I recently entered a world where gamers attend their own private high school for the study of pwning — the halls are lined with lockers, video game art, and vending machines filled with fictional junk food. Later, as you find yourself walking into the dorm rooms of Video Game High School, you get the same sense of unreal reality that you get walking onto the set of any major network sitcom.
That’s what happened last week, when I visited the YouTube Space in Playa Vista, CA, as it hosted the set of Video Game High School.
Freddie Wong and Matt Arnold on the set of “VGHS” Season 2.
VGHS is not the only project happening there, though, thanks to the YouTube Residency program, one of the ways YouTube has reached out to creators to help raise the level of content being created for the site.
Anyone can apply to be a part of the YouTube creator class, a group of 20 or so YouTubers brought in every quarter to work on their own projects and develop their video creation skills. During one of my visits, for example, I met Nikki Limo of trickniks, one of the participants of the Creator Class for the first quarter of 2013, who was editing for the very first time with some help from a YouTube staff member.
YouTube residencies are a different beast, however, and involve directly engaging with YouTube staff to pitch potential projects. The first two residents — VGHS director Freddie Wong and musically focused YouTuber DaveDays (AKA David Joseph Colditz) — got access to the space after they’d proposed series concepts they’d want to film there, and in addition agreed to play mentor to the Creative Class.
“The idea was to do something really big and ambitious, giving [creators] those extra resources to help them reach the next level — a runway to experiment,” Kathleen Grace, Manager of Production and Programming at YouTube Space LA, said via phone.
Colditz’s Writing Room is currently shooting and should premiere in April. It teams up YouTube musical artists whose focus is on doing cover versions of songs with professional songwriters, so that the artists, who may lack experience in creating their own songs, can get the experience of writing original music. Music videos for each song created during the process will also be released.
“Not only is Writer’s Room inherently collaborative, but it takes [DaveDays] to a new level too — it makes him a producer and a leader. It’s a growth opportunity for him and those he’s collaborating with,” Grace said.
There aren’t many rules for the content being created inside the YouTube space — the primary ones, according to Grace, are that it has to be copyright-cleared, and anything filmed there must premiere on YouTube.
The helicopter outside YouTube Space LA. Fun fact: It was actually built in the space (back when the space was a helicopter factory).
This means that VGHS, which premiered episodes of its first season on the proprietary platform Rocket Jump before putting them on YouTube, will have to have a different release strategy for Season 2: According to Wong, the series will premiere simultaneously on YouTube and Rocket Jump.
But beyond those restrictions, creators have access to a wealth of resources — the YouTube Space hosts several studios, three green-screens, a 4K projection theater, and other production resources including cameras and recording equipment, all available to the YouTube community for the low low price of free.
Check out the YouTube Space Los Angeles in this video tour or continue reading below.
The purpose? To help raise the production value of YouTube content for every creator. “We don’t believe in competition,” Wong said during our interview. “A better quality of video is better for everyone.”
“It’s a very chill environment — I love that it’s really all about the YouTube community,” Colditz said. His only regret is that while he was in the same space as Freddie Wong, he didn’t pop into the background of VGHS. “I don’t know why I didn’t photobomb them — I should have,” he said.
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