This week, I released a 5-part video series for CSEdWeek (Computer Science Education Week) 2020 on my YouTube channel. This has been something that I have been wanting to do for a long time now, stretching back to when I was doing tech blogging. And the reasoning behind it is simple, as I mentioned in my LinkedIn post, I have directly benefited from CSEdWeek as it helped project me to the path that I am on today.
I owe it to the organizers of this annual event and also the amazing community of developers out there that are creating content and sharing their ideas. So, as a means of paying it forward, this series is dedicated to that mindset of inspiring others. I was mostly talking about my personal experiences and how I got to this point in my career as a software engineer.
I'm not going to talk about the videos themselves in this article, I'll leave it to you to watch the videos yourself. Likewise, I'm going to focus on the behind the scenes work I had to do to make this a reality. This entire video series was not an easy feat to pull off.
When I decided to re-start making YouTube videos earlier this year, I knew that at some point in time, I was going to make a video or two about my career as a software engineer. The question has always when and that's because I have always felt a bit insecure talking about programming and computer science because I feel that I might not be the most knowledgeable (and might even get some facts wrong) on a certain topic or concept.
But after making (scripting, recording, editing and uploading) 20 or so videos for YouTube, I realized that it's ok to have slip-ups here and there. It's part of the learning process and more importantly, it allows me to have a baseline standard to compare with and also have a checklist of what to improve upon. Just look at the first video that I uploaded this year compared to the 24th video that I uploaded. There's a noticeable difference with the framing, audio and storyline.
How I came up with the idea for this video series?
With that in mind, I started thinking about what programming/computer science topic would be my 'pilot' video for introducing this new category of videos to my YouTube channel. This was around October and what I did was to watch a lot of videos from other computer science/software engineering YouTubers to kinda gauge what kind of content the community responded to.
From my findings, apart from the very specific coding problems/technique videos, personal experience videos were very popular. Adding to that, I also really enjoyed watching those videos as some of them can be very relatable. And that's basically how I got the theme for my entire CSEdWeek 2020 video series.
Another thing is that at that point, I was only envisioning it to be a single video, it was never meant to be a full 5-part video series. The idea for the series came when I was trying to slot in the release date for the video. At that point, I have already slotted in video projects up to early November. And the idea to have a 5-part video series came up when I was planning for that one video which was about how I started this whole programming journey.
I was trying to recall how exactly I decided to pick up programming and subsequently do a computer science degree. And I remembered it had to do with the Hour of Code Challenge. Long story short, I did some digging up and found out that the Hour of Code Challenge was launched in 2013 (which was the year I did the challenge) and it was launched during 2013's CSEdWeek. To be frank, back when I was doing the challenge, I didn't know anything about CSEdWeek not did I know that it was part of CSEdWeek.
After learning about that, I had this crazy idea, instead of just one video, why not I make 5 videos for every single day of CSEdWeek (Dec 7-11, 2020). I had to sleep on the idea for a few days and the more I thought about it, the more exciting it sounded. So yeah, that's how that one 'pilot' video ended up becoming a full 5-part video series.
Making the videos
As I soon realized after committing myself to release 5 videos in 5 consecutive days. It's not as easy as I thought it would be. The most I've done up until that point was 2 videos a week, 5 videos a week is a new challenge and that meant that I needed to rethink my workflow for producing a video. The thing that I'm most worried about is all the procrastination that I would end up doing. I can easily make up for lost time due to procrastination for one or two videos but 5 videos is a whole different ball game.
I came up with the topic and outline for all 5 videos around mid-October and I only started scripting for the videos in mid-November. My worst fear of me procrastinating happened and what I did to ensure this video series was on track was to pause video releases for the remainder of November and just to focus on this video series.
In a week, I scripted and revised all 5 scripts for the videos and I shot all the videos over thanksgiving weekend. That was probably the most intense two weeks of work that I have experienced in a long time.
The next big hurdle for me was to edit all 5 videos. At that point, I had about a week left before CSEdWeek. I got the near-final cut of the talking head shots within a day. The hard part was the audio and color processing, those took me a while to finish as I was constantly trying to match the audio and color with one another so that the resulting videos look and sound similar.
I did get all the videos rendered and ready to upload before the cutoff time that I set (which was Dec 5). It was a really big relief and the next challenge was to figure out how to distribute the video on time. Suffice to say, I didn't put much thought into it and in some ways, the distribution was a bit a failure on my end.
just realized that this video's release aligns perfectly with my graduation from 2 years ago. nice.— Dick Wyn Yong 🏁 (@dickwyn) December 9, 2020
totally didn't plan for it when i was scheduling all of my #csedweek videos several months back.https://t.co/FKWPmAJq3G
There's a lot of 'firsts' in this CSEdWeek 2020 series:
- First time talking about programming/computer science on such a scale
- First programming tutorial
- First time releasing 6 videos consecutively on YouTube
- First time lighting myself with a 2-point lighting setup
Overall, I am really happy at how well this turned out. Not all the videos performed as well as I wanted them to. Despite that, this won't be a one-off kind of thing, moving forward, I'm planning to continue making programming/computer science videos, so make sure you're subscribed to the channel.
A side note here, on Sunday (Dec 6), I found out that my birthday is on the same day as Grace Murray Hopper's one. She created the first compiler and coined the term 'bug'. CSEdWeek is held every year in recognition of her birthday (Dec 9, 1906). Also, I realized that the release of my 'Is Computer Science Worth It' video aligns perfectly with my ASU graduation 2 years back.
This whole video series has provided me with a checklist of things to improve on for future video releases and more importantly, it provides me with that much-needed boost to more confidently talk about programming/computer science topics.
As of writing this article, I am working on revising my whole post-production workflow for a video. Throughout this year, I have mostly been focusing on the scripting and filming aspect of my videos but I think it's time that I re-worked my process for editing and mastering my videos.