22 April 2018

The Good Advice You Just Didn't Take

I get a lot of questions on Quora about YouTube, namely the annoying ones about how to get more subscribers (and/or how much money will I make off this very small subscriber statistic). As much as I'm annoyed by these questions, I think they're still valid as it's often easy to overlook what exactly attracts you to a YouTube channel in the first place. One of the best litmus tests I ever heard came from the now-infamous Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker, "What are YOU looking for?" This advice is hardly exclusive to the Shouting and Remembering Guy, but it's the most direct take on it and gives the best jumping off point for moving forward with your own YouTube endeavors. While many of these Quora questions are just thinly-disguised spam, every now and again someone is looking for legitimate feedback on why their fledgling channel is struggling to leave the nest. I took one of these on at great, unapologetic length, as is often my way on these things. In my defense, however harsh, blunt, tactless, condescending, or even outright mean you think I come across as, the entertainment consuming audience as a whole is far, far worse. Think about it, they don't have to give you feedback. They can give you the silent treatment and walk out the door at any time to leave you wondering what you did wrong. Now tell me who's harsh and mean and all that jazz. I'm not asking for a parade or a medal, only that you trust the purity of my intentions when I tell someone bad at what they do that they're bad at what they do. 

The question in... well, question, read:
Why is my YouTube video getting low views and very low subscribers? What am I doing wrong?
This was followed by a link to a YouTube channel with maybe about 30 or so subscribers and a handful of views and dis/likes on some videos. What follows is my answer, near as makes no difference to verbatim: 

Shortest, simplest answer: because whenever you’re not being boring, you’re being annoying.

Still reading? Good, that means you’re either a glutton for punishment or legitimately willing to gracefully accept criticism. Either way, we’ll get into what I mean by annoying and boring. I’ll be focusing on your Ghost Rider/Mad Titan video primarily; a little bit goes a long way.

Visuals. There’s nothing wrong with using a slide program to make your videos. It’s actually very efficient… if you know how to do it right. There is a problem with using a slide program to make your videos when you do it poorly. Firstly and most obviously, don’t show us that it’s a slideshow. Trim the part of the video that shows the slide program before you go full screen.
I don’t show my iMovie timeline at the start of every video, and even the most budget-conscious smartphone can trim the starts and ends of video clips (so we don’t have to see you reach to and from the phone to start and stop recording). You want your videos to look like polished, finished products, not tech demos for “tech” that gives cave paintings a run for their money in terms of antiquity and obsolescence in the telecommunications field. Second, let’s talk aesthetics:
What am I looking at, highlighter on typing paper? Why don’t you just use Comic Sans and have done with it? I mean, you’re already talking about comic books, why hold back now? A plain white background? Watch almost any movie ever and tell me if the end credits are black text on a white background or white text on a black background. The eye, being lazy, is drawn to white space, so by framing your comic panels with nothing but bright white space, you’re actually distracting from what you want to be the focus. White absorbs colors, and I can promise you your panels will look more colorful and striking against black (why do you think some sites and devices have “night modes”?).

The sound. Good grief, the sound. Did you build your microphone yourself in the dark, with your eyes closed, wearing oven mitts, and with little to no understanding of how a microphone works? How many tin cans went into its construction? Are you using wet strings instead of wires? Now, before you go telling me about what you can or can’t afford, how you’re just a poor boy from a poor family and that I should spare you your life from this monstrosity known as open market capitalism, take a moment to look at the walls of your room, and then look in your closet.

My point is unless your microphone is welded onto your 1998 Compaq Presario’s CRT monitor, you need to take that recording operation into your closet and use the clothes on hangers as baffles.

Baffled? Compare the hanging clothes to "professional-grade" sound dampening acoustic foam. See the similarities? 

Closet too small and/or packed with crap? Have only the clothes on your back to be baffles? Two words: Blanket fort. I’m not even joking. You’d be surprised how well towels work for sound dampening. 

Now comes the hardest part to change: you. I can talk your ear off about acoustics and mixing, blind you with details on lighting and editing, and even direct you through scripting and writing, but I can’t make you a more charismatic, engaging, and insightful person. You’ve got to do that on your own. Let’s start with delivery: I counted about a dozen “ums” and “uhs” in a span of about 30 seconds in your video, your video that you yourself wrote on a subject you yourself decided to elaborate on.


Your script is right in front of you, isn’t it? Better question, you did write a script, didn’t you? Bear in mind, by script, I’m talking about something as minimal as bullet points, an itemized list of talking points to help keep you on track and from going off on unnecessary tangents. Hell, draw a picture if it helps you.
See how I can use black text on a plain white background if there’s more to the composition than black text on a plain white background?

I said I would only talk about your Ghost Rider vs. Thanos video, but I checked your “iPhone screen recording” that was your earlier Thanos video, and you’ve got many of the same problems with opening that video as you do with Ghost Rider:


If you’re in that much of a hurry to get through your own videos, what’s to stop someone from taking it a step further and not watching them at all? If you’re just going to read some Wiki pages while fumbling through some screenshots, why should anyone stick around for that instead of looking up the information themselves? If the presentation is boring, the quality of the content doesn’t matter.

If you care more about your metrics than your content, you’re doing it wrong.

That's the end of the answer proper. It was followed up by a comment from the aspiring YouTuber thanking me for the feedback and providing me a link to a new video (on a new channel of his) to ask if this improved on the previous videos. 

The sound was even worse. (turn your volume down before clicking the link). 

I asked, along with why a new channel would be necessary, if he was being annoying and irritating on purpose. The comment has since been deleted. 

I can't help you if you're going to make the same mistakes over and over again. 

09 April 2018

Spoiled On Legos

For all the ranting and raving and raging I've done about Sketchup, some may wonder why I keep going back and trying again at it. Is it pure stubbornness? Maybe. Is it because more often than not it actually does work and produce usable results? Yes. In fact, at least two of my most popular and liked models on Thingiverse were made in Sketchup. There's a fine line between valid criticism and outright negativity, and I realize I tend to feed into that negativity feedback loop when I complain about how almost every other step in every other Sketchup tutorial is a workaround for something the program can't do, how what's streamlined in one application is almost abstract in this one. For that skewed view which I'll elaborate on in a moment, I owe Trimble my sincerest apologies, for whatever they're worth. 
Speaking of fine lines, my overall issue with Sketchup is that it walks a very fine line between having a learning curve and being badly-designed. As for that latter point, I'm here to give Trimble a great big pass wrapped up in my apology like a pig in a blanket because even if we all agree their software is badly-designed in some key areas, it's not entirely their fault. Without getting into a long, drawn-out history of how Sketchup came to be as it is, the fact of the matter is Sketchup is not a 3D modeling tool. At least, it's not a 3D modeling tool out of the box. 
Sketchup was made to be a visualization tool for architects, landscapers, and interior designers. All of these jobs have one common thread that Sketchup uses as its foundation, and that's... a foundation. Before you can make any sort of structure or even arrange existing elements within a structure, you need to know how much real estate/floor space you've got to work with. Barring any low ceilings or overhead lighting or air traffic considerations, this is fundamentally a two-dimensional exercise. 
That's "Josh" by the way. He's the default height reference for every new document. 
Think about it. If you didn't have the benefit of modern CAD technology, you'd be using a straight-edge, a pencil, and a piece of paper, not to mention a tape measure and maybe some masking tape to mark out spaces on the floor. 
You certainly wouldn't be stacking cardboard boxes in the middle of the room unless you've got some enormous on-hand supply of moving boxes of various sizes depending upon your needs. My point is that Tinkercad, one of the programs I use for my 3D printing work, is absolutely horrible in this capacity.
Not pictured: Josh.
Ignoring the fact that Tinkercad was never meant to be an architectural tool (and therefore all your default dimensions are in millimeters), there's also the matter of exporting the model into a usable format. Tinkercad exports to the STL and OBJ formats, which are 3D. There is a 2D format it can export to, but it's a simple vector image (SVG) meant for laser-cutting, and not very useful if you're trying to show a client how a location is going to be arranged. Sketchup, meanwhile, allows me to export my current view of the scene as a PNG file (that's in the free browser-based version) as well as having an entire host of 2D tools for sharing one's work as architectural blueprints (that's in the full-size version). 
Sharing one's work aside, this comparison is meant to demonstrate the fundamental difference between the mindset of someone who would need Sketchup and someone who would need Tinkercad. The best analogy is that Sketchup is like cutting posterboard and foamcore to build your structures while Tinkercad is like playing with Legos
Not pictured: Emmet.
This is not meant to put down either program. Both are perfectly valid solutions to their respective problems, just as foamcore is a perfectly valid material for making architectural models and dioramas while Legos are a perfectly valid material for making mockups of physical objects or scenes (even practical protoypes if we want to get Technic...al). 
We can work on the decor.
Going back to what I was saying before, Sketchup was originally a visualization tool for people more concerned with open floorspace than tight tolerances. After Google picked up the project to make it some sort of plug-in for Google Earth, it seems the need for 3D functionality increased and suddenly all these new features need to be shoehorned into a program not intended for them. Even on their own forums, many users often joke about making circles and spheres in Sketchup. I built up a small archive of screenshots demonstrating the results of early attempts at mastering the delicate and subtle art of making spheres, but I won't put them here. It wouldn't be fair. Rather, I would encourage you, even if you've only a passing interest in the subject, to give the free, browser-based version of Sketchup a try, maybe sit through a few tutorials first to get an idea of what you're in for, and see if it's something you want to invest in. I even used its visualization/layout aspect for a recent DIY project of a computer monitor stand that used a combination of scrap wood and metal, as well as some 3D printed parts (which were modeled in Tinkercad).