When I decided to start making videos for the internet, I didn’t have an amazing plan in place. In fact I had no plan. Other than the video production side of things, I really had no idea what I was doing. But I was fascinated by the possibilities of creating videos for YouTube.
So we went for it. We figured things out as we went along. We made lots of new friends. It became our full-time job.
Now, we’ve been making videos for YouTube (primarily) for over 5 years. Pretty crazy. This anniversary made me realize that I’ve been making Hilah Cooking videos longer than I’ve actually held down any of the “real” jobs in my career.
The anniversary also drove home the fact that I was feeling a little bit burned out. So was Hilah. As of January 1st 2015, we had made 375 videos for the Hilah Cooking channel. That doesn’t include all the videos we’ve made for companies like Tastemade and Ulive.
Since the beginning, I had been obsessed with creating the perfect show format. A format that was quick to produce and that could almost be automated. We made small tweaks to the format over time but had pretty much turned the operation into a video making machine. We did everything exactly the same way every time we shot and could produce the episodes very quickly. This allowed us to at times launch 3 videos per week.
This is something I always recommend people do when developing a format for their show.
It works. But we had lost the creative energy that was so exciting when we first started out.
Last summer, we cranked up the “machine” and got way ahead of schedule so that we could take a few months of baby vacation. For most of that time, we seriously thought that we might have reached an end point. That we were done making new videos. We would leave the channel up but concentrate on the website and on Hilah’s opportunities as on-screen talent for other companies. We definitely had lost the passion for making more “stand-and stir” videos.
As we mulled over the decision, it didn’t feel quite right to just stop. We had spent 5 years building and cultivating this thing. We loved the community that had developed around the show. And we still loved making videos together. Just not the videos we had already made hundreds of.
So instead of quitting, we’ve decided to break the channel.
Here’s a video that tells the story of how Hilah and I got started on YouTube and where we plan on taking Hilah Cooking in the future.
Last week the my inbox and social media feeds got absolutely hammered with articles about how YouTube makes $4 Billion dollars but isn’t profitable and is probably in big trouble because Vessel is going to be huuuuuuge.
Since I’ve been following James Altucher’s daily practice of writing down 10 ideas every day, my mind immediately shifted to thinking of things YouTube could to do make their service more awesome (and profitable).
Before I get started with my awesome ideas on how YouTube could make more money, let me just say… I love YouTube.
If I hadn’t started making YouTube videos, I would still be sitting in a cubicle like a chump for 8 hours a day wondering if my after-work trip to the liquor store was going to cause any over draft fees. I am not exaggerating when I say that making videos on YouTube has completely changed my life.
Ultimately, I don’t think it matters if YouTube loses money. It is of such cultural importance right now that Google should just be focused on not screwing it up. I know everybody is excited about Facebook Video and Twitter Video and instaVideo and Vessel and whatever the next YouTube killer is, but let’s keep our eye on the ball, people.
For internet video, YouTube is where it’s happening.
Here is my “wish list” for YouTube. Most of these are geared towards people who are using YouTube professionally but all of them could work towards building more revenue streams and increasing the amount of time viewers spend on-site.
Easier Way To Promote Videos. I know lots of creators would be more than willing to pay money to promote their videos via paid advertising on YouTube. But the system is wayyyyyy too complicated. Create something similar to the Facebook BOOST feature. Make it ridiculously easy to boost a video and creators will use this like crazy.
Paid Verification System— Creators spend way too much time filing copyright complaints. Let creators pay YouTube for a “seal of approval.” This seal of approval would give channels an extra edge in the ContentID system. When I report stolen content?—?which I have to do every week?—?my tickets would be escalated. This would also give my channels an edge when they are falsely reported for using content I have the rights to use. Speeding up the process for resolving these disputes and false flags could save creators thousands of dollars in lost revenue.
Built-in Transcription and Closed Captioning Service. Bolt a service on to your existing Captions feature that would allow creators to pay to have the videos professionally transcribed. Right now just about everybody sends their videos to Speechpad or Fiverr for transcriptions. I would pay more to be able to click a button and not have to worry about it again. Plus, making it easier to have high quality closed captions is just the right thing to do.
Let Viewers Subscribe to Shows (not just channels). Right now the whole YouTube ecosystem is based on channels. But lots of channels have different shows running on them. If viewers had the option to subscribe to shows rather than just channels, it would create an infinitely better viewing experience. It would also allow creators to experiement with different types of content on the same channel without the worry of alienating their regular audience.
Viewer Dashboard. If you want viewers to come to YouTube and stick around, give them more options to see what they really want. Create an awesome viewer homepage that people can customize with the shows and channels they really want to see. You could still save a slot for promoted and recommended posts. Your alogorithms could probably even serve these up even more effectively with all the additional user data.
Give Channels More Customization Options. Right now creators are focused on getting their viewers off of YouTube and onto their own sites. It’s a lot of extra work, but the current channel options are so limited there is really no other choice. Let creators turn their channels into mini-sites. Give us an incentive to drive more traffic to YouTube rather than to our own websites. Let me give people bonus content for subscribing. Bring back the feature where I could include a little advertisement on my channel pages. This is another service I would happily pay lots of money for.
YouTube for Business. Similar to the Google Apps for Work, a white-label version of YouTube would be amazing. The infrastructure is already there, but it would be amazing to have business class features on top of it. I’m already paying for Vimeo and Wistia for my projects that are off-YouTube. But it would be great to have some of those high end features on top of YouTube’s streaming infrastructure.
Not all of these ideas will be for everybody, but they are all things I would implement right away.
Thanks for indulging my early morning brainstorming! What new features do you think would make YouTube a better place?
I announced at the end of last year that I was about to release a book all about my experiences creating YouTube channels. You may remember that I even sent out an email asking for your questions so I could make sure I wasn’t missing anything important.
I really had been working hard on the book for several months. By late January, I was finally at the finish line… but then … I choked.
Everything was finished except for the conclusion. Two or three paragraphs and a click of the EXPORT button are all that stood in the way of it being launched it into the world. But instead of doing that, I shut everything down and hoped nobody would remember that I said I was going to release a book.
Fortunately, YOU remembered. And you kept sending me emails asking if the book was ever going to be released.
In one of these emails, somebody called me out as potentially suffering from Imposter Syndrome. I hadn’t heard of it so I looked it up. Here’s how Wikipedia describes it:
… a psychological phenomenon in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.
Imposter System had completely crippled me when it came to writing about YouTube stuff. It’s even responsible for the lack of blog posts here.
That email diagnosing me hit my inbox just as I was finishing up my YouTube Certification and I actually thought about it as I was finishing the final exam. I was blazing through the answers and feeling pretty good about myself. And I realized that I really needed to finish the YouTube Book.
After not having looked at it for months, I opened the book file again and read it. To my surprise, it was pretty awesome. And so close to being finished that it was ridiculous. I got back to work … added a few new sections, … updated everything … and finally wrote the conclusion.
I really couldn’t have finished it without the amazing amount of help from Hilah. She read and edited multiple rounds of revisions and gave an incredible amount of general help and encouragement. (She also may have written the sections on Instagram and Pinterest.)
So I’m happy to announce that YouTube Black Book is now available as an Amazon Kindle Book. If you don’t have a Kindle, you can read it on your phone or on a computer. I wanted to make this book affordable for and accessible for everybody who wants to read it — but I also wanted to use it to test out some theories I have about Amazon.
This book is designed to pick up where all the “official” YouTube training leaves off. It focuses more on the big picture rather than specific tactics. It also goes into a lot of detail behind-the-scenes of both the Hilah Cooking and Yoga With Adriene channels.
You’ll get free updates forever. I plan to update this book at least once a year.
So grab a copy. Tell your friends. And let me know what you think!
If the book is helpful to you, please take a minute and leave a review on Amazon. It will really help out a lot!
2014 may be another personal record-breaker for me as far as the number of videos I produce. It will definitely be a record breaker when it comes to the number of minutes produced. Even though I am producing more, I have started to downsize the amount of gear I use.
Last year, I went a little bit overboard. I had been using nothing but consumer camcorders for years. As soon as money started coming in from my various projects, I did what any self-respecting video geek would do – I started buying gear! It was fun but I ended up with too much stuff that ended up bogging down things when it came to production. There were too many options and too many things to think about. I am still a mciro-budget producer and almost always a one-man crew. Time is always of the essence and I already have too much on my mind. So I started to downsize.
My production set-up is now what you see in the photo above. For outdoor shoots, that is the whole thing (except for a collapsible bounce-card that I use when I have someone on-set helping me). We just produced the 5-hour EMPOWER yoga class with this set-up.
A-CAM: Canon C-100. I absolutely love this camera and if 4K wasn’t looking, would have already bought a second one. After spending just a few hours with this camera, I never wanted to shoot with a DSLR again. This is easily my favorite out of all the cameras I’ve owned so far. The only big downside is the viewfinder which is terribly designed and feels really out of place considering how great the rest of the camera is. The flip-out monitor isn’t so great either.
B-CAM: Canon T5i. As much as I love the C-100, I am stuck operating this one most of the time because I use this for tighter shots. If I go very wide on this one the image is way too soft to cut together with the C-100 footage. Close-ups and even medium shots are sharp enough. For an entry-level camera it has performed really well. It’s funny how much better the flip-out monitor is compared to the C100. This camera replaced the Canon 60D that I used for years. I think I just wore it out. I took it in for repairs but it had so many issues the repair guy told me it wasn’t worth fixing. It still works great for stills but overheats or shuts down immediately if I try to shoot video. RIP.
Sennheiser G3 Wireless Lav System. I’ve been using this for quite awhile. I actually have two kits now in case I need to do an interview. I’ve got absolutely nothing bad to say about this kit. I’ve even dropped the receiver a few times but thanks to the solid construction it still works great.
RODE Videomic Pro. I don’t actually use any of the audio from this mic. It serves as a cleaner reference track. This helps FCPX really nail the synchronization of the footage.
Zacuto Z-Finder. I’m not crazy about the Z-Finder but when shooting outside it’s the only way I can see what I’m doing.
That’s all I use when shooting outside. It’s easy to transport and quick to set-up and tear down. I use the same configuration when shooting inside but I add three lights.
Fotodiox Pro LED 508 A. This is a cheap Litepanels knock-off but it does the job. I especially like that it comes with a case and batteries. All you need is a light stand.
Linco Softboxes. I hate softboxes because they are normally just too much work to set-up. Linco has a great design that works like an umbrella. The only part that’s time consuming is screwing in all the lightbulbs. These lights are great for creating big soft areas of light. They also come with cases which is turning into a big selling point for me.
So that’s my current production setup. For the evolution of my Gear check out these posts:
If you have any questions, please leave a comment below. And I’d LOVE to hear what gear you use to produce your videos. Leave a comment and tell me all about it. The comments section has hereby been declared a safe place for Camera geek discussion.
In January of this year we launched the first Yoga With Adriene product. It was called REBOOT and it was a 4 video online class designed to help people get over their “holiday hangovers” and establish a consistent at-home yoga practice. We had no idea what we were doing. It was the first online video product that I had ever launched and everything that could go wrong pretty much did.
Despite the chaos, REBOOT was a huge success. With the help of the REBOOT community, we gradually worked through the technical issues and polished up the class. It was a significant turning point in the Yoga With Adriene project. In addition to the videos and instruction, we created a closed Facebook group for people to share their experiences.
It was in this group that all the elements came together and a thriving community started to take shape. This group allowed Adriene and me to communicate directly with people from all over the world who were fans of the show and liked it enough to invest their own money to take part in a shared experience. Even more importantly, it allowed people with a shared set of interests to come together and communicate with each other. The community (kula) immediately became the most important part of the Yoga With Adriene project. I’ll write a dedicated post on this soon.
In the midst of all the incredible things that were going on in the Community, one thing became clear. They were ready for more focused classes and now that we (kind of) knew what we were doing – we were ready to make one.
Adriene and I have had a great collaborative relationship for years. But the great thing about having a dedicated community supporting your work, is that they become a partner in the creative process. Instead of just creating a project that WE wanted to make, we asked the community what they wanted us to make next.
Three things rose to the top of the list.
Power Yoga – Something a little more intense with a focus on weight loss
Inversions – for people who want to work up to handstands
We decided to tackle the Power Yoga class first. Our most popular videos are the ones focused on weight loss, so we knew there would be interest from our YouTube audience as well.
Using Basecamp, Adriene and I started brainstorming. We made lists of all the things we wanted to include in the class. We also went through a seemingly endless list of potential titles. This process went on for a really long time.
Our original plan was to launch at the end of May. The perfect time to get ready for summer time (and swimsuits). Also, the weather in Austin is great in April in May and I really wanted to shoot this project OUTSIDE… in Nature! This brilliant idea would come back to haunt me. BIG TIME.
Because of the general chaos of real life, months passed and we never solidified a concept, never found a location and never booked any shoot dates. Before we knew it, June had crept up on us. The abstract idea that we had for what we wanted to make was definitely a summer-y type of project and it seemed like a huge missed opportunity to wait any longer. We could tell the Community was hungry for something new. Not just new YouTube videos, but a bigger REBOOT-like program.
That realization kicked us into overdrive. Out of the long list of potential names, EMPOWER began to resonate. Adriene found a location and we scheduled shoot dates for June 23 and 25th. We ambitiously thought we could shoot everything over two full shooting days.
We started to tell people that a new class was coming on July 15th.
I’ll admit it seemed a little crazy, but sometimes you just have to go for it. We felt like the universe was on our side.
But then we got rained out.
If you don’t live in Austin, you probably won’t understand how rare rain is in June. We’re in the middle of a terrible drought and even in non-drought times it barely rains here in the summer. We didn’t even take that into account when thinking about our schedule.
So of course, there was a torrential downpour as soon as we showed up on Day 1. The location was beautiful and it was a pretty great place to watch a storm, but I knew in the back of my mind that we were already behind schedule. We looked at weather radars and it seemed like everything was supposed to be clear by noon. Or 1:00 at the latest.
Finally the rain ended, the sun came out and we set up the gear and rolled out the yoga mats. Now we had an even worse problem. Unbelievably humid heat. It was so hot that we had to take breaks just to cool off the yoga mat. It was getting too hot for Adriene to stay on it for very long. And when she was on it, she was sweating so profusely she kept slipping off.
I was sweating even worse.
It took us all afternoon to shoot a single video. Normally, we are able to shoot them in almost real time. We have a simple two camera set-up and Hilah had even come to help us out. But, it was way too hot for even non-pregnant people.
By 4:00 we were wiped out and we packed it up. At least we were now familiar with the location and we knew we could start earlier the next day. This was all going to work out for the best.
You can probably guess it rained the next day, too.
We were able to shoot a single video that afternoon. So by this point we had finished shooting about half of the course. For various scheduling reasons we wouldn’t be able to shoot at that location again until July 10th. So we had a few options: push back the launch date, find a different location or just hope for the best.
The location was beautiful and we really wanted the class to have a consistent location. And there’s no way we were pushing back the launch date.
July 10th, the weather was finally on our side. We shot the rest of the course.
Then, we immediately got to work on post-production and creating the written materials.
The production and launch of EMPOWER has consumed every minute of my life for the last few weeks. I have been completely in “the zone” and really unsure if any of this was going to work until just a day or two ago. Adriene and I have both been working 12+ hour days. I’ve been sitting right here editing, building pages on the membership site, compressing video, answering support emails. Adriene has been holed up in the basement of an office building recording voice over, checking edits and writing all the written material that goes along with a project like this.
We opened the course for sale on July 11th.
Unbelievably, nothing broke this time. There were only one or two glitches that were easily solved. Most of the messages to the support account were just notes of encouragement. The announcement of the new class seemed to reinvigorate the community. Suddenly, there was something new to talk about and experience as a group. We even had members of the community buying classes for other members who couldn’t afford it. The outpouring of positive energy was just unbelievable.
Last night we opened the doors to the first video. Amazingly, people from all over the world have already been working out to videos we shot less than a week ago… and they’re posting photos of their sweat drenched faces to prove it.
Here’s a map showing the global locations of members of the EMPOWER community.
Everything is still pretty much a blur. I am writing this post while I wait for videos to compress so hopefully it makes at least a little sense. I’ll be back with a follow-up post soon that goes into geeky detail about the infrastructure we are using to pull all this stuff off.
Meanwhile, if you have any questions, leave a comment below. I never leave my computer anymore so I will answer it.
Thanks for reading.
If you’re interested in EMPOWER, here’s the Launch Page.