March 20, 2011

How To (Not) Make A YouTube Video...

by Chris Randall

Okay, here's the deal. Either you're a media professional of some sort, or you want to be one. Concurrently, you got a new piece of kit and want to show it off on the 'Tubes, to amaze your friends and amuse your enemies. So why, oh why, do you insist on doing something like this?

The days of "Fucktard Of The Week" are long gone, and I didn't pick this video just to give the dude who made it a hard time. Rather, it embodies virtually everything nobody likes about YouTube gear demo videos in one fell swoop.

1. The Disembodied Hands. I'm guilty of this myself on occasion; sometimes it can't be helped if you're demonstrating a product, or making a video for eBay or something. But seriously, if there is any way you can fit an elbow or something in that frame...

2. That Boy Can Play! Jump? Blue Monday? Born Slippy? You're fucking killing me here. This may come as a shock, but we can all play those parts. Most of us can play them right, even. Unlike you.

3. The Rarest Of The Rare. The reason for making this video is obviously the super rare blue JP-8000. Nobody ever sees one. Seriously, if you're gonna put up a video of parts everyone can play, on a synth everyone has, at least wear a funny costume while you do it.

4. The Shit Quadrella. In short, shitty video, shitty audio, shitty performance, shitty gear. This is the very definition of a waste of bandwidth.

That video has 45,000 views. If you put all those people in one place, that place would need to be a football stadium. If you were going to play a stadium show, is this how you'd want to present yourself?

Crandall's Golden Rules Of YouTube Videos:

1. Play something we've never seen before. Either gear or technique, but ideally both. That way, you're adding to popular culture rather than taking from it.

2. Never apologize. If you plan to spend the whole video or description box telling me how your performance or gear or whatever isn't the best you can do, why should I watch it? Go back and do the best you can do, then hit the "upload" button.

3. Ditch That Cell Phone. The shittiest camcorder currently available takes video that is an order of magnitude better than the best cell phone. And for fuck's sake, buy a tripod, unless your BFF is a steadicam operator.

4. The Mic On Your Camera Is Fucking Useless. Record the audio of your performance anywhere but via the camera's mic. Record in the DAW you're using as a mixer, render, swap that shit out in iMovie.

Seriously, it's not that hard to put up something that is at least mildly interesting, if not outright entertaining. It's harder than recording a video on your iPhone 3GS and pressing the "Upload To YouTube" button, I'll grant. But if you're the sort of person that wants to do things half-assed, you wouldn't be reading this part of the article, anyhow.


Page 2 of 4

Mar.21.2011 @ 2:18 AM
Chris Randall
@afreshcupofjoe: I should add another rule to my list, wherein it is imperative that you moderate the comments on your video. I allow comments by approval only, turn off the ratings (which are as pointless as a Facebook "like"), and don't allow "answer" videos. If a piece of criticism is valid, I allow it, and answer it (much the same as here) but if it's just typical shitcockery, I happily whack the delete button without a second thought. I honestly wonder why people allow empty criticism on their videos. It serves no purpose whatsoever.

But keep in mind that people that have never done what we do (i.e. the vast majority of the YouTube peanut gallery) don't understand that music and the performance thereof is an inherently subjective transfer of information. We understand this, of course, and due to the particular nature of our skillset, we're able to objectively listen to music that we otherwise wouldn't care for, looking for technical merit. How often have you said to someone or yourself "well, it's not my cup of tea, really, but those dudes can play."

To a civilian, it's more of a binary state. If he doesn't like something, he doesn't necessarily know _why_ he doesn't like it, but he automatically looks to bring all the discourse in to the negative to lend credence to his own opinion. If this guy doesn't like country music, all country music sucks, and the first thing out of his mouth when he hears anything remotely countrified is "I hate country." Hell, I don't like country. But I know, from a technical and emotional standpoint, that "The Last Thing I Needed (The First Thing This Morning)" is one of the greatest ballads ever written. I know that Charlie Daniels, aside from being a first order hick, can play the fucking fiddle. And I know Garth Brookes is a motherfucker of an entertainer. And I can appreciate these things and have a reasonable conversation about them. Most of us here can.

(I plead the fifth with respect to Tom Petty and Rush. My dislike of those two is utterly irrational and I revel in it.)

@xmodz: It takes a long time to learn to triage criticism in to the necessary categories ("I should pay attention to this" and "this guy doesn't know what the fuck he's talking about"). It's as hard a skill as dealing with hecklers or learning your instrument. Some people never learn it.


Mar.21.2011 @ 2:21 AM
Chris Randall
Actually, just as an example, here's a comment someone posted on one of the SMG live videos today that I deleted:

"They USED to be good. This song should have remained as it was originally recorded. ELECTRO/INDUSTRIAL. This sukks."

We could take this apart all day long, but you get the idea. There is no useful information to be gained from comments like this. The person who wrote this, if he was standing right in front of me, would be wetting his pants with anticipation of the moment he could start the "dude, the first time I heard you..." speech. And as soon as he walked away, he'd be texting his friends to tell them he met me (and they'd all say "who the fuck is that?")

I _know_ that to be true from 20 years of dealing with exactly that. So I can happily ignore the comment.


Mar.21.2011 @ 3:02 AM
Jexus makes the greatest synth demos. If you don't know him, you should check it out.

I discovered his channel while searching for some Alesis Ion demo: link []

His channel is link []

cheers, p.

Mar.21.2011 @ 7:09 AM
This post just added several dozen more views! :) I don't know - telling people how to behave on the internet isn't my bag. If sharing makes you happy and doesn't hurt anyone, what's the harm? While I agree with "Crandall's Golden Rules" above, this is YouTube after all - not product demos at NAMM or Musikmesse. Criticism wasted on things that don't need comment is just as bad as the unremarkable thing in the first place. Worse, some critics have little regard for the boundary between constructive analysis and wanton cruelty.

Mar.21.2011 @ 9:11 AM
Mad Al
But how much time do you have to devote to moderating those comments, Chris? At what point do you just throw up your hands, declare "these people have nothing to say", and just turn off comments completely... if the typical comments on YouTube are any indication (I confess at this point that I haven't posted anything to YT, partly because I have no camera, and partly because have very thin skin and the intelligence not to throw myself at broken glass), there's a whole lot of hay before you find any needles worth dealing with.

(Any more metaphors I can mutilate while I'm here?)

Agree on all your points, but would counter with... as "civilian" as the majority audience may be, a lot of the video shooters are civilian too, and won't think of things like not using the camera microphone (or even understand why not... which is a bigger obstacle, as they'll refuse to do it if just told). Even if they aren't musical civilians, they're probably video civilians.

Mar.21.2011 @ 10:02 AM
Chris Randall
To your first point, almost no time. The AD channel gets more views than my personal channel, and more comments, but even then, it's only a couple a week. Incendiary comments breed more incendiary comments, and if there aren't any there in the first place, you don't create the vicious circle that eventually results in "HitlerNigger," the YouTube event horizon comment.

(And for those offended by my choice of words there, sorry, but this is YouTube we're talking about, and I'm merely stating a fact here. I wish I could find the video where that comment appeared, but it doesn't show in a search. I don't think they index comments on that site.)

To your second point, you're absolutely correct. My post is for people that fancy themselves musicians or serious hobbyists, and are posting videos for other musicians.

@utm: I fully agree. See preceding paragraph. It is a difficult thing to just put yourself out there for most people. I personally was born without the chromosome or whatever that makes fear of embarrassment lead to inaction. But I believe that if you're gonna put yourself out there, you should do so the best you're capable of.


Mar.21.2011 @ 10:16 AM
Hah, love this post. Once in a while I actually play one of those embedded videos on Matrixsynth, and I'm always horribly disappointed with the playing. Its an $8000 Jupiter 8, learn to play a goddamn lick!

Mar.21.2011 @ 10:36 AM
@CR: "In the video above, obviously any of us that plays keyboards knows that he drastically fucked up the turn-around in "Jump." But would a civilian? No."

I am deeply saddened that you know the proper turn-around in "Jump." This isn't because I am free of such 1980's taint (it's INSANE, this guy's taint): the number of bullshit classic rock riffs I can play on guitar is stunning, and it feels like a mammoth waste of brain space. I'm sad because I would like to think that you managed to escape the 1980's, and the rural NW, without having your own brain space taken up by these crappy riffs. I guess it's the "Stairway to Heaven" of keyboard parts.

I also noticed that the keyboard sound in the JP-8000 "Jump" demo sounded closer to the original song than the actual Oberheim demos on YouTube. And do you think I'm PROUD about noticing that? Ugh.

Mar.21.2011 @ 12:25 PM
I disagree. This video doesn't bother me at all, but I guess I find it weird that people spend a lot of time and effort making "nice" youtube videos. I find myself alone in my complete lack of interest in amateur video skills. The level of quality in even the best of youtube is so low I can't believe it matters. It's like watching 5 year olds play guitar and debating who's the best.

I go to youtube gear demos for one thing; "what's a JP-8000?". I watch 10 seconds, get the idea, and I'm done.
The only thing that bothers me is when someone is specifically talking about the tone of some piece of gear (as in this video) and has it coming out of computer speakers on the other side of the room and is bumping into the mic. Just plug the line out into the camera and point the camera at the wall. At least in this video I could hear it. I've seen much worse.

This guy played simple parts, that's what I want. I get annoyed when I'm trying to find out about an instrument and some dude is riffing all over the place like the bald Dream Theater guy. I don't give a shit about your chops dude, I just want to hear the gear. Just hold a chord for each patch.


Mar.21.2011 @ 12:47 PM
@pierlu: Jexus led me to buy that Korg Prophecy that sits in the corner, waiting for me to learn how to program it 1/10 as well as he could...

Page 2 of 4



Sorry, commenting is closed for this blog entry.