Sprawling YouTube Space NY fosters content creation, free of charge

Better than the best bedroom backdrop: YouTube Space NY’s production studios offer everything needed to create high-end programming. Photo courtesy YouTube Space NY.

BY RANIA RICHARDSON | High above Chelsea Market, YouTube Space New York is a hive of activity, as video makers working in a variety of genres take advantage of a rare opportunity: free resources.

YouTube is a video sharing website that allows users to upload, view, and share content. Along with large companies, independent creators contribute to the site and often gain a grassroots following for their online channel. Anyone with a YouTube channel that meets a minimum subscriber threshold can access the Chelsea production facility’s state-of-the-art equipment, in-house experts, and educational programs.

“We have finite resources. So to democratize access, we ask for at least 10,000 subscribers,” said Adam Relis, head of YouTube Space NY, during a recent visit. “It’s a measure of concerted effort and consistency,” he noted, as opposed to counting “views” for individual videos, which could be in the millions, but occur without predictability. “It’s also a good milestone to reach,” Relis said of the 10,000 minimal subscriber number (1,000 for registered nonprofits), “and it motivates up-and-coming creators to hit the mark.”

The upside for YouTube, a Google company, is being right there with their content providers as they work in the space, taking risks and experimenting. Google and the wider YouTube team contribute to the effort with new products and technology, such as updated live streaming.

YouTube Space NY is a full-service production facility for all levels, from emerging creators setting up a tripod and using the professional studio for the first time, to established ones who want access to expensive equipment and the latest technologies and knowledge in the field.

The diner set is done in the Art Deco style and offers an “exterior” window view of either daylight or nighttime conditions. Photo courtesy YouTube Space NY.

The wood bleachers in the hallways of the space resemble those of the nearby High Line, and loft rooms with exposed brick identify the location as New York City. All 20,000 square feet of the Chelsea facility are equipped for filming. Each of the 10 global spaces — from São Paulo to Berlin to Mumbai — include unique characteristics that reflect the local community.

This aim is carried out in a rotating group of seasonal film sets that are easy to modify. A CBGB punk-rock club, a subway car, and a “Seinfeld”-like diner join non-New York City spaces such as a submarine and spooky cabin. During the 2016 election season, a White House Press Briefing Room and an Oval Office set were used for news programs, humor, and even a beauty feature on candidate hairstyles. The Chainsmokers, a critically acclaimed and massively popular musical production duo, promoted voter registration with a stunt to see how many tacos they could assemble in the 1 minute and 34 seconds it takes to register to vote. (The answer is eight tacos, but guacamole may be missing in some.)

A newly built talk show set enhances the “Did Y’All See?” program recorded on Thursdays (episodes air every Friday). The sleek sofa, glass coffee tables, and backdrop of the Manhattan skyline signal a sophisticated production. An offshoot of MadameNoire.com, a lifestyle website of news and inspiration for millennial women of color, “Did Y’all See?” began organically with the site’s editorial team believing that their discussions of current events and trending topics could engage others, in the vein of ABC’s “The View.”

The first episodes, from early 2014, were filmed at the editors’ desks. Eventually the program built a core audience, and now has 151,000 subscribers. In June, they recast the show with new co-hosts that have backgrounds in style blogging, professional dance, video production and social media influence.

According to executive producer Raven Carter, via email, “We worked really diligently to build our audience and subscribers so that we could begin to film at Space NY. What we’ve gained is better production quality, access to state-of-the-art equipment, and now, an actual talk show set, not to mention the incredible staff at YouTube.”

In an empty room, where a digital image will replace a green screen, filmmaker Michael Della Polla sets up audio and camera equipment — including two high-end RED cameras — for Andy Mineo and Reach Records. Other assets on hand are lights, electrical, and grip equipment. The soup-to-nuts resources on offer include editing suites and voice-over recording booths.

L to R: Brook England, Dnay B. and Tiffany M. Battle co-hosted the Sept. 8 edition of “Did Y’All See?” (new episodes every Friday). Photo courtesy YouTube Space NY.

A virtual film school is available through training workshops such as “Pre-Production and Narrative Structuring,” “Mics & Mixers: Recording Audio,” and “Advanced Gear Trainings and Post-Production,” in addition to individual customized consultations that can include mock presentations reviewed by technical experts.

According to conventional wisdom, there are fewer women video makers than men, so YouTube is proactively addressing the imbalance with initiatives for females in front of and behind the camera at Space NY, and around the world. One global production program for women includes mentoring as well as workshops, and a “supercharger” boot camp helps women get their original series off the ground, from pitch packages to business models.

The types of channels utilizing YouTube Space NY run the gamut, for example: “ScIQ” is dedicated to promoting scientific literacy; “TeamBackpack” helps discover and break out underground and independent emcees; “Glove and Boots” is a puppet series;and The Laurie Berkner Band presents songs for preschoolers.

In addition to providing next-level resources, Space NY holds workshops and events that are open to the public at large. For more information, check out YouTube Space NY at youtube.com/yt/space/new-york.html. For online help, YouTube Creator Academy tutorials can help the development of a creative process.

The hallway at YouTube Space NY was designed to be a gathering place with seating that invokes the nearby High Line.. Photo courtesy YouTube Space NY.

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