What amateur film makers are teaching professionals

You might be surprised to learn, that Google is not the most popular search engine in the world, but in fact YouTube is. OK, it’s a bit of a stretch to call YouTube a Search Engine, but according to internetlivestats.com, every second there are over 54,000 Google searches performed, but over twice that number of YouTube videos are watched at more than 122,000. In fact, online viewing has now overtaken traditional TV for the 13-25 year age range, and on YouTube at least, it’s been amateurs that have been leading the way.

There are a number of factors that have contributed to this trend. The rising quality and falling cost of digital filming, the proliferation of “smart” devices, and the rapid adoption of the internet. So what are the amateurs teaching professionals? What can we learn from the YouTubers?

Creativity

With any kind of professional skilled work, by and large the people in that field have had the means and support to study, or to take advantage of opportunities to work and gain experience in that field. This has generally narrowed the pool of people in that field. The development of technology, and the advent of platforms such as YouTube has opened up the media field to a huge pool of fresh talent and creatives, who otherwise may not had an outlet for their creative abilities.

There are examples, such as the guys at Corridor Digital, who just started with some fresh ideas, a camera and After Effects, and have now built a business around creating small, funny VFX clips. And they’re encouraging a whole new wave of creatives. Channels like Bored Shorts and Musicless Music Videos have used their specific creative skills, acting and sound design, to develop entertaining content that would not have been possible in the traditional film industry.

Likewise, people like Simon Cade from DSLRGuide.tv have created an audience, sharing their experience and ideas around film making, and encouraging anyone to start making films.

Adaptability, working with what you have

One of the things that turned me on to DSLRGuide in the first place, and I think the first video of his that I watched, was Simon’s promotion of using whatever equipment is available to you. In fact he makes some pretty cool stuff with a Canon 600D.

Now film makers are amongst the most adaptable people around, but even we can get caught up in the need to have the latest gadget, or the right camera. We’ve had videos that have come out such as the Intelligent Details film by Bentley Motors that was supposed to be revolutionary, because it was filmed entirely on an IPhone, but when you look behind the scenes, you see the traditional big film crew you would expect on any high-budget ad. Not to mention the other equipment like stabilisers, add-on lenses, pro lighting.

No, to see real adaptability, I think you need to look at the Tech-Review space. Someone who has been credited by many of his peers with really pushing the quality and filmography in the tech-review space is Marques Brownlee from MKBHD. Marques developed a very high quality style, but he started his tech videos in 2009, just recording via the built in webcam on his new HP Pavilion laptop. As his skills built, along with his audience, he invested in better equipment. From webcam to 3.4 million subscribers, and very professional videos, it really shows the value of just starting with what you have.

Tenacity & Passion

What Marques also had was tenacity. YouTubers, especially when starting out, have to have a commitment to creating content that maybe no one will see, but they keep doing it. In this day and age of “overnight success”, YouTubers are proving that not everyone thinks this way. Now we might say that it’s easier when you don’t have financial and family commitments to sink a heap of time into creating videos that may never get seen amongst the sea of “cats being freaked out by cucumbers”, but the passion and tenacity to carry on, to do the grind and build an audience, should be a lesson to anyone.

In fact, the opportunities that come with this connected world, are being used really well by film makers. People like Ryan Connolly of Triune Films hosts Film Riot, an edutainment channel all about film production. Ryan has been creating videos for YouTube for the past 7 years, and for me, his Mail Sack show where he answers questions from budding filmmakers is now part of my Monday morning routine.

Building an audience

Which leads nicely to the topic of building an audience, and this is where I want to highlight the difference between YouTube and Vimeo. I love both platforms, and a year ago if I was to choose just one to publish to, it would be Vimeo. But I’ve learned that they each have very different audiences, and they are both massive tools for content creators. But if you want to build and engage an audience, YouTube is where you need to be.

Yes, YouTube is full of trolls, yes YouTube is full of rubbish, but it’s also full of people. One area where we see huge audiences, is in game streaming and gaming videos. I’m sure we’ve all heard of the likes of Pewdiepie and his 44 million subscribers, but there are so many content creators in this space and to be successful, they all engage their audience.

How are they doing that? By creating content they are passionate about. Advertisers call these people “influencers” and the research is showing that investing in them is more effective, and less expensive than traditional forms of advertising.

Content

The big take-away from this all, and the one common factor amongst all the examples we’ve looked at, is that content is still King. Regardless of if it’s a tech-review video, entertainment, educational or otherwise. This new generation of content creator is only finding success, because they are consistently generating that content. Content that is engaging, interesting, personal and creative. This content, and its delivery, has changed the way we consume media.

We may see YouTube as a distraction, or wonder how do we even make any traction in the face of so much content, but all the people I have mentioned have proved that there is space, there is an audience, and there are opportunities if we’re prepared to take them.

Regardless of why we make films, who our customers are, or how we distribute them, we can all take advantage of this revolution in media, and learn from those who have led the charge into this new world.

Kane Milne, is a film maker, facilitator and writer who has 15 years of video production industry experience in Europe. He currently works in Youth Critical Media, helping people use technology to connect with their community.