Friday, October 30, 2020

Revising Your Streams from the Ground Up

Sometimes when making your streams, it can feel like you've hit your creative limit. You may assess the shows, with their current level of graphics, audio and interactivity, and not see much else that can be done. You start thinking that you've finally reached the point where if you want to improve, the only place to go from here is buy better tech. But before you go out and grab some gadget to boost your streams, consider taking a step backwards. What if you re-made your existing stream? 

I know this sounds drastic, but let the idea sink in for a second. By taking your stream apart and rebuilding it from the ground up, you'd be approaching each problem with a fresh perspective. You might find completely new avenues to take, and measurably improve the entire show. This works when updating the whole channel, or even just changing one aspect of your content. Think about it- each component of your existing stream has been comprised of countless smaller decisions and implementations. As you've continuously built upon those ideas to add new things to the channel, the older ones may no longer be the best solutions to your modern problems. Much like the 'First Principles' concept I described in the entry Simplify Your Streaming Problems, by reapproaching your situation from its absolute basic form you'll be opening your mind to potential paradigm shifts. In this entry, I'll help you to better revise your streams by taking advantage of this idea. 


One great example of effective revision took place on the Universal Studios Lot in California, almost 100 years ago. When silent films went away and sound became the norm, big movie studios had a very hard time creating international versions of their films. Because technological limitations prevented subtitling and dubbing from being implemented easily, studios couldn't put out their new movies in other territories, and were losing a huge portion of their revenue. So they came up with an interesting stopgap solution, which bred a quite unexpected result. 

Followed closely by this version of Dracula.

Even if you haven't seen the film, you're probably familiar with the classic 1931 adaptation of Dracula starring Bela Lugosi. It kickstarted an entire era of monster movies, and his embodiment of that famous vampire is the image most of us imagine when we think of the character. But what you probably don't know is that there was another version of Dracula produced by the same studio, at the exact same time, for Spanish-speaking audiences. These productions featured two separate crews and two separate casts, but had the same screenplay and were so closely mirrored that they were actually shot on the same sets, and even on the same days! The English language crew would come in and film from morning to evening, then they'd clear out and the Spanish crew would arrive two hours later to shoot the same scenes from evening all the way until morning. 

This meant there were two near-identical versions of the film produced, and it meant that Universal could release Dracula for Spanish-speaking audiences as well as English-speaking ones. This alternate Spanish incarnation of the movie, along with most every other film's foreign language versions, got destroyed or lost in the ensuing years, and this curious film production practice became largely forgotten. That is, until the 1990's, when a copy of the Spanish version of Dracula was discovered, restored, and recirculated on home video. And then a very interesting thing happened. Critics began to point out that the Spanish Dracula, produced as a cheap alternative to the American monster classic, was actually a superior film! And it all came down to a simple detail: because the Spanish crew arrived on set after the English speaking crew was done filming, they were encouraged to watch the daily playbacks of everything shot that day, so they could recreate it as closely as possible. But when the Spanish director and cinematographer would watch the scenes back, they'd say to themselves, "Oh, I could improve on that shot," or, "I think we could do better than that performance." What resulted is a film in which almost every shot is more dynamic, the storyline is more coherent, and even the editing is better. It just goes to show how anything, even a film that would go on to become a masterpiece and define its genre like Dracula, can be improved upon if only approached with an inquisitive mind. 


The movies can all teach us a thing or two 
about production.

Most of us only ever re-do something on our streams if it's causing us tangible problems- visual glitches, botched audio, or performance hitches are the main culprits. But this purely reactive mindset doesn't usually lead to true innovation. It's important to also be proactive about updating your content. Even if something has been working perfectly on your channel, that's no reason not to reassess the idea from the ground up. In fact, it's usually the things that work perfectly that you should be most aggressive about changing after a while, because if they never stop working, they'll start to stagnate without you even noticing. There have been several aspects of my own streams that I thought were already perfect, but after tinkering with them myself, getting suggestions from viewers, or just blindly stumbling onto some alternate idea, I'd measurably improve upon the entire feature. Sometimes when it comes to streaming, the old saying is wrong: if it ain't broke, do fix it. And by revising your content from the ground up, you may just pave the way to a whole new level of production value.

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