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People love their television. For most of the day, it’s on in the background as they go about their business.
In the evenings, families and friends huddle in front of it to watch their favorite shows in the name of bonding.
That has been a global reality ever since the inception of television.
But as with everything else, the COVID-19 pandemic is changing how television is produced and viewed.
From the camera and sound crew to directors, writers, and actors, it takes a lot of people to put on a broadcast media show.
This isn’t an ideal modus operandi anymore considering the current need for social distancing.
A lot of regular broadcast shows have had to either scale back or stop production altogether. This has made them look for ways to keep things running.
The obvious solution is to take things online. Late-night show hosts and other celebrities have all deemed themselves YouTube bound at this point.
After all, how difficult can YouTube video production be if teenagers are doing it, right? Wrong!
Creating a YouTube channel might be easy but building a following, coming up with engaging content regularly, and catering to the unique needs of an online audience is a different art form.
Something that needs to be learned and practiced to gain results.
In this blog post, we look at different traditional media celebrities that have taken towards the internet in the wake of the pandemic, what they’re doing right, wrong, and what they could be doing to boost their online presence.
Note: This post is inspired by Mathew Patrick’s ‘Hey Fallon, You’re Doing it Wrong’.
Talk show hosts
American late-night shows are not just popular within the country but they attract a global audience.
They’re shot in the presence of a live studio audience and follow a comedy-talk show format.
Current affairs are discussed, jokes are tossed around, celebrity guests are interviewed, games are played; the whole enchilada.
The show hosts like Steven Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel enjoy a celebrity status themselves.
This means that they’ve had plenty of help to make them look good and sound charming in a traditional studio setting.
Let’s see how they’re performing now that things have scaled down:
When you’re in front of a camera, it’s all about the right angles and poses. Camera angles can make or break your impression.
It’s been observed that the late-night show hosts are not doing so well in capturing their good side.
The result? The kind of image you see when you accidentally switch on your cellphone front camera.
Weight added to the face, the number of chins increased, and an unflattering view into the nostrils.
If you’re trying to get visually close to what you look like on broadcast television, bringing the camera to the eye level would do wonders.
Put it high up or down and you’re risking a face warp.
Also, even the most well-lit room can have lighting issues when you’re recording on lower quality cameras.
It’s best to invest in a ring light. It puts the right focus on your face, eliminates harsh shadows, and is great for close-ups. All the skilled YouTubers are using it!
Check out this video on how to set up a ring light for YouTube videos.
Content and delivery
It takes scores of writers to produce a script for a single episode of late-night talk shows.
It’s good to come prepared on live TV as there’s little room to fix it should something go wrong.
However, when you switch to YouTube you have to ditch the script. Or at least make it look like you have.
The rehearsed and on-point delivery style doesn’t work for the online audience.
Take Seth Meyers for instance. When you’re delivering a joke and adding a long pause that’s supposed to be your studio audience laughing, you’re not only making things look scripted but extremely awkward for the audience.
YouTube audiences prefer raw, unpolished, and continuous content. It’s where content gets more personal.
Jokes that are funny even without the laugh tracks, eager-to-please studio audience, or an analysis that seems to come from your mind rather than someone else’s pen, are what work.
When the teleprompter is absent the hosts should be working on content that seems more spur of the moment. That could very well mean getting rid of the classic ‘joke and wait for laughs’ format.
Props to Jimmy Kimmel’s team for realizing that if he’s going to keep delivering monologues and stand-up style jokes, he might as well stand up.
In the more recent episodes of his quarantine series, Jimmy is seen on his feet wearing button-ups.
The home-made feel has been replaced with a backdrop that seems more like a set and in line with his format.
Though not a broadcast show, a great example of keeping the delivery style coherent with the content is Hasan Minhaj’s Patriot Act on Netflix.
Hasan is known for his energy on stage, exaggerated hand movements, and a delivery style that’s akin to rapping.
If he took the same script with the enthusiastic and satirical political analysis and started delivering it from his desk, his content surely would’ve lost its charm.
So, when Netflix halted the production of new episodes due to the pandemic, the content Hassan put online was different.
“Hasan From a Distance” was a short and simple series about how he was spending his quarantine.
The cameraperson was his wife and the whole thing appeared extremely organic with Hasan making a PB&J sandwich and commenting on people’s tweets while burping his baby boy.
When Netflix brought back the Quarantine Edition of the show, it got rid of the studio audience, placed Hasan in front of a green screen, and went back to the scripted format that was delivered standing up.
In the words of the man himself, “Don’t think of this as a Netflix show compromising, think of it as a YouTube video overachieving.”
Graphics and editing
Thankfully, editing can make up for a lack of live audience.
The reactions that are expected of the audience can be creatively added into the vlogs in the form of emojis and memes – the prime internet content.
Jump-cuts, graphics, and sound effects are also used by YouTubers to eliminate the cringey pauses and fill up for reactions. The general rule of thumb is to keep things fast-paced and stimulating.
Not all late-night show hosts are having problems adjusting to the new medium though.
Trevor Noah has gracefully settled into this new territory by following the tricks of professional YouTube video producers.
His online show consistently features complementing sound effects, images and regularly makes use of jump-cut editing.
It was even renamed to The Daily Social Distancing Show.
And who needs an audience when you can have conversations with yourself by taking on different characters?
It’s comedic gold and a tried and tested YouTuber method.
Not to mention Trevor always keeping his camera at eye level!
Another thing that the Patriot Act team does right is the use of graphics. The show already holds a Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Motion Design.
But the team’s graphics and animation chops have helped them keep the show vibrant in the absence of a studio audience.
According to the Nielsen statistics acquired by Mathew Patrick, the viewership numbers for the usual late-night shows seemed grim even in the broadcast setting.
Within the first month of quarantine when most people had nothing better to do than watch TV, their ratings either remained stagnant or raised insignificantly.
Even on YouTube, most late-night shows saw a decrease in monthly views.
The fact that this was at the time when YouTube was receiving an exponential amount of traffic says something.
Was it because their content was too broadcasty for YouTube audience and too YouTubey for the broadcast audience?
Either way, the late-night show producer and hosts would have to pick a side and rethink their content and production strategy.
But if every other late-night show is struggling how is Trevor Noah winning the quarantined battle?
The numbers do the talking. The Daily Social Distancing Show maintained its usual number of views but its number of subscribers jumped by 170,000 in the first month.
Coincidence? We think not.
It all comes back to Trevor and the team embracing the online production style with open arms. They saw the need of the hour and chose a side.
This clearheaded-ness even translated into an increase in the broadcast views by 28 percent.
We also have another theory that may have a slight bias. If you’ve ever watched The Daily Show’s ‘Between the Scenes’ segment on YouTube where Trevor casually interacts with the studio audience, you can tell that he is probably a lot better at unscripted comedy.
He has a great knack to adapt and improvise his material which may have helped him with the switch to YouTube.
Big screen celebrities
Talk-show hosts aren’t the only ones trying their luck on YouTube.
A lot of big-screen celebrities have been building their online viewership even before the quarantine.
The content on many successful celebrity YouTube channels has been adapted to suit the needs of an online audience as well.
When viewers subscribe to celebrity YouTube channels, they expect to get up close and personal with them.
They want to see who their idols are behind the glitz and glam of the big screen.
Here are some examples for the celebrities wishing to leverage YouTube:
The king of dramatic comedy has hit and conquered YouTube in a very short time. His YouTube channel Jablinski Games is about games, food, and life in general.
The content is as raw and whimsical as it comes. It’s authentic, unfiltered Jack Black.
You’ll see him playing pinball with his son, making nachos in a microwave, and having a crazy time with Dwayne Johnson and Tony Hawk.
In short, if Jack Black is having fun in any form, it’s on his YouTube channel.
One way he is winning at the YouTube game is by teaming up with his teenage son Sammy who shoots, edits, and even directs the vlogs.
While Jack aka Jablinski is a force of nature himself, we’re sure that he’s getting a lot of insight on what works on YouTube from his young son.
The camcorder style candid shooting and the use of hand-drawn illustrations and typography also make his content a great fit for YouTube.
Watch him support the Black Lives Matter movement and conduct some rad science experiments with his kids all packed in one vlog.
YouTube has a huge fitness and travel community. Zac Efron taps into that niche on his channel with two vlog series.
Gym Time features Zac working out with different celebrities. Friendly competition, training tips, and overall good time, this series has all the good vlogging elements.
Off the Grid is a travelogue with Zac and his friends indulging in adventures like camping in the desert and skiing.
The channel has an overall hardcore masculine look which is befitting as most of the content is just men being men.
By involving other people and celebrities, Zac has set a more dynamic tone for his content.
And we know that he’s settling well in the YouTube world as his recent vlog features popular YouTuber gang Dude Perfect.
This is a nice change from big-screen celebrities making appearances on his channel and resonates well with the indigenous YouTube audience.
Moreover, his team has mastered the art of YouTube-style editing. You’ll see the use of visual effects, sound effects, typography, slo-mos, and jump-cuts. The recording in itself is done in a very candid and conversational style. Just how YouTube likes it.
If they keep at it, Zac and his team are bound to achieve even greater online success.
Will Smith’s online career started when he was challenged to heli-bungee by the folks at Yes Theory – a popular YouTube channel. Will accepted the challenge and then there was no turning back.
Despite being an A-list actor who has spent years on the big screen, he has adapted well to YouTube. His natural charisma and sense of humor have helped him attract an online audience.
The content ranges from anecdotes from his long and eventful career, sharing life lessons with his sons, hanging with celebrities, and indulging in adrenaline-inducing activities.
Although the content is semi-scripted, Will and his team do a great job of keeping things organic and fast-paced.
The production quality is also quite higher than the channels discussed before.
There are hints of the Hollywood glamour while still keeping things organic through YouTube-style animation, typography, motion graphics, and transitions.
It sure helped that he already had a huge and loyal global following. So, when he started a YouTube channel people subscribed unconditionally.
YouTube as a medium is becoming increasingly attractive for television and film celebrities. While many have tried their hand at it, only those succeed who don’t undermine the platform.
From scripting to shooting to delivery style, if you want to make it big time in the YouTube world you have to respect its rules.
Understanding and catering to the unique needs of an online audience is the ultimate key to success.
Who are some big film and TV names that you think are doing good on YouTube? What do you think they’re doing right? Talk with us on our social channels.
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