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SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS & TRICKS YOUTUBE

How to be a Virtual YouTuber

Becoming a virtual YouTuber is not the difficult task you might have imagined it to be.

As with many things in life, there are levels to what you can achieve that are largely determined by your own ability (or willingness to learn).

As a rough example, you can make perfectly good video thumbnails using a thumbnail creator, and those thumbnails can be everything you need for a successful channel… but you will never have the degree of control or the range of options with said thumbnail creator that you would have if you knew enough about graphic design software to make your thumbnails from scratch.

Of course, for those of us that are not well-versed in a particular application or skill, the question tends to become whether or not it is worth it to learn. As we said with the above example, you can make good thumbnails with a thumbnail creator, so do you need to learn to do it yourself? That, among other more fundamental aspects, is what we are going to cover in this how to be a virtual YouTuber guide. Let’s dive in!

Know What You Want to Say

The first step to creating any YouTube channel is determining what it is you want to say. Understand that we’re not talking about the literal words you say on-camera (though you will need to know that as well, of course) but the general message, or premise of your channel.

This can be quite a broad range of options. For example, you could have a very specific message such as something political, or it could just be that you want to play video games and making a channel about it is a good excuse to do so. Whatever the reason, try to establish a clear direction for your channel and stick to it. Having a specific niche that you consistently make content in will help you establish an audience. If you make videos that cover a wide range of things, you will struggle to build an audience because viewers who liked one type of video may come back for your next video, see that it’s not something they’re interested in, and not come back again.

You may want to build a personality-based channel—where the viewers are there for your on-screen persona more than the specific type of content you are making. It is true that having a specific niche is less important for this kind of channel, but it can still help to stick a particular type of content in the beginning, branching out into other areas once you have an audience. Even PewDiePie started off making exclusively gaming videos.

For many YouTubers, the interest comes before the idea to create a YouTube channel, but if you came to the decision to make a channel first, be sure to choose a subject and niche that you are interested in. For most YouTubers, the early weeks, months, and even years can be slow going in terms of channel growth, and very few channels that achieve financial independence do so in the first year. What this means is that you are essentially going to be running your channel at your expense, both in time and money, so things will go a lot easier if you are genuinely into whatever it is you are talking about.

What Are Virtual Influencers?

Choose Your Style of Virtual YouTuber

There a few different styles of virtual YouTuber, and the best one you choose will come down to a few different factors. Before we get to the choosing part, let’s take a brief look at those different styles.

What is an Avatar?

In this context, your avatar is your on-screen persona. It can help to think of it as similar to a puppet. You will be bringing your avatar to life through one of the methods we will describe later, and possibly acting a character out through that avatar as well. Your avatar could be a person, an animal, an anthropomorphisation of something inanimate like a paper clip, or really anything you can imagine. This freedom is a big part of the draw of virtual YouTubing.

Hand-Drawn Avatars

As the name suggests, this style involves painstakingly animating your digital avatar in the same way that you would animate a cartoon; by drawing each frame of the animations. You would obviously need to have a collection of animations ready for this style, essentially choosing from them as needed.

The only real reason to choose this style of digital avatar is for stylistic reasons. There may be a certain look you are going for that you cannot yet replicate with the other styles we are going to highlight, but that would be the only reason besides possibly not being able to afford the equipment you would need for the other styles. But arguably, the equipment needed to illustrate something by hand digitally would be more expensive. You could also pay someone to animate your avatar, reducing the time it takes but increasing the money needed.

2DLive Avatars

This style of digital avatar uses clever animation techniques to move a 2D avatar in ways that make it look natural and, in some cases, three dimensional. It requires a special kind of “rigged” avatar to work, but it essentially means you can create an avatar from a 2D image.

The limitations of this style are mainly ones of motion. There is only so much movement a part of the avatar’s body can make before it looks unnatural. If you imagine the face of a 2D character; moving the eyes slightly to the side gives the impression that the head has turned slightly, but moving the eyes a lot to the side will make them look unnatural. Still, the range of motion that can be achieved with this style is impressive, considering that it is working from a plain 2D image.

And, the fact that it is working from a 2D image means you can draw (or have drawn) whatever you like in terms of the look of your avatar.

14 Virtual YouTubers That Will Blow Your Mind 3

3D Avatars

As the name suggests, 3D avatars are rendered in three dimensions, as you would see in typical modern video game or 3D animated movie. These avatars require quite a bit more technical skill on top of the necessary artistic talent to create, as they need to be modelled in 3D, rigged for animation (which basically means having a digital skeleton created) and then textured in a way that suits the art style, with the more realistic looking avatars being harder to texture.

The more difficult creation process is the main downside of 3D avatars. The upside is that there are no restrictions to what you can do with your avatar like there are with 2DLive avatars. You can move them in any position and pose, film them from any angle, and generally treat them as though they were a real thing being filmed with a camera.

Choosing Your Animation Style

Once you have your avatar style picked, you need to think about how you are going to bring them to life. There are two main methods we are going to look at here, which do not apply to the hand-drawn avatars. For that, you will have to animate your avatar the old-fashioned way; by drawing each frame of the animation. We did say there isn’t much upside to that choice of avatar.

Predefined Animations Performed Live

With predefined animations, you will generally have a selection of motions and gestures to choose from that you will use as you record, most likely with you speaking as you do so. The combined effect gives your avatar the appearance of being active if a little wooden.

The advantages of this style are… well if we’re honest, not much. Really the only advantage is that you do not need to worry about some of the jerkiness and stuttering motion that can happen with the next method we are going to mention, but other than that, your choices of gesture will always be limited, and repeated use of the same gestures can be obvious to your viewers and break the immersion. You want them to connect with your avatar, and that will be hard if your avatar moves like a non-player character from a poorly-made video game.

What Programs do Virtual YouTubers Use? 2

Live Motion Tracking

This is the method that the overwhelming majority of virtual YouTubers use, and for a good reason.

Using the hardware of your choice (more on that in a moment) your computer or phone will track your body movements and facial expressions and have your digital avatar copy them.

This allows you to record a video in much the same way you would record any regular YouTube video where the YouTuber is on-screen, only you would be recording the result of the live animation rather than yourself. This method is by far the quickest and easiest way of animating a digital avatar, and it works with both 2DLive and 3D avatars.

There are two common ways to achieve this style of animation, and like most things, they each have their advantages and disadvantages.

VR Controllers

The first method we’ll cover is using a VR headset and controllers to animate your avatar. The upside to animating things this way is that the movements are very accurate, which means your avatars motions should look more natural. You also have a full range of movement, such as being able to turn a full three hundred and sixty degrees.

The downsides, however, are that you have to wear a bulky VR headset and controllers when you film your videos, and you also have to own a VR system in the first place. There are relatively cheap VR systems available these days, but the difference in quality between those more affordable systems and the drastically more expensive systems is noticeable. This isn’t a tech blog, so we can’t give an expert comparison, but it is entirely likely that the cheaper VR headsets would not be any better on the accuracy front than our next method, which nullifies their most significant advantage.

Video-Based Motion Tracking

Certainly the most convenient method, if not the most popular, video-based tracking essentially performs the same function as the above VR-based method, but it does so using only a webcam or the camera on your phone.

The advantages of this method are relatively obvious; convenience and cost. You do not need to have an expensive and bulky VR headset to use this method, with improvements in the technology meaning that even a cheap webcam can be enough to work with. It also makes life a little easier when setting up, since you can just plop yourself down in front of your camera and get to work.

Of course, there are the downsides we promised. In the case of video-based motion tracking, there are two primary downsides, and they are accuracy and range of motion. As good as the technology has gotten, this kind of tracking is still not on a level with the VR systems mentioned above. Beyond that, inferior video quality reduces the accuracy further. This can lead to unnatural-looking movements by your avatar.

On the motion front, the tracking software is generally good at following facial expressions and body movements from a stationary angle, but if you turn the side—or turn around—it will usually confuse the software, leading to more weird looking actions from your avatar.

Am I Too Old to Start a YouTube Channel? 3

Making Your Videos

Once you have your avatar made and your filming method is chosen, you are ready to start making videos. We would recommend doing plenty of test runs before you start throwing all your energy into a video. You don’t want to spend hours filming your first video only to find out that the avatar isn’t being recorded correctly.

If you are creating a full persona—where the account is run as if the digital avatar is a real person—be sure to stay in character when you are acting as that avatar, be it in a video, on a live stream, or even in social media posts. People understand that the avatar isn’t really a person, but people understand magicians don’t really pull rabbits out of hats—it doesn’t mean they don’t like the spectacle.

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DEEP DIVE ARTICLE LISTS SOCIAL MEDIA TIPS & TRICKS YOUTUBE

14 Virtual YouTubers That Will Blow Your Mind

The growing trend of virtual YouTubers, or VTubers, is one that isn’t showing any signs of slowing down!

A natural result of this growth, there is much interest in virtual YouTubing as a potential inroad to becoming a YouTuber, not to mention an alternative path for experienced YouTubers.

If you want to know what virtual YouTubers are, you can check out this post, but one of the best ways to learn about a thing is to observe that thing.

To that end, we’ve put together a list some of the most notable virtual YouTubers on the platform today, complete with a bit of information about what kind of content they make and. For your convenience, we’ve split our picks into different sections so you can easily zero in on what you’re interested in.

So, without further preamble, let’s get into our virtual YouTuber list!

Anime Virtual YouTubers

Given that the virtual YouTuber phenomenon started in Japan with anime characters, and given that anime characters still make up the overwhelming majority of active virtual YouTubers, it feels only right to start here.

14 Virtual YouTubers That Will Blow Your Mind

Kizuna AI

What better virtual YouTuber to kick things off with than the one that started it all. Kizuna is widely regarded as the first virtual YouTuber. She has two channels and covers a variety of topics in a vlog-like format, as well as Let’s Play-style videos, despite being known for having particularly poor gaming skills.

Kizuna is more or less the blueprint for a character virtual YouTuber, remaining in character all of the time and running the channel as though Kizuna herself is the YouTuber. Kizuna’s success has led to her getting millions of subscribers, many of which find her mannerisms and quirks adorable. She’s not necessarily a child-friendly account due to the fact that she will occasionally curse in her frustrations at failing in some video game or another, but that’s all part of the charm.

14 Virtual YouTubers That Will Blow Your Mind 1

Mirai Akari

Within her first year of being on YouTube, Mirai had attracted over three hundred and fifty thousand subscribers to her account; a phenomenal effort any type of YouTuber. And, at the time of writing this post, she has more than doubled that figure. Like Kizuna, Mirai does a lot of streaming video games, though you will find that this is a common theme among virtual YouTubers, especially of the Japanese anime variety.

Her initial “backstory” was that she was an amnesiac-suffering time traveller, come back to 2018 to find human connection through her YouTube channel. Whether or not the interesting gimmick is a draw or not, her content seems to keep people coming back for more.

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Nekomiya Hinata

Like Mirai and Kizuna, Nekomiya is another game streamer, though we can further refine her audience a little because she has a keen interest in first-person shooter games, so don’t expect much in the way of Animal Crossing here. She’s not a fan of horror games, but that makes it all the entertaining when she plays them.

In the nearly two years since she started her YouTube channel, Nekomiya has amassed an impressive following of over half a million subscribers. She has a distinctive look with her bright pink hair, extremely long pigtails, and cat ears. That is actual cat ears, not a quirky headband with pretend cat ears. This is one of the more significant draws of virtual YouTubing; you can be whatever you want.

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Luna Kaguya

If you thought Mirai Akari getting three hundred and fifty thousand subscribers in under a year, wait until you see Luna’s record. This impressive VTuber managed to hit a million views per video in her first month. Needless to say, that’s quite an achievement.

Luna is the first virtual YouTuber on our list whose content does not focus on video game streams. Instead, Luna makes content of a more comedic nature that tend to come in bite size chunks—often under a few minutes in length. The humour involved is not always family-friendly, however, so don’t let that cutesy digital avatar fool you.

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Tokino Sora

Moving firmly back into the realm of game streamers, Tokino is a streamer who has a thing for rhythm games, so it should come as no surprise that she dances a lot, as well. One advantage of this is that her content is much more accessible to non-Japanese audiences. After all, you don’t need to know the Japanese language to watch a Japanese person (or digital avatar) dance to music.

By some of the standards set on YouTube, Tokino is quite normal in appearance; no animal parts or outlandish hair. Instead, Tokino presents herself as a regular anime girl with brown hair. However, she does dress like an air stewardess. We haven’t watched enough of her content to know why.

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Azuma Lim

Azuma can be a little love-or-hate for some people. She has a quite distinctive appearance with her purple hair and golden firey eye—not to mention the cat-ear hoodie she likes to wear—but it is her voice that can be make-or-break for many people. It is a little high-pitched, even by virtual anime YouTuber standards.

As far as content goes, Azuma is another video game streamer, though she does make other types of videos, such as topical commentary, and she is very engaged with her audience and will often respond to fans. She also makes music and even occasionally tries her hand at English.

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Moemi & Yomeni

Next up, we have our first pairing on the list. Moemi & Yomeni are an anime duo that streams video games and makes some very… interesting content. Not, we should stress, family-friendly content. As far as games go, they have a general leaning towards open-world games like Minecraft, and battle royale games like Fortnite.

Expect to see plenty of cats, a whole lot of music, and generally all the things you would expect from animated Japanese entertainment. Moemi & Yomeni are also part of a larger virtual YouTuber family that includes some other popular virtual YouTubers, so you can expect to see a few guest appearances from time to time.

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Fuji Aoi

While music is a common theme throughout virtual anime YouTube, Fuji Aoi brings us our first channel where music is the main theme. Expect plenty of cover songs from Aoi, which can make for great background music if you are into the style. There is plenty to choose from, so just pick a playlist and let it run while you get some work done.

Like many of our virtual anime YouTuber picks, Aoi saw some spectacular growth when she first exploded onto the scene, gaining over a hundred and seventy thousand subscribers in her first year. You might not have a clue what she’s saying (if you don’t speak Japanese) but you’ll be able to enjoy the music regardless.

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Dennou Shojo Siro

In Dennou Shojo Siro we find another game streaming and dancing combo. In this case, the games tend to be a little eclectic, with everything from Minecraft to Battlefield 5 on the table. Perhaps one of her more unique characteristics is her appearance, which is ghostly pale with white hair. This combined with a somewhat unique laugh has landed her with the nickname of “White Dolphin”.

This channel took less than two years to reach half a million subscribers, so that should give you an idea of the type of quality you can expect, the rest is just a matter of whether you are interested in the content.

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Noja Loli Ojisan

One of the first things you might notice about Noja Loli Ojisan is the distinctive features that make her somewhat unique among virtual anime YouTubers. For one thing, she is part fox. At least, she has fox ears and a foxtail. The second thing is her voice, which is that of her male creator.

Whatever you may think about this eclectic combination, it seems to have worked for her, since her channel is approaching two hundred thousand subscribers.

In terms of content, Noja interacts with fans in live streams, hosts roundtable chats with other virtual YouTubers, and even sells merchandise such as a doll of Noja.

Non-Anime Virtual YouTubers

The world of virtual YouTubing is so thoroughly dominated by anime characters that we can comfortable lump what remains after the anime into one section, which is not to say any of the following YouTubers have much in common. We are also not saying that these YouTubers aren’t Japanese—the VTuber phenomenon began in Japan, after all. That being said, there is a specific aesthetic and culture around anime, and these virtual YouTubers do not fit that aesthetic, even if they are Japanese channels.

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Apoki

Apoki is a truly multi-platform star, with far more followers on TikTok than on YouTube. She takes the appearance of animated girl (more akin to a Disney or Pixar style than an anime one) and sports large rabbit ears poking through her red hair.

Her main focus is music, and she seems to have aspirations of becoming a legitimate recording artist. Her content often revolves around this, and is an interesting mix of the virtual and real worlds, with Apoki often being blended seamlessly into real-world settings.

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Virtual Obaachan (aka Virtual Grandma)

As the (English) name suggests, Virtual Obaachan is a virtual YouTuber who takes the appearance of a cartoon granny, and in that guise, plays a range of video games. There is obviously a lot of mileage to be had from the novelty of a sweet old grandma playing videos games that are not always family-friendly, and the virtual nature of the YouTuber adds another layer of novelty. Further adding to this dichotomy is the fact that she will often talk about things being “immodest” and taboo, and then go ahead and say something taboo without hesitation.

This combination has worked for Virtual Obaachan, as she currently sits at a little over a quarter of a million subscribers.

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AI Angel

AI Angel is probably the most popular virtual YouTuber outside of the anime crowd, with over seven hundred thousand subscribers at the time of writing this post. AI Angel claims to be an AI who takes on the form of a human woman so that she can interact with other humans through video chat applications, play video games, react to memes, and a host of other types of content.

What is interesting about AI Angel is that the creators are not going for a cutesy anime or cartoon look with their virtual YouTuber avatar. Instead, they are travelling down the road of realism, and continually update the visuals of AI Angel to improve the realism (as well as refresh her image). AI Angel’s appearance is already quite realistic, and it would not be difficult to believe that, in the near future, she could be so realistic that some viewers would have difficulty recognising that she was a virtual YouTuber.

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Code Bullet

Code Bullet is a bit of an odd one out on this list, but we wanted to include him to show another type of virtual YouTuber. Unlike the above examples, Code Bullet is not presenting a character as such, but himself in the guise of an animated avatar.

The avatar in question is a hand-drawn human with an old-school computer monitor for a head who gesticulates to add emphasis to the words being spoken. Though we’re sure it is mainly the content he is making that has landed Code Bullet his nearly two and a half million subscribers, his digital avatar is an intrinsic part of that content. Given that he is by far one of the most popular examples of this kind of channel, it would not be outrageous to assume that the virtual YouTuber aspect of his videos has helped.

Final Thoughts

And that concludes our virtual YouTuber list. For now, at least, virtual YouTube is dominated by Japanese-language channels and anime avatars. More English-speaking channels are popping up, however. And as AI Angel has shown, it is certainly possible to be a successful virtual YouTuber without using anime or speaking Japanese.

We expect this niche to expand into the western world in a bigger way in the near future. How big it will get, we couldn’t say, but with a relatively untapped market of English speakers, growth would seem to be inevitable.