Rob Wilson is a clear example of the notion that you don’t need bucket-loads of expensive equipment to start and run a successful online video channel. In fact, he uses just a very cheap point-and-shoot camcorder and a lightbox for his stream of videos about mobile phone reviews, tips and tricks.
The 33-year-old who hails from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire but now calls Vancouver, Canada, his home, made his first videos back in 2008 but only really kicked his channel into gear in January 2012.
Now the “Video Gadgets Journal” (www.youtube.com/vgjfelix) boasts 20,000 subscribers who look to him for advice about app suggestions and reviews for Android smartphones. Says Wilson, “The channel’s aimed at those who are probably already technologically savvy but are exploring smartphones and tablets.”
“Corporately speaking”, he adds, “I make videos that are supposed to ‘Inform, Intrigue and Entertain… to connect you with your technology’. But in reality if somebody posts a comment saying ‘Oh, I didn’t know that!’, then that’s the sort person my video is aimed at.”
The channel began, it seems, almost accidentally when Rob wanted to make a video mashup as part of a poker forum. A day later he saw a competition to make a two-minute tech review video so he had a go at that too.
Three years passed and it was only when he popped up a video about sexism in football that gained thousands of unexpected views that he properly looked into the world of YouTube and, in his words, his “skills, channel and passion snowballed.”
Wilson says he loves making the videos and has a day job as well, so the YouTube platform’s never really been about making money; he enjoys connecting with the audience. Nonetheless he ticks the “monetize” box and reaps enough of a reward from the pre-roll and overlay ads to comfortably pay the mortgage on a small flat in Yorkshire.
That’s not, he says, enough to quit his job but enough to enable him to pursue his passion and be rewarded for it.
Back in the studio and Rob’s huddled over a Panasonic SD90. He’s made over 700 videos with it and he’s delighted, being a self-confessed novice video maker. “The camera probably compensates for my failings” he says.
Editing is equally basic; Windows Movie Maker 2.6 up to the end of last year which, he maintains, is by far the quickest, most intuitive software available for clipping, combining and transitioning clips
He praises its features for narrating videos too because he scripts and narrate 90% of his footage after filming. “It triples the length of time it takes to produce a video”, he admits, “but it really does up the production quality of your videos.”
In the last six months Rob’s been upping his game by getting used to tools including Xara – to create 3D rotating images of his logo; Wondershare – another simple video editor that enables Picture in Picture; Windows Live Movie Maker – to put in more complex titles and captions; and Photoshop – for thumbnails and picture type stuff.
Oddly, his favourite bit of kit is a pencil stylus, given to him as an afterthought Christmas present and used all the time to point out things he’s talking about on his videos.
So famous and popular is the stylus that Rob’s had to make a video about it, to deal with all the enquiries he gets. “I think my viewers think I’m actually just two hands with a pencil” he chuckles.
Passion, patience and persistence are the keys to developing a channel, he says. “Before any income, subscribers, likes and comments come your way, you as a video maker must be born. You need to discover what you’re capable of doing, how you can do it and what resources you can put into it”
He adds “unless you’re extremely lucky or very talented, hardly anyone will watch your work in the first 6-12 months so you have to love making video simply for the sake of doing so.”
His advice? “If you like video-making when nobody’s watching, you’ll love it when people do start tuning in. Every day someone will find your videos and then someone else and then another person and soon it’s two people and then four and then a like, a subscriber, and a comment. That’s where the patience pays off.”
Says the Android expert: “I never expected 20,000 people to voluntarily express an interest in my work and for that work to be seen 12 million times. My analytics tell me my videos have been watched for longer than I have existed. I’m both honoured and humbled by that.”
Whilst Rob says his channel has been stalling of late, he’s not giving up and takes his own advice that persistence is the key. And that’s a lesson we all could do with taking on board.