As with everything new that I try, I learn a lot of new stuff.....to me it's the journey that is so much fun and exciting. The Home Gunsmithing projects are a real hoot and I love them. To my surprise, I also have fun doing the Internet TV show. Just like with my Gunsmithing and my workshop and my tools....the RCG-TV project is also in a constant state of evolution and change. This page will help to chronicle the journey as I go from Concept to Reality and all the neat changes and lessons along the way.
This page is dynamic by it's nature, I'll add to the information as the journey continues, so you may want to check back from time to time to see what's new.
If you haven't done so, you may want to get a little background on how this journey began. The Concept page explains where the idea came from and what obstacles I had in front of me right from the beginning.
The Journey begins in my little garage on a clear April evening.........
APRIL 10, 2002
After spending several days researching and looking into the viability of trying to create and Internet TV show, I decided that there was just no way of knowing whether or not it would work without actually giving it a try. So I ran to Best Buy to get myself a little Sony digital camera, a tripod and some tapes. I was going to try to ease into this whole affair just in case it was a bust. I didn't want to tie up valuable funds that were desperately needed elsewhere in the projects just in case this turned out to be a stupid idea hahahaha....I figured that in a worst case scenario I could always justify the camera, I mean come on.....a video camera is nice to have around anyways right?
So once back at home, I immediately ripped open the box and inspected my shiny new DCR-TRV240....it was love at first sight. While the battery was charging, I decided to get acquainted with the users manual (something I NEVER do) but hey...I was bored and couldn't play with my new toy right away. It's a terrible thing having to wait for your battery to charge up, all the while you are dying to go shoot something, anything. Anything at all.
APRIL 11, 2002
Yep it works alright....I shot about an hours worth of total garbage, all hand-held shots with tons of silly zooms and pans. Shots of the back yard and of the dogs stuff like that. Then it was time to see how the images look when played on a TV set.....WOW baby !!! These digital cameras are really nice. The only exposure I had ever had up to this point was with VHS camcorders. The picture quality and color depth of the new digital8 format was impressive.
Ok, so I have a camera, a silly plan, a tripod and some tapes. Time to do a couple tests to see what this TV show is going to entail.....
APRIL 12, 2002
Back to Best Buy for some computer editing software. (didn't realize I would need it the other day). Raw footage is just no good if you want to make a TV show, so I picked up a cheap edit suite called Pinnacle Studio DV 7.0 for a couple hundred bucks. It came with a firewire capture card in the box, so I spent the day playing with the new software and doing some digital editing of my "junk" footage just to get the feel for how this was going to unfold. It was a steep learning curve, but I was getting some "ok" results in just a few days. As part of the testing, I encoded the video into several different formats that could be posted on the web, just to see what looked and sounded the best.
I learned through trial and error that, either the picture was good OR the sound was good, but never both at the same time. RealPlayer encoding seemed to look the best, but the sound was really, really crappy, and the proprietary software was not installed on everyones machine. I finally decided to settle on Microsoft's Media Player format for a balance of file size, video quality and sound quality.
I posted a few samples on the website to get feedback from the visitors and then it was all just a matter of getting ready for the May 19th kick-off date to see if this idea would sink or swim......lots of testing, lots of editing practice and all the while I was shooting the video of my progress as I worked in the garage each night trying to finish a 0% AR-15 forging into a workable rifle. I really had my plate full if you can imagine. Here I was trying to figure out the camera, lighting, editing, encoding, sound and at the same time, learning to read blueprints, learning to use my new Milling machine (this was the first project on the new griz) and planning to move to a new house in a month...hahahaha, it was like doing MACH -6 with your hair on fire baby !!! But sure was fun.
MAY 11, 2002
Between April 12 and May 11, I shot all the video for the entire first season. During that same time, I completed the AR-15 I was working on and continued to "tweek" the editing and learn as much as I could about what was needed to make it all look good....notice I said LOOK good. I totally neglected the audio aspects, and that would prove to be a mistake that would haunt me for the entire first half of season one. (more on that later).
So on May 11th I was ready to shoot the additional scenes for the premiere episode. Namely the parts that required any "On Camera" commentary. It was at this point that I realized just how hard it is to actually talk to a camera.....wow what a mess. I kept on screwing up my lines and getting nervous. It took about 4 days just to shoot the 12 minutes of video that finally made it to the first episode.(for the record it also took 4 beers to calm me down to where I could relax). But I finally got the footage I needed.........off to the edit bay to create the first ever episode of RCG-TV.......would they like it, would it suck? Nobody knew......
BACK TO THE STUDIO
Season One - Baby steps
MAY 19, 2002
The final test.....it's premiere night and the first episode is edited and ready to show. I was so excited to see if anyone (anyone at all) would want to watch the show. I worked on the first show all the way up to the last minute, trying to get it "just right". Then at 9:00 EST it went out live.
Within minutes, I was reading feedback on the forum that people were actually watching the thing.....amazing. The viewers were so kind and it served to fuel my resolve....yep, I'm gonna finish what I started. The first show was a success and 37 people tuned in to watch it. Yipppeeeee !!
JUNE 4, 2002
I was editing the 4th show and trying to get it ready for Sunday when I finally took a good (objective) look at what I was producing. Well, more specifically I took a good hard "listen" to it. My audio was terrible. I mean horrible, crappy nasty audio. I had been using the sound card and a cheesy little 10 dollar microphone to do the voice over work for each show, and I now realize that it just isn't gonna work like that. The software I was using had very limited audio editing and those things that the software did do were weak to say the least.
So off to Radio shack I went with a bunch of questions and the last 100 bucks to my name. I told the sales rep about my problem and lucky for me.....he was into video himself. I bought a cheap 3 channel audio mixer and a balanced XLR dynamic microphone. The mixer allowed me to change the sound balance and also boost the level so it could be heard better. This alone was a huge improvement and the show sounded much better when it aired on May 9th.
You learn as you go, and up to this point my audience had been absolute SAINTS. They didn't complain even with the crappy audio they had been watching, and all the support and encouragement helped to keep me from giving up. I guess it's true what they say........your viewers can forgive you for anything as long as the content is good. Content truly is the key, of that I am convinced.
JULY 4, 2002
I took a real chance with this show. The July 8 show was the very first "on location" segment I have ever tried. There was an annual machinegun shoot at the Hernando Sportsmans club that my dad told me about, and I thought it might be fun to try video taping it for a special show. Dad and I loaded up the car with all the equipment we had and headed off to the shoot.
I had just recently purchased a second digital8 camera off of E-Bay for a couple hundred bucks and so we took both cameras and split up to get as much footage as we could. I also had a couple simple T-shirts printed with the RCG-TV logo on the back and we each wore one.....sure was cool.
I think I'm going to like this little "sub-hobby".......time will tell.
BACK TO THE STUDIO
A Hard look at what I did
It would be nice if I could look back at Season One and be proud of the flawless, perfect video, audio, lighting and content that I had produced and sigh with satisfaction.....but this is the real world and that just aint the way it happened. The production value of the first season was "amateur" to put it kindly. I had ZERO experience when I started this project and it showed. So instead of doing more of the same, I decided to take a cold hard objective look at the work and make a list of what I could do better if I were to start over from the beginning......the list was looong baby !
I had a single camera, mounted on a single tripod in a fixed position and only the built in microphone on the camera for sound. Even with some fancy editing and transitions....it still looked like the whole thing had been shot from a camera on a tripod in a corner that someone forgot about hahaha. (which is basically the way it was shot).
The audio levels were all over the charts. During one episode the sound volume may rise and fall 10 times causing the poor viewer to sit with the remote control in his hand to adjust the volume over and over again.
The lighting was so bad that during portions of the show, the work piece was completely washed out by a white glare of reflection. And the list of problems just kept going........
So I sat myself down in a quiet room with my list and started to research each subject one at a time. I wanted to get educated on the finer points of what makes a good video good, and what makes a bad video bad. I bought books on subjects such as, lighting, audio and microphones, cinematography, composition and studio techniques all in a attempt to learn what I had been doing so wrong. I even subscribed to several magazines dedicated to Videography and Video editing. Basically, I just wanted to find out as much as I could about as many things as I could. I wanted to do this before I made any decisions about what would be the next step (if there was even going to be a next step).
Throughout the researching and reading, I was starting to understand many concepts that I had never even considered before. I made notes and highlighted passages. My wife said it looked like I was back in school cramming for an exam hahaha......I wanted to have all the facts and know what I was getting into before I invested any more time or money into the Shows, so this was my "reflection time" to assess where I had been and how far the next leg of this journey would be........(and how expensive hahaha)
The results of two months worth of reflection were as follows:
1. The first season was not very good from a production
2. I can do much better
3. It will cost a lot of money to do it right
4. I enjoyed it and had lots of Fun
5. People watched the show even though it was amateur
6. The "Content" was pretty good
7. The "Concept" was sound
8. I received many letters of encouragement
9. My wife thinks I've finally lost my mind
A Decision to be made
**** Still writing this section, please check back later ******