In this age of slick production values and Harley Morenstein’s millionaire YouTubers, we sometimes forget that the medium used to be little more than goofy kids with a video camera and a will to do stuff. Complex things often come from simple beginnings, and lest we forget that, for this Throwback Thursday, here are the first videos from NMR’s favorite vloggers. They looked a bit different back then, yeah?
Every weekday hashtag is special, but #ThrowbackThursday is my personal favorite. It’s not just because I get to post pictures from the good old days when I was still going to the gym on the regular, it’s because I genuinely enjoy looking back and reflecting on how things have changed. This week our assignment was to go back to the very first video on one of our favorite vlog channels and review it. Turns out that that’s easier said than done. Many of our favorite vloggers have deleted or privated their early videos. I wanted to review somethings from prehistoric YouTube, not just the first video someone filmed after they finally figured out their lighting and angles. I also wanted someone who was still a presence on YouTube today so naturally I was left with only one perfect option, The Vlog Brothers.
John and Hank are such an intrinsic part of YouTube and its community today that it’s hard to remember that their channel started out as an experiment in one-on-one communication. In that first video, in between struggling with his web cam a grainy young Hank Green explains the project. Brotherhood 2.0 as they called it would be a year of textless communication between the brothers. They would keep in touch only by exchanging video letters to each other, a format that has remained the format of VlogBrothers from over seven years.
That first video is just two minutes long and the first thing that strikes you is that it’s not necessarily designed for an audience other than Hank’s brother John, an unlikely start for a channel that now has 2.3 million subscribers. In a lot of ways that video is emblematic of everything that YouTube used to be. Lo-fi, experimental, unpolished but you still want to keep watching. It’s pretty novel to see Hank Green, struggle with his web cam, fail to adjust the focus, and completely fail at keeping himself in the frame. Still, looking back seven years at Hank Green, web cam weirdo, it’s easy to see the creative spark that would eventually evolve him into Hank Green, founder of VidCon and big brother to the YouTube community.
We’re supposed to pick the first video of a vlogger for our weekly Throwback Thursday series. I don’t know if this is Smosh’s first video, but it’s certainly one of their first and has resonated with me for years and years and years … roughly 2005, to be exact. And nothing was more powerful to a man-child, such as myself, than two adolescents playacting the “Mortal Kombat” theme song.
I suppose this video speaks to the resonating power of YouTube because it has stuck with me; I can’t hear the “Mortal Kombat” song (which I do, every Tuesday when I sing it at karaoke at the VFW open mic) without picturing a very young Ian Hecox faux-shrieking “Mortal Kombat!!!” into the camera.
It’s interesting that of all the thousands of videos I have watched while at NMR and personally, the Smosh video stays with me always. Sometimes when I’m driving or standing in line at the supermarket, I will scream “Mortal Kombat!!!” and try and mimic the way Ian does it.
It feels good.
Watching someone’s first YouTube video is some kind of transcendent experience where you can watch it and think “Thank god, they’re not perfect.” If you’ve seen anything by Nick Pitera, you probably spent the entire experience with your jaw hanging open, wondering what was happening to you.
Nick Pietra is the guy who does the amazing a cappella covers and mash-ups, usually by himself. His first major video was when he sang both roles in ‘Part of Your World’ and it was pretty mindblowing.
But not to worry, readers! While his voice may be as ridiculously clear as always in his first video, it has the same low camera quality and poor sound as any amateur YouTuber, which is somewhat reassuring.
Gone are those awesome squares where Nick sings twelve parts at once. Gone are the professional microphones and creative acting out of the songs contents. However, his voice is still as lovely as it ever was, even without the fancy gadgets and gimmicks.
Normally, this is the part where I say that I can’t wait to see where they go from here, but Nick Pitera has already made tremendous strides in his YouTube channel, and it’s never been more obvious than when you watch this seven year old video.