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Welcome to the first behind-the-scenes look at Sean’s Sabbatical Year!

Dan quizzes Sean on his mobile recording setup: now that the seanwes podcast studio is in storage, how will Sean produce content? Does he have to give up on quality? We talk about the lessons Sean learned hauling a 4K camera across Kauai, how the camera you have in your pocket is more than enough, and how you can produce the best work possible using the tools at hand.

Look for more bonus sabbatical episodes in your podcast feed soon!

Episode Transcript

Note: This transcript of the episode was machine-generated by Descript and has not been edited for correctness. It’s provided for your convenience when searching. Please excuse any errors.

Sean: [00:00:00] They’re waiting to produce until they have the fancy gear. I know I have. And so this is going to be like, all right, everything you see for me in this year, I did it with the phone in my pocket. And so can you.

Dan: [00:00:29] So. Sean level with me. How are you recording this show right now?

Sean: [00:00:35] Okay, well, I’m still at home, but I’m not using my Mac. So I’m actually just doing this on the iPhone. Little bit of a little bit of a practice run since that’s, that’s all I’m going to be bringing with me. I found an iPad for the sabbatical year. No laptop, uh, nothing else like that. So this is a lovelier plugged into an iPhone.

Dan: [00:00:59] Wow. Well, it sounds pretty good. I the, the sad irony is that I just know that when I’m going to edit this, your levels are somehow still going to be better than mine.

Sean: [00:01:10] Well, it sounds okay. It doesn’t sound, it’s not my Shure SM seven B Mike running through my rack, Mount full of pre-amps and, and all this stuff. But, um, you know, I’m trying to, I’m trying to embrace. Limitations, this, uh, this year in 2020 and yeah. You know, like not, not be super perfect about everything as much as it hurts me, but just, just using what I have and still producing, still creating stuff.

Dan: [00:01:42] Yeah. Well, I mean, you’ve, you’ve always been kind of remarkable for your ability to produce a large amount of content despite. Being a perfectionist, you know, like trying to really, uh, pour an enormous amount of effort into it. So, I mean, I, I’m curious to see what you could do if you, you know, if you half assed at like the rest of us do.

Sean: [00:02:04] Eh? Yeah. I guess that’s, that’s fun. I’m going to have to do, no, I, I could bring super fancy stuff, Dan. I really did think about it. How could I, maybe I could use the iPad and plug in a USBC audio interface and then I could use my fancy microphone. And then I just started thinking about lugging this big, heavy, clunky XLR microphone in a backpack around the world.

And I, I’m just like, no. And the same with cameras too. I’ve got all these fancy studio cameras, the black magic pocket cinema camera four K, I have three of them because I knew I needed three apparently. And I brought one of them to, uh, to Hawaii with me, and it was, I’m just not going to mince words. It was miserable and he was actually miserable.

The battery life on that thing is a Bismal. It lasts like 20 minutes. So I had to have this extra external battery pack.

Dan: [00:02:57] You had a diesel diesel generators strapped to your back while you were walking through the wilderness.

Sean: [00:03:03] Yes. And poor Lacey. She was, she was lugging it all. No, I’m just kidding. Uh, but all to get like this perfect quality cinema quality and yeah, you know, it, it was great, but it kinda took me out of the moment and it was just a hassle and a real pain. I think it’s actually, the reason we didn’t make it all the way to call, allow beach on our hike is I just carried too much gear.

It was too heavy. And yeah, it just, it, it took me out of being present. And so I decided, all right, I’m not, after much deliberation, like months, I finally decided I’m not bringing any fancy cameras and prime lenses and all that. I’m using my iPhone 11 pro and um, that’s it. Like that’s my camera. That’s, that’s my device.

I’ve got the iPad as well for, for writing when I want to write, cause I like having a physical keyboard for that. But. The iPhone is my camera, and right now I’m recording this podcast on it.

Dan: [00:04:04] That’s I like, I think . You know, uh, I’m, I’m half teasing you when I say this, but I, I think everything you’ve said sounds very healthy, Sean. Very, very healthy. Like the, there, there’s a whole other conversation to be had about this problem of not living in the moment and how it is made worse by us feeling the need to experience everything through the viewfinder of our camera, especially when the camera is always in our pocket.

Um, you know, I mean, it, it goes right to the thing where, uh, you know, maybe cause I, I’m, I’m, uh, I’m old and cranky, but like the, it’s the thing where, you know, when you, when you’re doing something, you’re S you’re somewhere scenic or even in your, in some cool place. You’re at a concert and there’s all these people that are just like, that are recording it.

And it’s like, have you considered just being here instead of trying to figure out what Instagram filter you’ll, you’ll use like.

Sean: [00:05:04] Well, it’s easy for me to like just talk about, but I am not good at this. I mean, we’re not even telling people how we spent like. 30 minutes trying to figure out how I can get a local recording and using audio splitters and record on my iPad while we have the call on my iPhone. And ultimately I was like, Dan, let’s just record the call.

You can, we can record it in the cloud instead of getting a local recording. Yeah, it’s going to be a little bit worse, but maybe we can do, you know, you could do it a tad bit of post-processing and we’re just going to call it good enough. And I’m just going to stop overthinking about all this. And for me it is an exercise in limitation, but I think it’s also just, it’s just practical.

And if nothing else, I hope that, I hope that it can be an encouragement to others who maybe they’ve, maybe they’ve looked at my studio and my ridiculous four 27 inch monitors and. You know all these cameras and lights and everything, and they’re like, ah, someday I’ll have something like that. And they’re waiting to produce until they have the fancy gear.

I know I have. And so this is, this is going to be like, all right, everything you see from me in this year, I did it with the phone in my pocket. And so can you.

Dan: [00:06:21] I, I think that as much as you prize quality, which is, which is great, I almost think that what you just said is going to be more valuable to people because I, I would bet hard currency that there are a large number of people. That just don’t ever put out anything because they don’t think they can. Like they don’t, they just, they, they are convincing themselves that it’s not good enough to do a video off their front facing phone camera and just post it.

And for better or worse, Sean, I mean the, the super high quality in studio stuff that you do is not disabusing them of that, of that notion, right? When they S when, when all they see is like, Oh wow, look at this incredible stuff. I think it’s a powerful statement to make, to be like, no, you know what, for the next year, all I’ve got is my phone now.

Watch me still bust out the content.

Sean: [00:07:14] Man, I’m, I’m still, I’m still there, right there with them though. Like I’m thinking about it. The difference in quality between the front facing camera and the rear camera on the iPhone, which up until recently, one of them was 10 80 P the other one’s 4k and it’s like, you’re not even doing anything in four K.

it doesn’t matter. Now, the front facing one is also fourK  and I’m still like, well, the sensor isn’t as good. Like it’s just, it’s so ridiculous and it’s, it’s just overthinking.

Dan: [00:07:41] is because just like, imagine. What’s imagine the difference between, you know, you produce a video, uh, in intensity P instead of fourK  and a, someone other than you notices that’s going to be like rounding error out of all the people who view it versus like the difference between putting out a video and just not putting out a video because you’ve convinced yourself you can’t do it good enough.

Sean: [00:08:08] Let’s, let’s talk about this, this idea of doing the best you can with what you have, because while I am recording this on an iPhone, I’m also making a point to. Put the lavalier in a place where it’s going to pick up the sound. Clearly I’m in a room with the door closed. I’ve made sure to let other people in the house know that I’m recording.

I’m doing everything I can to make this as good as it can be with the gear that I have, and I’m going to approach recording videos with my iPhone in the same kind of a mindset like, okay, I have an iPhone. It’s not a DSLR. It’s not a fancy camera, but. Can I think a little bit about my lighting and the composition here?

Is the background interesting? Is it distracting? Can you see me? Is it too dark? Is it overexposed? Like not, I’m not trying to say overthink it, but do the best you can with what you have. And I think people are quick to say, I can’t do this. I can’t do that because my gear isn’t good enough. When really if you actually tried and I mean tried your best.

With the gear that you have, the camera that you have that you think isn’t good enough, the phone that isn’t high enough quality, whatever you have. If you did your best, meaning, Hey, use some light from the window. Really think about the time of day that you’re recording. Prop it up against some books. Use that tripod that you haven’t used.

You know, like just put a little bit of effort into it. Maybe look into and, and we have to be careful because we can get into overthinking territory, but. There’s even apps on iOS that can help you do a little bit of processing on your audio. A little bit of compression. You know, you don’t want to overthink it too much, but man, we really can do a lot with what we have and we don’t need fancy gear.

So this is, this is just me kind of documenting the process. And I, I hope that people are excited to see what I’m able to come up with using very limited gear.

Dan: [00:10:17] I, I’m excited. I mean, I’m excited to see it. Hey, I’ll, I’ll say one last thing about that, uh, before we, you know, we’d go somewhere else, but part of it’s an education thing. I think, you know, because audio, this has been my experience learning how to do like some audio and video production. It’s not intuitive.

So if you just, I think that if we just tell someone, uh, if, if we does, just tell someone, do the best that you can with what you’ve got. They don’t know how to do that. So really what we should be telling them is, and again, this is as always an opportunity for overthinking, but like you go out, the information’s available is the thing.

And it’s easy to acquire information, like go out and just, you know, do a little research about. How do you, how do you take advantage of natural light, right when you’re shooting video? Cause I, I think because people don’t know this stuff and it’s not intuitive how it works. They just assume that when they see a well-produced video, I guess he must have a fancier camera than me.

Sean: [00:11:20] Yeah. Yeah. When I say do the best you can with what you have, I’m including in that your YouTube app. Your web browser. I mean, there’s so much information out there available for free. I never bought a course on shooting video. I never bought a course on, you know, producing electronic music like the, the introduction, um, what do you call it?

The introductory track to this show. I produced that by watching YouTube tutorials. You know, whatever editing software or app that you’re using, just Google or look on YouTube for tutorials on how to use that app and it’s free. Sure. You could also pay for, for a course. I’ve done that too, cause later, you know, as I have a little bit more disposable income, sometimes I value my time a little bit more than my money and I buy an app and I say, you know, I could dig around.

And find some YouTube videos that helped me figure this out. But I can also buy this course and not have to sift through the YouTube search results. And that’s worth a few bucks. You know? Either way, the information is out there and you have access to it. You have the internet. So when I say do the best with what you can, that includes both your gear as well as the access to information.