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:

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.

How to help someone take a decent photo with your DSLR

I went to a wedding last weekend and near the end of the reception I snuck out to my car and grabbed my Canon T4i.  I started taking photos of my girlfriend and her friends and everyone was impressed with my “professional” camera.  My DSLR is about 3 years old so it’s not exactly a cutting edge piece of technology.  But everyone else was taking grainy iphone pics so I guess most people have forgotten what real photos are supposed to look like.  Eventually I wanted to get some shots of me and my ladyfriend but our table-mates were completely baffled by my camera’s controls.  No one could grasp the “hold the shutter half-way down to focus and then press it the rest of the way to take a photo” concept.  All of the pictures wound up looking like this:


On the drive home I was thinking about those blurry shots and I was suddenly hit by a moment of clarity.  I came up with a very obvious solution for this problem and I’ll probably be using it for the rest of my life (or at least until the early 2020s when consumer-grade cameras will be equipped with AI that will help everyone take perfect photos.)  So while we wait for the singularity, here’s how you can help anyone take a nice photo of you with your DSLR.

Step 1:  Tell your chosen photographer that your camera is kind of tricky and that you’ll take care of all the settings.  Whatever you do, don’t use the phrase “HUMAN TRIPOD” even though that’s basically what they are in this scenario.

Step 2:  Set the timer on your camera for 10 seconds.

Step 3:  Put your camera in the photographer’s hands.  Tell them not to move it.  Set your focus and hit the shutter.

Step 4:  Run to your place and smile!

I’ve got a Labor Day BBQ on Monday so maybe I’ll bring my camera and put my trick to the test after everyone’s had a few drinks.

Mofilm wants to showcase and promote your Virtual Reality and Drone videos

POTUS watches some Mofilm videos (I assume)
POTUS watches some Mofilm videos (I assume)

Remember when “crowdsourced” ads were hip and cool?  Well, those days are long gone, Chachi.  Thanks to advances (and price drops) in camera technology, homemade commercials now look as good as “real” TV and web ads.  That’s one reason why Doritos discontinued the Crash the Super Bowl contest.   The entries kept getting slicker and eventually the ads lost that weird, wild, amateur edge that originally made them special.

Fortunately for us, brands still love crowdsourced videos because they get a great bang for their buck.  But as new types of media are being developed, companies will probably once again look to semi-pro and amateur producers for unique, cutting edge content.  It seems like there’s about to be a huge jump in demand for three types of videos: drone footage, 360° videos and virtual reality projects.  The folks at Mofilm are already planning for this Sea Change; the company wants their members to submit certain types of “innovate” content.  Here are some details from Mofilm:

We want to showcase and promote your innovative content!  We’re well aware that many of you are experimenting, learning and creating some really great work with 360° cameras, virtual reality technology and drones – and we want to help you show it off.

Here’s what we’re looking for:  360 and VR – your best work that uses the technology in smart and purposeful ways, to immerse the audience in a story in a way that only 360 and VR can, rather than retrofitting concepts that are perfectly suited to traditional video.  Drones – films that use drones creatively, to transport the audience to the sky in a way that really enhances the experience.

We’d love to see films that are: narrative, pure beauty / landscape, sports / outdoors, comedic, sci-fi or fantasy etc. They must be brand friendly – please steer clear of anything that may be considered inappropriate or uses harsh language.

Keep in mind that Mofilm isn’t running any kind of contest here.  They just want to see and showcase your VR, drone and 360 work.  And that’s a little weird.  I mean, why are they doing this?  Well, I haven’t talked to anyone at Mofilm but I have a theory; it seems like Mofilm is doing a talent search here.  I’m sure their clients are asking about all these hot new formats so Mofilm is probably trying to build a healthy roster of cutting edge VR/360/Drone creators.  So if that sounds like you, you may want to submit some work.  If Mofilm likes your stuff, they may just offer you some gigs or grants in the near future.

For more details about Mofilm’s new content search, click here. starts posting daily contest updates on their Youtube channel

You’re a fan of, right?  If you like entering video contests, you pretty much have to be.  Sure, VCN is the #1 video contest blog but OVC is easily the #1 video contest site in the universe.  I only post one or two articles a week but the OVC team updates their site every, single weekday.  And now, they’re actually increasing their coverage!  As of July 4th, OVC has been posting video updates to their youtube channel five days a week.  Each video is hosted by the site’s admin Marissa and in each episode she recaps a hot new contest.  Here’s a sample of a recent upload:

If you’d like to keep track of all these helpful videos, you should probably follow this link and hit the SUBSCRIBE button: