Behind the Name: VenetianPrincess



We begin a new periodic series in which users reveal the meaning behind their YouTube channel names. First up is Jodie, mistress of the parody, aka "VenetianPrincess": 

"When I created my YouTube account back in 2006, I wasn’t thinking in terms of branding yet. I just thought of it as a username and an inspiration for videos. I thought of Venetian Princess because firstly, I am half-Italian. Venice has so much culture and mystique, from its colorful venetian masks to its gondolas. I thought it would make for a good video setting. The princess part was my paying homage to my idol, the late Princess Diana. I’m also a Disney fan, so it has two meanings to me."

Weekend project: Cream cheese creativity

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Videographers who are also good cooks might want to use the weekend to start thinking about this cooking video competition sponsored by Philadelphia Cream Cheese.

Queen of Southern cooking Paula Deen is hosting a contest to find recipes that incorporate Philadelphia Cream Cheese in new, creative and, of course, tasty ways. During the next eight weeks, she'll be launching weekly competitions, giving aspiring chefs a chance to win a trip to Savannah, GA, and become one of the "Real Women of Philadelphia." (Sorry, guys. Deen says: "We're only looking for female chefs, but to all my men out there, you are welcome into the community.") Each Monday, she'll post a video of a side dish, appetizer or dessert to inspire your video submissions. All you have to do is submit a video featuring a recipe that includes cream cheese by that Friday. You can enter each competition as many times as you like, for as many weeks as you like.

If you're new to creating cooking videos, Paula's made a series of tutorials to help:

The first round starts on Monday, March 29, so be on the lookout for the latest video from Paula at and get ready to show off you cooking (and video producing!) skills.

Meet the documentarian behind "Butterflies," a film about the YouTube community

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Ester Brym is the auteur behind "Butterflies," a documentary about the YouTube community and this brave new world of digital culture and social media. The film premiered at the Action on Film International Film Festival in Pasadena, CA, last summer and has since won the Alan J. Bailey Excellence Award in Documentary Filmmaking and was also nominated for Best Social Commentary. Now, it's available for rent on YouTube and will be featured on our homepage tomorrow.

1. How did you come up with the concept for "Butterflies"? Was it inspired by anyone in particular?
I was already a big fan of YouTube when I decided to make a documentary about its community. What fascinated me were mainly people's videos and the fact that one is able to reach anyone, anywhere, just by uploading a video online. When I realized that people actually have huge followings, I found it incredible. I worked with lots of independent filmmakers and figured that with YouTube's community, everybody now has a chance to have an audience. I was mainly interested in the people I was watching and very curious to know their story. At that time, it was Xgobobeanx, Paytotheorderofofof2, Thehill88, Brookers and others.

2. How did you go about choosing the subjects for your documentary?
Apart from Jill, aka Xgobobeanx, all the characters featured in "Butterflies" weren't my first choices. I filmed about 20 characters for over the period of one year. I picked the final six based on how their story developed and what happened to their YouTube channels. Some YouTubers weren't interested in being interviewed; some had to be cut out or added in because of how they all fit together to illustrate the community, the different personalities on YouTube and the kind of videos they make. I wanted to have a little bit of everything. I also wanted to acknowledge some of the original YouTube personalities so the film ends up having a good mixture of all, including DaveDays, Fred, Whatthebuckshow, LisaNova, Mr. Safety, Kicesie and Boheme.

3. With the cost of equipment falling so sharply, anyone can really make a documentary. What do you think separates average docs from good ones, and good ones from great ones?
It is true that anyone can make a documentary these days, and I am sure it is also thanks to the low costs that we were able to make and finish "Butterflies." I am asked very often how we raised money to make a feature film. I always answer the same way: anyone who has a great story and great people attached to a project can make a film. Of course, there are lots of technical issues, and film's production quality should be the best possible. For a great documentary you need to have great sound, good footage, and an amazing editor, but mainly you need to have a fantastic story that's interesting, fresh, new and different.

4. As you were making the film, how were you thinking about your distribution strategy? What were/are your goals for the film?
My original wish for the film never was traditional distribution. I felt the audience for this film is online and that's where we should present it. However, just a year ago, there still weren't many choices for us to put the film up online. This online distribution system is very new and still developing and it is very hard to distinguish a good distribution platform. As we searched, we ended up opening at film festivals and going through the traditional system because people were asking to see the film. This was very good for the movie as we got some awards, some recognition and people started to talk about "Butterflies." It comes at the perfect time, that YouTube launches its "for rent" program, because we couldn't imagine a more perfect and more fitting place for our movie.

5. Where do you see the future of film distribution heading?
I am absolutely positive that the future of independent film distribution is not in the traditional ways as it was up to now. Releasing a film theatrically or even via broadcast has great costs associated with it and considering the budgets filmmakers can make movies for these days, it makes absolutely no sense to waste all that money on traditional distribution. Filmmakers can keep all the rights to their movies while releasing them online for free or with minimal costs attached. This is the future for all film, and I think, given YouTube's already-established audience, this can be the next step for how the platform can be used. Other sites that are strictly focusing on the filmmaking community, like, for example, will embrace this movie, because lots of us filmmakers are already online and lots of us hunger to see each other's films. We just need a place where we can go and see a good film.

6. What is your favorite aspect of filmmaking?
Editing! Editing and post-production is definitely my favorite part. Because that's when you are done with all the stress; you know what you filmed and what kind of personalities you have. When I sit down in front of my Avid and watch the hours and hours of footage I have, that's when I feel I finally have made a movie. That's when the story comes all together for me.

How'd They Do That? OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass"


Here's a fun video from OK Go. In it, they pose fans' questions to their crew, about how they pulled off the amazingly complex viral hit "This Too Shall Pass." Watch to find out the details they remember about making the video, how many takes it took to nail it, and why they didn't fake it.

Guide to making the most out of SXSW

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Howcast is out on the streets of Austin, TX, asking creative types at SXSW how to make the most of the festival, which can be an important place for filmmakers and musicians to network and find an audience for their work.

- Don't be shy. Make a lot of friends. You never know when your paths will cross again
- Try to see other people's films (or music showcases)
- Be prepared to talk about your art at any time
- Charge your phone whenever you can
- Eat! Take advantage of the free food
- Get on as many guest lists as possible
- Don't drink too much, because it is a marathon and not a sprint

Read more in the Howcast blog.

An Animated Conversation with Joaquin Baldwin

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Creating any animation is an impressive feat: it requires artistic skill, patience and a vivid imagination. Creating animations that receive hundreds of awards and millions of views on YouTube: that's just downright next level. In this conversation, Joaquin Baldwin, the animator behind "Sebastian's Voodoo" and "Papiroflexia," discusses his techniques, the inspiration behind his very different films, and his thoughts on online distribution.

Can you talk a bit about using YouTube and the Screening Room as a distribution platform?
I put my films on YouTube as soon as they were finished, and I've gotten more views here than in all the hundreds of film festivals my films have played at combined. If what you are looking for is to get a large amount of people to see your work, it is definitely the right approach. The Screening Room was a big push on the views, too -- having my films as featured content brought a whole new audience and a lot of subscribers to me. Nowadays, as soon as I publish something, I get a large amount of subscribers who automatically see it so it brings an immediate response.

A word of advice: If you consider your film to be good enough to qualify for an Academy Award, wait a bit longer before you publish it online. Both "Papiroflexia" and "Sebastian's Voodoo" were online way too early, and they both qualified for Academy Award consideration after winning some select festivals, but because they were already online I lost my chance.

What made you want to get into animation?
Being a computer nerd was the start of it all, and loving to draw. I first got into computer animation, more as special effects and fun graphics to play with, while I was in high school. It wasn't until I was working on my undergraduate degree that I saw its real potential as a storytelling tool. That's when I really started pushing more towards creating full films rather than just cool graphics.

Where do you get the inspiration for your films?
I get a lot of inspiration from poetry, very visual metaphors or concepts. Usually my films start with a simple idea or image, and then evolve into a narrative trying to keep that main idea in mind the whole time. I also watch a lot of films, both animated and live action, and directors like Guillermo del Toro or Hayao Miyazaki  are very important sources of inspiration.

Can you tell us a bit about your animation process? How long does a film typically take?
It greatly depends on the film, so let me give you two examples:

Papiroflexia: It took me 8 months of work. It's a 2D film with a lot of motion graphics in it, but the main animation was all created with pencil and animation paper on a light table, then cleaned-up with ink, and scanned and colored in the computer. I used a variety of software, from MonkeyJam for quick animation tests with my webcam, to Animo for quick coloring, to After Effects to put it all together.

Sebastian's Voodoo: It took 10 months of work. It's a 3D film, completely created in Maya and After Effects (with textures painted in Photoshop). I went through the traditional pipeline for CG, from storyboards to modeling, texturing, rigging, animatic, animation, lighting, rendering and finally compositing.

One important part on any of my films is that I spend a LOT of time working on a storyboard before I start animating. The storyboards go through a lot of revisions before they are ready; I try to show them to as many people as possible to get a good idea if they are working or not before I settle into anything.

What would be your advice for someone who's trying to create their first computer-generated animation?
There's a lot of help you can find online, for whichever software you are using, and a ton of tutorials on traditional animation and drawing as well. You should definitely try some traditional animation (not necessarily with pencil and paper, just draw with a tablet on your computer if you want), and get a feel on how the basics of animation work. It'll help with your CG work immensely. Draw a lot!

Where do you see the future of animation going?
There's too many people concerned about Avatar, both animators and actors. I say bring it on; it's fantastic to have all of this new technology available, it will not replace actors or animators, each have their own strengths and work for different situations. And soon all of this new technology will be available for everyone, it's amazing that anyone can do an animated film nowadays, with even the most basic computer. I'm sure soon enough we'll be able to do our own performance capture at home with a webcam ;)

Making Music With Socalled


Josh Dolgin, aka Socalled, is a Canadian musician with a cult following both online and off. His marriage of klezmer music, hip-hop and magic tricks makes him one of the world's more unique performance artists, and he's got millions of views on YouTube to prove it. In this interview, he discusses making trans-genre music, artistic empowerment and what it's like having a documentary made about yourself. That documentary is now available for rent. You can preview it here.   

1. What was your reaction to the runaway success of "You Are Never Alone," and why did you think it resonated with so many people?
I'd like to believe that it was the marriage of the music and the visuals that touched people, but I have a feeling that while people all loved the song (well, not all, eek) it was the very inspired scenario that Ben [the director] came up with and executed with such skill and style that made the video stand out. In the history of videos about people taking off pieces of their face to reveal a movie projector, I feel like this one ranks pretty high.

2. What impact did the success of your videos on YouTube have on your career?
Hard to tell. I still live in a basement hell-hole apartment and ride a bike, so it didn't really translate into massive record sales, licensing, merchandising, etc... Having stuff up on YouTube is just really awesome for making your art available to the curious around the world, and satisfying that curiosity leads to connections, which in turn leads to meeting other creative people or fans of creativity, which hopefully leads to more collaborations, concerts, opportunities... 

3. Your combination of klezmer and hip-hop is, needless to say, in a class all its own. What advice would you have for other young artists trying to bring together such seemingly disparate genres?
Keep it real. Know your sources. Know your history. Practice. And yo, I don't say that mine is a combination of those two exact genres of music; I try to include elements of all kinds of amazing traditions. On my next record, I do a song with Algerian troubadour/pop star Enrico Macias, the king of calypso the Mighty Sparrow, rap legend Roxanne Shante, Boban Markovitch and house legend Derrick Carter, just for starters.

4. How is the artist more empowered now than 20 years ago? Less?
There are no excuses now. We should be making the best music in history, but we're not! Why not? Too many options, too many variables we can control...limits force us to make choices and hone our skills, but wow, the potential! The opportunities! We don't need million-dollar studios to make songs any more. We don't need to get into million-dollar television studios to have our music heard, our videos seen... Democrazy!

5. What was it like being the star of your own documentary?  Is there anything you wish the filmmakers hadn't caught on camera?
It was kind of a pain in the ass having people follow me around for almost two years, but the whole crew was so cool and generous that I was lucky, they were my friends. I felt honored that they felt that the work I do is worth capturing, that the people I admire and create with were captured for posterity; that's awesome. Actually I wish they'd caught MORE embarrassing, dirty, gritty stuff – sometimes I think this film is too polite and friendly. I'm not always so smilin' and chillin' and normal; I get crazy, I have a dirty, wild life... that'll be the
Socalled Movie Part II, I promise. Now download my new tune and rent my movie please so I can buy a sandwich!

How'd They Do That? NigaHiga, YouTube's No.1 Most Subscribed of All Time

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Ryan Higa, aka nigahiga, has just made YouTube history: he's the first person to hit 2 million subscribers on the site, cementing his status as the No. 1 Most Subscribed Channel of All Time.

The thing everyone wants to know is, just how, exactly, does something like that happen? We asked Ryan this very question in the summer of 2009, when his foray into longer content, "Ninja Melk," was released, but we never published his responses. Turned out to be fortuitous, because now seems like the perfect time to resurrect his words:

What's the secret to becoming YouTube's No. 1 Most Subscribed Channel of All Time? 
I don't think there are any secrets; however, there are some consistencies that I've seen that seem to help. The main thing is that you post videos that people want to see; majority of the time, it's comedy. Once you find your own style that works for you, you must continuously produce and post videos. Personally, I always watch my own videos as if I were the audience, before I post them. If it's something I think they'll enjoy and won't be offended by, it's good to go!

What's the strategy behind the videos you create? In other words, how do you decide what your next video is, when to upload it, and how to get the word out about it?
I always change up the type of video I make; that way, my subscribers never know what they're in for when a new video is up. For example, I have videos that range from rants, spoofs, sketches, songs, raps and short films. I try to upload at least once a week, but some videos take much longer to create and edit. The way I get the word out about my videos is usually through Twitter, MySpace, YouTube subscriptions and, probably the best of all, people spreading the word themselves.

What's your ultimate goal: fame and fortune on YouTube or something else?
My ultimate goal is to continuously produce videos that top the previous one. With every new video, I'm trying to improve, whether it's the video quality, editing or even the material. I think if you were to look back at the first videos I made, you'd hopefully see that they went from "horrible" to "a little less horrible." Anyway, being No. 1 most subscribed on YouTube is amazing, and I'm extremely grateful to be in that spot, but I'll never stop setting new goals and working toward creating the perfect video, which isn't possible.

The World of Web Originals According to NewTeeVee



Liz Shannon Miller is a writer at NewTeeVee and a leading authority on Web original content. Today, she's curating a homepage spotlight devoted to some lesser-known webisodic gems.

In the following interview, she discusses the future of this emerging genre and some of the production elements that separate the good series from the great.

Can you tell us a bit about your process for finding great original Web series?
The advantage of having a lot of friends who are also fans of web content is that following them on various social networks is both business and pleasure, as there's a lot of sharing going on. There's also a lot of time spent tracking Twitter and blogs for both new shows and older stuff, both viral and episodic — plus, every morning I go through all five pages of the YouTube Most Viewed listings, just to see what's popular and topical.  In addition, we get a lot of pitches from creators who want us to take a look at their stuff, which is great, especially when they take the time to tell us why their show is worth checking out.

The big challenge is making time to sift through all this potentially awesome content and being ruthless about the not-so-good or the terrible. Fortunately, it's not too hard to stop watching something bad — unless it's so bad it's good.

What do you think makes the difference between a good Web series and a great one?
The quality of production. Web series still have a long way to go if they're going to be treated on the same level as content created for film and TV with multi-million-dollar budgets, but the shows that are closing the gap are the ones that know how to best use their resources. You can tell a great story with great actors, but factors like sound design, editing — heck, even the main titles — do play a role in how a show is perceived.

That doesn't mean, though, that the goal is to be perceived as a TV show. Some of the best shows are the ones that acknowledge their Web roots, and have fun online with the fact that they can build out the world their characters live in beyond a rigid episodic structure. One of our curated picks, the hilarious "Acting School Academy," stands out not just because of the central episodes, but the incredible breadth of auxiliary content created to accompany the show. There are fake commercials, vlogs, even in-character interviews with real journalists; there are also Facebook and Twitter accounts for both the characters and the show. It's a new definition for the phrase "epic narrative."

What advice would you give to original content creators who are trying to find an audience?
Well, first off, it's really helpful if your show is good, and good right from the beginning. A great first 30 seconds is so important when it comes to grabbing an audience.

Then, know how to sell your show to both potential audiences and professionals. Come up with a pitch that really defines your show, sets it apart as unique, and then target pre-existing communities that might be interested.

What you want are fans. "The Guild" was embraced by the World of Warcraft community; "Anyone But Me" has gotten huge support from both gay audiences and soap opera enthusiasts. Fans are great — they stalk your content, engage with your show, and spread the word. The earlier they discover your show, the more supportive and empowered they'll feel. The better-known the fan, the better luck you'll probably have.

Also, studies show that most people these days discover web content, for the most part, through blogs.  Forging relationships with the people who run high-trafficked sites where you've seen videos is helpful — just don't demand too much without getting to know them first.

What kinds of recent trends have you noticed in online content creation? Where do you see the medium heading in the next five years?
It's hard to pick out recent trends, if only because the classics seem unlikely to go out of style. Girls in bikinis, adorable animals, guys getting hit in the crotch, guys getting hit in the crotch by girls in bikinis — these are easy tricks, but they remain effective even over 20 years after the premiere of "America's Funniest Home Videos."

Very specifically in terms of Web series, though, in the next five years, we'll probably see fewer series that might be defined as amateur. Instead, the level of quality across the board will be much higher, and there'll be greater diversity across the board on all levels. Right now, people are playing around more with episode length and release schedules, especially as audiences seem to grow more comfortable with watching videos longer than three minutes.

Also, the fact that many of the new stars emerging today are getting discovered on YouTube will probably have a profound impact on the entertainment world over the next five years. Justin Bieber's only the latest example. 

What's the best part of covering new media at NewTeeVee?
Getting to tell the stories of the people who make up the Web video community. When a show we've already covered gets a great new distribution deal, when a talented creator figures out a way to make a profit in this hectic industry, it's inspiring even from a spectator position.

Plus, the fact that sometimes, we're literally being paid to watch YouTube? That's pretty awesome as well.

Weekend Project: Report on something the media's missed


Project: Report, our video journalism contest in conjunction with the Pulitzer Center, is already in full swing: 10 finalists have proceeded to the second and final round of the competition, during which they'll vie for a $10,000 travel fellowship.

That said, there's still an opportunity to get in on the action, to win a Sony VAIO notebook. Here's what you have to do:

Report on a compelling topic or subject of any nature which you believe has not been sufficiently and/or accurately covered by the national media. All entries must be less than five minutes long and shot in High Definition.

Submissions are due by 12 p.m. ET on April 4, 2010. More details about the competition are here, on the Project: Report YouTube channel.

Further Reading: Beating Creative Block, OK Go Behind the Scenes, Fun Fonts


Creator's Corner will periodically round up interesting and inspiring articles from around the Web, all relating to the craft of video-making.

Overcoming Creative Block: Design blog ISO50 interviewed 25 accomplished creatives to find out their insights and strategies for breaking through creative blocks. Readers contributed tons more strategies in the post's comments.

Tips for Shooting Better Online Video: From Online Journalism Review; draws from core curriculum handouts at USC's Annenberg School for Communications and OJR's "Shooting Web video: How to put your readers at the scene."

How'd They Do That? OK Go's "This Too Shall Pass": Gizmodo gets the band to sit down and spill the beans on how they made their latest viral hit.

30 Free Fonts for Creative Projects: hand-picked some free, innovative fonts for their guest post for Web Designer Wall.

MediaStorm's Ten Tips for Working With Music in Multimedia: The things one multimedia production company thinks about when finding music for video projects.

Video Mad Libs With the Right Software: NY Times' Personal Tech spells out how to partake in a popular meme.

Big Think Interview with Ken Burns: The documentary filmmaker talks about the art of storytelling and how technology has impacted his craft, and gives this advice to novices: "1) Be true to yourself, know who you are; 2) Persevere. There is no career path -- that's the good news and the terrifying bad news."

    Howcast Seeking YouTube Filmmakers at SXSW



    Howcast, those folks who hosted that great roundtable discussion with four young innovative filmmakers for Creator's Corner, will be at SXSW in full force, looking for filmmakers to talk to and put on camera. They're especially interested in knowing about "what you make and how you make it." So if you're in Austin next week, seek them out to talk shop; if you're not, stay tuned to this blog for a recap of all the filmmaking tips and nuggets picked up at the festival.

    For more details, check out the Howcast blog.

    Steampunk Meets Surrealism: Behind the Scenes of the Raveonettes' "Heart of Stone"

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    The stunning animation of the Raveonettes' "Heart of Stone" video marks the second collaboration between the Danish band and director Chris Do of design studio/production house Blind:

    If you find the video's mix of grit and surreal beauty won't leave your head, you can go deeper into its origins by visiting Blind's site, which showcases riveting storyboards, style frames and behind the scenes graphics.

    In addition, Motionographer has an interview with the director, in which he talks about the creative process, working within budget limitations and advice for others interested in dabbling in music video. We found this portion to be especially inspiring:

    "At the earliest stage of conceptualizing the piece, I asked everyone to look for things they felt could relate to the song and the band. One of my interns showed me a series of images produced for the Zurich Chamber Orchestra, where musicians are illustrated playing human parts like hair inside the body.

    "I was inspired by these images and wrote a story about how a female character could play the role of a care taker inside the body. From there, the story evolved. It goes to show you, good ideas can come from anywhere. You just have to be willing to listen."

    Read the whole interview here.

    Weekend Project: "My YouTube Story"


    For our fifth birthday this year, we're looking to highlight unique stories that bring out the humanity, creativity and wealth of information found everyday on YouTube. To that end, we're hoping you can make a video that tells your "YouTube story" in two minutes or less: how has this platform changed your life, business, career, outlook, skills, sense of community or other? We'll be featuring some of these videos in our blog and on our homepage later this year. Please tag your video myytstory so we can find it. Happy weekend!

    How to Make a Video Starring Your Pet



    Zak George is one of YouTube's most popular dog trainers and the host of Animal Planet's SuperFetch. His channel, zakgeorge21, contains videos that will help you teach your dog all kinds of tricks, and he actively engages his audience by regularly soliciting dog training questions from the community. Since he's an expert in all things canine and YouTube, we asked him to make a video about the key points to remember when creating videos starring your pet.

    Here are some tips from the video and more:

    1. Always bring your camera when out with your pet. You never know when your animal is going to do something amazing.

    2. Think about what your pet does that's unique -- maybe it's a trick or an irresistible look -- and set out to capture that on camera.

    3. Shooting outdoors is ideal, but if you are filming inside, a well-lit environment is important. If you go as far as setting up lights and tripods, make sure your pet isn't spooked by these unfamiliar objects, as large, top-heavy items are most likely to make your dog nervous. Avoid moving these things suddenly or in close proximity to your pet.

    4. Capturing an animal in motion can make for a beautiful shot. Therefore, be prepared to be mobile and low to the ground to get the most pleasing footage. If you are going for an action shot, leave the tripod in the closet.

    5. Give back to the pet-lovers' community by putting your own training skills to work. What have you taught your pet lately? You've probably done it in a unique way. Think about sharing this with the world.

    6. Your imagination's the only limit when capturing your pet on video. Whether it's putting them in real-life scenarios or compiling a short highlight reel, you'll be glad you took the time to preserve these precious memories.

    My Equipment List: charlieissocoollike


    Charlie McDonnell, aka charlieissocoollike, gives you a peek inside the hardware that makes his videos possible. See past equipment lists from vlogbrothers' Hank Green and Shane Dawson, and suggest other subjects in the comments below.

    Camera: Sony HDR-SR10

    Tripod: Sony VCT-R640

    Lighting: 2 Ikea Mörker Lamps

    Editing Program: Final Cut Express 

    Computer: 15" Macbook Pro

    Advice: Don't waste your time wishing to be the next "big thing" on YouTube. Make videos to the best of your ability, get stuck into the community, and you're much more likely to enjoy yourself. 

    Proudest video: "'Duet With Myself' I've always wanted to try out a bit of split screen, but I knew that if I was going to do it then I'd have to make it worth it. Writing a song with two parts was annoyingly hard, as was learning both parts, performing them in time, and making the cut between the two shots look seamless. After putting in the extra effort though, the response that I got from the video make the whole ordeal much more than worth it!"

    YouTubers' Guide to Action Figures

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     We found "Action Jon" when he commented on this post about Patrick Boivin's "Ninja Unboxing," a video that employs action figures and stop motion to thrilling effect. We checked out Jon's action figures blog and admired how passionate he is about action figures. In this post, which he wrote just for the Creator's Corner, Jon distills his vast knowledge into advice for anyone interested in making a video starring figurines. Thank you, Jon!

    Have a sense of what you're going to do: Are you just posing the action figures and putting them in a video, are you doing a review for other Youtube users, or are you creating a story somehow or using them for stop-motion videos? It's only when you want to create a story or do stop-motion animation that there are more things to think about. You can even use Lego figures or statues if animating them isn't the main focus, but as a general rule you would want action figures or dolls that have some degree of articulation.

    Think about form vs. function: do you want a better looking figure or a more articulated one? It all boils down to what you need. Some people think articulation points on a figure are ugly. A simple solution would be to cover them with clothes so that their joints can't be seen.

    Accessorize! A seemingly boring figure may turn out great when you dress it differently, so don't get too attached to what your figures are wearing when you buy them. Experiment with changing their clothes or creating your own. For example, Boivin's "Ninja's Unboxing" video features three 12-inch action figures playing the role of ninjas. They look the same, but they're different figures. The clothes not only hide their joints and add to the coolness factor, but they also mask the face. Would you have guessed that they were Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson action figures if I haven't told you just now? These are Hot Toys figures. Hot Toys is a Hong Kong company and they only sell to retailers. Refer to where to get Hot Toys action figures for more information.

    Shopping Guide:

    • eBay is a good place to get figures, plus their accessories, props or clothing, but you should have a clear picture of what you'll be doing with them before you buy them.
    • One of the most popular figures for stop-motion videos are Stikfas. They're 3.25-inch action figures that are very flexible and all of their articulation points are ball-socketed joints, giving excellent possibilities for poses. They're reasonably cheap, but not very realistic looking.
    • Hot Toys TrueType figures are another good choice. These have 38 points of articulation while still providing a reasonably realistic look for your characters. They have male and female versions and different skin colors. If you can't find these, other Hot Toys figures will do just fine.

    • G.I. Joe action figures also have very good flexibility and lots of points of articulation (and look cool). The problem with the Joes is that they don't stand very well on their own, so you would have to use some wires to get them in position or even temporarily glue their feet by using some sticky substance to get them to stand and stay in certain positions.
    • If your videos include cars, I'd recommend Hot Wheels because there's a lot of variety of cars and other vehicles.
    • You can also use clay figures, as they allow you to create characters to your liking. (For example, the popular "Chicken Run" and "Wallace & Gromit" use clay figures.) Creating them may involve some technical work on your part, but they can be useful if you're having trouble finding the right figures to work with or if you want to have a greater degree of control in how they look like and how they're animated. [More on clay-mation in a future post! - Ed.]