Behind the Scenes at YouTube Space Tokyo

I recently visited the Youtube Space in Tokyo. Yeah, it was dope.
You might be wondering, what’s a “YouTube Space“?

In short, it’s a film studio that professional YouTubers (online video creators) can utilize as an educational space to improve their video production quality. Yes, YouTube is the website you watch cat videos on while at work, but it’s also a place where people creatively express themselves. More prominent YouTubers have access to various sets, video cameras and photography equipment under one roof at the YouTube Space. If you “Google” it, you’ll see there’re quite a few setup around the world. But, of course, only exceptionally popular YouTubers with an abundant number of subscribers are granted access to the Space.

Lacking the prerequisite subscriber count, I gained access to the Space by way of invitation from the YouTube “Reactor” professionally known as Akasan. He’s the proprietor of the YouTube channel, “Comics Plus”. Akasan is Japanese for Mr. Red, I’ll refer to him as Red for my English speaking readers.

Operating as a “Reactor” for the past few years, Red found himself being labeled as just another guy who watches television in front of a camera on YouTube. Recently, he’s been searching for projects to help pull his brand out of that “Reactor” stigma.

The goal was to conduct a photo shoot similar to the kind of aesthetic you would see in a Vanity Fair article, another step in Red’s journey to re-brand his YouTube journey.

With a hastily put together photo shoot, we all brought our best to the set. Everyone at the photo shoot were prominent guests on his YouTube channel in the past few years.
I should point out that out of everyone there, I was the only non-model/actor or internet personality on set. I’m generally the provider of an “every man” perspective on his channel. At the photo shoot, I was just a normal nappy haired dude with a well fitted suit and a good pair of loafers.
Every man should own a well fitted suit.

From left to right: Joshua, Kanon, Dante, Akasan, Kali, Aver and Terry.
Photo Credit to Kazz Takahashi Photography

Anyways… It was amazing watching professionals in their element.
Fellows like Dante Carver, who’s a veteran in his craft, helped frame many shots for my video. You may not know this if you don’t live in Japan, but Dante is one of the most recognizable foreigners in the country; rising to prominence by featuring in Japanese television commercials for years.

I used to think modeling wasn’t real work.
How could people get paid for taking pictures for a living?
Well I learned a valuable lesson that day.
I learned that it’s extremely tiring to stand still in front of a camera for an extended period of time while remaining engaged in getting your photo taken. And, of course, I didn’t want to appear bloated on camera, so I skipped breakfast and lunch. By the end of the day we were all exhausted and ready to eat.

Keep in mind, we do this for fun. With the exception of Red, no one present actually gets paid doing YouTube. It’s a glorified hobby we engage in for the love of the craft. Utilizing the Space is free for prominent YouTubers, most certainly as a means of promoting the YouTube brand. YouTube wants to be less associated with backyard viral videos and present themselves with a more professional aesthetic. I’m sure facilitating the success of their online video creators is great for corporate branding.

The entirety of my vlog was shot using my personal camera- the Panasonic Lumix G85.

It’s my first time editing a video shot entirely with this camera. Past videos have been blends of cellphone and DSLR video footage. It was nice to have continuity throughout the editing process. With the footage I shot on that day, I edited the video in a single night. Something about the music I found and used flowed in a way that pushed me to create it in a single sitting. I think the vlog turned out great.

I was also able to operate YouTube’s more professional cameras.
It’s like being given the keys to a REALLY expensive car and hoping you don’t ruin anything.

I don’t know if I’ll ever see the YouTube Space again, so I’m inclined to report the biggest lesson learned from the experience.

Effective pre-production is essential to the success of any project.

It’s definitely a loaded statement, but it encapsulates everything I learned from the photo shoot. What cameras are we using? What will we wear? In what order will we take our photos? Have a strategy and a set plan that can be followed from start to finish.

Prior to the day of the shoot, there were a bundle of ideas floating around about what kind of photos and videos we were going capture. Even I’m guilty of pitching an idea with vague understanding of what the setup would be and the availability of the team. I received a lukewarm response that pushed me to film more unscripted content, which ultimately fit better with my vlog. I’m more accustomed to doing things outside in a less controlled environment, waiting for a story to unfold in front of my camera lens.

The only thing I pitched that was actually executed were the interviews with the team members. When we’re together, we have amazing conversations ALL THE TIME. My goal was to facilitate a conversation on camera for us to reintroduce ourselves to Red’s audience, using one of the sets available to create a clean living room setting.

Another lesson learned is being mindful of your body positioning on camera. I like crossing my legs, but in a lot of the shots taken with my camera, the soles of my shoes are in dead center of the frame. When he gets around to editing and posting the footage from the main camera, you should be able to watch the full interviews I conducted on Red’s YouTube channel.

A professional photographer was invited who took the Vanity Fair inspired group shot. That being the main mission of the get together, I’d say it was a success. However, I could tell Red was frustrated by the day’s end. But that wasn’t unusual, considering he’s constantly in hustle mode. I imagine he had much planned out that didn’t get properly executed. We were always racing against the clock.

Overall, it was definitely a learning experience, and I was fortunate to be invited. I’m definitely a lot more motivated to being more consistent with my YouTube channel. So far I have a Shenmue vlog up on my video, read about that here, and another video edited and ready for publishing. Other than that, I have my hands full already loving life as a father, but I’m still determined to dedicate as much time as possible for my hobbies. The goal is to keep moving forward, and to keep growing. Wish me luck.

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