Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Meet YouTube’s Michael Bay

You can get a lot of people to watch your video on YouTube. But that doesn’t mean you’ll make a lot of money.

So what do you do if you’re one of YouTube’s biggest stars, with ambitions to become much bigger than that?

You stay on YouTube — and set up shop outside of the world’s biggest video site, too.

That’s the Freddie Wong game plan. Wong is a USC film grad whose mini-movies feature videogames and home-brewed special effects, and they’re enormously popular on YouTube, routinely generating millions of views per clip.

Wong wants to keep capturing YouTube eyeballs, but now he’s also trying to recruit some of them to Rocket Jump, his own site. Rocket Jump hosts the same videos he runs on YouTube, but offers special goodies for superfans — along with ad dollars he doesn’t have to share with YouTube.

So if you want to watch the second season of “Video Game High School,” Wong’s ambitious “Saved by the Bell”-meets-Xbox series, you can see the whole thing on YouTube. But if you want to watch a super-sharp version of the same video, head to Rocket Jump, where Wong is using a special video player that will play the show at 48 frames per second — the same high-tech technique Peter Jackson uses in “The Hobbit.”

The new series cost $1.4 million, which Wong funded with an $800,000 Kickstarter campaign and an ad-integration pact with Dodge.

The Dodge deal, set up by Wong’s managers at Collective Digital, also highlights one of the things that irks some content makers about their relationship with YouTube. Wong and company will keep all of the money Dodge gives them to work its cars into VGHS2, as well as any money the company spends advertising on Wong’s site. But when Dodge advertises against “Video Game High School” on YouTube, Google will keep 45 percent of the take.

But if you’re looking for a video maker who’s going to rail against the inequity of YouTube, you’ve got the wrong guy. For one thing, Wong is really, really busy, working nearly around the clock on VGHS2, and sleeping at his Burbank production shop when he has downtime.

More important is that Wong is pretty clear-eyed about the pros and cons of working with the world’s biggest video site (as well as every other platform: Other places you can find his clips include BitTorrent streams, where Wong has seeded his own clips). Here’s a shakycam interview I shot with him and his partner Matt Arnold at their warehouse earlier this month:

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus