We sat down with Sean "Day" Plott to pick his brain about StarCraft II, shoutcasting, and what exactly goes into producing Daytv.
How did you get into shoutcasting?
My brother was one of the first big shoutcasters for StarCraft. Around the WCG 2005, he began traveling all around the world doing commentaries while I focused heavily on improving my play. As influenced by my brother, I dabbled in some commentary (primarily on Team Liquid) and my role was primarily as an analyst.
What are your goals for each shoutcast? Are there certain elements you try to cover each time, or is it something that you play by ear?
For the daily, I study and prepare in advance to create a focused, educational theme. I try to avoid just hopping in and saying "Hey, let's analyze a game," and instead lean more towards watching a couple of replays and selecting the appropriate ones that fit the daily's theme. The same prep even goes into Funday Monday's, except in that case the goal is to be funny. :)
Can you describe your process for creating a shoutcast? What tools do you use?
For the tools, I use a fairly rudimentary setup involving VH Capture to grab the screen and Flash Media Encoder to encode to Justin.tv. However, to actually formulate the replay, I generally have a bunch of ideas floating in my head for what I want a daily's topic to be. I will select one in the morning and try to structure the show around that. Sometimes, I want to see how a matchup is evolving. Other days, I want to talk about how to crack a certain strategy. I will end up spending a while watching through a few replays quickly to narrow down on a clear set to use on the daily. If I am just going to focus on one specific game, I will re-watch it and sometimes compare it to other games.
There are always a bunch of replays the viewers never see that influence the discussion of the replay or content in any given daily. You'll always hear me say things like "he's heading to do X, Y, or Z, but he COULD do A or B," and that is always a consideration for any daily. The studies of the replays not shown are what gives me A and B.
Any tips for keeping track of everything going on during a match?
You have to play. A ton.
Playing StarCraft: Brood War for 12 years will train your eyes to spend most of the time staring at the minimap, not the main screen, so that makes it much easier to catch everything going on in a match. The experience I have in StarCraft II as a player will also help remind me of things: "Oh… he has X amount of sentries right now, zerg should probably have Y roaches out by now." In short, I think training as a player is really the only way to help you become a sharp observer.
What advice would you give to those who are looking to get into shoutcasting (or trying to improve)?
The most important thing is to keep doing it. Don't try to hide in the shadows "carefully sculpting your craft." You have to iterate tons and tons and tons. Improve publically, not privately. Yes, playing the game and studying will help, but the best way to do anything is to just DO and not worry so much about it. Comments and feedback can be very helpful for trying to improve, but you should always be EXTREMELY careful and analytical when reading comments. Sometimes vocal minorities will complain harshly while the majority is actually very happy and satisfied.
You have to do tons of comparisons to what comments are like over time, compare them to the casts that have the most hits, that sort of thing. Just make sure you have a clear sense of what it is you’re working on and how you’re testing and measuring it with the public.
What is your shoutcasting/work schedule like?
Between the team members, it takes six to seven hours to produce a show, two to five hours to prepare the actual content, two hours for the streaming, and then generally another hour to do all of the associated bookkeeping (uploading, descriptions, tagging, etc). Funday Mondays generally take all day. Sometimes we'll do a daily on very little prep, but that's about the average. I do this Sunday through Thursday, and I also have daily meetings with my team. We don’t meet on the weekends, since I am generally casting other events. When I'm not actively producing a shoutcast, I'm working on a couple other fun, StarCraft-related projects. :) Basically, seven days per week, nonstop.
How did you get started on Daytv?
It was a bit of a process. The forums were a difficult media to try to be an "expert" in, because so often the strong comments are drowned out by chatter and opinionated players. Absolutely some members will eventually gain social currency by being consistent and offering strong advice, but I wanted something more concrete. I tried to drift into audio podcasts to create a level of authority. Though initially successful, it wasn't quite true to the form of the community (very malleable and interactive) and didn't match well with the form of the underlying content (StarCraft is a game, it is very hard to try to describe micro with just words and no video). Also, audio podcasting took much longer.
So, one day I tried to experiment with the medium of live video because it was faster, and the video allowed me to demonstrate strategies on-screen. The live chat also made it a bit more interactive and community oriented as well, and from there it continued to grow and evolve into what it is today.
What's the most important factor in making a show like yours a success?
The biggest thing is commitment and dedication. I take what I do very seriously and have never missed or "forgotten" a daily accidentally. I have been sick, or missed due to school or other events, but this is something that myself and my group of peers really put ourselves into.
Many of your broadcasts are dedicated to strategy and helping players understand the intricacy of StarCraft II. What was your motivation behind this approach?
Much of my motivation for the episodes stems from problems or curiosities that I develop from playing or watching the game. I'm representative of what the hardcore competitors of StarCraft II are like -- my show is an analysis show because I'm a player and I just enjoy the act of analyzing.
When I sit down and start analyzing a game for a daily, I'm actually utilizing the same techniques that I use for improving my own play privately. The only difference is I'm talking while doing so. At the end of each show, I feel like I've also learned a good bit, so I take that knowledge and go play with it! It all comes back to the fact that I am a player at heart and the strategy and training goes hand-in-hand with that.
Do you have a favorite StarCraft II match (or daily)? Are there certain dailies that you hold near and dear to your heart?
My favorite match still has to be mana vs naama in game 3 from Dreamhack. When things get really, really tense in live matches, I tend to get excited and nervous -- it's just so tense and awesome! The whole time I was just like "oh my gosh, is mana really going to pull this off? IS HE REALLY GOING TO PULL THIS OFF?!"
As far as dailies near and dear to my heart, #100 will always have a special place, because it's about my whole life of StarCraft. If you want to know a lot about how much this game has meant to me you should check out daily #100. Funday Mondays are always fun, so I like those a lot. Another one that stands out is #252, because I conveyed some awesome information about new ways to approach and think about the game. That was a daily that I took lots of time to think about and delve into the mechanics of StarCraft II gameplay and training mindset and habits. I also liked daily #233, TLO vs White-Ra. At first glance, it seems weird, but if you slow it down and think about the steps the players take, it makes a lot more sense. That one was also a bunch of fun because I collaborated with Husky on it.
We'd like to thank Day for taking the time to talk to us. Check out the links below to watch the dailies and videos referenced in the interview.
Daily #100 - Day's life of StarCraft: http://blip.tv/file/3486428
Daily #233 - TLO vs White-Ra: http://blip.tv/file/4593518
Daily #252 - Secrets of Hotkeys, APM and Mouse Movement: http://blip.tv/file/4712303
MaNa vs Naama Game 3 from DreamHack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9mCj9jFMSU
The Day Daily is shown at 7:00 p.m. PST Sunday through Thursday on http://www.justin.tv/day9tv.