Through the lens: Our entertaining forays into video
When your mission is to educate the world about emerging technologies, the moving image can be an awesome tool. We hope you'll permit us a little self-indulgence as we take a walk down memory lane to revisit the very first video we ever put together, and a series of others that we still find ourselves looking back on as Gizmag/New Atlas celebrates its 20th birthday!
It's fair to say we've been dabblers rather than devotees of the video format throughout our 20 year history. But spearheaded by Loz Blain's informative and entertaining motorcycle reviews, which earned him a loyal following on YouTube, we've managed to cover electric cars, motorized skateboards, jet skis, rocket packs, robot wrestling (not as cool as it should have been in 2010), 360-degree cameras, drones, Citroën DS-inspired post-war television sets .... quite a spread when we look back.
The first video ever uploaded to the Gizmag YouTube channel was in 2007, when a young and sprightly-looking version of our founder Mike Hanlon took the Toyota i-Real mobility device for a spin at the Tokyo Motor Show.
By 2009, we had discovered the tripod and hand-held microphone, as evidenced by bright-eyed, bushy-tailed editor Noel McKeegan's presentation on the Audi e-Tron concept car at the 2009 Frankfurt Motor Show.
We were mystified by the success of our first million-hitter that same year, with "PS3 slams into Bravia TV at 50 mph," a promotional video given to us by Sony Australia. It delivered exactly what it said on the tin, and we had serious discussions for some time about whether we should simply quit everything else and start throwing expensive electronics at each other in slow motion for a living.
We weren't entirely sure we'd made the right decision until Noel's first attempt at a tech-focused car review with the 2009 Toyota Landcruiser Prado met with enormous success as well, particularly in certain parts of eastern Europe.
Mike Hanlon turned his trademarked, exhaustively thorough approach to an analysis of "narrow track vehicles," also back in 2009, covering a series of tilting three-and-four wheel contraptions straddling the gap between cars and motorcycles. This 23-minute tour de force has been one of our top-performing pieces.
In January 2010, somebody decided to put Loz Blain in front of a camera with a Swedish novelty device called the Soundracer Pro, which you could plug into your car's cigarette lighter to make it sound like an enormous V8 monster truck. The results were a lot of fun, quickly breaking the million-view mark on the way to a current total of 1.8 million.
Loz quickly realized that a video camera could be a free ticket to go and do things he couldn't otherwise afford. His "how to fly a helicopter" video started out as a cynical attempt to get a ride in one before either of his brothers did, but turned out to be a surprisingly good educational resource, cricket bats and all, and has since racked up over 3.4 million views.
It wasn't long before Loz was expanding his video chops into a series of borderline comedy motorcycle reviews, which were particularly fun when he was given the keys to machines that were far more powerful than he was capable of handling. Take, for example, this look at the supercharged Kawasaki H2.
Or of course, the Lightning LS-218 electric superbike, which in 2015 was the fastest motorcycle you could buy, capable of unleashing unheard-of levels of torque. Loz nearly dropped the prototype, twice, right in front of the guy that built it. But the sheer joy, terror and string of expletives unleashed when he worked up the courage to open the throttle right up remains compelling viewing.
Feeling that other members of the team deserved some of the spotlight, Loz once decided to film an entire bike review starring Nick Lavars, who had never even sat on a motorcycle before we went out to film. Nick's performance on this one, as exemplified by the hero shot on this article, still leaves us in stitches.
Before long, Nick was presenting his own videos, particularly reviews of overpowered electric skateboards as these devices started to take off. His deadpan delivery style was a beautiful counterpoint to a natural affinity for physical slapstick comedy, and the results, such as this review of the hilariously-named Epic Dominator Pro, made terrific watching.
We could highlight motorcycle videos all day, because these things were so much damn fun to make. But one that deserves special mention is our piece on the Royal Enfield Continental GT, a bike with no discernible performance or technology to speak of. Loz did the entire video in character as a brunch-scoffing hipster, pioneering the phrase "you can feel the clutch just ... clutching."
By this time, Loz considered himself capable of driving or riding just about anything, and indeed managed to crack an impressive wheelie while driving the Deepflight Dragon personal submarine. Of course, the Dragon only wheelies if the person in the back seat is significantly heavier than the person in the front.
Meanwhile, State of the Game was an ill-fated series of videos attempting to sum up the peaks of achievement in a range of different industries. Time and research-intensive and lacking in immediate hooks, they didn't bring in enough views to justify their cost, and the series ground to a halt after just two episodes. But those two episodes were pretty neat, looking back on them! Here's the last, our top five mind-boggling space missions. Perhaps it's a series worth revisiting.
If you asked Loz what his personal best piece of work was, he'd first stop pretending it wasn't him writing most of this list (hi guys), and then point at the Mongolia video. It's not often you get an opportunity to travel to a place like this on a two-week motorcycle ride, so I boned up on my drone flying skills, packed light, and acted as a one-man video crew, racing time and again from the back of the pack to the front to get ahead of the group, set up a shot, film, tear down, pack up and ride off in pursuit again. It was a thrilling and exhausting week, and I've never had such spectacular sights to point a camera at before or since. Breathtaking. Hashtag blessed.
And the final spot on our list goes to the #1 biggest hitting video on our channel: a review of the insanely fast Stealth Bomber electric bicycle, which ran out to more than 3.5 million views. Watching back, I feel lucky we still have Keegs, and that he didn't conclude his career wrapped around a tree somewhere out in the Scarsdale bushland.
The last few years have not been a great time to make video, and it's a difficult area for our small team to prioritize. But there's no question, we've had a lot of fun and some incredible experiences making these videos and many, many others over the years. It's a great way to give you guys a bit of insight into the people behind New Atlas, and it's something we'd love to do more with in the future!
For more, head over to our YouTube channel. Enjoy!