Some Tips From SU&SD, 100 Videos In!
It’s been a slow week on the site due to a scheduling snafu, so I’m here to wave a white flag and apologise. But wait, what’s that written on the white flag? Why, it’s news that Shut Up & Sit Down just passed 100 published videos!
While SU&SD is very precocious for a four year old, able to tell simple stories and bend over without falling (mostly), it’s the videos that we’re most proud of. Since we receive a ton of emails about how to do what we do, I thought I’d do an FAQ.
Behold! Everything we’ve learned pratting around on camera for four years.
How do you get free board games?
Let’s answer this last. Don’t scroll down! If you’re still reading by the end, you’ll get your answer.
What equipment do you use?
Oh god. Don’t worry about this either! Stop it!
If you must know we film most of our stuff on a Canon XA20 with a Rode Shotgun mic and edit using Adobe Premiere, paying a monthly subscription for the Creative Cloud suite so we also get access to Adobe Audition, their audio editor, and After Effects, their special effects thingum.
But holy crap, don’t worry about fancy gear! Partly because it’s crazy expensive, partly because you won’t know how to get the most out of it, but mostly because you don’t want to invest in gear until you know exactly what you need.
People will forgive almost everything except for poor quality audio. When you kind people first started donating money to keep SU&SD alive, the show was filmed on a £200 camcorder, a £10 clip mic and a borrowed tripod that we never gave back. And that was fine! It was all we really needed.
Arkham Horror review, Oct 2011. One of my favourite things we’ve ever done, filmed on some of the worst gear.
How do I know what I need?
Start doing the thing and find out!
As an example, maybe you want to film Let’s Plays. Then you might want a couple of fixed SLRs and a separate audio recording device to put in the middle of the table. If you just want to talk into a camera, Tiffany Ralph‘s channel is worth visiting to see just how much you can get out of a teeny GoPro.
Wait. Hang on. I just told you equipment doesn’t matter. Equipment is like 10% of the thing. The other 90% is just doing the thing. Worry about the thing!
The thing! Just do the thing!
You have to be laser-focused on making the media you wish existed, but doesn’t.
That’s how SU&SD came to be, and it’s how you’ll distinguish yourself from the hundred other podcasts, shows and assorted YouTubers.
Blueprints review, Jun 2014. Higher definition, better audio, but basically the same thing we’ve always done!
Case in point, Kieron Gillen is my friend and was my guiding hand when I was a baby freelance writer. Just this month he started a Tumblr called HipsterHammer. It’s a Warhammer blog that wriggles out of all the grim darkness and prohibitive rules and pricing of the famous miniatures game like Indiana Jones escaping quicksand. It presents Warhammer from a totally fresh perspective: This game doesn’t have to be serious and expensive. Kieron just wants you to have fun with it and to do so on the cheap.
It’s a fantastic idea for a blog, but most importantly, Kieron made it because he wanted this resource and this attitude to exist.
The Long View is another great example. Most members of the board game press play a game a few times and then rush on to the next thing. Here’s a podcast that considers great games from the perspective of having played the bejeezus out of them. It’s a unique selling point, but you’ll also have more endurance to do a project if you need this thing, whatever it is.
So, what do you care about? What do you want to exist? That’s the only thing that matters.
But you said audio matters!
Oh, yeah. And it can be a farce, too. For the longest time Paul and I would record podcasts with the mic set up in the doorway between rooms to reduce room echo. Our last podcast had Paul recording inside an actual blanket fort, and it was all for nothing because there was sound leaking out of his headphones and into his mic.
1960: Making of the President Review. Our first attempt at leaving the episodic format.
I’m not an expert so I don’t want to get into specifics, but I will say that you should do as much homework as you can be bothered to do before recording audio, and then listen back afterwards to try and figure out how to improve it. See how it sounds from headphones and from speakers, and if you really want to horrify yourself see how it sounds coming out of a TV.
With this attitude you’re not gonna produce professional audio, but you WILL reduce the amount of audience members who switch you off in the first 20 seconds.
We should cover lighting, too. That’s easier.
How do I light shots?
Again, this is an immense topic that people go to school for so I can’t tell you much, but I can tell you that basically THE MORE LIGHT THE BETTER! FEED THE CAMERA’S UNBLINKING EYE! LED Panels are good, sunshine is better.
The shorthand we use is “Could I comfortably read a book in this light?” If we can’t, we re-light the shot.
Bang review, Season 2 Episode 1. The coldest we’ve ever been because it was winter but we wanted cowboy outfits DAMMIT.
How do you get free board games?
You can’t do this for the free games, I’m afraid!
SU&SD didn’t get sent any free board games for our first year, and that only changed once a UK board game distributor saw the impact we were having on sales. Board game publishers receive so many requests for free games that it’s easier for them to only reach out to sites they trust.
Once publishers or distributors have heard of you you can try and build some working relationships, but I’d proceed very carefully. It’s a dangerous path to tread. Once you finally have a precious relationship with a publisher then you’ll start watching what you say about their games, at which point your integrity can start slipping through your fingers.
If you want free stuff, you’re better off spending that time and energy soliciting donations from your audience and spending the money on games.
Wait! One more thing. I’m going to repost something I wrote back on my old blog, because it’s still important.
There’s something I wish I’d known, rather than stumbling painfully across it like a boulder submerged in a ball pool:
Your creative endeavour has to be fun.
Actually, let me rephrase that into something sharper: Your creative endeavour has to stay fun.
We started SU&SD because we wanted to. It’s the same reason anybody starts anything. The really clean factoid you can draw from this is that if you ever lose that same desire, your creative endeavour will be derailed and go ploughing into the bog of lost souls. It all comes back to that maxim that “Great work is done by talented people, having fun together,” which is a phrase that’s fun to just rotate in your head like a rubix cube. To me, it means that when people enjoy something, they invest time, energy and emotion into it more readily.
Until the last few months, Shut Up & Sit Down’s always been fun. Which is a minor miracle. Take our first Halloween special- looks like it was all filmed on one night, right? And it was. …except when we got the rushes home, it turned out the audio on a quarter of the shots was corrupted. With Halloween coming up, we did the only thing we could. Paul left on the hour long journey to my flat the next night, I set up the game and the lighting again, we got into costume, rearranged my furniture and filmed those problem shots again.
We did this because we wanted to, and because we had the time. Just.
More recently, Paul and I haven’t had the time. We’ve been busier. And, without us even noticing, SU&SD became a burden. We still got the work done, but it was becoming more and more stressful. Most recently, last week I had to produce some video content by myself.
Fumbling around with the camera on my lonesome was what squeezed a realisation out of me. I need Paul to do this. I need that because that’s intrinsic to me having fun, which I finally saw as the fundamental impetus of everything we’d done so far. The mortar holding our wall together. And to protect my reserves of the precious “Paul” resource, I saw that I’d need him to continue having fun, too.
I hammered out a new bullet point on the SU&SD charter that night, pausing only to wipe away the sweat crowding my brow. Previously, point #1 was “Make the best board game reviews ever”. We now have a point #0. “Enjoy yourselves.” Not because that’s more important, but because it’s the spark that allows the latter to exist. If you let that light go out, everything else goes dark.
I just want to close with two things. One, I’m thrilled to say that today, SU&SD is still fantastic fun. And two, it’s all thanks to you Gold Club members giving us enough time and money to relax, rather than scratching the site out in our spare time.
You got us to 100 videos, guys and girls. See you again at 200!