A Conversation with Mark Sisson About Primal Business

After the Jimmy Moore interview, I took comments to heart and wondered what I could do distinctively.

How about an ugly face? Distinctive enough? (That would be mine, not my guest's.)

So I thought about it. One idea was short blurbs of a minute or two, kinda rage-ish, but I think I'm better off writing them on Twitter. I just could not get myself interested in audio only. Really, it's too close to writing in my view -- or, I'd just rather write. Video, on the other hand, is amazingly different from both.

But...videos are often too long. What I have, below, my first foray, is nearly 40 minutes and I had intended 15. FAIL. But, it's with Mark Sisson, and wanting it to be more conversational than a formal interview, that's what happened. I had a good time and I think Mark did too. You can see for yourself. Please do.

And, so, beyond what I hope is a lively conversation about paleo/primal qua business, what might be your input as to production, quality, format, etc? I really want to know. I have my own lessons learned and I was going to include those, but I want to see if you have the same criticisms I had, so I'm keeping my mouth shut.

And oh, I promised to let you know the software I'm using to do this, in case any of you fabulous bloggers out there wish to do likewise. Here it is. It's basically a plugin for Skype. For $20, you can do what used to take a studio and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. THe world is a changin'.

Finally, don't be afraid to tell me you hate it; really. I'm perhaps funny in that I like to read my writing, which drives me to make it good in my estimation, but I just don't like hearing myself in audio, or seeing myself in video. That's not a call to make me "feel" better. I don't need that. If you think there's something here, then let me know how to make it better. I may still hate it, but I think I can follow your collective bidding in thins one.

Just a final note: please don't take the foregoing to in any way detract from the content of the interview. Please, please have that as your foremost topic of conversation. Any clues about how I might improve it ought to be secondary.

Comments

  1. I really resonated with Mark when he said he didn’t know what he wanted to be until he was 45. Sometimes it just takes time to know where you fit in the bigger scheme and where best to place your talents and interests. The interview was a bit fumbling, with Mark coming off with more obvious media experience. You’ll get better with practice though if you make these a regular thing.

    • fireETC:

      I agree. Mark is totally practiced at this. i suppose i bit off a lot to chew in the format I chose. I have the option to record both tracks separately, then i can mash up in iMovie, switching back & forth depending upon who’s talking, though if I can mash to a split screen intermittently, will do.

      What do you think?

      • Très bien. That’ll give you alot of polishing options…cuts of you when you’re talking, cuts of Mark when he’s talking and split screen when you guys are bantering.

  2. Richard, when you ask for feedback you really can’t call the very first constructive criticism “really stupid”. I tend to agree with the commenter. Video is a different medium than you’re used to. It is really more about keeping the viewer’s attention. I think you scored a home run in getting Mark Sisson for your first interview! I know that I felt a little like “come on, let’s get to the interview”.
    If you ask for comments, take them in stride. Listen. Then keep doing your best. Good job.

    • Phil:

      Actually, I can and do whatever I want.:) Beautiful thing about my particular life.

      At any rate, I hated to do it, but it just wasn’t constructive and, considering it came within minutes of posting, you think I don’t know that he paused the video to hit me up on that without at least giving me the courtesy and decency to integrate full context by watching the whole thing first?

      Can’t I at least — if I am to take criticism gracefully — demand that much?

      Being a blogger is pretty easy. Not being a blogger fool, isn’t.

      • Richard, yes, you can! ;-) The only fallout, if any, is that I assume you want to walk that fine line between doing it your way and the way your loyal readers/viewers want. Either way, I know it takes big kahunas to put yourself out there like this. Keep up the good work, I really enjoy following.

      • Phil:

        Coming off of a 2nd or third viewing just now, after having split the orientation and intro, I hear ya.

        I’m kinda excited so I’ll leave it at that. Happy for all the input, but I have to think.

        BTW, interview #2 is already ion the works and I’m hugely excited about it.

  3. Jim MacKinnon says:

    I liked it! Look forward to more. The audio levels were a bit off your volume was lower than your guest. I would turn you up and him down. Maybe the problem was at my end.

    After watching the interview I paid a visit to amazon and ordered Primal Blueprint. Should be a good read.

    Thanks!

  4. steveyyz says:

    Richard, your sound level was much lower than Mark’s. Please turn up the sound level on your side. Thanks for hosting this and I hope you do more of them.

    • Guys, thanks. You are exactly right about the sound. My fault, not Mark’s. The pro he is, he had an external mic and I was just going off the internal.

      Yep, one of my lessons learned. But, it should be emphasized: Mark got it right, even though it was my interview and I got it marginal or wrong.

  5. Excellent, Richard. I really enjoyed the interview. Mark definitely is seasoned in the media arena. You look comfortable, and can only get better with experience.

    You asked some good questions, and they came mostly organically. I would like to see more premeditated questions in the future, but definitely without losing the organic format that I enjoyed in this video.

    Well done overall. I could not even come close without sounding like I have cotton in my mouth. Looking forward to more. (Split-screen is a great format.)

    Best,
    Johnny

  6. Bay area Sparky says:

    Great interview, Richard. I was concerned to see that it was 40 minutes long but once I started watching/listening, I found it to be more than sufficiently riveting to take me to the end effortlessly and enjoyably. Very uplifting and just a really fun chat. Kudos!

  7. Currently watching it. I have to comment on the split screen though. It’s not my favorite. I think you mentioned maybe cutting back and forth based on who is talking… that – in my estimation – would be better. The split screen is distracting for me. When Mark is talking, I keep looking to see what you are doing and vice versa.

    That said, I really hope you keep this up. Even if some videos are just your own commentary, I like the format and you don’t see it often on the paleo/primal blogs.

    • On second glance, there is value in seeing one person’s expressions and body language when the other is speaking. So, now I’m totally on the fence. Maybe if the picture was a wider aspect ratio but still split?

  8. Dave C. says:

    I think it is great to branch out with your blogging and try new things, but for me personally, I find video-blog posts to be a little annoying because I typically would have to use headphones to listen. I’d rather just read the content.

  9. I felt it was a great interview Richard. I enjoyed the relaxed style of both of you & it is great to see & hear you both. Constructive critisms:
    - Turn your phone off before an interview!
    - The size of the file

    This last point might be a bit out of your hands, but at 675MB I am awaiting a tap on the shoulder from my boss regarding where all our bandwidth has gone!!

    So, I personally enjoyed it, but I’d have to be very picky as to what I listened to in terms of future vlogs just due to the size.

  10. Awesome interview, really enjoyed it!! Great stuff having Mark as your first interview too :)

  11. Ben Wheeler says:

    Everyone quit your crying! Its free…if you don’t like it don’t watch.

    Richard,

    This is great. Your looking great.

  12. Great interview. Thanks for directing more questions about the business aspect very interesting stuff. Also definitely seemed like more of a conversation which is hard to achieve in these kind of things. Hopefully the first of many vidcasts!

  13. Janet (Pantry Bites) says:

    Hi Richard. I listen to a LOT of podcasts and they appeal to me because I can listen to them while doing other things such as exercise or even at work. I like the split screen format of the video but if you are going down the video track, I would actually like to “see” how things are done rather than just an interview. Although it is a very interesting topic, I personally think the subject works better in audio format.

    • Janet:

      Yea, actually I have a tool that can split out the audio portion, so I could conceivably make the audio available separately. I’ll see about that.

    • I second the request for an audio track. I have 8+ hours per day at work that I can listen to audio and am always looking for podcasts to listen to. I don’t have near as much time at home to watch a long video.

  14. Nice, Richard.

    I enjoyed watching. Good work.

    Best,

    Brent

  15. I didn’t think I’d like the split screen format but I did! Enjoyed the interview. It also reminded me that I need to start budgeting for Primacon!

  16. Great idea and format. Don’t care whether its the slickest thing thing on screen, cause your about spontaneity and that’s what make you and what your saying real. Yes minor issues that have been mentioned and without media training we would all have the same issues. I always do household chores whilst listening online so don’t need visuals. But interestingly but I watched for a while as I find it easier to form judgements about people’s sincerity, and whether I value their opinions, by body language.
    Have fun with this …Thanks

  17. Personally, I have a strong preference for audio. I just can’t be bothered to sit in front of my computer and watch a video, but I won’t hesitate to download some audio and listen to it while I do housework, walk or whatever.

  18. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2010/04/29/calorie-restriction-not-key-to-increasing-life-lowering-insulin-level-is.aspx

    Someone who really understands insulin. And potatoes don’t raise insulin right? I noticed many of your smarter blogmaster friends did not chime in on your potatoe rant. Wonder why? Hmmmmm….oh, maybe they are not healthy?

  19. I really liked it. Content was interesting. I was surprised your first post was 40 minutes – a bit long for my taste, but not a big deal. I agree with the earlier commentator that the split screen was a bit distracting – although I am not sure why. Might be interesting to try a few different formats, some different length interviews, etc. Keep it up – glad you’re doing these.

  20. Richard,

    Nice interview.
    I think it went well as a first go.
    Might be your best work since your doorman stint on the Jefferson’s.

    AJP

  21. Good job. I like the authentic atmosphere. Audio problem already mentioned. Because you have a lot of long time readers is more interesting for them to watch/hear you also in real. Think it would be great to see this in some sporadic run. Why not involve some solo turns with e.g. creating live food porn?

  22. Steve Carter says:

    Really enjoyed the content, nice to hear some of the ins and outs of the business side of things. I think the split screen works well too, it’s good to see reactions to what each of you are saying.
    Constructive criticism? Only the layout of your desk struck me as needing to change. Camera position is too low and too close. Mark’s eyes are level with the camera whereas you’re more or less looking down on the camera. Consequently he looks more at ease (I don’t think that’s entirely down to the fact that he’s done this a hell of a lot more than you). He’s also further back from the camera. I noticed you “talk with your hands” a lot, but most of that is lost out of shot and your head/body movements while talking are exaggerated because of the close framing. All easily fixed by changing the position of the camera.

    The length of the video wasn’t an issue for me. 40 minutes flies by as long as it’s an interesting 40 minutes!

    Steve

    • Steve:

      Yea, exactly some of the lessons learned. From now on I’ll use the camera in my auxiliary monitor, the one I used for the intro. Other thing is that I would have preferred going with a 16:9 aspect ratio, but when I did that our heads were cut off, more so mine, as I was too close to the camera.

  23. Michael says:

    Richard I really liked your interview. I think you came off really human if that makes any sense. Mark is more media polished but both of you held my interest. I am 51 and still don’t know what I am going to do when I grow up.

  24. The only other technical thing I’d note is the ambient light. Having the window partially in frame for this shot back lights you, lowering and screwing the colour / lighting / contrast on the right (as you’re looking at it) side of your face. I recommend a even (all the way across) natural medium coloring background (so ideally not white, but not black either – a neutral shade is best) which would improve the visuals on your face.

  25. PlanetBeing says:

    Very Nice!

  26. Nice. I like the video format – something different and unique. At first I was going to mention that you didn’t seem to be fully prepared for the interview and that Mark was asking re-phrasing your “questions” and delivering excellent answers (Wow — he’s well spoken huh?) but then I realized it was just a conversation and then it all made more sense.

    I look forward to more of these in the future.

  27. Primal Homemaker says:

    Nice interview. I love the split screen. Congrats on all the weight loss.

  28. Tantric says:

    That was painful to watch. Some pointers:
    As the interviewer, please don’t interrupt. I don’t know you personally, but by watching you, you seem to the be kind of person who shakes their head while someone is talking just waiting for your break. You were interviewing Mark, not vice versa. I guess to put it nicely it’s not all about you.

    Stop interrupting. I felt bad for Mark. He would say something and you just jumped in on him. Not good man.

    Consider the inclusive community Mark has created and strive for such. While there is a community here, you make it clear it’s only for those who don’t mind your curse words and all others can kiss your ass. Mark’s genuine in heart, and he has a true sense of community. I hope you can learn to emulate that.

    Mark emanates professionalism. Watch yourself again, you come off as a goof ball. I am not sure if you were sincere in him getting his message across, because of the many interruptions.

    Don’t put a divide against low carbers and yourself. Mark is very key in low carbing, as is Kurt, Moore, and Dr. Davis (in particular the latter 3). They all speak about insulin and weight gain. You might want to let your interviewee (Mark) go with this low carb spill rather than telling him it’s about a different day…that places a barrier in to very closely related fields.

    I enjoy your food porn and will keep coming for that.

    Good day.

    • Tantric:

      “That was painful to watch.”

      Then I suppose I owe you a debt of gratitude for sacrificing yourself so in sticking it out.

      At any rate, the original plan was conversation, not an interview, so the intent via split screen was to make it look like a conversation which, typically includes body/face language, interjections that could be called interruptions, etc.

      In the end, it’s more hybrid, but that wasn’t the original intent.

  29. Laurie D. says:

    Liked it! I would recommend taking some hints from Mark’s side of things. The light from the window was s bit distracting on your side. Mark had a neutral background (notice in most TV spots, like 60 minutes, FoxNews, etc., there is a bookshelf behind the speaker, similar to what Mark had) and he had lighting from the front. I would back away a little bit so that you and he have about the same head size. The only other thing would be to make sure the other speaker has finished. Jimmy Moore is excellent at this. As someone who tends to blurt out over top of people too, I can appreciate someone who has the patience to let the other guy finish (it’s so hard though so I can sympathize). Great start! I especially liked the business angle of the interview.

  30. Hi Richard,

    Your eyeline is way off at the start of the video. You could experiment with focusing on something at a higher level behind your camera and recording to establish a focus point, and then look at that, rather than camera. It makes for better engagement with the viewer when you do that.

    • Simon:

      You’re right about that — another thing on my list (you guys have noticed most of what I had noticed by now). The thing with the built-in iSight (or probably any camera mounted to the top of the monitor) is that you have to look into the camera. However, it’s quite hard to not fixate on the actual video which is just below. Hence, eye line is slightly off, even though I positioned the video window as far to the top of the screen as possible.

      To give you an idea of Mark’s experience and skill in this regard, this is something he noticed (for both of us) in the runnup to hitting the record button. As you can see, he remains disciplined throughout and is eyes to the camera the whole time.

      I need work, for sure.

      • Mark J says:

        To make the eye line more natural on your end, shrink the video window of the person you talking to a little bit, and move it DIRECTLY underneath the camera on the iMac. Helps a little bit in making your end look more natural.

  31. Nice work, and thanks to both of you for it. Good conversation, and the split screen thing works for me, although I wouldn’t mind some cutting-back-and-forth too. You did it all in iMovie? That’s pretty heroic. How’d iMovie (09?) behave for you.

    My only suggestion has to do with length. It’s great you talked for as long as you did, but it’d be more accessible to viewers if you broke it into pieces. Why not take something like this and break it into five or six parts? Viewers would be able to move into and out of it more as they see fit rather than having to stick it out straight thru.

    Anyway, congrats and thanks.

    • Good suggestions Ray.

      Yea, all done in iMovie 09. It was fine. Pretty easy because I only did one edit to the recording off Skype, added in my intro and inserted a fade and that was it. I’ll probably attempt some more fancy stuff later.

  32. Aaron Curl says:

    Bravo! I liked it because I like and appreciate both yours and Marks blogs. I say, just keep doing it and you will improve every time, just don’t start making us pay for your blog or videos….lol. It’s your blog….you can do what you want….I know….lol. Good job!

  33. I think Freddy has a bit of a point. There is no need for introductions in video. Video on the web is almost universally too long. News spots on television are all of 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes.

  34. Cynthia K. says:

    Congratulations on your new format. My only problem is finding 40 minutes to watch such an interview. I doubt this is something I could follow like I do your excellent blog. Best wishes!

  35. Richard, a few interesting facts about this type of media:

    - People tend to spend less cognitive effort viewing/listening than reading. So, at the end of a demanding day, when folks are tired, they may prefer to listen to an audio or video piece.

    - Obviously people can listen to something while they do something else. As long as that something else is not intellectual, they will absorb most of the content.

    - Personality comes across more easily via audio/video. That works very well for you, and I think for Mark too. By the way, you look very young on the video – a lot younger than 49.

    - It is often faster for people to read than listen, because they can focus their attention more quickly on whatever they want to see. (It takes more cognitive effort though.)

    Finally, it seems that Homo sapiens evolved oral speech to communicate knowledge, and at a high survival cost (choking, oxygen depletion, gastric reflux etc.). And, costly traits are costly not to use. So often knowledge transfer is enhanced by the presence of an audio channel, and in some cases a lot more with audio and video combined. More on the PDF below if anyone is interested:

    http://cits.tamiu.edu/kock/pubs/journals/2009JournalEM/Kock_2009.pdf

    • Great Info Ned!
      I agree that Richard looks younger than his age and quite adorable :) I might add …Not the growler I had imagined. I really like videos the personality shines through (Richard I think is a natural) …if I cannot sit and watch I at least have the audio. Some evening I am just too tired to read. Jimmy Moore will now have a little competition for my evening listening!

  36. Hi Richard,

    After watching the full video I’d have to say, like others, length. Aim for 5/10 mins. max as these have more impact. In doing this way you could concentrate on certain aspects e.g 5 mins re book, 5 mins re history – this could make for a more interesting watch as more focused, like Ray says break it up into several parts if you want to do a longer piece and spread over several posts.

    With regards to introductions I would say these are still valid, and if you check out Michael Bungay Stanier’s blog Great Work and look at http://www.domoregreatwork.com/interviews/ you’ll see that he does this, effusively sometimes, but it gives the listener a good outline of the interviewee. Michael also does video interviews and adopts the same technique – so stick with it Richard.

    I think you come across very well on the video and look forward to seeing more.

    Keep up with the blog as it’s a great read especially when you’ve got your hackles up. This was surprising about the interview as your personality was softened by the video – in print you tend to come over more gruffly.

    • Thanks, Simon. Very good ideas. in fact, in planning out my next (guest already selected, working on scheduling now), I’m going to short for a more formal interview format, so rather than split screen, probably back-&-forth.

      Also, in a more formal interview format it will be easier to break it up by subject matter for 5-7 minute video portions.

  37. Richard, you’re not going to like this. I loved it! I can’t give you the sort of feedback you want to improve it, because the imperfections make it so genuine. I was really engaged in what you guys were talking about.

    Mark Sisson knows how to do an interview and I guess if you get someone on who doesn’t it will make any warts stand out.

    Do more of this. Get Kurt Harris or Robb Wolf on. This is brilliant.

  38. hey richard, been reading for quite a while and think this is a very cool addition. i’m thinking about buying the skype software so i can start posting interviews (totally different, content-wise) to my own blog. i’m thankful you took the plunge first and are publicizing your successes and failures… it’ll make my process that much easier. same goes for your n=1 fitness/diet experimentation so thanks for that as well. take care!

  39. Aloha Richard!

    I LOVED this format! Keep ‘em coming!
    You (and Mark) also got me to drive from Maui’s north shore to Lahaina (ugh) tomorrow morning to Barnes and Nobel to pick up Mark’s book…Next I want to read yours (so get writing)!
    Mahalo for branching out…Looking forward to #2.

    Much Aloha~

  40. I loved the interview! I learned a lot from it and it has motivated me to keep doing what I am doing for the primal world. I am working on growing it online and locally as well. I went to my local farmers market for the first time yesterday – it was the grand opening :)

    I liked the split screen but be sure to fix the audio for next time as many people have mentioned. I am looking forward to the next interview? Who is it going to be?

  41. I haven’t read a lot of the comments, but for me, I prefer reading the posts. Podcasts and videos demand too much of my old laptop, and I find more pleasure in reading. I feel the time it takes to create a post and make it wonderful offers more than the “ums” and stutters trying to complete sentences and make the conversation interesting.. I liked the interview, it gave me a sense of how to read the blogs and put a voice with it, but i still prefer reading.

    Jeromie

  42. conrad says:

    Richard,
    I really enjoyed it. Yes the audio could be improved and you need to be a fixed distance from the camera like Mark was, but those are just nitpicking an otherwise great interview session.
    I’m looking forward to more of this !!
    Thanks,
    Conrad

  43. Aaron (halotek) says:

    Richard, please don’t take this the wrong way, but you come across as way more friendly and civil when I can see you than when I normally read your blog. That was really refreshing to me because sometimes I feel as if you try to maintain a tough-guy attitude that sometimes feels out of place for a blog that ultimately places health and wellness as its top goals.

  44. Richard,
    You will have already taken onboard the helpful comments to help you develop your video style.
    It’s natural to be self conscious exposing yourself to the world.
    I got the impression that Mark treated it that you were interviewing him, and when you interjected with a comment, you were interrupting his flow. Especially when he went into marketing mode.
    From his side, it was not very conversational.
    You were more natural and I am sure that your future videos will be technically slicker.
    Keep your own style and personality coming through. It’s more human.
    Well done. Keep on pushing out the communication boundaries. You’re doing great.
    I wish I had your balls. (metaphorically speaking!)

  45. Richard,

    I know I’m late to the party on my comments, but kudos for taking an interview with Mark to a different level. It’s refreshing to hear about things from a business sense and I especially liked your comment about how there is room for others to enter the field and how that would lift all boats. So true.

    Who’s next on your interview schedule?

  46. I’m sure it’s all been said but I found the split screen to be initially kind of unnerving. I think it should be edited more, in the fashion of “ready to take camera one, take camera one; ready to take camera two, take camera two,” switching between the interviewer and interviewee. At first, I found myself tuning out the visuals and just listening but eventually I sort-of liked the conversational style when everyone started to relax (well, Mark Sisson was definitely professional and laissez-faire from the get-go…a real smooth cucumber and immediately in the pocket).

    [On a side note, I never would've thought Sisson actually struggled to put muscle on--he looks like he was born with a perfect physique! So that was somehow reassuring.]

    But you definitely come off as more of a softy than one might have expected–more courteous and genteel. I thought putting yourself on the tube was really brave. Personally, I loathe having a camera on me, it makes me act weird and lose my own identity so kudos to you for pulling it off and being willing to learn, massage and adapt this new medium.

    Thanks for the interview–it was refreshing coming out of a long day where most people think I’m just nuts when I try to explain the scientific legitimacy of living Paleo. I’m not about boinking people on the head with my little rubber caveman club but when they wonder aloud how I’m doing so well and I say how; instead of bending an ear, it’s all about setting me straight and defending their positions about sugars, carbs and “processed glop,” as Sisson quipped. You can’t even tell someone how bad corn syrup is when their whole fridge is filled with it (it happened to me just last night when I visited friends for dinner). The meatloaf was generally made from scratch but the ketchup had corn syrup, the salad dressings had corn syrup, the ice cream had corn syrup–it was nuts. And you watch these same friends that hosted this dinner go to the hospital over and over again because of the illnesses they are indirectly devouring by proxy on a daily basis! I mentioned something in good humor about the corn-syrup in all the condiments and the response was, “oh, that’s for the kids!”

    You want to help but it’s not easy. So it’s nice to have a fraternity of like-minded “fellows” out here in virtual space far removed from the conventionally-correct, barbarian food horde of my “other” peers. So keep fighting the good fight, even if it means breaking new ground in the uncharted territory of Paleo “cinema verite”!

  47. Very nice interview Richard. I’ll have it linked on my site on Thursday.

  48. Michael says:

    Hi Richard,

    I really liked the interview with Mark Sisson. My wife and I have read his book and am trying to incorporate the concepts. Please keep up the good work as I like your blog.
    I do have a suggestion though. When doing these interviews, it might help your viewers if you didn’t move around so much. I have to tell you that at times I had to cover up half of the screen because it was annoying to me. But overall, it was a great interview.

    Take Care and Good Luck
    Michael

  49. Just wanted to say I thought the interview was great. Sound levels weren’t so much an issue with me because I just turned the volume up a little bit higher on my laptop. Go figure!

    Definitely insightful, and I thought you had good rapport. Keep it up! Perhaps the occasional roundtable on certain topics?