Archive for June, 2014
We launched Episode 8 on Sunday. We’re implementing the same release model as last time. Viewers who want to watch the full 61-minute episode all at once can just click through to the next part on the endscreen, where the rest of the parts are already uploaded, just set to unlisted. That way, people who like the old model can still just watch one segment per day. More importantly, but clicking them over to public a day at a time, the episode shows up in subscription boxes every day for a week.
The viewing numbers are pretty low, comparatively (this is to be expected, no YouTubers are pulling the numbers they’re used to), but the responses we’ve been getting are phenomenal. Everyone is so excited about the story and the characters. Story events are taking them by surprise and the comments are filled with really emotional, really visceral reactions. It’s the greatest thing ever.
Backing it up, the day before release Eliza mentioned I should do a quick Previously On. I hadn’t planned on doing one because I was under the gun to get everything uploaded and annotated for the next day. But I got an idea of how to do one really quickly and how to make it cool, so I whipped it up in a couple hours:
It ended up being one of my favorite PoPS promos I’ve ever made. 24 seconds and I think it’s just SO COOL.
The next day we set the first part of the episode to live. In the hours leading up to it, as I was verifying that all the annotations worked, people started commenting that they were getting ready for the launch. I was getting countdown tweets. One person set up a countdown timer at timeanddate.com. I was hearing from a guy who was throwing a little PoPS release gathering. It just felt kind of anticipated. It was nice. As the countdown ticked over, I set the first part to public and walked away.
Eliza and I made breakfast and I just sat at the table, feeling weird. I’d just spent the last 10 months making this thing and I knew people were out there watching it. I felt a little nervous, but it was also just weird to know that it was being experienced out there, away from me. While I was eating eggs. It felt really strange.
When I stepped back to the computer later in the day to check comments, it just blew my mind. People were so worked up over what happens in the episode. Comment after comment coming from people who were emotionally invested in what we’d made. Not only was it funny, it was serious, scary, and shocking. All of the beats were landing. It was the greatest day. It’s been a few days now and the comments are still coming in.
A YouTuber named TheThirdPew, who I first learned of a while ago when he used PoPS footage in his YouTubers Sing compilation videos, made a video encouraging his audience—which has grown substantially over the last year—to watch the show. It was just nice to hear him talking about how much he enjoyed the show, but then he also cut together a quick PoPS sizzle reel to lead by example that ends the video.
That video has ended up raising our subscriber number by about 1500 over the last couple days. How unbelievably nice of him.
Then this guy Thomas, who we met at Vidcon last year, and his girlfriend Jenna uploaded an episode 8 response video. Of course, it’s filled with every spoiler in the episode, but getting to watch them react to a bunch of different story turns and lines of dialogue was such an absolute joy for me. Especially at about 9 minutes and 50 seconds in.
I am so using that clip in the video update this week.
It’s just been an incredibly validating release week and I feel a little worn out and emotionally drained from taken it all in. So wonderful. Just a wall of good. I never thought people would react so intensely. It’s like everything I’ve ever wanted in a response to something I’ve created.
Thanks for reading.
I think about movie trailers a lot. I love the way they package a tone and establish a set of expectations. They try to tempt you. Same with commercials for TV shows. In a short time I’m going to convince you to dedicate more time to this longer thing. When it comes to internet stuff, though, a lot of time having a trailer just feels pointless. A lot of the stuff we watch on the internet is because of links and word-of-mouth blurbs, not trailers. Someone we know or enjoy enough to follow online thinks it’s worthy of watching and they provide us with a link, so we click and watch. I understand the purpose of them, you want people to be ready to watch your thing as soon as you upload it. Your trailer has your release date. You want to drum up the same kind of excitement you feel when you see a trailer for a cool movie. That’s why I do them. I want people to be watching it as soon as it goes up. So here’s the trailer for episode 8.
Yeah. The release date is three days from now. I released the trailer for episode 1 a little over six months before we released the episode. That had more to do with waiting to see if we got into a pilot competition before uploading it, but six months between a trailer and the episode it’s for is internet-ridiculous. The trailer for every other episode went up about two to three weeks ahead of release. Every time the same thing happens. It gets a bunch of views and stirs up excitement for a few days and then everybody forgets about it. By the time I launch the episode, I get some of comments from people like “Oh! I forgot this was coming out today!” So, what’s the point? Three days is enough time to get people ready to watch and then we drop it on them right away. Plus, Vidcon is next weekend. I don’t want the episode to come out while everyone is at a huge YouTube convention doing the face-to-face thing instead of the sitting-at-their-computer thing. I don’t want to wait a whole other week for people to get home and decompress. So, let’s do it now. I just have a couple touch ups to do and we’ll upload it.
The cast and crew screening was outstanding, I might add. Listening to people react to it is unbelievably exciting.
Thanks for reading.
I always forget how much time color correction takes. Each scene always has it’s own set of color balancing challenges and it usually takes a while to establish the look. Once the look is established however, it’s pretty cut and paste in Davinci Resolve—the ass-kicking’est, free color correction program in the world. I’ll do a little more with visual examples in the next video update.
As with everything else in the show, since we do everything ourselves, the more that I tackle a particular discipline, the better my understanding of it is. I’d still be useless without the Resolve’s Power Grades. There are a series of presets that help me settle into certain pro “looks” that I can then tweak and make our own. If it was just me and the three color wheels, it wouldn’t look nearly as good. See episode 6 for a prime example of that.
My initial instinct with any new cool program is to push it as far as I can. That’s why episode 7 looks so extreme. Don’t get me wrong, I still think it looks awesome. But I had just laid hands on a powerful new set of tools and I went a little add-ons crazy. The main look in villain situations has a mild green cast in the shadows and I think that looks AMAZING! But for episode 8, I’ve dialed that look back a skosh. Added to that, we put the bad guys in a brighter section of the warehouse this time, so there are less shadows to be green in general. So it looks slightly de-saturated but not quite as manipulated. Pretty sweet.
For episode 7, I wanted all the stuff with our main characters to be bright and color saturated. But I got overly enchanted with a Power Grade that misted skin highlights. So hot spots had a misty blur slightly blowing them out in most shots. I think I was sucked in because of the rampant skin misting in Deathly Hallows: Part 2. I’ve pulled back on that too, adding to the series’ overall push toward a more realistic feel. More consequences for everything.
Suffice to say that before I dove into color correcting the episode this week we had dinner plans with friends (cancelled) and the only thing I haven’t pushed off of my free time schedule is our new gym regimen. Gotta get into shape for the last two episodes, you know.
But the sudden surge of time I’ve poured into color correction has me thinking about my new approach to content creation with episode 8. It seems like I’ve begun giving us a little more breathing room and stopped actively stacking the deck against us. That’s why this post is called The Time of My Life. I’m very literally thinking about the time of my life. At the end of the day, all folks like me really have to give is our time. We don’t have a bunch of money. We have a few resources available to us and we try to make the most of them. But what we really have to spend are hours and hours of dedicated focus and effort. So, that’s what we do. But it doesn’t have to be hard.
It’s particularly noticeable in our production schedule. Our first episode was shot in one weekend and an extra afternoon. We were moving like the dickens and essentially punishing ourselves for two days straight. Not fun. Even as I pushed our schedule to 11 day shoots spread over weekends and evenings, we kept the idea of a full, difficult, sleep-over weekend of location jumping and getting tons of pages, working laborious overtime hours (if there was such a thing as overtime in our world). Even on episode 7, when I finally started over estimating and adding safety days to the schedule, we had some unbelievably long days. One shoot night that ended at 3 a.m. had me practically limping to the car, throat raw, begging Eliza to stop at a gas station so I could get a Powerade and rehydrate. And that was a doggone three-day holiday weekend. Some vacation. The stuff we got was great, but why did I make it so hard?
Finally, on episode 8 I scheduled us for for 28 days. Mostly weeknights, so they were like 4 hour days, but quite a few weekends as well. This time, instead of 12 hour days on the weekends though, I scheduled them lighter. A lot of times people were getting home before 9. On weeknights, we’d usually wrap before 11 p.m. That’s with a set arrival time of 7 p.m. I even scheduled enough days that we axed three off of the schedule, shooting it in 25. If it were a real production (as in, full production days instead of nights and weekends), we could have done it in about 15. We had a couple of really rough nights—because they were unseasonably, logic-defyingly cold or bone chillingly windy—but our on-set experience was pretty smooth and more fun filled. More days, fewer hours is the way to go because we put a lot of time into this, and I’d rather we enjoyed it. That way, the time of our lives isn’t wasted feeling rushed and put-upon.
Well, that was a long blog post. Thanks for reading.
Oh, you guys, I’m finally closing in on it. I’ve been watching elements of the episode come together in a truly final way. It’s really exciting. I’m blending and mixing sound effects against dialogue in the timeline, finalizing sound effects over the remaining portions of the episode, dropping in effects shots from Ryan, and getting music in and putting it into place. One of my favorite online musicians, Levar Allen, also known as levarslaysdragons…
…gave me permission to use one of his original songs for a bar scene, so that’s super awesome.
And while we’re thinking about internet rap, the newest Epic Rap Battles of History is the best one ever. Edgar Allen Poe vs. Stephen King. PROCEED WITH CAUTION, a couple explicit lyrics ahead.
These guys cracked the code. Their rap battle videos get tens of millions of views regularly. And we saw them play live and the crowd went crazy.
Then check out Watsky—the guy who played Poe—drop some hardcore poetry knowledge in the behind the scenes. About 30 seconds in he breaks down the difference between iambic pentameter and trochaic octameter.
Short post this week. It’s just exciting to see the episode finally locking into place. I hope you enjoyed the internet rap aside.
Thanks for reading.