COE YouTube channel reaches 2,000-view milestone

A still shot from the Halloween video on the COE's YouTube channel.

The College of Engineering YouTube channel has recently crossed the 2,000-view milestone. We talked with Alonso del Arte, the driving force behind the College's YouTube channel, about this accomplishment.

Q: The College of Engineering's YouTube channel just passed the 2,000-view milestone last week. Do you feel this is an accomplishment?

AA: Yes. People go to YouTube for lots of things, but videos from an engineering school just doesn't rank high on the list, so I feel that it is an accomplishment, even though I have a lot more views on my own personal YouTube channel.

Q: Which video caused this crossing of the milestone?

AA: Most likely it was the Halloween video. About two weeks ago, several College of Engineering student organizations got together to put on an excellent Halloween celebration, complete with a spooky haunted hallway in the basement of our main building. The video is mainly about the haunted hallway. It got almost 50 views in the past week.

Q: What is the most viewed video on the College's YouTube channel and why?

AA: Right now that would be the one with Devin Partrich, President of ESFB, pondering a puzzle pertaining to the Fibonacci numbers, with more than 300 views. I don't know why it's the most viewed, but I supposed that it helps that it's linked from the On-Line Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences (OEIS, it's the website where mathematicians and scientists go to when they are stumped over a sequence of numbers). If you look up A004685 on that website, you'll see a link that says “Wayne State University College of Engineering.”

Q: What is the least viewed video?

AA: A PowerPoint presentation about the Urban Watershed Environmental Group project. It's important stuff but without an expert to talk you through the presentation, most of it just goes over your head.

Q: I notice that you use a small camera for most of the videos you've done for the College, even though you have access to mid- and professional-grade cameras. Why?

AA: Part of it has to do with being cost effective in response to recent budget cuts. The higher-end cameras use DV tape and custom-shaped batteries. These are not the most expensive things in the world, but on a budget they become precious. Consider that DV tape can really only be used once; you might get away with using it twice, you're asking for trouble if you use it more than twice.

The Kodak ZX1 camera, on the other hand, uses SD memory cards and AA batteries. I already own a few SD memory cards and some rechargeable AA batteries that I use for some other devices; theoretically, I could use those for years to come. The ZX1 has good image quality, and, since it doesn't look expensive, it doesn't make the people I interview feel like they have to rehearse and rehearse what they are going to say to me when I interview them.

Q: So you direct, shoot and edit the videos all by yourself?

AA: No, I have a lot of help. Tim [Jones] is my mentor. Daljuan Peterson and Chris Holmes have helped with editing some of the videos and they get an editing credit for some of them. Oh, and Dan [Rinke] shot the Music of Engineering videos with a two-camera set-up, and he used his very own professional-grade camera for Camera A in that set-up.

Q: How polished do videos have to be for YouTube?

AA: Somewhat polished, but they need to have some rough edges. If they're too polished, then it's like you're trying to one-up everyone else and you'll get accused of plagiarism. But if they look like [expletive], then people won't have nice things to say about you either. Really, it's editing that makes the difference. I use Final Cut Pro.

You can't just plop down whatever comes out of the camera. Tim Jones, easily the MVP of the non-faculty staff here at the College, told me that videos shouldn't be longer than 2:30 because it is about that time that people's attention wanders (this is something he has determined through an experiment). I could record hours of footage of Prof. Chen talking about some engineering topic, but when it comes to putting it on YouTube, I really should condense the important points down to a couple of minutes and add some video of the device he's talking about.

However, um, there is a simplicity that is required for YouTube. If I may go back to your earlier question, it's hard to know what kinds of videos will get lots of views. On my own YouTube channel, my most viewed video, with almost 9,000 views, is just a bunch of numbers and a couple of sounds. My Air Violin Minuet video, on the other hand, has just a little over a hundred views.

Q: There are music videos on the College's YouTube channel as well?

AA: Oh yes, thank you for reminding me. We have three highlight reels from last year's Music of Engineering concert and we have put those up front on the channel to whet people's appetite for this year's Music of Engineering concert, scheduled for November 11, if I may put in a plug for it.

Q: One of the ongoing series on the College's YouTube channel is called “Spotlight on Student Orgs.” There has been one video about the Society of Women Engineers and three videos about Tau Beta Pi. What does a student organization have to do to get a “Spotlight” video done about them?

AA: They have to come up with an idea of an activity they are going to do together as a group and then let me know when they are going to do it so that I can go with a camera. If they can't think of an activity, I am willing to brainstorm with them to come up with an idea.

Q: One last question: what is the URL for the College of Engineering YouTube channel?

AA: That would be http://www.youtube.com/WSUEngineering