Socratica Quarantines with Met Opera

We’re under quarantine here in California, due to the Covid 19 Pandemic. That means we can’t film at Socratica, at least for the time being.

So how are we spending our time? We’re still writing scripts and editing videos. But we’re also taking time for cultural enrichment, thanks to a generous gift from the New York Metropolitan Opera.

The Met is streaming an opera every day, for free. 

We’ve always loved opera here at Socratica.

Believe it or not, when I was a kid, most of grownups in my life loved and embraced opera. It wasn’t thought of as some kind of elite art form, only for the wealthy. It was easy to understand even as a kid, often bawdy and over-the-top. It was digested into simple acts, with well-known stories and musical themes. I defy anyone to watch “Marriage of Figaro” and say it is inaccessible.

But as I entered adulthood in the 90s, something started to change. People started to think opera was something fancy.  Was it because of “Pretty Woman?”  A wealthy man takes a prostitute to the opera and opens her eyes to refined culture. I prefer the depiction in Moonstruck – we see an everyman who lives for the opera.

Moonstruck love opera

Ticket prices started to rise uncomfortably. I still got to go to the opera a lot because when I was in grad school, Princeton would give poor grad students FREE tickets and a FREE ride to the glorious opera house in New York City, the Met. I saw everything they did for five years.

Met opera at night

 

But when I moved back to LA in 2003, by then, ticket prices were out of control. Even with two of us working good jobs, we couldn’t, in good conscience, spend a couple of hundred dollars on two hours’ of entertainment. That’s more than two week’s groceries in our house.

Thankfully, the Met started streaming HD recordings of their operas. You can rent a gorgeous production for $5. They’re beautifully made videos –  it’s like the best seat in the house, complete with subtitles.  It’s really a wonderful resource. And now, during the pandemic, they’re making one of their operas free to stream each day. Thank you, sincerely. What a lovely, lovely gift.

If you’re hesitant – you don’t think opera is for you – we have a gift for you, too. When we first started our channel, we made a playlist to give an introduction to this incredible art form.

 

 

You can tell these are some of our earliest videos!  The lighting is crazy hot (we were using powerful ARRI Fresnel lights). We were just learning how to edit using Adobe Premiere.  But I look back on these early videos with great affection.

Our playlist of opera terms is here: https://bit.ly/SocraticaOpera

Opera is for everyone!

KHH

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Where did the year go? Socratica in 2019

I was about to make a Happy New Year post, when I noticed the last real post I made was for the New Year, January 2019. Where has the year gone? In a word: PROJECTS.

2019 was the year of 3 major projects for Socratica: SQL, VR180, and Python Kickstarter. 

SQL

We were tapped by the YouTube Learning Initiative to create a “Learning Playlist” about SQL – Structured Query Language. The Learning Initiative was a major undertaking by YouTube to create a new way for people to interact with educational videos. This new system allows you to subscribe to a learning playlist (as opposed to a channel). YouTube presents these videos in a distraction-free environment, and keeps track of your progress. We hope YouTube continues developing ideas like these to help educational creators and viewers who want to learn!

Introduction to SQL (Computer Science)

 

VR180

VR has finally gone mainstream, with the arrival of HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, Oculus Quest, etc. But while there are a number of Virtual Reality games available, VR content on YouTube remains sparse. Socratica was once again chosen by YouTube to represent educational creators on their platform as part of their VR Creator Lab. We were invited to attend a special hands-on course with ten creators, including Patrick Starr, Big Cat Rescue, Invisible People, the LA Times, and Titanic Sinclair/ Poppy.

We learned how to use a special VR180 camera, which captures a 180-degree hemisphere in 3 dimensions. Filming like this poses special challenges, including deciding how close to stand to the camera (not as close as you’re used to, or it feels scaryclose!), how to move it (very carefully), and how to enhance the 3D experience. Then we learned how hard it was to work with 8K files! Our poor computers got a real workout. As a result of this project, we also learned about how to use render farms.

We made 3 videos to explain how VR works (we are an educational channel, after all) – The Science of VR, The Math of VR, and The Tech of VR.  Then, as a bonus fun (but also highly educational) reward, we made a VR180 Tour of the Solar System.

 

 

 

 

 

PYTHON KICKSTARTER

Our last major project of the year involved you, all of our Socratica Friends. We took stock of the progress on our channel, and also all of your comments and requests. Our most popular playlist was Python, but we had only made about 30 videos over the course of 5 years. You kept asking for more, but we just didn’t have the resources to make them any faster. So we decided to ask you for help!

Working on the SQL project and the VR180 videos allowed us to see just how much we could get done when we had reasonable funding and a chunk of time set aside. We drew up a careful budget and asked if you would like to support us making 20 Python videos in 2020. And you said yes!  Our Kickstarter was successful. We begin production in January. That is…NOW!!

We’ll be writing, filming, and editing Python for the next several months, thanks to your support. We can’t thank you enough. Soon we’ll have our new Python videos to share with you. In the meantime, here’s our Python Playlist:

 

Happy New Year, Socratica Friends.  

KHH

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Socratica Dialogue is here!

We’re happy to announce the launch of a new Socratica Publication!

Socratica Dialogue:

Dialogue issue 1 masthead

It’s a monthly newsletter available exclusively to our patrons on Patreon. You get it with your $10 and up monthly support of Socratica. It’s where we collect the most interesting tidbits of ideas we’re mulling over during the month. What are we reading? Where did we go? What are we working on at Socratica? We figured it’s something that our most dedicated fans would be interested in…that’s why it’s part of our Patreon.

We named it Dialogue for two reasons – first, as a play on “Socratic Dialogue” because we just can’t help ourselves. But also to tell our viewers that we’d love to open a dialogue with them – to let them know more about ourselves and our process.

If you value the work we do, and would like to support our efforts to make the most beautiful educational videos free for everyone on YouTube, please consider becoming our Patron.  Even the smallest donation makes a big difference to us. Thank you!

KHH

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Socratica is now an Amazon Influencer

Socratica doesn’t have any beauty recommendations for you. 

Beauty-influencer-zoella-youtube-10-13-17

It’s fun, we just don’t have anything to contribute here.

 

And we don’t do Follow Me pictures.  We’re mostly sitting at our desks, working. 

follow me field

Kudos to Murad Osmann for popularizing this new style of photo.

 

But we can recommend great books ALL DAY LONG.

 

cornell library

THIS we can do!

 

I thought “Influencer” was a term only used for YouTube vloggers and the beautiful people on Instagram.  I’m happy to learn I was wrong!

Amazon has opened the doors of its Influencer Program to a wide variety of YouTube channels. This is an opportunity for these channels to share their favourite products, and for all of us to buy from their storefronts as a way to support these channels. The creators receive a small percentage of every purchase made through the links on their storefronts.

And now… Socratica is an Amazon Influencer. Did not think this was going to happen. But here it is, our new storefront:

 

Some clear pros and cons:

PROS:

  • Easy to Use – I got this up and running in under 5 minutes.
  • Easy to Update
  • Includes pictures of items

CONS:

  • Not customizable – we’d love to break this into sections (Math, Chemistry, Film Equipment)
  • No place to write blurbs. Let us say WHY we’re recommending a product.

 

I’m all for exploring alternate revenue streams, since YouTube ad revenue is not nearly enough to support a business.  So we set up our shop, and we’ll start sharing the link, and we’ll see what happens.  Let us know what you think (or if you have any other ideas to fund our scicomm work at Socratica).

Please share this link with your friends!   https://www.amazon.com/shop/socratica

KHH

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3 Lessons Learned from reaching 100K Subscribers on YouTube

We’ve been working so hard on our YouTube channel, Socratica.  We just reached an important milestone: 100,000 subscribers! At this point, you receive some recognition from YouTube, including an engraved silver play button plaque. 

silver gold and diamond play button

It’s the little one on the right.

Mostly we feel an enormous sense of relief that we’re on the right track.  We spent a lot of time experimenting with our channel until we found what works. We have an enthusiastic audience who loves watching math and science videos. That’s what we’re good at, so that’s what we’ll keep making!

 

Here, we’d like to share with you a few of our lessons learned the hard way.  Avoid our rookie mistakes!

 

 1.  FOCUS.

focus

Your channel should have one very clear focus.  We started out making all kinds of videos under the umbrella “education,” and that was way, way too broad.  What’s worse, we even had videos with different languages, until we broke those off onto different channels, including Socratica Español and Socratica Português.  It wasn’t until we decided we were going to focus on STEM videos that our channel started to grow more steadily.

 

2.  DO YOUR RESEARCH. 

sis-quantitative-market-research

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) isn’t just for webpages.  Before you make a video, go to Google Trends and see if people are even interested in the topic.  Sometimes we use this as a tiebreaker if we’re trying to decide between several video topics.  Once you’ve hit a million subscribers, maybe then you can relax and make any video you want. Until then, make sure there is an audience for what you’re making.

 

3.  BE CONSISTENT. 

Clock

Every time you stop production on your channel, it confuses and disappoints the YouTube algorithm. We used to go all in on very time-consuming videos, spending weeks at a time on very complicated animations (cough cough Black Holes video). Meanwhile, we weren’t publishing anything else on our channel.

We’re now making much more regular content that is simpler to produce: Abstract Algebra, Biology, Calculus, Chemistry, Python, Study Tips…You can expect to see at least one of these videos on our channel each week.  We do still occasionally squeeze in one of those Astronomy videos that take a ton of time and effort. We love making those “tentpole” videos, but we have to plan for them, and make sure it doesn’t shut down our whole studio.

We set a very high bar for our content, and we’re sticking to it. But we’ve learned how to compromise where we can, in order to be more consistent.  We hope these tips help you join us in the 100K club!

If you’re one of our 100,000 subscribers, thank you sincerely!  

KHH

 

 

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