YouTube is steadily growing its YouTube ‘Creator Space’ idea. Having opened a production / soundstage studio in London back in July 2012, more ‘Spaces’ have swiftly followed. First Los Angeles, then Tokyo, and planned for 2014, New York.
So what is Creator Space? Think Hollywood studios but on a smaller scale and you are essentially there. The YouTube Space in Los Angeles boasts three professional soundstages and everything that comes with them, i.e. room for backdrops, set building, and professional lighting in a sound controlled environment. Also included are HD cameras, editing suites, a ‘state of the art’ control room, green screen facilities, motion capture facilities and so on. More than enough toys to create content.
When I first heard of this I was actually pretty worried. In all walks of life it isn’t long before the young, rebellious upstarts morph by degrees into the new establishment and one of the major factors that make web content so fresh and fun is its arm’s length distance from the traditional production studio set up. Yes there is glossy content out there, but its part of the hodgepodge of self-made shows and gaggles of vlogging stars in the making.
My concern is that an over emphasis on studio space would mean a re-focus of priorities such that accommodating the big name productions would be promoted over all else; essentially, lapsing into the independent crushing Hollywood formula that represents the antitheses of what makes the world of web series great. I’m still a little worried about that.
However, my fears have been alleviated somewhat by one key feature. It’s free. Yes, you read that right. Access to professional equipment and all the bells and whistles that come with it; for free.
Ooooookay, there is a little more to it than that. In order to participate in YouTube Space facility usage you have to meet a few criteria first. These are:-
- 1) You must be over 18, have an existing YouTube Channel, and be a part of the YouTube Partner programme
- (to join this you need at least 15,000 cumulative watch hours on your channel over 90 days)
- 2) Have ‘demonstrated a strong commitment to the YouTube platform’
- 3) Be a consistent content publisher
- 4) Have a large and growing subscriber base
- 5) Have at least three previous collaborations with other YouTube channels
- 6) Present a comprehensive plan for use of the space
So you can’t just stroll in off the street, noisily insist on a triple caffeinated frappucino and then demand immediate use of the green screen. Certainly this set up favours the existing big hitters. Governments often offer favourable tax incentives to movie studios in order to encourage movie production in certain areas of countries (which in turn leads in to more spending from the studio and better income for the area) and the Space set-up sounds like YouTube are trying something very similar; giving the established heavyweights a financial helping hand to try to encourage more professional content and hopefully increase overall revenue. For a system designed around advertising revenue the clear reasoning appears to be that more professional content = more views = more advertising cash. It’s interesting to note that YouTube co-creator Chad Hurley (who left the company in 2010) has voiced concern over the Space concept, stating that it will lead to unfair favouritism. A requirement to ‘demonstrate a strong commitment to the YouTube platform’ before being allowed a go on the shiny equipment hints at an unclear amount of quid-pro-quo being expected.
YouTube is also offering free talks and seminars to be held at the YouTube Space studios. These are designed to educate the growing talent in the finer points of making a business empire out of using YouTube to create and distribute video entertainment. The YouTube Pro initiative we covered a few months ago centred on a very similar idea: existing YouTube success stories passing on their knowledge to the new wave. If the YouTube Space set up is going to house the people behind the multi-million subscribed channels, it makes sense for them to wax lyrical about what has previously worked and what hasn’t when trying to extract money out of the system. However, again it seems as if YouTube may be only allowing the select few be involved in some of these seminars. While some of the upcoming talks are open to whomever has already leapt through the hoops listed above, others, like a New York Space seminar on ‘Pitching and Creating Branded Content’ back in July, and almost all of the upcoming L.A. Space events, are ‘invite only’. YouTube may be willing to train up the next generation, but who gets the benefit of this acquired knowledge is strictly under its own control.
What is even more exciting, although lacking in details, is that the home of on-the-cheap quirky comedy, Channel Awesome (aka. thatguywiththeglasses.com), appear to also be doing the exact same thing in Chicago. As we covered earlier, Channel Awesome currently have an Indiegogo campaign running designed to help them, as a primary goal, finish the construction of this studio so as to enable and improve on the filming of their own shows. However, if enough funding is raised they are also seeking to open up the studios so that other channels and creators can use the space. Clearly the idea is an attractive one and it is spreading throughout the web series community.
It is a little unclear how these ventures are going to make money. Even with all the communal help being offered and the collaborative spirit currently present one hard truth permeates all ventures: everything must make money to continue. YouTube have deeper pockets, thanks to Google, and could potentially run the Space system as a loss leader to see if the better content = better revenue system does actually pan out. The intricacies of how Channel Awesome are going to support the system remains to be seen given that the only details available are at the end of the (hugely funny) Indiegogo campaign video. Much more so than YouTube’s increasingly big budget productions, Channel Awesome’s decision to jump feet first into the open studio idea is fascinating and exciting and I can’t wait to see what is coming, presuming they get enough money together in the next 10 days or so….