High production values, sleek motion graphics, tight editing, amazing sound and refined content are the staples of big YouTube channels. But surprisingly, these qualities are not exclusive to just the large channels. Many channels under 100,000 subscribers have also demonstrated an ability to create excellent content. Let’s take a look at several YouTube channels that illustrate this point.
Scarfing Scarves is a YouTube channel dedicated to Lolita fashion. It’s a comedy show the draws inspiration from things like Last Week Tonight. Scarfing Scarves may not be the largest YouTube channel to ever exist, but at 20,000 subscribers, it’s the perfect example of what a small channel can do.
Scarfing Scarves is shot on a stage setup that is visually appealing and supports the theme of the channel. Additionally, the set and hosts are well lit. Frequently, vlog-style channels have the “cave effect.” The cave effect is when you try to light an entire room with a single light. For many small Youtubers, it’s an Ikea floor or desk lamp or a computer screen. Nothing screams low budget like the cave effect. Avoiding this should be one of your top priorities.
While excessive use of a vlogging-style can hamper the viewing experience, Tyler Willis pairs comedic delivery with methodically well-written scripts to prevent the talking head effect. Too many YouTubers base their content on a random stream of consciousness resulting in a barrage of words; however, nothing quite compares to a well-written script. In fact, this is one of the best features of videos from Scarfing Scarves.
Finally, Scarfing Scarves achieves one of the hardest goals in video production for most creators, and that is clean audio. Investing in good gear for audio is often better than investing in more video gear. Bad video can be forgiven; bad audio is unbearable.
Sorasto’s Painting is a miniature painting channel with 74,000 subscribers. This channel has amazing motion graphics, sleek editing, great lighting, good audio and great presentation of well-delivered niche content. The same love, dedication and attention to detail found in their painting of miniatures can also be seen in every video on this channel.
Perhaps the best takeaway from Sorasto’s Painting is the channel’s editing. Miniature painting can often be a long and very dull process, especially if experienced in real time. Oftentimes, when people do instructional videos, they make the mistake of trying to do the entire project all in one take. Sorasto uses cuts, transitions, fancy effects, time-lapse and just basic editing to avoid the “one take fail.” This channel is a great example of how instructional video should be produced and the level of quality that should be present. Sorasto’s Painting is something that must be seen to be fully understood and appreciated.
Expedition Theme Park
Expedition Theme Park is a news, history, and theme park review channel with 77,000 subscribers. The channel uses massive amounts of b-roll and motion graphics. In fact, I believe that its intro and motion graphics helped build this channel into a brand. Something that many often forget is that branding can be a key part of monetization. The idea that you are not just a channel but a brand is prevalent in many of the larger YouTube channels. Branding is an area of concentration that can really benefit smaller channels.
Expedition Theme Park gets a huge boost of attention from covering historical events. There is a downfall to this type of production, however. The amount of research, gathering of footage and editing that has to be done to make a quality project can seem overwhelming. It can be heavy dredge work just to find good archival footage. This is something Expedition Theme Park does very well.
Review Tyme claims to be the home for “all things theme parks.” With more than 10,000 subscribers, content includes history, reviews and travel advice. The channel also uses an extensive amount of b-roll and motion graphics. One of the things I like about Review Tyme is that they have their own animated logo. Adding an animated logo before your videos can increase production value while also increasing brand recognition.
Expedition Theme Park and Review Tyme are two channels that cover a very similar topic. The strengths of both of these channels are that they often are covering historical events and time periods; this allows them to pull archival footage that makes the channel look amazing. However, this can also be a great detractor; one of the downfalls of some archival footage is that the audio and/or video is not always of the highest quality. As a result, some YouTube channels can sometimes be prone to quality issues since clean video and audio is not always available. Both of these channels have managed to navigate that problem, each in their own way. Finally, it’s important to note that Expedition Theme Park and Review Tyme create really good scripts. Both of these channels are successful because they tell short, concise stories that are fascinating and intriguing.
Channel 5 Gaming
Channel 5 Gaming is a video gaming channel and community of 78,000 subscribers. The channel focuses primarily on the game Planet Coaster. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love roller coasters and theme parks, but that’s not what makes Channel 5 worth mentioning. Of course, Channel 5 looks good because all of its video comes from game capture from PC games; however, Channel 5 excels in its community and interactions. The channel maintains a large Discord community which it uses for contests, giveaways and just a general hangout zone. The level of interaction ensures a group of loyal followers and patrons — important to monetization. It is worth remembering that successful YouTube channels require coordination. Great technique, content and community interaction combine to make superior channels like this one.
Similar to Channel 5 Gaming, Geekism also covers PC games including Planet Coaster. Geekism also has captured game footage with good audio and motion graphics; however, Geekism lacks community interaction. At 52,000 subscribers, Geekism is smaller than Channel 5, which may indeed be a result of the lack of a Discord community. That’s not necessarily bad. Some people may prefer this since it keeps all of the focus on the channel’s video content. This can help reduce clutter when you want to ensure that viewers notice your Patreon and/or sponsor link. Again this is a preference. Both approaches work, as evidenced by the success of these two channels.
WASD20 is a rapidly growing tabletop gaming channel. While working on this article, WASD20 has grown from 91,000 to 99,987 followers. I suspect that they will most likely have 100K by the time this article is published. Production value is the first tell that this channel is gold. Not only does it have quality video, it has clean green screen keys. Words cannot express how frustrating it is for me when I see bad keys. A practical backdrop, even if its the same backdrop every day, is preferable to a poorly keyed backdrop, in my opinion. Videos that have poor lighting — like those suffering from the cave effect — will find that keying is more challenging.
WASD20’s lighting and backgrounds are solid. Additionally, their motion graphics are amazing and well done, especially their intro and logo design. Again, I can’t stress enough the importance of logo design because it helps build an identifiable brand for your channel. I find that this makes it easier for viewers to remember the name of your channel. If they remember, they can subscribe. If they subscribe, then you are one step closer to monetization.
Quality audio can be problematic even when sitting in front of a computer microphone or game console. Excessive background noise can become a huge factor for videogame streamers. This can sink a channel. Fortunately, WASD20 doesn’t suffer from this issue. Overall, their technical excellence may explain the channel’s meteoric rise in success.
Sofia Isella is a young musician and violinist. With only 409 subscribers, her channel is tiny. This is especially surprising when you watch one of her music videos that was shot by an Oscar-winning cinematographer. Sofia is a good example of how you can have extremely exceptional quality with your videos and still have a small channel. Now, it is worth mentioning that not every one of Sofia’s videos has crazy aerial footage, epic sunsets and Academy Award-worthy cinematography. Yet, even with such amazing production value, only 409 subscribers? More people, especially music lovers, need to find this channel.
Content is still king
Something that I have not covered much in this article is content. That is because everything is subjective in the eyes of YouTube. Sometimes, YouTube channels with videos that have poor audio and visuals become wildly popular. Some videos with extreme production value have had no success at all. It’s important to remember that your channel can have all the interaction, video quality, audio quality and graphic quality and still fail to attract large numbers on Youtube.
A good example of this is Planet Coaster’s official YouTube channel. This channel for the PC game has only 78,000 subscribers. Many of the Youtubers whose video content covers the game are more popular than the official game channel. This suggests that a professional ad team can be less successful than a hobbyist streaming the game on Youtube. While it’s important to be mindful of the technical skills that contribute to quality content, it is paramount to remember that content is still what makes a channel.
Persistence is what separates channels that last versus channels that burn out.
The power of persistence
All of the awesome small YouTube channels I’ve mentioned have creators with persistence. Persistence is what separates channels that last versus channels that burn out. It is, perhaps, the most overlooked and underrated quality of a successful creator. Very few channels get far by posting only a handful of videos. While the channels that have good audio, good video, and good production value tend to succeed, it is easy to fall into the trap of being afraid to post your videos because you believe they’re just not good enough. While you may want to consider upgrading your gear or techniques, remember to keep posting. Never give up! One subscriber is always better than no subscribers.