Take a Dig!

There’s a lot more to YouTube than cat videos and hydraulic presses. Here’s a list of channels to help broaden your mental horizons

Music videos, tech reportage, geek guides and of course, hydraulic presses — YouTube has got it all. The give and take of content creation and revenue generation between YouTube and the channels that populate it has led to anyone who uses the Internet turning to the video format for answers to every conceivable question. But then, there are questions that we don’t always think of, the answers to which might still make for fascinating viewing at three in the morning. For those curious souls, here’s a list of five YouTube channels that never fail to teach you something new.

Kurzgesagt – In a nutshell

The folks who made this channel also thought to save viewers the time spent Googling the meaning of its name. ‘Kurzgesagt’ in German translates to ‘in brief’, which is pretty much what these guys use as a template in their short, animated explainer videos. From morbid explanations on how humanity could be wiped out, to explorations on robot rights and biotechnology, Kurzgesagt breaks down complex issues into an animated format, with a narrator guiding viewers through the topic addressed in the video, which is typically between two to seven minutes long.

Perhaps due to the work that goes into each video, they upload only about once a month, but the wait is usually well worth it.

Nerdwriter

Sticking close to the template set down by Kurzgesagt is Nerdwriter, a YouTube channel created by Evan Puschak, where he makes video essays on a wide variety of topics, presenting his deeply-researched insight into each one. From dissecting Donald Trump’s speech patterns and the way Louis CK tells a joke, to explaining why the dragons in Game of Thrones are responsible for stunting the evolution of its fictional society, Evan’s talent for picking seemingly mundane concepts and foregone conclusions and presenting them in a whole new light, make the Nerdwriter a channel that merits a subscription.

Vsauce

One of the biggest and most recognisable names in education-focussed YouTube channels, Vsauce — created by Michael Stevens — tackles, well, pretty much anything you can imagine. Unlike Kurzgesagt’s animation or Nerdwriter’s clever use of visual imagery, a lot of Vsauce content is presented directly by Stevens, with the occasional visual aid. The channel does not shy away from explaining complex topics, so you’d best keep those brain cells fully charged. The Vsauce brand has become so popular in fact, that two spinoff channels, Vsauce2 and Vsauce 3, hosted by Stevens’ friends Kevin Lieber and Jake Roper, have also been adding to the massive pool of informative content generated by the brand.

Want to learn if the Earth could actually be flat? What is infinity? Can headlights work at the speed of light? Stevens might just have the answers.

Every Frame A Painting

Ever analysed Steven Spielberg’s long takes or tried to make sense of the seemingly chaotic filmmaking style used by Michael Bay? That’s what Canada-based filmmaker and editor Tony Zhou does in his video essays on the Every Frame A Painting channel. A must-watch for students of film, and a wholehearted recommendation for anyone who appreciates cinema as an art form, Zhou’s essays unravel the layers of thinking and effort that go into every aspect of filmmaking. It’s not going to make those Transformers movies any more coherent, but it will awaken in viewers a new-found appreciation for the craft of filmmaking.

Engineering Explained

Love to drive but find yourself unable to participate in a discussion about limited-slip differentials? We’ve all been there, and Jason Fenske has the answers. The man behind the Engineering Explained channel routinely puts up videos that — as the self-explanatory channel name helpfully explains — throw some light on the inner workings of mechanised locomotion. How to make the best use of that new automatic you just bought? How do the clutch and transmission work, and that most pondered of questions — do you press the button while raising the handbrake? Fenske explains it all, occasionally like your masters-level automobile engineering professor, complete with colour-coded diagrams, and on other occasions, with live demonstrations, often on his Honda S2000. Pay attention, and you’ll feel a lot smarter the next time you open a car hood.

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