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Mid-roll Madness

Have you been injured at work and it wasn’t your fault?

Adverts. We all hate adverts, right? And yet the internet is filled with more adverts than ever, popping up before that video or enclosing a news article so much that you can barely read the actual text. I’ve never really been one for using an adblocker but that’s not to say I’m against them. That might be a bit of a strange opinion to have as a ‘content creator’ but if you’re sick of what surfing the web has turned into, more power to you!

And the reason I feel that way is because of the position I’ve maintained ever since uploading my first ever video – I’m not doing YouTube for the money. In my mind, becoming successful enough to make a full-blown living out of YouTube is far more dependent on luck than it is on hard work, and that just wasn’t something I was prepared to go for. Video creation has always been a hobby – a hobby I can’t imagine not doing, sure – but a hobby nonetheless. Don’t get me wrong, I may have tweaked a title or a thumbnail to be a tad more clickbait-y over the years but hey, at the end of the day I just like it when people watch my stuff, not that I’d get an extra .001 cent from them watching a pre-roll ad.

So for around six years, I left my YouTube channel unmonetized. I was eligible to turn adverts on, but I figured it wasn’t worth the faff in setting up, I’d get pittance of a pay check anyway and most worrying to me at the time was the threat of content strikes. I’d received content strikes before but the thought of them occurring on monetized videos didn’t seem like a very smart idea.

Money for nothin’ (and clicks for free)

Then around 2017 I changed my mind. Why? To be honest I can’t recall the exact reason why. It may have been that some videos of mine had done far better than I ever expected such as Destroy All Humans! or Futurama. Their views were climbing and that little voice in the back of my head whispered “you’re missing out on $$$”. In that six-year time period, perhaps it had become more normalised to add monetization to your channel, no matter how big you were? I’m really not sure. I was completely aware that I’d make very little, but I figured any small amount I do get could go back into the channel some way, be it through buying a game to Let’s Play or a piece of related hardware.

The decision was made – I signed up to Google Adsense and got some adverts running on my videos. But here’s where I made an important choice that has prompted this whole blog post…

I HATE mid-roll ads.

I hate them. I hate everything about them. Pre-roll ads? Sure, the content hasn’t started yet, I don’t mind waiting five seconds to skip. Post-roll ads? Yeah ok, I mean I’ll probably have clicked off the page anyway but go for it. Mid-roll ads that disrupt the flow of the video and take you out of it immediately? No thank you!

Mid-roll adverts remind me of standard television…y’know the thing that people are using less and less these days in favour of services like Netflix or Disney+ which feature NO adverts. I find them very archaic and I especially hate how haphazardly they’re usually placed in videos. Sure, I’ve seen a few channels put mid-roll ads at a suitable location in their content, usually where they’ve edited in an ad break to the video itself but that is definitely not the norm. So when it came to choosing what adverts to include in my videos, I always avoided mid-rolls and just stuck on a pre-roll and post-roll instead. It’s what I’ve always done and will continue to do. So why is it you may have noticed mid-roll adverts in my videos over the past few weeks?

The YouTube Ad-pocolypse

You may have heard about an ad-pocolypse affecting YouTube channels. You may have even noticed more adverts yourself whilst browsing YouTube. I know I have. And the reason for this? Well it all started with an email from YouTube on July 7th stating this, emphasis on the bold:

“Today, only videos longer than 10 minutes are eligible for mid-roll ads. Starting from late July, all videos longer than 8 minutes will be eligible for mid-roll ads. As part of this change, we will turn on mid-roll ads for all eligible videos. This means that videos where you may have opted out of mid-roll ads will now be opted in. Videos that already have mid-roll ads will not be impacted. Future uploads from monetising channels will also have mid-roll ads turned on by default.”

That’s right, all the videos I’d monetized over the years were going to have mid-roll adverts turned on automatically. Even worse, the email went on to say:

“We use machine learning to automatically find the most natural breaks in your videos, in order to increase monetisation potential while balancing user experience.”

Ahhhh! The adverts will be generated by some crazy AI that places far too many of them. I’ve seen lots of screenshots of adverts being places less than five minutes apart which is simply ridiculous. Just take a look at this for example:

Why are YouTube doing this? Well, I’ve read some theories that they’re trying to push users into purchasing an ad-free experience with YouTube Premium. £11.99 a month? Keep dreaming! That or they’re just looking to increase revenue from more adverts.*

(By the way, if you watched my stupid 17,000 subscriber celebration tweet and wondered if I have YouTube Premium myself, I don’t. I got that mug from work when YouTube visited the university campus. I pretended to sign up to a free trial of YouTube Premium to get it, especially since it came with churros in  – yum!)

Ok so I should probably mention that I’m not entirely free of blame for my channel being bombarded by intrusive mid-roll ads. The email ended with the following:

“If mid-roll ads are not a good fit for your videos, you can indicate this preference in YouTube Studio by 27 July 2020.”

…which I clearly didn’t read close enough since that date came and went with me doing diddly-squat. That being said, opting into something is usually always a better method rather than opting out of something and far less sneaky to boot.

What did all this result in? Every one of my monetised videos suddenly had mid-roll ads activated and I didn’t even realise. Thankfully it’s only been a couple months until I decided to look up one of my older video’s monetisation settings. Worse yet, some of my videos which had previously been monetised with a pre-roll and post-roll advert had been completely flipped and now only featured a mid-roll advert. Whatever the scary YouTube machine was trying to do didn’t work properly anyway.

It was time to develop some repetitive strain injury. I’ve now gone through every monetised video of mine and manually turned off mid-roll ads. That was a decent hour of my life I’ll never get back so thanks YouTube, I appreciate it! If there’s a lesson to be learned from all of this it’s to not remain complacent, to regularly clean your email inbox and most importantly – pay attention to the small print.

Actually, if there truly is a lesson to be learned from all of this it’s that you should probably go ahead and install an adblocker. It’ll make your web browsing experience infinitely better. And for any content creators income that you’d be affecting, send them a little something on their Patreon, or Ko-fi or Paypal or whatever. Trust me, it’ll be a lot more than whatever they’d get from your clicks…

* Also mentioned in the email was this:

“Turning on auto mid-roll ads saves creators extra work while helping increase the monetisation potential for new and existing content.”

In the month I had mid-rolls activated without realising, I didn’t notice any significant increase in Adsense revenue. So if there’s any more money being generated with this change, I doubt content creators are seeing much of it.

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A Montage of Muckluck’s

A few months back when I started to create regular content once again, I initially uploaded a welcome back video with a slightly different intro. One of the things I most wanted to do with my recent ‘rebrand’ was customise it to suit the particular series or Let’s Play it was in. Yellow for The Simpsons, wooden planks for Monkey Island – you get the point…

For my return I decided to go all out and try morphing my logo into all sorts of different games. It was a nice way to pass the time while not being able to record and the challenge of recreating some of the styles was actually really fun. I spliced them all together into a fast montage and bish, bash, bosh – intro made!

Then it occurred to me I never actually posted them anywhere on their own so here they are. The choice of games is pretty random to be honest so don’t take them as clues as to what I’ll be playing in the future. I just thought they all had distinctive styles that would stand out. The question is – can you name all the games they’re based on? (Uh…just try not to look at the caption…)

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No Time to Eilish?

The 25th James Bond film is creeping ever closer and with each step towards its release on April 3rd comes more and more information. Sponsorship brands, 30-second Super Bowl spots and now the biggie – the theme song!

It was announced on January 14th that none other than teenage singer/songwriter sensation Billie Eilish would be performing the titular track and to be honest, that didn’t come as much of a surprise. There were rumours months ago she was in the running and her current status matches EON’s typical formula of picking what they hope to be a surefire number 1 (and whaddya know, it was). With that prior inkling, my reaction was a solid – ‘mmh’ – and that was about it. She’s hugely popular for a reason and with such massive success so young, she’s got to be doing something right. Sure, her music isn’t my exact cup of tea but I wanted to reserve judgement until the song was released.

Come midnight on February 13th and up it pops on her YouTube channel. Bleary eyed I plugged in my earphones and got listening. My immediate reaction was…well, it’s a tad disappointing but not awful – i.e. the same reaction I had listening to ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ for the first time. 

Initially I felt as though the song was just a bit too similar to Spectre’s theme. Slow piano introduction, haunting lyrics, orchestral swells and a final crescendo – Adele, Sam Smith and now Billie Eilish have together cemented Craig’s era of Bond themes as emotional ballads. Sure, Chris Cornell’s fantastic ‘You Know My Name’ kickstarted his tenure and Jack White and Alicia Keys’ not-so-fantastic ‘Another Way to Die’ followed suit, but since then it’s been a croon-fest.

In itself, the choice of a ballad isn’t a bad thing. After all, ‘Nobody Does it Better’ is a power ballad and that’s perhaps my favourite James Bond song of them all. The issue is it’s now been three in a row and maybe the formula is getting a little stale. Just like ‘Writing’s on the Wall’, at first I thought ‘No Time to Die’ lacked punch and needed a bit more pizazz. They picked an edgy artist who just wasn’t edgy enough in this case. Bit I’ve given it some time, I listened and relistened and I can safely say I’m warming to it.

Ok so it’s not my dream 007 theme. Not by a long shot. And let me just get a lil’ bit of moaning out of the way first. The song teases us with those iconic James Bond horns and guitar twangs. I’ve seen reaction videos of people fawning over those specific parts but to me it’s just a bit lazy.

“Hmm, how do we make sure people know it’s a Bond song?”

“Just shove a trumpet in and end on that guitar chord, I wanna go home.”

Perhaps it didn’t go quite like that but I’d love if the theme went a bit more retro, especially with the old-school title of ‘No Time to Die’. Give us the full-on, no holds barred Bond experience! That being said, I’ve given it a little thought and have come to my own conclusions as to why that wasn’t the case.

This is Daniel Craig’s final performance as 007. It’s going to be an emotional farewell to this era of Bond which has lasted a whopping 14 years. ‘No Time to Die’ reflects that pretty well I’d say. And maybe there’s no room in today’s music tastes for a belter like Shirley Bassey’s ‘Goldfinger’ but my guess is if they are to do one like that, they’re waiting until Bond 26. Why? Because it’ll be a brand new actor stepping into those big shoes, someone’s who got to please a very judgemental audience (remember all the backlash Craig received for being blonde?). What better way to cement this new actor’s debut to the franchise than put it alongside a theme that evokes classics of the past? Here’s hoping anyway…

But back to Billie Eilish and ‘No Time to Die’. I’m really starting to dig it. Fittingly it’s got a dark, moody tone that no doubt will match whatever nasty revelation Bond is going to discover in the film. In that respect Eilish was a brilliant choice and Hans Zimmer’s orchestral arrangement features all sorts of little ominous cues to parallel. It’s slow, it lingers and creeps along – I can’t wait to see what opening titles are put alongside it.

Prior to its release, I read a few comments worrying about Eilish’s vocal strength and whether ‘No Time to Die’ would just end up a whispery, mumbly, breathy mess. Eilish’s style is certainly divisive but my only knowledge of her music beforehand was ‘Bad Guy’ and that was mainly due to memes. Give the song a listen however and you’ll quickly discover she easily has the ability to carry a Bond song. If anything ‘No Time to Die’ has given Billie Eilish the chance to spread her wings vocally. Sure there’s a lot of gentle singing but that eventually makes way for a suitably intense finale. And most importantly, Eilish’s voice doesn’t have that same ear-grating whine to it that Sam Smith’s does.

I promise the purpose of this post wasn’t just to bash Sam Smith but when I think back to Spectre, I think of all the potential it had and the disappointment that followed. And unfortunately ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ is just lumped in with that sentiment. And let’s be honest, its lyrics were pants which came as no surprise when Sam almost boasted that they wrote the theme in 20 minutes. Most of it was pretty schlocky but at least with ‘No Time to Die’ there’s a couple nice lines, the standout being “That the blood you bleed is just the blood you owe”. Maybe that’s just as schlocky but I like it.

Anyway, this was meant to be a quick post but as per usual I’ve rambled far too much. Long story short – I’m impressed. It took awhile but the song has grown on me to the point where I might even prefer it to Skyfall – perhaps someday I’ll do a Bond theme ranking. Will Billie Eilish be scooping up an Oscar just like Sam Smith? Probably not due to the timing of its release which is a pity since it’s much more deserving. Not long to go now until the film itself – you could say there’s no time ‘til No Time to Die.

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The James Bond Blog Post Spectacular

As some of you may know, I’m a bit of a James Bond fan. I’ve been one ever since I was a little kid, giving a show and tell to the rest of my class on the names of all the villains and henchmen, movie titles and Bond girls. (The thought of a nine-year-old talking about Pussy Galore must have given my teacher a chuckle.)

And if you’re a subscriber of mine, there’s been no lack of 007 on the channel over the past 8 years from my pretty naff Skyfall review to my Let’s Play of Everything or Nothing and especially my still-not-finished-but-I’ll-get-there-at-some-point project where I review every James Bond film (give me a break, it’s a mammoth task!)

As well as my digital exploits I’ve also made an effort over the years to visit as much Bond stuff in person. Going to the films themselves is a bit of an obvious example and something I tried to make slightly more special last time when I saw Spectre. What better than to see the brand new film on the biggest screen in the UK? It’s just a pity then that the film was absolutely pants…

The Music of Bond

Turn back the clock to October 31st, 2010 and you’d see me and my friend George take a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to watch the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra perform The Music of Bond…royally. It was the first big trip to London I’d done with a friend and it ended up being a fantastic show. There’s something magical about hearing fully orchestrated music in the flesh – the hairs on the back of my head stood up and my eyes darted about to focus on each individual instrument being played.

Enjoy the awful quality of my 2010 phone camera!

It was presented by former Bond girl Honor Blackman who played the aforementioned Pussy Galore and throughout the show she sprinkled some quips and insights of her time filming Goldfinger way back in 1964. Two singers were tasked with the audacious job of covering James Bond’s varied collection of theme songs – Simon Bowman and Mary Carewe. Mary was certainly the better singer but that’s to be expected when the songs lean so heavily towards female vocals. Sorry Simon!

One highlight of the concert was a literal one – conductor Carl Davis was adorned in a wonderfully multicoloured coat that sparkled in the spotlights. So much so that he could have nipped over to the West End and joined in with a production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat. Afterwards I decided to purchase a CD recording and even managed to get it signed by Carl Davis too. What a shame that as he was signing all I could think of to fill the air was nervously mutter “…I really like your coat”.

Bond in Motion

Chronologically, next up is my trip to the London Film Museum which I visited in both July 2014 and more recently in September 2018. Since 2014 the museum has been dedicated to the Bond in Motion exhibition that boasts the largest official collection of James Bond vehicles. By no means am I a petrolhead (learning to drive would be a good start) but as a fan of the series I was keen to see the Bond cars up close.

From the classic Aston Martin DB5 to the infamous Lotus Esprit and everything in between, it’s an exhaust-ive array of memorable motor vehicles. So inclusive is it that it even features the crocodile submarine from Octopussy and Blofeld’s bathosub from Diamonds Are Forever…albeit sadly lacking bashed up Blofeld inside. Oh, and if you’re not overly into cars don’t worry – there are plenty of props scattered throughout too!

It’s cheap as chips for a ticket and bang in the centre of London at Covent Garden so if you’re in the city I’d definitely recommend a visit. Just avoid the terrifying waxwork of Sean Connery…

“Shocking. Positively shocking.”

An Evening with Peter Lamont

Not all of my 007 trips have been sunshine and roses however. In fact it was during a cold, dark November night in 2016 I went to see An Evening with Peter Lamont at The Cinema Museum in – you guessed it – London. If you’re wondering who Peter Lamont is he’s none other than the Oscar-winning production designer who worked on 18 of the James Bond films from Goldfinger all the way up to Casino Royale.

(You may shrewdly notice that from Goldfinger to Casino Royale is actually 19 films. He missed Tomorrow Never Dies since he was too busy earning that ‘Oscar-winning’ title working on Titanic.)

With such credentials under his belt, an evening with Peter recounting his James Bond stories and memories seemed too good to miss. Unfortunately I didn’t have the best of times. For starters, the staff at The Cinema Museum were so rude! …Ok, it was just one member of staff really but he really set the evening off to a miserable start by acting so incredulous when I asked about the toilet facilities. I’m not sure why that was such a perplexing question to him but nonetheless he was very patronising.

More crucially I found Peter very hard to follow as he spoke. It wasn’t a large venue by any means (there couldn’t have been more than ~50 people in the audience) but either he wasn’t mic’d up at all or the sound system was very poor. Equally the man was 86 years old at the time and didn’t have the clearest eloquence which meant a lot of his anecdotes were lost on me unfortunately.

And as the cherry on top of problems that evening, I had to leave early to catch the last train home. I’d calculated that if the event ended on time I’d be fine but sadly it overran which meant I had to awkwardly and embarrassingly leave the small venue in front of everyone else whilst Peter was still talking. Oops.

Thankfully there was a silver lining – the event coincided with the release of Peter’s new book, cheesily titled The Man with the Golden Eye which was on sale at a discounted price during the intermission. I managed to nab a copy and even get a signature from the man himself…

Casino Royale in Concert

In October 2017 I returned once again to the Royal Albert Hall for a brand new experience – Casino Royale in Concert. As the name would suggest it was a screening of Daniel Craig’s James Bond debut accompanied by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra performing the score.

It was touted as “the first time an entire Bond score has ever officially been performed live” and featured Gavin Greenaway conducting David Arnold’s fantastic score. Speaking of David Arnold, he was there himself for a preliminary Q&A session before the show began. To be honest the Q&A was too short to contain anything of substance but it was a neat addition nonetheless.

Much like back in 2010, hearing the orchestra perform live was a wonderful experience and brought the film to life before my eyes…and ears. Who needs surround sound when you’ve got the real deal right in front of you? I tried my best not to focus too much on the film itself and savour the live performance by watching the musicians instead. It’s no easy feat, let me tell you! Often I’d snap out of the film and force myself to pay attention to each section of the orchestra.

Sound mixing is no easy task but I do think it could have been better for such a world-class venue. The film dialogue was lost at times due to the volume of the orchestra and the balance wasn’t quite right. Although arguably if it was the other way around I think people would’ve quickly been demanding a refund.

As we all know Casino Royale withholds the titular theme until the very end with Craig’s first delivery of the classic line “Bond…James Bond”. What a tease! But what an ending it provided with the orchestra swelling to the famous theme. The Royal Albert Hall roared with applause and concluded a marvellous evening in London.

The James Bond Concert Spectacular

It was thanks to a brilliant 007-centric YouTuber that I ended up attending my next James Bond event. Calvin Dyson is someone I’ve been watching for many years now from his film reviews to his own playthroughs of the Bond video games. He certainly knows his stuff and back in April released a video reviewing Q The Music’s live show – the James Bond Concert Spectacular.

Spectacular, eh? Well, Calvin seemed to think so which led me to check the band’s tour dates for future performances. Lo and behold they were due to play in Folkestone, a slightly closer venue and one that’d make for a pleasant change from the typical London setting.

Q The Music describes themselves as “the World’s leading James Bond tribute band” and have been performing since 2004 under the founder and manager, Warren Ringham – a “huge James Bond fan” himself. I eagerly booked tickets and headed to Folkestone’s Leas Cliff Hall in August of this year.

And spectacular it was! Dare I say that despite the smaller orchestra it was actually better than the grandiose Royal Albert Hall concert back in 2010. It was compèred by Caroline Bliss – none other than Miss Moneypenny herself from Timothy Dalton’s tenure as 007. Yes, it may well be she’s not top of most Moneypenny rankings but that doesn’t negate the fact she’s absolutely lovely! Along with introducing the songs, she described a little about her own audition process and time spent filming The Living Daylights and License to Kill. It was an engaging insight into the films’ productions and overall she seemed like a wonderfully down-to-earth, charming lady.

The show was packed with a plethora of the classic Bond tunes and a few surprise ones too. Matthew Walker took care of the male vocals for songs such as From Russia with Love and You Know My Name and did a perfectly fine job though at points his voice was lost among the music. It’s also fair to say his singing was more suited to the crooning vocals of We Have All the Time in the World or Thunderball rather than A View to a Kill for example.

Without a doubt it was Kerry Shultz who dominated the show and made it an evening to remember. She covered the varied styles of Bond themes effortlessly from the boisterousness of Shirley Bassey’s Goldfinger to the dramatic ballad of Adele’s Skyfall. Every performance by Kerry was spot-on as she sashayed her way around the stage in a multitude of dazzling dresses. Together with the occasional fireworks, she truly set the night alight.

At nearly three hours long, the production certainly didn’t lack any songs. Well ok, wisely they chose to omit Die Another Day from the setlist. Unlike the general consensus I happen to think the song is decent but I don’t think even Kerry could’ve tackled the electroclash genre of it live. Instead there were more unexpected inclusions such as the disco-influenced Bond 77 theme from The Spy Who Loved Me and plenty of unused tracks too. Both k.d. lang’s Surrender from Tomorrow Never Dies and Dionne Warwick’s Mr. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang from Thunderball were performances I never envisioned hearing live. The same goes for No Good About Goodbye which is argued to have been a potential theme for Quantum of Solace.

The true testament of the show’s quality lies in that I actually preferred some of their performances compared to the real deal. Kerry’s rendition of Writing’s on the Wall was far superior to the squeakiness of Sam Smith’s and her duet with Matthew singing Another Way to Die harmonised much better than Jack Whites and Alicia Keys’ ever did.

My only criticism was the lack of any strings in the orchestra although this may have been due to the size of the venue. Regardless, I promptly grabbed a copy of their CD and met Kerry afterwards to have it signed. A superb end to a spectacular show indeed. The good news for me is that they’ll be back next year and I strongly recommend you check their website for a performance near you too.

Skyfall in Concert

Most recently I returned to the Royal Albert Hall for a second ‘Films in Concert’ screening, this time of Skyfall. Visiting that gigantic concert hall never gets old and I love exploring all the different levels, admiring the views and enjoying a drink or two while doing so.

Once again the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra played alongside the film and overall it was a very similar experience to the one back in 2017 with Casino Royale. I really can’t decide which score I prefer but Thomas Newman’s Skyfall soundtrack is very good (so good in fact that Spectre’s is remarkably similar).

Thomas Newman was there himself in a surprise visit to introduce his brother David who conducted the performance. Equally surprising was Sam Mendes, Skyfall’s director, who came onstage beforehand to give a very brief introduction to the night’s proceedings. It was a nice inclusion to have them both there but I must admit it did seem rather pointless. Why bring two hugely influential creatives onstage for only a few minutes? I’d have much preferred an earlier start time and the inclusion of something more substantial with them. Oh well – perhaps they arrived to watch the performance just like the rest of us…

I did notice a few improvements compared to before, namely the decision to add subtitles to the film screening which helped when the dialogue wasn’t quite loud enough. However the sound mixing this time around was far, far better anyway and never did it feel like the orchestra and the film dialogue were battling against each other to be heard. As the audience applauded the finale for what seemed like an eternity, another tremendous James Bond event in London came to an end.

And that just about does it. I say just about, somehow I’ve managed to write ~2500 words all about James Bond but I guess that goes to show how much I love going to these sorts of things. I’m always keeping an eye out for events in the future so I hope they’ll be many more to come. Speaking of which, I’d better get ready to book No Time To Die tickets at IMAX…

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Me, Myself and My Banana

Well would you look at that, it’s only gone and turned 2019!

With that being the case, I think it’s long overdue I revive this dusty ol’ blog and actually use it. As mentioned in my 8 Year Anniversary Special (yes, it’s really been that long), I dropped the ball so hard with my original plan to blog that said ball burrowed through the Earth’s layers and popped up somewhere in Australia instead.

So the plan to write blog posts semi-regularly fell through completely. Clearly I was just too happy with my previous Simpsons game essay to bother writing anymore. Sure, I was pleased with it and I hope some others enjoyed reading but…it’s hardly worth purchasing an entire WordPress site for, is it?

To kick things off I thought I’d write up a bit about my thought process when it came to the new look of the channel – the ‘rebrand’ so to speak. And with that comes a look back at my older designs too, and the realisation of just how horrible some of them were. But before all that, maybe it’s time I quickly addressed a question I get quite often…

So, er, what’s the deal with the banana?

People ask me why my logo is a pixelated banana rather frequently believe it or not. It’s a fair question I suppose – I mean what does a banana have to do with a YouTube video game channel anyway?

I’ve never fully answered that question in the past and usually brushed it off with a casual “oh, I can’t remember really.” Lies! I do remember where it came from but even if I told you it wouldn’t make much sense.

Y’see I used to write a little blog back in the day. We’re talking earlier than my YouTube channel, probably by a year or so. No-one ever read it of course, all I was really doing was writing up some silly posts for my own benefit. That stupid blog is a whole other decidedly embarrassing project that warrants its own blog post so I won’t go into too much detail. What I will say is that I named it something banana related…for some reason. In all honesty that’s the bit I really can’t remember because it certainly wasn’t a banana recipe blog, it was more like my own inane ramblings. Akin to a crazy person stuck in a room talking to themselves. In many ways I still do that, just into a microphone for the world to see instead of writing them down.

Not long after creating that blog was when I took my first step into the world of Let’s Plays and after the frustrating process of picking a name for it*, I was then stuck on what to set as my profile picture. To make things easy I just nabbed the banana I had used from the blog and voila, my channel was born! And boy, what an ugly baby…

*I’ve mentioned frequently how I originally wanted my channel to simply be called Muckluck but since that channel name was taken, YouTube kept adding suggestions to the word until eventually I ended up with the abomination that was MrMuckluckable. Dark times. I’m glad YouTube finally got their act together and let me change it.

Back where it all began

I had the name, I had the logo. Great! But wait, what about the rest of it? Intros and outros, backgrounds and fonts, all that stuff mattered to me just as much as the actual video content. I’ve always loved art and design throughout my childhood and into school, from Sats to GCSEs to A-Levels. (Speaking of which, I may show off some old pieces of art from school in future blog posts. Artchives!) However, looking at my first foray into design for the channel, you’d perhaps think otherwise.

My old YouTube channel
Here’s a dose of YouTube nostalgia for ya

This is the earliest snapshot of my channel I have unfortunately. It’s actually taken from my One Year Anniversary Special video, hence the terrible quality but it’ll just have to do. One thing that’s obvious from the get-go is that blue has always been my main brand colour. It’s probably my favourite colour (ok, maybe turquoise but close enough) and throughout all the designs it’s stuck around. Am I too old to have a favourite colour? Is that just a kid’s thing? Who knows.

For some reason I decided to pick a dot pattern as my main background and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty. Alright I guess it’s not awful but it certainly is dull and doesn’t work with the pixelated nature of the banana. With hindsight, it would have been smarter for me to pick something square-ish in that regard.

But it gets worse. Not long afterwards YouTube changed its design (the first of many) and took away the ability to customise your background. Instead we were left with only a banner to modify and this is the design I eventually whipped up…

My eyes! The goggles do nothing!

How to make that dull dot pattern worse? Stick a nasty gradient on top of it. Gradients in design aren’t naturally bad but, more often than not, they look terrible. In my opinion you’ve got to be subtle with them and that white gradient is anything but.

Oh look, a font too. To match the pixelated banana, I chose a pixelated font. It’s actually a TrueType version of the font used on Apple II computers back in 1970s called Print Char 21. So if anyone happens to have one of those and boots it up, you might be reminded of me.

I kept using that font up until only very recently when I rebranded the channel in January 2019. About time, eh? Looking back, I should have changed it sooner – not only is it quite sterile and dull, but it’s also quite limiting in its use. And perhaps most importantly, I don’t really think it reflects me. Sure it kinda reminds you of retro video games but the font style is quite aggressive and no fun at all.

Sometimes I wouldn’t even bother with a background! Take a look at some of these masterpieces I created between 2012 and 2017. Talk about laziness…

I-dent see an issue

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Believe it or not there is something I’m still happy with from back in the day. Towards the end of 2014 I finally decided to create an outro for videos and make use of annotations which YouTube had introduced in 2008.

Old Channel Outro

Outros are the ideal spot to recommend more videos or playlists for the viewer. Back then of course there was no auto-suggest feature that YouTube uses now, so instead I made multiple versions each with different Let’s Plays which I’d link through to. Stick on a couple of references to my Twitter and Twitch and Bob’s your uncle, I was set!

Except not quite. The outro couldn’t be silent after all, so the next issue was what song to use for it. I remember looking all over the web for royalty free music to ensure that my videos weren’t unnecessarily struck with copyright claims.

Kevin MacLeod, or Incompetech.com, is probably one of the most prolific music makers heard on YouTube because of his vast royalty free music collection. Skim through some of his tracks and you’re bound to recognise something from Sneaky Snitch to Spazzmatica Polka. I eventually opted for Hyperfun, a bouncy, bright and humorous track by his own definition and something I thought suited an outro well.

Keep it simple stupid

My channel design stayed pretty much the same until around midway through 2017. It was at that point I was about to start two new Let’s Plays (Escape from Monkey Island and a replay of Destroy All Humans! 2). For a while I’d been eager to modernise my branding and that seemed like the most logical point to do so.

But after 6 years it felt as if it has been too long to drop everything. By that point my channel identity was pretty much synonymous with that silly pixelated banana, or at least in my head it was. And at any rate I wasn’t looking for too drastic a change, just a little something to spice things up and bring my channel up to date with newer design trends.

And that design trend was the rise of flat design. From 2014 onwards, flat design has dominated the likes of Apple and Google – just take a look at the app icons on your phone. Granted I was a little bit late to the party but that simplified style was something I wanted to implement into my channel.

Ultimately, I scrapped the individual pixels of colour in the banana and replaced them with a gradient. Gasp. Shock. Horror! But Muckluck, you said gradients normally look terrible? Alright, I replaced them with a very subtle gradient that’s hardly noticeable. I think the concept worked and eventually I added in a long shadow aspect to it too for things like banners and an updated outro.

To counteract the sharpness of the shadows I tried adding a small amount of background paper texture and even played around with different fonts such as Lemon/Milk and Plump. For consistency’s sake, the Print Char 21 font remained but for the most part it all looked a bit more crisp and clean.

New year, new me

A similar situation caused the most recent design change. Towards the end of 2018, with no Let’s Plays going on and a whole lot of time off from work thanks to the Christmas break, I decided to rebrand once again. I wasn’t necessarily unhappy with the look at the time but there was still that little voice in the back of my head thinking it could represent me a bit better.

The seed had been planted for a new look way back in September 2017 with my video How I Create Let’s Plays. Since that was a standalone video I decided to do things a bit differently and opted for a more handmade, messy design. Roughly cut-out edges and squiggly lines made things look friendlier and when it came time to update the whole brand; this is the style I wanted.

There were other factors too. It just so happened that in my YouTube homepage recommendations a SuperMega video was suggested. SuperMega is a channel I’d heard of before but never got around to actually watching. To be honest, that’s still the case now but the thing that did catch my eye was their logo.

I love it. I love the blocky, square design of it and the wobbly hand drawn strokes. It has a retro feel to it but not overly so – it could work with anything really. I dug a bit deeper and discovered their intro, an incredibly short but effective clip of their logo animating. I say animating, the term is boiling. It’s actually what I was referring to when I mentioned the squiggly lines of my How I Create Let’s Plays video. Boiling is simply redrawing the lines of a picture and alternating between slightly different frames of it to create a tiny amount of animation – it’s a cheap and easy way to add visual interest to a video.

So that was it – that was the style I was after. It’s more welcoming and fun. It’s more laidback and flexible. Looking at my finished product it’d be fair to suggest I simply copied their logo but that was never the intention. Alongside the hand drawn style, I had wanted to move away from relying on the banana logo in branding for a long time. Sure, I bet a lot of people associate it with me but from a far too serious business perspective, I’d prefer people to recognise the word Muckluck more instead. I wanted to emphasise my actual name more and what that meant it putting it front and centre, not the banana.

But how would I achieve that style? I looked around for fonts that better matched the wobbly design I was after. The previously mentioned Plump font cropped up and at one point I was very close to using that until a thought struck. If I wanted a homely hand drawn effect then why don’t I just draw it myself?

Bingo! I had the image of a new logo floating around clearly in my head. No existing font was going to match that so the smartest option was just to knuckle down and do it myself. I’ve heard from graphic designer friends that creating a font from scratch is an absolutely nightmare. It’s something never to attempt unless you really want to work hard and perfect it. I certainly didn’t have time for that over Christmas so instead I opted just to draw the letters of the logo and leave it there for now. I am quickly realising the need for a full version with every character but hey, that’s something for future Joe to worry about.

It took a couple of attempt to nail the look I wanted but let me tell you, there’s nothing better than putting pen to paper and figuring things out the old fashioned way.

Oh and we can’t forget about the banana too. At one point I was very close to dropping it all together but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. One thing was for sure though; the old pixelated design wouldn’t match all at anymore. Something had to be done. At first I messed around with simplifying it a tad, removing a few pixels here and there but it was starting to lose its shape too much. Then I noticed how the L from Muckluck sort of matched the curve of a banana and with a little flip and edit, it all worked out. I’m not sure I’m 100% happy with it but it fits and, like I mentioned, I’m eager to call attention to the word Muckluck instead anyway.

Finishing up

With the logo finished there were only a couple things to make before putting it all live. For a fast video intro similar to SuperMega, I decided to add a quick animation in making the letters ‘grow’ accompanied by a video game-esque sound effect. I actually created that sound effect myself using a brilliant website called bxfr.net which allows to you play around with all sorts of weird and wonderful settings. Go have a play around and see what you can come up with.

I put this animation on a clean blue background and, unlike in the past, I’m making an effort to stick to that particular shade of blue. No dodgy eye dropper tool on Photoshop to guess it, I’ve used it so much recently I’ve even got the hex code memorised. #1495ee! I’m dubbing it Muckluck Blue. Maybe try painting your walls with it, see how it looks.

The great thing about using a plain background is that it’s so customisable. Another concept I’ve always wanted to use is to alter my branding to match the theme of various Let’s Plays. Think of it like the old MTV idents or Ahoy’s numerous altered logos. And yep, you guessed it, SuperMega do it too. It’s something I could never really do before since I never had an intro but oh boy, now I’ve got lots of options and it didn’t take long to start using them.

Pair those with an updated outro which is organised a bit better and now finally includes a link to this blog and boom, we’re pretty much done! Oh right, the outro music. Perhaps I should gloss over that because instead of some nice royalty free track from Kevin MacLeod again or one from YouTube’s own copyright free audio library, I pinched the track from none other than Nintendo. Woops. Nintendo are perhaps the most fussy when it comes to copyright claims but to be fair, I did test it out and so far it’s been fine.

The tune is actually from Pilotwings on SNES, on the screen where you enter a password. Perhaps that’s just too oddly specific for Nintendo’s bots to pick up on but if anything does happen I’ll just change it. It was after hearing the track on one of Mike Matei’s live streams that I figured it was just too darn good not to use. Chiptune-y enough to match my video game related channel but also calm and unassuming enough to work as background music. Perfect!

Phew, that was more than I was expecting to write. I suppose I should get used to that – rambling is in my nature after all. And hey if you made it this far then well done and a big thanks for reading. It’s actually been a bit nostalgic digging through my old files and taking a look back at the visual history of my channel. The graphic design aspect of content creating has been a bigger deal to me than I’d previously thought – evidenced quite clearly by this nearly 3000 word post. I hope people like the new look I’m going for but if this load of waffle is anything to go by, no doubt it’ll be changing again in the future…