How To Make Video Essays
Why do you want to make video essays?
I Want It To Be My Job
Make videos on whatever topic you are interested in making a video on.
Measure your growth on how the work itself improves overtime and the skills you learn from doing it.
Each video is a lottery ticket that could hit it big, but due to the amount of time it takes to create something, YouTube is less likely to push it which makes it harder to get growth early on.
Obviously you will think about numbers still, but don’t let them be the driving force of your creativity.
Make videos in line with the current YouTube meta OR make videos on a niche topic that diehard fans will want to support.
Growth is measured by numbers, whether it be views and subs or money coming in.
Limited by the area you are trying to appeal to.
While this path can raise your chances of things working out, it is still a lottery ticket, which means that a lot is out of your control.
I Want To Make Stuff I Like
The reality is no matter what path you take, the chances of turning YouTube into your career are low.
LOWER YOUR EXPECTATIONS
The Basics - Audio
Microphone - People are sometimes snobby about this, but if you are just starting out, a good enough mic is more than what you will need.
XLR vs. USB
XLR microphones are more versatile and will give you a better sound, but you need to buy extra things (XLR cables, Audio Interface), which can double the amount you need to spend.
USB microphones are more limited in what they can do, but they are easy and cheap and the perfect place to start.
Suggestions to start
Under $100: Samson Go (~$40), Blue Snowball (~$70)
Over $100: AT2020 (~$130), Blue Yeti (~$130)
Your space is honestly more important than your microphone. When recording, surround your mic with pillows, and (if possible) record in a small space.
This is what a professional looks like
The Basics - Footage
Free! Easy! Can record pretty much anything on your PC.
If you have an NVIDIA graphics card, you already have it. Records PC games.
A capture card that can get footage of console games. There are other capture cards, but Elgato is a good option.
Plenty of channels that are cool with you using their gameplay footage (always credit them!)
World of Longplays
Game Footage Archive
Live Action Footage
Honestly, if you have any smart phone from the past few years, its camera is more than what you will need to start. Research lighting techniques and that will be a big jump in quality. Cameras that will look noticeably better than your phone (especially on YouTube which compresses everything to shit) will cost in the $400 range, so don’t sweat on getting a camera right away.
The Basics - Software
A lot of people who do this professionally use Adobe Suites. I personally use it for Premiere, Audition, Photoshop, and (sometimes) After Effects.
Pros: Solid software, lots of folks are familiar with it and can help you learn stuff and troubleshoot.
Cons: Really expensive (~$20-50 a month), breaks a lot
If you want don’t want to spend money, here are some free alternatives.
Premiere (video editing)
Audition (audio editing)
Photoshop (image editing)
After Effects (effect editor)
So, how do I make something good?
Make something you’d want to watch.
Script Writing 101
Reviews vs. Critiques/Analysis vs. Video Essays
These are the most common kinds of gaming videos on YouTube, and they all have value in their own right. Make whatever you want to make, but some paths are harder.
Reviews - Why does anyone care about your review of Ocarina of Time vs. the million other reviews?
Critiques/Analysis - Flexible format that often draws in viewers because of video length but also can run into the “why do I care about your point of view” problem.
Video Essay - Interesting takes can spread far, but also it can be hard to market certain ideas.
Regardless of format, consider why you are making a video on something.
If you don’t have a strong take, then chances are your script won’t be focused enough to stand out, so make sure you have a take.
Think about what value the video idea will add to the conversation.
Just Fucking Write The Draft
Seriously. Just write it. Let it be bad for awhile and then revise the living hell out of it once you finish the first draft. If you get too caught up in perfection and keep revising your first paragraph, you will never finish it.
“A skillful literary artist has constructed a tale. If wise, he has not fashioned his thoughts to accommodate his incidents; but having conceived, with deliberate care, a certain unique or single effect to be wrought out, he then invents as may best aid him in establishing this preconceived effect. If his very initial sentence tend not to the outbringing of this effect, then he has failed in his first step.”
-Edgar Allan Poe
“Don’t waste time talking about shit that doesn’t matter.”
How do I come up with topics?
I find it best to follow ideas that simply interest me most. For example, my Color of Corruption video came from me seeing purple be used in Ori and asking, “huh, why is it purple?” and then I researched it, found possible answers and felt like if I was interested enough to teach myself about it, other people would be interested in it as well.
Your own curiosity should drive your creations.
Don’t avoid a topic because you are not knowledgeable about it.
Talk to other people who are making videos in the same space.
What if no one ends up being interested in my idea?
Move on to the next thing. Not every idea is going to be your best idea ever. Not every video will top the last. Put out a lot of work to keep honing your skills.
Be close to your microphone (depends on what you have but you probably should be 6-8 inches away)
Record every script twice.
Don’t be timid.
A lot of people start off and sound like they are trying to not wake up their parents who are sleeping in the other room (and that is because sometimes they are trying to not wake up their parents who are in the other room). If possible, don’t record during times where you need to be quiet.
If you live with other people, just tell them what you’re doing.
Start by focusing on clean edits.
Time cuts to your sentences.
Have clips that are relevant to what you are saying be on screen.
Aim to not let any individual shot play for too long (or too short).
Add 1-2 new techniques each video
Watch other creators to see what they do, pick out an element you like, and then try to incorporate it into your own work.
Don’t over do it.
Front-load your most ambitious edits
Retention on YouTube is not great, so having slick edits early on may help hold viewer retention. Make what you want to make, but just keep in mind that the earlier in a video your best edits are, the more people will see them.
Use good music.
The Great Jakes
Thumbnails & Titles
A good thumbnail/title should illustrate the point immediately while also being vague enough to peak the interest of anyone who reads it.
Viewers think they know what they are interested in watching, but they really aren’t. If your title/thumb are too specific, a lot of people won’t click because of that.
Clickbait is good, actually.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions….It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”