Lukey Luke Moulton is back and in this episode we compare our top list of tools. Every business in the online space will be using certain tools to get up and running, We cover a range of hardware and software.
James’s Tool Rules
- Review tools often (billing notices can be a great prompt for regular reviews) to see if you still need it
- Get the best tool for the job even if it costs a little more
- Commit to using tools to the best of the ability of the tool
- Research and test to determine continued effectiveness and comparable others
- Less is more. Have the minimum tools possible
This transcript is sponsored by www.BuyWithBonus.com get many of the products and services mentioned in this interview with a special BONUS.
James: James Schramko here and I’ve got a special guest back for the second interview mainly because it stirs my other good buddy Timbo Reid from my FreedomOcean podcast.
Welcome back Luke Moulton, Lukey, Lukey, Lukey…
Luke: How are you James?
James: Good, it’s always good to catch up and especially fun because we get to, I guess remember the good times of Jewel Podcasting. I used to podcast with Tim a lot but he’s traveling all over the place these days so I thought I’d bring in a backup. Welcome back.
Luke: Thanks buddy. He’s been a busy boy I think he’s been all over Australia for the last month actually so… yeah it is nice to annoy him a little bit. He did comment on the last podcast that we did together James. It’s always good to hear our Tim’s in a bit of a stir.
James: It is, and we’ve come back on the premise of talking about tools. We’ve always had a little bit of back and forth. I remember, you were always the tool spotter and trend spotter and you don’t mind the techy stuff. And I think you’ve joked with me that I’ve probably used more tools than you. So we’re going to pull out the evernote and have a trump off and see what tools you’re using and what tools our listeners should use for various circumstances and I guess compare some notes and maybe we’ll learn something along the way about what a tool does do or doesn’t do or discover a tool that we’ve never even heard off.
Luke: Yes, if we’re not careful James I think this episode could be a very long one.
James: We’ll do the short version. Let’s just say there are a couple of things that we should be aware of. Firstly, for any decent online business and I’m talking about a business that’s let’s say generating 5 figures a month. Let’s just pick that $10,000 a month mark.
There will be a required investment in a certain amount of hardware and software because it is a business and most businesses are going to need tools. Even a plumber or an electrician’s going to need drills, hammers and things. So you will have tools.
The minimum possible tools
The name of the game really for my perspective, my philosophy around tools is I want the minimum possible tools, I want the best tool for the job in its category and then we have to know how to use it. And one way we keep fresh on this is every time I get a recurring invoice or every time I clean up my computer, I just question my assumptions. Do we still need this tool? Is it working? Is there a better version? Do we know how to use it? And I send this off to my team. The other context is that, in some cases there’s two parts to this.
I’m here operating a business but I’ve got a lot of team members in another country who uses a different operating system. So that’s meant that there are certain things that we’ve had to decide, for one I only use Mac so I’m not going to very good with the Windows tools even though I have them in my business, my team use them. I don’t use them. We might talk about which ones we have but I don’t use, and also I’d like to get your philosophy on how you choose whether you use a tool or not. When you’re sitting there at the shopping cart in front of you.
Luke: That’s a good one James and many of us probably wasted a lot of time and money on useless tools that I might have used in fits and spurts and then just let go. I’m very much these days I’m very much of the philosophy of less is more and much like yourself I also review, go and check online, hang on a second, let’s have a look at PayPal and look at what recurring subscriptions I have and just be really critical about questioning what’s really required and what’s not. And I certainly have gone through that process recently. Even things like hosting, having separate hosting accounts all over the place and I’m looking at I guess consolidating, that sort of stuff as well. It’s certainly not more is more; it’s really more about less is more.
James: One of the big things is when we take on a tool we’re actually committing not just to the upfront expense but we have to dedicate time to learn it and there can also be an error curve where we make mistakes. It can actually consume a lot of energy to adapt to a new tool so I’m very careful in choosing what I accept because I know I’m pretty much going to stick with it until something way better comes along or until the tool no longer does what it’s supposed to do. I think we should rip straight into it and the way I’m treating this is I’ve basically done a short list of things that if I would’ve start tomorrow, I would probably have to go out and purchase. That’s sort of where I’m approaching this from.
Luke: You want to kick it off James?
James: Alright, I think I want to tackle content because all good web marketers are going to be creating some form of content to put out there whether its information products or news updates or podcasts or even just writing stuff. What sort of tools are you using in your lab to create content?
Luke: Well right now I am speaking on a Blue Yeti Microphone and I’m actually using Garage Band on my MacBook Pro so these three that I’m using currently and James we’re using Skype of course I’m recording at my end and you’re recording at yours so there’s four already.
James: Okay, and I’ve got a different set of bits and pieces to do the same thing so there’re some choices. I’m using a Rode Podcaster which is suspended on a shock mount and it has a pop filter to stop the “T” and the “P” sound from distorting and it’s on a swing arm so that I can swing it away from my workspace when I’m not using it. That’s going straight into my computer and I’m recording the audio on ScreenFlow because it means I don’t have to learn Garage Band and I use ScreenFlow everyday for videos. That’s my preferred editing device. And yes I’m definitely using the same Skype.
Luke: Nice, very nice.
James: Now what is this attached to? Using a Mac obviously for Garage Band?
Luke: Yes, I’m using my MacBook. My MacBook’s currently years old now I’m certainly eyeing off the Retina display James but that might be a little while off. It’s not really required that I upgrade at the moment. This MacBook has been fantastic and I literally work on it every day.
James: Yeah, I’m just trying to go from 3 to 2 now. I’m using an iMac here and I’ve got this set up a nice big 27” screen with a 16GB worth of RAM and it’s really good for crunching videos which I mentioned I do every day. So there’s a case of choosing the right hardware for the job because the difference in time it takes for my 4GB MacBook Pro to crunch a video is substantial. And if you’re doing it over and over again, you’re saving time. I’m actually taking everything off my MacBook Pro now to send it down the line, to the long line of kids in the family. And I want to just use the Air with the 27” Thunderbolt monitor as my second computer.
Another reason I need 2 computers is I have such exceptionally poor internet; I need 2 separate lines coming into the house so that I can upload on one and work on the other.
Luke: Good productivity tip there in itself, James. I might have to do the same thing as we; I think we mentioned last time mine’s probably as bad as yours.
James: Well when you have two it really is literally going to save you days of your life, in waiting. Now, let’s talk about more content creation. What are you using for… do you make films? Are you using a camera?
Luke: I do, certainly not way near as you do James but I’ve got a Canon 550D SLR which does take a beautiful video. When I need to put a shotgun mic I’m on top of that. I think you… do you use a lapel mic James?
James: Well I’m using the Canon 60D which is a very similar camera and I use a Sennhieser wireless transponder and receiver. It’s a camera mounted receiver on the Canon. It plugs straight into the audio for the Canon and in my end I stick a transponder in my pocket with the lapel mic. I’ve got all the shotguns, I’ve got all the wired stuff, I’ve got the backup Xoom recorder and all of that. But the very reason I’ve come back to this very simple setup is it’s just extremely portable and easy and much faster to edit when you have the sound and the audio on the same file.
Luke: Your videos are looking beautiful James, do you want go a bit more into the setup that you’ve got going there, what sort of lighting and backdrop and into making such beautiful video?
James: Yup, great question. I went to a place called Dragon Image and I got a three roller system for the back of the lab. So it’s black velvet, white paper, and green velvet sort of green screen. I only use the black and the white and I intend to use the black more because there are a lot of white videos. Everyone’s copied the Apple thing. So I use the black backdrop with the light pointing onto it and then a light pointing back over my shoulders so it gives that contrast. And that’s the one everyone responds to.
So you only need 3 lights. A little 3 light kit and they’re not expensive, you can get the cheap softbox kit. So you have one light in front of the camera pointing at you, one light pointing back to your head and shoulders and then one pointing up onto the black. And I’m using that camera, the Sennhieser mic and a nice sturdy Manfrotto stand and I’m using a little RC6 remote controller so I can flip the little screen out, point it to me and I can auto zoom my picture and I can flick a switch and hit record and stop so that I can film by myself and that’s important coz I’m quite often the only person here. So I don’t need a production crew. I can setup within minutes and away we go. And these cameras work with just about no light so if you didn’t even have lights. You can literally stick a Canon 60D anywhere and get a good looking film as long as you don’t have big black shadows under your eyes.
Luke: I like the remote, I think it’s a good idea too because it also cuts down on editing time for your team as well. If you’re going and pressing the button on the camera and walking back and the same when you turn it off, it’s always just going to be adding some of that extra editing time I think. So that’s a good idea.
James: It’s really good and it’s so easy. I’ve got the system now, when I finish filming I walk over to my computer, and here’s a tip, I’ve got a 3 meter extension USB cord and it’s permanently plugged in to my iMac. So I just have to plug it into the camera on its stand. I don’t have to dismount the camera to get the film off it. I just suck the video straight into ScreenFlow and edit it and export it into Dropbox and the team does all the rest. I do that because to take a 1.6Gig file and Dropbox it on my connection is not going to happen.
Since I’ve got to re-export it anyway I actually just do the edits because I have very few “uhm’s” and “ah’s” I always do my films in one take and with the remote to turn it on and off and self-focus it’s a very fast thing. And because I’m doing a video every day, that’s how I got the system down to like a 15 – 30 minute exercise.
Notes and feeds
Luke: Do you use a prompt at all James?
James: I use a white board. I’ve got a very light large whiteboard, it’s cardboard and I just write 6 bullet points and stick it at the end of the room.
James: High tech.
Luke: You never seemed to skip a beat so I’m sort of wondering what you’re looking at, obviously you just know your topic very well James.
James: Yes, I do know my topic but yeah just 6 prompts or 3 prompts, just to make sure that I cover the things that I want. Now if you’re wondering where I got those topics from, it comes from an RSS feed which I’m using SpeedDash, which is a software that I’ve got and I really should turn it on and make people actually have access to it.
So I’m pulling in RSS feeds and I just scan my feeds and I put anything useful during the week into Evernote in a news tab. I’ve got a separate notebook called News and I just jot down the notes. When I want to film, I just open up my news tab, write the topics onto the whiteboard, delete the Evernote, stick the whiteboard at the end of the room, setup the camera, record and then edit and upload to Dropbox. That’s it and I do that every day, it’s quite an easy routine.
We’ve just covered some more tools there. Evernote. Evernote is just absolutely the best and the whiteboard cannot live without. I love my whiteboards.
Luke: Yeah, I too use Evernote. Evernote is a fantastic tool and for RSS feed reader, mainly Google Reader as well as Reeder on the iPads as well which I love and I think just on the RSS feeds one of the other ones that I use is Buffer App. Quite often on consuming content in one period of the day and I’ll see a lot of the stuff that I’d love to share with our listeners instead of just retweeting it Facebooking an ad I use Buffer App to sort of drip feed to my Twitter feed.
James: Now you’re getting techy on me. I’m just a simple man.
James’ video setup
Luke: Hey you’re technical. All your video gear James. Please.
James: Well you know it’s really quite simple. I’ve just got a good camera and a good mic and basic lights. But I actually film outdoors a lot you might have noticed. So I don’t have to setup lights or backdrops when I’m filming outside. I just carry the tripod, turn the camera on, film, turn it off, come back in. It’s done. It’s very simple.
Luke: And you’ve done that for quite a long time too.
James: I’ve been doing it for about 10 weeks in a row lately and I found the routine of it quite good. I look forward to filming every day. Now in terms of low tech gear, let’s just talk about what someone can do if they don’t have any of that. You can just use the camera in the iMac or MacBook or you could use your iPhone to get perfectly good film and audio with just an iPhone is a good start.
if you don’t have the super duper mic, then just go down to the local Harvey Norman or gaming store and get yourself a Logitech USB headset. It’ll set you back like 30 or 40 dollars and that’s what I used for the first 6 years and I’m also talking to you on this now. My headset is something I use pretty much every single day because its light weight, the quality’s fine for a Skype conversation and when I’m finished I can take it off that sort of for me symbolizes freedom again. And I’m not picking up all that background noise of having, trying to speak on the speakers of the computer.
Video and audio software
Luke: One that you mentioned, you touched on before which you were actually using to record your audio but is also fantastic for doing screen casting is ScreenFlow.
James: One of my favourite software because I use a template. Every day when I want to edit my video, I just open up the template and it’s already got my opening video it’s got my media in the folder there that I can drag down and it’s got the watermark of my name. So you’ll see it’s always the same. Same opening, same watermark and I just drag my video into it. It’s got this great function called ripple delete (shift, command, delete) so I just highlight the bit of say I look away I do an um or an ah, I just highlight that on the timeline and then shift, command, delete and it just chops that out and moves the pieces together. And I can also pre-do the transition; you’ll see a white flash on my videos. Well that’s built in. So I really can edit a video in just a little more time that it takes me to watch it.
Three or four ripple deletes, drag in the end bumper and then export to Dropbox and I’m out of there. ScreenFlow is like a billion times easier for me to use than iMovie. It seems very lightweight on the computer. It doesn’t suck up a lot of space. And it is also great for audio. I just delete the picture out of a recording like this and then export the movie and I do use one other tool to convert it into MP3. I could use the call recorder for Mac that we’re using to record these Skype calls that comes with stripping out the MP3 sort of files and it also has a great thing called split sides of conversation so I can pull out your side and my side and I can delete your side and wait for your good quality one and pop that back in.
Luke: I thought you were just going to say delete it; full stop.
James: No, I’ll sharpen you up a bit and make you sound Hollywood. But I use iSkysoft to convert MP3’s it’s so fast I can drop a really large like a 1 hour long webinar recording that I’ve done on ScreenFlow and hit convert, and it will just rip that thing into an MP3 that is a beautiful size to load up to Amazon S3 which is where I put all my podcasts.
Luke: So, just on storage we’ve got a couple, I guess they’re used for storing and also serving up media, you’ve mentioned Dropbox , Amazon S3, any others James?
Video hosting and analytics
James: Well I’m putting my videos on Wistia. So we could say that that’s a video hosting. It’s like a private YouTube. But it’s more than that. It saves me about 4 other tools. Now I don’t have to convert my video into MP4 using Handbrake. I can just load the video straight up into Wistia and it will multi encode. It’ll encode it into high def, low def, different sizes and that means and it’ll also create a player. Now I don’t have to use EZS3 or JW Player or EZVideo Player, all these different tools that make video players. All I do is load up the video and it’s hosted, encoded and the player is created and it’s all stored with fantastic analytics and tracking on Wistia.com. My absolute favourite at the moment.
Luke: James you have actually given me a quick demo of Wistia and I’ve subsequently looked at the product. It is unbelievable. It is an amazing… I guess video publishing platform doesn’t really do it justice but the analytics’ incredible.
James: It makes me want to create products just to use it. I think that’s partly responsible for my video wave is just how easy it is now. Before when I think I’ll make a video then I’ll have to edit it, convert it, upload it, make a player, embed the player, it does sound like a lot of steps and it is a lot of steps. Now, I just record the video, upload to Wistia, paste player.
Luke: And then you basically got… I guess the analogy is the power of Google Analytics built into video essentially.
James: And it’s far more powerful than that because I can pass email variables from my emails so I can tag every single customer to the videos and watch their viewing habits so that I can now create better messaging for them, more relevant. It’s all about relevancy and Wistia is a tool for relevancy. It shows you where they drop off the video, it shows you which videos they watched which videos they didn’t watch. And in real time as well so I’ve never seen anything this amazing. I just love it. I’m not even an affiliate for it and I rave about this tool every 5 seconds.
Luke: I did actually make sure that I went and watched some of your recent videos James having clicked through from an email in case you went and checked.