As I take a seat next to Tareq Al Askar, the first thing that strikes me is the sturdy voice recorder positioned on the table. I spy a small black microphone clipped to his lapel and I begin to wonder exactly who is going to be doing the interviewing. However, the moment we start talking, a wave of easy-going charisma washes over me. His speech is measured and captivating and it takes no stretch of the imagination to understand the success of his visual media concept, Urban Q8.
Tareq Al Askar first discovered his talent for filming when he was in high-school. He subsequently became his school’s go-to camera guy and – more recently – one of the country’s most renowned YouTubers. He has witnessed the rise of Social Media in Kuwait and endeavors to showcase the creative side of the country.
The concept of UrbanQ8 first materialized in 2005, when Tareq started a blog and podcast. In 2014, he returned to his visual media project, filming short 15 second videos for Instagram detailing his visit to the Hamzawi restaurant. Since, the compilation video has received over 1,000 views on YouTube and sits comfortably as the third most viewed video on the UrbanQ8 channel.
One of the reasons his videos have been such a success among Kuwaiti viewers is his nuanced approach to capturing reality. He works on a content-first basis, creating medium-length videos that will engage viewers from the first few opening seconds to the final frame. Many videographers go by the mantra of keeping to “short and sweet” for the ever-narrowing attention span of Internet users. But Tareq believes videos can be any length, as long as they continue to captivate their watchers throughout.
Another way that UrbanQ8’s videos stand out is in terms of their clean, concise audio. After an interview, Tareq will sit in his car and listen to the audio he has captured. He does not leave until he is satisfied with its quality. “What makes a show interesting to me is the audio, not the video. My content is mostly about words and people talking”. In light of this, he avoids taking ‘beauty shots’ and prefers to portray his surroundings in as realistic a light as possible, complimented by the spoken words of his interview subject.
Many people have asked Tareq why he choses to remain out of the frame during his filming. In line with his people-first approach, he wished for “the focus to be on the people rather than me”. Nonetheless, he has been encouraged to appear in the videos, as viewers have reacted well to seeing him in some of his videos.
In recent months, Social Media stars have come out and spoken about the gray space on platforms such as Instagram and Facebook. As a result, people have queried the honesty of Social Media. Although Social Media can be an excellent tool for rebranding or redefining oneself, Tareq believes that there is a tendency for people to put a crafted, and possibly unrealistic version of themselves forward.
Perhaps one of Social Media’s most prevalent shortfalls is in its initial primary function of capturing reality, as this involves the restrictions present on Social Media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. The video time limit results in disjointed and choppy content but what is most important is that there lies very much outside of the frame more content that cannot be captured in such a short period. However, Tareq believes that utilizing video is a step in the right direction. “Video makes you feel closer to the person,” he commented. He also believes that this interaction allows you to see another, more personal side of them. Still, he maintains that YouTube is the future.
Anyone can start their own YouTube channel and upload content within minutes of creating their account. However, until your channel is verified by YouTube, which can be a lengthy process, you can only upload videos shorter than 20 minutes. In addition, you cannot customize your videos’ thumbnails – the image next to the title when you search it. Luckily for Tareq, his channel was verified in 2011.
Videography and filming is becoming more and more popular among the residents of Kuwait, as smart phones with high-quality cameras and simple video technology enter the market. Tareq advises anyone interested in visual media to begin by generating interesting, consistent content, on whatever device they would have access to. “The key to success on YouTube is consistency”.
Once a routine and style are established, the next step is to buy equipment in line with your budget. Tareq advises beginners to start capturing content on their iPhones – always in landscape. There are cheap microphones available to be pulled in directly to your smartphone which produce quality audio and can take your filming to the next level. Most importantly, Tareq warns against contracting GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome), where the content quality is overshadowed by the need to own equipment. Once you garner a consistent audience, your equipment can be updated.
To help you get started, Tareq volunteered his recommended equipment list, but be warned of GAS! Until then, stay tuned by following Urban Q8’s latest stories on YouTube.
Photo camera: Sony A7rii – I do not own one yet
Video camera: Sony A7sii
Microphone: Rode Lavalier/Sennhieser wireless G3 system/Electrovoice re50 handheld mic
Flash: Natural light/Led light at times
Tripod: Benro with s6 head
Lens(es): Ziess Loxia 35mm/50mm
Voice recorder: Zoom H5
Software: Mac OS-final cut/Windows-Adobe Premiere.
YouTuber(s): DSLR Video Shooter/Dave Dugdale/ Philip Bloom/DigitalRev/Tony Northup
YouTuber(s) -Kuwait: Q8Stig/Extravagaming/ RedfoxZero/
Recommendations for starters:
Audio: Rode SmartLav with iPhone
Camera: Sony A6000/Canon T6i
Vlogging: DJI Osmo