winnerCongrats to Roger from Boston!  He is the winner of the million view giveaway.  On August 21, 2013 I used a sequence generator, courtesy of, to select one of my email subscribers as the lucky winner.  The contest launched back in July as a way to celebrate reaching a million views and give back to you guys!  I wouldn't be creating YouTube videos or a website like this without your support.  So thanks to everyone who participated in the contest.  I plan on doing more giveaways as I earn more revenue.  I think it makes things a little more fun and exciting.  Enjoy the $100 Amazon gift card Roger!  Make sure to let us know what you bought with it!

This week I have been researching social media and internet marketing through various podcasts, and there is a ton of awesome content out there.  One of my Redband colleagues, Jason Griffing, introduced me to Pat Flynn on Twitter.  I have been absolutely loving Pat's Smart Passive Income podcast!  I think his stuff resonates with me because it gives both credibility and affirmation to what I have been working towards.  If you know me, you know my goal is to create high quality content that actually helps people.  It's nice to know there are others out there who share that same goal, and who happen to be wildly successful!  Hope this opportunity to win a free $100 gift card has inspired you to join me in making the internet a better place.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

8 Tips For Google Hangouts On Air

It's one thing to use Google Hangouts the same way people use Skype for a private video chat with friends.  It's another thing when you decide to experiment with the "On Air" feature to make your video stream public on YouTube and beyond.  I've learned through experience there are some important things you should consider.  A few hours of planning prior to your live event will go a long way.  Hangouts On Air is a free feature offered to Google+ users that allows you to use the internet to broadcast with nothing more than a webcam and web browser.  It could be a church service, town meeting, little league game, live performance or even a wedding.  If you want to have a good laugh you can watch my first attempts at participating in a couple live video streams here.  Here are 8 live streaming tips for Google Hangouts On Air.  Hangouts On Air will be abbreviated as HOA.

1. Maximize CPU Power
There's a reason why stock cars don't have head lights or air conditioning.  They're built for speed.  When you're doing a HOA you need to use the best computer you have access to with the fastest CPU (Central Processing Unit) otherwise know as a processor.  That computer needs to be dedicated to the HOA only.  No web surfing or other programs going on in the background so that you can conserve your computers horsepower.  Encoding live video into ones and zeros and sending time sensitive packets of data all over the world for real time communication requires power.  Make sure you're doing all you can to keep your computer dedicated to the live stream.  If you have access to two computers dedicate one to the HOA and another to monitoring the live feed and moderating comments.  You're already at the mercy of your internet service upload speed and Google's encoding & decoding methods.  Don't sacrifice quality by stealing CPU power to play Snood or Words with Friends in the background.

Video Quality Tip:  Currently HD video isn't available for HOA.  Most likely you will achieve 240p or 360p.  However, with YouTube Live you can get 720p or higher live streams with the right hardware and software.  An Intel Core i7 Processor, 10 Mbps upload speed and free live production software called Wirecast for YouTube should get you streaming in HD.  You must be a YouTube partner and you must apply for permission to gain access to the YouTube Live feature.

2. Do A Dry Run
Test everything before the event, then test it a second time.  Keep in mind Murphy's Law will be hard at work.  If something could go wrong, it will.  In the world of theater and live events they have these things called dress rehearsals.  It's remarkable the number of issues that can be caught and prevented by doing a walk through the day before.  Once you get your HOA team on the same page and comfortable with the technology things will go more smoothly.  I just did a HOA with the Redband crew and our dry run was very helpful.  That said, Murphy and his law manifested itself in various ways that no one could have predicted.  One example was that my lower thirds were not functioning after we went live.  They worked perfectly during the dry run but when it came time to go live all I could get were some silly mustache overlays but no lower thirds!  Oh well, you get what you pay for, we still had a blast doing the live show.  Speaking of Murphy's Law - I believe George Tucker (one of my Redband blogger buddies) actually experienced a blue screen of death minutes before Redband Radio episode 2 went live!  Redband Blogger Buddies will be abbreviated as RBB.

Lower Thirds: Lower thirds are the text and or graphics that appear near the bottom of the screen.  If you've watched the news you've seen lower thirds.

3. Define How People Should View & Participate
This may seem redundant but I'm serious.  You need to understand what's happening behind the scenes and spell it out very clearly so that your audience of eager participants knows where to interact and leave comments.  Define your live stream headquarters.  This is important because there are at least three ways people can stumble across your live video feed...
  • Google+ (initiate the HOA here)
  • YouTube watch page (copy the embed code from here)
  • Custom webpage (paste the embed code here)
As the person running the show it's important to know where the HOA lives so you can promote it properly.  Whether you realize it or not YouTube has its own thriving ecosystem.  You may have a number of viewers commenting on the YouTube watch page while you are focused only on Google+ or your website.  You can either designate a moderator to keep an eye on all the incoming comments from Google+, YouTube, and a custom webpage or you can direct users to a central location for live interaction.  Personally, I like the idea of using a specific twitter hashtag that corresponds to your live event.  You can designate someone to keep an eye on the hashtag using TweetDeck and bounce back and fourth from the topic of the show to live audience interaction every 5 minutes or so.

Start A Routine: Make sure your audience knows how you plan to respond to them.  Reading comments and questions in the order they arrive is a good way to go.  Or you could have a moderator cherry pick only the best questions.  Or you could just read the most recent comments.  More people will participate if they know what to expect.

4. Social Media Should Be Social
Mention viewers and their comments on the air!  Interaction is key!  If you've ever called into a radio program and had the chance to hear your voice on the air it's a very cool feeling.  Maybe it's just me but there's some sort of magical thrill about hearing your name and remarks live on the air.  Doing this will not only foster loyalty among regular listeners but once your show becomes a scheduled occurrence and your audience begins to grow to thousands of viewers from around the world you will have a unique interactive experience that traditional broadcast mediums simply do not have - yet - for the most part.  Traditional broadcast is starting to become more social media friendly.  The best part about all of this is that you don't need $500k of video equipment to broadcast live.  If you're a true social media pioneer, you can start a podcast from your basement and be pretty successful without taking on any risk.  Plus it's fun.  

5. Be Consistent
This is one of the toughest things to do.  If you want to be successful and gain consistent viewership you need to commit to a time and place each week or each month.  It needs to be abundantly clear that every night at 9pm the live stream will be there.  Or the first Tuesday of every month at 7pm the live stream will be there.  It's ok to change your style, change your format and test new things but I think the schedule is something that needs to be established.

In the past I have been a very loyal viewer of the Daily Blob with Eli The Computer Guy and The PCM Tech Help Show with Craig Chamberlin.  I'm sure these guys will agree driving people to your web site is important for earning revenue and building your brand.  This is why I think that creating a custom webpage with the embedded live stream video is the best way to go.  People can bookmark that webpage and even if you change live stream platforms the central viewing location will remain the same.  I currently don't have my own live show but whenever I participate as a guest in a live stream I will get the code and embed the video under the Live Stream section of my website.

6. Develop A Social Media Promotion Strategy
This is especially important if you're not scheduling consistent live events.  People need to know when and where to watch live.  The details should be tweeted at least a week in advance.  If you have a team of people, like Redband for example, who are active social media community members you may have more social media leverage than you realize.  Strategic implementation can act as a collective megaphone to reach an exponential number people and get the word out.  The thing you want to avoid is looking like spam.  There needs to be a balance between carpet bombing Twitter, Facebook and Google+ five minutes before you go live and promoting your live event skillfully and thoughtfully throughout the week.  The big idea here would be to have each team member tweet or post about the event in an authentic way in the week leading up to the event.  Targeting a handful of hashtags that are related to your topic or industry will also be key.  I have more to say on this but I don't want to give away my secret sauce before I've tested it myself.  If you are creating useful content that helps people it probably won't be mistaken for spam.

7. Use An Opening Count Down Video
Starting and ending a HOA can be a little strange.  Especially the first time you do one with remote participants calling in from all over the country.  They probably haven't done live radio, they might be a little nervous speaking into a camera, and they are probably a little uncomfortable with the HOA technology.  Once you click the button to go live there is no turning back.  Consider playing a pre-made count down video via screen share.  This could be a two minute video that shows a clock ticking down.  You can also include branding material and all the information viewers need to watch and interact with you.

The beauty of a two minute countdown is that it gives the host and participants time to collect their thoughts, get the embed code or URL from the YouTube watch page and share them on social media.  The embed code and URL are the life blood of the live stream.  This information needs to get out.  The challenge is that these two very important pieces of code are not available until you actually start the HOA.  Often times the host and participants aren't in the mindset to go digging for this code since they are a little preoccupied with what they are about to say.  It's nice to have a standard intro and work flow that allows for time to get a glass of water and time to publish the URL and embed code before the show actually begins.

8. Get Good Lighting On The Cheap
Any AV professional working in commercial integration or broadcast will tell you that good lightening is essential for good video.  The auto-adjust technology baked-in to USB cameras now-a-days is pretty darn good, but it can't work miracles.  I use the Logitech C920.  It will automatically adjust for focus and brightness depending on how close I am to the camera and how bright or dark the room is.  You can help your camera make these automatic fine tune adjustments by getting the overall lighting in your room in the right ball park.  If you can't afford to invest hundreds of dollars in professional lighting, head down to the hardware store and invest $20 in (3) work lights, (1) transparent shower curtain and (3) hundred watt Edison style light bulbs (no curly-cue deals).  This is a bit of a hack and it will look like garbage from your perspective sitting in your basement but it will greatly improve your video quality and your viewers will never know how cheap you are.  It may take some time to get your lighting setup correctly, but it can be done for cheap.
Miles Davis makes everything alright
Miles Davis helps calm my nerves before I go live

Lighting Tip: The room should look unnaturally bright to you, but on camera you will see a much better quality video.

If you're wondering why I didn't mention how to get great sounding audio, it's because I am a bit of an audio geek.  Don't believe me?  Just check out some of my Live Sound 101 videos.  Once I start talking about audio it will end up being an entire blog post by itself and this one is already way too long.  Thank you so much for stopping by my website.  I'd love to hear your feedback.  Please let me know if you found this helpful or if you have any more tips to add to the list.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Cracking The Twitter Code #BostonMusic

Joe Greaney & The Chasers
Over the past few months I have found myself meeting with curious friends and colleagues to talk about using social media effectively.  I get the sense that many people just don't know where to start.  Here are some tips about setting goals and networking on Twitter taken from a conversation I had with my friend Joe.

Connecting On Twitter Is Conencting In Real Life
Last weekend my good friend Joe came by for a collaboration video.  Collaborating with other motivated people is a great way to grow your audience and gain more exposure.  Joe and I ended up filming some fun and informative video footage to be uploaded in the near future.  We also had an impromptu social media brainstorming session.  Joe is the front man of the Boston based band Joe Greaney & The Chasers.  He is passionate about music and being an artist, but social media and all this new technology can distract from making music, recording and rehearsing.  However Joe understands that he needs to be able to effectively use Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, SoundCloud, Gig Salad, Gig Masters and Google+ in order to get his name out, get gigs and ultimately be a successful musician.  It sounds like a lot, in fact I'm a little overwhelmed just listing all those websites, but these are just a few of the many powerful networking tools that can be used to reach your goals.

Put It In Writing
Every six months or so I open up a Google Doc and brainstorm long term and short term goals.  I refer to this document throughout the year.  It helps me stay focused.  Unless you're a full time blogger you've probably got a job at an insurance company, wife, kids, dog, and plenty of other responsibilities.  Time management and sticking to a game plan is crucial for me because when I do have a few hours to invest in writing a video script, blog post, editing video or networking I need to make the most of it.  Keeping a running log in Google Drive, EverNote or OneNote will help you jump back into things right where you left off.  A simplified version of my process goes like this:

Set Big Goals        Set Little Goals        Evaluate        Adjust

Ask The Right Questions
I started asking Joe about his goals as a musician and writing them down.  Winning a Boston Music Award would be a pretty lofty accomplishment.  I think we can work with that.  Once that goal was written down a flood of questions entered my mind.  Who won an award last year?  Who were the nominees?  What venues did they play?  Did they have an agent?  Where do they record?  Who gets to vote?  What's the competition like in your genre?  What can you do now to position yourself for a chance to win an award in 2015?  Ultimately that one big goal gave birth to a series of baby steps that will get Joe moving in the right direction.  This is a very specific example for a musician in Boston.  My hope is that you can learn from this real life example and apply it to your networking strategy in whatever industry you wish to pursue.  Will Joe Greaney and the Chasers win a Boston Music Award in 2015?  We shall see.  No matter what, having this goal will get Joe moving in the right direction.

How To Master Twitter 
There are a million places to start.  It's best to focus on one thing at a time when you're brand new to social media.  I recommend Twitter.  Each of the big social media sites has it's own online ecosystem.  In some cases that means 100's of millions of users interacting every day.  Do a little homework about your industry and find out where people tend to congregate online.  Pick one site and spend a few months really digging in and mastering it.  In this case my advice to Joe was to focus on Twitter.  You might be wondering, "How do I master Twitter?"  Glad you asked.

I'll assume you know how to navigate to and create an account.  Once your account is all set up you need to master the hashtag, otherwise known as the pound "#" symbol.  Placing this symbol in front of any word in your tweet makes it a tag that other people can search for and sort through on Twitter.  Navigate to the search bar at the top of twitters website.  Search for topics related to your industry.  In this case #BostonMusic, #BostonBands, #BostonArtist.  Now you will be able to see the most recent tweets and people who tweet about that topic.  You should dig in more to discover other related hashtags that are already popular.  Many twitter users put hashtags in their profiles to show what they're all about, you should add some to your profile too.  And make sure to use these hashtags frequently so others will start getting familiar with you as part of their online community.  "Hey, aren't you that guy who plays live at John Harvards Brewery every month? #BostonMusic #NoCoverCharge"

Hashtag Tip: You can tell if a hashtag is popular when you search for it.  Check out the date of the latest tweet in the search results.  If it's seconds or minutes old it's probably a good tag to start using.  If it's a few months old you may want find a different one.

Now that you have explored the scene and discovered your primary hashtags you need to mention people.  Find people that interest you on Twitter and tell them how awesome they are.  An at mention uses the "@" symbol.  You place this symbol before someone's twitter username and it directs your tweet at them, kind of like a public text message.  So if you made it this far in my blog post, here is an example... (if you tweet this I will read it, retweet it to all my followers and reply to you)

 I'm actually reading your blog, you rock!
Everyone needs to follow this guy 

RT: ReTweet
Publicly mentioning other people by name and giving credit is key.  An easy way to do this is to retweet something.  There is a button dedicated to the function of retweeting to save you the hassle of copying and pasting.  Retweeting also gives the author of the tweet credit.  The abbreviation for retweet is "RT" in case you see an "RT" in someone's tweet.  If I'm Joe I'd be retweeting local venues, local bands, local brands, local music magazines and anything relevant to fans and musicians in Boston.

Public Lists
Make public lists of all the up and coming bands in your genre.  That way fans and other musicians can subscribe to your list and it can help other people discover new talent in the area.  This is a great way to help out younger less established bands.  Who knows?  Maybe someday they will help you out by getting you an important gig.  Private lists are also a great way to stay organized and sort your contacts in a way that makes sense to you.

#FF: Follow Friday
This took me a while to figure out.  One day I started getting mentioned over and over again.  And retweeted over and over again.  I then realized that I was being included in a #FF tweet.  It's kind of like a viral tweet.  The idea goes like this; Someone sorts through their followers and mentions clusters of people that have similar interests or people that they think are worth following or should follow each other.  Since I went to UMass Lowell and majored in sound recording technology I have been doing some #FF tweets to include alumni of the sound recording technology program so they can see what others in the industry are doing and connect with them.  Here is an example...

There's is much more that could be said on this topic, but this is enough information to get a social media rookie headed in the right direction.  Feel free to leave a comment or find me on Twitter @BigNate84HowTo and my buddy Joe @JoeGreaneyMusic and the amazing photographer who took this photo of Joe @MegHeriot.  Thanks for subscribing!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Social Media: Time Waste or Career Boost?

There is no shortage of social media in today's rapidly growing high tech culture.  In my opinion, social media has two sides.  It can be an entertaining waste of time and it has the potential to boost your career.  Finding the balance between wasting time and adding real professional value can be tricky, especially for those who are just starting out.  Take a minute to analyze your social media situation by asking yourself the following questions.

1. What Is My Social Media Goal?
Defining success is key.  Are you trying to represent a brand?  Share useful information?  Get a celebrity to retweet your tweet?  Gain as many followers as possible?  Expand your professional network?  Keep up with friends & family?  Earn revenue?  You see where I'm going here?  Coming to a firm understanding of your end game gives you something to aim for.  I have found writing down my goals and keeping a running log from year to year helps me stay focused and it's starting to pay off.

2. What Social Media Accounts Can I Purge?
It's ok to let your Tumblr or Pinerest go dormant.  You can always come back to them someday in the future.  It's good to focus your attention on a few value adding sites rather than spread yourself too thin.  You may want to open an account just to reserve your preferred user name and possibly come back to it in a few years.  Once you know your social media goals you can cut back or cut out completely time spent on sites that don't seem to help.

3. Am I Working Hard Or Smart?
Utilize free web tools!  This is exciting because you can put technology to work for you.  There are many clever web tools and free apps available to maximize your social media efficiency.  TweetDeck is a more user friendly Twitter dashboard. and Google Alerts can be used to stay on top of industry trends by aggregating certain feeds and keywords that matter most to you.  If you're a heavy Facebook user, CheckOutTheLatest can be used to subscribe to YouTube channels through Facebook notifications.  Try using Buffer App to schedule future Tweets and Facebook posts so you can maintain a social media presence throughout the day while focusing on other things, like your day job.

Buffer App Tip:  Make sure the Facebook posts and Tweets you add to your queue remain authentic.  No one likes to follow a robot.

If you have never had the time, energy or motivation to grab the social media bull by the horns, I would highly recommend giving it a shot.  I started taking social media seriously in 2011 with the launch of my How-To YouTube Channel.  Since then I have greatly expanded my professional network, I've landed job interviews, monetized my content, received free stuff, hit a million video views (almost), appeared on various podcasts and some of my video footage even made it into an ABC World News broadcast.  Not too shabby for a guy working out of his basement.  Thanks for taking the time to subscribe.  Don't be afraid to jump in wherever you are and embrace the idea of incremental improvement.  You'll learn by doing and improve as time goes on.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Super Moon 2013 Norfolk, MA

First of all I'd like to say welcome to the surge of new email subscribers!  Thanks for joining me on my YouTube web publishing journey.  I'm really starting to discover the power of social media and how it can boost ones career.  Feel free to reach out to me with any audio, video, tech or social media related questions.  I'm here to help and share what I have learned.  Good luck to everyone who has entered the Million View Giveaway.  Currently I'm at about 925,000 views and 1,000,000 is right around the corner.

About once every 14 full moon cycles we get to observe a phenomenon called a perigee moon.  Often called a super moon, this bigger and brighter than usual lunar spectacle is a great excuse for professional and amateur photographers to test their gear.  After having some of my 2012 Super Moon footage make its way into an ABC World News broadcast I decided to go out again this year and point the lens of my Canon SX30is to the night sky.  This time around I added a little perspective by capturing more than just the moon alone.  I included some high speed video of downtown Norfolk, Massachusetts.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Lake Archer 4th of July Time Lapse

Hope everyone has a happy 4th of July this year.  What could be better than sitting on a deck, overlooking a lake, watching the sun go down, with a warm summer breeze gently whispering through the trees?  This is how I got to spend the 4th of July last year with some awesome people.

My camera didn't capture the firework competition between various neighbors around the lake trying to out-do one another, but it was quite enjoyable to watch.  My friend Chris and I participated in the festivities by rigging up 36 bottle rockets to go off at the same time.  It was a fun little experiment with electrical tape and canon fuses, and it actually worked!  (Don't try this at home kids).

If you're interested in experimenting with time lapse photography on a budget I would recommend the Canon Hack Development Kit.  If you have a Canon PowerShot camera there is some free software you can download called CHDK.  This will allow you to run an intervalometer (aka time lapse) script.  All you have to do is dial in your settings and let the camera do it's thing.

After the pictures have been captured you can use iMovie or Movie Maker to turn your still picture sequence into a time lapse video.  Time lapse photography is a fun little hobby and captures the scenery and memories in an interesting way.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Big News For BigNate84

How many people on YouTube can say their username and video made it to national news?  Well I guess there's that dad who's video made the news after he put a few rounds into his daughters laptop as a form of punishment.  And there's always a steady stream of freak car accident videos coming out of Russia that make the news.  The story of my video making national news is a little less dramatic than the examples above, but hopefully it speaks to my creativity, production values and YouTube search ranking.

Last week I was pleasantly surprised to get a message from ABC producer Susan Schwartz.  At first glance I thought this was somebody playing a joke, or some sort of spam.  But it turned out to be a legitimate request to use experimental video footage I had done of the 2012 Supermoon.  Susan offered to give my YouTube channel an on screen credit.  Needless to say I graciously granted her permission to use a few seconds of my video (2.15 seconds to be exact, but who's counting?) on the June 22, 2013 ABC World News national broadcast.

As someone who has been working diligently to create quality content on YouTube this was a nice form of encouragement and recognition, and of course bragging rights.  In addition to how-to videos I have uploaded a few time lapse, stop motion and high speed videos over the years.  They don't get many consistent views but I have always had fun creating time lapse style videos.  As a video creator, time lapse photography and high speed video is a great skill to have in your tool belt.  It can help spice up a boring sequence and communicate to the viewer in an interesting way.  I usually try to include some form of time lapse or high speed sequence in all of my how-to videos but I never imagined it would make the news!  This made my day.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Speakerphone Tips You Never Knew

Back in 2012 I was given the task of specifying a speakerphone for a conference room.  The needs analysis determined that the end user needed a low budget analog telephony solution for enhanced audio.  Pretty much anything would have been an improvement over the practice of having remote participants call into a meeting with an iPhone, Droid or Blackberry set to speaker mode.  For a conversation between 2 or 3 people smart phones set to speaker will get you by.  However, for a 15-20 person conference room the results are not practical.  The microphone pick-up range and maximum volume on any given smart phone won't deliver the type of audio you need to communicate effectively in a conference room environment.

I briefly considered a VOIP solution but that was quickly ruled out due to lack of network bandwidth and infrastructure.  After discovering that an analog phone line already existed down the hall from the conference room I set out to find a good old cordless telephone.  I landed on the Polycom SoundStation 2W because the technology met all the requirements I was looking for in terms of battery life, microphone pick range, audio quality and wireless transmission.  RF interference from local wifi and cell phones can be very distracting so I wanted a solution that was designed to reject or at least resist RF interference.

Printer Friendly PDF Diagram (Free Download):
Low resolution PDF: Polycom SoundStation 2W Diagram (356 kb)
High resolution PNG: Polycom SoundStation 2W Diagram  (5.2 mb)

Audio Expansion & Adapters:
If you think you may need to add extended audio coverage in the future the SoundStation 2W EX is a good option to consider.  It's more expensive but it will allow you to connect expansion microphones if they are required in the future.

Two different adapter cables ship with this product as shown in the video.  The Y-cable adapter for a computer and the  2.5mm to 2.5mm cable for cell phones.  This selection of adapter cables was great circa 2007.  Today the majority of smart phones double as MP3 players so they have 3.5mm ports instead of 2.5mm for stereo audio.  As a result you probably won't find the 2.5mm to 2.5mm adapter cable useful anymore.  You'll need a 3.5mm to 2.5mm adapter cable or a connector adapter designed to fit over the 2.5mm plug and convert it to a 3.5mm plug.

Most likely the Y-adapter will still be useful when connecting the speakerphone to a computer as long as your computer has independent mic in and line out ports.  However, my new Dell laptop has both of these ports mic in / line out combined into a single multi-conductor 3.5mm port.  So there is a good chance you'll need to buy a third party adapter cable if you plan to connect the SoundStation to a smart phone or computer.

Common Additional Adapters:
3.5mm to 3.5mm, 4 Postion, TRRS Cable: Stereo Audio + Mic
3.5mm to 2.5mm, 4 Postion TRRS Adapter: Stereo Audio + Mic

Friday, May 31, 2013

Start A Career In AV Integration

In May 2013 I received a YouTube message from someone named Chris in regard to a video I had published titled The AV Integration Industry.  Chris explained that he was able to line up a job interview at an AV company, however he didn't actually have any experience as an AV Installer.  Uh Oh!  I'm not sure if this video response will reach Chris in time, or if the information will have enough time to sink in.  If you're new to AV Integration or you are thinking about starting a career in a growing industry, I have put together a few links to get you headed in the right direction.

My goal is to help people.  That is my purpose for creating YouTube videos and blogging.  So if you have any question, that's what I'm here for.  I have been in the AV Integration industry since 2007.  I have worked as an Installation Tech, Drafting Tech, CAD Engineer and AV Designer.  I'm happy to share what I have learned along the way with anyone who would like to know more.  Hope you find this information useful.

AV Integration Links:

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Let Me Google That For You

I saw the LMGTFY website earlier this year for the first time and thought it was a pretty hilarious idea.  This video is just for fun and explains how the Let Me Google That For You website can be used to have some fun with your friends.  Let me know what you think, enjoy.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Will RSS Feeds Become Extinct?

Google Reader is going away.  I'm not sure what to make of it because I think the old RSS is a pretty useful bit of technology.  But if Google is throwing in the towel they either don't have faith in the technology or something else is up.  RSS can't go extinct, right?  To be honest I hadn't checked my Google Reader account in a while and I actually heard the news while watching the PCM Tech Help Show with Craig Chamberlin.

See that logo on the left?  I'm sure you've seen it around.  That is symbol for RSS.  For anyone who doesn't know an RSS feed is a "Really Simple Syndication" of a web site or "Rich Site Summery".  I have seen both definitions used.  Even the BigNate84 blog has an RSS feed.  RSS feeds are used so that people can subscribe to blogs or websites that create new content on a regular basis.  Instead of actually visiting this website everyday you can subscribe to the RSS feed through an RSS reader.  Then all you have to do is visit your RSS reader to view all your favorite content in one place.  Think of RSS as a tool that allows you to aggregate your favorite content.

This is kind of a bummer for me since I happen to use Google Reader to organize some of the blogs and YouTube channels that I follow.  I suspect three things could be happening here.  1) Other social media platforms are muscling RSS out of the picture.  2) The RSS format was too clunky for the majority of consumers to really understand and make use of.  3) RSS just wasn't profitable for Google and they are dedicating resources elsewhere.  Now I am in the market for a new RSS Reader, any suggestions?

Google Reader will not be available after July 1, 2013

Monday, March 11, 2013

Nokia Lumia 822 Windows Phone 8

I have completed 1 full week using a Windows Phone 8.  I made the switch from Android just to check it out and because I was eligible for a free upgrade.  I ended up getting the Nokia Lumia 822 which replaced my almost 4 year old LG Ally.

I can't really write a good comparison article between WIndows Phone 8 and Android since my previous Android phone was so old and it was not anywhere near the latest version of the Android operating system.  The standard processing power and memory alone have improved dramatically across the board since my last phone upgrade.  So this phone is a huge improvement for me and that's great for all of us who love technology.

Despite being a self proclaimed geek, I have never been the type of person to run out and get the latest and greatest new gadget, especially when it comes to phones.  It's just not worth it to break a contract, or pay a ridiculous early upgrade fee.  Plus you never really want to rely on the very first release of any new technology.  Well seasoned techs know that the first version of anything will undoubtedly have some bugs.  I always wait until the market has had some time to adjust to the new technology and then I typically get the less expensive or in some cases free upgrade when it comes to smart phones.  I do the same thing when it comes to buying HDTV's and other electronics.

There are so many bells and whistles available when it comes to smart phones.  The truth is I only care about a few key features.  Namely the ability to call someone and access to maps so I can find my way around. Texting, email, calendars, YouTube and all the other apps are great and I use them all the time but they are not essential to me when I pick out a phone.  What I look for in a smart phone is the calling functionality and navigation system.  The 16GB hard drive and all the apps are just icing on the cake.  I am very much into technology and use pretty much every Google service out there but I made the switch from Android to the Windows Phone 8 and I have been quite happy so far with the Nokia Lumia 822.

Money Saving Tip:
I live in the state of Massachusetts where they collect sales tax.  I am also a Verizon customer.  I went to BJ's Wholesale club to shop for phones since they have a Verizon store inside.  After 2 years of having a Verizon phone you are eligible for a "free" upgrade.  Up until last year "free" used to actually mean free.  Before I get to my money saving tip you need to be aware that there is now a $30 free upgrade fee per phone.  I have been a Verizon customer since 2003 and it never used to be like this but that's the way it is now.  My tip for you when upgrading phones is to ask about sales tax on free upgrades.

At the Verizon store inside the BJ's they were going to charge me sales tax on a free phone.  In Massachusetts the sales tax is 6.25% and the free phone has a value of $600 so after the upgrade fee of $30 and the sales tax of $37.50 the total cost of the free upgrade would have been $67.50.  However the same Nokia Lumia 822 was also available at Target and Target does not charge sales tax when giving out free upgrades.  My advice to you is to shop around and ask about whether or not you will be paying sales tax on a free upgrade.  It probably won't be advertised so your best bet is to make some phone calls and save yourself some money.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Incremental Improvement

In the YouTube content creation world I have learned that it is important to make incremental improvements.  After I produced my first 10 videos I made a decision to stick with how-to videos for at least one year to see if I could get any views.  Once I decided to commit I knew it was time for some sort of improvement.  In September 2011 I contacted my friend Mark at Six Am Comics and asked him to develop a logo for me so I could build my brand.  He does professional graphic design and I wanted something that communicated visually who I was.  I could not be more pleased with Mark's work.  If your in the market for something, tell him BigNate sent you.  No promises, but maybe he'll give you a discount.

Having a logo and avatar helped solidify my brand and visually bring together all my supporting social media accounts.  In fact just last week I was invited to appear on Craig Chamberlin's PCM Tech Help Show as a guest, in part because he noticed my sweet professional-looking logo.  My first 10 videos are a good reminder of how things play out in the real world.  Things aren't always perfect right out of the starting gate.  And that's ok, they don't have to be perfect.  The audio and video quality was not very good in my first few videos.  There is no logo or BigNate84 avatar.  It's easy to think...

Maybe I'll wait to publish my first few videos until I have more details worked out and better quality gear

This type of thinking can lead to the pitfall of perfectionism.  Reality check.  You probably won't have time to work out all the details in advance.  Especially if you have a full time job.  So if you wait too long to publish your content, you run the risk of never actually publishing anything.  Obviously there is a balance between uploading complete garbage and uploading something thoughtful.  You should put forth a good effort and strive for high quality production values to the best of your ability.  It's ok to go the extra mile.  Just don't let your endeavor come to a grinding halt because your logo is the wrong shade of orange.  Does that make sense?  Plus you'll be able to look back one day and see how much you have improved.

This is why the idea of incremental improvement is so important to embrace.  Below is a video by FreddieW that inspired me near the beginning of my web publishing journey.  Whether it's waiting to save up for better video production equipment or waiting to hire a graphic designer like Mark, it is better to work with what you have rather than do nothing at all.  I started out with a Flip Ultra HD camcorder, five dollar tripod from a garage sale, Windows Movie Maker and a pair of $6 work lights from Home Depot.  The experience I gained with this entry level gear helped guide my future YouTube decision making.  One of my most popular videos came out of my first ten that didn't have a nice polished logo but still managed to bring in hundreds of thousands of views.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Welcome To My YouTube Channel

This video is an introduction to my YouTube channel and it offers some background information about who I am.  I love technology and I love making How-To videos.  But did you know I have a bachelors degree in sound recording technology?  I have also been a certified technology specialist since 2007, working in the commercial audio video integration industry.  I plan on creating more videos this year that share my knowledge of multimedia technology since that is what I know best.