What is around the average budget for a video?
Niko: I mean it fluctuates pretty extensively.
Sam: Fluctuates between like the price of going out to lunch for a half dozen people to a couple thousand dollars. I mean, depends. Even for bigger ones like ones where we weren’t officially with a video game company — those are far greater than anything we could fund on our own — thousands of dollars go into that. It really depends; if we’re doing it for fun, you know, sometimes it’s nothing.
Niko: There is an interesting thing where our friend Logan told us and that is if you want to work with people and you don’t have a huge budget, don’t offer them just a tiny amount of money — instead ask them for a favor, because if you ask them for a favor and it’s a person who has a skill that costs a thousand dollars a day, they’ll come out and do you a favor because people are in this because they want to make films. They are in this because they want to do what they’re doing, and if you ask them to come out for a day, they’ll take their time, they’ll donate it and come and work with you, and the expectation is you’ll do the same in return should they need it. But when you say, “Hey I can’t pay you your rate, but I can pay you a hundred bucks,” then you’re devaluing them, and it immediately makes– when you do a favor, even though they didn’t get paid anything it’s still very valuable, but when somebody pays you a hundred bucks, you’re just worth a hundred bucks. We learned very quickly that if you want to make a cool video — and we don’t have a huge budget for it because it is just going to be a regular YouTube video — people are happy to come out and help if we just ask them to. We don’t need to get into this whole small budget and that kind of thing. If it is a small budget film we just say, “Hey we’re working on this project. We’d love your help.” And people tend to come out and help, and the occasional bigger project comes along where we have a sponsorship from the video game company or something like that and then we can actually pay them their actual rate, and that’s how we kind of do things, so the budgets fluctuate wildly but there is a lot of other stuff happening behind the scenes.
So in regard to sponsorships, you just did “Blood Dragon” for “Far Cry 3.” It was a really intricate, big video, so besides you two, Jake and Brandon, what does the normal team for that type of video look like?
Niko: I guess there is a lot of different people that we work with for a lot of different things. When we’re doing a martial arts piece it is basically two sub teams that we tend to work with. One is EMC Monkeys, the other one is Action Factory. EMC tends to specialize a little bit more in martial arts and little bit more in homegrown stunts. They’re like the equivalent of us in our VFX; EMC is the martial arts version of us where it’s a bunch of guys who have been doing martial arts and want to do it professionally, and they’ve grown their team, they have a YouTube channel with other YouTubers, whereas Action Factory is a little bit more of like, “Hey I need you to crash a car, like I need a car crash.” “Okay I’ve crashed some cars, let’s do it.” It’s that level of stunt work.
Sam: Yeah it’s a little bit more on the area of knowing how to be safe while doing something extremely dangerous, then how to choreograph a fight scene, so even though they are in the same realm, they are very different aspects. Then for music we’ve been working with a number of different people. A guy named Kris Fischer is one of the guys we’ve been working with; he lives in the UK. He did all our music for our web series “Sync” last year. Worked with a couple other people, mostly on a one-off basis so far, like a couple dubstep artists, things like that. Very recently on our “Zelda” video we worked with a guy named Blake Robinson, and he is I think in my opinion, the best sampled virtual instrument musician in the world because he basically takes orchestra samples and manages to make them sound like the best high-quality real-life orchestras you’ve ever heard, and on top of that he also is a huge “Zelda” fan and has a huge collection and library of “Zelda” covers he’s already made, so it’s like a no-brainer for that piece.
Niko: Then we decided to work with other YouTube channels that are interested in what we’re doing and want to do it themselves. We have our friends at Mars Rising Films, they do a lot of renaissance festival stuff, so if we ever need anything medieval those are the guys to talk to, but they have a general gist of production and that kind of stuff. Same thing with other friends in other realms. There are other people that we work with like Brandon and Freddie and their team, people at Node, and it’s just like as we keep doing this we find these groups of friends that are also trying to make films and put them online. Just naturally when we need somebody’s talents that are in one of these pools of people we just say, “Hey will you come help us?” and as we keep doing this our team grows bigger that we can pick from, and it just kind of works that way with everyone.
Sam: It’s interesting because so many channels have — even though the goal of these channels is to produce videos — everyone has their own different thing that they’re really good at, and it’s really fun finding who those people are, what they’re doing. At the same time it also makes things a little more difficult because now it’s like everyone needs to make their own videos for their own channels on top of that thing that they’re already good at, so it’s a really interesting kind of space to be in where everyone has their different focus but at the same time is trying to promote their channel, promote their videos, do all that stuff. It makes the favor aspect a little easier because we are able to just push our audience to whoever needs it, whoever wants the views, whoever needs that exposure.
Following up on that with the collaborations, what has been your favorite person to collaborate with besides Freddie and Brandon?
Niko: Epic Meal Time was a lot of fun to collaborate with.
Sam: Yeah it’s not like we really did that much.
Niko: Hey! I did a whole bunch of VFX. You ate burgers.
Sam: While you were doing that I was working on a VFX for just a different project. Can’t devalue that; regardless it was fun.
Niko: The Epic Meal Time guys are really cool guys and really fun to hang out with so that was a great experience to just go out and get a hundred hamburgers and come up with funny ideas and that kind of stuff.
Sam: Hundred hamburgers is not that hard to get apparently.
Niko: I think like 500 hamburgers actually, but either way, did some work with the Wong Fu guys and Ryan Higa and a couple of the guys who tend to roll together over there.
Sam: I’d say right now one of the other people besides that is Clint Jones — he runs the Pwnisher channel — he’s actually been working with us in our studio for a long time and really cool guy, really funny, lot of really good ideas, and he’s really good at what he does as well so we’ve been finding it really easy to collaborate with him on a lot of projects. He’s been in a ton of our videos.
Niko: I have a lot of respect for the Wong Fu guys too because when it comes to YouTube, there are very few channel that are doing strong narrative content, and the Wong Fu guys are one of the only channels I’ll see where they’ll go out and have written pieces of characters that are addressing things such as relationships and people interacting with other people, and they’re actually managing to get an audience and get views with that type of content, and that is very hard to do and they’re pulling that off so they are one of the other groups of filmmakers on YouTube where I really respect what they do, because it’s very true filmmaking as opposed to, say, being a personality on camera or talking about ideas and things like that. They’re actually going out and shooting scenes that they’ve writing with characters, and they’re not going crazy with VFX or anything like that like what we’re doing, but they are still really hooking something in people and making people want to watch.
They’re sort of your guys’ romance equivalent. They’re just doing a different genre, but both of you are bringing that high-quality, professional filmmaking to YouTube. We were talking about music scoring, and Sam, you write a lot of the Corridor Digital music.
Sam: Yeah actually pretty much from the beginning of the channel till about earlier this year I’ve been making about every single song for every single video we’ve posted. Only recently because of the scale of projects have I had to actually back off from that, but I mean it’s something I really enjoy doing. Like when you start getting into these short two to three-minute videos, like it’s really great being able to handle the entire process yourself because there are no excuses you know? Every single thing is exactly the way you want it because you did every single thing for it, and so it’s just a very fun experience going through that whole process, and I’ve been playing music for my entire life so I feel like it comes naturally, but even lately having all that musical background helps because in just communicating those ideas to other people we’re collaborating with, like I find it very easy now to just be able to get right into what we need and making sure everything is just as cohesive as if I was doing the music myself.
Niko: One of the things I found in working with a team of people, it’s very, very important to give people strong direction and I guess make the decisions on behalf of them for the bigger project, and if you don’t have a lot of experience with something, like for example luckily Sam is part of the group here and knows about music, if I was trying to communicate with a musician for a soundtrack on a piece and I don’t have a lot of experience with it there is no way for me to really get in there and get the kind of feedback to the artist that I need to give to them to really get the piece to turn out how it should be. Same thing for example, let’s say you’re working with a martial artist to make a sweet kung fu film but you’d never done any martial arts or tried to shoot any martial arts — while you might have an idea of a vision of cool fight scenes, you don’t know how to communicate and talk about the process of making it. So we tried to really focus on learning about all these different aspects we can, which is one of the great things about YouTube is many of our videos they’re half entertainment pieces but also half experiments in learning experiences for us to try all these different things, meet these different people and learn all these new techniques so when it comes time to make a bigger project we actually have something to fall back on when you say like, “Hey here is how I think we should approach the scene,” and having done it before we can talk about all the various points and aspects that somebody who is very skilled in an area can be able to bring to the table and talk about rather than having to say, “I don’t really know a whole lot about this, so you’ll just have to do your best.”
Sam: Just fight and punch him cool.
Niko: You don’t want to be like, “That was cool, but I feel like it could be better, but I don’t quite know why, so try and make it better.” You’re not going to get anything like that; you have to be specific with people, you have to give them your direction and give them your input and you have to bring the whole thing together creatively. Oversee all the pieces and make sure it is all working so.