Published on September 27th, 2011 | by CodCom
Interview With YouTubers #5: Olizandri
In our 5th interview with YouTubers I’ve managed to arrange an interview with Sam “Olizandri” Francis. I’ve been following Sam’s work for quite a while now and I thoroughly enjoy his videos.
Sam has been on YouTube for quite a while now and with the effort he puts into his videos, he deserves to be at a better place than he currently is. Perhaps this interview will help him on his way there.
The interview you’re about to read is a long one and it should give you a good idea of who Sam is and what he does.
This is the first question I’m asking everyone person I interview and it’ll be the same this time. Why did you start uploading videos to YouTube and did you have any expectations when you started?
Sam: It’s actually so long ago now I started that the reason kind of eludes me, at the time I had only recently started getting into console gaming as a whole when I started making videos, giving a reason requires back story!
I was a very fervent World Of Warcraft player and had just finally managed to “kick the habit” that had led me to play within the high ranking hardcore raiding world for nigh on 4 years, to the point that out of 10 mil players I could easily rank myself within the top 250 progress wise, console gaming was a new outlet for me and I found myself playing the latest game my friends all wanted, Modern Warfare 2.
After a while of playing this the time consumed was fairly different, I had lots more free time away from gaming in which I could do my own thing unlike WoW which is akin to having a second job, due to this I discovered the developing YouTube scene while looking for advice that would help me become a better player (I’m a competitive soul).
After watching the major personalities at the time for a while, namely Hutch & Seananners and other more fringe commentators I ended up developing the attitude I’m sure many others ended up developing, I can do that, I can get those scores, Nukes aren’t an issue, etc, all things that are actually pretty irrelevant for the commentary game in reality!
That thought was the overall motivation to take up the mic, to buy the Hauppauge HD-PVR straight off the bat, to give the whole YouTube game a shot, at the time I thought it was just about scores and game play where in reality it isn’t. I was misled in thinking because I can do x thing that y will be my reward, where it’s really all about things that especially nowadays are mostly unrelated to the game play on offer.
As for expectations when starting, I didn’t really have any, I had a goal that I still have up to now but I didn’t realistically think I could get there, back when I started the money hadn’t really started entering the game yet, it wasn’t a goal for people.
Nowadays you do see the effect of it in the community but back then, Machinima was just like being promoted from the minors into the big leagues, to commentate alongside those that are now considered legends, I still view it that way, the money is a perk but I’m not from that “generation”, the privilege is to be listed with those names, it’s a goal, I’m stubborn and I hope to get there one day, bringing theater fueled high effort game play commentaries to the masses!
The first thing people listening to your commentaries will notice is your accent. And in most cases people will probably think you’re a well educated, posh Brit. How much of that is true?
Sam: Not really at all, in terms of education I read a lot as a kid and picked up an okay vocabulary due to it, I did well at school during my formative years but got myself too involved in the female species come the time that big exams mattered, my advice to everyone is leave that til the future! So to dispel the posh thing, there’s nothing posh about working retail, I’m just an average Joe with a fiancee working for his living.
The accent though is an odd one, I more or less come from farmer country but was born and raised in Bath, so while the places around where I was raised are full of a very strong west country accent, it skipped my area. I guess I just enunciate well and speak the Queen’s English due to it!
The first thing people watching your commentaries will notice is the layout you’re using in your videos. When and how did you come up with the idea for the layout you put in your videos?
Sam: Pretty much from the second I found out theater mode was coming to Call of Duty, at that point in time I needed to re-invent myself and find some fun again, doing standard game plays never felt like I was investing enough into them and a fair bit of YouTube is down to personality and “gimmick,” think Woody for the former with his father figure attitude and FPS Russia for the latter with the fake Russian character!
You need to find a way to make yourself stand out and I decided as soon as the announcement was made that I would be making my mark using theater mode. However that being said I had no graphics skill, so I started out early with Black Ops putting theater in my work with static shots and developing a style and in the meanwhile making templates for a layout. I always had a vision of what I wanted to do and how I wanted to keep it professional, I wanted to keep all the markers of a standard video as every bit of every game play video is something a player who needs it can potentially learn from, so I knew I wanted a second game play feed.
From that the layout was the only thing that could make it look professional, some people that comment honestly think the layout is the idea itself, when in reality the layout is something that’s a by-product, or the glue that holds it all together, I take pride in knowing its as neat as possible. I want to make the best video possible out of a game play, that’s simply it.
Unlike most YouTube commentators, you actually put a lot of effort into your videos. Why do you put this much effort into you videos?
Sam: Personal pleasure, odd thing to say, lets put it this way, every video I make is a representation of myself, why wouldn’t I want to make something to the best of my ability!
I actually just simply find it fun to make a video this way, back in Modern Warfare 2 days I just did what everyone else was doing and that is simply play the game, convert the file, stick it in Sony Vegas, commentate, render, upload, it’s easy to do takes about 20 minutes of time actually at the computer, come Black Ops I had an option to do more and I seized that. I recently made a Gears of War 3 video that had to be made just like that and it actually left me thinking “was that all?”
Now I’m not trying to knock those that make videos the normal way, everyone is free to seek their own fun, their own pleasure from doing this, that’s simply what I’m doing, I’m a try hard, everyone has their own amounts of time their willing to put into it and for me an average video takes a real life day to make, from dawn to dusk, I just want to provide the best looking content for my viewers and I will always try to do that.
To re-iterate the personal pleasure part, I think everyone at a certain age needs a place to retreat to and just make/do something, be it reading, DIY or making YouTube videos, there’s nothing better than just making something on my own, listening to my music at my own behest, especially when with work etc a lot of the time spent in our lives is decided for us, not by us.
With the effort you put into your videos and the time it takes to create them (from dawn to dusk in some cases like you said). How do you manage to have a part time job, a healthy relationship and a hobby that consumes a lot of time at the same time?
Sam: I have no clue, managing the job and the YouTube “career” isn’t that hard, I usually work on videos during my days off and play games that generate game plays the nights that I work as to blow off some steam so there is definitely some synergy going on, but my other half has been long suffering!
The funny thing is that she was the one that started me on the downward spiral into my WoW addiction, she introduced me to the game and hardcore raiding in that makes having free time a near impossibility but somehow we got through that, nowadays with Call of Duty it’s nowhere near as troublesome as it’s a game I can play on my own terms, nothing anyone else does within Call of Duty essentially matters to me opposed to within WoW where the world is persistent, leading you to “fall behind” in certain aspects.
I would put it down to the fact that as a couple we are two individuals rather than a whole, that may sound bad but it helps to have things that we don’t share, that we don’t do together, that we are perfectly capable of functioning separately, while I have my hobbies, she is doing hers, while I game, she is baking!
We touch base all the time, we live together so our lives are obviously intertwined but we also have freedom to do what we want, if she wants to go out with her friends on her own that’s no problem and vice versa, simple trust, which is fairly rare I think. She seems to be the ultimate gamers partner in that respect!
In one of your videos you talk about English commentators (people who actually live in England) having a harder time on YouTube than their American friends. Do you think you would be in an other situation if you lived in the United States?
Sam: Well, I don’t think anything would be different for me personally, but I 100% think that it’s an easier environment to thrive in commentator wise.
Some “Foreign” commentators have done very well for themselves but the amount of those that have done is a lot smaller percentage wise than you would say there is “ recognizable” American commentators.
The simple fact is that in terms of upholding friendships within the commentator business the easiest way to do it is to play together, that way the relationship isn’t superficial and trust me, there is a lot of superficial relationships going round built off purely growing a channel.
Playing cross seas isn’t very easy, one party or the other has to deal with a bad connection, or time zones of your friends playing conflict with things like sleep, work, etc, its hard to truly network with what is “the bigger part of the scene,” it’s not like you can random into a game with them after all!
Then there are gaming events where you can meet up with your cross seas friends, apart from the fact the important ones are usually all held within American itself, MLG, PAX, E3 etc, you can guarantee that Activision wouldn’t do an EU COD XP as it simply has its biggest consumer base in America, if we haven’t got the money and time to go out of our way to reach them, we simply can’t.
Of course I’m not saying being foreign hasn’t got its advantages, people dig accents in a medium that is largely voice only!
Every Call of Duty player has been talking about Modern Warfare 3 and one of the hottest topics would be the Assassin perk. What do you think about this perk and do you think it’ll be Ghost version 2.0?
Sam: Oh Ghost/coldblooded/assassin and how its evolved in Call of Duty.
When Modern Warfare 2 came out it was my first online fps experience, Cold Blood seemed to me to be the ideal perk for a learner as essentially it dilutes the game, takes out worries of kill streaks effecting you and allows you to focus on just your gunfights, despite how obviously powerful stopping power always has been.
Stopping power was so powerful it left it in the shade, back then there was no complaint over the perk and what it did due to a more attractive alternative and what I would say was the “Infinity Ward system,” make everyone a selfish asshole by giving them stacking powerful killstreaks to choose from, meaning a lack of UAV support for people to notice the lack of “red dots,” it went under the radar to excuse the pun.
Come Black Ops however and the removal of an attractive alternative we hit its hatred and the point it became the issue it is today, I will say straight out and apologize for, using Ghost at the start of Black Ops, I was a Ghost user, for shame, for shame.
The stealth play style always attracted me so I was originally attracted to Ghost, I always preferred to play Call of Duty more as a thinkers game than a twitch shooter at the time, to everyone it just makes more sense to go under the radar than to move a little faster for example, the benefit was too heavy, for me a play style that was actually considered gimping myself in Modern Warfare 2, become overly powerful in Black Ops and therefore despised.
When stacking killstreaks were taken away everyone moved over to the support streaks they had forgotten in favor of kill whoring during Modern Warfare 2, it was the new accepted way to play to get those elusive big streaks, it made sense, highlighting the problem ghost would cause everyone, there is a point to mentioning all this by the way so bear with me!
Now we move to Modern Warfare 3, a new horizon and the splitting of Ghost into two separate perks, with one, Assassin being obviously more beneficial than the other, we also have re-introduced two things, an attractive alternative in the Quickdraw perk and the kill whoring killstreak set known as the Assault Strike Package (the infinity ward system) I think it will be less of an issue, UAV is within the assault killstreak set but you can bet it will be overlooked for attacking air support, with those factors Ghost use SHOULD drop.
With faster ADS being essentially the new stopping power within Call of Duty, it will annoy the Ghost users to be without it, with the killstreak system somewhat reverting we will go back to those trying to “punch above their own weight” with unrealistic killstreak choices, the fewer UAV’s around, the easier it is to go back to Modern Warfare 2 days which was more or less an “ignorance is bliss” situation.
The only thing I’m worried about with the the Assassin perk isn’t actually the Ghost part itself, but what the pro version does, immune to heartbeat sensor/motion sensor AND CUAV is a killer of a pro part, let alone the fact it blocks what will be the lesser used EMP (speculation), probably the most powerful pro upgrade in the game. I really don’t see any reason to give it every single stealth aspect bar silent footsteps and I don’t understand how Infinity Ward could consider that “balance.”
I’m still hoping considering the two factors mentioned above that it cuts the use of the perk even a little, but I wouldn’t put it past people whoring the heartbeat sensor to force people to use Assassin for its pro rather than its main perk, to me the HBS is actually a big problem that can shape the game, I can speculate about it all I want but we will only see on release.
At least I take solace in my opinion that the players using Ghost are usually worse than those that don’t, for that I wouldn’t like to see a game without it!
To bring an end to this long interview. If there was 1 tip you could give to anyone wanting to make a name for himself, what would it be?
Sam: Potentially the worst question to ask me! If I knew what it was I would have made myself a much bigger name for myself than I have at current, though I’m sure due to March Madness there are far more people that know my name than are subscribed to me!
The usual things commentators say is “be unique, do your own thing, be yourself, make good content” etc etc, it’s repeated so many times but by a mile it’s not even the best advice.
Let me put it the way I see it, it’s OK to be the same as everyone else, shock horror, people like a certain thing, otherwise this commentary malarkey would have already died out. Having a gimmick helps but personality is far more important, a few interesting stories to tell is what people seem to lap up at the moment, the tips/tricks/strategy genre of commentators are very much on the wane.
What you do need to do is network, network like crazy, it’s something I completely fail at personally. Originally commentary and video material could find its own audience fairly easily or you wouldn’t have the big commentators that keep on growing even now, when I joined that door was closing, nowadays it’s almost fully closed, you have to have some kind of hand from above reach down to you.
I’m not saying that your content doesn’t matter, it does, for getting recognition you have to have good content, but those big YouTubers are somewhat the hand that feeds now, anyone you see getting big fast nowadays are usually getting multiple shout outs, podcast appearances, part of a competition or are having content put on the channel of someone larger than them, having friends in high places definitely helps. You definitely can grow on your own, or I wouldn’t have the few thousand subs I have today, but you have to reach out and grab opportunities, post on community channels, enter competitions like March Madness and hope to get lucky, you need to actively spread your content so people can find you, networking is the way to go.
By the way, something i’d like to add to that, networking does not mean randomly messaging people asking for them to sub you, for a shout out or with a link to your video out of the blue, it really helps to make friends, approaches like that will largely get ignored. In fact it isn’t good to ask AT ALL if you can avoid it, be friends with someone and if they think you deserve it, you will receive that helping hand, if not, you still have a new friend.
So yeah, that one tip is definitely NETWORKING IS KEY.
But one more small one, try to be content with what you have, not what you want, otherwise you simply will not last on YouTube. Simply put, there is nothing fair about YouTube, so make the best content possible for the viewers you DO have.
Once again, I’d like to thank Sam for having this interview. I had a great time while setting up this interview and if I can believe Sam’s tweet, he had fun as well.
I will be keeping a close eye on Sam and I expect him to have a great future on YouTube if he continues. I’d like to wish him all the best in life and on YouTube.
If you want to show Sam your support or you just want to follow him on the interwebs, this is what you can do:
Subscribe to his YouTube channel: http://www.youtube.com/olizandri
Follow him on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/olizandrionyt
Like his Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Olizandri/204373609595250