“Because it’s more of a side hobby to filmmaking, I’m not beholden to any brands and I don’t sell advertisements. It’s so much nicer to share what you’re learning, and it forces me to think at a more rigorous level about the technical things on set.” - Rubidium Wu, freelance director and founder of Crimson Engine on YouTube.
As we all know in the film world, tech moves fast and it can be hard to keep up with the latest and greatest. But before we decide to hop on that piece of gear we’re so interested in, we want to see what other filmmakers think about it. That’s why we depend on resources like blogs, social media posts, forums, and oftentimes YouTube videos to learn everything we can before pulling the trigger.
Rubidium Wu is a director based in Los Angeles and founder of Crimson Engine, where he reviews new tech by taking them on set and putting them to the test. He shares with us how he got started on YouTube and why he continues to do it on top of a career in film.
Originally for Features
“I started out working in the post-production world of stop-motion animation and visual effects. I remember that my first short film was probably 1 day of shooting and an entire year of 3D and compositing. That’s when I realized, ‘this isn’t what I want to do.’ So I got a new job shooting videos for the City of Melbourne, then onto directing TV commercials for VFX and live action.”
“I loved directing films, but I didn’t love the commercial world. We spent months building relationships, pitching ideas, and getting contracts all for 2-3 days of work. That’s not to say filmmakers couldn’t be successful there. Some of my colleagues were pulling in great money every year making commercials. But you know what was interesting? Even those guys always talked about the feature film they wanted to make, but never could because they were busy making commercials. No matter how successful we are in commercials or other areas, we all still dream of making awesome features. I chose to pursue my passion and moved to America shortly after.”
“Back in 2012-2012, Kickstarter came out and I noticed a lot of friends were using it to get funding for their web series. I figured, what do I have to lose? I pitched the idea on Kickstarter and raised around $13K. My story got picked up by the Wall Street Journal as a New York local interest story. It was a post-apocalyptic feature called Silent City filmed in the many abandoned locations of New York. This is when my channel Crimson Engine started. This feature was uploaded to my YouTube and each episode got 200k-300k views, and over a million for the whole series.”
Doing Gear Reviews
“After the series ended, I had around 8k subscribers on my channel that I didn’t really know what to do with. I started a series called Box Office Apocalypse, where I talked about why different movies flopped at the box office. Then I realized I was becoming too much of a film critic and not a filmmaker. I dropped that and continued working on film projects.”
“I wanted to start doing YouTube again, but something more on the educational side. I wanted to answer questions that I thought about, like what’s the difference between lighting for 1 camera vs 3 cameras? Can I shoot the same thing different ways? Steadicam vs slider: how much control do you gain and lose in either direction?”
“When I got my C200 in August 2017, it was the first time I had a camera that I could get a cinematic image from. I made a few videos on some technical topics on the C200, and people really responded to it. The videos got tens of thousands of views. This branched into doing more technical videos on other tools in film. Like the CTRL.3 for example. What could we shoot with it? What challenges would we run into? What situations would we need a FIZ system? I’ve done this on countless products that I believe are revolutionary, and if it’s a product I don’t believe in, I simply don’t review it.”
“I was very impressed with the whole Teradek and SmallHD integration. As a director, having a monitor you can strap around your neck is incredible. Before, the challenge was having to look over an operator’s shoulder to see the shot or share a monitor with the crew in video village. You’re never quite sure if the shot was actually perfect, so you end up guessing. With the FOCUS Bolt monitor, I’m able to know exactly how the shot looks and do my job accordingly. At the end of the day, it’s the director’s job to make sure the shot looks right, so tools like this is absolutely amazing.”
Why I Love It
“There are plenty of people out there doing gear reviews as a business, but that’s not my goal. Companies send me gear, I bring it on set, and I make a video if I really like it. If I don’t like the gear, I won’t review it. There were a couple of companies that sent me mediocre products that I sent straight back because there just wasn’t anything special about them. I share what I think people would be really interested in.”
“Making YouTube videos is also great because it forces me to really know the tech. If I’m putting content out there as fact, I have to do rigorous fact-checking to make sure I know what I’m talking about. This means going on set with the gear, testing in real scenarios, pushing the limits and growing my skills as a filmmaker. It’s uncomfortable - you fail a lot and it’s very humbling. I keeps me pushing myself outside of my comfort zone YouTube has given me an opportunity to learn, to share and to connect”