elega Elega Corporation

Remastering a Pluralsight Course and Switching to Linux

Soon, Elega Corporation will be wrapping a novel effort to remaster one of our popular courses available on Pluralsight: Salesforce Sharing and Security Fundamentals. Here, I'll describe both what has been done in the remaster, as well as provide some behind-the-scenes insight into what it's like to conduct a project like this one.

Over the past few months, the entire course is getting completely recut, re-recorded, and remastered. The course has moved from 720p resolution to 1080p resolution and from 15 frames per second to 30 frames per second. In many ways, reconstructing the entire course has been like redoing the course a second time.

In addition to the remastering aspect, there are a few areas in the course that have aged since 2018 due to Salesforce changes. Since the course was produced, Salesforce introduced Permission Set Groups, introduced Lightning Web Components in preference over Aura components, and updated its interface in a few areas. So, the course is receiving a few updates at the same time it is being re-recorded.

This course was produced before we began offering a course example installer for each course that utilizes Salesforce's packaging system. The example material has thus been put into an unlocked package and is installable into an org using a few clicks this time around.

The original course was recorded on a Samson Meteor microphone (originally owned by legendary YouTuber Nathaniel Bandy, in fact) in a bedroom at my prior home that had zero acoustic treatment. While the audio quality is clean and without crackling, pops, hisses, or other offensive noise: it has an uncomfortable reverb that normally would not appear in any professional level production. In addition to full acoustic treatment of the current recording room, new equipment has been used on the past many courses.

The newer courses are recorded on a Shure SM7B, which is a highly popular professional microphone used in everything from podcasts to musical production. Its normal retail price tag runs at about $399 vs. the Samson Meteor's $59.99 or so. For anyone reading this wanting to know about the difference between the microphones, let me first point out that the microphones do NOT make the biggest difference over the acoustic treatment in the room.

In fact, the Samson Meteor microphone was used in recording the very first Pluralsight course: Getting Started with Asynchronous Apex on Force.com, and the quality is noticeably better than the security course. Why? The reason is that the first course was recorded in a densely packed bedroom, where cushions, clothes, curtains, and other fabrics neatly absorbed the soundwaves that permeate outward from my voice when recording into the microphone.

All that being said, there's a noticeable shift in tone from the Shure SM7B, it seeming to be more capable of picking up the bass level tones in a male voice like mine. There is a reason it is a popular podcast, radio voice microphone - its pickup pattern works great.

Looking back on the original production of the course, there are a few things I wished were different about the original course. For one, having better audio production probably would have saved me from having to remaster the entire course in the first place. Or, at the very least, it would have saved lots of hours of re-recording and remastering the audio.

I keep mentioning remastering the audio itself, and the audio quality. Most folks taking my courses likely do not have an appreciation for how much work goes into the audio alone, unless they have worked in audio/video production on their own. Each audio track for every clip is usually recorded once, or twice, and then it is picked through word-by-word in search of any background noise, unwanted frequencies, pops, high-pitched hissing, and so on. To resolve certain issues, the audio is edited at a spectral frequency level.

Almost every single sigh or breath in between sentences or word phrases is removed (and there are a TON of those). The overall point here: audio editing is probably the largest part of any course production, exceeding even the development time spent on course example materials. There might be some exceptions to this. It is possible the time spent on the Python for Salesforce Developers course took more time on code development than audio... but audio is a lot!!

No breathing, no sighing, no coughing, no throat clearing, no tongue clicking, no nose whistling, no spit swashing is allowed! ALL of these kinds of sounds, recorded with a microphone that is only inches from my mouth, must be removed. And they all naturally appear in recording often, no matter who you are.

The reasoning behind the remaster, too, goes to consistency. If I record brand new, pristine audio that lacks the same original room reverb, it will mean updated segments of the course have fantastic audio while the rest of the course has the original, not-so-great audio by comparison. To meet the standard of quality I like to uphold: it meant the entire course had to be re-recorded, and rendered out at full HD resolution.

The Switch to Linux

The course remaster has mostly been reconstructed using a machine running the Debian Linux operating system, Davinci Resolve, kdenlive, and Reaper. This is a brand new toolset for me, and it has meant my abandonment of Microsoft Windows, and the Adobe Creative Suite.

When switching to Linux, naturally people ask lots of questions. The most popular one is how well does your traditional Microsoft Office files work? Can you open Word docs? Can you edit .XLS spreadsheets like you would in Excel?

First of all, yes. Basically, yes, you can do everything. Powerpoint animations have some hiccups and some explosions... for which I still have to turn to Windows (which I could avoid if Pluralsight had a Linux-supported slidedeck somewhere, they currently do not at the time of this writing).

But more importantly, believe it or not, folks... as a software developer, I don't work in Microsoft Office products that often. I do look at spreadsheets sometimes, especially load files that go into Salesforce or databases, sure. But am I snapping together these heavyweight formula workbooks like many do? Nope. I'm writing code.

Debian Linux has been great for both writing code and for doing audio & video editing, recording, and all things creative production. It has crashed less than my Windows machine, and it often runs smoother (yes, really). Linux isn't perfect, of course, but it frees me from the ever encroaching hands of both Microsoft and Apple. For that and for the fact it works with just about everything: it has my thanks.

The switch to Linux has been a long time in the making. My frustration with Adobe products has been growing endlessly. Premiere Pro and Audition have both been growing more clunky, more bloated, and harder for older systems to run well. This may even be intentional on their part but more likely it is a result of typical corporate cultures today disregarding the importance of making efficient, blazing fast, high quality software.

For audio, Adobe Audition is practically unmatched in modern time. I will not deny that some of the conveniences and streamlining in the user interface is gone when you make a small jump over to a digital audio workstation (DAW) like Reaper. But Reaper has power enough to compete, allowing me to accomplish all of the same things. The audio produced in my mastering process with Reaper has created crystal clear narration, the same as I'd get using Audition.

It should be noted that kdenlive's performance for video editing, at least in terms of how smooth the program itself runs, is smoother than Adobe Premiere Pro. Even though I have been paying a minimum of $55 a month for many years now for Adobe's products: kdenlive performs better and runs leaner that the premium product it competes with. Adobe should find this embarrassing, and, needless to say, I do not anticipate being a customer of Adobe's much longer.

Salesforce development has been seamless on Linux, as well, with Visual Studio Code, the Salesforce CLI, and the Salesforce Extensions Pack all working flawlessly. Oh, and Rust: Rust binaries have, by default using the `std` standard library perform many operations faster than they run on Windows.

Take all of this with some degree of skepticism, naturally, as this has just been my own anecdotal experience with the operating system and the tools available on it. On that note, however, I plan to invest a lot more resources supporting the Linux programs now in use by Elega Corporation, and supporting the Linux operating system with new releases of Elega Corp software.

In fact, I've already tested out the Windows version of Kalling Kingdom running on Debian Linux using Wine. I tested v0.39 on the game and it works quite well! Here it is in the Wine app database now. For those who may be wondering: a native Linux release of Kalling Kingdom is in the works now alongside the other game updates as well.

Thank you so much for reading! It seemed important to get an update out about what we've been up to before the end of the year. Now, I must get back to work!