Bringing my voice to YouTube

When I was in high school, memorizing and reciting poetry was a big part of my junior year English class. I distinctly remember Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken, which now, over two decades later, not only remains in my memory, but the content resonates with me more strongly than it ever has. Age and life in general have a tendency to do that.

After standing up in front of the class for the first time to deliver it, my teacher made a passing comment about how he thought I had a good speaking voice. Teens don’t have a reputation for ignoring the older generation for nothing; I got embarrassed, shrugged it off, and quickly went back to my desk. He would go on to say this a few more times throughout the school year, at one point saying I really needed to be on the radio. I would just smile uncomfortably and try to forget about it.

Why do we do this? I’ve never taken compliments well, and my first reaction — instead of doing the polite thing and saying thanks — is instead to downplay them. I mean, who knows? Had I instead taken my teacher’s words to heart, I might have gone on to study Media Communications or Broadcast Journalism in college, like my best friend did. I think he has a terrific speaking voice, and he went on to do great things on the TV news channels down in Florida.

Those words from high school stuck with me over the years. I never particularly cared for the way my voice sounded, and as a result, I never pursued anything in that realm. It’s like Werner Brandes (Stephen Tobolowsky) said in the terrific film Sneakers about his own voice, “I always thought it was kind of nasal and pinched.”

But as they say, one of the worst things you can do is have regrets in your life, so with one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 being to face my fears, this week I decided to tackle them both by bringing my own voice to YouTube.


After doing considerable research and of course, talking myself out of buying the most expensive microphone available on Amazon, I picked up a Blue Snowball USB microphone. With good reviews and an inoffensive price point, I bought one along with a Nady MPF-6 pop filter. I was going to buy a small acoustical microphone shield, but it’s an expensive addition, so for now, I’ll likely just buy a piece of foam and create a do-it-yourself one, or use a small pillow.

The microphone itself is of very high quality and is available in a variety of different colors. I went with the brushed aluminum finish, which has a beautiful, classic look to it. Packaging is nice, and although the microphone housing is plastic, it has substantial heft and does not feel cheap. It sits on a sturdy, folding desktop stand, which the pop filter can be conveniently attached.

PC installation is simple: Just plug it into an open USB port, Windows auto-detects it, and you’re ready to start recording.

There are three settings on the microphone, which are designed for speech, live music (activates a -10 dB pad), and environmental (omni-directional). Mine shipped in position 3, so if you pick one of these up, be sure to select the appropriate setting before you begin.


The pop filter came in a somewhat cheap and flimsy blister pack, and the flexible gooseneck has a disappointing tendency to float and not stay in place during adjustment. However, it’s one of the cheaper options available, and if you’re going to be doing a lot of talking, this is a wise investment. Additionally, the stand mount is very solid, and once it’s in place, it stays put.

On the software side, for recording and editing, I have the open-source Audacity, which is easy and very comfortable for me to use. In many ways, it’s similar to one of my old favorites, Cool Edit. Still image, video, and audio integration is all done in Adobe Photoshop and CyberLink PowerDirector.


So with those details taken care of, it was time for the real work to begin. I sat there at my desk earlier this week pondering what exactly I wanted to talk about. Yeah, it would be related to gaming, but how exactly? My mind raced, thinking about the massive amount of current YouTube videogame content creators, and what — if anything — I could possibly bring to the table.

Feeling intimidated, I watched some of my favorites for some inspiration. The most important thing I realized is that the ones that I really like and keep coming back to are incredibly passionate people. They don’t just regurgitate what’s been said before, and you not only learn about the games they’re playing, but you gain meaningful and lasting insight into them as human beings. Sure, some of them do it more loudly than others, but there are just as many who are quiet and introspective. For every expletive-weaving Rageaholic there’s a mild-mannered Pete Dorr, and I like that. I like that a lot.

It opened my eyes. I stopped thinking about it too much, and decided to simply talk about the game I was ready to 100% complete: NES Remix for the Wii U. Now, as I’ve said before, I didn’t really like the game all that much at first, but later on it became one of my favorites. Even looking at that re-review today, I feel the game is even better now, with fantastic replay value and very fun Miiverse integration.

I should have know this next fact beforehand, but yeah, deciding to do something and actually doing it are two very, very different things. While I knew I wanted to discuss the final stage of NES Remix, exactly what I wanted to discuss was difficult to figure out. Would I need an intro? Would I just talk while I played? Would I write a script? Would I edit out the bad stuff? Would I just do a play-by-play of what I was doing? The questions in my mind went on and on.

To get the easier part out of the way, I wrote a script for the brief intro, which went pretty smoothly. Recording it took a good number of takes, as I experimented with different inflections and emphasis, but it was more so because I kept messing up!

For the actual gameplay, I would end up trying every approach. On my first attempt, I immediately gained a new-found respect for people who can play games well and talk coherently at the same time. It’s really hard to talk when you’re trying to concentrate on not dying in a game, and after several failures, I stopped and decided to save that one for later.

Next, I recorded myself playing, and when I was finally happy with the footage, I jotted down notes and scripted out the framework for what I wanted to cover during each segment. This too ended up being a failed style for me since as I was talking about one thing, my eyes would scan ahead, tripping up what I was trying to currently get out. Similarly to what I said above, folks who can read scripts, anticipate what’s ahead, and make it all sound natural have a great talent.

Finally, feeling a bit frustrated and on the verge of quitting, I decided to just do it commentary-style on the fly. I worried about this approach since I’m not the most talkative person on the face of the planet, and am an introvert by nature. However, I set out to get this done, and get it done I did. It took a few tries, but it ended up being the most natural and comfortable technique for me.

After finishing recording and getting everything tidied up in post, here is the result:

For a first attempt, I think it turned out OK. Of course, all I can fixate on are the little mistakes, long pauses, weird choice of words, and other such nitpicks. That’s the double-edged sword of being your own worst critic, right?

In any event, it feels good to have finally broken through this long-standing sound barrier in my life, and I appreciate the comments and suggestions I’ve already received from my friends, readers, and now viewers. I look forward to creating more of these, and as always, if you have any game or topic requests, please let me know. It’d be tons of fun to cover games I would have never thought to play otherwise.


A glimpse inside GHG HQ

Since I enjoy checking out other folks’ gaming setups, I thought it might be fun to quickly show you where I sit to play games and write here at GHG. Most setups out there are so much more robust than mine, and it’s just really cool to see the pride and effort that goes into them. I used to be heavily into home audio and video, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve downsized. Not sure what that’s all about, and chances are good I’ll get that urge again to go big.


Anyway, this is my view throughout most of the day. I do everything on a single Dell U2711 27″ monitor, which can definitely be challenging, especially when you’re trying to play, type, research, and capture video all at once. Although I had issues with its on-screen display controls a few years ago, it’s easily one of the best monitors I’ve ever owned. Great color accuracy, and with a resolution of 2560 x 1440, PC gaming and image editing on it is great.

My mouse is a SteelSeries Sensei Raw, which my good friend from Phoenix recommended. Since I’m left-handed, finding good, ambidextrous mice can be tough, but this one’s perfect. Good feel, excellent tracking, and zero issues so far. It replaced a Razer Lachesis that started giving me trouble within a year, and I don’t see myself going back anytime soon. The mousepad is a SteelSeries QcK Mass, which is large — but not too large at 12.6″ x 11.2″ — and that hasn’t let me down either.

My keyboard is less interesting — a  standard Microsoft Ergonomic 4000 — but since I type far more than I game on my PC these days, it’s my preferred way to click away. I have a CM Storm QuickFire Pro keyboard with Cherry MX Red switches in storage, and that thing’s super-responsive and built like a tank, but I don’t like typing on it, and perhaps more importantly, my wife can’t stand the loud noise.

The speakers hiding behind the monitor stand are part of a compact Onkyo 2.1 system, but I game almost exclusively via headphones, so they don’t get much use. The mains are small, though, so they don’t get in the way and take up minimal desk real estate.

The wired 360 Controller on the right is what I use for most modern PC games, and it’s what I played all three Batman: Arkham games with earlier this year. I use mouse and keyboard for first-person games, but even with those, if a controller option is offered, I’ll generally pick that. I know, PC sacrilege!


In terms of classic gaming, these are my weapons of choice.  Via import, Sega offers this great official Saturn-based USB controller, and it’s perfect for all of those old Sega games. The 6-button layout makes it a good choice for a lot of other fighting games as well, in case you don’t have a traditional joystick. I consider the Saturn directional pad one of the best ever made, so it’s nice being able to use it on PC.

While there is no official Nintendo USB controller, the Buffalo Classic USB Gamepad is about as close to perfect as you can get if you don’t have an adapter and want that Super Nintendo feel. The directional pad sits slightly higher than it does on an official controller, but everything’s responsive and very solid. I definitely recommend it over the more common Tomee knock-offs, which are cheap and of inconsistent quality.


My console stack is pretty light, and only includes the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U. Nothing too exciting there. They all go through the Pioneer receiver below, and are then sent out to the Elgato Game Capture HD, where it’s split once again between the monitor and my PC for recording. Which reminds me: I still owe you a review of the Elgato. Soon, I promise!

So there you have it. It’s not the most luxurious setup in the world, but it gets the job done.


Elgato Game Capture HD: Sample images

This will be a very short weekend update, but here are a few screenshots I took today with the Elgato Game Capture HD. I’m pretty happy with the results, even though you have no choice but to grab them after they’ve been processed automatically via H.264 compression. I’ll be writing a full review on the device, setup, software, and image quality later this week.



Unboxing the Elgato Game Capture HD

Over the weekend, I debated whether I should buy a PlayStation 4 or not, even going so far as to write a rather pathetic justification for one here on GHG last week. Well, self-control won, and for the time being, I’m sans a PS4. If I don’t have one before Batman: Arkham Knight comes out, I certainly will. That game looks amazing, and likely Game of the Year material.

Instead, with the blog now in full-swing, I decided to get something that would help make it better. At least visually, anyway. Taking screenshots in PC, Wii U, and most Vita games is a snap, but doing the same thing in Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 games is less elegant. I’ve been using my phone and bulky camera to take off-screen pictures of games I’m playing, which is a difficult and tedious process. Having to quickly take my hands off the controller to snap pictures is a pain, and limits the types of shots I can get. They usually involve an in-game character standing around doing nothing.

After doing a great deal of research on the various HD capture devices on the market, the Elgato Game Capture HD was the near-unanimous choice for video capturing and streaming enthusiasts. I pulled the trigger this past Monday, and received it today. You gotta love Amazon Prime.

For those who care about packaging quality, you won’t be disappointed here. The device and its accessories come in a nice, full-color slipcase with a clamshell insert made out of the same material. 4 sets of cables are included: HDMI, Mini-to-Standard USB, Component/Stereo adapter, and PS3.

The device itself comes wrapped in clear protective tape to prevent in-transit damage, and is finished in a classic gloss black with rubberized feet to keep it from sliding around. All input and output terminals are clearly marked.

The only documentation included is a single Quick Start card, which is par for the course these days with small electronics. I know it saves on paper and weight, but I do prefer something a little more informative with my purchases. No CD software is included either, and has to be downloaded directly from Elgato’s website.

However, one thing I really do like is that the Game Capture HD doesn’t require any external power supply, so that helps keep your gaming area clear of one more cable and potential power brick. It’s a small touch, but a welcome one.

For now, here are some pictures I took today, which let you see everything close-up. I’ll report back on how the device actually works after I give it a thorough workout.

Pictures taken with a Canon EOS 40D DSLR, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM lens, and 1 580EX II on-camera flash.