Get Better At YouTube – An Interview With Patrick From Jimber Jam

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Our friend Patrick over at Jimber Jam has released a new video series to help you make better videos for YouTube (or other online short form video platforms)! These are really solid, packed with great information, some technical and some more creative so make sure to take them all in!

I’ve known Patrick for a long time in real life and in more recent years have started following his videos online, and discovered he makes great stuff! So, I thought this would be a great chance to connect, ask about his life as a YouTuber, and learn more about his desire to help others make great content.

First off, the new video series, how did you decide you wanted to put out these training videos

It was a mix of three things coming together around same time:

  1. If you work in a creative field, people you know will ask you for help or tips when they’re getting started. Being known as the “video guy” at my current job in a school district, I rarely go more than a couple of days without a teacher or principal asking me to help teach about video or multimedia. But that usually works out, because honestly, I LOVE teaching and sharing.
  2.  I am the entire video department at the school board where I work. It’s not part of my job description and I trained myself on my own time. I do everything from pre-production, camera, sound, lighting, editing, to motion-graphics. And, as I am midway through a one year “Career Break” from that job, I thought it would be helpful to make them a Play Book of the main video knowledge I hold.
  3. After an “Alberta Youtubers” meetup I hosted with my sister, some tubers mentioned wanting technical and production help. There were too many for one-on-one so I started writing the outline for a workshop, and that turned into these scripts.

I really enjoy the usefulness of knowledge-based how-to tutorial videos. You can rewatch them as many times as you want, and pause as you need. It’s how I like to learn video! So after realizing that I could teach people almost everything I’ve learned over 4+ years in about fifteen minutes, I decided to give it a go, and hopefully provide some value to people, the way others have for me.

Are there any major mistakes you see time and time again?

Totally! I think these videos cover a lot of that stuff: For example: Sticking your head in the middle of the frame, using your camera’s built-in-microphone from 30 feet away, or not removing long pauses and “ums” and “uhs”. But don’t think of it as people “making major mistakes” because we all do this stuff when we start, and I’m no exception. It just takes a lot of trial-and-error, and comparing your videos to other videos and examining what the pros get right. My hope is that these videos will spare some people the months of that trial-and error that we all have to wade through as we find our footing.

You know, on second thought… vertical videos. I mean, it’s 2016… doesn’t everyone know to rotate their phone so the screen is wide like a laptop screen? I mean… COME ON PEOPLE! (:P)

I know I have had few videos that never made it to see the light of day due to any number of issues. Do you have any good stories of a video that just didn’t work?

I don’t know if it’s good… maybe sad?

Back in 2013, three audition scripts for the “New Doctor” in Doctor Who were leaked, and some Whovians and I shot a fan film based on the first. We released it on a channel called “Patrol Films” to moderate success and it was a heck of a lot of fun. But when we went to tackle the second script things did not go as smoothly:

We spent weeks in prep. First convincing a friend that his son should play the part of the child, then doing table reads, costume prep, test shots. And when the day came the shoot was just a mess, the shots weren’t working, the lighting was a disaster (I learned that I am not a cinematographer), there were forgotten lines, and I was having trouble holding the camera rig for long shots. It was an absolute calamity. We spilled into an unplanned second day, and due to this the child actor and his father were late leaving on their vacation… but suddenly out of nowhere, we miraculously pulled off the shots, smooth like butter and the shoot was over. Such stress and then such relief!

Or so we thought. It completely fell apart in the editing room. Our child guest star and his father were off on their long vacation, and after a week of struggling with it we ended up just scrapping it completely.

One with a better ending, was the first episode of Patrol Tech, which was “How to change a projector bulb”. We went back to the set FIVE times to get that one right. In that video, only a single shot remains from the first day’s shoot. I probably learned half the lessons in the new video series in one month, on that one video.

The big takeaway from these two stories is that trial-and-error can be a great teacher. But trial-and-error can be frustrating and time-consuming, and good planning helps prevent the need for trial-and-error.

I know at the moment you are taking a “Career Break” to focus on your creative endeavors, can you tell us a little more about what that means?

The best answer to that question is probably to watch the TED Talk that inspired it! It was by Stephan Sagmeister, called “The Power Of Time Off”. In the talk, Stephen makes a convincing argument that people should take the first five years of their retirement (say, the years you would spend from 65-to-70) and intersperse them into our main working years (say, one year at 35, one at 40, one at 45, and so on). He described it as a sabbatical, which I thought was fitting as I have been working in schools for the past eleven years. It’s essentially time away from a regular job to concentrate on creative exploration and personal growth. Stephen demonstrates the value of rejuvenating his creativity and energy, as well as that of his staff, as his design firm in New York shuts its doors for one full year every seven years.

Personally, when I saw the talk I was recovering from a bout of labrynthitis, which is a severe form of vertigo. I spent a very serious couple weeks on my back in the stroke ward of a hospital (before the doctors knew what it was) uncertain if I would see the world still and NOT-spinning ever again. So the talk really spoke to me. I thought; Why not take one year of retirement now and explore my creative side? And at 32 years old instead of at 65 (or later). Life is short, and our health is far from certain!

So now, on this break, if someone asks me to come work on a video with them… or go travelling to Paris… or I get an idea in my head for an ambitious video project… there’s nothing stopping me except ME.

And how did you first get started making YouTube Videos?

In my youth I experimented with making videos and flash animations quite a bit, but those were all pre-YouTube. But there was a long gap before I picked up a camera again in 2010, which was for photography at first.

My YouTubing started in 2011 when I was asked to start doing public speaking as part of my analyst/education job. As I am absolutely petrified of public speaking … (the story in my 9 Things video is completely true), I decided to ask if I could make videos instead. My manager said he didn’t mind either way so I grabbed the Canon T3i I had for photography, switched it into video mode, and got to work. It was a good move in the end, because I really sucked at photography.

The first time I knew I’d fallen back in love with video was when my colleague Rolland and I made a video about our trip to an Education Conference in San Diego in 2012 (again, to avoid public speaking). The powers-that-be liked it so much that the video was presented in a session at the ATLE/Convergence conference that year. And it all grew from there.

I’d say there’s about a 50/50 split in everything I’ve made since. About half the videos I’ve made in the past five years were for my day job, and most are on YouTube, but unlisted and not available publicly. They are presented internally to schools, school districts, Alberta Education, software companies, and board members.

The other half are public YouTube endeavors, the earliest of which (that I’m not completely embarrassed by) was called “Patrol Tech”. A ‘tech tips’ channel named by merging my name and my co-host’s Rolland. It lasted maybe seven or eight episodes. We then spun off a new channel to make fan films, though we only made the one Doctor Who fan film I mentioned earlier. That video got over 40,000 views and was our first foray into green screening and working with an actress, it was a great learning experience.

I simultaneously started my own channels (which weren’t called Jimber Jam at first) doing video projects for the main purpose of ‘getting better at doing video projects’. The next major step was when I took up Hank Green’s challenge to do VEDA (Vlogging Every Day in April) I believe I went 29 for 30 on those, though most of them are really bad. But I learned so much from that. Daily vlogging is hard!

Thanks so much for your time! Before you go, I’m always looking for new channels to be inspired by, what are a couple that you like?

I’ll give you a bunch, and I’ll split them into three categories:

      • Inspiration
        • VlogBrothers – I was first inspired to make videos by Hank and John Green of the VlogBrothers.
        • Sara Dietschy – Kind of my hero for doing one channel where she does all the creative/video things she likes under one roof.
        • D4Darious (AKA Darious Britt) Filmmaker with YouTube tips and an emphasis on deconstructing story and structure.
      • Where I learn:
      • Up-and-Coming YouTubers from Alberta:
        • Kertrats Productions – Weekly updates of everything Star Trek. Great for Trekkies and sci-fi nuts!
        • Minolta1034 – fellow Grande Prairie alum Jeff Wood, vlogger and gamer
        • 52Skillz – Think “Canadian Casey Neistat learns a new skill every week”

Thanks so much for your time!

Make sure to subscribe to the Jimber Jam Channel here:

And here are 3 videos to help you grow as a YouTuber!: