Interview: Casey Neistat on the Future of Creative Video Content
Casey Neistat.jpg

Let's take a look in the famous YouTuber's camera bag and see how creative digital videos change.

For many, Casey Neistat is perhaps best known for crashing his bike into a New York trash can or for Nike's money to travel the world for a viral advertisement. However, at his heart, the famous YouTube vlogger is just another filmmaker and content creator trying to turn his creativity into art.

And I'm not just talking about the creativity you need to compose a recording or edit a video. I'm talking about creativity, taking on the challenges, using new technology and styles to better connect with your audience and tell impactful, meaningful stories.

Neistat recently spoke at Adobe Max about tips and tricks about digital storytelling, shooting, editing, and more, all of which were shaped by his multi-year journey as a content creator and filmmaker. We had the opportunity to meet Neistat to ask some questions about what drives his creativity, digital workflow and future digital content development.

What drives your creativity in today's video content world?

I find so much inspiration in how diverse YouTube becomes. A few years ago there were only a few types of creators. And if you didn't fit that narrow description, it was difficult to succeed. Now I see success everywhere. Technology-minded creators, entrepreneurial / business-minded creators, lifestyle, family, sports, etc. It goes on and on. Overall, you can see that the creators really focus on what they are passionate about rather than trying to adapt to what some believe is necessary to be successful.

Neistat has always been a creative personality who has found many outlets for his art. However, he really started his career as a filmmaker who happened to have some early success by uploading some of his videos to YouTube. And in many ways, its surge in popularity coincides closely with the brand. Both have evolved over the years as content changed and audiences grew and diversified.

For those who might be fans of the Nelogat vlog style or interested in how to deal with YouTube content today, here are some great articles to read up on.

What did you recently shoot your videos on?

I made the full switch to Sony recently. It was a difficult process because I think Canon makes fantastic cameras. I've shot on Canon for years, including my entire vlog series – I love the image straight from their cameras, I love their color science – but when Sony launched the ZV-1 I really felt it was is the perfect camera for a YouTuber. Then when the a7S III fell down with the articulation screen, it closed the deal for me. I was very happy with the performance.

Neistat talks about his own cameras and equipment after years of being a well-known Canon camera user and his recent decision to switch entirely to Sony. However, as you could quickly learn from watching Neistat vlog videos over the years, he was able to find more consistency in his style than with any camera or gear.

His run-and-gun shoot combined with his fast editing style opens up the possibility of using a wide variety of DSLR, mirrorless, or action cameras that are currently available to him. His current predilection for the Sony ZV-1 also makes sense for anyone looking to leverage this selfie-shoot vlog style for their projects. In the meantime, the Sony a7S III may be a better choice for those looking to combine vlogging with more traditional video production methods.

If you are looking for recommendations for vlog cameras and gear reviews, check out the resources below.

Will you guide us through your editing workflow and edit your videos?

I only edit my YouTube videos on one computer with Adobe Premiere Pro. Sometimes when I'm doing a surf montage or doing something Twitter fun I use my cellphone, but I prefer a keyboard and mouse for heavy lifting. I just edit chronologically – starting with the first frame of the video and not stopping or checking until I get to the end. Then I go back and I can rearrange and all that. I find it confusing at first to edit scenes. I love discovering history by forcing it to reveal itself that way. Technically, I'm pretty boring. I almost only use straight cuts, I rarely correct colors and it is even more rare that I incorporate digital effects into my work. I find the rawness of the cut suits my narrative style. Instead of covering up scars or evidence that this video was made by a person, I assume these mistakes – often embellish them. When I lean into the imperfections, I can tell my audience that I'm not a professional, just a normal guy trying to tell a story.

When you look at Neistat's videos, there is an undeniable rawness about them that is quite entertaining and adorable. You really feel like you are hanging out with him and it's very direct. Neistat largely attributes this style and feel to his digital storytelling skills and preference for depicting reality over making cinematic elements. It's also interesting that while he leverages many new technologies and digital platforms to capture and share his content, he still sticks to Adobe Premiere Pro for the majority of his editing needs.

And like many of us filmmakers and editors, working with Premiere Pro can be both challenging and exciting – provided you have the right tools and resources.

How do you see the future of video content evolving with new digital platforms?

TikTok is a unique case. You really closed the gap between communicating and creating content on social media. TikTok is a complete production platform disguised as an app. Editing, effects, music and distribution are seamlessly structured. I'm excited to see where it's going. I believe the style of creation is a big part of the future of our sharing. In a world where tools are so seamless, we forget about the process and just focus on the idea.

Looking to the future, Neistat sees a new age of content creators and filmmakers learning to produce with all the tools they need. Using the example of Neistat as an example of perhaps the last generation that learned to create content shortly before the explosion of social networks, and at the core of the rise of affordable yet professional digital camera technology, Neistat sees that an ever larger generation is developing with this use new platforms like TikTok.

He references the seamless nature of TikTok's unique design and use as a single point of contact for all of your video capture, editing, and distribution needs. And if you haven't already done the (exploratory, at least) dive, be sure to read up on how filmmakers and content creators alike can benefit from trying TikTok.

What's the best way to create engaging videos?

I don't know the answer to that, but I go back to the first question, which appeals to me. I think that you stay true to your passion and stick to an unspoken understanding that if YOU find it interesting, that someone else will find it interesting too, you will ultimately find your audience.

I like this as a lovely final quote from Neistat as it best sums up all of his insights and advice. Casey Neistat's YouTube vlogger style has continued to evolve into a video and film genre since its inception and popularity. You can see it being replicated and parodied on the internet with other content creators. In doing so, you can use the success of Neistat to learn how they deal with their own content and stories.

Ultimately, however, style doesn't trump substance. If you're starting out with videos or want to take on new platforms and technologies, the key to success isn't just the camera, editing platform, or app you're using. Instead, find your own interests, voice, and content that you are passionate about.

You can also find more interviews and insights into digital content creation and filmmaking in these articles.

Cover picture via IMDb photo gallery.

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