November 12, 2019 | interview: Rahoul Ghose
-- The illestrator, NYC motovlogger
He's got a moto license to ill ... Beastie Boys references aside, the Brooklyn, NYC-based motovlogger 'The illestrator' — "getting into shits and giggles for shits and giggles" — has built a sizable following over the past few years on his now 55.7K subscriber YouTube channel, which features a combination of general moto topics for riders — some Brooklyn and New York-related, some review-based materials, and even some build snippets, all laced with a healthy dose of humor. The recent Brooklyn College graduate (poli-science major) and motorcycle enthusiast took a moment from his busy schedule to talk with NYC Motorcyclist about his ever-expanding project, its origins, what motivates his pieces, and what the future holds.
1) Welcome ... to start, and for the neophyte, explain what a motovlogger does.
Fortunately, motovlogging is actually quite self-explanatory for the uninitiated; A motovlogger engages in the rather popular act of vlogging (or video logging), but with the added twist of being on a motorcycle while doing so. The topic of the vlog can range from something trivial as you'd expect from any run of the mill vlogger, but it can also be something more informative or substantive. Sometimes you may also find yourself speaking on what's happening directly in front of you. I find that motovlogging allows for people to speak their mind and show a part of themselves without pointing a camera directly at their face ... something that completely shatters anonymity. Now some would argue that motovlogging is no longer as widespread and popular as it once was ... but on the bright side, this has caused motovloggers to diversify their content and step up quality as a whole to compensate.
-- The illestrator, NYC motovlogger
2) When did you launch ‘The illestrator’, and what prompted you to start the YouTube channel?
So, I launched my channel on January 24, 2016, but I didn't actually upload anything for another month or so because I didn't really know what the direction of the channel was going to be at that point. In reality, I created the channel that day to secure the name ‘The illestrator’ ... But to my surprise, the name was actually already taken in some capacity. But I’ll get back to that in a second! The initial reason for starting the channel was my first motorcycle crash, which happened on a rainy day in November of 2015, just two months prior. I had realized that even though it was a really, REALLY crappy moment, I still should have had it on film for several reasons. So, once I got my GoPro, my channel was mostly just small incidents or interesting things caught on film ... kinda like an archive. My first actual vlog came several months later.
3) Where did the name come from?
The name ‘The illestrator’ doesn't really have an interesting story behind it. If you're not familiar with the term 'ill' in slang terms, it just means like 'cool' or 'dope' or 'rad' ... all of those words are also slang, but you get the idea. I just combined the word 'illest' with the word 'illustrator', which references my overall interest in designing or creating things in general. I was always into that stuff. The idea was to have a unique channel name that could also double as an alias for ME, the man behind it. So instead of running a channel with a name as a separate brand, the channel is ME ... ‘The illestrator’. Now that's not a new concept or anything, but it does ensure that viewers know how to address me in a non-awkward-sounding way. Now spelling is a different story considering a lot of people type my name without the stylish ‘e’ that replaces the boring letter ‘u’. But maybe that's just pesky auto correct now that I think about it. Oh yeah, turns out there's a battle rapper with the same name as mine; spelling and everything. So when I made my channel and searched it up for fun, some rapper came up on YouTube first in the results. But don't worry, that's no longer the case *wink*. Oh yeah, the ‘i’ is lower-case on purpose.
4) Your site, now at over 55K subscribers, features a combination of general moto topics for riders — some Brooklyn and New York-related, some review-based materials, and even some build features. How do you choose the subjects you decide to cover?
Well at first I just uploaded dramatic incidents and funny stuff that occurred in front of my camera out on the road. That's what it started out as. But soon after that the vlogs came in. The nature of vlogs mean that you can pretty much cover any topic you'd like on that day, and many times the subject of videos are just what I’m thinking in that very moment — something that's bothering me or something I feel needs saying. The great thing about creating a network is that you can even get subjects from your audience. At a certain point I had realized that the more profound topics deserved more than an off-the-cuff style motovlog, and perhaps something more prepared, topped off with visuals pertaining to it. Because when you're riding around yapping and dodging taxi cabs, you're bound to forget something. That's where the voiceover videos come in.
-- The illestrator, NYC motovlogger
5) Do you have a favorite you’ve done to date? Any amusing behind the scenes stories while putting together/filming a feature?
I think one video of mine that I find myself going back to often is that first episode of the BMW build. A lot went into that video. I bought props, equipment, editing tools, and how could we ever forget, an entire motorcycle for that video. It was unique in that it was a combination of a voiceover video and a motovlog, whilst accurately conveying the hectic first week I had when I started that project. People tell me all the time how it had them not only hooked for the series, but also inspired them to do the same. The rollercoaster of doubt and confidence was ultimately made worth it by the success that came after it. At the moment I can't think of any specific stories, but up until recently my folks never knew I had a YouTube channel. So for the voiceover videos, I would have to either wait until my house was empty, or I'd go to my school just to record 20 minutes of audio. The empty classroom that I recorded in even became a running gag in a few videos.
6) What is your background workwise … did you have previous experience with filming, editing and voiceovers?
My work background is actually rather unspectacular -- retail stuff -- although I just graduated from Brooklyn College this year after five years of pain. I'm a political science major, which actually equipped me quite well when it comes to researching and writing. But the only real experience I had with video making prior to ‘The illestrator’ channel was an old gaming channel I made when I was a teenager … nothing big.
7) You supplement your features with a lot of background research and more than a hint of humor … how long on average does it take to put together a piece? And how much of your own personality do you put into a piece?
My features, which consist of scripted voiceovers, actually take quite a while to make from start to finish. Scripting usually takes place over the course of two days. Any down time that I can find, I'll just use to begin writing and researching. I tend to make sure that my sources are all reliable and legit to ensure that the information is good. But I also make sure that the video will be entertaining. It's because of the occasionally slapstick or self-aware nature of my videos that I find myself receiving the complement of people thinking these videos are NOT scripted. But the reality is when I'm scripting videos, I'm essentially speaking them and writing down my actual speech patterns. Because unless you're super groomed and high class or whatever, odds are you don't physically SPEAK the way that you'd WRITE an essay or some other formal piece of writing … if that makes sense.
With that said, I know how everything I write is gonna sound coming out of MY mouth before I even put a microphone in front of it. I put a lot of personality into my pieces … and that all comes down to the writing. After I finish writing, I have to record the voiceover. Assuming I can make it to my school, or I have an empty house the next day, I can begin editing directly afterward. Now because of my limited computer hardware, editing is very difficult to do in a timely manner without it crashing. Editing tends to be a two-day effort. Rendering takes three-plus hours, and getting the video ready for YouTube is like another hour. By that time, it’s probably super late, so I save the release for the next day in the morning. It usually takes four or five days, but if I really cram the process I can knock something out in two and a half to three days ... at the expense of my sanity.
8) What equipment do you use for filming and do you have a recommended setup for shooting from a bike? What do you edit with, hardware and software-wise when putting the final piece together?
For on-bike motovlogs, I run an old GoPro Hero 4 Black because I don't really like the Hero 5, 6, or 7 that came after it. The Hero 8 just dropped, and i'm considering that one though. Still, the Hero 4 Black might be the best one for the money, even today. I wouldn't be surprised if I run it for a few more years. I use a Sony ECM-PC60 mic ... this set up has lasted me for over three years ... take from that what you will. I also use a Canon 70D and some goodies like sliders and pods when I wanna get some good cinematic shots. My software of choice is all of the Adobe Creative apps -- Premiere, Photoshop, After Effects -- because they all have very easy inter-connectivity with each other. I can recommend everything I use except for my computer. It’s the Lenovo Y700, and it sucks.
9) What’s your current ride and are you still involved in a build?
My current ride is a 2006 Yamaha FZ1 which is basically an R1 but naked. It's got 150hp. It's angry, but it's easily the most reliable and fastest bike I ever owned. So I haven't found myself modding it much beyond the controls, the gearing, fender eliminator ... hell I'm still running the big floppy OEM signals. Granted I DID do the fully naked conversion on it, but that's actually how they come stock in Europe. That's why they also call it the Euro conversion. She's been through a lot though. Get me drunk enough and I'll tell you THAT story. The mods have slowed down because of the 1986 BMW K100 that I’m currently building ... so we'll see what happens with the FZ1 after that.
-- The illestrator, NYC motovlogger
10) Do you have other motovloggers, or even vloggers in general, in the community you pay attention to, collaborate with and look to for inspiration?
I honestly don't consider my channel to be a big one. So in terms of the larger motovloggers, I only really follow Chaseontwowheels and Cyclecruza ... but I don't really have any connection to them. I think I follow more gaming content on a regular basis, but I always tend to watch local motovloggers for support, alongside the fact that I actually KNOW these guys. I've worked with JohhnyPuetz, DucatiNYC, FXDLS Brooklyn, Clutch1st, Dafobra, Mark Squitieri, 2JRider, and more. We might be a small blip on the map when it comes to moto content, but this is New York baby. It's only a matter of time before we take over.
11) What about the New York riding community inspires you to create?
I guess what I mentioned is a good segue into this answer. The inspiration lies in how close we all are in terms of proximity. It's cool to network like this and I’d like to do it more come 2020. We can all relate to each other through proximity and motorcycles. We all have something to offer each other in this community. Everyone knows everyone. It's awesome, and because of that, I love making occasional content that we can all relate to.
12) What do you ultimately hope to achieve with ‘The ‘illestrator’?
That's probably the hardest question to answer ... I just want to be consistently entertaining above all. The great thing is that only through putting in the correct energy and effort can my content be consistent and entertaining. And through being those things, good things will come to me. It's a cycle of good things that feeds itself. I've always struggled with consistency because life gets in the way. But my other goal is to achieve consistency with my platform, perhaps in all areas of my life as well.
13) Tell us a bit about the piece you are revealing at next month's Motos and Photos : NYC.
Well, I was graciously offered a chance to present a video at Motos and Photos ... I'm still putting this thing together, but I plan to discuss riding in the horrible season of winter in NYC ... Stay tuned, I think I’ll say a lot of relatable stuff … ha ha!
We look forward to seeing the piece ... thank you and ride safe.
Yes, he’s awesome! Looking forward to seeing him on stage!@johnnypuetz
🤟🏾🤓👌🏾 Thanks for the feature!@theillestrator_nyc