Episode 267 — Gerald Undone
Episode 267 — Gerald Undone
Gerald Undone is a YouTube creator whose channel is dedicated to different technologies used in the creative process. He tests a variety of tech and gadgets, reviews those products from a value perspective and provides tutorials and guides for content creation using that same gear.
In this Podcast, Gerald Undone shares his experience with building a successful YouTube channel, finding a like minded community of creatives, the importance of narrowing down your brand and having side passions.
Gerald Undone’s Website: https://www.geraldundone.com
Gerald Undone on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC09qASY4ixFS-KXIH6Nw0rg
Gerald Undone on Twitter: @GeraldUndone
Gerald Undone on Instagram: @GeraldUndone
[05:58] Gerald Undone Introduces Himself and His YouTube Channel
[10:17] Gerald Discusses Building His YouTube Channel Based on the Viewer Traction
[16:41] Allan and Gerald Talk About Finding a Like Minded Community
[23:50] Allan and Gerald Discuss the Connection Between Music and the Creative Process
[27:20] Productivity and the Importance of Following One’s Bio Rhythms
[34:13] Gerald Talks History Behind His Studios Undone Series
[39:33] Gerald Breaks Down His Travel Equipment
[45:30] Allan and Gerald Discuss Podcast Formats
[49:25] Allan and Gerald Breakdown the Blackmagic Ursa
[55:30] Allan Talks About a Typical VFX Pipeline and Best Cameras for It
EPISODE 267 — GERALD UNDONE
Hello, everyone! This is Allan McKay.
Welcome to Episode 267! I’m sitting down with Gerald Undone whom you might know from his YouTube Channel with 250K followers. There are so many great resources there! We’re going to talk about everything from his creative process to tech, to cameras and everything else in between.
This one is going to be a lot of fun! I thought it’d be great to sit down and talk about how Gerald got started. We talk about rapid growth for a YouTube Channel. I think this talk was entertaining and inspiring and it bridges a lot into what we do.
I’ve got many great interviews coming up with other YouTubers, creators and artists. This is related to a subject that I’ve been covering a lot on my own channels: Your Personal Brand. The more I think about it, the more I realize how critical it is for what we do, whether we want to fastrack our career or we’re already 10 years into it. This is an area around which I’m building a lot of content, which is why I’m interviewing a lot of experts and artists with experience in this line of work.
Let’s dive in!
FIRST THINGS FIRST:
[00:50] Have you ever sent in your reel and wondered why you didn’t get the callback or what the reason was that you didn’t get the job? Over the past 20 years of working for studios like ILM, Blur Studio, Ubisoft, I’ve built hundreds of teams and hired hundreds of artists — and reviewed thousands of reels! That’s why I decided to write The Ultimate Demo Reel Guide from the perspective of someone who actually does the hiring. You can get this book for free right now at www.allanmckay.com/myreel!
[04:42] I’ve put out a free class that you can get right now on Your Personal Brand. This is a 5-day course you can get for free right now. The magic link is www.Brand10X.com. This Bootcamp will teach you about the power of branding, how to build your own brand, how to amplify it and control how people interpret your services. That way, you’re competing on the basis of services you can provide and not pricing. There is a lot we get into. Check it out: www.Brand10X.com.
[57:50] One of the biggest problems we face as artists is figuring out how much we’re worth. I’ve put together a website. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com! This is a chance for you to put in your level of experience, your discipline, your location — and it will give you an accurate idea what you and everyone else in your discipline should be charging. Check it out: www.VFXRates.com!
[05:58] Allan: Gerald, thank you again for taking the time to chat! Do you want to quickly introduce yourself?
Gerald: Sure, I’m Gerald Undone. That’s my name everywhere on the internet. Primarily, you can find me on YouTube. My channel focuses on camera geer, but it’s more creative technology and everything that goes with it: lenses and processes. We dive into the nerdier functions of it all and throw in some tutorials too. That’s me on YouTube: Gerald Undone. That’s it!
[06:45] Allan: That wasn’t so bad! How did you first get started with cameras? Was this something you’ve always been into, or is it just in the more recent years?
Gerald: It’s a longer story than I usually tell but I’ll give you an abbreviated version. I’ve always been exposed to and had access to cameras my whole life. My dad was the type to have the camcorder out excessively. It was good if I wanted to make my own movies. But he was also into photography as well. I got my first film camera when I was 6 years old. In my head, it was always something fun and funny. So my first projects were some weird things I’ve done for school. Looking back, they were so absurd! My own personal interest was in computers and much later in life that got crossed over, when I met my partner. He’s been a photographer for 15 years and started branching out into hockey photographer and needed someone to set up his infrastructure. That brought my interest into a practical application. At that point, it was 2013 and cameras were awesome. The first one we got was the 5D Mark IV. That was an incredible camera! I’d fallen in love with how far the technology has come because I guess I’m still just a computer nerd that plays with cameras. Then around that time, I started my YouTube channel that had nothing to do with that: I was back to making my absurd content. But along the way, I documented some of my how-to. Only the videos about the gear and how to use it got watched by anyone. I had a little core following of 400 people who were into the absurd stuff. But around 2018, I transitioned into the gear; and that’s the modern version of the channel. But there are still some old ones up. That would be the story of how we got here.
[10:17] Allan: With those videos that were getting traction, how were they performing?
Gerald: There was some disparity: between 500 hundred and 10-20K. But early on, I had some that got up to a 100K quickly. But that might have been a crazy viral video. It seemed pretty evident what kind of content it was. It would much likely get traction if the video was about streaming than about some guy making absurd videos about sharpening a hammer.
[11:27] Allan: I think a lot of people are always seeking guidance rather than putting out their own content and seeing what gets traction. It has to be a combination of something that you enjoy doing and something that other people enjoy watching. For you, was it obvious what was getting traction?
Gerald: I was resistant to it a little bit. I think it’s because in my head, I thought those other videos wouldn’t be as much fun. I started on YouTube when it was just starting out, when people were making silly videos. I thought anything else would be boring. It’s more of a vehicle. Once you’re in it, you can do anything you want. Once I embraced it, I was happy with it. I guess I just didn’t want to be told what to do. I guess now, in 2020, I would’ve done it earlier. If your question is about how clear the trend was — it was really crear!
[13:39] Allan: Once again, if people would just listen, it does become pretty clear. I do a lot of VFX training and everything loves that. But the friction happens with questions like, “How do I get started?” or “Why am I not getting success in my career?” For me, my passion is helping creatives leverage their careers. The VFX stuff is the shiny stuff, but then there is the substance stuff. Which is the answer to the question everyone keeps asking. I think it’s great what you’re doing: It’s entertaining and interesting and it’s helping people gain traction.
Gerald: I appreciate that! I should also clarify so that it doesn’t sound like I’m complaining. There are some people who notice that I still add my dryer sense of humor [to my content], like an odd look into the camera. I know what I’m doing and those who understand it will catch it. Someone else might not even realize it. But I really enjoy what I’m doing. Once you find something that works, you can pepper in what you love. As long as you’re enjoying it!
[16:41] Allan: With everything, you have to find how to cater to an audience. VFX may captivate people but from there, you can introduce bits of advice. I was consulting with someone who is doing a course on traditional artwork. We were talking about the subjects that would captivate people, stuff like dragons. Once you’ve captivated them, you can introduce the why. There has to be that perfect balance. To touch on the YouTube stuff, were there side effects or benefits of starting a channel and building an audience?
Gerald: I think for me the biggest positive effect was: The way I described my origins story, I didn’t find a lot of people that I had a lot in common with. Whenever everyone would go to parties, I would build computer rigs or do games with friends. I’m probably on the spectrum. I think I just didn’t find a lot of kindred people. YouTube is such a strange thing: You film and edit by yourself, you talk through the internet. It’s a lonely kind of thing. Embracing the connections you gain from it makes it make a lot more sense. All of a sudden you realize there are other people and creators. The community of this kind of YouTube is really cooperative and it’s not really competitive. So you end up finding your perfect friends, if you will. That’s the most positive outcome. I don’t think I was expecting that. I’ve picked up some core friends because of YouTube and a mass of people I have a lot in common with. You realize you are not the only nerd in your community anymore.
[20:42] Allan: I love that! I’ve found that community is so important! I’m not sure how old you are.
Gerald: For some reason, my age keeps popping up in Google. I turned 35 in December.
[21:07] Allan: Got it! Okay, cool! I was born in ‘82 and I would do land parties as well. It’s about finding those communities. I quit school in grade 9 and went into the real world. When you have the internet or those land parties, that’s when you find people who share interest with you. I loved LA for that reason: Everyone is a creative. And a lot of people do music.
Gerald: I have a studio tour series I started this year. At every single studio I’ve toured, everyone would have a guitar on a wall. There was only one where it had an art piece. It seems that everyone who is into camera videos on YouTube is also a musician to an extent, for some reason. So there must be some sort of a mental overlap. Are you a musical at all?
[23:50] Allan: I’m not but I’ve been obsessed with this topic for a while. I don’t have any rhythm at all! I was very into sports growing up, but I never got into music. But I noticed a lot of people in programming or film have a background in music. I have friends who swear that knowing how to read music helps them code or structure their lives. That topic to me is really intriguing. Because I’m missing out on it, I’m fascinated by it. How do you find that music ties into your creative process, even if it is more of an escape?
Gerald: That’s what I use it for. I’ve been asked to incorporate it more. For me, I don’t want to make music work. I like to keep it separate but I don’t know why. I guess you can do creative stuff. I think of it more like a graph: When I go up, I make a video and crunch that edit. When it peaks the mental exhaustion level, the curve goes down and I try to bang out some notes on my piano and think of something or transpose a song in my head. Then I hit equilibrium in my mind. I don’t want to cross those two waves. That’s where I dump my creative stress.
[27:20] Allan: Talking about the bio rhythms of productivity, what is that like? When you have those lows of burnouts, how do you deal with them? Is that something you wrestle with?
Gerald: I think it’s something I have to force upon myself. If I didn’t, I worry I wouldn’t take care of myself. I would constantly operate at a buzzing, high level for problem solving. If you look at my content, I would try and pump out 7-8 videos a month — by myself! That is a lot considering that I spend days testing things. The last couple months, I’ve slowed down to 4-5 videos a month, just so that I would have some down time. When I publish the video, I’ll check in to see that it works and then I try to do nothing for the rest of the day. The next day, I let myself ramp up. Long ago, I talked about what my ideal job would be. I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. But I thought if I could just test and tinker with things. And my partner said, “Something like computer repair?” And I said, “No, because you’d have to advertise for that. What it was something that I could do just by tweaking and testing.” Now, looking at what I do, it is exactly that — except that I put it on YouTube. But even though it’s what I like doing, it’s still a lot because you make a living off of it. If you don’t, you can explode. You still have to stop every once in a while. I think it’s been better since I started doing that. I don’t record any data on it, but I think I feel fine. You don’t control the release of products. Sometimes, I have 3 cameras come in every two weeks. That can be tough. That’s why it’s important to force it. You have to take breaks!
[32:07] Allan: That sounds awesome and you’re right! It’s so important to force yourself to step away. If you put it off until the next month, it’s not going to happen. I’ve also had conversions with people who put off doing what they find interesting. With you, it’s more about taking a step back.
Gerald: When I’m not doing music, it’s just consumption of other media. I love immersing myself in that. I love listening to music albums and transcribing songs for different instruments. It’s about obsessing about something else, preferably more relaxing. When I have to come back around, it feels like I’ve had some time off.
[34:13] Allan: I think that’s good! With the Studios Undone, you started doing studio tours. How did that idea come about and what have you learned?
Gerald: I completely stole the idea! I’m a big fan of Linus Tech Tips. It seems that every once in a while, he goes to a studio and makes fun of them. I thought it was a fun idea. The real origin was though that I wanted to travel and collaborate with my kindred spirits. But I didn’t know how to do that and that would be an expensive hobby. I was thinking on maybe getting a sponsor for it, so I was working it backwards. I made a video a while ago where I tried to make my own color checker. I was doing a sponsored video of Storyblocks and thought I’d use it for my trip to Home Depot or something. Again, it got put in the back of my mind. Then I thought of doing a travel gag and see if Storyblocks would sponsor it. But I still haven’t figured out what I’d do once I get there; and that’s when I remembered Linus Tech Tips. I thought I could make fun of how they do things. It formulated itself like that. But I found that creators are selling you the stuff that they have. But what if you didn’t let them promote what they want to promote, and instead get them to talk about something that’s broken in the corner.
[39:10] Allan: That’s really cool! Have there been any commonalities with people’s setups?
Gerald: Yeah, there are some. I’ve already made that joke about the guitar on the wall. But more functionally, Aputure has done well to get those lights everywhere.
[39:33] Allan: Okay, I’m going to interrupt for a second! When you mentioned making your own color checker, is there any gear that goes under the radar? It’s funny that you’re bringing that up.
Gerald: There are a few things I bring to the tours with me: One of them is a color checker. I do bring the passport video. I always bring an Aputure MC, or two. A lot of the interview shots you see, there is always some purple or orange light behind. I like to throw some color on them to give the series a consistent look. That ties it in because you do change locations. I bring the same set of on camera Shotgun mics. I’ve been using the Rode NTG’s lately. They’re a do-it-all microphone. I usually rely on the creators’ stuff when we’re there. I also bring the same recorder everywhere which is the Zoom F6. Those give me some form of consistency when needed. I bring the same recorder and lights, mics. Those will get the job done. I also bring a lot of cameras.
[41:54] Allan: I’ve got a few Leica batteries sitting next to my foot right now. Back in LA, I had one of the Rode mics and I had a deadcat attached to the end of it. At one point, I had a maid come in and she was cleaning with it. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was a mic. I definitely invested in some Aputure. There are so many lights you invest in, and Aputure is so easy to use.
Gerald: I agree! There are lights that are brighter, but I love the MC’s. I love the magnet strength on them. You can pack them really easily. The thing I was talking about earlier though is that Aputure did well to convey the YouTuber space. The other one I was going to mention, in most cases, everyone that shoots themselves has a big screen to see themselves on. It’s a tv or a computer monitor. I would say I stole that from the tours. It’s so much easier if you have the giant screen to see yourself on.
[45:18] Allan: As opposed to using like a 5-inch Blackmagic monitor.
Gerald: How long do you aim for a finished run time?
[45:30] Allan: It varies. In the beginning, they tend to be lengthy. I think it could be between 35 and 45 minutes.
Gerald: I find that an hour is more common. But then there are Podcasts that are 3 hours long. I edited something recently. All the Studio Undone tours I’ve done, there are bits and pieces that I can tie together. But the rest of the tour, I’d throw away. But then someone mentioned I should turn those into a Podcast, which I’ve just done with Chris [Hau] and Lizzie [Peirce]. So I edited the remainder and got it down to 30 minutes. People were asking where the rest of it was. I think it depends on the listener.
[47:15] Allan: I think it also depends on how you’re consuming it. With YouTube, if you’re watching, you expect it to be shorter. But with Podcasts, you can listen at your gym. I launched my channel in 2016 and I went to Vimeo. It’s only in the last year when I thought I should do it on YouTube as well. It’s one of the bigger mistakes I’ve had. Going from a Podcast to YouTube, it’s a very different format. With the Podcast, people are happy to listen and they want to know about you. But with YouTube, you can’t do a 10-minute intro. The people want to get the content they came there for. But I definitely think you should salvage what you have! People would get invested.
Gerald: That was the original thought but I didn’t think anyone would want to watch the video. But it turns out, somebody does.
[49:25] Allan: I’ve got a couple more quick questions: I’m curious about camera gear. With Blackmagic Ursa, I’m wondering what you think about it. They emailed me a couple days ago about the new Ursa. What are your thoughts on the direction where they’re trying to go with that?
Gerald: I think it’s exciting! I often don’t know what to think of leaps like that in the beginning. I wouldn’t say I’m the early adopter. I try not to be the hero going into it, although my YouTube job makes it so I have to form opinions about it. But when I answer questions like this, I think as the “normal” Gerald”. And I love that it’s happening because I always want everything to go forward. Because even if we settle halfway between here and there in terms of widespread functionality, it’s further along than where we are now. I’m all for innovation. At the same time, when I saw the announcement, I had questions jump into my mind in terms of functionality. They address that. But I will say Blackmagic RAW performs excellently and downloaded some of the files. Even the practical concerns were mitigated. And Ursa was a 4.6 Version 2 is a great camera. I haven’t covered it on my channel. I have confidence in Blackmagic releases. I guess it’s hard to define when we cross the threshold of “This is ridiculous”. If no one ever wandered into ridiculous, there would be no advancements. If you ask if I’m going to buy one, probably not. Although I think the price was cheap.
[52:24] Allan: I think they said it was 10K.
Gerald: It’s not crazy. I was looking at the $11,000 Battle recently with the C303 with the FX-9. Those seemed appropriately priced.
[52:54] Allan: For 10 grand with Blackmagic, at least you get a handle. One of the first cameras I’ve gotten was the RED DRAGON. It was because a few of my friends told me to join the family. I ended up working on Avengers, and I heard these two guys in a coffee shop talking about buying a RED. And I was like, “Don’t do it!” I love that it may be the Apple of the camera world, but unless you have a good ROI from doing it professionally, [it’s not worth it]. One of my friends works with them, but I don’t think he’s getting a huge return on them. With Blackmagic, they’re pretty amazing with the price market where they position themselves. I still haven’t shot any AK but I have friends who have.
Gerald: The value has always been there for Blackmagic all the way down to their $1,200 pocket camera. It’s ridiculous! And they’re working on Gen 5 now. There are no red flags. It does sound crazy to me. Maybe from the VFX space, getting as much color resolution is useful. I usually do a super sample of 6K into 4K. Is resolution everything for VFX?
[55:30] Allan: Not really. Usually in a VFX pipeline, it’s already locked down. It’s gone through the DI and the edit. Most things are locked down and you’re working with the final output. The only thing it comes down to is what the DP wants to shoot and if they want to have control in editing. Post-production is at the very end of the filmmaking process. You want to shoot things clean. There are definitely situations where you want to shoot things higher scan that way you have more freedom to move on a plate. But having higher quality cameras will make everyone’s jobs easier because you’ll have a cleaner output. 12K is absolutely insane, still! I can go on forever! I loved getting this insight from you. For anyone that wants to know more about you, where can people go to find out more about you?
Gerald: If you just look up Gerald Undone — wherever you’re on, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube — I’m there. You can follow me and read whatever I’m doing at the time.
[57:42] Allan: Thanks again for taking the time to chat, man! I really appreciate it!
Gerald: It’s been awesome! Thanks for having me!
I hope you enjoyed this Episode. I want to thank Gerald for coming on and sharing so much amazing information!
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“If only there was more time in the day”
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If I ask too much, will I scare them off?
What are the key things that I’m doing wrong?
Money, negotiating, probably two words that build the most tension just at the thought of, other than public speaking.
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