Technology

Marques Brownlee Wants to Help You Create Viral Videos

It’s been another wild year for Marques Brownlee. When WIRED spoke with the video creator known as MKBHD in 2014, the 20-year-old “YouTube sensation” was busy playing ultimate frisbee and about to graduate from college. Brownlee still plays ultimate, but now his business operations have significantly expanded.

The consistent stream of slick videos on Brownlee’s YouTube channel cover a wide breadth of consumer tech, from the latest smartphones and electric vehicles to weird earbuds and retro tech. Notable channel guests include Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and that creepy robot dog from Boston Dynamics. He also hosts a weekly tech podcast, Waveform, in partnership with Vox Media.

A singular voice in the world of tech reviews, Brownlee is charismatic on camera with a delivery that comes across like a smart, unpretentious friend who’s just obsessed with gadgets. The finer details stand out in his videos with cohesive B-roll and color-coordinated tableaus for showing off devices.

The videos rarely stray from tech topics, but an exception was made during the mass protests in 2020 concerning American police brutality with a video titled, “Reflecting on the Color of My Skin.” He’s reached a level of success and visibility seldom achieved by anyone participating in the so-called creator economy.

Brownlee is partnering with MasterClass to teach a session on video creation with nuggets of useful advice covering key subjects like cameras, lenses, lighting, composition, and visuals. Before his upcoming MasterClass drops, WIRED had the opportunity to chat with MKBHD about his best practices for creating YouTube videos, what you really need to get started, and how to cover tech that personally impacts you.

Young people often fantasize about turning their YouTube channel or TikTok account into a full-time career, but Brownlee cautions beginners against approaching video creation as a money making endeavor.

“You have to understand that it’s something you might not ever be able to make into your job. It might be a hobby forever,” says Brownlee. “A lot of people want to be an NBA player, but a lot of people just want to go to the park and play ball because they enjoy playing basketball. I think you can do that with creating videos, instead of deciding you want to be into it to make it your job. If you know you have fun at that level, then you’re already winning.”

While it’s fascinating to compare high-end cameras and lenses, it’s beneficial for anyone making their first videos not to be overly obsessed with pricy equipment. Instead, focus on making great videos with gear you already have.

Brownlee says, “One of the most common questions I probably get asked is, ‘I want to kind of do what you do. How do I get started? Like, I don’t really have that much. I don’t have a RED camera. I don’t have a MacBook Pro. I can’t get started.’ No, no, no. You’re talking to me on a smartphone right now.”

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