In today’s technological age, its important for aspiring filmmakers to have an internet presence. Its not really an option anymore, unless you have the extra cash to submit to lots of festivals. Even then, sites like WithoutABox still encourage users to submit to festivals via the internet. Almost everything is being converted to the digital age: portfolios, demo reels, etc. So, where is the best place for up and comers to call home?
The two main players in the user-generated, internet video world are Vimeo and YouTube. YouTube is the more popular of the two and somewhat of a pop-culture phenom in and of itself. Does its overwhelming popularity make it the obvious, go-to choice? Or will your films just get lost in the crowd?
Vimeo is definitely aimed at the more indie/artsy filmmaking crowd. Perhaps the more pretentious of the two groups (I don’t mean that in a derogatory way). The people on Vimeo are more likely to be aiming for Oscars, than the cat-video laden and G.I. Joe dubb-filled YouTube.
YouTube is famous for creating overnight pop-culture stars. Like the guy who cried about Britney Spears or the other guy who told everyone to “hide your kids, hide your wife.” Some have gone on to make real names for themselves like the insanely famous Justin Bieber. There’s also the famous vloggers like Shane Dawson and iJustine.
Vimeo is a much more tight knit community. A community made up of almost exclusively filmmakers. The airwaves aren’t flooded with tons of random people stating their opinion on the latest fad or cats playing the piano. The content creators on Vimeo are there to create content that is original and well done.
YouTube: Land of The Absurd
The major turn off, I think, for most filmmakers looking at YouTube might be the fact that its most noted for its asinine, but sometimes highly entertaining short videos. Like people falling on their face after unsuccessfully attempting a backflip, things of that nature. This is unfortunate because YouTube can be an amazing resource for independent filmmakers. What you don’t hear about are the ambitious short films created on micro to no budgets, distributed for free, and available to millions.
Many different genres and styles of filmmaking have found success on YouTube. From the 35 minute, comedy short film “Agents of Secret Stuff” by YouTube user Nigahiga, about a high school spy who is assigned to protect a girl (over 9 million views), to the epic, post apocalyptic three-part feature film “The Freelands” by YouTube user Brettsk8, about a lone soldier surviving in a war torn and corrupt America.
One of the (if not THE) greatest aspects of YouTube is that if your channel garners enough consistent viewers, you can join the partner program. What that means is that YouTube will pay you for generating content. Some examples of people who have reached a significant amount of success to become YouTube partners are RosenChuck1, the aforementioned Brettsk8, and YouTube superstar FreddieW. Each of these players gets paid by YouTube to submit content on a regular basis.
I’m not saying that getting paid is the end all, but it provides a source of income to support making more films while also paying the bills. Some, like FreddieW, make YouTube their full-time job. This isn’t the norm, but definitely a possibility if you can create consistent, engaging content.
YouTube can also be a spring board. Machinima filmmaker Jon CJG started his short film series Arby and The Chief on YouTube, leading to a full-time job at Machinima.com. The web series, The Guild, founded on YouTube surviving purely on fan-funding, is now a series on the Xbox 360 sponsored by Microsoft and Sprint.
Vimeo: Valley of The Timelapse Videos
From the outside, Vimeo looks appealing because the community is intelligible and very aware of their craft. The critique left in the comments can be helpful and the level of spam is minute to none (I’ve never seen any). There is a rule for uploading videos stating that all content must be 100% original. This prevents anyone from uploading rehashed/remixed clips of trailers, ridiculous dubs of cartoon shows, etc. This is a great filter system for keeping only the content that the filmmakers want to see and create on the site.
The major downside to Vimeo isn’t in its own execution but really a fault of the community. There is a severe lack of narrative, ambitious content on Vimeo. The site is riddled with timelapses, videography, and other more abstract forms of filmmaking. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but there’s no balance.The videos are very well done, technically, but nothing you’d watch over and over again or feel obligated to share with your friends.
There are some exceptions, of course, but I’m talking about the Vimeo community as a whole. Some filmmakers have come to make a name for themselves within the community, but never to the level of YouTube’s highrollers. Also, there are some very big limitations to Vimeo that put it at a slightly lesser level of accessibility.
For one, there are two kinds of accounts: a free account you get just for signing up and Vimeo plus; a $60 a year subscription that allows certain upgrades. With the free account, on a weekly basis, you get to upload 500mb and 1 HD video. With the plus account, also on a weekly basis, you get to upload 5gb and unlimited HD videos. This, again, is a good deterrent for avoiding meaningless videos; people will want to spend their weekly space wisely and will only upload their best content. However, with YouTube you get unlimited HD videos with the ability to upload an unlimited amount of videos, as long as they don’t exceed 2gb. So, the limitations Vimeo puts into action are rendered fairly uncompetitive…
The Bottom Line: YouTube or Vimeo
I think the “better meter” falls on YouTube this time. I have found more ambitious, nearly ground-breaking independent filmmaking on YouTube rather than Vimeo (where really I haven’t much, if any). The Freelands is an original, feature length, three-part series created by young filmmakers on a zero budget. I would highly suggest you search it on YouTube and give it a watch (as of this posting, two of the three episodes have been released).
This community ambition, coupled with the partners program, helps to create a perpetual source of quality content. If these filmmakers get paid to create content, they have more money to create said content. Its a situation any young filmmaker would love to find themselves in.
Also, the non-generating YouTube community is huge, absolutely HUGE, in comparison to the non-generating Vimeo community. If a video gains some momentum on YouTube it can explode overnight. When it comes down to making your films accessible, YouTube is the king of them all; hands down.
So, go out there, make some films, and send them into the YouTube. Communicate with your audience and build a name for yourself. Then take your new found notoriety and do what you love to do for a living: make films. If you want some help, you can also check VFX Los Angeles for great services.