By mid-November 2018, i had been releasing videos sporadically to my YouTube channel about board games, Nights Around a Table. i decided to see if i could commit to releasing one video every week. Now, one year later, i’ve met (and exceeded) that goal, so i thought i would soot a bit of a retrospective, and reveal a handful of behind-the-scenes secrets of the channel to show you what makes Nights Around a Table tick!

(click to view transcript)

Hi! It’s Ryan from Nights Around a Table, and i have something a little bit different for you today. This marks a bit of an anniversary for the channel. It’s a year ago today that i decided to give it the old college try and see what i could do to build a YouTube channel, and I dedicated myself to making one video a week. And so i’m here with a report. Thankfully, i’ve met that goal, and even exceeded it! i actually averaged two videos a week in the past year, which is beyond my own expectations. i don’t know what you were expecting of me… probably never heard of me before in your life. Cool! But over that past year, i have put out 27 How to Play videos, and then about the same number of Setup and The Deal excerpts from those longer How to Play videos, for people with a little less time to watch YouTube videos. i’ve done 25 unboxing videos, i’ve done six Patreon videos… so i launched the Patreon over the past year, and i’ve had a small number of really fantastic, dedicated patrons who help this channel out financially and more — they provide moral support. We chat all the time on the Discord. If you’d like to chat with me, you don’t even have to become a patron. It’s nice of you are, but we have patron channels and non-patron channels alike, and you can come in and talk with me about board games. i’ve done three Find the Fun review videos in the past year. i’ve done two Special videos, and i have done two countdown videos, not including this one. Over the past year, i’ve introduced you to my cats Pippin and Ripley, and to my wife Cheryl, and to my eldest daughter Cassandra, and in a thumbnail, to my youngest daughter Isabel, who put a gun to her head in a video about games where kids put guns to their head. That’s a real thing. Go check it out. So i’ve shown you a little bit of my family, but what i wanted to do today… we’re not going to talk about Wingspan. I’ll show you why the box is on the table in a second. What i wanted to do today is lift the veil a little bit and show you a bit of behind-the-scenes stuff about what makes this channel tick, and tell you some secrets that you might not be able to dein just by watching the video. So in no particular order, except backwards, this is Top 5 Secrets of Nights Around a Table. Number five: This box is empty. So in a lot of my Unboxing videos and How to Play videos you’ll see this game set up on the table, and you might think it’s an actual game, but it’s not. It’s just a hollow box! It’s because i have things back here that i need to store — namely the remote control. i don’t have any… i have one crew member, who you’ll meet in a second… but generally i don’t have any crew members walking around for me, so i need to be able to hit start and stop on my camera with the remote control, and then other things — you know — if i’m gonna do a shot where i’m talking about certain cards or whatever, i’ll tuck those back here. So there is nothing going on behind the box! How very Wizard of Oz of me! Number four: My stage crew is Muppets. So i’d like to introduce you to this guy. This is my zombie… zombie Whatnot Muppet. His name is Focus. And i call him Focus because, as i mentioned, i don’t have any people running around backstage for me, so i actually have to focus myself on camera, which can be very challenging. So what i do with this guy here is i’ll put him here, and then i’ll run behind the camera and i’ll switch it to… i’ll focus Focus, and then i’ll take him off to the side, and then i’ll run back down and sit down. So sometimes in my videos… i’ll admit that you see maybe the.. the Ryan shots are a little bit blurry, and that’s because i haven’t done the best job. i just found out this year that i needed glasses, and have needed glasses for my entire life, so i do everything i possibly can to keep everything as crisp and in focus as i can, and Focus here helps me a lot with that. Thank you so much, Focus! Number three: i’m not wearing any pants. So one of the advantages to doing a job like this where i only ever catch myself from the chest up… couple that with the fact that i absolutely abhor wearing pants, like women from the 60’s abhorred wearing bras. i haven’t burned any of my jeans yet, but i’m close. Don’t test me, jeans! So when i shoot all these things, i’m actually wearing pajama pants underneath my t-shirt, just to make things comfy and loose, and you get a more freewheeling video out of it that way. Number two: i have a bald patch on my chest. This is related, i promise. So if you’ve seen some of my earlier videos, you’d see a very visible lavalier microphone going up my shirt and pinning, which is okay, i think, when you’re wearing a blazer or where you’re wearing an overshirt, because there’s something to pin to it. They’re also called lapel mics because you’d pin them to your lapel, but if you don’t have a lapel, you’re just pinching a t-shirt, and it doesn’t look that good. So you may be wondering where the mic is. Am i using a shotgun mic? A boom mic? Or whatever. Rhe mic is still a lavalier (thump thump) right there. Hopefully you could hear that. And so it’s… it’s it’s on me, and this was a suggestion by my friend Tim, who used to work in audio in television. i said “Well, how do i… how do i affix it to me? Like, i’m not gonna… clip it to my nipples? What do i put this on?” And he said “Well, there’s a little divot in your chest.” i said “Yes, i realize that.” He goes “You just stick it there.” i said “Like, what adheres it to my body, Tim? Is it… sweat? Like, sweat? What happens? What am i supposed to do?” He said “Well, we in the industry, we use toupée tape.” So i thought Tim was crazy. And Tim IS crazy. i mean, i’ll confess, he is. But off i go to Amazon to order myself a package of toupée tape. So i never thought when i was a younger gentleman that i would ever have a preferred brand of toupée tape, but this is it. This is what it looks like. So it comes in strips, and there are two pieces of tape — double-sided tape — on either side of the strip. As you can imagine, they stick very well to skin, and they stick very well to hair, which is key for me. i am a rather hirsute individual, so i need something that’s going to stick to my skin and my, my chest hair on my chest. Now, the issue is that once i’m finished shooting or recording voice over for video, i have to take the microphone off, and i gotta level with you, it’s not a pleasant experience whatsoever. If you’ve seen The 40 Year Old Virgin, just picture that scene in in micro. So now that i’ve done it so much, i’ve shot so many videos, and at the end of every single video, (grrraaah!) i’ve gotta rip it off like this. i have a small square bald patch on my chest where i’ve been wearing the microphone and i’ve had to rip it off at the end of every… everything. So really, the… the safer bet would probably be to just wear a blazer. And secret number one: i film in my basement. This may not come as such a huge shock to you, but i thought today it would be really cool for me to do something that you’ve never seen on the channel before. i’m actually gonna come out from behind this table, and i’m gonna pick the camera up off the tripod and show you the environment that i shoot in. i film in my basement. It’s a little tiny alcove, and right above me, like right now, i’m right next to the furnace. So whenever i shoot, i actually have to turn the furnace off, which in the dead of winter in Canada is not always the best best arrangement. And if my family’s home like they are now, i have to run around and say “Okay, i’m gonna shoot a video everybody. Shh!” and they can’t even… they can’t walk anywhere, so we have to make sure that everybody’s gone pee and they have snacks and they’re sitting on a couch or whatever, and they’re all comfy and they don’t have to walk around the house for any reason, just while i get the shots down. So i’m gonna come out from behind the table and give you a view. Now i’m attached… oh gosh… i’m attached to my audio recorder, so let me just scoop that up. This is a little Zoom H4n Pro that i use for recording my audio separately. It’s got a nice long cable. i’m gonna stick it in my jammy pants pocket. Oh – there goes Wingspan. Okay! whoa! Here we go! Yeah… whoa-ho-ho… Here… here is the space. So i’ve got this scrim in the back. This was actually our game room, and you can see just behind there it says “the Creighton family.” The rest of that sign says “the Creighton family game room.” So this is just this flat scrim. Nothing fancy. There’s Focus again. The table, which you recognize. This is the monitor that i use when i do unboxings, because i need to get overhead shots of the table. So if we trace this cord all the way up, you’ll see… i tried all kinds of things to be able to shoot down, and i found the very best thing — i’ve got this drop ceiling, so i can pop out the tiles — is this three dollar clamp. It’s just, like, a bendy clamp, and i stick it in the ceiling, and i attach the phone to it, and that just shoots straight down, and that was the solution. Well! Pretty inexpensive. When you see other shots when i do Find the Fun videos, just to the left here is my whole — and i’m so sorry if the focus is gonna be really crummy. It probably is. i gotta back up a bit here. But this is… get the tripod out of the way… you’ll recognize that shot from my Find the Fun videos. That’s my board game collection. It’s very disorganized. What i do is i… theme is very important to me, so here are the space games, and here are the pirate games, and here are… all the other games. That’s my organization strategy. And then over here, this here is the divan. So this is very much our family living space. That’s where we play games and watch teevee stuff together. And then some exercise equipment, and the craft room is over there. One of the very first things that i bought when we moved into this house from the city — so we moved into the suburbs — was this secondhand treadmill. And then i decided… i thought it’d be a good idea to mount this television. i probably shouldn’t shoot the television because we’re gonna get into, like, a Ghostbusters crossing-streams feedback thing here, but mounted this television above it, so that i could – you know – be on the treadmill and watch the television, and then i made sure to get this really cool bracket so that i could rotate it towards the game room space, not knowing in the future how super-helpful that would be! So when you see me doing unboxing videos or whatever, and i look up to the top left, i am looking up to that monitor right up there, or i’m looking to the left to the overhead monitor, which is what that teevee is. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the entire space where i shoot! That’s my so-called studio in my basement, and it was my pleasure to show that to you. i don’t know if i really need to get my face back in the shot here, but that’s that’s… those are the Five Secrets of Nights around a Table. i’m looking forward to… maybe i should get back in this shot… mm-hmm… the up-the-nose-shot.. no… there’s a selfie shot. There we go. It’s very uncomfortable. i’m glad i don’t have to do this very often. So i’m looking forward to another year with you of doing at least a video a week. i hope you enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look, and if you’re interested in keeping the channel going and helping me buy slightly improved equipment so i can shoot even better stuff, maybe even get into some streaming, by all means, head over to the Patreon channel and consider backing me there! Thanks so much for your support, and for watching. Did you just watch that whole thing? Oh – hey! To 100% this video, click the badge to subscribe, and then click the bell to get notifications when i’ve got new stuff. [Music – Board Game Boogie by Ryan Henson Creighton]

Build your own YouTube studio

It’s not much, but it’s home. You can spot a few important pieces of equipment in the video that i use to produce the content on Nights Around a Table. Here’s a list of what i consider essential items. i’ve rigged them all up with Amazon affiliate links, so if you click them and buy something, i’ll receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting my channel! The clapboard i snap off the top of the video may seem a bit pretentious, but it’s a big help when syncing audio later. You can line up the sharp peak on the camera audio and the external audio to get the two in sync. Be careful which dry erase markers you use, though… it doesn’t like all brands/types. i’ve had to wipe some encrusted erase ink from mine using  rubbing alcohol, which actually stripped some of the permanent lettering from the slate!
Acrylic Dry Erase Film Clapboard
The “studio” was never meant to be permanent, and indeed, in the early days, i was constantly tearing it down and setting it back up so that we could still use the space. When i shifted into 1-video-per-week high gear, that proved to be way too much effort, so i kept the backdrop up practically year round. This is the kit i use for my backdrop:
Neewer Background Stand Support System
The backdrop can be really touchy to smooth out flat. i use a steamer machine to get the wrinkles out of the fabric, and i actually weigh the backdrop down at the bottom by attaching dumbbell weights to it via these handy little clips:
Neewer Set of 8 Photo Video Studio Background Backdrop Clips
The backdrop comes with a couple of these clips, but i bought an extra pack. i use them to pull the backdrop taut, and they come in handy to clip various cables up and out of the way so i’m not tripping on them. i can honestly never have enough of these things:
Neewer 6-Pack Set Heavy Duty Muslin Spring Clamps


You’ll notice from the pan-around of my basement how important lighting is. When she watched this video, my wife Cheryl said “You should have turned the lights on!” i said “i DID turn the lights on! That’s how dim ‘regular’ lights appear on camera!” The quality of my videos jumped up tremendously when i bought this little lighting kit that has two light stands with umbrellas, and a shorter stand that i use to light the scrim behind my chair:

Cowboystudio Photography/Video Studio Umbrella Continuous Lighting Kit
The problem with the Cowboystudio lighting kid is that the bulbs are really underpowered. i bought these gigantic bulbs as replacements, and they really do the trick:
LimoStudio [Set of 2] 105W CFL 6500K White Balanced Fluorescent Light Bulbs


i shoot with a Canon Rebel T2i dslr, but only because i can’t afford to buy a more modern camera, and it’s what we had kicking around. The T2i isn’t available any more, but here’s the latest camera in the Rebel line:

Canon Rebel t7i insane bundle

This is the remote control i use for my camera (that hides behind the empty game box lid). Check the compatibility with whichever camera you’re using:

Canon camera remote control

i do a lot of stop motion, so a separate shutter button is a must. If i were to press my camera’s shutter button, i’d be at risk of moving the camera ever-so-slightly. This shutter button keeps the camera steady.

Remote shutter release button


The external audio recorder i use is a Zoom h4n Pro. i’ve wanted a field audio recorder since i was a kid and i saw a documentary on how they made the laser sounds in Star Wars by hitting a telephone pole stabilizing wire with a fork. This thing is a really great piece of equipment – a rare case where expecation and reality lined up beautifully.
Zoom H4n Pro portable audio recorder

This is the inexpensive lavalier mic i use (that’s stuck to my ever-vanishing chest hair):

BOYA BY-M1 3.5mm Condenser Lavalier Microphone

and this is a double-headed lavalier that i use when two people are on camera:

Dual Lavalier Microphones, MAONO AU200 Hands Free Clip-on Lapel Mic with Omnidirectional Condenser


For my overhead shots, i use my (comparitively ancient) iPhone 5c, and this HDMI adapter:

Apple Lightning to HDMI Adapter

That’s the official Apple brand, but you can buy less expensive aftermarket ones (and pray they work ok). The adapter is nice, because you can simultaneously jack in a power cable to make sure the phone doesn’t run out of juice and power down while you’re filming. i use the longest cable from a pack like this:

Jebei Micro USB Cable,4Pack 3FT/6FT/6FT/10FT
This is the cable that i use to connect my DSLR camera to my “monitor” (which is actually just a regular LCD teevee. Of course, your needs may vary, depending on the type of camera you have:
AmazonBasics High-Speed Mini-HDMI to HDMI TV Adapter Cable

Am i Missing Anything?

These are the essential pieces of equipment i use to produce videos for Nights Around a Table. But i’m admittedly a rank novice on a tight budget! Are you a content creator? Is there any gear that you consider essential to what you do? Let me know in the comments! i’m always eager to learn new things.