Youtube no longer gives you 301 “free” views

Image via
Image via

When Youtube first launched in 2005, it was easy to rack up really high view counts; all you had to do was go to your video and reload the page over and over and over.  The site counted each page view as a video view so if you wanted to have an impressive (but fake) view count, you could install and run a plugin that would “reload and refresh” the page every 5 or 10 seconds.  Youtube’s engineer’s caught on to that trick pretty quick and soon the implemented the site’s mysterious 301 rule.  You’ve probably noticed that sometimes Youtube videos get “stuck” at 301 views, right?  Well there’s a technical explanation for that phenomenon.  The first 300 “views” were actually just page views.  So if you refreshed your browser over and over, you could generate a bunch of free (i.e. fake) views.  But once the counter hit 300, Youtube would start scrutinizing the source of your views.  If too many views came from the same IP, the counter would freeze until the TRUE view count caught up to the page view count.  And if a video was actually going viral, and if multiple views were registered at the exact moment the counter hit 300, the view count would freeze at 301, 302, 303, etc views.

Confused?  If you are, don’t worry about it because last year Youtube refined their code and did away with the 301 system.  Now that the changes have been fully implemented and tweaked, I decided to run a little experiment.  On June 23rd, 2016, I uploaded a very boring video to Youtube.  I gave it a simple title that probably wouldn’t come up in anyone’s search results.  Here it is:

I let the video sit for a few days so the file could spread across Youtube’s servers.  (When you upload a new video, copies are sent to severs around the world.  Once the process is complete, the view count starts showing views from other regions).  Then I used a Firefox plugin to reload my video’s page over and over.

When I started this process my video had 4 views.  I set my browser to reload the page every 10 seconds.  Every time the page reloaded, a new view was added to the counter.  After 50 reloads, the counter froze at 54.  I let the plugin keep going got another 10 minutes but the counter was stuck.


I shut off the plugin and closed my browser.  I then left the video alone for a few days to see what would happen.  The next time I checked it, the view count has actually gone down.  That means Youtube automatically checked the validity of ALL of my views.  It found too many from the same IP address and so those views were removed.


I can understand why Youtube made this change but frankly I think they went a little overboard.  Where’s the harm in letting people generate a few free views?  A brand new video with only 2 or 3 views looks a little pathetic.  So I used to reload my videos 20 or 30 times just to rack up some views before I sent it to anyone.  Now that I think about it, these new changes will probably inspire more people to buy fake youtube views.  And it’s those folks that are really damaging the integrity of the site.

How to set up a perfect Green Screen shot in less than 30 seconds

My pal Dave rocks out in his driveway

Setting up a green screen can be a real hassle.  It used to take an me at least 45 minutes to hang and light my old 10×16 green drape.  But I was never really happy with the final result.  My lighting would usually be a little off and there was always a stray shadow or wrinkle that I couldn’t get rid off.  So I’d have to spend even more time in post-production playing with masks and the keyer effect’s settings.  But no matter what I did, I could never get the effect to look absolutely, 100% perfect.

And then one day an idea hit me: What if I put away all my LED panels and work lights and just set up my Green Screen outside in the shade?  I did a quick test shoot and I was amazed by the results.  The lighting on the subject and the screen were beautifully smooth and even.  It turns out that when everything is in a shadow, nothing is in a shadow.  I think the process is pretty self-explanatory but I went ahead and made a how-to video that shows off the final effect:

So long story short, if you want to try this trick you need to:

  1.  Use a portable green screen
  2.  Set up outside in a shaded area
  3.  Film while there’s still a lot of ambient sunlight
  4.  Adjust your exposure and white balance for shade-shooting

Trust me, once you try filming this way you’ll never want to waste time lighting a green screen again.

How to shoot your friend’s stupid wedding

If you’re a fan of VCN you’re probably a filmmaker.  And if you’re a filmmaker you probably own at least one nice camera.  And if you own at least one nice camera, eventually one of your friends (or relatives) will ask you to shoot their stupid wedding. Wedding shoots are long and hard and boring.  But filmmakers do them because at least the pay is good.  But when a friend asks you to shoot their wedding they’re obviously hoping you’ll do it for cheap.  (And relatives are probably hoping you’ll just do it for free.)  So it’s really a lose-lose situation for you.  The shoot won’t be any fun AND you’re not going to make much money.

But sometimes ya’ gotta do what ya’ gotta do.  Yes, you can turn down Cousin’s Steve’s request but his side of the family will probably resent you for years.  So if you absolutely, positively HAVE TO shoot a wedding for a friend or family member this summer, these 8 tips will make the experience a little less crappy

1. Determine EXACTLY what you’re expected to do:  So one day you log into facebook to find a message from a friend that says: “Hey man! As you know, I’m getting married in two weeks.  I wasn’t going to hire a videographer but now I’m thinking that I should.  By any chance would you be able to do it?  We don’t really have much of a budget for this so we’re not looking for anything fancy; we just want a simple video.”

When your friend says he wants a “simple” video what he means is that he wants a CHEAP video.  Most non-filmmakers have no idea how much time and effort will go into a project like this.  So you need to tell them.  Start off by asking them EXACTLY what they want.  Do they just want want one-camera coverage of the ceremony?  Or do they want two cameras plus coverage of the reception?  And what about the cocktail hour?  I mean, if you’re filming the reception it would be easy for you to get some shots of the cocktail hour too, right?  And how about all the prep stuff?  Doesn’t the bride want footage of her getting in her dress?

After a few messages the “simple” shoot will probably turn into a 10-hour gig.  And what’s going to happen to the footage after the big day?  Will you be expected to edit the video?  Will they want you to make them a wedding “trailer”?  And what about the DVDs?  Are you supposed to author and produce those too?

2. Negotiate your fee:  Once you and your friend figure out what your duties will be, your friend will sheepishly ask “so what would you charge for something like that?”  Before you give him your price, give him the “market” price for a wedding video.  Go to google and look up some local (or national) production companies that do weddings.  Then, send your friend a link to their rates.  Here’s a sample quote that I found online:
$2,295 is pretty ridiculous but that’s just how much these types of videos cost. Casually tell your friend “So this is what these packages usually cost. But obviously I could never charge you that much.  How about I give you a 70% discount from the market price?”

Now you’ll discover what your friend’s actual intentions are.  If you’re friend is a decent human being they’ll be thrilled to get a $2,295 video package for $700.  But if their real goal was to try and get a bunch of free work from you, they’ll probably start whining about how the discounted price is still too high for them.

If that happens, here’s what you do; tell your friend that video production is your job and you can’t really do it for free.  But let your friend know that you are willing to barter.  You will give your friend 10 hours of labor if they repay you with 10 hours of labor.  (You can even knock a few hours off as a wedding present.)  For instance, maybe your friend can help you move someday.  Or maybe they can cut your grass once a week for the rest of the summer. Or how about they give you 10 rides to or from the airport?

There’s pretty much zero chance that your friend will accept this offer.  And if they pass, you’re off the hook.  You tried to give them a $2,295 wedding video package for $0 and they rejected it.  What more can you do for them?

3. Prepare in advance:  I’ve shot maybe four large-scale, all-day weddings in the last 5 years.  They’re actually really tough gigs because you’re basically shooting a feature-length documentary all by yourself and if you screw up one little thing, you’ll be ruining someone’s precious wedding video.  You should get all your gear ready to go a week before the day of the shoot. Those 7 days will give you time to replace missing or malfunctioning items.  At the very least you should have your gear all tested, packed and ready to go the night before the wedding.  You’re going to have a long day; you don’t need to make it longer by waking up at 7AM to get your equipment ready.

4. Bring the right gear:  A few quick notes about equipment:  The groom should wear a lav mic so that you can hear the vows clearly.  You’ll want to bring tripods for all your cameras but you should also have a shoulder mount for your main camera.  But don’t use the shoulder mount rig for the ceremony.  Put your main camera on a monopod with feet.  The reception will be dark so you absolutely need an on-board camera light.  Bring a million batteries and memory cards.  In fact, bring all the batteries and memory cards that you have.

5. Set all of your equipment to “manual”:  This is a good tip for any shoot but it’s especially important for wedding videos.  Lighting conditions during a wedding can be very challenging.  If your cameras are set to “auto” they will compensate by cranking up the gain.  The picture on your monitor will probably look ok but when you review the footage later it might be filled with nasty-looking grain.  Actually, you should check and double check all of your record settings before you even get to the location.  Editing is going to be a hassle of one of your cameras is set to 60i and the other is set to 24p.

6. Bring your own comfort supplies: Don’t rely on the bride or groom to keep you comfortable and well fed.  Keep some aspirin or aleve in your pocket; after 8 hours on your feet something is bound to be sore.  In fact, you may want to stop at Walgreens and invest $17 in a set of super-cushiony shoe inserts.

You should also keep a cooler full of snacks and water in your car.  STAY HYDRATED and EAT PROTEIN!  High protein snacks like nuts, cheese and meat will make a huge difference.  Some turkey and cheese wraps would be a good choice but some jerky or Slim Jims will do in a pinch.

7. Pack some long rubber bands: You’ll want to get some nice, smooth, cinematic pans of locations, outfits, rings, place settings, flowers etc.  You might be a pro but you’re no robot (I assume).  Even if you use a tripod your pans and tilts won’t be 100% smooth.  And that’s where the rubber bands come in.  When you doing a slow pan or tilt, attach the rubber band to the handle of your tripod and pull the handle using the rubber band.  The band acts like a shock absorber and the movement will be incredibly smooth.  Here’s a video that demonstrates the technique.

8.  Try and exceed everyone’s expectations:  Just because you’re doing the gig for next to nothing it doesn’t mean you can get away with doing a crap job.  Wedding shoots suck but if you HAVE TO do one, try and knock it out of the fuggin’ park.  Your friend’s wedding might be stupid but when it’s over he or she will still be your pal.  They’ll love you forever if you do an incredible job for them.  And really, can you put a price tag on love?*

*Yes:  $2,295.

Indy Mogul returns to Youtube

I have a bunch of cousins that range from ages 5 to 16.  Whenever I see them at a family gathering (like the memorial day BBQ I went to on monday) they pull out their phones and start showing everyone youtube videos.  Most adults run away from that sort of nonsense but I’m always interested to see what kids are into these days.  (Turns out it’s mostly vapid junk).  Once we start talking about youtube, my cousins always ask me “what’s your favorite youtube channel!?!”  I usually rattle off the names of the only youtubers I know (like Jenna Marbles or Pewdepie) just to mess with their heads.  When they get excited and say “wow, really!?” I say “no…not really.  I’m a grown man and grown men aren’t supposed to have a favorite youtube channel.”

But I guess that rule’s about to change because one of the only youtube channels I ever liked or cared about has been resurrected.  Indy Mogul was a how-to channel for low-budget filmmakers and I found it to be an invaluable resource during my early video contest days.  I remember specifically that their puppet-making tutorial helped me win a few grand in a contest way back in like 2009.

Unfortunately, Indy Mogul was sort of cancelled about three years ago.  What happened to the channel is actually an interesting and complicated tale.  You can get an abridged version of the show’s backstory here:

Indy Mogul will start posting new episodes next week.  But if you’re dying for some fresh content you can watch this video to hear some A’s to frequently asked Q’s.

And now if you’re REALLY an Indy Mogul fan you might as well go all the way and make a donation to the show’s Patreon account.  The guys behind the show, Eric and Justin (who also happen to be successful Tonglers) are paying for the new episodes themselves.  So follow this link if you’d like to kick in a little something you know, for the effort:

Netflix’s will tell you the true speed of your Internet connection

You're about to see some serious sh*t!
You’re about to see some serious sh*t!

I’m a freelance editor so I’m always uploading and downloading gigantic files.  Sometimes my Internet is blazing fast and sometimes it seems hilariously slow.  I’ve used free online tests to check the speed of my connection but those results always seem kind of fishy because those sites are usually trying to sell you something.

But now the people of the Internet have a simple, free, unbiased way to check the speed of their ISP;  Netflix bought the domain recently and launched the speed test because “We want our members to have a simple, quick, commercial-free way to estimate the speed their ISP is providing.”  The rest of the story is pretty obvious: if customers have trouble streaming content from Netflix, their customer service reps can ask those people to check their speed.  If their ISP is too slow, they’ll realize they can’t blame Netflix for their streaming issues.  It’s a simple but brilliant idea.  And it’s nice that Netflix made the site available to everyone.  I just checked my speed and I’m hitting 88 MPS.  Not bad.  I think I’ll go celebrate by streaming 9 or 10 episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.