Sheltering in place for several months has led me to explore the vast caverns of YouTube to find entertaining videos to watch—after all, it feels like I’ve exhausted all my movie and TV options on Netflix, Hulu, and all the other streaming platforms. In my YouTube searches, I’ve come across a few real gems.
Some of these YouTube channels revolve around hobbies that I love, where I can put their tips and knowledge into practice. Others not so much, but they still make some riveting content. These are my favorite YouTube channels that hone in on one particular area of expertise. Happy streaming!
Gardening is a deep rabbit hole and it’s easy to, well, get lost in the weeds when you’re trying to figure out how to keep alive a bunch of complicated organic machines that need exacting levels of sunlight, soil nutrients, watering, and space. Mohit Kumar Singh Rajput has two decades of experience in gardening, and he explains all the nitty-gritty details in videos that usually run under 10 minutes.
Unlike a lot of YouTube gardening hosts, most of his advice doesn’t revolve around having an enormous backyard and a wheelbarrow full of power tools. You can put all his advice into practice whether you live in an apartment or a detached house, like how to grow plants in kitchen waste, how to grow new plants from cuttings of other ones, and how to grow vegetables in pots indoors. My favorite is a primer on growing a corn plant in a container.
Remember when she built the Truckla, a production-looking custom Tesla pickup? Giertz has made a lot of whimsical inventions, like a drone that carries babies and a lipstick-applying robot that made Stephen Colbert pretty when she was a guest on The Late Show. WIRED’s interview wizard Lauren Goode hung out with Giertz throughout the summer of 2019, which is how we learned that Truckla became a turning point for Giertz as an inventor. Look for her creations to become more grand and ambitious as she’s committed to pushing her limits.
Car boots. Home safes. Bike locks. Padlocks. Nothing seems to stop this guy. He won’t reveal his identity, but he claims to be a lawyer from the Washington, DC, area who picked up lockpicking as a hobby. In his videos, he picks open both common and strange locks, from modern ones to the antique kind, and explains how different locks attempt to foil lockpickers (and why almost all of them can be beaten). Sometimes he uses a prop, such as a magnet, a pair of open-ended wrenches, or a Red Bull can. Once he used a Lego astronaut.
He doesn’t water down his words with niceties when the locks are trash, such as in an AmazonBasics bike lock review titled “As Bad As You’d Think” and a Brinks cable lock review titled “A Security Joke“. The takeaway here is that basically all locks are bad if a knowledgeable lockpicker wants your stuff. Some are just crappier than others.
Right now is the best time in history for a guitar player who’s into effects pedals. Everyone’s making a million varieties and doing some really out-there stuff with them that wasn’t possible when we were all kids. For all the juicy tones and valuable guitar gear information, this YouTube channel from Dan Steinhardt, head honcho of pedalboard component maker The GigRig, and Mick Taylor, former editor in chief of Guitarist magazine, really clicks as the duo play off each other so well. I’ve been an off-and-on guitar player for 18 years, and I learn new things about pedal effects on this channel all the time. Not just how they sound but why they sound like they do.
So why does a fuzz box sound so different from an overdrive pedal and a distortion pedal (ignoring the vague distinction between the latter two, for the moment)? That Pedal Show will talk about how their wavelengths clip differently from each other, which affects the sound you hear through the amp speaker. Not to mention the amusing demonstrations of things like phasers versus flangers and reviews of rare, new handmade pedals. What’s that, you say? You’ve never bothered with all these pedal effects, and you’re more of a straight-into-the-amp kind of player? That was me until I dove into this channel. Steinhardt and Taylor’s chemistry makes their show just as much entertainment as it is useful information.
Michelle Gooris is my favorite airline pilot channel on YouTube because she doesn’t hide the fact that piloting an airliner is one of the most difficult jobs on earth. Watching her videos, you never lose the sense that an extraordinarily complicated machine requires a mental decathlon of skills to land, fly, taxi, and maintain. Gooris explains how piloting is done and pairs it with video footage that lets the audience peek into the blades of a jet turbine engine, or follow along with her engine startup sequence in the cockpit.
Each video tears into a specific subject to explain in-depth how it works, such as how tailwinds affect the angle of approach on a short, difficult runway and what all that jargon means when pilots are talking to air traffic controllers as they depart and approach airports. You have to watch to find out her answer to the age-old rivalry of which is better to fly: Boeing or Airbus.
There seem to be a million YouTubers unboxing the latest and greatest consumer tech, but if you ask me, it’s the older hardware that’s more interesting. The 8-Bit Guy is devoted to ’80s and ’90s—and sometimes early 2000s—tech that got left behind, long before anyone thought those early machines would be worth preserving. Folks like the 8-Bit Guy help show us rare old tech, like digital cameras that used full-size floppy disks. His videos show him unboxing rare, old computers and the occasional robot, taking apart and refurbishing old Bell & Howell and Compaq PCs, plus breaking down how vintage videogame controllers worked. Want to find out what telephone phreaking was? Head over to his channel.
Gene Nagata has been a professional videographer for more than a decade, but it’s the cheaper equipment that seems to get him the most excited. Like he often says, you don’t need premium-priced gear anymore to shoot good footage. Filmmaking and vlogging are more democratic these days than ever. But his best videos tend toward the extremes, from enormous professional cameras that could be used as battering rams on a castle to handheld gimbals for making movies with an iPhone. And then there are the peeks into the industry, such as how Hollywood films car chases. He’s a relaxed natural in front of the camera, and you can tell he’s always having a good time. It’s infectious.
A part of Serious Eats’ channel, the Food Lab’s Katie Quinn and J. Kenji Alt-López take a scientific approach toward cooking methods, such as whether searing a steak actually locks in its juices. And then there are how-to videos for kitchen equipment, including how to sharpen a kitchen knife on a whetstone, a skill that trips up a lot of home chefs if they even know that it’s a part of regular maintenance. Plus, you get a few of their favorite recipes to break things up once in a while. Why did it take this long for someone to invent a Nutella-and-brie grilled cheese?
You’d think people would take better care of fancy, old paintings, but a lot of them arrive to new collectors in rough shape. Paint degrades under sunlight and artificial light, and throughout the centuries, misguided cheapos have paid for subpar restorations that only further ruin good art. But it can often be salvaged if the person knows how to remove degraded layers of paint and seamlessly touch up other areas so that it blends in naturally with the rest of the painting. Baumgartner Restoration shows a wide variety of methods on healing wooden split-panels, torn canvas, and masterpieces from the old masters.
Odds are you’ll never make Polynesian arrowroot flour or build a round hut in the forest, but it’s fascinating to watch what people can make out of a little more than dirt, water, and their own two hands. Everything in these videos is created from natural materials, and the creator is self-taught. The videos are shot in Far North Queensland, Australia, and although he doesn’t live in the wild, by now he’s got a cool collection of rather large huts of various designs, primitive agricultural fields, stoves, and kilns.
There’s something so revealing about a walk through a big city. In these videos, there are no cuts, no dialog, and no voiceover. It’s just a steady-cam walking down the streets and sidewalks of Mexico City, Buenos Aires, New York, London, Lisbon, and more in one long take. There are bits of overheard conversations from businesspeople on their morning commutes and families relaxing in the park, and it’s a treat when the camera ducks off the sidewalks and into a food market or a Sunday art fair. Videos tend to run about 20 minutes, although some run more than double that.
John Darko dislikes audio snobs. He hates magazine clichés. He flat-out doesn’t have the money to do blind tests and measure up all those crazy statistics that audiophiles love to hear when discussing stereo equipment. And he will be the first to tell you he has a different definition of high-end audio equipment. This channel is for the person who wants better sound and is willing to pay more than a few hundred bucks for it but isn’t going to go on a hunger strike to afford an uber-expensive system the size of a falafel cart.
Darko doesn’t mince words. If he has an opinion, he gives it to you straight, and brand names or consumer hype don’t seem to hold any sway. As they shouldn’t.
Bikes are having a moment. Everyone is using them to commute to work and run errands so they can stay off cough-covered subways and buses. Global Cycling Network leans toward road cycling, but a lot of the advice is applicable across the spectrum of mountain bikers and commuter bikers. Yes, there are discussions over the significance of uniform colors among international racers and stories of legendary racecourses, if you’re into that—and maybe after some GCN, you will be—but there are also maintenance tips and advice on cycling more safely in cities, which everybody can use.
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