Saturday, 27 June 2015

Guest Post - Taking a web series from idea to launch

Today we have a guest post from Trainer Jodie, a YouTuber and Twitch streamer that I've followed with interest for sometime, TJ's own streams are great fun to watch, so I'm looking forward to the launch of his new Twitch channel as part of the All For Geek Alliance.  On the All For Geek Alliance Twitch Channel ( Jodie is launching a new web show, Corellian Cantina, in the near future - stalk him on Twitter  at for updates!

Taking a web series from idea to launch

           The creative process is an interesting one.  Everyone seems to have their own way to create the things they create.  However, there are some broad guidelines in creating that help to ensure the thing you are creating will be the best reflection of your talent as possible.  So, Today I'd like to talk about the process my co-conspirators and I used to create the newest series on The All For Geek Alliance: The Corellian Cantina.

Step 1: Begin at the Beginning

            The first thing I do when I start developing an idea is ask 2 questions: “Why am I doing this?” and “Why does anyone else want to watch it?”  This makes it possible for me to refine the idea into a series of goals, and helps me to gauge how to improve it as the show continues.

            For the Corellian Cantina, the answer to “Why am I doing this?” was already answered before I became involved.  Elias and Saturnaut wanted to have a show where they entertain people by playing a game they love playing: Star Wars The Old Republic.  After deciding this, they contacted Blair and myself so we could have a full party.  This purpose gave us the ability to define the purpose of the show and lay down some specifics.
1.    We are playing a game we love, so one of the most important aspects of this show will be we all need to be having fun. If this stops for whatever reason, we need to change what we're doing so it's still fun.
2.    We will be streaming it for an audience, and the audience needs to be enjoying it as well.  Streaming it through Twitch would give us an almost real-time link to our audience, making it significantly easier to gauge their enjoyment and make corrections as needed.

            The answer to, “Why does anyone want to watch it” helped us define the format.  Why would someone want to watch our stream vs anyone else on twitch?  What makes us unique, something people can't find somewhere else?  After throwing around a few ideas, we realized there was an aspect of MMO's that we hadn't seen streamed before: Playing on a Role Playing Server.  On these servers, everyone pretends they are their characters instead of just playing a game.  We realized that if we role played our characters during the stream, we would have a very unique show that we hadn't seen before, and it would be a ton of fun. 

            However, we also are fanboys and we will probably have fanboys in our audience, so we would want part of the show where we could geek out about the Star Wars universe.  To do that, we decided that the opening of the show would include latest star wars news and little features we would make about aspects of the universe we really enjoy.  Now that we had a basic idea of what we wanted to do, we could start full pre-production.

Step 2: Define and Refine

            After getting your idea to a pitch, it's time to define and refine.  Start assigning responsibilities, who does what.  Start figuring out specifics, like how long, where people will find it, what technology will you use to broadcast it.

            For the Corellian Cantina, We started setting up meetings and getting down to the nitty gritty.  How long did we want the show to last?  Would we upload previous episodes somewhere and if so, where?  How long would each segment last, and who would be in charge of each part?  After throwing out a bunch of ideas, we refined everything down to the following format:

1.    Each show would start with one of us hosting the show and bringing up any news that came up that week.  The host would rotate between the four of us and our two guest hosts. This segment would last about 20-30 minutes
2.    After getting through news, if we had some extra time, we would air a feature one of us prepared about something we like about the Star Wars Universe, like lightsaber combat forms or what flying the Kessel run in 12 parsecs actually means.
3.    Then, we would start the gameplay portion and the host would lead the story, with the rest of us playing our characters during the stream.  This portion would last around an 45 minutes to an hour.  We would create the entire story ourselves, without relying on the premade story included in the game.
4.    In order to keep to time, we would plan before going live what parts of the area in the game we were going to play, and end the show whenever we get to the end of that section.

            All of this will help us to have a good first episode, which is generally accepted as the most important episode you make.  This is what people will base their opinion of the show on.  But, there is one more important aspect of production that most people forget that makes sure episode 1 is as good as it can be... TEST SHOOTING!

Step 3: Test Shoot, or Go forth and Screw Up

            This is probably the most important part of pre-production, mostly because if you missed anything in the first two steps, you'll find out right here.  This lets you see what, if any, technology issues you're likely to run up against.  It will get you comfortable doing what you're supposed to be doing, and the most important part is it gives you a chance to screw up.  Failing teaches us so much more than succeeding, your goal during a test shoot should be to crew up phenomenally over and over again, so you can learn from each one.

            There are 2 types of test shoots, a Tech run and a dress rehearsal.  A tech run is just that.  You make sure all the technical aspects are workings.  That's everything from your streaming or recording programs, the game itself, and making sure all the people involved understand how to do their part.  This is not fun.  Ever.  It's a lot of starting and stopping.  It's a lot of doing the same thing over and over again, trying to get it right.  As frustrating as it can be, a good tech run with a lot of screw ups makes for a very smooth first episode.

            For the Corellian Cantina, our tech run was a lot of failure, over and over again.  The software didn't work.  The game had some issues loading.  Getting us all to the same planet took some time.  And we had never done something like this, so we had to figure out how to use the game itself to tell the story we wanted.  It was a bit frustrating, but it went exactly the way we wanted and we learned a TON!!!  after it was done, we scheduled the next step: The dress rehearsal.

            A dress rehearsal is a final run through to make sure everything fits together.  In general, you want to treat it as if you're actually streaming/recording.  Those little details that you didn't think about will show up, like when to take a breath, how hard on your voice that funny accent is going to be when you use it for over 30 minutes, etc. and everyone will get a feel for how everything is supposed to work.  This is the time to push through to get to the end, see what doing a full episode feels like.

            As of writing this, we haven't had our final dress rehearsal for the Corellian Cantina.  But, that step will finally cement everything we will need to do the final part of this whole process...

Step 4: The Premiere Episode

            Finally, after weeks, months, or maybe even years of work, it's time to reveal your work to the world.  This will be exciting and terrifying, exhilarating and draining, all at the same time.  Enjoy it, you've worked your ass off!  See how your audience reacts to the show, but don't think the work is over. 

            Once you add an audience, everything changes.  Humans tend to do that.  Look at how the audience reacts to you, and how you react to the audience.  Whether the audience is live or commenting after the fact, they will give you valuable feedback.  And don't be afraid to change things.  Remember your 2 questions, “Why am I doing this?” and “Why does anyone else want to watch it?”  If you find out aspects of the show no longer fit into your answers to those questions, change them!  Let the show continue to grow and evolve just like the people make it.

            I hope you are all as excited about the Corellian Cantina as we are.  We've put a lot of work into it and can't wait for you all to see it.  And I also hope that, by seeing how  I create something, you can become better at creating whatever it is that you create.  Be sure to check out the Corellian Cantina when it goes live later this summer on the All For Geek Alliance twitch channel :

            And feel free to subscribe to the All For Geek Alliance YouTube channel, to catch all the previous episodes once we go live:

            I can't wait to see you there!  And may the Force be with us all!

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