How DID He Do That?!? Taking the Mystery Out of Great Video Making

Brian O'Donnell's followers flock to watch his fun, fast, and free how-to videos.

By Brian O'Donnell

My tutorial videos stem from my own self-learning. When I was starting out, I would see cool things online, and think, I really want to do that, how can I? When I would find a creator online who would show how it’s done, I’d think, keep coming back to this guy. I’m learning something and I get to see a cool result.

Why I give it all away

I like sharing information because it’s not just providing entertainment, it’s also providing value. And that’s more fun. If I just made videos and posted them, it would be cool, but I’m not providing as much value. I’m not selfish, I don’t like to hold onto things. I like to share as much as I can. If I create a cool video and release it online, there are a lot of people who would recreate it.

Chances are, if I made something and didn’t give it away, someone else is going to make a tutorial of how I made it, so I might as well be the one to say how I made it first and show the correct method.

Trial and error: Finding a formula that works

In the beginning, I was just doing still photos and simple video edits, and didn’t show behind the scenes—and they got pretty good engagement. Then I thought, what if I put together all my best photos side by side into one video? People might think that’s cool. But then I broke them down and posted each one individually with very simple behind-the-scenes tutorials, and they got significantly more engagement.

So, I tested loads of different formats, like behind the scenes but with really fast cuts, or from this angle, or that angle. Then I’d test using slow video showing every single piece of the scene so people could really get a sense of what was going on.

Every post that got over a half-million views, I’d look at it and go, ‘what did I do well here?’ and analyze it and apply it to my future videos. The format’s still changing a bit, but pretty much all my videos now follow the same format, and that seems to work.

The more you stick to your format, the more your followers know what to expect. Keeping up with expectations is a good way to keep them coming back again.

Two versions, two speeds

I usually put up two versions of tutorial videos, one fast version on Instagram Reels or TikTok and one slower version on YouTube. When people go onto these apps to see a quick video, most don’t want long-form content. But if they do, they’ll tap the YouTube icon. I keep it short and snappy because people are very quick to swipe away, so you’ve gotta keep them engaged. If you move really fast and they miss something, they’re gonna have to re-watch it. Not that I’m trying to make them miss it, but if I move really fast, they’re gonna stay focused.

Give followers what they want

I get many questions every day from loads of people, but I’ve got so many videos on YouTube now that I can point them in the direction of one that will help them. Obviously, I can’t [respond] individually to each one. But then, if I get enough messages—say 50 or 60 for one video—if the demand is there, I’ll make a whole new tutorial.

As creators, we don’t come up with everything ourselves. The beauty of it is that we evolve as we go. I get a lot of messages from people saying, “I used your trick in this video,” and it may be just a little part of their video, but I’m like, that’s so cool! You found my trick, learned it, and then applied it in a new way!

Brian O’Donnell is a 22-year-old med student and self-taught videographer and photographer from Dublin. He calls creating his "relaxing time" after working hard at his studies. Before med school, Brian was also a semi-professional rugby player.

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As told to Steve Root

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