The video sharing platform YouTube is great for all kinds of videos, from viral videos to music videos to Vine compilations. One of the most popular genres of videos on YouTube is vlogs (video blogs).
When people think of vloggers, they may think of PewDiePie, Jake Paul or other “vloggers” with millions of viewers. However, the University of Massachusetts is home to a handful of vloggers who create content as students.
Miasyn Ray, who goes by Mia, primarily makes lifestyle videos, which includes vlogging her day-to-day life, giving tours of her UMass dorm rooms and other personal videos. The junior sociology major currently has 20,692 subscribers and her most popular video is “UMASS COLLEGE DORM TOUR” from October 2016 with over 16,000 views.
Ray started making videos focusing on popular music when she was around 12 years old. In one of her early videos, she recalls dancing to Kesha’s “Tik Tok.” When she was 18 years old, her interest for YouTube peaked once again, and she started making content consistently.
“I saw how YouTube itself was evolving and I thought, ‘I can make better, more quality content that’s skilled-based rather being goofy on camera,” Ray said.
Making videos has followed Ray from her hometown of Springfield to UMass.
She found her audience has grown to be a mix of viewers who have been with her since before her move to UMass as well as viewers interested in college-based videos. She has even been approached by people who have told her they saw her videos before attending UMass.
Although she tries to plan her time, she finds making time the most challenging thing about making videos.
“I think time management is really big thing,” Ray said. “I noticed last year I kind of tried to tailor my academic schedule to fit my YouTube schedule so I’d have time to film, but it didn’t work because I didn’t plan well.”
She now plans videos for the month, filming three or so videos at a time and editing in between classes. At school, she uses a ring light and mirrorless camera to film videos but tries to use natural light. After editing, she then uploads and pre-schedule videos, releasing one every Tuesday.
“CameraBoi,” also known as Jonathan Cotto, an information and operations management sophomore, currently has 277 subscribers. Cotto, also from Springfield, makes sketches and vlogs based around his social life at UMass.
Cotto first started making videos for YouTube the summer before he came to UMass by making vlogs with his family. His brother came up with the idea of filming him moving in to UMass, which has become his most popular video with 11,800 views (“Umass Amherst Move-In Weekend Vlog(Frat Party & Chance The Rapper!)”). It’s Cotto’s favorite video because it has reached the most people and students on campus have approached him about it.
He recalled one encounter where a UMass student from San Diego approached him. “This year, freshmen have come up to me saying, ‘You’re CameraBoi,’ which is cool, and a couple kids have even said, ‘I saw your videos and you’re the reason why I came here.’”
To make videos, he often brings his Panasonic Lumix G7 to social events and just films, before editing the video on iMovie. When he films skits and other vlogs, he usually works with his brother, who also attends UMass, and a few other people, to make it more fun.
Cotto’s biggest challenge is making original content. Because most of his videos are based on social events, like parties and tailgates, he gets bored with producing videos about the same things.
He doesn’t have a set schedule for posting YouTube videos, but tries to make them when he is done with his school work.
“Even though you’re in school and you have a bunch of school work and tests, there is still time for social life… You can still have fun and can still go out,” said Cotto. “Work hard, play hard.”
Kendall Hoyt, a communication junior from Hopkinton, Massachusetts, makes videos because she is interested in media and social media, video production and editing and practicing her personality on camera.
Hoyt started out making videos in middle school, which are all private now. She became more serious on the platform in high school when she started making craft videos. Her most popular video to date is “Ombré Glitter Black Phone Case DIY” from November 2015 with nearly 150,000 views. Her content has evolved into lifestyle and beauty videos as well as miscellaneous vlogs detailing her time at UMass. Her favorite video is one of her most recent, a tour of her room in the Chi Omega house.
“I feel like there’s no prominent creators at UMass and UMass is huge, it’s like a city,” Hoyt said. “I figured people are interested in college life, and I’ll want to look back and see what it was like so I started making videos at school.”
Like Ray, Hoyt finds time management one of the biggest challenges of making videos. Along with being a full-time student, she has a job and is on the executive board of Chi Omega.
“It’s so hard. I want to post consistently, but it’s almost impossible with extracurriculars and classes and everything,” Hoyt said.
She tries to make a video at least once a month to keep her 3,679 subscribers entertained. She films her videos on a DSLR camera and uses Final Cut Pro to edit. Depending on the video, it can take anywhere from two to 15 hours to edit, but she enjoys the process.
Another one of Hoyt’s biggest challenges is trying to be honest with her audience about the emotional toll school can take on a person.
“I feel like school is just so emotionally draining. I want to be honest with my viewers, but it’s also hard to be that open with people,” Hoyt explained.
“Right now, I’m trying to find my balance and where I stand as a creator and whether I want to continue pursuing this or if I want to try different fields,” Hoyt said while talking about the future of her channel.
Karren Atakora, a public health freshman, like many, makes fashion and makeup videos as well as vlogs about her UMass experience. Over the past few months, she has focused on switching from a “high school lens” to a “college lens.”
Atakora, who goes by Karren Kora on YouTube, has 3,590 subscribers. Her most popular video, as well as her favorite, is “SENIOR PROM VLOG 2018,” which has over 160,000 views.
“I knew I had to make it really good because it was right during prom season when some people already had prom and some people were looking forward to their prom, I know I watch a lot of prom vlogs, and I wanted mine to be something that other people watched and have fun [watching],” Atakora explained.
She started making videos in sixth grade but says that she was made fun of for it. She picked up this hobby again in January of this year because she “watches a lot of YouTube and has a lot to say.” She has been consistently posting videos since.
“It was a time in my life where I wasn’t really doing anything. I would just be in bed all day, bored,” Atakora said. “And I thought ‘why not try YouTube again? Why not start it?’”
She hopes to make videos people at UMass will watch and find an audience that will follow her journey. She also hopes to get into medical school in a few years and wants to document her growth, so she can look back on her past.
The biggest challenge for Atakora has been figuring out who wants to be her friend and who just wants to be featured on her social media.
“It’s really hard when I meet people at first and they find out I do YouTube and they automatically want to be in a video or be on my Instagram,” Atakora said. “You don’t know who really wants to be your friend or who just wants to be on you channel.”
When it comes to filming, Atakora uses her iPhone 8 plus and natural lighting to make videos. Before that, she writes ideas down. If it’s a vlog, she’ll choose a busy day. She then cleans her room, puts on a nice outfit and does her makeup. Filming daily vlogs typically take all day but sit-down videos take about an hour to film. The editing can take from two to three hours to upward of 12 hours, depending on the type of video. Atakora then adds background music, uploads the video to YouTube, adds the title, tags, thumbnail and end screens, which takes an additional 30 minutes to an hour.
Above all, Atakora’s goal is to “give people a second-hand experience of [her] life.”
Erin Lau, a psychology major graduating in May, has 1,723 subscribers and has built her channel mostly around UMass and college videos.
The East Brunswick, New Jersey native’s most popular video is “FOLLOW ME AROUND | Dorm Shopping 2017” from July 2017 and has over 67,000 views.
Lau started her channel making beauty and fashion videos, but transitioned to a “school-based channel,” which her audience enjoys. She liked YouTube in high school and thought “I could do it myself.” So, with her sister’s camera, she took off from there.
“I started making a lot of videos about school and then I realized a lot of people liked those videos,” Lau said. “A lot of people [started] coming to me with questions and started emailing me, so I just decided to make more videos about specifically UMass, but school and college in general.”
Lau’s biggest challenge is finding the time to make videos as a student, especially with a roommate. After filming a video on her DSLR camera sitting on a stack of books, she takes a week to two weeks to edit, depending on her current workload.
Her favorite videos that she’s made so far are her dorm room tours. “I like watching back on those and seeing how I’ve grown talking wise and decoration wise. It’s just kind of more like a video diary for me to look back on,” she said.
Lau enjoys the fact that she can help people through her videos.
“People ask me for help for UMass,” Lau said. “I like making videos that guide people on the right track because I noticed a lot of people are nervous about school, so I really like seeing the positive feedback and seeing how people are less nervous from watching my videos.”
Abigail Charpentier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @abigailcharp.