Category Archives: Videomaking

Regarding Copyright Issues

In this article, I will share my experiences making copyright reports on different video platforms. Hopefully, this information can help you in similar tasks.

The content I try to protect is Lego videos. The videos are original content I created and released on YouTube. Here is a breakdown of the copyright reports I’ve done and how many views the stolen videos got before they were taken down.

Reported stolen content:

  • TikTok 150 videos 250M views
  • Facebook 70 videos 55M views
  • BiliBili 23 videos 25M views
  • Twitter 1 video 15M views
  • Instagram 20 videos 10M views
  • LinkedIn 8 videos 1M views
  • YouTube 150 videos 0.1M views
  • Reddit 0 videos

In total, I’ve done 400 copyright reports. Those stolen videos had 350 million views. In comparison, my own videos on YouTube have 750 million views. So far, I’m leading the freebooters. 🙂 (of course, TikTok views are not the same as YT views, and so on, but it gives you some comparison)

Looks like TikTok and Facebook are the big ones for stolen content in my case. YouTube also has a lot of stolen content, but those don’t get views, maybe because the content ID system suppresses them.

The big question is, do those stolen videos reduce your original view count and affect your ad revenue? Unfortunately, I don’t know any data where you could see that. But somehow, I feel they don’t have much effect.

What to report?

When someone uploads an exact copy of your video to a public video platform, it is clearly a copyright infringement. But beyond that, the lines become fuzzy quickly. What is fair use? When is a work transformative enough?

My approach is to be lenient. That is not based on any legal consultation but just a personal feeling: I like free speech. I’ll allow any use of my content that adds something new to it. For example:

  • reaction videos
  • commentary
  • part of a long video that contains original content
  • significant editing changes

If the uploader credits my channel, I’ll be more lenient. But only a little bit.

Example cases:

PewDiePie watched two of my videos in a members-only video. Here is another way to watch it. It is a reaction video and a part of a long video, so I naturally allowed it.

xQc, C7Reactions and Pokelawls have also done reaction videos using my content. I have no problem with those, either.

Someone posted a Teams meeting lecture on materials technology, where they played my video of Lego breaking a steel axle. They went through the entire video and sometimes paused while explaining what happened. It was interesting to hear material experts analyze a Lego experiment. Unfortunately I can’t find the video anymore. This usage was for educational purposes and a part of a long video, so I didn’t report it.

A teacher asked me for permission to use my videos as school material for students. Can’t see any harm in educational usage for public organizations. I gave the permission.

A BiliBili creator The Maker has stolen my ideas (example1, example2). He has copied the video subject, structure, story, Lego builds, and editing style. But he didn’t use any of my video footage. He just copied the ideas and filmed the video again. Legally, I think this resembles a cover song. You copy someone else’s melody but perform the piece yourself. Cover songs are copyright infringement, so I figure this is the same. But because I know how much work creating such videos require, I don’t want to report it. The guy deserves the views.

Another creator from TikTok does the same thing. He copies my video ideas, edits and Lego builds (example). I didn’t make a copyright report, for similar reasons as the previous one.

Many TikTok pages have posted my videos on 1.5x or 2x playback speed. Many of those videos got tens of millions of views. Playing the video at a faster speed is a very small re-edit that doesn’t require much work. Therefore I have reported these videos.


Here is an image of the Copyright tool in YouTube Analytics. It automatically finds infringing content on YouTube. It seems to catch content very well, even if they are heavily edited. Only once I’ve noticed a video that it missed. My match list currently contains 1600 items, and several new matches are found every day. Most of those videos get less than 10 views, so they are not a big problem.

Removal requests are in a separate list. I’ve removed 146 videos so far. I don’t bother reporting videos that get few views.

This is the copyright report form. Making reports is quick and straightforward. Most of the info is already in the form. You only need to write the relationship and signature and then click a few checkboxes. I usually select the “send a 7-day notice” so that the uploader can avoid a copyright strike.


On Facebook, I have no access to automatic tools (I applied to Facebook Rights Manager, but the request was denied). Therefore stolen videos are more difficult to come by. Sometimes fans send me links to illegal content they found. Other times I put a few keywords to the Facebook Watch search tool and see if I find anything. There is probably a lot of stolen content I’ve not found.

The reports are done with this form. You just need to enter a few basic info, a link to the stolen videos and a link to the original work on YouTube. I always enter the official BEC email address to help provide proof of authorization.

After the report is done, they send an automated email stating they received it. Then 0 to 2 days later, they usually send back an email saying, “it’s not clear that you are the rights owner … please reply to this message and provide additional information”. I respond to that with, “this email address I’m using is proof of authorization,” and also give them a link to my YouTube channel About page where they can see the official email address. After that, I receive an email saying, “we removed the content”.

I’ve done 70 copyright reports, and 66 have been successful. The failed ones have just been silently ignored.


Instagram is basically the same deal as Facebook. The copyright report form is similar (they are the same company, after all).

I’ve not found much of my content on Instagram.


TikTok contains a lot of stolen content, but I don’t always bother to report it because the uploaders don’t get ad revenue. Also, making the reports is tedious work. So far, I’ve reported 150 videos, but there are still hundreds of stolen videos on TikTok.

The report form is similar to Facebook but with two differences. First, you need to do an email verification before you can write the form. Secondly, there is “Evidence of rights and authorization”, where you need to upload documents proving you are the copyright owner. I have given screenshots from my YouTube Analytics as proof.

After submitting the report, they send an automated email stating they received it. Usually, within the same day, they send another email saying the content was removed. It works pretty fast (currently).

Two years ago (2021), it didn’t work at all. I remember making several reports that never got taken down, and no reason was given. Then in May 2022, they added the email verification step, and the copyright reports started working properly. It has worked well after that.

Here are some of the most prolific thieves I’ve found. Some of those accounts have been suspended by now.


The Chinese BiliBili also has a fair amount of my content uploaded. Many of those videos openly state they are taken from YouTube and provide a link to the original content. That’s why I didn’t report them for a long time because I felt they were helping the Chinese people see content they cannot see another way, as YouTube is blocked.

That changed a month ago when I opened my own channel on BiliBili via a 3rd party company. I’ve sent links to the company and asked them to make the copyright reports. Everything I’ve given them has disappeared from the site. I don’t know how the actual reporting happens since I’ve never done it myself.

Here is one example of a BiliBili page 沐恩TC乐高MOCer that gained around 5 million views on my content.


LinkedIn contains especially my engineering-related videos. I’ve done only 8 copyright reports on LinkedIn because the posters often credit and link back to my channel, and the view counts are probably low.

Those 8 videos I reported had a little over 100k likes. You cannot see the view counts, but if you estimate 10 views for a like, you’ll get 1 million views, which is probably in the right ballpark. In other words, not much views.

Recently I made a quick roundup and found 20 videos on LinkedIn that had a total of 170k likes. I didn’t bother reporting those.

The report form is here. After making the report, you get an automated response email saying they received it. Usually, 5 days later, you get another email with a general response: “We will process your Notice in accordance with our Copyright Policy”. After that, you get no more emails. The only way to notice if the report was successful is to open the post and see that it has disappeared (the page says, “This post cannot be displayed”). Not a very transparent process.

6 out of 8 posts I reported have disappeared.

Example of one LinkedIn post using my content. I have not reported it.


I’ve only done one copyright report on Twitter. It didn’t go through. Maybe it was because I used a newly created twitter account for making the report.

Here is the tweet I reported. The video has 15 million views. It wrongly credits Be Maker, one of the TikTok creators that steals my videos.


In Reddit there are two types of videos: YouTube embedded and self-hosted. The embedded videos play on a YouTube player. Therefore, I see from my Analytics how many views those got. So far, I’ve got 555k views from Reddit embedded videos. That is 0.1% of my total YouTube views. Too bad I can’t see from Analytics how much ad revenue those external views earned. Subreddit r/Videos is often the place where my videos appear.

Example of an embedded YouTube video. Link.

Self-hosted videos are different. They are hosted on Reddit, so my YT channel doesn’t get any views or ad revenue from them. Also, naturally, I cannot see their view count from YT Analytics. Reddit doesn’t show the view count, either. But I have done an estimation from upvotes. The embedded videos, which got 555k views, have 42k upvotes in total. That calculates to 13 views for one upvote. The self-hosted videos I found have 500k upvotes in total. So, assuming embedded and self-hosted videos have similar views-to-upvote rates, the self-hosted stolen videos have 6.5 million views. That is not very much.

Example of a self-hosted video. Link.

I have not reported any videos on Reddit. That is because the view counts are relatively low and because many top commenters on Reddit put links to credit my channel.

Entire channels impersonating as my channel

Sometimes I find entire channels named “Brick Experiment Channel”, use my logo icon and post my videos. In those cases, I report the videos and also the logo icon. Sometimes that is enough to suspend the channel.

Here is a list of copycat channels I’ve found. Some of those are still alive.

Interestingly, my current Facebook username, or vanity URL, was also reserved by a fake channel. After that page got suspended in March 2020, the URL was not immediately released. There was speculation on message boards about how long it takes. In my case, it took almost a year: the URL was released in January 2021, and I was lucky to be fast enough to reserve it before anyone else.

Should you give permission to share content?

Sometimes people ask for permission to share my video or “feature it” on their Facebook/LinkedIn/TikTok page. Especially Facebook page owners have sent me a lot of requests. I’ve said yes to over 30 requests. For free. This happened a few years ago. Today, I don’t say yes anymore.

The most notable page posting my content for free was UNILad, which gained around 20 million views on 5 of my videos. Here is the most popular one, with 7.7 million views.

Those request emails always offer full credit. A top pinned comment and sometimes a watermark will be added. Those should give you “exposure” and “help grow” your channel.

After examining those posts and YouTube Analytics data, I’m quite sure it is futile. Nobody clicks those top pinned links. For example, one UNILad video made 3 million views in a single day on September 27, 2018. Here is a screenshot of my YouTube analytics data on that day, a day prior and two days later. Each day my channel got around 400 subs and 50k views. If there was any traction, even just 100 new subs, you would see it in the graphs.

The same goes for basically all other Facebook pages that posted my content. You gain nothing from giving content for free. But there was one exception. BeyondTheBrick posted my paper shredder video on Facebook and got 25 million views. In YT Analytics I saw 2000 new subs. Not much, but at least something. That Facebook page is followed by Lego enthusiasts, which I think made the difference.

On YouTube, I’ve given permission to Quantum Tech HD for one video that got over 4 million views, but I didn’t see any gains in my Analytics data. Un Poco De Todo is another channel I’ve given a total of 5 videos. That is a Mexico-based channel that produces Spanish-speaking videos. I can easily see in my Analytics data if new subs or views start to come from Mexico. Below is a screenshot of the first video, which got 800k views. I gained a total of 1000 subs and 20k views, mainly from Mexico but also from other Central&South American countries. If you convert those numbers to income, it is around 20 USD. It is something, but very little. The other 4 videos didn’t have any gains I could see. Needlessly to say, giving permission to other YT channels is not profitable.

After giving permission for free and seeing no gains, I started to ask for money. That stops the conversation most of the time. A few times, I’ve got 100 USD, 200 USD, 500 USD fixed payment offers for posting one video. I usually counter with a 50% revenue share offer, which no one wants to accept. The only one I have a deal with is BeyondTheBrick Facebook page, which posts all my videos nowadays.

Copyright claims I have received

How about being on the receiving end of copyright reports? I’ve received 6 copyright claims on my YouTube channel so far. Here are the cases.

My Googol video got claimed for using copyrighted music named GLG by Interstreet Recordings. What was funny, the “song” was just silence and Lego clicking noises. Someone had taken the video’s entire audio track and uploaded it to DistroKid, which musicians use to distribute their songs. My video had just gone viral, and I was potentially losing hundreds of dollars every day. It wasn’t funny at the time. I made a dispute on YouTube Copyright Tool and wrote an explanation of the situation. In less than a day, the claim was released. No money was lost.

Email sent by YouTube after the claim was released.

The second claim I received was for my tank video. I had used a backing track music from another YouTuber with permission given in a YouTube comment. The copyright claim said the content name is Paradiso, and it is claimed by Adrev for Rights Holder. After some googling, I found the song. The song was a piece of music that used the same backing track I had used. I made a dispute, stating I had written permission from the copyright holder, and the claim was dropped in 3 days.

Two times I’ve received copyright claims for music on my Submarine videos. In both cases, I had permission from both the artist and the music producer. The claims were dropped after I informed the producer. I guess it is more convenient for them just to let the Content ID system trigger the claims and clear them afterward.

My Lego guitar video. got the first real claim. I had played a portion of Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water. Just the four chords from the beginning – not even in the original key, but in E-G-A fashion. One could say that doesn’t amount to copyright infringement, but I didn’t want to try my luck disputing it. Especially since the video says onscreen, “Smoke on the Water”. The video went into revenue sharing mode (identified as a cover song). But it stopped generating any revenue and RPM dropped to 0. Looks like it was sharing 100% of the ad revenue. After a few days, I turned off monetization. Surprisingly, it started to generate revenue again. The only difference is now 60% of revenue comes from YouTube Premium and the rest from ads. Usually, less than 5% comes from YouTube Premium.

RPM graph for the video. The claim was made in Jan 4th. Between Jan 4th and Jan 8th the video was in revenue sharing mode. After Jan 8th, monetization has been turned off.

My latest video got a claim for using the melody from DragonForce’s Through the Fire and Flames. The melody was played with beepy Lego guitar sounds and in a slower tempo, but the Content ID system caught it immediately after it was uploaded. It was identified as a cover song. I turned off monetization, and the video has generated revenue well so far. RPM is 0.8, roughly the average rate for my videos in January.

Monetization is turned off for my two guitar videos.

Final words

I hope this article made gave you some sense of the copyright issues. Making copyright reports is a little nuisance, but quite simple after you get a handle of it.

If you want to inform me about stolen content, feel free to send links using the comment section below or email or private Facebook messages.

My Youtube earnings

How much money I have made with my Lego YouTube channel? Let’s go through the YouTube Analytics. Whether you’re a colleague or an aspiring Youtuber, you may find this information valuable.

I started Brick Experiment Channel in December 2017 and got accepted to YouTube Partner Program in June 2018. Now, October 2022, the total earnings are 664 thousand USD. That is 12500 USD per month. This is the money Google sends to my bank account, from which I pay taxes.

Brick Experiment Channel total:
subscribers: 2.9 million
video views: 705 million
uploads: 65
total earnings: 664 000 USD
avg earnings per month: 12 500 USD
RPM: 0.94
Playback-based CPM: 3.20

A screenshot from YouTube Analytics.

An average video:
view count: 10.8 million
video length: 8 minutes
audience retention: 39%
impressions click-through rate: 5.9%
rating: 96.9%
likes: 138000
comments: 4400
shares: 20400
ad revenue: 10200 USD

Key numbers for my 20 most popular videos.

All YouTube earnings are from YouTube ads (and a small portion from YouTube Premium). I have never used Super Chat donations or any other monetization features. All ad types are enabled in video settings.

Outside YouTube, my revenue sources are small. I receive little amounts (less than 5% of total earnings) from Beyond The Brick, because they post my videos on Facebook. Another minuscule revenue stream is starting to come from BuildaMOC, because they sell a Lego kit I designed. I have never done sponsorship, affiliate links, received donations, or anything else.

Total expenses are 30400 USD (5% of earnings). That includes Lego parts (7600 USD) and other stuff like film equipment (22800 USD). Such a low expense comes from having a lean video production. I do everything myself: design Lego builds, film, edit, buy parts, do the accounting. No salary is paid to external people. I don’t belong to an MCN.

Total work time is roughly 6500 hours (100 hours per video). That makes my hourly rate 90 USD/hour.

How much “successful” Lego channels earn?

I analyzed over 100 Lego channels with more than 10k subs. I consider those creators successful. On average, they are 9 years old channels, they have 470k subs, 504 uploads, and 208 million views. They release one video per week that gets 410k views. If they have the same RPM as my channel, they earn 1800 USD of ad revenue per month for their efforts. Not bad, in my opinion.

Red marker is my channel.

But don’t think filming Lego will guarantee you high earnings. There are many, many creators who release Lego videos continuously and have no subs and get no views. Too many. Hundreds, maybe thousands of such creators. It is kind of heartbreaking to see people put so much time and effort for (supposedly) nothing.

My audience

My viewership consists of mostly middle-aged males. Top countries are United States, India and Russia.

How viewers find my videos

Most of the views (> 90%) come from YouTube homepage (browse features) and video suggestions.

Externally comes very little amount of traffic (0.5%). Mostly from Google search and Reddit /r/Videos.

Popular search terms leading to my content are Lego related.

Video suggestions come mostly from my own videos.

Little traffic (1.0%) from playlists also.


RPM is 0.94 on average. It has stayed about the same for the last 5 years.

CPM (and RPM) vary a lot between countries. When I see my RPM drop suddenly, it is usually because my videos are being watched a lot in India.

My most popular video

Making Lego Car CLIMB Obstacles is my most popular video with 81 million views. Audience retention is 70% at 30 second mark.

Observations from Excel graphs

I pulled data out of YouTube Analytics and crunched it in Excel. The sample size is small, only 65 videos in 5 years, so the data is noisy.

RPM seasonality. As you see, more ad revenue comes at the end of the year, close to Christmas. When the year changes, the rate drops suddenly.

Longer videos usually earn more money per view.

The lifetime of my videos is surprisingly long. Many are still watched a year after release.

Many key figures drop after release. I think the reason is that my fans watch new videos first, then later comes other random people.

Popular videos get disliked more.

People subscribe more likely if they watch video for a long time.

You would expect high click-through rate to lead to high view count. But correlation looks to be non-existing or slightly to the opposite. I think the reason is with causality going the other direction. When a video is shown to a large audience (high view count), those viewers are not Lego fans or technology enthusiasts, so they won’t click the thumbnail so often.

Download excel documents that include all raw data:
link or backup link

Any comments, questions?

Thoughts on Video Editing

I’ve been thinking about editing for the last 5 years. Not just thinking, also editing. Trying out what works. You may have noticed different editing styles in the 65 videos I have posted to my YouTube channel.

I know that’s not a massive load of experience, but I’ll share what I’ve learned.

My latest video project on Adobe Premiere Pro 2020.

At the beginning I watched many how-to videos on YouTube. Tried to find out what is a good edit. I soon realized there isn’t an answer. All the tutorials just explain what is a J-cut, L-cut or jump-cut, how to do transitions, or some tricks with Adobe Premiere. Those are all good to know, but the most important question is, when you should use those tools. No-one explains that, at least in clear rules you could follow.

The reason is, I think, that editing is a creative art, where there is no right or wrong. People have different tastes and opinions. For example in movies the director and producer often battle on who’s got the final cut. The same goes to music, paintings, or arts in general – there is no rule book that everybody follows and agrees on. But still, some songs/paintings/movies/videos are popular and some are not. In some vague way people’s tastes point to the same direction. I guess it is just too difficult to put into rules.

I read In the Blink of an Eye by film editor Walter Murch. He explains you should cut when you would blink, physically or metaphorically, after understanding what you saw. For example, if you were watching a person who drones on and on about the weather, you would blink very quickly, or maybe even turn your head to watch something else. But if the person says he has cancer, you would stare at him in disbelief. So the context matters. The length of a cut should depend on the context, and it should replicate what an average person would watch if he was standing next to the scene.

That’s kind of deepish. In layman’s terms, you need to know what the viewer wants.

Knowing what the viewer wants is difficult. The viewer sees the video for the first time. You as a video creator have seen it once while filming it, and another 10-100 times while editing it. You can’t remove your memories and become the viewer. At least easily. Mr Murch says he hopes the director takes a 2 week vacation to forget everything, and then comes back to watch the edit. I find 2 weeks to be too little. 6 months is better. I’ve watched my own videos 6 months after releasing them and immediately noticed what I did wrong. Too late to fix those videos, but good for improving your craft.

One of my better edits.


Pacing, timing, rhythm, the length of each cut. I find this to be the most important. How much time the viewer needs for understanding each cut?

In movies, the trend has been towards faster pacing. I had to check from a study that my observation is correct. In the last 100 years average shot duration has dropped from 12 to 5 seconds. Try to watch 60s westerns, like the dollar trilogy, today. Very sluggish pace. Viewers today like fast edits.

You can see it in YouTube as well. Popular YouTube creators like MrBeast, PewDiePie and Dude Perfect use very fast edits. Maybe 1-2 seconds for each cut. Even in Lego scene, that I follow more closely, there are newcomers like TD BRICKS and Brick Science who use a very fast editing style. That’s a new style among Lego videos, and it attracts a lot of views at the moment. Kudos to those editors. Cutting 10 minutes of such a fast paced video is a lot of work.

Of course, fast edits are not always needed. Long form content is also popular in YouTube. Hours long podcasts and live streams with little or no editing get a lot of views.

When I started out, I remember fiddling with the edit and watching the result over and over again. Is this cut better 10 frames (0.4 sec) shorter or 10 frames longer? I could happily edit a fast paced version of the video, only to find the next day that it feels jerky and difficult to follow. It’s baffling to see your own taste for rhythm change from day to day.

It hasn’t got much easier after 5 years. I can edit more routinely the bulk of the work, but still the pacing requires a lot of polishing. I often watch the work dozens of times to feel out what is good.

Here is an example of a video I released in two version. First a 2.5 hour version with no cuts (no visible cuts, because it was recorded in multiple sessions, but edited into a seamless flow).

Here is the same material re-edited into a very fast rhythm. It is full of jump cuts. I edited most of the material using 5 frames for every click or snap where two Lego parts are connected. In some places the pacing slows down to let it breath a little bit. This is perhaps the fastest rhythms I’ve done. Somebody even commented the edit is too fast to understand whats happening. Rarely I get commented on the editing style.

Another example is my latest video, 20 Mechanical Principles Machine. It showcases different Lego devices one after another, like in a list. The key decision was to determine how long each device should be shown, and from how many camera angles. I knew I wouldn’t be able to evaluate it properly after I’ve started editing, because by then I’ve become too familiar to the material. So, before I started, I watched similar videos on YouTube (luckily I found several) and wrote down what I felt in a notepad file. What I noticed, is that the viewer needs a lot of time to examine each mechanism and how it works. Also I noticed cutting to a different camera angle distracts the viewer. The best version I found was this video that uses about 15 seconds for each device with no cuts. Very slow pacing. So I used that as a model for editing. I think it worked well.

Some of my videos are uploaded (without permission) to TikTok and get millions of views. Those uploads are often played in 1.5x or 2x speed. I take that as a hint that my videos could be edited faster. Often when you edit your own material, you have a tendency to over-emphasize everything. You had tens of hours creating the Lego build, set up lighting, and film it from different angles. You think the viewer wants to know each precious detail. That leads to slow pacing and over-usage of camera angles.


Structure, form, the arch from start to finish. That is another important editing decision in your video. In a way, that is the video, in the most abstract way.

When I started out, I watched other popular Lego Technic YouTube videos. Many of them were like this. Title: 6-speed Lego gearbox. Length: 2 minutes. The audio is filled with pop music that is annoying and distracting. There are long texts on-screen explaining how the gearbox works. The video has no beginning or an end, no story, just a static showcasing of the finished build from different angles. You know it lacks story when you can start watching the video half-way through and it is just the same. My primary feeling was, why is this a video? This would be better in a web article with text and a few images.

What I learned from that is 1) don’t use background music, 2) show things visually rather than explain it with onscreen text, 3) make the video into a story. I have followed those points with some variations throughout the last 5 years.

The story can be done at least two ways with Lego videos. The first is a building/making video. You start with nothing, build one step at a time, and end with the finished thing. The video structure is chronological, straightforward and simple. An example is a Lego Tank video.

The second way is a development video. You start with an aim in mind, e.g. make the most powerful Lego hoist. In the video you test, make improvements, test again, make more improvements, and so on. You may end up with something useful, or you may not, but that is not the point. The development is the point, not the end result. This structure is almost like the first one, chronological, but the progress is not so straightforward, as it bounces between testing and improving, and there is usually no clear end. You could always continue the development further. I did these types of video especially in the beginning, for example the Lego hoist video.

Besides those, I’ve done a few simple list structures. Just put scenes after another with a common heading. For example: All 19 Lego Breaking Moments So Far or Requested Lego Experiments 4. There is no story involved. Because of that, each piece must be short to keep it interesting.

A montage is another structure type I’ve used, but only as a part of a video, usually at the end to showcase the result of a build. It contains just short clips after another in no particular order. Kind of like a music video – that is why I combine it with background music. An example is from the end of Submarine 2.0 video.

A development video bounces between testing and improving.

Eye trace

Eye trace, eye movement, where the viewer is looking at between cuts. This becomes important in fast edits. At worst, I’ve seen fast paced videos where a text appears on the right side of the frame, then something else happens on the left side, then a new text appears on the right side, and so it bounces around the frame. The viewer cannot keep up. Every time the position of interest changes, the viewer needs some time to catch up.

I usually don’t have to mind eye trace, because I use steady camera and the Lego build stays at a fixed position. The point of interest (new parts added to the build) stays at a certain area in a frame, usually at the center.

But in other times I need to mind it. One example is when I hold the thing I’m building in my hand and it moves around. What I do in those situations, I use a wide angle shot, zoom in 10%-50% in the editor, and pan x and y position after every cut so that the thing stays in place between cuts. A side effect of this is that the background will jump around between cuts, but that is a lesser evil than the point of interest jumping around. An example of this edit is here (if you look at the upper right corner, you see how the background changes between cuts).

Part of minimizing the eye trace problems is in filming it properly. Lego speed build video creators know this very well. The construction has to stay in place while building it. Otherwise it will move around the frame, and those movements will become more pronounced and distracting when the footage is sped up. Optimally the only changing pixels on screen are the new parts added on the build (and perhaps your moving hands), everything else stays frozen. To achieve that, I often attach the build to the table using a double-sided tape.

Your hands may also draw unnecessary attention. When I hold the build with my left hand, while adding new parts with my right hand, I try to keep the left hand in the same place during the scene. Otherwise, jump cuts will make the left hand move around and distract the viewer.

Change in orientation is one more thing to consider. Optimally the Lego construction should stay in the same orientation. But if you must to rotate it, the act of rotation should be included in the edit. Otherwise the audience won’t understand what happened. An example from the obstacle car video where the car is rotated two times in the middle of building.


Continuity editing, consistency between cuts. Whether it is time, space, colors, lighting, or acoustics, if the continuity is broken, the result is confusing to the viewer.

In my simple videos continuity is fairly easy to do, but sometimes it requires effort. The biggest problem is with the continuity of the construction I am building. Whatever I have built earlier in the video, should be present later on. Many times I’ve shot a video half-way through, only to notice I built it wrong. If it is a small mistake, barely noticeable, I may leave it that way. If it is a larger mistake, the only way is to re-shoot all the sections where the mistake is present. That means lost time and effort. Because of those mistakes, I nowadays usually make a proper prototype and test it extensively, before filming anything.

Then there are smaller continuity checks to be made while editing. For example, I need to fix white balance and exposure between cuts. Otherwise, if the grey background changes in exposure while doing jump cuts, it will flicker and draw unwanted attention. Sometimes I’ve shot scenes using auto-exposure in the camera settings, and that footage always needs extra effort to even out the exposure variations.

Check the audio volume levels and effects between cuts. For example, if the level of background noise changes between cuts, it is distracting. Or if I cut to a different microphone that has brighter sound (Rode NT1 vs Sennheiser MKE600), it may be distracting, and I need to apply equalizer effect to match the frequencies.

When cutting to a close-up shot, if the change in distance is too small (for example 10% zoom), it will look like an error. Or if the change is too large (300% zoom), the viewer doesn’t understand what happened. In other words, the displacements should be neither subtle nor total. The same principle, called the 30-degree rule, applies to changes in camera angles. In terms of audio, a close-up shot should have higher volume level (or better yet, recorded using a mic in closer distance), as that is what the viewer expects. Audio should match what you see.

Sometimes continuity is deliberately broken. When cutting to an onboard camera, the soundscape, perspective, colors and lighting will all change, and that is fine, since the viewer understands it is different. The same goes to cuts between scenes, for example from a building phase to a testing phase. Continuity can be broken, since we have moved into a different mental space.

Different cuts I use

I mostly use jump cuts (cut forward in time without changing camera angle). That is because my footage is often Lego building scenes that are long and they need to be shortened. Jump cuts are naturally jarring and disorienting. Because of that, they are rarely used in films. But I think they work in Lego building scenes, because the changes between jump cuts are small (given that the camera is steady and the build stays in place while Lego parts are added). Here is a video full of jump cut building scenes. Each cut is about 16 frames long, and the snap sounds of Lego parts connecting are 6 frames in.

Example of jump cuts. From audio waveform you see peaks when Lego parts are connected. Having the peaks spaced out evenly creates a more pleasant rhythm.

Sometimes, instead of jump cuts, I speed up the footage up to 4x or even 10x speed. This style was used often in my old videos, for example this Lego hoist video. That is one way to shorten the long building scenes. It is also easier to edit than jump cuts. But nowadays I think speed building has a bit rushed and unnatural feel, so I prefer jump cuts.

Dissolve is another cut I use often. Either Cross dissolve or Dip to Black. I usually put those to represent a transition from a scene to another, for example from a building phase to a testing phase (example). Dissolves take some time to finish, so you don’t want to use them often, as they will slow down pacing.

Cutting on action is another I have found useful when going from a full shot into a closeup, as the movement makes the cut easier to follow (example). One time I tried a cross cut between a cat and a bird, totally unrelated to the rest of the Lego video (example). A wipe transition I’ve used a few times (example) and push transition a few times (example).

Editing tricks

I’ve learned a few effects and tricks to spice up the editing. Here are my picks.

I transformed gear train into a wireframe at the end of Googol video. A lot of people asked how I did that. It was done with a Adobe Premiere effect called Find Edges that comes with the software. Very easy to use effect where you can adjust the amount of blend and invert colors. Funny how I later came across an old AC/DC music video that uses the same type of effect with gears rotating in the background. What a coincidence!

I used an Old West flashback in the card gun video. It is done with a canyon background image, gunshot sound, wooden plank with text, and a white-edged highlight. I copied the idea from Placeboing’s video.

A blurred zoom transition was used in the card gun video. It is done with Transform -effect where you set shutter angle to 360 and then increase/decrease scale using keyframes. I copied that idea from a Dude Perfect video.

Animated dotted lines has been in a couple of videos, last time in Submarine 4.0. That is done with a Write-on effect by changing brush position over time with keyframes.

Many times I need to extend the frame of the shot. For example, if I want to add text to the side, but the framing is too tight for that. That can be fixed without re-shoot, if the background is uniform color at the edge. Continue the area with a single-color rectangle, or put the same video on another layer with different xy position. Below is an example from Submarine 3.0 with and without the patch up.


A few times I have used anime speed lines. Here is an example. It is a kind of cheesy cartoon-like trick, but I like it. I create it using this overlay video. Just lay it on top and from Effect Controls panel set Opacity -> Blend Mode -> Screen. I copied the idea from Davie504’s video.

One time I did a stop motion animation scene, just to try it out. Lego stop motion is a big genre on YouTube. There are many tutorials on that, but here is how I did it. I had only one minifig moving, so it was very simple to do. The walking movement was done in 4 steps: 1) left leg forward and right hand forward, 2) legs and hands down, 3) right leg forward and left hand forward, 4) legs and hands down. Exposure auto-adjustment was turned off from the camera (otherwise the edited result would flicker). A steady camera recorded video (you could also take pictures). I started moving the minifig, and took my hands out of the frame for a second after each step was finished. In the editor I cut 2 frames from each step and put them into a series. Simple as that. Here is the result. In some parts I combined stop motion and actual video together. That was done with masking the footage frame by frame.

A fast zoom to a closeup has been used a few times. For example in the beginning of the spinning camera video and rock lift video. It is done simply by keyframing scale and position. By the way, Kubrick did something similar in Dr Strangelove.

Background music

I generally don’t use music. The audio is only silence and Lego building noises. That is because a lot of other Lego Technic video creators fill the audio with music and it feels annoying and distracting.

But sometimes I like add a little bit feeling and personality with music to the end of the video. This often gets divided comments among viewers, some like it and some not. The audience retention graph shows a portion of the viewers stop watching when the music starts playing. Maybe I should stop using music completely, as people don’t seem to like it. But that feels a bit monotone and boring to me. I think the right kind of music at the right place is ok, I just need to learn how to use it.

My current opinion is that a very low-key music is best, almost boring music if you listen the piece by itself. When you combine that with the picture, it will add to a nice balance. Otherwise, if you select a normal good song, it will draw attention too much, and distract from the rest of the video.

On-screen text

One little part of editing is adding on-screen texts. I try to avoid texts as much as possible and let the visual imagery explain what happens. But sometimes a name of a device or gear ratio or something other information needs to be added. The font types I use are Tahoma, Leelawadee UI, Verdana, Arial, Eras. All of those are sans-serif fonts, simple and easy to read on a small screen.

Arial narrow, white color font with reddish black stroke. Here the stroke is important in making the text readable, as the background is multicolored.

To ensure readability, I try to put the text on an “empty” area that has uniform color. If there is no such an area available, I will add thick strokes or shadows around the letters. The color for the strokes is often picked from the background, so that it blends to the image. The color of the actual font is usually either black or white, whichever provides enough contrast. Sometimes I do a more stylistic choice, and pick the font color from whatever else appears on screen. Readability is always the most important aspect of texts. It is a good practice the watch the video on a cell phone to make sure the font size is big enough.

Eras Bold ITC, red color font. More stylistic choice for font color.

Timing, how long the text should be displayed? That is difficult to know while you are editing. Afterwards I often think I used too quick timing, and therefore the viewer doesn’t have enough to time to read and understand the texts.

Take care of your fingers

This is not related to editing, but anyways. My videos often include closeups of my hands while I build Lego creations. If I have dry and cracked skin and nails, those will show in the videos and distract viewers from the actual content. This is an area where I have improved over the years. My fingers looked pretty bad in the old videos, but much better in the new ones. What I learned to do, is keep up the moisture. Skin and nails look immediately smoother with some extra moisture. I may simply pour water to my fingers and wipe them clean, just before a closeup shot, or apply hand lotion an hour before shooting.

Fingers from my latest video.

Building with Legos is of course hard on fingers and nails. I’ve learned not use nails for disassembling parts. Another thing I’ve tried out lately is a glass nail file to grind down edges of my nails, and cuticle oil. I think those help to keep the nails from cracking in the long run.

Lighting also makes skin look worse if it comes from a sharp angle and brings up all the grooves. Having more light from the direction of the camera helps in closeups.

My workflow

After I’ve shot a scene, I immediately edit the material. I move the files to my editing software, and edit the footage before I start to shoot the next scene. I’m proud to say Akira Kurosawa operated the same way. He used to shoot during the day and edit in the evening. One benefit of this routine is the possibility to quickly re-shoot shots. If I have problems with focus, overblown exposure, hand blocking a key shot, or whatever, I can shoot it again without needing to spend time setting up everything to their original state.

I use Adobe Premiere Pro 2020 as my editing software. The first thing after I import files to Premire, is put them in a separate sequence. For me that is always Sequence 01 because I don’t care about naming them. That sequence is for collecting all the raw footage and synchronizing them. Synchronizing is needed to match audio and video, because I record audio with a separate device. If there are multiple video files, they also need to be synchronized. At best I have had 4 video files for an experiment captured from different camera angles.

Next I cut it. I move the new footage from Sequence 01 to the main sequence. I look through the footage to see how it looks. If it is a long scene, I may do a rough cut first to select which pieces I need, and then a fine cut to adjust the pacing.

Then I adjust color. I use Lumetri Color effect. I may put the effect directly to each video clip, or use an Adjustment layer on top to fix color for multiple clips at the same time. In the effect settings I usually fix white balance first, then exposure, and finally add contrast, saturation, and lightness for whites/shadows if needed.

I often watch Lumetri scope with RGB Parade while I adjust colors and exposure. I’m so accustomed to that tool, that I often tune white balance based on those graphs, without much looking at the actual image.

Audio is often the last thing I check. I may fix audio levels for individual clips to keep even level during the entire video. I use Parametric Equalizer, Dynamic Processing, and some other effects on the audio tracks. More about those in the previous post.

After everything is shot and cut, is the tuning phase. I watch the result multiple times in different days and improve on pacing, exposure, audio levels. I often watch the entire thing once on my cell phone to see how it looks on a small screen. Can you read onscreen text? How the audio sounds through cell phone speakers where there is no low frequencies? I also listen to the video once with head phones. Is the panning ok? Is there too much background noise or annoying clicks somewhere?


Looking at my old videos, I can see many moments I would edit differently today. Some are clear mistakes, and others perhaps a change in taste. Here are my picks.

Lego tank video was done entirely with background music and 70s style yellowish colors and film scratches. Especially the background music annoyed many viewers, and people complained about it in the comment section. I think they were right. Those edits were a distraction that added nothing to the content. I later released the same video again without music and filters.

Requested Lego Experiments 1 had a robot voice reading texts. I got that idea while watching Memenade that uses a robot voice to read out memes. Many of my viewers didn’t like that. Once again, the comment section was filled with complaints. So, I released the video again without voice-over.

100 Wheel Lego Vehicle. The structure is all over the place. First a long speed building scene with no cuts or closeups, kind of boring. Then a short stop motion animation that had little to do with the subject of the video. Then driving around with on-board camera, which was ok. At the end a Halloween scary reveal of the driver’s face. This video didn’t know what it was supposed to be.

Playing Card Lego Gun starts with showcasing the end result, and follows with the building and development phase. If I look at YouTube Analytics audience retention graph, I see a lot of viewers stop watching at 20 second point. I guess revealing the result at the beginning spoils the story.

Steel axle video has unnecessary switching between two camera angles in a few of the test scenes. It makes it more difficult to follow without adding anything new.

Also in steel axle test video, there is a short emotional scene smashing fists on the table. So fake and cringy.

Many of my videos has too fast pacing, especially with on-screen text. One example is in Lego tank video. The texts go away too quickly to understand them.

Gearbox video had in many places (example) a cut to a closeup and a jump cut at the same time. That feels slightly jarring. Today I would probably keep time continuity and only cut to a closeup.

The first two videos (example) were not white balanced properly. They have slightly reddish tint.

All of my first year videos (example) have an ugly stereo audio from using two microphones. Pronounced if you listen with headphones.

Successful edits

After listing mistakes, let’s pick good edits. Those videos that I’m proud of watching today.

Can Lego BREAK a Steel Axle? I like the pacing of this video. Even the usage of background music at the end fits well to the content.

Making Lego Car CROSS Gaps. A well balanced structure from start to finish, and a good fast pacing.

Engines 2 video. Another well balanced video.

Spinning a Lego Wheel Fast BY HAND

Submarine 4.0

My theory for good videos

I’ve formed a theory for making good videos, an abstract rule that fits my way of thinking. That is based on information. As a video maker, I am trying to pass information into the heads of the viewers. The information includes how a Lego build was made, how it works, what were the problems, what principles were involved. Other things don’t matter, like stunning visual effects, getting people excited, showing off my skills, marketing my channel, promotion, or anything else. Just passing information. Ok, I might occasionally put in a nice visual shot for the sake of it, but at least 95% of the time it is just about passing information.

When you pass information, the main criteria are clarity and speed. You want to pass the information as accurately and without misunderstanding, and as quickly as possible. These criteria affect everything from filming, framing, lighting, to editing. First you frame the shot properly, with an angle that gets all the details the viewer needs to see. Usually that is an angled bird’s-eye view, as opposed to shots straight from the side. You try to light it so that every part is well lit and the subject looks 3-dimensional and with enough contrast. You remove any unnecessary stuff from the background to simplify information flow. You use a single colored background that is different color from the subject, to improve clarity and differentiation. You edit the material as fast a pacing as possible, while it still is comprehensible. You use eye tracing principles to make the cuts smooth and easy to follow. You cut out any unnecessary footage, derailed observations not related to the main idea, and other complexity from the video. You record noiseless clear audio where every sound is distinguishable, and don’t hide it under background music. In short, every decision should be determined by the information flow.

Final words

I think editing is the most important part in making videos. At least in my videos. Filming, lighting and audio are also important, but editing is number one. Not just because it takes the most time – about 25-50% of my video production is spent in editing. But also because editing has maybe the biggest effect on how good the video will be. Editing creates the rhythm, tone and excitement of the piece. Also, in a personal level, editing is the most fulfilling part of the process, because there you see your creation come to life.

Thanks for reading, and good luck with your own edits. Any comments, feel free to add them below.

My audio equipment

I own three microphones and two sound recording devices.

With this equipment I’ve captured Lego building noises for my YouTube videos in the last 5 years. I rarely use music in my videos, instead I try to capture authentic soundscapes with little background noise or reverberations. Besides Lego sounds, I’ve recorded outdoors ambient nature sounds, underwater sounds, and for example sounds on-board a Lego centrifuge.

Audio-Technica AT2020

The first microphone I bought 15 years ago was Audio-Technica AT2020. It cost around 90 EUR.

This is a condenser microphone (as are all my mics). The audio quality is quite good in my opinion. It has a little bit more background noise compared to the Rode NT1, but generally very low amount of noise. The polar pattern is cardioid, so it will pick sound from front and sides. Despite the old age, it still works just fine, so it seems to be very durable. I used this mic in my videos for a long time until a year ago Rode NT1 replaced it.

Sennheiser MKE 600

The second mic I bought 5 years ago was Sennheiser MKE 600. This is a shotgun mic and it cost 300 EUR.

The long and narrow form is a big benefit, as this mic fits on a camera. I often attach it on my Sony AX43 when I shoot outdoors or other places outside my normal work table. The polar pattern is narrow, so it will block noises outside the direction of the subject, which can help in limiting room reverberations. There is a low-cut switch button on top of the mic to filter out low frequencies. I have used that button many times, for example in windy conditions to prevent distortion. The audio quality is good – noise level is about the same as AT2020.

Rode NT1

A year ago I bought Rode NT1. It cost 270 EUR. The purpose was to update my old AT2020 with a similar mic that has less noise.

This is very much like the AT2020. Both are condenser microphones, physical size is similar, and the polar pattern is cardioid. The biggest difference is with noise level. I have measured NT1 to have about 10 dB less background noise compared to AT2020 and MKE600. That is a noticeable improvement. No need to add DeNoise filter in Premiere for this mic. The sound is also brighter compared to AT2020 and especially MKE600, so in post processing I usually need to filter out high frequencies a little bit more than normally.

Zoom H5

My first audio recording device was Zoom H5. It cost 315 EUR, so a fairly expensive device (perhaps too expensive for the purpose). After 5 years, I still use it today.

This device supports 48V Phantom Power, which all my microphones require. It has two XLR input sockets, so you can record stereo audio using two external mics. Volume for each microphone can be adjusted conveniently with the knobs on the front. The device also has a stereo microphone on top, but I have never really used it, only done a quick test to notice it has more noise than my other mics. The display shows volume level indicators that are handy in checking that everything is working before you start recording. The settings are easy to use, no problems there. Files are stored in an SD-card that is entered to the side. You can run the device with batteries, but I keep it always on DC power. In terms of audio quality, I’m pretty sure it is good enough for any mic, meaning the quality depends only on the mic you use, not the recording device.

Zoom H1n

The second audio recording device I bought was Zoom H1n. This little device cost only 80 EUR. The aim is to use it as a small travel recorder when shooting outdoors or other places where I don’t want the big setup of H5, two mics, and cables.

The device is conveniently small and you can attach it on top of my Sony AX43 camera. It records stereo audio with the integrated X/Y microphone on top. Audio quality is a little bit disappointing, as it produces more noise than any of my other mics, and you need to filter the noise in post-processing. But, it is a cheap device, so you can’t expect high quality. The record button isn’t the best, as I have at least two times noticed later that it failed to start recording. Now I always look at the red indicator after pressing the button to make sure it is recording.


I have three foam covers and one dead cat.

The foams protect from little gusts of air, but they are not enough in high wind situations. When I shot my 88 kg rock lift video outdoors, it happened to be a very windy day. I put foam covers on my AT2020 and MKE600, and even knit winter caps on top of the foams, but that was not enough. The audio was partly blown out, as you can hear from the video.

The dead cat windscreen is Zoom WSU-1 and it fits on my Zoom H1n. It does a little bit better job than the foams, but not much. Because protecting against wind is so difficult, I usually try to avoid filming in such weather.

Shock mounts

I have four shock mounts to protect against vibrations and handling impacts.

The big one on the left is Rode SM6 and I use it to mount Rode NT1. The one on lower right is Audio-Technica AT8458, and it fits on AT2020. The one on top is Movo SMM1 and I use it often to mount MKE 600 shotgun mic on my Sony AX43 camera. The little one on right is Sennheiser MZS 600, which also can be used to mount the MKE 600, but it does a little bit worse job than the Movo.


I have one big microphone stand: K&M 27105. It cost 37 EUR. Although this is a mic stand, I have mostly used it as a lighting stand, as it reaches to places my other straight lighting stands won’t. I have even put a camera on it a few times to film Lego builds straight from above.

I have a bunch of mini stands for microphones, LED lights and cameras. I have 5 gorillapods/monkeypods that are always good versatile stands. Manfrotto PIXI is very sturdy little tripod with a terrific ball socket on top. Benro BK15 is another one I use often, as it can be adjusted heightwise between 50…100 cm, although it is quite flimsy and falls easily. I have 3 pieces of K&M 232BK stands that are heavy and sturdy. Black Eye Filming Handle Tripod is not very good IMO, as you need to turn the rod to adjust height, and your camera will spin also.


I have four XLR cables to connect the mics to the recording devices. Two 3 meter cables and two 1 meter cables. Below is an image of the shorter ones.

Noise tests

Just out of curiosity, I did a quick measurement on the noise level between my microphones. The measurements were done in my quiet storage room. The volume level was normalized between mics by making noises of similar intensity and looking from the Zoom H5 intensity bars that the volume level is the same. The results are only indicative. I recorded silence with the mics and analyzed the result with Cool Edit Pro 2.1 Frequency Analysis tool. Frequency is on the x-axis between 20-20000 Hz and sound intensity is on the y-axis between -50…-120 dB.

On the graph you see Audio-Technica AT2020 and Sennheiser MKE 600 have virtually the same amount of noise. Zoom H1n is the worst, having about 10 dB more noise. Rode NT1 is the best, having about 10 dB less noise than AT2020 in middle and high frequencies.

The environment

One big aspect of recording audio is the environment where you operate. I record my videos mostly in a small storage room that is very quiet. The room has clothes piled on the shelves and jackets hanging from a rail, which dampen the echoes effectively. There is very little reverberations, only a little bit of low booming reverb because of the plasterboard shelves and walls. It is a good environment to record quiet Lego building noises. For example this 2.5 hour Lego building video is recorded in that space.

My recording room. The yellow profile foam is from an old mattress. Outside the picture on the left and right are clothes.

I have used this same storage room from the beginning. In fact, I selected this environment precisely for it’s acoustics. Otherwise it isn’t very good, as there is too little space for setting up lighting and camera angles, and I have to walk to a different room to edit videos. But in terms of audio quality, it is good.

Other rooms in my apartment have a lot of echos. I’ve shot a few videos (for example Googol gear train and 20 Mechanical Principles) entirely in my living room. They all have this spacious echoey acoustics, which isn’t particularly good. In those videos I used my shotgun mic close (30 cm) to the subject to limit the amount of echoes, but it improved the result only a little.

When I shoot outdoors, the nature soundscape creates a totally different vibe (example video). Lego building sounds disappear under the nature sounds, but that is fine, since I don’t make long building sessions there. Underwater soundscape is another completely different world (example video_1, example video 2). As is onboard camera sounds on a Lego car (example video) or a spinning centrifuge (example video). In those situations the audio becomes a big part of the video and creates an authentic, visceral experience.

Microphone setups

Here are a few examples how I’ve used my microphones. This first image is from my early videos. In green circles you see AT2020 on the left side and MKE600 on the right side. Both mics are about 40 cm distance to the center of the building table. Because they are positioned to the extreme opposite sides, forming a stereo sound from them results in a weird 3D sound. Kind of annoying if you listen with headphones. You can listen an example in this wheel spinning video.

This image is from my current setup. In green circles you see MKE600 on the left side and Rode NT1 on the right side. Distances from the table are 90 cm and 60 cm. Most often I use the Rode NT1 audio to create a mono sound. An example of this is from the Submarine 4.0 video building scenes. But sometimes I have felt the MKE600 is better with softer sounds, so in my Vacuum Pump video I used only that. You should hear some background noise as I didn’t use DeNoise filter.

This image is from my living room shooting the longest gear train video. MKE600 shotgun mic is located 30 cm away from the build. That is the only mic used in the video. You can hear some reverb for every click and snap from the spacious living room.

Example from Submarine 4.0 test scene. Audio is recorded using Zoom H1n with a foam windscreen attached. It is placed as close to the water container as it can be without being in the shot.

Recording settings

I use MP3 320kbps as the file format for Zoom H5. In the beginning I always selected the maximum quality, which is WAV 92kHz/24bit. But a year ago I questioned, what am I doing here? No-one can hear the difference. With MP3 320kbps I get 14x smaller file sizes, or about 150 MB for every hour or stereo audio, and the quality is virtually the same. Since then I have used mp3.

Zoom H5 main display. 320kpbs file format and 48V phantom power are in use. The file name reveals I’ve done 1716 recordings with the device.

For the volume level I usually clap my hands and see how high the intensity bars go, and try to adjust volume knobs until the peak is at -12 dB. That leaves 12 dB of overhead, which is in theory 4 times louder, but is perceived by the ear a little bit less than that. For the two microphones, I usually set higher volume for the close-up mic and lower volume for the farther away mic. That way, if there are loud scenes that will distort the sound for the close-up mic, I can use the other one. Finding proper volume level requires a little bit trial and error. Too high volume leads to distortion and too low volume leads to noise. Both can be somewhat fixed in post-processing, as I have used Audacity’s Clip Fix and Adobe Premiere’s DeNoise with some success.


After I’ve done filming a scene, I import the video files and audio files to my editor program (Adobe Premiere Pro 2020). The first thing I do is synchronize the files. That is because I have two files: a video file (that includes audio from the camera mic) and an audio file (quality audio from a separate recording device). Usually I have pressed record button at the same time, so the files start about the same time, but not precisely at the same time. I often clap my hands together after I’ve pressed record to help synchronizing them, especially if it is a quiet scene. So, in the editor I will look at the first peak sound (hand clap) that is visible in both files audio waveform graph, and I will move the clips along the timeline until they are synchronized. The clips move at 1 frame increments, which means the result may be 0.5 frames (20 ms) out of sync, but I’ve noticed that is good enough and you cannot perceive the error.

Synchronizing video and audio.

The next thing is to organize audio tracks. I usually use 3 to 8 audio tracks for different purposes. Below is an example from my latest video. Audio track 1 is reserved for video audio that is muted. Track 2 is for scenes where I showcase different mechanical principles made from Lego. Track 3 is for scenes where I do Lego building. Track 4 is for the final machine testing. Track 5 is speed up footage for the final machine. Track 6 is for background music.

The finished main sequence for my latest video: 20 Mechanical Principles.

After organizing, I’ll add effects. This is done in Adobe Premiere’s Audio Track Mixer.

Audio Track Mixer panel for my latest video.

The first effect I always add to the end of the Master track is a Hard Limiter. I’ll use otherwise default settings but set the maximum amplitude to -1 dB. The purpose is to cut peaks, such as Lego clicks and snaps that can be noisy and make the audio distort. Usually the audio doesn’t reach that level, so the limiter rarely does anything, but it is a habit to put it there. Sometimes when I notice an annoyingly loud click that I want to quiet down, I’ll add a Hard Limiter effect directly on that particular audio clip and set for example -12 dB setting to it, which resolves the problem nicely.

Hard limiter effect.

The next thing is panning. Usually I use Fill Right with Left or Fill Left with Right effects that will just take one of the stereo tracks and use that to create a mono sound. Basically this selects which microphone I want to use, since I often record with two mics. In my old videos I didn’t use panning at all, which resulted in an ugly stereo effect, especially when listened with headphones, because the mics were positioned to the extreme left and right side of the subject. Later I started to use a Stereo Expander effect with 50% narrow setting to combine the stereo tracks into a slightly centered mono sound. But now I’ve gone to pure mono sound. If I record outside with Zoom H1n, then I use stereo sound, but otherwise it is mono.

Panning effects are on the top row.

If the audio has too much background noise, I might add a DeNoise effect. I put the Amount setting to a very small value like 2% or 5%, which is enough to cut about half of the noise. I don’t want to overdo it, since it will affect real sounds. I rarely use the DeNoise effect, because my mics are good, but especially with the H1n recorder when used in quiet indoor situations, you can hear the hissing noise.

DeNoise effect.

I always add a Parametric Equalizer filter. I usually want to cut down high frequencies (above 2000 Hz) because the microphone is positioned very close (40 cm) to the subject and that makes the Lego clicking sounds too bright and in-your-face. Also, if I record in my storage room, I usually cut low frequencies (below 150 Hz) because it has wooden shelves and a wooden table that cause booming sounds here and there. Sometimes rarely I put a narrow notch filter on certain frequency to cut a noise that comes from my adjustable power supply for example. I have also used DeHummer for that same purpose.

Parametric Equalizer effect on my latest video.

Another effect I always add is a Dynamic Processing effect. That is used to compress the audio to even out quiet and loud parts. In my old videos I used heavy compressing, like 3:1 ratio, but later I’ve come down to 1.5:1. I think it sounds more natural that way. In Settings tab I always increase Look-Ahead Time to 10 ms and bring down Gain Processor Attack Time to 5 ms. That is because otherwise the compressor won’t be fast enough to react to sudden clicks, so they will sound too loud.

Dynamic Processing effect on my latest video.

The last thing is to adjust volume levels. I usually aim for -12 dB in continuous loud parts. In the beginning I used much louder overall volume level, but I’ve come down as I think my videos should have a low-key atmosphere. Adjusting the volume needs to be done for audio tracks and sometimes for individual audio clips. Similar scenes should have a similar volume level. This is a phase that always requires some work. I may listen the complete video once with headphones and once with a cell phone or tablet to hear how it sounds. Besides the volume, I may adjust the effects. When listening with headphones, all details like the background noise may come a problem, so I may need to add e.g. a DeNoise filter. With a cell phone, the sound becomes brighter, and low frequencies are lost, so I may want to adjust the Parametric Equalizer.

Finished waveform for my latest video. Volume level varies between scenes. Viewed with Cool Edit Pro 2.1.

That is all the processing I do in Adobe Premiere. I also have an old audio editor called Cool Edit Pro 2.1, which I still use sometimes for frequency analysis and other thing. And some times I’ve used Audacity for it’s Clip Fix effect, for fixing overblown audio e.g. from the SQ12 camera footage.

My lighting equipment

I own 2 big LED panels, 3 small LED panels, one ring light, and several light bulbs.

At the beginning of my Youtube channel I didn’t care much about lighting. I thought camera is the only thing that matters. If the camera has good low-light performance (big sensor), I won’t need much extra lighting. Well, I was wrong. I shoot videos mostly indoors where extra lighting is needed to reduce noise in the image. Also, with different lighting setups you can make the subject look 3-dimensional and emphasize details. Now, 5 years later, I think lighting is as important or even more important thing than the camera you use.

Ledgo LG-B160C

The first light I bought was Ledgo LG-B160C. This little LED panel cost 100 EUR. Later I bought two more of the same lights, one of which broke and I threw it away. I use these often as fill lights, close to the subject.

I like the concept of this light. The size is perfect for a small light. The square shape means it stays upright on its side if needed. It can output 1180 lumens, which is ok amount. Intensity and color temperature can be adjusted with two knobs that control 3200K and 5400K LEDs. Figuring out the actual temperature is a bit of a guesswork – I don’t have a measurement device, do I’ll just use my eyes see if it’s right. The biggest complaint is for the physical quality. The blue knobs come off very easily (and then drop under the table and you spend time looking for them). The DC-power input socket malfunctions sometimes and you need to wiggle the plug. One of the lights stopped working completely, probably because of the DC-input socket.

Yongnuo YN-160 III

Another small light I bought at the beginning was Yongnuo YN-160 III. It cost 57 EUR.

This one has reflective barndoors, which I suppose should be used to direct/block light somehow, but I’ve regarded them as pretty useless. Output power is 1536 lumens. Color temperature can be adjusted between 3200K-5500K. On paper this is a little bit better than the Ledgo LG-B160C, but I don’t like the buttons. There is one turn knob and four digital buttons to adjust power and temperature, needlessly complicated. When you turn off the device, the intensity and color settings are lost, I think, or you need to press the set-button to restore them. Anyway, a little bit clumsy to work with. Therefore I rarely use it.

Ledgo LG-E268C

I have two big Ledgo LG-E268C LED panel that are my main light sources. I bought them 250 EUR a piece.

The physical quality looks and feels good. The panels are lightweight (1 kg) which helps in handling them. The buttons are easy to use, one knob for adjusting intensity and another for adjusting color temperature. Color temperature can be adjusted between 3200-5600K and you can see the current Kelvin value in a small display at the back. Illumination is 2165 lumens. Both of the panels have worked for four years without problems. I can’t see any complaints.

GoDox LR120

GoDox LR120 is the only ring light I have. I bought it for creating softer shadows compared to my other small lights. It cost 60 EUR.

The light feels very cheap, e.g. the bottom angle adjustment screw in completely made from plastic. Adjusting intensity and color are done with two buttons that you need to press multiple times to get to the wanted setting – not very usable. But it does the job, creates soft shadows and provides colors between 3000-6000K. Despite the drawbacks, I use it often.

Godox SL-60W

At one point I wanted a big powerful light. I bought Godox SL-60W studio light with 165 EUR. It was a big disappointment.

The light outputs 4500 lumens at a fixed 5600K color temperature. Otherwise good, but there is a noisy fan that is always spinning. I want to capture quiet Lego clicking sounds, so the fan noise it often too loud. Because of that, I’ve used the light only once in my videos.

LED bulbs

For providing light without expensive LED panels, I’ve bought light bulbs. I found cheap home LED light bulbs from a Finnish hardware store Motonet. They provide 2000 lumen at 4000K and they don’t flicker in slow motion. A bag of two cost only 7 EUR. I bought 6 bulbs. To power the bulbs I use Falcon Eyes LH-27SU lamp holder that mounts on spigot light stands, and it also has an umbrella holder. It cost 20 EUR. Finally, I’ve attached a DiCUNO 2-in-1 E27 splitter adapter to power two bulbs on a single lamp holder.

I’m very pleased with these bulbs. They are cheap and they provide a lot of light. One bulb illuminates as much as one of my big LED panels (Ledgo LG-E268C). Also, the bulbs are small compared to LED panels, which is a benefit sometimes. They warm up in use, but not so much as to burn your hand if you touch it.

As these LED bulbs are not intended for photography, their CRI is less than 80. In comparison, my main LED panels (Ledgo LG-E268C) have CRI over 95. There is a difference in color quality between CRI 95 and 80, but it is not very easy to see in my opinion. I have shot videos with nothing but the low CRI bulbs, and the result is good enough for my little Lego builds. The biggest difference I’ve seen is the slight greenish tint on the bulbs. Usually it is small enough to not matter, but in my Lego engines video I got frustrated that the gray engines had a different tint on different sides, so I added a green paper stripe on one of the small LED panels to even out the difference.


I have two umbrella diffusers: Falcon Eyes UR-32T and Falcon Eyes UR-48T. Diameter for these is 70 cm and 100 cm and they cost 20 EUR and 25 EUR. Besides those I have a white shower curtain that I’ve used as a big diffuser.

I have also an A4 paper sheet to soften one of my Ledgo LG-B160C lights. I need it often as Lego plastic is shiny and causes unwanted reflections that a diffuser like this helps to minimize a little bit. In the image below you see a green paper stripe attached on the panel to add a green tint that will match the color of my LED bulbs.

Light stands

I have 2 pieces of Manfrotto 5001B Nano Stand. These telescopic light stands extend up to 160 cm height. They cost me 45 EUR a piece. They have worked well, no complaints.

Besides those I have a bunch of mini stands for LED lights, cameras and microphones. I have 5 gorillapods/monkeypods that are always good versatile stands. Manfrotto PIXI is very sturdy little tripod with a terrific ball socket on top. Benro BK15 is another one I use often, as it can be adjusted heightwise between 50…100 cm, although it is quite flimsy and falls easily. I have 3 pieces of K&M 232BK stands that are heavy and sturdy. Black Eye Filming Handle Tripod is not very good IMO, as you need to turn the rod to adjust height, and your camera will spin also.

Light bulb flickering tests

I have tested a bunch of home light bulbs to see if they flicker in 1000 FPS slow motion videos. The bulbs were bought from normal hardware stores in Finland. Here are the results:

  • Incandescent Osram 60W – FLICKERS A LOT
  • Fluorescent Philips TL-D G13 18W 2700K 1350lm – FLICKERS A LOT
  • Fluorescent IKEA es0807g11 E27 11W 2700K 550lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
  • Fluorescent Osram Duluxstar E27 14W 2700K 750lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
  • LED ENERGY+ GU10 4.9W 2700K 345lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
  • LED Motonet suurteholamppu E27 47W 3000K 4000lm – FLICKERS A LITTLE
  • LED Pirkka E27 9.4W 2700K 806lm – NO FLICKER
  • LED Airam E27 20W 4000K 2452lm – NO FLICKER
  • LED Motonet E27 20W 4000K 2000lm – NO FLICKER

Looks like LED light bulbs are better than fluorescent or incandescent light bulbs. Among LED bulbs, some flicker a little and some not at all. I couldn’t find any public information that will tell you which LED bulb flickers. The only way to know is to test it. I guess it depends on the AC/DC converter inside the LED bulb.

Fluorescent Philips TL-D G13 in 40x slow motion. This was the largest flicker in my tests.
LED Motonet E27 20W 4000K 2000lm in 40x slow motion. No flickering.

What is a good lighting setup?

I’ve done over 60 videos with many lighting setups, but still today, every time I start a new video, I’m struggling with the lighting. It feels like doing it for the first time. In other things like editing, camera usage and audio quality I’ve learned how to do them better over the years, but not lighting.

Usually I will just move the lights around, look at the camera image, move again, and stop when the camera image looks good. It takes a lot of trial and error.

Although I haven’t been able to form any clear principles, something vague I have noticed. If all the light comes from the direction of the camera (e.g. a ring light around the camera), usually the image looks flat, not good. Or if it is completely backlighted, it isn’t good. What is usually good is a key light at an angle, to paint different sides of a Lego brick with different shades. That makes the subject look multidimensional. Also, soft light is usually better than hard light. And with Lego wheels specifically, a very sharp angle is usually best as it will create shadows on the wheel’s surface and bring out all the details.

Here is an example of different lighting setups. You can form your own opinion what is good.

Front light.
Back light.
Soft light from above.
Hard light from above.
Key light.
Key light and fill light.
Key light, fill light and back light. Standard three-point lighting.


One problem with lighting Lego builds is reflections. Lego plastic is shiny and it will reflect the light sources. Reflections will change the color of the Lego parts to white and distract the viewer. To fix it, you can move the light position, camera position, or put the subject to a different orientation. Sometimes I’ve used a black A4 paper to block lighting from certain direction to fix a reflection.

Example of reflections on a Lego mechanical press.

But reflections are not always a bad thing. Here is an example, a black Lego build on a dark background. The only way I could emphasize it, so that the viewer sees the details, was to hold the piece at a certain angle to fill the entire piece with a shiny reflection.

From Googol video.

Lighting setups in my videos

This setup I used in my early videos. Two big Ledgo LG-E268C panels lighting from top left and top right. A small Ledgo LG-B160C light is moved around, usually placed between my hands while I build things to illuminate from low front direction.

The longest 1:1 gear train. Two Ledgo LG-E268C panels are at the sides to illuminate the subject from almost perpendicular angle. They also bounce off light from the ceiling to soften shadows. As you see from shadows on the hand, a key light is on the right side. A ring light is behind the camera to add more light from the front direction.

Filming a Lego car climbing slopes. Two big Ledgo LG-E268C panels, one small Ledgo LG-B160C light and a ring light.

Making a Lego car cross gaps. Four 2000 lm bulbs illuminate from above. A ring light is near the camera at the table level. Outside the image on the right side there is a single bulb at the table level. One aim with this setup was to limit shadows from the car on the white table.

Spinning a Lego wheel fast. A key light is done with two 2000 lm bulbs with an umbrella diffuser and an A4 paper in the middle to further soften (and dimm out) the light. A fill light is Godox ring light. The small Ledgo light acts as a sidelight or backlight and it’s purpose is to illuminate the edge of the wheel.

Submarine 4.0 in a water container. Here the problem was to illuminate the inside of the container. I added two 2000 lumen light bulbs right above to container, passing light through the water surface. One little fill light was added to the front. It needed to be at certain angle on the side to remove any reflections from the container.

This is my latest video. Two light stands with umbrella diffusers and a double 2000 lumen LED light bulb. The light comes from both sides, almost perpendicular to the subject. The front side of the subject is in shadow, which adds a nice 3-dimensional quality on it, which can be seen well on the grey gear rack at the front of the build. A lot of light is bounced off from the ceiling and walls to soften shadows. The bounced light from the wall makes a reflection on the table, painting the table with a light tint, which nicely differentiates it from the dark Lego machine.

Here is my building table currently. Two bulbs, two big panels, one small panel, and a ring light.

My cameras

I own 3 main cameras, 3 supporting cameras, and 4 mini cameras. I have shot 60 Lego videos for YouTube with these cameras in the last 6 years.

The cameras have been used steady and handheld, indoors and outdoors, slow motion and time lapse, underwater, extreme macro closeups, mounted on Lego machines, etc. But most of the time they capture the construction of Lego builds, which are close distance (~30 cm), indoors (with additional LED lighting), and steady (on a camera stand).

Filming the longest 1:1 gear train video with Sony AX43.

Canon 6D

The first camera I bought for shooting Lego videos was Canon 6D. It cost 1500 EUR (too expensive for a first camera!). Together with it I bought a 500 EUR zoom lens: Canon EF 24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM. This couple I used as my main camera setup for a long time.

The image quality is great, the best of any camera I have. The camera settings are easy to use, as there is a separate physical button for most features. The biggest negative side is the shallow depth-of-field, which I think is primarily caused by the big full-frame sensor. I shoot most of the time in close distance to the subject, which makes the problem worse. To compensate it, I usually increase aperture to f/9, but then I’ll have to also increase ISO and allow more noise in the image. Second problem is the minimum focus distance (about 35 cm) for the lens. That is too long for some close-ups I would like. Also, the camera is too heavy for monkey pods and other mini stands. For those reasons, I rarely use it anymore.

Sony RX100 V

My second camera is Sony RX100 V, a compact camera. It cost 1000 EUR.

The main reason for buying this are the slow motion features, which are quite unique I think. It can shoot up to 1000 FPS video for 4 seconds at a decent resolution (1136×384). I have used that slow-mo feature many times in my videos. It has really paid off.

Besides the slow-mo, the camera is good in other ways. The auto-focus features are the best among my cameras, and I use them sometimes, even though manual focus is usually enough for me. The small physical size of the camera is a big benefit when finding different angles to shoot. One little practical problem is that you cannot get the SD card out when the camera is screwed on a camera stand. I usually have to carry the camera to my computer and upload the files via USB. Also, the zoom position is lost every time the camera is turned off. For those two reasons, and the fact that I usually want the same camera position and framing over several days of shooting, this camera is a bit laborious to use compared to the others.

Sony AX43

Sony FDR-AX43 is my main camera today. I bought this camcorder 2 years ago with 760 EUR.

The original idea was to use it only for handheld shots, e.g. when filming outside, as the camera has a great stabilizer and a very smooth zoom button. But the camera turned out so good, that I’ve used it for everything else. The biggest benefit compared to the others, is that the minimum focus distance is only 1 cm. That really helps when shooting close-ups of Lego parts. Also, the zoom range is so large (20x optical zoom) that you can do pretty much any shot with it. Very versatile.

The biggest complaint are the settings. For some reason you cannot manually set shutter speed, aperture and ISO all at once. Only one of the three can be set to fixed position and the other ones go back to auto mode. To make it more confusing, aperture is called Iris and ISO is replaced with exposure and AGC limit functions. Often I fix shutter speed to get the amount of motion blur I want, but then exposure will auto-adjust when I move my hand onscreen and I have to even out the brightness in editing.

Supporting cameras

Canon Legria HF200 I use to capture tachometer readings and for other little supporting camera work. Good, easy-to-use little camcorder. It is 10 years old and the battery is dead, so I have to keep it on DC power.

I also have GoPro HERO 6 and 8. I use them mostly for underwater filming. The main benefit is the small size and waterproofing up to 10 meters of depth. Also, stabilization is pretty good so you can shoot things handheld.

Sometimes I have used GoPro 6 as a second camera for indoor shooting, but the image quality is a bit noisy due to the small sensor. Also, the minimum focus distance is 30 cm, so I have to use a close-up filter.

GoPro 6, an adapter ring and a 52 mm +4 close-up filter.

One little complaint I want to point out is the file naming. Those who implemented GoPro, what were they thinking? GoPro files are named for example GH010054.MP4 where the first number (01) is the multi-file part number and the second number (0054) is the actual recording session number. That is the opposite of what anybody else does. The least significant running number should be in the end. So, if you shoot long videos that are split to multiple 4GB files, they are organized like hell in any file listing. Not the end of the world, but very annoying.

Mini cameras

I have SQ12, Kean Mini Camera with WiFi, Faironly Firefly Q6, and RunCam 5.

SQ12 is the smallest one (24x24x26mm) and it weights only 17g. It is very durable, as I have spinned it 5400 RPM and put under 100 G-force without problems. On the negative side, the resolution is only 720p, auto-exposure works in visible steps, and the audio distorts very easily. But you can’t expect quality for such a small camera. Pro tip: you can open the camera, scratch off glue from the lens, and then rotate the lens to adjust focus for close-up shots.

Firefly Q6 is the second mini camera I have used often, e.g. on Submarine 2.0 and on a 100 wheel Lego vehicle. The image and audio quality are much better than the SQ12.

Kean Mini Camera I used only once for the teleoperated Lego vehicle because you can connect the camera to WiFi and watch the footage live using an app. Also, this camera has good night-vision features.

RunCam 5 I used in Submarine 4.0. It has probably the best image quality out of these mini cams.

Camera stands

For long I used Velbon DF-40 as my main camera stand, but a few months ago I replaced it with Velbon EX-640, which is a little taller and sturdier. I have also a small and light Rollei Compact Traveler Star S1, which I use sometimes, but I don’t like the screw that connects camera to the attachment plate, it is difficult to use.

I have a bunch of mini stands for light cameras, LED lights and microphones. I have 5 gorillapods/monkeypods that are always good versatile stands. Manfrotto PIXI is very sturdy little tripod with a terrific ball socket on top. Benro BK15 is another one I use often, as it can be adjusted height-wise between 50…100 cm, although it is quite flimsy and falls easily. I have 3 pieces of K&M 232BK stands that are heavy and sturdy. Black Eye Filming Handle Tripod is not very good IMO, as you need to turn the rod to adjust height, and your camera will spin also.

Underwater shooting

I’ve shot 4 submarine videos that included underwater shots. In my experience the best weather for underwater filming is a cloudless day. That is because underwater shots are low-light and low in contrast, so you want the maximum sunlight coming through the surface. Even with those conditions, you need to add a lot of contrast and saturation in editing to make the underwater shots look good. Below are two examples.

Filmed with GoPro 8 in a swimming pool. On the left is the unmodified raw video frame. On the right is the same frame modified with Adobe Premiere using Lumetri Color with settings: contrast +100, saturation +80 and temperature -20.
Filmed with RunCam 5 in a small river. On the left is the unmodified raw video frame. On the right is the same frame modified with Adobe Premiere using Lumetri Color with settings: contrast +150 and saturation +30.

Clear water is also very important. I live in Finland, the land of thousand lakes, but nearly all the lakes have terrible visibility underwater. It has been difficult to find good clear lakes to shoot in.

The cameras I have used underwater are GoPro 6, GoPro 8 and SQ12 with proper underwater casing.

When filming through the water surface (camera is above the water level and the subject is under water), I add a polarizing filter as it removes reflections. It helps to see through the surface. The polarizing filter also helps filming a glass jar or an acrylic plastic hull, as it remove some of the reflections on the see-through glass/plastic.

Hoya 77 mm polarizing filter attached to Sony AX43. A 55-77mm step-up ring is in between.

Slow motion

I’ve shot slow motion many times. (example 1, example 2, example 3, example 4) Usually I use Sony RX100V with either 500 FPS or 1000 FPS frame rate. Aperture is typically the largest possible (F2.2), shutter speed is a little bit faster than the frame rate (1/800 or 1/1600) and ISO is about 2000. Of course, a lot of extra light is needed, and even with that, the video is a little bit grainy.

1000 FPS frame rate using Sony RX100V.
500 FPS frame rate using Sony RX100V. The image is noisier, as the table was dimly lit.

For underwater slow motion shots I’ve used GoPro with 100 FPS frame rate. The good thing about slow motion is that you can shoot handheld without stabilizer, and it will still look smooth. You only need to capture quick moments from different angles to get good material. In many ways, filming slow motion is easier than normal speed.


I’ve shot extreme close-up videos a few times to e.g. emphasize broken pieces and Lego eyes. For those shots, I have experimented with different camera setups to find what gets the highest magnification. Here are my experimentation results:

  1. Canon 6D, focal length 105mm, distance to object 190mm, field of view height 62mm
  2. Canon 6D, focal length 105mm, close-up filter +10, distance to object 65mm, field of view height 23mm, blurry at edges
  3. Canon 6D, focal length 105mm, extension ring 68mm, distance to object 15mm, field of view height 15mm, lighting difficult
  4. Canon 6D, focal length 24mm, reverse ring, distance to object 40mm, field of view height 7mm
  5. Sony FDR-AX43, distance to object 100mm, field of view height 20mm
  6. Sony FDR-AX43, close-up filter +4, 75% zoomed in, distance to object 230mm, field of view height 4mm
This was shot with Canon 6D and a 68 mm extension ring attached to 105 mm focal length lens. Lighting the axle was difficult, as the lens was almost touching it, only 15 mm distance from it.
This was shot with Canon 6D and a reverse ring attached to 24 mm focal length lens.
This was shot with Sony Ax43 with a +4 close-up filter. 75% zoomed in.

So the best setup is the Sony FDR-AX43 camcorder with a +4 close-up filter attached to the front. With that setup you get a decent quality magnification where the entire frame covers a 4 mm object. You could zoom in fully to get a 1 mm object fill the frame, but then the image is very pixelated due to digital zoom. The distance from camera to the object is 23 cm, which leaves enough room for lighting the object properly. I find it funny that this relatively cheap camcorder and a simple close-up filter did better work than the expensive Canon equipment.

The best cheap macro setup I found. Sony AX43 with a +4 close-up filter. A 55-77mm step-up ring is in between.

I also have a cheap microscope (TELMU Microscope 40X-1000X) that I’ve used to shoot Lego eyes and Lego gears. For that, I attached my Samsung Galaxy A41 cell phone with 48 MP camera on the eyepiece to record videos. I found the microscope be best with 40x and 100x magnification. It can go up to 1000x magnification, but the image is too blurry. With 100x magnification and a 4x digital zoom on the cell phone, you get a 0.2 mm field of view.

Microscope with 40x magnification and a cell phone on the eye piece. The width of a Lego gear tooth is about 1 mm.

Camera settings

For resolution and frame rate, I usually select 1920×1080 and 25 fps.

For codec compression/quality, I choose medium or low quality. That setting is IPB compression (Canon 6D), AVCHD 17M FH (Sony RX100V) or AVCHD FH (Sony AX43). The file size for Sony AX43 is about 1.2 GB for every 10 minutes of video when using AVCHD FH. In my early years, I always selected the highest quality, but then I had over 100 GB of raw footage for some videos I made, which created problems with disc space and backup drives, so now I use low quality settings. I don’t see much difference in the image quality.

The shutter speed I use is usually 1/80. If there is not enough light, I’ll change it to 1/50.

For aperture I select usually the lowest (largest f-stop) the camera can do to get enough light. The only difference is Canon, where it could go f/3.6 but instead I use f/9 because otherwise the depth-of-field is too shallow.

With ISO I usually end up anywhere between 125 and 1600 when shooting inside with extra light. Rarely I’ve gone up to 3200, which is about the limit where it starts to become too noisy for me.

White balance is set either using grey cards or the Kelvin value to the camera (usually 4000K for the LED bulbs I have).

Focus is usually manually fixed to a certain area before I start shooting. Sometimes I’ve used continuous focus function with the Sony RX100 V.

I use zebra indicators on both Sony cameras to indicate over-exposure. Also, for the Canon and Sony RX100 V I put a histogram on the screen to indicate exposure. Those help a lot to prevent over- or under-exposure problems.

Typical settings for Canon 6D.
Typical settings for Sony AX43. Shutter speed is fixed to 1/60 and auto exposure shifted +0.7EV.

Mistakes with focus

I’ve made my share of mistakes. Two of my first videos have slight reddish tint because I failed to fix white balance. Then I found WB Shift setting in Canon 6D and started using Lumetri Color in editing to fix white balance.

Focus was another problem. In my fifth video, I made two cardinal mistakes. The video was about twisting a Lego axle until it breaks. I used two cameras from different angles to capture the moment. The first angle was directed parallel to the axle and the other perpendicular to the axle. The first angle would need a large depth-of-field because there are objects both near and far to the camera. For that angle I chose Canon 6D, which has a very narrow depth-of-field. So everything other than a little part of the axle, was out of focus. That was mistake 1. Mistake 2 was using GoPro for the second angle, which was very close (15 cm) to the object. GoPro has a 30 cm minimum focus distance, and I didn’t have a close-up filter by then. So, for that camera angle, everything was blurry.

Well, regardless of the bad focus, the video got a lot of views. I guess image quality doesn’t matter much after all.

Advice for buying a camera

Buy something cheap. Even a cell phone today may have good enough camera for shooting YouTube videos. Editing, framing and lighting will be more or equally important aspects in your videos than the camera you use. So don’t do the mistake I made and get sucked into all the technical features and end up buying something expensive. If you noticed, the first camera I bought (Canon 6D) was the most expensive and the one I currently use (Sony AX43) was the cheapest. I learned it through the hard way.