The ongoing pandemic and the end of the Mozilla Tech Speakers program accelerated my shift in focus towards more writing and coding, but this didn’t last for too long.
It’s not even “getting back” as in “returning from not doing”, but rather “not being that much active and then quickly starting to miss it, especially when getting more and more interesting opportunities”.
The first signs of the impending doom over Tech Speakers happened in January this year already, so it’s not that the pandemic was the main cause. The official end of the program was announced more than half a year later. Over the span of those months I decided that I’m taking a break from public speaking.
Since stationary conferences were being cancelled, Mozilla support for traveling was scrapped as well, and I wasn’t too much enthusiastic for online events back then, I wanted to spend my usual event-related time on something else - it was mostly about Web Monetization as part of the Grant for the Web program preparations and planning, and the usual yearly js13kGames competition.
I decided to not send any proposals to open Call for Speakers, but I can’t say I did absolutely nothing at all. After running (and speaking at) the Gamedev.js Warsaw #15 meetup in February, a few opportunities planned for late March were cancelled, and I totally forgot about being a tech speaker. The first reappearance happened in May, when I spontaneously gave a short tech briefing to my fellow Tech Speakers in the form of an intro to Web Monetization API.
Later on, in August, I was giving some tips and tricks on how to build games in 13 kilobytes for the js13kGames competition at the kick-off meetup. The W3C Games Community Group was reactivated at TPAC 2020, so I saw this as a perfect opportunity to talk about Web Monetization in HTML5 games. After being invited to talk at the Future of Micropayments conference in November I went with the similar topic, but from the js13kGames participants point of view - if it’s possible to earn a decent income from Web Monetization while building HTML5 games. I concluded the year with another talk at the Warsaw IT Days in December.
As you can see I wasn’t quite active like I’ve been during the previous years, but it’s not “doing nothing” either. To those six talks in 2020 I have to add a few podcasts (three to be exact) I was interviewed at, and panels (also three) I participated in.
After the few first months of the pandemic I started realizing that my audio/video setup is too archaic for the online events, even if my standards were low. After all, the camera in my 2013 MacBook Pro and the microphone in the headphones had worse quality than today’s calculators or fridges. That’s why I decided to upgrade this to a standard I’ll be happy with for the next few years.
New audio/video equipment
I had secured some funds from the Grant for the Web on the new 14” MacBook Pro, but since it was delayed and is expected to be released next year, I decided to use the amount on something else - audio/video setup. After a few months of research I went with the equipment listed below. I bought it on Black Friday, but to be honest most of it wasn’t even on sale, so it didn’t matter much.
Microphone: Elgato Wave 3
I was planning to buy Blue Yeti, since it was considered the best choice in the intersection of quality and price, but after hearing good things about the new Elgato microphones I went with Elgato Wave 3. It works perfectly so far - absolutely no issues, works immediately after connecting, recorded voice sounds way better than the crappy mic connected to the headphones.
It also looks nice (especially with the pop filter and the shock mount I bought as well), and is not too big when standing on the desk. I skipped the entire “mount it on a long stick” thing since I’m fine with putting it in front of me when it’s needed and moving back when not in use.
Lighting: Elgato Key Light Air
While browsing microphones I noticed Elgato also have light sources, which I was going to look into as well. My desk is facing the window, so during the day I don’t need any other light sources, but in the evening when the window shutters are closed I had all the light sources behind my back and needed something small but solid in front of me.
That’s why I went with the Elgato Key Light Air, which is a small LED lamp - you can control its intensity and the color through the app. It stands on the desk and works great when I need to light up my face for the video.
Camera: GoPro Hero9
I was going to buy one of the recommended Logitech webcams, but realized I could use the camera to record the Gamedev.js Warsaw meetup talks as well, and decided to pick a GoPro. For a brief moment I was going to go with Hero8 as I didn’t need the extra features Hero9 offers, but since I’d like to use it in the next few years and all the stuff the newest model offers might come in handy, I bought GoPro Hero9. Beside the camera itself, I also bought a small tripod, an SD card, and a durable box to carry it to the meetups.
Using the GoPro as the webcam wasn’t that error-free as I hope it will be. Sure, the setup is quick and easy, but then it was throwing random errors sometimes, lagging from time to time, or freezing entirely quite often. I’m not sure if it’s the fault of my crappy laptop or too slow Internet, but even after lowering the frame rate and quality I still sometimes had those issues.
Intense week of testing
After all the equipment finally arrived, I had the opportunity to test it almost immediately. In the span of seven days I was able to have four calls, participate in one podcast, a panel, a meetup, record a talk and a short video.
Tuesday (Dec 8th)
I had a quick call with Przemek as part of the “From Junior to Senior” program by Just Join IT where a mentor is assigned to a junior to give him some advice on various topics - I hope my few cents will help Przemek one way or the other. Another call was with Paul about Web 3, my involvement with the Kernel’s Gaming Guild, and Web Monetization.
Right after the call I joined the VhiteRabbit podcast and talked about… yes, Web Monetization and HTML5 games. That day ended up with a call on… Web Monetization, with Danyao, who is currently working on the Digital Goods API in Chrome.
Next day I was able to record my talk (about Web Monetization and HTML5 games) for the Warsaw IT Days 2020, where we had a full Gamedev.js track on our own, so my presentation was actually part of the Gamedev.js Warsaw #16 meetup. The rest of the track was filled with the recordings from our two previous meetups.
In the evening I participated in the gamedev panel at the SFI Academic IT Festival, where we had the discussion about the “Corpo vs Indie” with fellow developers who were either entirely independent, running their own studios, or working for big companies building games.
I had a little break the rest of the week, and returned on Monday to a casual call with Folawole to explain how Web Monetization API and Grant for the Web program works.
Next day I finally caught up and recorded a short message for Ania to use it in the massive video she is preparing for FreeCodeCamp about the best entries from the js13kGames competition.
In the evening of that day we had a W3C Games CG meetup, the second one after reactivating it during TPAC 2020. I gave a really short update about Coil and Grant for the Web progress.
I’m a total noob when it comes to using such equipment, so I ended launching Zoom most of the time, since you can go full-screen with the slides, have the view from your camera in the corner, and record everything. I know the output quality of such an approach wasn’t the best to say the least, and there’s plenty of software that does this way better, but I’m yet to learn how to use it properly.
Overall I’m happy with the setup - it’s small and compact, and don’t take much space on the desk. The microphone works like a charm, the light is very handy, and the camera needs a little bit of work, but will be useful for sure as well.
I did record the js13kGames video directly with the GoPro, and after a brief research of how to actually get the video file to my MacBook I was able to do it, since the desired setting was switched to be able to use the device as a webcam. You can’t stream and download files at the same time, apparently.
It’s still way, way better than my previous setup, there’s nothing to compare actually. I’m really fortunate to be able to use the funds from Grant for the Web program for such things, and I hope I’ll be bringing more video content about Web Monetization (and obviously HTML5 games as well) in the near future.
Appearing in front of the camera is definitely something out of my comfort zone, but since I did the first step in 2012 to start giving talks at meetups and conferences, it shouldn’t be that hard this time. We’ll see how it goes!