My Night with the Stars at YouTube Videocracy

So I've never been one to be particularly star struck, but I had a really cool night and wanted to share. Last night I attended YouTube's Videocracy event in NYC. It was a pretty interesting concept, bringing together everyone from traditional media companies to internet content providers to celebs and (of course) YouTube-born stars to celebrate the evolution of online video.

While it was great meeting people from a number of really interesting companies, hearing from marketing gurus and sitting near Damon Wayans, what really caught my eye was the new breed of YouTube stars in attendance.

It's one thing to chuckle at Lisa Nova's biting brand of comedy, but somewhat surreal to see her jump off the computer screen and on stage to host the event. Similarly, after watching Chocolate Rain on loop, it was a bit odd to stand there and chat up Tay Zonday in person. What was cool about it wasn't so much that these people are now famous, but rather that it wasn't so long ago that they weren't. And even now, they seem to remain very real people- a bit shy, timid on stage, not quite sure how to handle the attention, and a host of other very real qualities; the same qualities that made them endearing to millions of viewers.

My second "aha!" of the night was the wide array of ways people have found they can use video to engage each other. I've certainly watched all forms of video online before, but never took the time to think about how different they could be. You have people like Justin Timberlake's find Esmee Denters or Soulja Boy (two of last night's performers) who found fame with music videos. Lisa Nova and Buck Hollywood who've made their names through Comedy. Kentucky boy William Sledd who has become the face of fashion on YouTube, rising from obscurity. Then there's the Blendtec guy showing off his blender's ridiculous blending power by destroying pretty much anything (including an iPhone) in it. Also a guy I met last night, James Kotecki who made a name for himself with political video blogging from his Georgetown dorm room. And this doesn't even begin to touch things like the Cup Stacking phenomenon, seeing a self-taught Korean guitarist redefine Canon in D on the electric guitar, speed painting, how-to videos, family and pet videos and so much more.

The neat thing about user-generated video is its innate reality, something that I think we've all been a bit starved for. I'm not suggesting that high-quality, studio-produced works don't have their place; they certainly do. But there's so much beauty and wonder in day-to-day life that is lost almost by definition when one tries to engineer it. Truly great films and directors find a way to capture snippets of it, but it's amazing to see how raw, unedited clips from everyday people can have a similar impact on the audiences that find them relevant.

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