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I wanted to make this episode to inspire you if you’ve ever thought about creating an online course or screencast series.

If you’ve never done it before, there’s a lot to learn. You wonder, “How do I plan this thing? How do I write out what I want to say? How do I get good audio and record good video, and how the heck do I record screencasts in the 16:9 aspect ratio? (Hint: just buy a 16:9 monitor.)

Cory McCabe (the video guy for the seanwes network) joins me to talk about setting up to shoot the video lessons for my Successful Podcasting course. We talk about how the first week (1/2) of shooting went, what gear we used, what went well, what didn’t go well, and what we’d do differently next time.

Highlights, Takeaways & Quick Wins:
  • If you want a podcast that grows an audience and helps you sell, start by planning for the outcome you want.
  • If you say you’ll get to something in the future, it’s never going to happen. Set a deadline.
  • If you want to get good at video, practice talking to a camera and delivering a message. Practice is the only way to get better.
  • Be willing to experiment, change things up, and declutter to make your videos look good.
  • If you want to be interesting on camera, be yourself plus 50%.
  • You can start shooting video with just your iPhone. Don’t use a lack of professional gear as a excuse. Just get started with what you have.
Show Notes
  • 03:16 Aaron: Cory McCabe is here today because he’s shooting my Successful Podcasting course. He’s the video guy at seanwes. Cory, can you explain a little bit about what your day-to-day job looks like?
  • 03:59 Cory: It changes depending on what we’re doing with the company, but usually we have live shows for seanwes podcast and the Lambo Goal podcast we do inside the Community. I basically produce the videos for these live shows. We’re getting into a lot more video related stuff right now and we’re excited about that.
  • 04:37 Aaron: You shoot courses and all the editing, post production, and some audio stuff. If I’m the Podcast Dude, then you’re the Video Dude. You’re here to help me produce Successful Podcasting, which is my first big online course that I’m making to help people launch and grow a successful podcast.

What Is ‘Successful Podcasting’?

  • 05:19 Aaron: As a full-time podcast editor, I’ve been helping people make podcasts for several years and I notice that people struggle with the whole process. People started asking me questions, so I started writing tutorial blog posts and making screencasts. I was paying attention to what people were struggling with, and over time, I came to see the whole picture from start to finish. There’s never really a finish to a podcast, but:

If you want a podcast that grows an audience and helps you sell, start by planning for the outcome you want.

Planning and Writing the Course

  • 06:04 Aaron: I started with the big picture for this course. If the desired outcome is to help someone have a successful podcast, what is the process for that? What are the step-by-step things that can get someone there? I started with an outline of nine things to help people start and grow a successful podcast. I thought about the outcome I wanted for the person who would be taking this course and then I broke the process down step-by-step until I couldn’t break it down any further. The outline started as a mind map, and then I finished it in Scrivener.
  • 07:16 Cory: I think what’s so important here is that you prepared. You didn’t say, “Next week, let’s just do a course.” When you want to do a video course like this and teach, it’s something you have to prepare. How many months in advance did you say you’ve been wanting to do this?
  • 07:31 Aaron: I’ve been thinking about it for two years, but I’ve been writing it for eight months in my spare time. The preparation is really important.
  • 07:43 Cory: I don’t think you could have done it a few weeks in advance. It’s something you have to really prepare and really think about. I like how you asked the question, what is the desired outcome? What are you wanting people to get from and achieve here? Then, reverse engineering the steps back from that.
  • 08:04 Aaron: Another thing that helped me with this course was setting a deadline for shooting it. In late 2014, I said I’ll shoot it in 2015 sometime. 2015 came and I started this podcast and wrote a ton, but the whole year passed and I didn’t make progress on this course. At the end of the year, I was talking to Sean McCabe and he said, “We need to shoot this.” We planned out the whole year and he dedicated the whole month of July for writing his Overlap book.
  • 10:23 I knew if Sean was going to take a month to write a book, then Cory wouldn’t have anything to do because Sean wouldn’t be producing any podcasts or videos, so July would be the perfect time to have Cory help me shoot the video section of my course. Setting that deadline meant I had to have my course written and ready to shoot by July. At first, it felt great, I was writing so much through all of March and April. Then, in the months prior, I realized that time was running out and I still had a lot to do. That stressed me out a lot up until last weekend.
  • 10:56 I was laying in bed at night asking myself, “Can I do this? Am I even going to be able to put something good out?” A week before, I realized I was ready. In the weeks before shooting, the deadline helped me focus more. I got insanely focused and I realized I couldn’t spend my free time watching Netflix or hanging out with my friends. Setting a deadline gave me intense focus.

If you say you’ll get to something in the future, it’s never going to happen. Set a deadline.

  • 11:52 Cory: Yes, you were stressed and it was a lot, but it was the necessary amount of pressure to get it done. We’re shooting it now and we’ve finished six out of nine modules. We wouldn’t have been able to do that if you had said, “I’ll be writing it this year, I’ll let you know when I’m done.” It would’t have gotten done. It’s the same with Sean’s book, Overlap. Everyone says, “I’d like to do something some day,” but you have to put a deadline on it if you want to get it done.

Setting Up and Why We Re-Arranged My Entire Room

  • 12:57 Aaron: Once Cory got here and we got all the gear in my house, we started setting up my bedroom. This is a typical square room with nothing fancy. I have a desk, a bed, a bookshelf, and a few sound-absorbing panels on the wall. The wall where I normally set up has my desk in the center with two windows on either side of it. I was thinking that we’d shoot that way, but Cory decided to change things up.
  • 13:35 Cory: Before deciding to shoot at Aaron’s house, I had Aaron take some videos of his house, so I could virtually tour the place. I think Aaron was initially learning toward shooting where his desk is, but we ended up moving everything.
  • 14:33 If you’re looking at where his desk was with the windows on either side, it looks great, but I knew from a video perspective that we’d run into problems with those windows, even if the blinds were closed. There’s going to be fluctuation in lighting when clouds pass by if we did that. We decided to move it to another wall with no windows. We basically re-arranged the whole room.
  • 14:48 Aaron: In the months leading up to shooting this course, I was thinking about how you have to be willing to change things up, especially if you’re shooting in your home. I even painted the walls a gray color in this room when I started shooting more videos because the white walls were splotchy and didn’t look good. You have to be willing to say, what can I move around? What can I change? How can I make this look more interesting on camera? Think about where your light sources are and where you’re going to put your camera.
  • 15:36 Be willing to do things like take all the bedding off your bed and stand it up against the wall so you have more space to shoot. My bed is currently leaning up against the wall because this room is small and we needed that space to set up gear. Be willing to change things up, paint your walls, or buy some new furniture. Do whatever you need to do to make something that looks cool. I think that’s important in the final product being a lot higher quality.

Be willing to experiment, change things up, and declutter to make your videos look good.

  • 16:15 Cory: It was a lot of fun to set up things and imagine it before we moved anything. Painting the walls shows how much Aaron cared about this. You’ve got to think about your frame for video. What’s on the left side? What’s on the right side? You’ve got to think about rule of thirds and that kind of thing.
  • 17:00 Aaron: You also told me to stand further away from the desk so there would be separation between me and the background, which is important. There are little things like that you have to think about.

The Gear

  • 17:30 Cory: We’re doing a two-camera set up with Cannon EOS 5D Mark IIIs. One is the primary, which is a static shot looking at Aaron and that’s where the teleprompter is. That one has a Canon 35mm lens so we can get a feel for the depth of the room. The secondary camera is on a slider that can move left to right and has a 50mm lens on it to get closer to Aaron’s face. For recording audio, we’re using two Rode NTG3 shotgun mics.
  • 18:42 Aaron: These Cannon 5D Mark III’s are thousands of dollars. The 50mm lens is about $300 and the 35mm lens is about $1,500. The NTG3 microphones are $700 each. This is high-quality video gear that I’m really grateful we were able to borrow from Sean. I’ve invested in some high-quality microphones, but they’re more for podcasting. So what were we using for lighting?


  • 19:16 Cory: We’ve got Genaray LED panels that allow you to change the dimness and the brightness of them. They also have a color temperature dial to change from warmer to cooler light and that’s really nice. Earlier Aaron asked me, “Why do we care about that?” and we started talking about light motivation. Light motivation is basically where, before setting up any lights, you go to the space you’ll be recording in and you look for where the light is coming from.
  • 20:15 When looking at Aaron’s face, I’m looking at the sides of his face and under his neck to see where the light is coming from that allows me to see his face. You look to see where the natural light is coming from. That’s where I can tell that the majority of light is coming from the window on the left, so that’s where my key light is going to be. The key light is what lights up the subject the most.
  • 21:05 Then, I look where the secondary light—the fill light—is going to be. There’s a lamp to Aaron’s left that’s on the opposite side on his face with a warmer feel. I look for that motivation and I see that it’s coming from the side. That’s how I choose to set up the lights. It doesn’t make sense to put lights wherever you want, because that’s not where light is naturally coming from.
  • 21:35 Aaron: In a sense, you’re boosting the natural light source. Since the key light (the light coming in through the window) is a cooler light, you set the color temperature of the LED light to be a little bit more cool. And because I have a lamp on my desk to the left, you set another light in that direction and you set it to be warmer, to match the color of the lamp light. Anyone watching the video would think I was just being lit up by the lamp and the windows if they didn’t know any better.
  • 22:06 Cory: Exactly. I find light motivation fascinating. I think it’s more of a cinematography thing, but it goes into photography well too. I think there’s a little difference between photo and video lighting, but it works.

Learning How to Read From a Teleprompter

  • 22:37 Aaron: You brought a teleprompter, which is basically an iPad on a stand with a piece of glass that goes above it at an angle over the camera. I thought I would have a hard time reading from a teleprompter, but I got comfortable with it pretty quickly.
  • 22:57 Cory: I have to applaud how quickly you caught on to using the teleprompter because it feels weird reading from a teleprompter at first. After you did two modules, I decided I wanted to try it, but I still can’t do it. I take my hat off to people who can do it. The teleprompter is not cheap, but I can’t tell you an exact price on it. I can tell you it’s pretty expensive.
  • 213:41 Aaron: I tried to talk Ben Toalson, the cohost of the seanwes podcast, into creating a course about how to build a DIY teleprompter, because he actually built one from a baby diaper box.
  • 24:09 Cory: The idea behind a teleprompter is you have something with a screen, like a monitor or an iPad, that aims straight to the ceiling, and then you have a piece of glass at a 45 degree angle. The camera is behind that 45 degree angle glass looking at you. What’s happening is any reflection the camera is seeing, is just the inside of a box that’s all black. It doesn’t see any of the words that are reflected onto the screen. This let Aaron read a script of what he wrote for his course perfectly. He didn’t have to stop and wonder what he was going to say. We had to streamline things if we wanted to finish shooting this course in our budgeted amount of time.
  • 24:51 Aaron: I had two weeks to record 75 video lessons (a total of 30,000 words), and the teleprompter helped me not become frustrated. I’ve been a musician for a long time and I know that if you’re in the studio and if you’re messing up your takes, you’ll get frustrated and lose focus and forward momentum. You start getting negative and that ruins everything. I really liked reading from the teleprompter, so I’m going to invest in one soon, either buying one or making a DIY teleprompter myself because I want to do more video by myself at home.

Recording External Audio

  • 25:30 Aaron: For recording the audio from the shotgun microphones, we used two Zoom H4N portable audio recording devices. You sync the audio from those with the audio from the video cameras in post production to get high-quality audio. Also, you do this really smart thing whenever you hit record. Can you tell explain what that is?
  • 26:16 Cory: Back in 2013, I made a video called Chasing Fog with my brother and we also made the music for it. I had my H4N and we recorded different instruments individually, like piano, guitar, and these rice shakers that we made. I would have to listen to the audio files and figure out what they were. I could hear guitar, but I didn’t know if it was the take I wanted to use, which is wasting so much time.
  • 27:17 So, with that video, I decided to say, “Guitar, take #7” and when I was listening back to those files, I knew exactly what they were. The tracks aren’t titled otherwise, but I could know exactly what it is. I use that same method when recording video courses. We have two H4N for the shot gun mics and two cameras and on each device, so when I hit record, I say, “Module #7, lesson #4.” When I’m transferring that file onto my computer and I’m getting backups, I’m able to quickly name those files.
  • 28:12 Aaron: That’s so good, because otherwise at the end of the day you’d have like a hundred different files with all these random numbers for file names. You don’t want to have to watch through and figure out which lesson it was, you just say it right at the beginning. If you’re shooting any kind of video, that’s a great idea.
  • 28:40 Cory: Even if you’re test recording for your podcast and you have all these backup files. Which one is the actual episode? Which one is the test recordings? You can just say, “This is Podcast Due, episode 58.”

So What Went Well?

  • 29:16 Aaron: First, we’re having a great time and and keeping the energy level up. I want to do a super good course, but I’m also having fun with Cory. Second, I practiced a lot before Cory got here. I started shooting short YouTube vlog-style videos with my Cannon Rebel T2i a few months ago. I did that to get comfortable looking into a camera and talking into the microphone. SnapChat is also a great way to practice.

If you want to get good at video, practice talking to a camera and delivering a message. Practice is the only way to get better.

  • 30:06 I didn’t know much about teleprompters before, but I got comfortable setting up and talking into a camera lens. That practice was very helpful. I would be much worse off if I hadn’t have practiced in the months leading up to this course.
  • 30:35 Cory: That’s something we can trick ourselves with. If we write a lot and we’ve gotten our script ready, we think, “I could say that out loud. I could say that on a podcast. I could say that on video.” We trick ourselves into thinking we don’t have to do test recordings, but we’re missing out on the benefits of practicing. Practicing is the only way you can get better at something. You can’t just think you’d be good at it. I used to think doing video wasn’t that hard because you can do it in your head, but that’s not enough.
  • 31:17 Aaron: Or you might see someone else doing it and they make it look really easy, so you think it’d be easy for you too. Not so. Another thing was got right was not trying to do too much too fast. We got a lot done last week, but we had a steady pace. We got three modules done on the first day, but we also took a solid hour for a lunch break to rest. I normally take naps during the day to get my energy back because I like to work really early in the morning and then late at night, but I didn’t get to do that since we had to work with the light and shoot in the morning and the afternoon. We didn’t stretch ourselves too much and we would stop right around 5pm every single day. We were efficient with our time, but we weren’t trying to do 12 or 15 hour days. I did write in the evenings though.
  • 32:17 Cory: That goes back to budgeting enough time. We could have worked super hard and got it done in a week, but we budgeted two weeks. I’m glad we did because we needed the full two weeks.
  • 32:44 Aaron: It gave us the luxury of not being stressed and not trying to do too much in a day. We got a lot done and we were efficient, but we didn’t push ourselves too hard.
  • 32:56 Cory: That let us keep up a high energy level. If we’d been stressed about timing, we wouldn’t have had the kind of fun that we did. We had a good time and we laughed, and that bled into the course. If we had been stressed, we wouldn’t have had that positive energy.
  • 33:31 Aaron: And that would have come across. I like to laugh, have a good time, and be positive. Cory, you also had the great idea to shoot a module that happens later in the course first, rather than shooting the very first module first. Why was that?
  • 33:55 Cory: This is your first time doing a video course and talking to a teleprompter, so we started on module seven. That let you to practice on a module that isn’t the first thing people will watch when they get your course. If you start on a later module and get a couple of modules into the course, when you shoot the first module that people see, you’re more comfortable, your delivery is better, and you’re fresher.

What Didn’t Go Well?

  • 35:11 Aaron: The biggest thing that didn’t go well is that I didn’t know I needed scripts exactly for a teleprompter, so I wrote more in an detailed outline style. That’s how I write my podcast outlines, but it’s very different when you’re reading from a teleprompter. You have to write exactly how you’re going to read it. I probably only had 70% of my course in script form, so I had to go back and rewrite the other 30% because it was more of an outline and less like a script.
  • 35:45 As of this recording, we’ve shot six and a half out of nine modules and I have the next two modules completely written. If I would have known that I needed to have word-for-word scripts for every module before we started shooting this course, I would have had them finished before Cory got here. I didn’t know that, and as a result, I’m still working on rewriting module eight. But that’s ok, because we gave ourselves enough time. I had the weekend between the two weeks of shooting this weekend, so I used it to write. Budgeting out two weeks saved my butt.
  • 36:44 Cory: We also reviewed some of the lessons together, and I was able to spot a few problems with the material and help you rewrite it to make more sense.
  • 36:57 Aaron: That was great. Collaboration is really helpful. Next–and this is something that falls into both categories of what went well and what didn’t go well–after we recorded module seven as the first session, we went back and we reviewed it together, and I realized that I looked really bored. I didn’t feel bored delivering it, but something about the natural way my eyes are make my face look kind of bored. I realized I needed to lift my eyebrows and open my eyes a little bit wider to look interested or excited.
  • 37:47 I wasn’t trying to look like Jack Nicholson in the Shining, I just needed to exaggerate my facial expressions. After reviewing that module, I knew how to improve my presentation. I was nervous doing the first module, but that got easier by the time I got to the second and third modules. It’s really important to do practice recordings and review them.
  • 38:39 Cory: What didn’t go well is that you recorded with what came across as a low energy level. What did go well is that we went back and reviewed it so you could see what you needed to do differently.

If you want to be interesting on camera, be yourself plus 50%.

What I Would Do Differently Next Time

  • 39:11 Aaron: If I could go back in time and do this all over again, what would I do differently? First, I would finish all the scripts for every lesson, but then I would read them out loud as if I was in front of a camera and then see how it sounded. There were a few places where I wrote these long sentences that looked ok on paper, but when I read them out loud, it didn’t flow or sound quite right. I’ve had a lot of practice writing and talking on podcasts, but I still needed more practice. I should have read every single lesson out loud before shooting. That way, I could have everything exactly as I wanted to say it.
  • 40:58 Cory: That was something I thought I had communicated to you—practicing in front of a camera, even if it’s your phone. That was on me not to communicate that fully. Communication is extremely important. I need to communicate everything I do, where you should start, and queues.
  • 40:50 Aaron: I would also verify that every single one of the scripts for every single lesson was 100% because only 70% of mine were written correctly and I had to spend a lot of time going back through and writing out a script for the rest. Next time I would run the scripts by someone to make sure they were all 100% before shooting. Also, if you’re using a teleprompter, you need to make sure to break up your scripts into paragraphs and leave yourself some breathing room.
  • 41:58 Cory: What was it like using a teleprompter for the first time?
  • 42:05 Aaron: It was more or less what I thought it was going to be. What helped the most is I’ve been writing and reading scripts for my podcast for over a year. When I write about something, I try to write the words exactly like I would say them out loud. It’s just like rehearsing for a song. If you rehearse for a song so many times, you almost don’t even have to think about what you’re playing.  It made reading from a teleprompter less awkward.

What if I Don’t Have a Teleprompter?

  • 43:03 Cory: Cynthia asked: “If I don’t have a teleprompter, how should I set myself up to read scripts? Should I memorize short sections? If doing mostly screencasts, should I have a print out next to my computer?” Teleprompters can get expensive, so if you don’t have the money to invest in one or the know-how to make one yourself, you should have your script next to you or on an iPad or monitor.
  • 43:39 If you don’t have a teleprompter, memorize short sections and keep practicing them until you know it. It is a lot of work, but that’s how we used to shoot seanwes tv. Before we had a teleprompter, Sean would memorize sections and then deliver them from memory. He did it well, but it took practice. It was really frustrating sometimes. Having a teleprompter is really nice, because you’re looking straight and reading it with your peripherals and you know exactly what comes next. It comes a lot more naturally.
  • 44:45 Aaron: I think the biggest takeaway from this experience so far is that I should have gotten all the scripts to 100% and read them out loud, even if it was just to my iPhone microphone. That practice would have shooting the course easier. If I’m ever shooting a course or video by myself, I’ll keep the script on my iPhone and hold it while shooting video so I can reference it. I’ve seen Sean do that for some of his Facebook Live events.
  • 45:58 Cory: Cynthia asked another good question, “What should I do if I only have one camera? Should I shoot B roll after the fact? Is it necessary to have multiple camera angles?” If you only have one camera, here’s what you do: get a wider angle of yourself. Don’t just have your face in the shot, it needs to be an establishing shot of where you’re sitting and the room you’re in. You have to be careful with this, but you can crop in a little bit when you do cut. It looks like a zoomed in version of the same shot.
  • 46:33 It does two things: it grabs the eye and it gets the audience’s attention again. I would also add in B roll footage after the fact. Add B roll after you’ve delivered your message, so you know what kind of B roll would parallel to what you talked about. Like in Aaron’s case, he’s going to talk about microphones and we’re going to add B roll footage of microphones. If you only have one camera, crop in a little bit, but you don’t want to lose too much resolution.

What’s Next?

  • 47:33 Aaron: After we finish the course this week, we’re actually going to shoot a mini course on how to shoot your first video with your iPhone, which covers a lot of the same stuff we talked about today—how to frame a shot, little microphones for better smartphone audio, lighting, etc. It’ll be about how to get started with video even when you don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in audio and video gear.

You can start shooting video with just your iPhone. Don’t use a lack of professional gear as a excuse. Just get started with what you have.

  • 48:27 I’ll also be doing a course called Logic Pro X for Podcasters, where I’m going to be teaching people how to be awesome at editing podcasts in Logic—keyboard shortcuts, time-saving tricks, how to make tracks sound great, how to use plugins, mixing and mastering, templates to save time, etc. I’ve learned so much in the last couple of years using Logic and I want to share everything. I want to get people to my skill level with a couple of hours of screencasts and help them edit their podcasts in half the time. That course will be included in Successful Podcasting.
  • 49:04 I just finished a similar screencast series called Garageband for Podcasters that will be kind of the same thing, but it’s more of an introduction to recording a podcast with Garageband and doing the editing and exporting it. This is for people just getting started. That series is finished and will be coming soon, so stay tuned! Next week, I’ll be doing another recap where I’ll share my thoughts about the whole experience and what I learned from it.