This week, Margarita had the joy of interviewing Scott Bass - a videographer and the creator behind Ampisound, a leading YouTube channel on parkour and free-running packaged in beautifully captivating cinematic shots. He shares how he grew his following, some insider info on YouTube’s algorithm and his top 3 tips to anyone starting out on the platform.
Welcome to the Papercup blog, we’re so happy to have you here! Please introduce yourself and your channel to anyone who might not be familiar with your work.
My name is Scott Bass, I’m a parkour filmmaker and photographer and I run a YouTube channel called Ampisound. Ampisound is a parkour and free-running focused YouTube channel where we make action videos, we collaborate with athletes around the world and we show off various aspects of parkour culture.
Ampisound… That’s a peculiar name! Where did it come from?
It’s from the ampersand symbol (it’s & for anyone who doesn’t know). It was originally the last letter of the Latin alphabet and the phrase ampersand comes from the phrase ‘and per se’ and it’s about connecting things. Before Ampisound was a thing, I wanted to be a graffiti artist and I wasn’t very good (laughs) so I wanted to do stencils. I wanted my logo to be the ampersand but I couldn’t figure out a way to stencil with curves, so I did it with squares. Then I realised that if I wanted that to be the name of the parkour channel, I would be way down googles results with dictionaries above me. So I just changed the spelling and now it sounds like a guitar shop instead of what it is, but that’s better than nothing!
I can’t believe you were thinking about your google rankings so early on, that’s great! It’s a really important tip for anyone starting out. Speaking of which, how did you start your YouTube channel?
I’ve actually been on YouTube for 10 years now so it was a really organic channel-to-career shift. Nowadays people start a channel with the aim of building a brand and an audience, but when I started it was just me filming my friends doing parkour. We just put some clips together, slapped any kind of music on it, back before copyright strikes were even a thing, and uploaded it for the community. My early videos are very much 16-year-olds with a camera jumping off walls and having fun in the summer. As they went further and further, the parkour level developed and the people I was practising and filming with got very good. I was one of the few people doing these videos with athletes at the time and that meant my videos got views and I became more well known. Brands got interested and that grew my production quality. And it just snowballed from there, my YouTube channel started growing as I got bigger and better projects in as well.
I think that’s a common trajectory that a lot of older channels go through. It’s so reminiscent that you guys could use any music you wanted and had full creative liberty. As you secure yourself in a niche, brands start noticing you. Have you ever thought about doing a YouTube channel about anything else other than parkour?
Thought about it, yes. I definitely think that I could do something in terms of video gaming or filmmaking or marketing/branding. I have a lot of experience in how to present a brand. I don’t think there’s an appetite for it though. I would love to do something around gaming because I’m a huge video game fan and I love to keep up to date with it. I also now see how gaming on YouTube has gone to be a ginormous juggernaut and hugely profitable. You can make probably 10x the CPM as a gaming channel than you do as a parkour channel. It’s definitely a venture that I think a lot of people are paying attention to now that they weren’t before.
That’s definitely true, gaming channels are killing it right now! I know you mentioned that you never really did anything specific to grow your channel but has that always been the case over the 10 years? Have you ever tried paying more attention to thumbnails or other things to grow?
For me all of that is part of being a YouTuber I guess. The only thing I think I do more than most other creators is translating my titles and descriptions into other languages and I do that for every video. So all my videos have titles and descriptions in 12 languages: Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Hindi, Turkish, Indonesian, Italian, Russian and a couple of others. The top 10 most used languages on YouTube, I translate all my videos to. For example, my second-biggest audience for last year was Japan, despite me never speaking a word of Japanese in any of my videos. If Japanese people search for it, my videos will come up with the title and description in their own language and will be clicked. In terms of growing my channel, I went a very global route. I thought ‘well I can gain another 4% more viewers in this country and another 6% in that country, then my channel is going to grow an extra 10% more every day than if I just focus on an English speaking audience.’
That’s so interesting that, despite you not being a speech-orientated channel, you still saw the value in internationalising your content. Why did you think that was the way to go?
For me, I realised that if I invest half an hour into grinding the google translate and copy-pasting it into my videos, that would be permanent value for that video’s lifetime. So if I’d made a video on a NY rooftop, well that would do well in English but why wouldn’t Japanese people want to watch that as well, or Brazilians or Russians?! And having spent a lot of time in Tokyo, I know for a fact that they don’t search in English. They only search in Japanese, so there’s a whole market I’m not tapping into if I don’t translate my titles and descriptions. As long as the video gets clicked on, YouTube will see that people like it and promote it more. So for me to invest the time into translation, I could gain 200k views from that.
I had no idea that you pay so much attention to internationalising your content because that’s essentially what we do at Papercup for channels that have speech. It doesn’t take that long to pop things in google translate and hope that it’s correct. But, for us, what we do is give people something that they can’t do themselves. If you don’t speak other languages, you can’t remake the same video in multiple languages to reach a wider audience.
Do you think translating content on YouTube is a strategy that channels need to adopt nowadays? Is it something for everyone?
I think it depends on your content. If your content is broad enough that someone in a native language will be making it, such as beauty vlogs, it’s entirely possible that someone in French is doing the same tutorial as you in English. There may be some benefit to translating your content, but ultimately the channel’s power of being local will be higher in French than the translated French. That being said, if you make niche content that nobody else is covering, translation is something that you absolutely should consider. Much like how I translate all my titles, descriptions and captions, even if it’s just the intro or outro. If you’re making niche content, there’s a huge benefit to gain from translating.
You recently hit 1 million subs! How did you feel when you hit that milestone?
Actually, it wasn’t like the big life-changing event I expected (chuckles). Lots of my friends said ‘wow that’s such an achievement, you’ve done so well’ but I don’t honestly pay that much attention to the subscriber count. There are so many channels that have small subscriber numbers but have incredible engagements. Or there are channels that are absolutely massive but that don’t make that much content at all. I don’t see that as a qualifier of what I’ve achieved on YouTube. My intention was to keep connected with the parkour community. My main value is whether people in parkour know what’s going on with Ampisound, do they find it interesting etc. That’s more what I take stock in than just a pure number and a nice button from YouTube.
That’s really nice that you have that outlook. You pay more attention to views, comments and other metrics…
Not even views to be honest. Obviously, at the end of the day, the fact is that YouTube has transitioned into a business and if it’s not earning me enough money to keep doing YouTube then I would struggle to continually output content at the level I have been. For me, it’s just important that my content is satisfying and that I’m not just chasing views and subscribers.
What I’m hearing a lot from you is the old school YouTuber mentality where you don’t care as much about views, even though views are directly tied to your revenue. It really is about being happy about what you do and connecting with the right people and having the right kind of feeling about the content you put out there.
Definitely. That old school mentality is something I’m actively trying to lose. The issue is that I don’t make enough content because I shoot for 2 months to make a 3-minute video. But then I only have 6 videos a year, only at 3 minutes long and the reality is that YouTube as a platform doesn’t like that kind of content as much as if I was doing ‘the top 5 best fake parkour videos’ or ‘the top 10 youngest athletes that are killing the game’.
Do you think channels should adjust their content for the algorithm?
Nothing is stopping me from still making 3-minute bangers but if I want to increase the revenue I make on YouTube and, ultimately, retain that as a full-time career, then I do have to consider how my content can pivot. I’ve already started to do that by doing collaborations with athletes. Where previously I would go and film athletes, recently we’ve been doing more first-person, POV content where the athlete will have the GoPro strapped to their body and capture all the footage that way. I’ll then edit and upload it and share the revenue half and half. I get a video, they get cash and exposure, and I can do more projects globally without having to physically fly everywhere.
That’s a super cool strategy!
But I do still need to make longer videos because the YouTube platform wants longer content and the easiest way to do that is being a host and talking rather than just being a silent cameraman.
Is that your goal for this year to transition more towards that type of content?
It’s definitely my goal to experiment with it. What’s happened is that I have 4 projects that are almost finished and so I’ll make some more compilation videos and then make some more chatty videos that people will want to watch and click on. I think I’ll start with uncovering fake stunts or the unsung heroes of parkour because people like to learn secrets behind what they see.
Do you have any YouTube inspirations?
I don’t have any particular channels I look up to but I’ve recently learned a lot about being a YouTuber from MrBeast. His videos are sometimes deliberately a bit rough and not as polished and I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be professional-level production and viewers like it to be rough around the edges. Casey Neistat, for example, made daily videos that were ‘good enough’, and not always perfect as well. Most of my inspiration comes from other places like animation or video games or books or cinema as opposed to YouTube as I find a lot of YouTube is geared up for raw storytelling and parkour is much more visual and cinematic. I usually look at more animation or design-focused content for inspiration, whereas YouTube I use more for developing my storytelling.
Have you had any sort of training for filmmaking or editing?
Not at all. Everything was completely self-taught just by going on YouTube and forums. My first camera was super bad. Even now, I find a lot of people worrying about the gear rather than figuring out the best ways to use it. I’ve been editing with Premiere Pro for years and then I did a tutorial from a random YouTube video and learned how to edit properly. I think a lot of people use the tool without learning how to use it. I really put a lot of time into learning the tools, what are they used for, what can I do with them etc.
So you’ve used YouTube for tutorials on how to edit?
Oh yeah, all the time! Just the other day, I was trying to get rid of a weird sound from an interview and used the built-in adaptive noise reduction feature in Premiere and it wasn’t good. So I went on YouTube and found out a better way to do it by going into Audition, taking a sample of the noise and then removing it. YouTube is great at learning straight away by watching someone do it.
What does your typical video creation process look like?
It depends on what we’re making. If we’re making a compilation, I’ll just go out and film parkour, much like people go out to train. We made a video called Full Circle which was filmed on a 360 camera. That was a set of 30 trips out to different parkour spots. I film something and then edit that together. We then film an introduction clip and that’s the video done.
How much planning would go into that ahead of time?
For that kind of video, it’s just a collection of movement clips from parkour spots then edited into a natural progression that feels cohesive. But there’s no planning beforehand. I bring the camera, you bring yourself and we’ll film some cool stuff. On other projects, there’s extensive planning, especially branded projects like my zombie parkour video. That had a full script, actors, locations, costumes. Every single move was directed and shot with a full production team. Sometimes there’s some in-between type of projects. We went to Croatia and took 3 athletes for a video called Vacancy. We made a parkour video across 5 abandoned hotels that were occupied and bombed during the Yugoslavian war. That was more structured because we scouted the locations first and made a rough plan of where we were going. We had 2 cameramen and an assistant producer, but it wasn’t fully scripted or structured. So it really varies with what we’re making.
What type of video making process do you enjoy the most?
I most enjoy the in-between ones. I find the ones with the big crew very stressful because you have to think hard about everything and extensively plan and things can still go wrong. The ones with no planning are always fun because it’s just me hanging out with my friends but, at the same time, I like to work and I like to be busy and sometimes we don’t get any great footage from those times. It’s like fishing, sometimes there’s a catch, sometimes there’s nothing in the water. So I like it when we do it halfway, where we have a plan but it’s not so deep that its a disaster if everything goes wrong.
If you could give advice to a person who is just starting out on YouTube right now, what would you say to them?
I’d probably give them 3 bits of advice. My first would be that if you’re getting into YouTube because you want to be a YouTuber then you need to stop because it’s such a saturated market and it might not work out. You have to really want it, you have to have the talent, and you have to have the drive. My second piece of advice is if you do want to be a YouTuber, you have to be really good at figuring out where the drama point is. What I mean by drama point is why people are clicking on your videos. Is it a new product, is it zombies chasing me? What’s the reason someone wants to watch your videos? The final point for YouTube is that if you’re going to start a channel, worrying about the quality of content is not the thing you should focus on. A lot of people think ‘oh, I’ll start a channel when I get a new camera or when I have more time’. The main thing is actually doing it. My first videos are bad quality, I didn’t know how to colour grade, there are mistakes in them, but I made it. You’ve just got to make lots and lots of content, even if you don’t upload it. It’ll still make you feel better and improve your content long-term. These are the 3 things I wish I’d have known when I started.
Thank you so much to Scott from Ampisound for taking the time out to share your YouTube experience and wisdom! We hope you found it as interesting as we did. If you want to see more of Scott’s incredible content you can follow him on Instagram or subscribe to his YouTube channel.