Some time ago, I did and interview with Drew about video production at Giant Bomb. Back then the interview was more of an accident, then something that was planned. But after watching the fantastic Iceland video, I had a good excuse to ask for another interview. We talked about the trip itself, used equipment and video production in general.
Me: So, Iceland. How was it?
Drew: Iceland was amazing! Even while I was there, I was itching to return. So many nice people, great food (seriously!), and plenty of further opportunities to explore.
Me: Did the trip made you want to dive into the crazy world of EVE?
Drew: Absolutely, I only wish I had more time to devote to it!
Me: Giant Bomb must be getting invites to different events form time to time. Yet you don't go to all of them, especially with a camera and someone to film with it. So how do you decide where to go and what to shoot?
Drew: It really depends on what we think we can get out of it. The output of the site takes a serious hit when one of our editors and HALF of our video production team is out of the office. But EVE Fanfest is something that really interested Patrick and I, and we knew that if we attended, we'd get some pretty unique content out of it. It's tough to know what you're going to get, exactly, since we had never been to Fanfest (or Iceland) before, but we were confident that we would be able to find some stories. I mean, we were going to a strange foreign land, and there are always video opportunities when that happens!
Me: How do you decide on what should be filmed and what not? How does stuff get left on the cutting room floor?
Drew: Before heading out on trips like this, I have only the vaguest sense of what I want the final video to be like. I try to keep it this way so that I let the experience dictate the tone and pacing of the video. As a result, I end up filming anything and everything that might be interesting, which translates into hours upon hours of footage (16 hours 53 minutes 11 seconds 41 frames of footage, to be exact). Obviously, not all of that will be interesting enough to make it into the final video. Sometimes a shot will get left out because it doesn't look good or has bad audio, but most of the time it's because it doesn't fit with the narrative you want to tell. For example, I shot a lot of the panels at EVE Fanfest, most of which were over an hour. Almost none of that footage made it into the travelogue video because it didn't really fit next to shots of us eating a sheep's head.
Me: How much equipment is required on trips like these? Do you have it separately or some of the studio gear has to be taken with you?
Drew: On trips like this, it's good to stay light. You've got to be able to carry everything with you if the need arises. That said, since we had no idea what to expect, I packed my camera bag with as much stuff as I could. In addition to the camera, lenses, light, mics, cables, batteries, chargers, wireless kits, and tripod that we normally take to events, I brought along four GoPro cameras (with mounting equipment for any conceivable surface/structure/person), a Kodak Zi8, and my personal Micro Four Thirds camera, a Panasonic GF3 with 20mm pancake lens. At events, I like to keep a camera on me at all times, and the Zi8 has served me well in this capacity before. This time, however, I wanted to try something new and ended up shooting almost all of the non-Fanfest footage with the GF3. I hadn't shot a lot of video with DSLRs, but after getting my sea legs on this trip, I'm a believer. Having a camera small enough to stick into my jacket pocket is critical to the success of a trip like this, because there's no WAY I was going to bring our (comparatively giant) AF100 out to a bar, or into a bouncing van, or to a geothermal hot spring. Compared to the Zi8, which is super easy to operate with one hand, the GF3 was a little tough to handle sometimes (like trying to keep Patrick in focus while simultaneously drinking a shot of Brennivin), but the image quality and low-light performance makes up for the occasional blurriness.
Me: E3 is soon. How does that compare to Fanfest?
Drew: E3 is a little different because, for the most part, it's a known quantity. We generally know what kind of videos we want to come away with (day wrap-ups, livestreams, interviews, direct feed whenever possible). At E3, it's just a matter of making it all happen, and ensuring that each video has enough content to fill it. And, as always, be on the lookout for anything crazy that could be incorporated into a day wrap-up or broken out into its own video. E3 is also more stressful because not only are our days packed with back-to-back appointments, but we also have to edit video and put up content during the show, something Patrick and I only had to do once we got back.
Me: Has there ever been a time, where you wanted to put something on the site, but could not do it for one reason or another? Has something been fully edited, but not posted?
Drew: Not that I can think of. We have had to take videos down and edit parts out before, mostly things like developer tools or debug code showing up in the video. Some companies are fine with it, some aren't. We hate doing this, obviously, so we try to really nail down the specific limitations that are on the video before devoting production bandwidth to it.
Me: Does the editing stuff out happens often? How strict are the rules you have to work with?
Drew: Not often. We try hard to make sure it doesn't happen. It's usually just the result of a miscommunication. Sometimes it's not made clear to us what we can't show until after the video is up.
Me: Last time we spoke, Whiskey Media still was a thing. How has you work has changed, if at all, after the CBS buyout?
Drew: Even though the four video producers at Whiskey Media were on different brands, we worked in such close proximity and with the same equipment that it was no problem for one of us to cover for another. Joey would often fill in for me in the control room while I was working on a video review. Now, since we only have two people, we've had to find ways to streamline our production process so that we can free up my and Vinny's time as much as possible for more video pursuits, while still getting the same amount of video up on the site. This streamlining has come in the form of equipment (such as our realtime H.264 encoder, which allows us to turn around Quick Looks and live shows in a fraction of the time we used to) and communication/time management (we're much more strict about shooting schedules here than we were at Whiskey).
Me: Is there anything you miss from the WM days?
Drew: That bar, man! We had a bar in our office! And the people, of course. That's not to say that the people here aren't totally nice (they are!), but it's always tough to part with people you've worked with for years. Fortunately, they all seem to have landed on their feet, and I get to see some of them from time to time.
Me: Jeff has said, that it would be awesome to add another producer to the staff. Despite allowing you guys to go more on trips, how would it affect video production at Giant Bomb?
Drew: I'd love to have another producer on our team! It would definitely mean more video, and probably different types of video, since we'd have more time to spend on edited content like the Iceland Travelogue.
Me: So, if I get this right, then you have new equipment to substitute for lack of more editors, yet you still feel a need for another one. Is there any tech out there, that could lesser the problem? And is there anything in particular you would like to do for the site?
Drew: Equipment can make things easier, but it can't do everything a human can, like go to an off-site appointment or edit video or lay explosions over a live show at just the right time. As for future content plans... I've got some ideas ;)
Me: Oh, so any HOT scoops you can share with the readers about future content? Any teases you can give us?
When I asked him about where he would like to go and film, he said this: "Everywhere!" Also he said to his loyal fans to just keep flying! And that is all we talked about, so I hope you enjoyed it.
On a side note: There is something cool in saying "Last time we spoke..." when doing an interview. Makes you feel legit.