Riding the YouTube

YouTube was in the news again recently with the release of a survey that showed the vast majority of kids between two and 11 were turning to YouTube when they wanted to be entertained, rather than traditional TV stations like Cartoon Network or the Disney Channel.

It should perhaps be explained that YouTube is an Internet-based site where anyone can upload video material where it can then be viewed by anyone who cares to, and as often as they want. Based on my experience with certain young relations who were prepared to be entertained indefinitely by the one-minute countdown feature on my watch and that darn dancing baby on my computer, I was not surprised in the slightest that the as-often-as-you-like thing would endear YouTube to the younger set.

What did surprise me, however, was how rapidly other age-groups took to it as a valued source of entertainment and, even, learning. My record at spotting trends is hardly spotless, which probably explains why I was much inclined to write the service off as bit of a silly idea in the beginning.

I couldn’t imagine people actually wanting to watch arbitrary videos put together by palookas but it turned out that many of the contributors to the site weren’t that at all. Many of them were, in fact, highly talented video makers with something to say, and their numbers were soon boosted by real professionals such as the BBC and Associated Press.

The YouTube site says that around 10 hours of video are uploaded by users every minute of the day and, even if only a tiny fraction of that is worth watching, there’ll still be a lot that of interest for just about any taste. I started out in a slow way watching the odd video posted by photographers I admire until I found myself watching a couple of hours a month.

In the old days you would have to buy the book to get the lowdown on the great photographers and their methods, but now you can watch videos of people like Annie Liebowitz, who recently shot the queen, and Joe McNally actually working on their photo projects or talking about their pictures. I don’t even know how many photographers contribute to YouTube but a couple of the ones I’ve noticed are David Tejada and Bert Stephani; just go to www.youtube.com and type their names into the Search box.

I was reading a blog where the writer suggested that readers go to YouTube and look up ‘British Army Photographers’. That turned up a lot of videos including an excellent short program on Sergeant Will Craig, who basically tells you a bit about his life and shows off some of his excellent pictures from the frontlines in Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. Fascinating stuff, and there’s lot more besides that.

I’d be lying if I said that YouTube was the answer to all our entertainment needs because, for one thing, you have to have a good broadband Internet connection, and even that sometimes pauses and jerks like an old 8mm film. What you can do in that case is hit the pause button, to stop the video clip playing and wait patiently while it is downloaded onto your computer, and then hit play again.

While fiddling with YouTube preparing for this column, I was unwise enough to type ‘Allo ‘Allo into the search box and it came up with a fistful of stuff including whole episodes of what is definitely my favourite sitcom. ‘What a mistaka to maka!’, in the words of Captain Bertorelli, because the discovery promises to chew up a lot more of my time and expensive bandwidth.

You, too, go and find something you like. Why not leave a comment by clicking the link below?

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