#gettingstarted: Thoughts on some Fundamentals of Digital Textuality

Trying to become a more regular blogger. Trying to work with some video posts; well, I guess they’re going to be more like video posts with some commentary. For the next several posts, I’m going to be working with a variety of different hardware, software, and distribution set ups. Just to see how they work together… what I like about each one… etc. So there will be parallel explorations for each post. The first will be the topic itself, at least somewhat independent of the production experiments. I’m going to try to follow through on this practice I keep talking about: composing within the tools of digital media, as opposed to seeing the tools as something largely for the sake of executing/realizing a plan already conceptualized in old-media ways (writing, word processing, discussion, thinking). I want to work from inside the media. To make video recording a strategy for invention as much as for expression or argument.

This is going to be difficult. More so than I realized. You see, the work I produce for these posts is really very, very raw. Close to stream of consciousness. Which means that I end up saying a lot of stupid things. And I pause a lot. At the moment, it’s embarrassing. I’m not used to it. I’m comfortable in front of the camera, but I’m still not sure how to conceive of the camera itself as an audience. I still see it way too much as a mechanism for capture, instead of something observing me. That’s an important turn I’m going to have to make. Ugh. Watching this, and then pressing the “upload” button is painful. Fine, it’s painful. Sort of like the first few runs when you’re training for a longer race. It’ll get better. Okay now I’m asking you to suffer my own self-encouragement. Yuck.

Below, you’ll find today’s reflection. I’m just trying to start at some of the most simple and fundamental concepts about New Media / Digital Media that I can conceive. And work from there. Here it is:

I’ll do my best not to throw a bunch of disclaimers at you, though that’s my almost-undeniable impulse. Just. Stop, Trauman. Okay.

I thought I’d also include a supplementary video which shows the production setup I used.

In this case, I’m using an Audio-Technica AT2020 USB microphone (they also make an AT2020 that’s only XLR) hooked up directly to my iPad 2 via the camera connection kit. I’m quite pleased with the sound quality so far. I had planned on using my XLR mic (a Rode NT-1a) with the iPad, connected via the Blue “Icicle” adapter, but apparently the adapter pulls too much power supplying the mic with phantom power (only something though; I don’t really get it), and often won’t work. So, I went with the USB mic. This particular model of Audio-Technica mic doesn’t get a ton of press, but it’s XLR version is almost universally recommended for folks just getting started setting up a studio for podcasting or recording. I’m also planning on trying out the Samson G-Track and the Blue Snowball mics. But I’ll get to those later. I should probably also mention that I’m using a Rode boom arm for the mic, along with a shock mount to insulate the mic from bumping the desk or adjusting the boom arm during recording.

As far as the iPad 2 goes, I can’t tell you how disappointed I am with the quality of the camera. Ugh. It’s really terrible. I has a very tough time in low-light situations (in which I will often find myself because I tend to work best after dark), and the resolution is embarrassingly low. Yuck. Not only that, but the app I’m using (Vimeo’s stellar iOS app) is designed only for the iPhone, so I’m stuck using it in the 2x mode, which isn’t all that satisfying. You might be wondering why I don’t just use my iPhone 4 to do the recording? Because I can’t get the camera kit USB adapter to work with the iPhone. Apparently, it’s not compatible. Damn it. I’d much rather use my iPhone for this kind of stuff. The camera is much better, and everything looks sooooo good on that Retina display. (I gotta say, when the iPad gets a Retina display and decent camera, the game’s over. Seriously.) Alas, the microphone on the iPhone is okay, but not the quality I’m shooting for. So I’m left with options for external microphones that can plug into the iPhone’s headphone jack. I picked up a four-mic Sony handycam mic, but I haven’t had a chance to use it. I’m still waiting for the watch batteries (on which it runs) to arrive in the mail. Hopefully, it sounds great, and I can start using the iPhone for all sorts of recording. The apps for that thing are amazing.

Anyway… focus. Huh. If you’ve been to this blog before, you probably know that I’ve almost exclusively used YouTube for uploading and embedding videos. Lots of reasons, most of which I’ll cover later. But for today’s vid, I thought I’d use the Vimeo’s video hosting service. I gotta say, there’s a lot to like. It’s kind of design-y. Unfortunately, the camera on the iPad is so crappy that the video wavers somewhere between ugly and embarrassing. Well, I guess that’s why I’m working through these experiments. Not just so I can figure it out, through failures and successes, but so that you can watch me when I stumble… over a cliff… or onto something rather useful. In this case, the results aren’t exactly impressive. At least they are informative.

Eventually, I’m going to have a three-point lighting system set up, and a little, dedicated podcasting desk, too. But that won’t be until later this holiday break. For now, I’ve exhausted my “downtime” and I’ve got to get back to work on the projects people are expecting from me. I hope you find this entry instructive. Keep recording!

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