How to create effective custom thumbnails for your Youtube videos

Custom thumbnails from a top 200 youtube star, Bethany Mota
Custom thumbnails from a top 200 YouTube star, Bethany Mota

Man, I am dumb.  I’ve been uploading my video contest entries to Youtube for 8 or 9 years now and it just hit me that maybe I should be giving my entries custom thumbnail images.  Ok sure, that feature has only existed for a few years but still, I should have started doing it long ago.  Eye-catching thumbnails probably won’t help me score any points with contest judges but they might help me get extra views.  And I’ve always suspected that a decent view counts will improve your chances a bit.  Think about it; if judges see one entry that has 12 views and another that has 450 views, they’ll probably assume that there’s something special about the 450-view video.  They may even conclude that entry #2 has viral potential.  And a video contest entry going viral is pretty much the dream scenario for any sponsor that runs one of these contests.

So from here on out on I’ll be giving my videos custom thumbnails.  I’ve never done one before so I had to do a little research before I started.  (I couldn’t see the option anywhere in my video manager!)  Turns out that you need to verify your account before you can create your own thumbnails.  The next step is to cook up a thumbnail that’s 1280×720 pxs and has a resolution of at least 72 px per inch  (The thumbnail’s gonna be pretty small so the resolution doesn’t need to be super high.)  Here’s a template I created.  Feel free to download it and use it for your own projects:


And that’s about all there is to it.  But if you’d like more info plus some tips about creating attractive, click-worthy images, you should go ahead and watch these official YouTube tutorials:

Big Idaho Potato Tour Video Contest winners


As you’ve probably noticed, this year’s election has been bumming everybody out.  But even in these dark times we can still find proof that America is the most kick-ass country in the world.  Exhibit A is the Big Idaho Potato truck.  Americans love taters so much that some genius somewhere said “Hey, let’s build a 5 ton fake potato and drive it around for no good reason” and his friends were like “yeah, awesome, let’s do it.”  And they did.  They built the giant potato for no good reason.  I mean, yeah sure, technically it was created to promote Idaho potatoes.  But do we really need to ADVERTISE potatoes in this country?  We eat potatoes with every meal.  And have you ever had a NON-Idaho potato???  If this giant potato truck didn’t exist, is there a chance we’d all start eating North Korean potatoes or something?

Fortunatly we don’t need to answer that question because the giant potato truck does exist.  But I guess not enough people know about it because the folks behind the truck held a video contest to celebrate the truck (thereby celebrating Idaho Potatoes.)  There were three categories; recipe videos, videos shot at the potato truck and general potato themed videos shot anywhere, anytime.  The winners in each category got $1,000. The runners-up got a shit ton of potatoes.  That is not a joke. Here’s the winner of the Anytime/Anywhere category:

That was easily the best potato-themed short film I’ve ever seen.  Also the worst. If you want to see the rest of the winners, head here.  Or you can just watch this video mash-up of all of the entries:

Hey you know what’s funny?  After watching these videos I totally want to chow down on a giant pile of baked, boiled and friend potatoes.  Guess the potato truck did it’s job.  Nice work truck, you did the impossible; you got an American to eat even more delicious, delicious potatoes.


Tongal and LucasFilm want you to #GoRogue and shoot your own Star Wars stories


I got my first video camera back in the mid-90’s.  It was already dark when we got back from Circuit City (R.I.P.) so I couldn’t go outside and film anything.  So I went through my old toy box and pulled out my original Return of the Jedi action figures.  I tried to make a stop motion scene that featured The Rancor and a Gamorrean Guard but of course it didn’t turn out.  I guess the failure really affected me because that was the first and last time I ever tried to make a Star Wars-themed video.  I wish I had kept at it; if I had, maybe I’d already have a decent entry for LucasFilm’s new “Go Rogue” UGC fan film contest.

The winners of this contest will get to live my wildest dreams and visit LucasFilm’s HQ in San Francisco.  They’ll also get to see their work on the big screen (plus an advanced showing of Rogue One.)  Before the contest was launched the sponsors actually teamed up with Tongal and had them create a series of videos that would inspire other contestants:

“In a celebration of UGC fan creativity, Lucasfilm and creative network Tongal have collaborated with a team of fans to create a series of stop-motion shorts all featuring the debut of key Rogue One products.”

The stop-motion in the Tongal films is really amazing.  I wish my Rancor fight scenes had been this smooth:

Here’s some more background on the contest, i.e. Tongal’s involvement.

The fan-made series debuting Rogue One toys brings together characters and vehicles from Hasbro, The LEGO Group, FUNKO, JAKKS Pacific, Mattel, and Disney Store as they try to track down the building instructions to the LEGO Star Wars Death Star set which have been misplaced by the Empire. The creative team was led by James DeJulio at Tongal, and the series was written by Kevin Ulrich and brought to life by stop-motion animators and directors Dan MacKenzie and Tucker Barrie. New installments will roll out throughout September.

“I’ve been a Star Wars fan my whole life so this is a dream project,” said James DeJulio, co-founder of Tongal. “It’s been amazing to see what an inspiration Star Wars has been to so many members of our creative community, whether that’s coming up with their own Star Wars storylines, or playing out scenes with Star Wars toys at home with their kids. I’m excited to share this first ‘Rogue Story’ with the world and hope it inspires other fans to share theirs.”

So are you feeling inspired?  If you are, you better finish your wookie suit ASAP because entries are due October 21st.  For more details, head here:

How to speed up FCPX

I’m a fan of FCPX but the program has always run a little slow on my 2011 iMac.  Right now is my busy season and the occasional lags are getting more and more annoying.  In my darkest moments of frustration I’ll head to the online Apple store and day dream about buying a brand new computer that I don’t really need.  But instead of dropping $1,799.00 on a lovely 27 inch iMac with Retina 5K display, I figured I should see if I could just tweak my FCPX settings to make it run a little faster.  After doing some research I found a great video from that includes some basic (but very smart) tips.

I was already following most of the advice in this video but a few of the tips actually helped speed up FCPX a little bit.  Specifically I closed my inspector and changed my library to list view.  This video has also inspired me to do something I should have done a long time ago; I’m going to physically upgrade my RAM.  I’ve always assumed that an upgrade would be complicated but it turns out that it’s a pretty easy process.  Instructions for any type of Mac can be found here:

By the way, I was only half serious about browsing the Apple store. If you want to buy a new mac, Craigslist is the place to do it.  If you live near a major city you’ll be able to find tons of cheap, lightly used macs.  Just be sure to try before you buy.  If you meet for a quick hand-off in a parking lot you might wind up paying $800 for a box of bricks.

Paqui Chips launches the most dangerous video contest of all time


Back in 2012 I almost died while shooting an entry for a video contest sponsored by Charles Shawab.  I was filming inside a poorly-ventilated bouncy castle in the middle of July and the thing pretty much turned into an oven.  Even though I was over-heating I wanted to finish my shoot so I kept bouncing and filming.  After a few minutes I started to get dizzy and I realized I couldn’t stand up anymore.  I laid down and could barely move.  I was all alone and there was no reason for anyone to check on me.  I knew that if I didn’t crawl out the escape tunnel in the next few minutes I’d pass out and probably die.  Even though it would have been a hilarious and totally appropriate fate, I didn’t want to be the first person to die while shooting a video contest entry.  So pulled myself to the exit and managed to squirm out the kid-sized porthole.

And (spoiler alert) I lived.  (And I won the contest’s $10K grand prize!)  Which means that do this day, no one has ever died while filming a video contest entry.  But that may soon change thanks to Paqui Chips!  Paqui makes “gourmet tortilla chips” and ridiculously hot chips are their specialty.  The company’s new Carolina Reaper chips are apparently made with the spiciest pepper in the world.  These things are so hot that Paqui only sells one of them at a time.  Eating a Reaper chip is pretty much like getting pepper sprayed right in the mouth.  So of course the company wants people to film themselves while they eat one for the first time…..

I’m surprised that Paqui’s lawyers ok’d the #ONECHIPCHALLENGE because eating super-hot peppers can be really dangerous.  Although it’s unlikely, the Carolina Reaper Pepper is so hot that it could cause serious side effects…like death.  I don’t want to bum you out so I won’t post any links, but if you check google you’ll find some stories about people who died from eating (non-reaper) hot peppers or hot pepper sauce.  (They’re especially dangerous for small kids).  So pepper-related tragedies do happen every once in a while.

But one little chip probably won’t trigger any fatal heart attacks.  Still….you’d have to be at least a little crazy to enter this contest.  The grand prize is a year supply of (regular) chips and a nee GoPro Hero4 Silver.  So that’s a lot of risk for a medium-sized reward.

Now having said all that….I think I’m going to enter!  I mean hey, why not?  If that bouncy castle couldn’t kill me, one chip’s not going to do me in.  Plus I’d love to get a new GoPro.  And everyone who enters gets a free bag of chips!  So if you’re feeling as bold and as stupid as me, click here more details about the contest: