A year and a half ago I set up a Youtube channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNUYwNznn-ZuNMoHoF3urwQ) to compliment my long running written blog (www.stormofsteelwargaming.com). I had originally created the blog to document my wargaming exploits (and mainly so I could remember what paints I’d used on certain figures…) and the channel grew organically from that. In that last 18 months I’ve seen it grow in size nicely and, although I am definitely not an expert, in this blog post I’m going to talk about starting on Youtube from my point of view.
When I began, I centred on board games, with reviews and how to play videos and this was because I had thought it may be difficult to focus on historical wargaming, which is my real passion. I was completely wrong though and as I continued, I found that the historical wargaming side of the channel was generating a lot of interest. The content shifted more towards that side of things naturally, fuelled by the fact I was enjoying making historical wargaming videos and that there wasn’t an issue with tackling the subject at all. This piece will talk about some of equipment and methods I use and hopefully will help you think about starting up your own channel on Youtube.
At this point, starting up on Youtube has never been easier, the majority of the population have a smart phone with some form of camera or recording device attached and even if you don’t want to appear in front of the camera you can easily record through most computers and laptops with their inbuilt microphones. When I started, I used a cheap webcam, which was adequate but had limitations, so I swapped it to a hand held recorder (https://amzn.to/32I0GAr ) along with a microphone to be able to record voice overs (https://amzn.to/3hKyp2p ). I also had a couple of camera tripods from a friend which have proved invaluable when videoing games. Mine were free, but you can pick one up for about £20. You don’t have to, but I also bought some large diffuser lights, I generally use these for doing close up work on figures and for photographing, but they were surprisingly cheap (https://amzn.to/2QGZaJe ). So, in all, for a reasonable layout I have enough equipment to see me through for the immediate future. I didn’t buy everything at once and although some of this equipment this may sound like a lot, but just look at the receipts for your last spend on figures…
Editing software is your next stop and there are plenty of free programmes that you can use to put together simple videos. Apple computer users have access to Imovie for free which has some good basic editing features, but if you want bells and whistles, you will have to pay for it. I use Filmora (https://filmora.wondershare.net/), which is a good entry level editing suite and reasonably priced for a lifetime license. But there are many others out there and I urge you to do some research before you buy. Don’t be intimidated by the programmes, as there are tons of instructional videos on Youtube (where else?) for most of the issues you’ll encounter anyway. I’ve never had formal training and have picked up most of my techniques from other videos. However, I find that a lot of my editing really just comes down to trimming sections and making sure that the video flows well, so it’s not a hugely taxing process. That said, editing ALWAYS takes a lot longer than you think, even when you have got familiar with the editing programme and can use it a bit quicker, it is always time consuming. For every hour I film, I usually expect to spend a couple of hours editing it.
Speaking of filming, there are many ways you can do this. Depending on what you are wishing to record the steps you will take can be very different. For a talking head style video this is simply setting up the camera and speaking into it. Make sure you have good lighting and that the camera is in focus. This is basic stuff, but your video can look sloppy if you just don’t get these things correct, and I know, I’ve done it plenty of times myself! You can use various autocue applications and hardware to help with these kinds of videos, alternatively, have a sheet of paper with bullet points to help you remember the things you want to talk about. I find that scripting things helps immeasurably rather than just talking off the top of my head as I tend to go off on tangents otherwise. If that’s what you want, that’s fine, but I find it makes the editing process a lot longer. Even for these type of videos you don’t need to be in front of the camera if you don’t want, I have made many military history videos just using images, some of these have been sourced from Wikipedia as part of their creative commons copyrights. But always check copyrighted material though as you don’t want to get a negative strike against your channel if you can avoid it. Just because something is on the internet doesn’t mean that it doesn’t belong to someone. I do try to make my own maps at least using a free paint package called Paint.net (https://www.getpaint.net/).
For my after action reports, I will take the time during a filming process to get the shot set up correctly, play the action and stop the filming. In this way, I can quickly trim the sections down to the bit I need during editing. I also ensure that I have read the rules and worked out the dice rolls, etc, before filming so that I am not looking through rules as the camera is rolling. That doesn’t mean that I still don’t forget things! I tend not to film the games I play with my friends simply because I don’t want to keep interrupting the action, but if you have a group of friends who are happy for this to happen then it can make for some excellent videos, like on the Little Wars TV channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCD6gPsr1xdvT9F4dntRAJ5g ).
The videos that take the longest time to make are my How to Play series which I have created for a couple of rules sets and am planning more in the future. These take a long time as I have to write the script, film the examples, then record the voice-over. The latter I do using Audacity, a free voice editing software (https://www.audacityteam.org/), and I spend a long time cutting out the sound of my breathing and editing it so it sounds like I know what I’m talking about! It’s all smoke and mirrors, really… But the effort is worth it as these have had a good response from viewers as a lot of people (myself included) learn better by demonstration rather than reading.
The three examples above are the main outputs on my Youtube channel, but there are many, many ways in which you can use the platform. For example, you can create painting videos, go live and chat to an audience in real time as you indulge in some aspect of wargaming, show off your new purchases or painted units, and the possibilities are endless really. Unfortunately, it seems that historical wargaming has a pretty low turnout on Youtube. I think we can turn this around and really bring this hobby to the forefront and showcase the huge amount of enjoyment we all get from it which in turn will encourage new players to swell our ranks. My best piece of advice is to just go for it. I dithered for a long time, worrying if my videos would be interesting enough or good enough, but that is the wrong attitude. The best way to learn and improve (as I am always doing) is to jump in with both feet and you will find things get easier with practice and your focus will be driven by your enjoyment of using a new media platform and finding what enthuses you to continue producing videos. I hope this piece has given you some idea of what goes into producing content for a Youtube channel and has given you food for thought to start your own.
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