This is True
Randy Cassingham

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bullet  This is True Videos: Take 2

Just over a year ago, I launched a new This is True video series. There were some things I really liked about those videos, but there were quite a few things I didn't like about them too. Only five were produced.

What didn't I like about them? First, they were too long; people weren't sitting through them. The "theme song" that was so catchy the first time got really, really old after awhile. They were quite time-consuming and expensive to produce, so we didn't do many of them, and the time in between episodes kept getting longer.

But worst of all: I wasn't in them. They were produced in Denver, a good five-hour drive from my house in rural Western Colorado, and I wasn't going to drive over every week to shoot five minutes of video. The production house didn't want me sending video over, either. We were at an impasse ...which is why I decided to stop production.

The number-one "complaint" (read: constructive criticism) I got from readers is they wanted me to do the stories, even though the gal we hired was quite pretty, and did a good job reading the stories. What irritated me, though, was when people would say, "Hey! Katie's comment on that story was RIGHT ON!" Grr! That wasn't "Katie's" comment, it was mine. People didn't quite grasp that someone else wrote the stories, even though my name was all over it. Surely if they were my stories, I would be reading them, right? Well, that's why I knew I had to take over doing the videos; I brought them home from Denver. And now that I have a good and stable assistant, we can do them in-house.

So I'm thrilled to finally get back into production on True videos. You can also Subscribe via iTunes. (Note: That's the same iTunes link as the previous videos; you don't have to subscribe again if you did last year.) For non-iTunes subscriptions by RSS, use this link. Other viewing options include Blip.TV and Magnify.

If you're a YouTube registered user, I'd appreciate your clicking through on the video and rating it. You can comment on it there or here, as you prefer.

Those who really pay attention might note that I have finally secured the "ThisIsTrue" channel on YouTube. Someone had squatted my trademark there, and it took quite some time to get YouTube to do anything about it. So now the RandyCassingham channel will be "personal" videos, such as last month's bus plunge exercise; the ThisIsTrue channel will be True videos.

 

18 Comments on This Entry

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Posted by Phil, San Antonio, Texas on June 16, 2008:

Pro: Seeing you relate your own story.

Con: Seeing you "looking over my head" to read the story.

Pro: Short and sweet.

Con: Too short. Yes, the previous incarnation was too long, but two or three stories would probably make for a good compromise.

Looking forward to seeing more of you in the future!

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Yeah, I know that I'm not looking at the camera. I hope to build a "teleprompter" in the next few weeks for a more natural look. (Figures I'd need technology to look "natural"!) But they'll continue to be about this length for now. -rc

Posted by Dustin L, California on June 16, 2008:

I like the new format with you reading the story, but I didn't think the old series was too long. In fact, the new one seems a bit short. Maybe I'm an abnormal Gen-Xer because I have an attention span longer than that of a flea.

At any rate, great to see new episodes being produced. Maybe the shorter length can be made up for by greater frequency? ;^D

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Indeed, I do hope to run with them weekly, perhaps (not sure!) taking time off if I'm on the road. -rc

Posted by Tina in Fairfax, VA on June 16, 2008:

I think you should do podcasts. I don't download a lot of videos from the 'net, but I love listening to podcasts while I'm exercising or riding my bike or driving to/from work. Plus, they'd be really cheap and easy to produce using equipment that pretty much comes standard on most computers nowadays. What's not to love?

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Mainly, it's that it's Yet Another Thing To Do. I am, however, considering it. We'll see once Becky gets even more "up to speed" with work around here. -rc

Posted by Barbara, Georgia on June 16, 2008:

That was a good one to start with; how did you keep a straight face?

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Years of practice. When you do it every day, there has to be something "special" to make me laugh. And once I've read it several times, I know what the "special" part is long before I get to it. Of course, that skill makes it possible for me to time the "special" part for you, too, so you can laugh! -rc

Posted by Joe from NY on June 16, 2008:

Great start, and I guess the "looking above the camera" issue has already been addressed, so I'll add some other constructive criticism: sit at a desk, and have the camera framing you along the "rule of thirds" rather than dead center. And depending on your software, you can then put a box in the top corner on the opposite side, rather than cutting to the clips. The background is also a little busy - it's a good idea to convey the true news story concept, but a solid curtain would keep the focus on you. Third, see if you can get a shotgun mic to cut down on the ambient room noise (some quiet simple looped music could help too). Feel free to contact me if you want me to elaborate on anything. Overall, I'm glad to see another project and you obviously have the writing aspect nailed!

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I'm actually using a lav mic, but I think it's a bit hot. Time to tone it down a bit if you think I'm using the mic on the camera! And yeah: I am planning to do something different for the background "real soon now".... -rc

Posted by Jerry, San Francisco on June 17, 2008:

I love the column, but when it comes to the video, you should check your ego at the door and let someone more polished, like Katie, do the delivery. Your delivery couldn't have been more stiff. It was like the old "Sing Along With Mitch" show watching your eyes bounce off of every word on the teleprompter. Either have a few belts and loosen up or let someone else deliver your words and get over it.

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"Ego"? Now there's a switch. -rc

Posted by Dawn, Michigan on June 17, 2008:

Randy, great job for your first video I enjoyed it. And the one minute format is perfect! With anything, there is always room for improvement...You'll do fine! I'm sure you'll receive some very constructive criticism from your readers/now viewers and fans!

Posted by Barry, Atlanta on June 17, 2008:

Jerry in San Francisco is off his rocker, Randy. Ego? You have less ego than you should, considering your vast accomplishments with This Is True, the amazing praise you get from the media and your readers alike, and the simple fact that your first inclination was to have someone else produce your videos in the first place! I know you had readers suggesting that you take them over, because I was one of them. I thought that when I saw the first of the "old" series videos, and the feeling grew as I watched subsequent episodes, and I wrote to tell you so.

I also noticed someone on YouTube wrote that they thought you were nervous. You sure didn't look nervous to me. You looked pretty natural, considering you haven't done this before, and I'm sure you'll get even more comfortable after you've done a few.

So please don't let the jerks who surely couldn't do half as good a job as you are sway you from your path. You have clearly had good instincts over the years. I've been reading you for at least 10 years, and if anything the newsletter is getting better and better.

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Indeed I wasn't nervous -- I rarely am. Thanks for your kind words, Barry, and hey: if the first video is as bad as the naysayers think, then all they can do is improve over time! Which is to say, I'll be continuing them, and sure: as I've said from the start there's room for improvement. But hey: maybe that was just my "ego" talking. *snort* -rc

Posted by Pete from Chicago on June 18, 2008:

I like the short one story format. Much better than the longer version you started out with.

While your delivery was stiff, it was far from bad. You will get the hang of it as time goes on. Anyone who watched "Motorweek" in the 90's knows how bad a broadcaster can be and how much they can improve as time goes on. Cameras and microphones take a long time to get used to. Especially when you have no direct audience feedback.

Posted by Jeremy, Tigard Oregon on June 18, 2008:

I haven't seen the 'old' clips, but the new ones have a good feel to them. Length is just right; clear, concise, and to the point. Delivery is well done, too; just enough wry humor to get the subtle dig in....

Always delivering, Randy, and I'm grateful for it!

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You can follow the link in the first paragraph to see the 'old' series. -rc

Posted by Patrice from Arlington, TX on June 20, 2008:

Randy, I like the new videos. I think having you do them is much more fitting. I noticed someone mentioned you seemed nervous or stiff, but I think you did great. Perhaps they were thinking you'd give more of a spontaneous 'telling a story' feel to the clips rather than reporting the news? Thanks for all the hard work you put into 'This is True'.

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Good point: indeed I'm just "reporting" ...until I do the tagline. Glad you're enjoying them. -rc

Posted by Steven /Colorado Springs,CO on June 21, 2008:

It,s really good to have the videos back but I really think that Katie is a LOT cuter than you and with a lots better read on the "News". I personally don't see the problem with her getting the credit for "saying " what has been written for her. Does anybody really believe Katie Couric comes up with what she says on the news. Thanks anyways, it's good to see you back on the "air".

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No, and that's my point: people DON'T think Katie Couric came up with the news. But they thought "my" Katie did. Stupid, when it even said "Randy Cassingham's This is True"? You bet. But that what was happening. -rc

Posted by Betty, Kokomo,IN on June 21, 2008:

Great start here!

Glad you are reconsidering the backdrop... The lace curtain just didn't do a thing for you! I actually "kinda" liked the newspapers. They are a good fit with "This is True".

Keep up the great work!

Posted by Christy, Greensboro, NC on June 21, 2008:

I ditto Betty about the newspapers vs lace curtain.

And ok, there be an unnatural air to how you read the news, but practice makes perfect, and I'm much happier seeing you read it than Katie. :-)

Posted by Mike, New York on June 21, 2008:

I love the new video format. Only change I'd suggest is in the end, where you say "dear readers", you might want to say "dear VIEWERS".

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That was part of the tagline in the first video, so I was faced with a choice: keep it completely as written, or change it for the video. I'm usually loath to change things, especially written-on-deadline taglines, and it was an unusual situation that there was something that perhaps "needed" to be changed in the way you suggest. I'd be interested in what other readers think about that. -rc

Posted by Carl, Acworth, Georgia on June 21, 2008:

VERY funny stuff, Randy. I loved it !!!

And, yeah, OK, the newspapers make a better backdrop. The main thing though is that it is quite clear you are enjoying doing it, and that definitely adds to our enjoyment watching it. You have found the right formula for your show, so trust it. Information transmitted in an entertaining fashion - I have no doubt it will get better and better as you settle into it, just like a new pair of boots.

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That's my plan. I'm not sure what backdrop I'll do in the long run, but I'll be trying different things. And yes, I'm sure I'll get more comfortable in front of the camera as time goes on. -rc

Posted by Bill, NY on June 23, 2008:

Good to have the videos back. I enjoyed them before and I'll enjoy them now. That being said...it's weird to hear you react to the stupid people who don't know it's your story when Katie read it. I thought your quest was to fight stupdity, not to cater to it! Even with you in the video, you will have people who think that someone else wrote it for you (especially with the obvious reading you are doing). Consider that before you rule out bringing back Katie (or someone else more natural). Thanks.

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There's simply no way Katie will be back. That would mean moving the production back to Denver, to a house that's moved on to other things, at a cost that's more than I can afford (especially considering one doesn't make a dime by putting stuff on YouTube). -rc

Posted by Jonathan, New York on June 24, 2008:

I have no argument against the economics of your returning to Denver to the production house as opposed to your doing the videos yourself. That's your call. But I do have to tell you that I really enjoyed the mirth with which Katie presented the stories. She conveyed a genuine feeling of humor in the situations she described. And I never ever thought that she had participated in the work of finding the subject matter and writing the presentation for the videos. She was a narrator - a good presenter of your work. I sense that you might have felt slighted over someone seemingly attributing your work to Katie. It's possible that that person missed the video in which you introduced Katie as the future narrator of your work. I, for one, knew that it represented your work and your wry humor, for which I take this opportunity to thank you. I also want to thank you for your volunteer work. There can never be too much recognition given to EMTs and other first responders. You do your fellow man a great service.

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Thanks for your kind words. I for sure didn't have any problem with Katie's work -- she did a good job. At one point we auditioned a couple of gals locally to do the stories here, and that's when I decided I had to do the stories myself: they just didn't "get" what the stories were really about. That made me realize how good of a job Katie was doing in interpreting the stories.

That some people thought they were "Katie's comments" wasn't the primary driver of bringing the production in-house; economics was. We need to churn this out quickly and efficiently, since (as we know) "time is money" and without an income stream to offset the costs, we have to keep costs to a minimum. -rc

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