Product Reviews And Reviewers

In my quest to learn more about video production, for the last year or so, I’ve been avidly scouring YouTube and the internet in general for sites that provide information, examples, reviews and personal rundowns on video production. Early on I was looking for information on gear needed for video production, cameras, audio, lighting and accessories. I wasn’t looking just for gear reviews, but for candid opinions on gear that actual videographers/film makers were using or had used and how they found them in real use. In doing so I found some very good YouTube channels and started to follow them with interest. Once I pretty much had my gear sorted out, I started to look for more sites that dealt with producing videos, as well as editing videos, and once again came across a number that I still follow. As I’ve noted before, YouTube can be a double-edged sward with good and bad results and sometimes more choice than you can handle.

Rode VideoMic Pro+

Rode VideoMic Pro+

But over time, some of these sites increasingly became predominantly product review sites rather than ones covering techniques or discussing personal experiences with products as they originally did. Now many, if not all, of these presenters always preface their videos saying that while a product was sent to them by the manufacturer for review, they were not paid to provide the review. I have no doubt that what they are saying is true, but all too often I find that the reviews tend to be fairly glowing and rarely if ever giving any criticism of the product. There are exceptions of course, but these tend to be rare. What’s interesting is that when a new product comes out, the manufacturer sends samples out to a whole bunch of YouTube channel owners and suddenly World + Dog is providing you with a week’s worth of similar reviews. These reviews are often produced with various levels of quality, interest and detail.

Benro S8 Fluid Head and Manfrotto 438 Levelling Base

Benro S8 Fluid Head and Manfrotto 438 Levelling Base

The issue with these reviews, or reviewers, is that while they are not paid or gain any substantial benefit from their reviews, except to maybe to retain the product reviewed, there is still an incentive to be far more positive than negative about the products. And I think the issue is to do with publishing; as that old saying in academic circles goes, publish or die. YouTubers that start to pick up subscribers and are looking to make some money from their channels, need to be publishing videos on a regular basis. Videos have to come out at least once a week or more often if you want to grow your channel, though exceptions do apply. And it’s very, very, difficult to produce something new every week from scratch. I know first hand how difficult it is just producing a story on this site every week and my site is only a minor aspect of producing income. So I think this is the reason why many YouTubers keep pumping out reasonably positive product reviews, they don’t want to bite the hand that feeds them with new stories.

Leofoto LN-404C Tripod Head - (source: Leofoto)

Leofoto LN-404C Tripod Head – (source: Leofoto)

And clearly if a YouTube reviewer starts to deliver product reviews that are too harsh, manufacturers may start having second thoughts about sending products for review and that can very quickly dry up that YouTuber’s source material for regular output. Once products are no longer coming in, the YouTuber has to work even harder to produce original content for viewing. And if viewers start asking about the product reviews that others are doing, it’s kind of galling to say that manufacturers are no longer sending in products for review. I did come across one YouTuber who said that they were no longer going to accept products for review, so that they didn’t get locked into a product review cycle. That said, I can understand the rationale for product reviews if I’m even partly correct in my assumptions, but it’s still somewhat disappointing that many YouTube channels are increasingly moving to product reviews and not retaining their original theme. I’d even be more than happy with long-term product reviews rather than ones that involve only a week or less of using the gear, as that’s really far more meaningful than a quick and dirty test and follow-up opinion piece.

FeiyuTech a2000 Gimbal on monopod

FeiyuTech a2000 Gimbal on monopod

Now I don’t want to point the finger at any of those YouTube sites that disappoint me, as I still respect what each are doing, so I’ll just let you make you own decisions on what’s good and what’s not. As I said, there are a few regular reviewers that I watch who are professionals in their field, such as in audio, and so their reviews are always good to watch because they provide comprehensive insights into equipment that I want to learn about. There are also a few who buy the gear outright for their own use and provide insights on how the gear plays out for them. That too is useful as you can judge things more honestly and perhaps compare the use to your own. I guess I’m fortunate in that I don’t want to and don’t have to rely on the likes of YouTube for any of my income, directly or indirectly, so I’m far more free to do as I wish. That gives me the flexibility to go my own way and do my own things, and not be beholden to anyone.

Selens Carbon Fibre Slider and Novoflex Classic Ball 5

Selens Carbon Fibre Slider and Novoflex Classic Ball 5

So when I publish something akin to a review, either in this blog or on YouTube, it’s more about why I bought some gear and how it works for me. I also like to revisit these purchases to let people know whether the gear has held up to initial views after a decent amount of use. I just don’t see the point of many reviews of new gear that do nothing more than regurgitate specs and provide a few examples. Like most car reviews, which provide no information as to how the car will stand up to long-term use and abuse; gear reviews based on a week of ‘playing around’ with the gear is hardly going to provide anything substantive. Much like early opinions of the BMPCC4K being ‘plasticky’, mine has survived a year of a fair amount of rough and tumble in my off-road journeys, amongst other ventures. Only time and use differentiates the good from the bad.

Rode Wireless GO with Rode smartLav+

Rode Wireless GO with Rode smartLav+

Sites that I still like to watch because they continue to be informative and tend to stay true to what they have done from the outset are Curtis Judd (comprehensive audio), YCImaging (music video production), D4Darious (film production), MAKE.ART.NOW (combines gear with actual use and very entertaining to boot), Momentum Productions (interesting information on gimbal use), TLDR Filmmaker (a different take on gear) and cinecom.net (a wide range of film related tips and guides etc). There may be others about, but I haven’t found ones that can hold my attention the way that the former do. Yes, I’m well aware of the well known vloggers but, after watching them a couple of times, they don’t grab me at all. For video editing, I’ve found Learn Color Grading and JayAreTV to be two of the best if you want to learn about Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve.

BMPCC4K Rig

BMPCC4K Rig

I’ve also just noticed that YouTube is still trying to promote its ‘Premium’ service where you subscribe and pay a monthly fee to view certain videos/channels. Now I could perhaps understand this when it comes to videos that say emulate Netflix or similar, or are truly educational/entertaining in some way, but when it comes to product reviews, I for one would never pay for such a thing. The well known product reviewers, I thought, already made enough from advertising and product sales. Additionally, I’ve always found that with subscription services you end up paying for a lot of stuff that is of little interest.

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