Part 3 Setting up the live stream and bringing in the panel.
This season the live chat room has become an integral part of the episodes and having an engaged and lively audience makes the whole recording orders of magnitude more exciting. In the most recent live stream we had over 1200 comments during the show. This makes everything better. Interaction with a live audience is something I haven’t seen from British podcasts so the fact we’ve been able to build up a community of people who want to share that recording experience with us is fantastic. Community is a very important part of what I want to build on the Missed Apex project and the live chat is wonderful for that. Even if I haven’t read out a particular comment, the whole panel has still seen it as it’s scrolled by and the general mood of the chat room influences us. Many times we’ve had someone trying to make a serious point while the rest of the panel are doubled over laughing over a chat room comment. I want the show to be as accessible as possible.
The actual mechanics of the live stream are a little clunky. I use OBS Studio which is an open source livestream encoder. The interface is a desktop app where I can place my video and the Skype window and anything else I want to appear on the stream. Then I have to make sure the app is directing the stream to YouTube, twitch, facebook etc.
I’m just about learning how to have a presentable screen. I put up a random backdrop and the logos of any of the panel and the correct banners for the show. The problem is I don’t have an artistic eye so I try to make it functional if nothing else. As the stream grows I will look to invest in a proper camera. I currently use a £12 HD webcam which felt proportional given that we have around 100-150 live views and then maybe a few hundred views later. On top of this I discovered that Skype and OBS won’t share a camera so I use an even cheaper webcam so the panel can see me over Skype. One thing I will invest in is some face powder. Boy do I look sweaty on the live stream. I’m not actually sweating that much but the overhead light and the glare of a computer screen are not my friends right now. In addition I haven’t really paid attention to the background. The shed is just a functioning studio. It’s not lived in at all. There’s no décor as such and I don’t know where to start. My next point of research will be how to improve the video. I imagine this will be a whole new rat hole of research time and difficult investment decisions.
Right now it’s serving its purpose. We have a busy and interactive livestream. Its a million miles away from the stream we started 2 years ago just so our mates could watch it along with the panel that wasn’t on that week. With the live stream set up it’s time to start calling the panel. When none of them answer, (which only happens one out of every one times) I turn my attention to social media to promote the stream. This is where I fully leave my comfort zone.
“Hi @TheInternet. I’m in my #Shed and I’ve turned a camera on. Please click this and watch me indulge my failed Radio DJ fantasy”
Amazingly some people do. How I wish I was significantly better at social media. More on that in several posts time (Sorry).
Eventually some of the panel answers their Skype then some time after Matt answers as well (in a vest). Managing the panel is a skill in itself. It is very different from managing people in a work setting. At work people are compensated financially and there is an obligation to perform tasks within a set period of time. With the large amount of contributors for Missed Apex I have to co-ordinate between everyone’s schedules, everyone’s childcare and inevitably varying levels of enthusiasm. I am grateful for their time (more than I could write) but the pressures of actually producing a show has to sometimes outweigh being as accommodating as I might want to be.
As far as schedules go I had to eventually just set a time. 8pm Sundays. We needed a regular time anyway for the folk that take the time to join us in the chat room so in the end I had to say that a regular time was more important than always having the people on that I wanted. Here’s where having a large pool of panellists really helps. Asking people to give up 4 or 5 evenings a month for no pay is a big ask. This is why most shows fade away. I’ve worked hard to build Missed Apex in such a way that it survives the loss of people. In fact I think I’ve even got it to the point where it would survive without me. We have three people on the team who are capable of hosting and recording a show. The team has depth and as a crew we also produce a motorbike podcast and a formulaE podcast.
The depth of the show is really apparent when it comes to the content. If it was me by myself for an hour I’m not convinced it would be as good. Now now don’t all disagree at once!! I have a vision in my head of how I want the show to be. I like it to focus in on the most interesting parts even if it means missing the broad brush strokes of the event. If you didn’t watch the race then our race reviews won’t catch you up on what happened. That’s a feature, not a bug. I lay out a skeleton for the show and the Matt and others fill in bullet points around that structure. The content comes from the panel. I try to create a show that’s slick(ish), Matt leads the others in making it make sense.
The show notes I lay out are pretty simple (Race Review).
•How the race was won and lost
•Interesting incident 1
•Interesting Incident 2
•Who’s fault is this
I put this up on Google drive with all my little set piece bits and any instructions, and then the content fairies come in and fill in the blanks. This isn’t an accident. I recruited content creators such as bloggers, journalists and podcasters to be part of the panel because they are already used to delivering information about F1 to an audience of readers or listeners. The choice to recruit in this way is the smartest thing I’ve done. I take full credit. I’m not and never will be an F1 expert. My role is to try and make this thing enjoyable to listen to. I’m a lucky fan that gets to hang out with some of the best journalists in and out of the paddock.
Checking the panel’s incoming audio is an adventure that keeps giving. I accept not everyone can have a great static set up in a dedicated room of the house so I have to allow time to set everyone’s levels and screen them for room fans and squeaky chairs. The killer problem is rubbish internet from panellists. I could write a book on the issues this has caused. I’ll just leave this tip: If a house doesn’t have access to fibre optic broadband, don’t move there. If you’re already there, move. It’s 2017. You need it.
All that’s left is to click 'stream now' on my encoder and hit record on the audio. This is the biggest buzz of the night. One day I’ll stop getting ridiculously nervous before every show but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s a genuine thrill to hit go and indulge in my favourite part of the week.
Next blog: Managing during the show, post production, and promotion.