Friday, April 01, 2016

The Life of Streaming - Not Always Fun and Games

Today is the First of April, which somehow became the day of playing pranks on people and expecting to get away with it without consequences. Even retailers get in on the "fun" by sending out fake e-newsletters and offers for non-existent items. Anyone remember BioWare's Garrus full body pillow? Which they should still go in and market because it's a genius idea and they are silly to think otherwise. My e-mail box this morning was filled with other such treasures, such as a wig company I use for my cosplay making a "dog wig" line. Really? That's the best you can come up with? Well...at least they are offering a coupon for the dumbness.

Fret not dear readers. I will not make this post a giant April Fools joke. Consider this your safe haven from the stupid today. You can log off of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram, feeling safe knowing that at least one spot will be joke free. I wish I could do the same.

So let's talk about streaming games! Kotaku has posted a very in-depth article from some of YouTube and Twitch's game streamers and how rough it is to have it as a full-time job. I know that sounds silly when you read that statement out loud, but think about it. Most of what we see is either the stream in recording or the end product of edited videos for YouTube with highlights, re-caps. Sometimes it's both for a streamer/team. Prepping for a stream can take as little as an hour if you're going solo, or a few days if you're bringing in a team to all play together (because then you have to plan schedules to make sure everyone is available at the same time, bring in extra equipment for sound and video, set up said equipment, and so on). If you're a streamer that edits, editing takes............forever.

Rule of thumb that I learned in film school when I was first interested in it as a teenager: for every 1 minute of footage expect to spend an hour of editing. So a 30 minute stream can take 30 hours to edit. Is that an exact number? Of course not. The more time you edit, the faster you become. The podcast I work on, CosPod, use to take me anywhere from 3-5 hours to edit an episode. Now I'm down to under an hour, with another hour to render, for a 2 hour show (which includes an aftersession). A lot of this is due to the glory that is Google Hangouts, that allows me to edit while we record the show so I have control over the camera, microphones, and some basic edits that reduce the need for me to do post-editing. The simpler the editing process, the faster it is to edit. If you are doing straight from stream to YouTube edit, and you just want to add in a logo and some links, then it'll only take a couple hours of your time, even on the longer 6-8 hour streams.

But if you are more of a production team like RoosterTeeth or ScrewAttack, then that 1 minute to 1 hour ratio of editing is very real. Just watch any one of the Let's Play Minecraft episodes. A lot of editing goes into each one of those. You're taking anywhere from 4-6 game perspectives, splicing them together to create a story, along with titles, text overlays, sound composition (because Geoff always seems to red-line the mic), it's a ton of work! Even the most seasoned Premiere editor will find it challenging to produce one of their videos weekly.

And this is just the before and after work! We haven't even dug in yet to the stream itself.

Another aspect pointed out in the article, that did not occur to me for as much as I watch streamers, is that some of the top Twitch/YouTube artists will tend to stick to a niche of 1-2 games. They don't have the luxury of playing other products. Unless you are with a production company or on the level of markiplier and PewDiePie, your streaming time is going to focused on a very small niche of games. That's where you can draw in more people, and more money.

“I often joke with people who are just getting their stream started that you just don’t get to be a variety streamer. You have to establish something, build a community around you, and then begin to translate that,”says Sean [Day 9] Plott.

And he's right. You end up building up a community that is focused on one aspect of your streaming life and over time you can branch out. But for those first few year/years, you're stuck in a niche. Top streamers right now usually follow one game - League of Legends, Hearthstone, Call of Duty and rarely break out of those avenues. It can be exhausting streaming and reporting on the same content day in and day out. For years. I don't know about you, but I can't play Hearthstone for years. I can barely play for an hour before I want to do something else. I'd imagine quite a number of people have stepped down from streaming full-time because of this.

Turning a hobby into a job can be a daunting task. I've seen cosplayers attempt to make this transition on more occasions then I can count. And it's never easy. You have to give up a job that has provided stability and rely on people who watch your social media pages to offer you work for a fee. You become dependent upon that paycheck. And make no mistake, streaming just like crafting commissions is a gamble. You can't guarantee that you will get another paycheck or donations from your viewers on a consistent basis. One week you might make $800 and the next, $10. The 30 hours of work that went into the $10 week seems wasted - and that will happen. Often. You learn to re-tool your streaming efforts to focus on the things people want to see, and hope that the next video you release will garner more funds and fans.

It's a viable means of making a living, but it does come with some downsides. Hobby into a job is not always fun. It can be over time, but it takes quite a lot of work to get to that payoff.

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