Improving Online Content, Looking Forward in FIRST, & Tutorial Requests

Let me preface with this: I originally planned to solely discuss media in FIRST, but upon mulling it over after losing half my work, I decided this thread had much more potential as a broader discussion. With that in mind, please have a go at this lengthy post and send your feedback/requests.

FIRST is full with diverse online content, particularly concerning media. Content varies from the subject, the creators, it’s recognition, and it’s distribution. Of all the components within each FIRST team, I’d argue the most inconsistent element is the quality and quantity of their online presence.

When I say “online presence,” I am primarily referring to these two principles: 1) consistency, or thoughtfulness, in well-crafted content and 2) the aforementioned content generating a growing number of followers. These two conditions are the sine qua non for any truly successful content creators, yet they tend to be more ideal than real when it comes to FIRST. When an assistant mentor asked around other teams at the 10,000 Lakes Regional, he found that many desired to create online content but struggled to push it forward, lacking the understanding to do so successfully. This seems to be commonplace in FIRST, that though we truly are more than robots, the burden to “make it loud” is placed mostly on teams when it comes to promoting FIRST online, and at that point the skill level of each team’s media is dependent upon the slim number of students that express interest in that area. Should they surpass the odds against them of gaining resources and following through with their ideas, they now face criticism (hopefully constructive) and an even bigger challenge: overcoming the reality that social media and online content are egregiously overlooked in FIRST.

Now, especially after the recent Parody Contest held by FIRST, I realize that I just made an especially bold statement. And I must admit, I am a bit biased here, but I’ll do my best to break it down rationally; so let’s look at FIRST in the context of the-the rest of the world. The world today is media driven and shaped by low attention spans. Contrast that with FIRST, which has dabbled with media here and there throughout the years but doesn’t commit to as much compelling content as other scientific outlets, consequently making it harder for people to keep their attention on FIRST. Furthermore, most people don’t search for nonprofit organizations they don’t know about and, honestly, the best way to reach these people is online. Finally, if FIRST truly wants to increase inspiration and recognition in the world, there have to be some ongoing efforts by them concerning social media and content creation in this day and age. However, we can’t expect FIRST to fulfill all of these roles singlehandedly, and it would be much better for the teams’ students and mentors to step up, get involved, and have FIRST support them in the future.

Obviously, there are a lot of variables and, in FIRST, you more or less get as much out of it as what you put into it. If you know what you want and how to accomplish it, you’re golden; if not, hopefully you’ll teach yourself or have a mentor know you to help. This is essentially how my journey within FIRST transpired. If interested, you can read more about it here. In summary, the first year, I taught myself virtually everything, and the next two years I a gained a small increase in mentor support. I have worked extensively on parodies and weekly videos, as well as heavy production videos. I say this not to brag, but to make a point: it is possible, right now, to achieve and grow online content within FIRST, there just needs to be an implementation of the right leadership and actions. Since I can’t directly go up to FIRST and directly change this, myself and my team, Team 2052 KnightKrawler, have decided to start creating video tutorials for photography, videography, and other things requested within FIRST. This is one type of content we personally would love to see more of in FIRST and we are making our best efforts to change this aspect of FIRST for the better.

Here’s the issue we face: we are fairly sure of what teams like to watch and what they don’t like to watch, but we don’t know for certain. In our weekly video series “KnightVlogger” this past build season, Episode 3 was our least viewed episode at about 261 views the time of this post. The most viewed episode was the episode before it, Episode 2, at 1,495 views. This seems hard to correlate to data, but it also shows how important putting your content out there is and understanding your audience truly is. Rather than play a guessing game, however, I think it’s much more effective the view and creator work hand and hand so that both can improve and enjoy the work to its fullest potential.

With that I’ll leave you with three bonus questions to help out us and other aspiring content creators in FIRST:

  • What makes content or videos especially good, that you wish more teams would do?
  • What online content do we need more of in FIRST, that just isn’t out there that much?
  • What topics would you like the video tutorials to cover?
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What makes videos good?

  1. Use a tripod. (Or a stabilizer with a gimbal, but tripods are cheaper.)

  2. Use an external microphone.

Those two things alone would clean up the vast majority of unwatchable videos on the Internet.

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Those are definitely two of the most key components for creating well-crafted videos. Even if the premise isn’t attention grabbing, it automatically ups the quality. Here’re two more fundamentals:

  1. Know your camera. You should be comfortable with it and understand its features like the lens, focus, aperture, and shutter speed. The more you feel familiar with it, the better you will become at photography and filming.

  2. Don’t shoot video thinking you can “fix it post.” Come up with a plan, or at least know your vision, and shoot the best you can when you have the camera to maximize how it looks on the video editing screen.

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I personally really like the recap videos, robot replays and the 8 bit gifs of robots that you can use for your profile picture (where can I get one made btw) but I think media is a massive part of first and getting the word out there. Keeping in mind I have no idea about the politics, I’d think that expanding to TV for some worlds events would be a cool way to expand media.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this topic recently. Not only in increasing production video quality and quantity but also live stream and at event time as well. That is what led to this thread, that quickly got too technical and not big picture.

Largely for me this comes down to how do we better utilize the 5 mins between matches. We have the majority of competition days basically wasted on the live streams and in arena for people who aren’t on teams.

My favorite current answers to this problem is better produced video and replay highlights of matches.

  1. I’d like to see chairman’s videos and behind the bumpers type segments made by teams (or produced at the event) played at events. We need to celebrate both the culture change teams are driving for and the robot design process. These two video ideas would cover that. Teams spend many hours each year working on their Chairman’s Award videos that may never be seen unless they win, this just doesn’t make sense. We are largely ignoring the best produced content by most teams.

  2. Instant relays this is more a technology problem. If we could work out a way to properly do instant relay and not just of the camera angle already shown on the projector/stream could be very engaging for a lot of people.

If we start celebrating well produced video content at events by showing them off, more teams will produce them.

To specifically answer your question.
Videos that I would like to see made.

  • As many robot explanation, behind the bumpers, videos as possible.
  • Event highlight, recap videos, explain what happened at each event similar to Robozone in FiM. They should be short 1-2 mins each. It would be great to have a playlist each week that just ran down the events with highlights. We would probably need someone at each event to do it so we really know what happened like a reporter.
  • Commercial like videos that can be played quickly(30 secs) to get people interested in learning more about FRC