Vlogging diary wk 4: Hitting hard limits

Good news for the week: I have now got Pandas for Productivity down to a science! Now I can film, edit and upload a 5-minute episode within 4 hours. Since I will be going back to a full-time job soon, I must edit fast to maintain my vlog.

However, my $0 budget goals are being severely tested by my next project – the first episode of H Can Hack. Documenting a complex sewing project on screen has proven to be a resource-intensive affair that stretched all my equipment to and beyond its limits. And I am not even halfway through!

My Expedia bear made a guest appearance this week, as a dedication to all affected by the COVID-19 travel industry slump. May we all upskill and come back stronger!

Background noise has come back to haunt me

Although I had initial luck with background noise, it didn’t last for long. Actually, I don’t know why it is now a factor when I am the same distance from my camera as before. Consequently, I need options to mitigate the noise during editing. With VSDC, I learned that going to Audio Effects -> Filters – > Gate will give me a customisable background noise filter. By and large, that has solved my problem!

Conversely, things are more complex in Kdenlive. Instead of having an in-software adjustment, I’d need to download Audacity (which is free and open-source) to remove background noise. Furthermore, Audacity is destructive (i.e. you can’t keep your original files). That means you need to edit and render a first version without background music, then remove the noise in Audacity. Finally, you re-combine the cleaned-up audio and the video again in Kdenlive and add your background music.

Limitations of voice recording with my phone

Additionally, I tried recording audio and video separately, then syncing them during editing. While the actual sync wasn’t difficult, the smartphone clip was even noisier than the camera one. It was because the lavalier mic picks up noise from my movements as well as my voice. So especially with my first sewing video in-progress, I couldn’t handle props (such as jeans and pattern pieces) without audible rustling in my smartphone audio. Unlike normal background noise, these noises are almost the same volume as my voice. Therefore, the noise gate filter can’t remove them.

Furthermore, my voice recording app automatically switches off after about 3 minutes. So, I still need to record my voice-over audio in small sections.

My shockingly small SD card is no longer enough!

Until this week, the biggest SD card I had was 8 GB! Frankly, I was shocked to discover this as well. With that, I could record up to 20 minutes of footage. If I constantly trot to and from the computer to upload every few trips, it still works for 5-minute analysis vlogs. However, I needed a bigger SD card for filming my first long-form piece – a sewing tutorial. After all, I will be spending over 20 work-hours sewing a pair of jean shorts. That means my camera will record 3-4 hours of footage per day for about a week!

In full disclosure, the $0 budget didn’t hold up for my sewing-vlogger needs. Prior to the COVID-19 slump, I’d made one big splurge of $100 on an AC adapter for my DSLR. This enables me to plug the camera into the mains for long hours of filming my sewing. Subsequently, I put my sewing-vlog plans on hold because I lacked inspiration during the crisis. Now, I also bought a pair of off-brand 64 GB SD cards ($8.99 apiece) in order to store a full day’s sewing footage on a single card.

Sewing footage is a huge data hog!

Well, $18 for two SD cards wasn’t too bad… but now, I need more external storage! My current external drive is 256 GB and I’ve had it for 8 years. However, I’m only halfway through the sewing project, and I already have 24 GB worth of content!! (insert horrified emoji). This is because I am only using about 4 seconds worth of every 4 minutes of footage I produce.

At this rate, 10 episodes of H Can Hack will fill my hard drive, and my current external drive won’t be able to accommodate both that and Pandas for Productivity. So, I had to buy a new 1 TB external drive specifically to move my H Can Hack materials off my hard drive. Luckily, I will soon have a salary again to cover these expenses!

Finding background music is getting to be a drag

How do you find enough free and good background music to fill 30 minutes of video? I’m starting to wonder when I will cave in and subscribe to Epidemic Sound, as each H Can Hack episode will need about 6 or 7 different pieces of music.

Camera angles for DIY videos are always tricky

An overhead mount for my tripod would be a good thing. A very good thing. Because sewing action is best filmed from directly above, as With Wendy can attest. There was a period of time when she got through it by hanging her camera directly overhead from her loft bed. Without any way to replicate such a setup, I’m toying with the idea of getting an action cam with a head strap and wearing it on my forehead to give a human-eye view of my sewing action. Hmm… more budget creep?

Software should not be a jack of all trades!

Initially, I thought the most efficient software solution would be to have screen recording and video editing in a single package. Since VSDC and Kdenlive both have screen recording functions, I thought I would be covered for the comparison review video that I’m also working on.

However, I couldn’t be more wrong! I loved the simplicity of Kdenlive’s screen record button… until it crashed every time I tried to screen-record with audio. VSDC’s solution was more polished and worked reliably, but it was a resource hog. For example, 5 minutes of screen recording creates a 155 KB file!!

For the review video, I want to compare the preview audio on both software, so I needed to screen-record a snippet of my VSDC edit with sound. Because Kdenlive couldn’t do the job and VSDC can’t screen-record itself (it can’t support 2 instances running at the same time), I downloaded OBS Studio and man, I am now in heaven!! I can screen record with voice-overs and system audio, and file sizes are nicely streamlined (15 KB MP4 format for a 4 minute screen recording).

Wrapping up with a positive note

On the plus side – I was pleasantly surprised by the vibe of calm competence that I showed when sewing. If I had realized my vision for H Can Hack when I initially came up with it 2 years ago, it would have been more like “Can H Hack?”. At this point, I appreciate the added sewing expertise that the 2-year wait has allowed me to build up.

Also, I am starting to get more acquainted with both of my editing programs. Finally, I have figured out transitions in Kdenlive and love the aesthetics of their fades, wipes and dissolves. With VSDC, I am going deeper into the image correction options, such as sharpening filters. Since I have no idea which program will be more stable with longer content, I am editing parallel versions of this episode on both and will see which one turns out better!

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