Behind the Scenes: Spending the day at YouTube

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When I was still working in the tech industry, one of the things that was cool about my job was that I was ‘required’ to squeeze in 4 weeks of training per year.  I say required in air quotes because sometimes the total days done was a bit Jelly-like, but in general, that was roughly what we’d get.  And what was cool about it was that I could get training on basically anything in the world I wanted, within some level of reasonableness.

It could be some bizarre tech thing that was vaguely related to my job, or perhaps some course related to the specific industries I focused on.  Might even be something like leadership or whatever else training.  You get the drift – the world was my oyster (and I was able to more or less travel anywhere in the world to get that training, assuming I could work up a good enough excuse to convince my boss).

Of course, once I left that full-time job for doing the blog full-time, those training opportunities went away as well.  Sure, my day to day life doing DCR is one never-ending training.  I’m always learning new devices and new gizmos.  Same goes for learning how to service new bike components I’ve never seen before, or how some element of heart rate research works.

But ultimately, I don’t do structured training anymore.  And sometimes it’s just interesting to sit down with the smartest people in a given field and have the opportunity to go back and forth on a topic while you apply it in person.  So, that’s what I did not so recently ago.

The YouTube Space:

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Before I get into why exactly I was visiting YouTube, I figured I’d show you a little bit of the space.  See, YouTube has what are called ‘YouTube Spaces’ which are full blown studios and shooting spaces available to YouTubers that meet various subscriber thresholds.  In general, it’s 10,000 subscribers – but that varies a bit on the country.  There’s other perks and such at various levels above that.  But 10K is sorta the major hurdle.

These spaces are located around the world (a list here), but include major cities like Paris, London, New York, LA, and so on.  The size of the spaces varies quite a bit by office, but the main things they have are full shooting and editing spaces/suites, as well as a huge gear/inventory list that you can borrow for the day (or multiple days).  It’s like a playground and library mixed into one, for video peeps…without any charge. It’s all free.

In any case, while there is a YouTube space in Paris – only about 15 minutes away by train, I actually ended up taking the train to London instead.  Thankfully, the YouTube Space in London couldn’t be located in a better location for those taking the Eurostar train from France – the office is directly across the street. As in, I could throw a crumpet at it and hit it from the train station.

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Now technically the building actually houses Google offices as well (of which YouTube is a part of).  And within that, there’s the official ‘YouTube Space’, as well as general YouTube offices for YouTube employees.  The space part is the one that’s directly accessible from the street, whereas the offices are up on the tall skyscraper of the building that sits atop it.

After a security guard confirms you’re on the list for the day, you’re let inside and are able to pick up your badge.

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Inside, the interior is a blend of trendy startup meets movie set.  The open portion of the space is divided up into various ‘sets’, which are frequently changed up.  In theory, these sets would be used for filming projects, though I can’t imagine there’s that many YouTubers that would have a need for a London Taxi cab or a diner.  Still, these areas make for good gathering spaces for events.

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Instead, it’s the larger sound stages that are of more use to folks.  I believe there were three of these, some bigger than others.

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In addition, there are editing bays/rooms for folks to head into.  Sorry, I ended up just using a cell-phone for all my photos.

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Plus, just a lot of general meeting space and spots to take fun photos in front of.

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Oh, and then there’s the YouTube Creator Store. This is actually also accessible directly from the street without any appointment needed (like a normal shop).

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This has all the YouTube branded stuff you can imagine, plus various products from mostly local YouTubers.  Books and such.

The space isn’t massive, but seems pretty functional. I think for many YouTubers visiting it, it’s more of a convenient meeting spot to use, as well as a great place to rent gear. Speaking of which, this is a gear blog, right?

Wait, a $50,000 Camera?

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Actually, it’s more than $50K.  Technically the $49,500 for the RED EPIC-W only gets you the center sensor portion, called the ‘Brain’. That doesn’t include things like storage, lenses, cables, or even a handle.  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

As I mentioned above, one of the things the YouTube Space has is classes.  Usually a fair number of them.  They can be anything from courses on sound design to lighting, or aspects of how to use editing apps like Final Cut Pro or Premier. Same goes for more detailed elements like color correction of 360° shooting.  All of which are free to those that meet the threshold.

I was trying to find a good calendar for March from one of the YouTube Spaces, but it seems like nobody has really loaded much in yet (I find in general they tend to load stuff kinda late).  So instead, here’s the various levels within YouTube (well, the public levels anyway).


So in my case, I was looking at doing some Final Cut Pro classes (which is what I use for editing), or perhaps some classes on color correction (the bane of my existence in video).  But for the timeframe I was looking at, neither were offered on the dates that fit my schedule.  So instead I decided to go completely out of left field and go with a full day workshop on the RED cameras.  This would include everything from shooting to editing and plenty more.  Oh, and it included lunch.  And again, all free.

For those not familiar, RED cameras are both incredibly powerful and incredibly expensive.  As this section header alluded to, the camera seen below is a $49,500 base brain.  But once you add everything in you’re looking at closer to $70K (USD).  Of course, you don’t have to spend that much.  Apple has packages at ‘only’ $14,500.  But that only shoots 4K (versus the 8K the cameras I was using shot).

None of which really matter in the grand scheme of things for one core reason:

The Girl would shoot me if I bought one.

Mostly because that’d require trading the kids’ college funds for a camera.  Actually, she’d probably sign me up for a duathlon relay unknowingly, make me swim the swim leg…and then shoot me.

So why bother to learn this gear if I’m not going to buy one anytime soon?

Because I can rent it for free.

See, as part of the YouTube space program I can use the RED cameras either there or any YouTube office…including Paris.  You just have to complete the training first, thus, here I was.

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The class was presented by RED folks, and some YouTube folks were there as well for various tidbits.  The students weren’t probably what you’d envision as a ‘YouTuber’.  Generally speaking there wasn’t some pop-celebrity teen heartthrob there (ok, maybe one).  Most though were film guys and gals working in the industry that did YouTube stuff on the side.  Everyone in the room (even heartthrob) noted at the beginning of the class that they were largely there to learn the gear and see if it fit their production workflows.

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The structure included a bunch of presentation stuff followed by hands-on time with various tasks to complete.

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In my case, I played around with a few watches I had on-hand.

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Also, I’d be totally remiss if I didn’t mention briefly the incredible cafeteria they have on a rooftop deck.  It’s for all Google employees, so we were just guests there that day.  All you can eat…all free!

And while it was an overcast day, here’s the view:

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As for the class itself, it was really well put on. I’d definitely travel again for certain classes. The cost of Eurostar tickets when you buy them ahead of time is low enough that it’s far cheaper than an equally detailed class nearby.  But more importantly, being able to access the gear now is invaluable.

Final Thoughts:

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Of course, I’m well aware that simply filming with a $70,000+ camera isn’t going to make a given YouTube video anymore popular than any other.  It’ll help, sure, but ultimately there are countless people filming on cheap cell phones with millions of views.  And even myself I’ve almost found that the less time I spend on a video the more popular it is, GoPro and drone videos aside (where you legit have to do more work to have them popular).

Which gets to the next interesting tidbit: My blog and YouTube audiences are quite different. Certainly plenty of overlap, but once again being down in Australia has re-iterated this again (which I started realizing last year): There’s a lot of people on YouTube that follow me that have no idea I write here.  And inversely there’s a lot of people here that have no idea I have a YouTube channel.


Further, while action camera and drone content does ok here on the blog, it’s my most popular content on YouTube.  Inversely, some smaller niche-like watches and bike computers (such as my COROS post from last week) that randomly do well here don’t do as well on YouTube.

Of course, I’m also keenly aware that the time I put into YouTube drives that. On average I post about one video a week there, sometimes super high quality, sometimes not.  Almost always in support of a post/piece here.  That’s largely because from a revenue standpoint YouTube is trivial. Most videos I produce only gather tens of dollars. This immensely detailed and complex video I did last week took me an entire day to produce has only made $8.21. That’s normal.

Which isn’t to say it’s not worth it – there are videos that do exceedingly well, almost exclusively based on timing (a video shot on launch day).  But with my model of not doing sponsored videos/posts, it doesn’t generally have a very good ROI.

But that’s OK, because I actually find video editing and the process of it to be fun and interesting.  So hopefully my videos will keep getting better (or at least not worse), and maybe I’ll even start publishing more of them (I probably only publish about 20% of the videos that I fully shot).

In the meantime – enjoy your weekend.

Oh, actually, wait – first, go subscribe to my channel on YouTube.


I can at least promise I’ve got some incredibly cool stuff coming up next week. Assuming the FedEx plane the device is on doesn’t go all Wilson on some remote Southern Pacific island.  Should be here Tuesday, video up Wednesday. Probably the most excited I’ve been for a gadget in a long while.

Ok, now go and enjoy your weekend.

Thanks for reading!


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  1. James

    A great behind the scenes post! It must be like a kid in a candy shop looking at and playing with gear like that. Amazed on the low revenue per video though, given quality and popularity. Has it always been low or has revenue/user or revenue/post deteriorating over time (and if so – why??). Cheers.

    • It’s always been pretty low for me. I know that in my case I block all the companies that I review via Google Adsense for ads here on the site, but it’s not clear to me if that also blocks them on YouTube (I have no control to my knowledge).

      Certainly, occasionally I get videos that do well, but that’s more the exception than the rule. For example, a GoPro Hero6 video I did last fall with 180,000 views has netted about $250. At first that sounds good…till you remember I spent $500 on the camera. Or the ~1.5 days it took to put it together. Conversion rates for Amazon links on YouTube are in the pennies on most videos (if that). The reality is that you’d need almost daily content and a channel subscriber base in the 250K+ realm to make a viable career out of it the YouTube ad revenue directly. Obviously there are rare exceptions, but that’s the general line in the sand. Of course, many YouTube channels have secondary revenue sources with sponsors or sponsored videos/content. And that’s where the money is.

      So you may wonder why bother? Well, I think even though the revenue from YouTube directly doesn’t add up, the videos help promote the blog – where the revenue is more logical. Plus…I kinda enjoy it. :)

    • I appreciate your kind of openenss very much. Transparencey rulez! #kudos

  2. Rob Poma

    Thanks for pulling back the curtain on YouTube and their creature sights. Your mention of ROI is equally interesting. Thanks again for all you do!

  3. gingerneil

    Interesting.. these are often my favourite kinds of posts…
    I wonder if it would even cost in for you, time wise, to spend a day two in their studio doing post production on high end servers versus chugging through gigs of content on your own workstation? I can imagine processing the 8k from a RED would take rather a long time, even on a reasonably high end consumer Mac.

    • Yeah, with proxy files it wouldn’t be horrible time-wise (though, I haven’t tried it with anything meaningful). But certainly, faster hardware would help. Typically for me my biggest consumption of time isn’t editing (I’m surprisingly fast there despite any formal training), rather, it’s all the setup/prep for the shot. Especially for outdoors shots involving lots of angles or views. Drone videos in particular are really challenging because I’m usually shooting with 2 (or even 3) drones, then having 2-3 cameras on the ground, two screen recording devices for phone apps, plus audio. If just one of those goes wrong on the recording front (especially drone or screen recording), I’ve gotta reset everything and do over.

      A rare exception to things going right with drone videos was actually my DJI Mavic Air high-wind test one. While I prepped gear a lot the night before, the entire shoot start to finish was under 20 minutes. Even that though one of the drones ran out of space mid-flight (doh!). That video has done well though, despite that hiccup.

      There are certain products where I could see value in having a well planned shoot around using the camera on premise (RED or otherwise). Though, part of the challenge is a lot of what I shoot is outdoors focused – where bringing a RED along is harder (i.e. on a bike). Though, there is actually a YouTube channel out there with mountain bikers and RED cameras…

      Ultimately as many YouTubers demonstrate, you don’t need a RED to get high quality looking videos. Rather, it’s more about planning, having the eye for the right shots, and then post-production work. Someday I’ll find that balance.

    • Claus Jacobsen

      The imac pro is pretty much specifically made for 8K videoediting. If You look at some of the performance reviews on the tube now, it is quite clear that going HEVC and 8K kills all other macs and most pc’s compared to the FCX imac pro workflow. (especially premiere is getting killed when you go 8K compared to the pure apple workflow) Davinci Resolve is about somewhere in the middle, but is actually quite close to fcx/Imac pro if used on an imac pro.

      But You are totally spot on with the eye for the shot and planning :-) That’s the difference between a pro creative and a pro “worker”. But it does get easier to get the good shots with time and practice.

    • Matt B

      Gah! Stole my joke about how are you going to fit that on a bike mount…

      Serious bit of kit, when your camera needs not one but two fans to cool it 😳

  4. Floris

    Thanks for the interesting post Ray!

    The post for Wednesday. Could it be a watch from a certain brand starting with a W.?? :) If sow, i’m looking forward to Wednesday! :D

  5. Ahbe

    I guess I’m just the odd guy who would prefer to read. I don’t particularly like web videos. It’s not that I’m not “with the times”. I do IT for a living and keep up with the latest trends in tech. But for personal consumption, I much prefer your blog. The one exception would be when I wasn’t too see a size comparison. Sometimes a video is better then just pictures for that. Anyway, interesting read. Always enjoyable.

    • Dan

      I prefer to read because it is faster. I hate stuff on the internet that says her is information that can be listed out and it’s only a video. Give me the text. My time is my time and I just want to satisfy my knowledge of the moment and move on. Videos and slide shows just take too long.

  6. Jim L

    Did you get them to sort out the continual black listing of your work yet?

  7. Matt B

    So when you hit 100k subs, what kind of event are you allowed to put on?

  8. Husain

    Thank you for this interesting post. Keep the videos coming. Thanks!

  9. Scott E

    So basically you are both a tri-athlete and tri-medialete – blog, social media, video. Whew, that sounds a bit exhausting. When I think about how much time it takes me to learn a new head unit, let alone the advance features of FCP, it is hard to imagine multiplying by 100 given the number of devices and domains you cover.

    Still, the video shots from the drones really does compliment the posts, and mountain biking write ups are a bit dry without ride video. Bonus when The Girl gets to flame you for not wearing a helmet – makes it real.

  10. Marcie

    That was one do the most interesting posts I’ve read from your blog (which I read religiously – please do not stop doing it in favor of a full Youtube model). Very, very cool stuff. Thank you.

  11. Robert

    There. Subscribed. 64 001 now. Only 34 999 to go to get “Eligible to Host an Event”, whatever that means.

  12. Mitch W

    How do they NOT have one of these near SF/Silicon Valley?