Behind the Scenes: How I Create Weekly Technical Videos

Watch this week's video on YouTube

Today I want to share my process for blogging and making weekly YouTube videos.

I've been hesitant to write this post because of how much I am still refining the process. Since I started making videos two years ago, not a few weeks go by without trying something new. I frequently try to improve my video and audio quality, learn new teaching strategies, and automate parts of the editing process.

So while I am excited to share what goes into making one of my videos, please be aware that it is still a work in progress.

My July 2019 Process for Creating Weekly Videos

Think of a topic - Monday/Tuesday

When I started blogging and making videos, thinking of topics to write about was difficult.

Then I started keeping a OneNote notebook to build up a list of ideas. Whenever I learned how to solve a problem or helped someone else solve a problem, I would write that idea down.

I also began outlining presentations I wanted to give and added a blog/video idea for each demo that I knew I wanted to include in my presentation. Not only did this help spread out the work required for creating a new presentation, but it gave me a lot of material to create for my blog and YouTube channel.

Today I have what feels like an endless list of topic ideas to write about. Every Monday and Tuesday I browse my list and choose what I think would be a good topic to use for the upcoming week's post/video. I take into consideration whether I discovered something particularly surprising recently, whether I need to create some demos for an upcoming presentation, and how busy my upcoming week is with other events.

The goal is that by Tuesday night I know what topic I'll want to work on during the upcoming week.

Create Demos - Wednesday/Thursday

On Wednesday and Thursday I write my demos.

Some weeks this is easy: often when I add a topic to my idea notebook, I include code that either partially or fully meets my demo needs.

Other weeks this step is more involved. This happens in particular when I need to pin down why a certain behavior is occurring. Maybe I discovered an interesting SQL Server behavior during my workday but didn't have time to dig into why it was happening. I might have found a quick fix to get me through the problem at work, but I want to do a little bit more research to get to the root cause for my post/video.

This is often my favorite part of the process, although sometimes it can also be the most frustrating. There have definitely been weeks where I start out with one idea in mind, but after struggling to build a solid demo, I choose a different topic for that week and stash away the original idea to try again some time in the future.

Film - Friday

I usually film my videos on Friday nights. Except when I film them on Saturday mornings.

Having a permanent studio setup in my basement has made this process much easier. Instead of needing to make sure my video background is clear of toys/general clutter, needing to set up lights and cameras, and asking for perfect silence from everyone in the house, I now have a space I can just sit down and record without any fuss.

I shoot my videos in one continuous take that later gets edited for content. I've listed the gear I use to shoot on at the bottom of this post, but to get a good feel for my setup check out this week's video starting at the 2:54 mark. I think it gives a cool example of how much lighting matters in these types of videos, as well as the benefits of post-production color grading.

Edit - Saturday/Sunday

Editing the raw video and audio recordings into a short and (hopefully) entertaining and educational video is where I have evolved my process the most.

Since I record everything in one long take, the first thing I do is sync up all of the various footage from cameras, screen captures, and audio recordings.

I then use Adobe Premiere's Multi-Camera editor to produce the rough cut of the video. This process is a lot like producing a live TV show - I use keyboard shortcuts to jump between video and audio tracks in real-time. By the time I finish watching the raw footage, I have a pretty good edit of the final video.

Once I have the initial edit done, I go back and start adding whatever additional overlays and screenshots I want to include. This part used to be a huge burden because Premiere requires 8-10 clicks just to get a screenshot added to the editing timeline.

Then I watched this 4-hour long video of a professional editor editing a YouTube video in real-time. The key takeaway was how much he is able to automate using AutoHotkey.

Inspired, I wrote my own AutoHotkey script to copy screen caps from SnagIt directly into Premiere with a single keyboard shortcut. This saves me a TON of time, not to mention makes the process of editing much more enjoyable.

Although all of this editing is time consuming, it's also fun. I create tightly edited videos like this because it's the type of video that I've always wished there was more of in the YouTube programming space. I figured if these are the kinds of videos that I want to watch, then hopefully other people will want to watch them too (and you have been, thank you!!!!)

Blog and Schedule - Monday

By Sunday, my video is usually done and uploaded (but not shared) on YouTube.

Sometimes I write my blog post on Monday nights, sometimes it gets written earlier in the process. Writing the post usually goes quickly since all of work of creating demos and thinking of a logical structure has already been prepared for the video.

Once the post is written, I schedule the post and video to automatically publish the next day.

Tuesday morning the post and video go live at 7am and the whole process repeats itself later that evening.

Tools of the Trade

Below is the list of gear I currently use. These are all tools I currently use to produce my online videos. Some of the links below are affiliate links to help fund my coffee consumption during those early morning editing sessions.

Software and Subscriptions

Epidemic Sound - Royalty free music and sound effects. Easy to search. I used to scour the internet for royalty free tracks, and while there are a lot out there, I got tired of searching through all of the junk to find the high quality recordings.

Adobe Creative Cloud - I've been using Photoshop and Premiere for decades. New versions of Premiere are generally buggy and terrible, so I usually wait a few months until a few updates come out after a release before installing a new version (and always install it side by side with the old version).

SnagIt - Lightweight screen capture software, both for stills and video. TechSmith also makes Camtasia which is a more full featured with its capturing and editing abilities.

Handbrake - I use this to convert my variable frame rate SnagIt screen recordings into constant frame rate videos that will sync nicely with my video footage in Premiere


Canon 80D DSLR - I bought this camera specifically for shooting video and it has proven to be a great value. Depending on where I am shooting, I will use the the 18-55mm kit lens, a Canon 10-18mm EFS lens (great for hand held selfie shots), or a Canon 50m f/1.4 EF lens (when set up in my studio).

Manfrotto Aluminum Tripod - Great solid tripod. I've owned several of these throughout the years and they perform great. I pair this with my favorite tripod head, the Manfrotto Joystick, which gives full 360-degree smooth adjustments.

JOBY GorillaPod - I love this little tripod when shooting handheld or when traveling because I don't have to bring full sized tripods with me (although, that means I'm usually moving tables and standing near objects that the GorillaPod can mount to).

RODE VideoMic - My go-to when I am recording within a few feet of the camera. Captures great audio, and the windscreen doubles as a dog-toy (not really...but dogs will try to eat it).

Tascam DR-05 - I use this when needing to capture 360-degree sound (typically when multiple people are talking on stage). In addition to using the built in microphones (which are decent), I also use it to record sound from an external microphone.

RODE Lavalier Microphone - A clip on mic. Essential when I'm standing far away from the camera or in noisy environments.

Studio backdrop and lights- This kit includes backdrops, stands, and lights. It's not high quality, but if you aren't afraid of modifying things to fit your needs this works really well as a starter pack. I replaced the included bulbs with 100W LED equivalents and rigged it up so that there were two lights in each softbox.

GVM LED Panel Light - My favorite light that's easy to take with me wherever I go. Lots of good light as long as you keep it within a few feet of you.

Mini Video Lights - Great for adding accent lights. I usually pair these with some colored gels to get nice background colors.

Why make?

MJ-t-sql-TuesdayThis post is a response to this month's T-SQL Tuesday #111 prompt by Andy Leonard.  T-SQL Tuesday is a way for the SQL Server community to share ideas about different database and professional topics every month.

In this month's topic Andy asks why do we do what we do?

Two years ago, I was

I'd come home from work, spend my free time watching Netflix and surfing the internet, occasionally tinker with some random side projects, and eventually going to bed. Rinse and repeat, day in and day out.

I felt unfulfilled.  While I value free time and relaxation, I had an overabundance of it.  I felt like I should be doing something more productive with at least some of that time.  I wanted to work on my "professional development" somehow, but it was extremely difficult to get motivated to work on boring career stuff.

I decided what I needed was a long-term project that would allow me to have fun and be creative, while also having some positive personal and professional development benefits; what I was looking for was the ULTIMATE side project.

After spending some time thinking about different ideas, I decided to make videos about SQL Server.  Not only would I enjoy learning more about how SQL Server works (fun), but I could get practice writing and speaking (career) as well as get to incorporate my other hobby of film making into the mix (creative).

At first it felt forced; while I enjoyed learning new things about SQL Server, it was not easy thinking of topics.  Writing and editing was strenuous, but coming up with jokes and visual ways to convey ideas was fun.  Filming (and lighting and audio recording) was hard, but editing has always been pure pleasure for me.

So while at times coming up with a weekly bit of content was challenging, I kept at it because not only was it good for me, but I incorporated enough fun and creative elements into the process to look forward to it and keep going with it.

Fast forwarding to today, the process still isn't perfect but things have gotten better: I have enough ideas to probably last me a few years (and generating more all the time), writing is still tough but I've seen noticeable progress so I'm motivated to keep at it, I still don't like being in front of a camera but I have a dramatically easier time speaking about technical topics so the practice has paid off there, and while every episode isn't as creative as I'd like, I have a lot of fun being weird and coming up with new ideas for weekly videos.

Not only that, I now have new motivating factors that I didn't have from day one.  I've made friends with a lot of people in the SQL Server community, and they are fantastic and supportive.  Many of them even want to collaborate and make fun videos which is something I always look forward to.  The audience that consumes the content is wonderful as well; every time I receive a thank you email or comment, I am filled with joy.  And obviously all of the skills I have learned - technical, presenting, and networking - have helped immensely in my day-to-day.

In conclusion, the reasons that caused me to start creating SQL Server videos still apply, however over time that list of motivators has grown and helps me continue to remain excited about what I do, even when the challenges feel greater some weeks than others.

2018 Community Influencer of the Year

BertWagnerRibbonA few days ago I was surprised to learn from Aaron Bertrand of SentryOne that he was selecting me as Community Influencer of the Year for 2018.

Aaron states that the Community Influencer of the Year award goes to, "someone who has made a dramatic impact on the SQL Server community."  This type of recognition is wonderful to hear and I am honored to have such kind words come from someone like Aaron.

I'm especially flattered since the previous award recipients are Andy Mallon (2016) and Drew Furgiuele (2017). Being recognized in the same league as those two feels amazing. Andy and Drew are incredible and inspiring, both in the data platform community and outside of it.

2018 was a great year and I'm looking forward to 2019. The number of people I've befriended this year and have helped me along the way is staggering; thank you to each and every one of you.

And finally, thank you all for following me along on this journey. I truly appreciate the interactions I have with you in-person, on Twitter, in the comments, and everywhere else.

Learning New Skills


This post is a response to this month's T-SQL Tuesday #108 prompt by Malathi Mahadevan.  T-SQL Tuesday is a way for the SQL Server community to share ideas about different database and professional topics every month.

This month's topic asks to share how we learn skills other than SQL Server.

Watch this week's video on YouTube

I enjoy learning to do new things; there's a major sense of accomplishment I feel when I can tell myself, "Wow, I went from knowing almost nothing to being able to have this new skill."

Over the years I've realized I'm pretty consistent in how I go about learning something new, so what follows is my process for learning a new skill.

What I Am Learning

Recently, my non-SQL Server related learning goals have been to learn to use plain old vanilla JavaScript.

In this case I'm not necessarily starting from nothing (I have been writing JavaScript for close to 20 years now...) but previously where it was necessary to use a library like jQuery to get any kind of compatibility and consistency across browsers, the time has finally come where the JavaScript (ECMAScript) standard is mostly implemented correctly in most modern browsers.  No more need for large helper libraries!

And so the appeal here is that if I can ditch the overhead of a large library, my code will be simpler, easier to maintain, and faster to load and execute.

Steps to Learning a New Skill:

1. Commitment

me, the hardest part to learning a new skill is time management: if I don't
make time for it, it won't happen on its own.

I think the easiest way to make time to learn a new skill is to incorporate it into a project at work.  By aligning it with your day job, you're guaranteeing some time to work on it most days.  Yes, critical projects and deadlines do come up where learning has to be set aside temporarily, but if you can find a project that doesn't have urgent deadlines AND aligns with learning goals, then you'll be good to go.

For me, learning vanilla JavaScript is a great "at-work" project since
I'm already developing a lot of web apps with JavaScript anyway – the main
difference is I'll be using the standard JavaScript functionality instead of
working through a library like jQuery.

Now obviously this won't work in all scenarios: if you want to learn to build drones and you do development work for a chain of grocery stores, you probably can't figure out a way to align your interest with work (unless of course your company is trying to build out a drone delivery service).

In that case, you need to set aside time at home. This essentially comes down to your own discipline and timemanagement.  The key here is that youneed to set up time regularly and set yourself deadlines.  Instead of having the deadline of a workproject to help motivate you to learn, you need to tell yourself "I'mgoing to get this chunk of plastic and copper wiring up in the air by the endof the month" and try to deliver on that goal.

2. Go Cold Turkey

This is the hardest part of kicking any old habit. 
Ideally when learning something new, I like to use it exclusively in all
scenarios where I can.

This may not always be possible: sometimes there is a deadline you have to meet and trying a new skill that slows you down is not always the best idea.

But even if that's your scenario, pick at least one project to go completely cold turkey on for learning your new skill.  Going cold turkey on a project will force you to work through the hurdles and actually learn the necessary skills.

Thiscan be challenging.  I have the jQuerysyntax and methods ingrained in my brain from years of use; switching to usingstandard JavaScript is tough because I'm frequently having to look up how to dothings.  But if I picked the rightproject (ie. one without urgent deadlines), then this becomes a fun learningexperience instead of something stressful.

3. Build a Collection of Resources

The internet is awesome: it contains nearly all of the information you could ever want for learning a new skill.  The internet can also be a terrible place for learning a new skills if used incorrectly.

When learning something new, I try to find resources that guide me through a topic.  Whether it's a book, a website with a structured guide, a video course, or documentation with clear examples, it's important to find something that will teach you the why as well as the how.  I prefer using something with structure because it helps me learn the fundamentals correctly.

With my JavaScript learning, I have been enjoying the guides and daily newsletter at .  That site also has clear documentation for the most common features.  The "official" documentation ( is good to reference too, but can be overwhelming when first starting out.

What I don't like doing is searching for each question I have on StackOverflow.  Don't get me wrong, I love StackOverflow, but when learning some brand new skill I don't think it always provides the best answers.  Sometimes you get good answers, but sometimes you'll come across answers that, while technically correct, apply to some edge case, old version of a language, etc... that make them less-than-helpful when learning a new skill.

4. Document and Share

As I learn, I document what I learn.  This could be as simple as code snippets that I find myself using all the time, or it could be links to additional helpful resources.

Eventually I like writing up what I'm learning.  Even if no one reads it, summarizing your thoughts and ideas will help clarify and retain them better.  A summarized document or blog post also provides an additional reference for you to use if you need to in the future.

I haven't been blogging publicly about my JavaScript learning, but I have been
taking notes and sharing with individuals who are learning along with me.

5. Rinse and Repeat

That's it!  On my first pass at learning a new skill I try to finish a small project to get some immediate satisfaction.  I then pick a new project that's a little bit more ambitious, but still be manageable because I now have some knowledge that I didn't have before starting my first project.

Baby steps.  A little bit each day (or every other day).  Do it enough times and eventually you find yourself being fully capable of whatever skill you set out to learn.

The Project Graveyard


This post is a response to this month's T-SQL Tuesday #107 prompt by Jeff Mlakar.  T-SQL Tuesday is a way for the SQL Server community to share ideas about different database and professional topics every month.

This month's Halloween themed topic asks to "... share a story about a project you worked on or were impacted by that went horribly wrong."

Watch this week's video on YouTube

I've been fortunate enough to never have been part of a large disastrous project at work.  My projects always have a "fail fast" mentality, so they never build up to a point where they come crashing down in a death spiral.

But that's not to say I haven't experienced my own project horror story in my personal work.

A while back I made a goal to produce a quality SQL Server focused blog post and video every week.  Essentially this means I am starting a new small-scale project each week where I play the part of project manager, developer, analyst, etc... with a delivery deadline of every Tuesday morning.  While I've gotten better at this process over time, I have also failed to meet my personal goals numerous for a variety of reasons.

Scope Creep-y

In order to meet my weekly deadline, I need to stay laser focused on the topic I choose for that particular week.  If I get additional ideas while writing and start trying to incorporate them into my post (ie. scope creep), I inevitably miss midweek milestones and have to try to make up time elsewhere to make my deadline.

One instance of scope-creep I experienced earlier this year was when I was trying to write a post on how to build a table-driven validation system.

I've built many table-driven processes in the past so this seemed like it would be an easy topic to write about.  I started that week's blogging process by building the demo templates that would include table structures, execution scripts, etc...

Instead of wrapping up my basic demos so I could move on to writing the actual post, I kept building out demos for more features: logging functions, parameterization, SQL injection protection, common performance problems, etc...

It was exciting to be building all of this out, but instead of creating one-week's content, I realized I had started working on enough demos for several weeks of posts.  This wouldn't have necessarily been a bad thing on its own; after all it's nice to be a few weeks ahead on content creation.

However, I didn't quite finish enough demos for any one post in particular, and due to some other life events I didn't get back to working on my demos until Sunday afternoon.  Normally at that point I'd already have my demos done, a blog post written, a video filmed, and either a finished video edit that I'm uploading or getting really close to uploading to YouTube.  What I had instead was a bunch of half-finished SQL demos saved in a very rough outlined blog post.

The Project Graveyard

This isn't the first time poor time management and scope creep has gotten me in trouble:

Some projects sent prematurely to the grave

I have several posts that I've invested a good amount of time into but never released because they are incomplete.  In almost all of these cases my problems stemmed from poor planning and scope creep.

In the case of my table-driven post, by late-Sunday afternoon I realized I was going to miss my weekly deadline goal if I continued with that post, so I scrapped the idea for now and quickly wrote and shot a different post on an SSMS trick instead.  It was discouraging to have to do that, but at the end of the day I was able to meet my weekly deadline even if it was with a different result than I initially expected.

You might be thinking, "Why not ignore deadlines and release the post later in the week/month?"  For me, I like my weekly deadlines because I like the creative challenges that come from having time constraints.  It forces me to limit my scope and work on different projects on a regular basis.  My goal from blogging and video making is to learn how to present information in a succinct manner so that my communication skills, both written and verbal, improve.  So while I can (and probably will) complete these posts at some point in the future, I treat them as failures for that particular week's project.

And while failures aren't particularly fun, they can wind up being great learning opportunities: after all, I haven't gotten so off track due to scope creep ever since.

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