Tristan Hume

Github Resume + Project List Blog

My tier list of interesting YouTube channels

I watch a lot more YouTube than I do any other type of video content, and my favorite type of YouTube videos are interesting ones. I hesitate to call them “educational”, because they’re often not necessarily trying to teach, but to me the category distinction is they’re trying to be interesting in some way that pertains to the real world rather than just purely entertaining like video game content or comedy.

I often find myself recommending these channels to friends, so I figured I might as well write up my endorsements, and I made it a tier list since I love the format. There’s a huge variety of really cool and impressive channels out there with kinds of content you can’t find anywhere else, and I’ve watched a lot of them for years and want to highlight them. The tier choices can be kinda arbitrary and I didn’t pay any attention to the ordering within tiers. Note that this is a tier list of my favorite interesting YouTube channels:

My blog posts tend to be about programming but I barely watch any programming channels. I mostly watch all sorts of random interesting channels on everything from machining to videography. Most of these channels are pretty accessible to anyone interested even if they aren’t versed in the subject, while still often targeting something obscure or impressive rather than always basic stuff, which is something that I think YouTube channels tend to do better than blogs. But on the flipside this makes most programming channels less interesting to me, since I am versed in the subject.

S Tier: Masterpieces

The channels in this tier are some of my favorite things on the internet. They all only release videos every few weeks or months but that’s because they’re all a single person putting monumental effort into each one. When a video comes out on one of these channels its the highlight of my day. For a video to be this tier it needs to be fascinating, well-produced, demonstrate incredible skill I can be in awe of, and be something I’d pay at least $5/video (and often more) if they started paywalling it now. I subscribe to all of these channels on Patreon, except for Kiwami Japan because they don’t have one.

Despite having hundreds of thousands to millions of viewers, none of these channels would ever have been green-lit as a TV show as-is, because they’re too weird or niche or technical. They also can only really work as well as they do in the video format, and got their start on YouTube. I’m happy that the modern internet allows channels like these to not only exist but often make a living.

Clickspring

Clickspring thumbnail

Clickspring is a channel about clockmaking, and watching it is wireheading on pure craftsmanship. I’ve never done any machining and don’t plan on ever making a clock, but his videos along with everything he makes in them are gorgeous examples of making everything with care and a commitment to excellence. This shows through in everything he does, from making custom screws with stunning blue oxide finish and hand-rounded interior ends that aren’t even visible when assembled to doing original research and building some authentic ancient tools for his reconstruction of the Antikythera mechanism. He puts the same care into his videos as the work itself: the camera shots and lighting are beautiful, the machining operations are seamlessly sped up at the right times to fit in the video but show the key moments, and he often includes nice composited overlays of the CAD model on top of the raw stock so you can understand what he’s doing, and the narration, music and sounds of the machining are excellently done to give the videos a relaxing feel. Every Clickspring video is just a delightful experience to watch.

He also does videos without narration that just beatifully show all the machining and other work that goes into making something, this video being the most impressive example. He has a second channel called Clickspring Clips where he posts 2-4 minute non-narrated videos showing the making of one interesting part of his larger projects. His Patreon also has many exclusive videos once you watch all the public ones.

Applied Science

Magnets and flame video

Ben Krasnow’s channel Applied Science has been the flagship channel of engineering and science YouTube for many years. In every video he explains some new and interesting piece of science and engineering he’s replicated in his shop. He’s made aerogel, a water jet cutter, a plasma sputtering chamber, an EDM drill, air bearings, an electroluminescent display, an LCD, and the source of his earliest publicity: a scanning electron microscope. He’s a truly prolific and incredible engineer who works with all kinds of electronics, machining, chemistry, physics and software. Every video leaves me in awe of him. Often he’ll be the first non-professional to try recreating something based on a procedure from papers and have to do dozens of failed experiments before making a video documenting the process and all the extra considerations. His videos and skill are incredible and I’ve learned a lot about the process of scientific lab work from watching them.

Captain Disillusion

Gyro Drop

Captain Disillusion has been on YouTube for 12 years now, originally in obscurity but gradually growing to millions of viewers. He goes over trick and hoax viral videos and explains the visual effects used to make them. The thing that’s incredible is the production value: Costumes, makeup, well-written scripts, and a ridiculous density of impressive visual effects. Captain Disillusion is what happens when an incredibly talented and driven visual effects artist puts an entire month of full time work into every single 5 minute video. He’s done streams and time-lapses before of him spending dozens of hours on a 3 second visual effect for a throwaway gag.

A typical video consists of a well-written and edited intro of him introducing a faked video, doing a detailed breakdown of all the components of the effect but quickly thanks to amazing visual aid footage, then him just one-upping the original video by doing the effect so much better than anyone else has ever done it, without the tells he went over. Here’s some other, good ones but really every single one is excellent.

Kiwami Japan

Sharpest Bread Kitchen Knife

This is a weird and wonderful channel that to me really exemplifies what’s great about YouTube. Most videos are of the form “sharpest X kitchen knife in the world” with a thumbnail of a hand holding a weird knife in the same pose. Some examples of X are “Fungi”, “Paper”, “milk”, “Pasta”, “Underwear”, and “smoke”. I originally ignored suggested videos from this channel because I assumed they were some weird click-bait that didn’t really make a knife from those materials, and that was tragic because he really does and it’s amazing.

Every video has no talking or words except for occasional subtitles, and follows the process starting from the raw material, demonstrating all the processing steps required to make a hard substance out of it, casting a knife blank, sharpening it, and testing it. At some point early in the channel’s history someone must have commented that the videos were like ASMR videos because after that he got a high quality microphone and puts a lot of emphasis on the sounds.

The coolest part is he’s clearly really good at materials science and every video has amazing steps all done in his apartment. Lets take the “sharpest Seawater kitchen knife in the world” video as an example: It starts with a shot of him getting huge jugs of seawater from the ocean and collecting shells on the beach. At home he boils the seawater into salt and a solution he labels “magnesium chloride”. Then he puts a seashell on top of a charcoal briquette and puts it in an insulating firebrick box in his home microwave-oven-thing and cuts to it coming out totally calcified (apparently you can do that without a furnace??). He grinds it up with the subtitle “quicklime”, puts it in water and uses a thermal camera to show the exothermic reaction to get slaked lime. Cut to him combining a concentrated sea brine with the lime water to get “magnesium hydroxide + salt”. He adds water to dissolve the salt and filters out the magnesium hydroxide, combines it with the magnesium chloride from earlier, dries it, uses his handy durometer to show it fails a hardness test. He pops the magnesium hydroxide in his charcoal microwave furnace to get “magnesium oxide” and shows that this time when combined and dried it yields a very hard rock-like substance. Cut to him pouring a bunch of it in a rectangular plastic box, drying it and sawing out a knife shape. Then his famous sharpening sequence with increasingly fine knife stones, followed by the ever-present cucumber chopping test (complete with weird cucumber reveal out of godzilla-themed rubber gloves). He finishes by showing that the “magnesium cement” (Wiki link) doesn’t immediately dissolve in watera and that it can also be combined with dirt to make bricks.

I can’t see anything remotely like this every being green-lit as a TV series, but every video is brilliant and relaxing, they all get millions of views with zero advertising spend, because everyone likes them and recommends them to friends and algorithmic recommendations respond to that in a way that human TV producers wouldn’t have the guts to. People complain about the “YouTube algorithm”, but at this kind of thing it truly shines.

Stuff Made Here

Haircut robot

Stuff Made Here is the newest channel to enter S tier. When YouTube first recommended one of his videos to me 4 months ago the channel had just started with a few videos and I thought “huh how is this brand new channel getting hundreds of thousands of views”, then I watched the video and thought “okay wow, apparently if you make really excellent stuff from the start it can become popular on YouTube super fast”. He just makes really interesting and impressive videos where he uses his skill in many different disciplines of engineering to make cool stuff and then gives interesting descriptions of all the considerations, testing, engineering, fabrication and failures that went into making it.

For his most popular video he makes a basketball backboard that always directs the ball into the hoop. He designs and builds a custom mechanism to move the backboard to any distance and angle using rods that minimize the weight on the board so it can move quickly, describing the kinematic principles and how he constructed it using CNC plasma cut and spot welded sheet metal with 3D printed joints. Then he describes the clever custom algorithm for filtering out the basketball from other moving objects in the depth camera by fitting a ballistic curve to all possible object trajectories, as well as the software for extrapolating and calculating the required backboard position. The way he did everything is quite impressive and, like all his projects, he did it in only a few weeks while also having a day job.

What sets him apart from other YouTube makers is not only the skill in so many different areas that his projects display, but also the detailed explanations of the entire engineering process including the considerations, math, algorithms and failures rather than just the fabrication. If this sounds good to you, you should watch every single one of his videos including the ones that might not look that interesting. There’s not that many yet, but there might be soon since he somehow has also been managing to post more frequently than anyone else in my S tier (have I mentioned he also has a day job!?).

A Tier: Highly recommended

These channels are still quite excellent, but fall short on one or more aspects that would make me feel like putting them in S tier. I still highly recommend you check them out if they sound interesting though, they’re really great and I’m still very excited when I see one of them post a new video!

Tech Ingredients
Long and detailed technical videos of interesting projects demonstrating cool science and engineering concepts. They build really high quality demonstration pieces for each video and lots of the concepts they look into are little known ones like magnetohydrodynamics, how helium is an incredibly good sound suppressor and plasma physics. The main presenter is super knowledgeable and every video has some really interesting things. It’s a bit slow paced but I fix that by always watching on 2x speed. They also just posted a Best Of clips compilation video.
Practical Engineering
Explains interesting things from civil engineering often with cool models and demonstrations. I found this one on hydraulic ram pumps really cool.
Dan Gelbart
Dan is an incredible engineer who made a fortune selling companies and now has an amazing machine shop, with lots of tools he’s built or modified himself. He doesn’t post videos very often but the main draw of his channel is the 7 year old 19-part series on tools and techniques for building prototypes. It’s a masterpiece of incredible knowledge, impressive designs and great tips. I recently rewatched the whole series.
NightHawkInLight
Videos of small interesting projects beautifully filmed and explained. I particularly liked this one about making a carbon filament light bulb.
The Thought Emporium
Lots of different types of DIY science projects including DIY genetic engineering. In his craziest video he engineers a benign virus to put lactase genes in his intestines to cure his lactose intolerance for months (most of the video is explaining why what he did was reasonably safe). More recently he’s been uploading long live streams but look back a bit for the shorter science project videos.
Primitive Technology
Guy goes out into the woods in Australia and makes pottery, metal, shelter, tools and materials starting with no tools at all. This video about making a kiln to smelt iron is really good.
NileRed
Beautiful and interesting videos about chemistry accessible to someone who knows very little about chemistry. This recent video about making superconductors is particularly good.
This Old Tony
Really well-produced entertaining and funny machine shop and engine videos that usually use some small machining project to explain a concept or technique.
Steve Mould
Interesting science concept explanation videos with demonstrations. I was waffling between A and B tier but this phenomenally cool recent video on optical rotation blew me away and secured his spot in A tier.

B Tier: Very Good

At this point we’re still in the realm of high quality channels where I’ll immediately watch any new video they put out. Some of these channels have occasional top quality videos that would put them in A tier if they posted more regularly or had more consistent quality.

The Hacksmith
Skilled engineers with a substantial budget and machine shop try to make real life versions of gadgets from fiction. Their main audience is kids and non-technical people and it shows, but many of their videos have pretty cool engineering, and their build montages are neat.
Technology Connections
Guy explains interesting bits of technological history and science behind everyday gadgets. Like this video on how rice cookers use some neat physics tricks.
Tier Zoo
A biologist explains interesting animal facts as funny parodies of video game commentary and tier lists (I am partial to the tier list format as evidenced by this very tier list). This one on turtles is pretty good.
Sam Zeloof
One of the only people to successfully produce a silicon integrated circuit at home, and when he was in high school. This year he started putting out high-effort videos on cool equipment used in the process.
Tom Stanton
Implements really creative and cool engineering ideas mostly using a lot of 3D printing. Some of his coolest videos are building drones using weird things like gas thrusters, reaction wheels, the Coanda effect and a single rotor with no swashplate.
Demoscene High-Quality Videos
64k intros, where people write programs that produce beautiful visuals and audio using an executable less than 64 kilobytes, are perhaps my favorite art form accross all art forms. They often use very non-standard rendering techniques that lead to unique visuals, have good electronic background tracks, and the whole time I marvel at the technical wizardry of the tiny size. Not all the best videos are on this channel and not all the ones on this channel are good but it has many good ones. My favorite intro group is Logicoma, even before I found out they use Rust. My favorites of their stuff: Engage, Dope On Wax, Trash Panda and Elysian. Favorites by other groups include on, Zetsubo (4k!), delight, Offscreen Colonies and the timeless.
CNLohr
Really interesting and cool electronics projects. Examples include reverse engineering the HTC Vive and making a custom Linux C SDK for it, running a custom Minecraft server on a microcontroller and pretty LEDs.
Inigo Quilez
Inigo is famous for his excellent website with lots of computer graphics tips especially around signed distance fields. More recently he’s been uploading high effort explanations, live coding and pretty fractals to his YouTube channel.
Tom7/suckerpinch
Tom7 is known for his incredibly good high-effort SIGBOVIK technical joke conference papers. What I only learned later is often he makes great funny YouTube videos explaining his crazy hacks like.
Real Engineering
Well-produced and interesting explanation videos on various engineering topics. From the engineering of fighter planes to flood control systems in The Netherlands.
Tom Scott
Popular channel mostly focusing on talking about random interesting places with neat stories around the world.
You Suck At Cooking
Funny comedy cooking videos that are actual recipes. Videos vary on how much they focus on being funny vs teaching good recipes. This one and this one are pretty good.

C Tier: Someone being really good at something

I’ve dedicated C tier to channels where I watch them purely to marvel at someone being really good at something. I like watching people do impressive things or perform at the highest level, it’s inspiring and also just cool to learn about how they do it. They don’t necessarily have to be impressive in an absolute sense, although many are, just impressive relative to my skill level (often zero in their area). The reason these aren’t in higher tiers is either that I’m not as interested in the subject but they captured me anyways, or their videos are not as high in density and quality.

Pannen
Details various glitches used for an automated Super Mario 64 speedrun where he tries to minimize use of the A (jump) button. Really interesting just seeing how insane the tricks can be. Best and most famous video is this commentated one from his other channel about paralell universes.
Daniel Schiffer
Videographer who goes into how he shoots and edits commercials, and he’s really good at it so his videos are great.
Tucker Gott
Paramotor pilot. I have no plans on ever paramotoring but it’s cool to watch and his “Reacting To Crash Videos” series is really interesting, seeing him break down what kind of safety considerations come into play and how things can go wrong.
Akiyuki Brick Channel
Incredibly cool and complex Lego mechanical contraptions. This is a great combination of many of his designs and this recent video is aesthetically fun.
GeoWizard
Guy who is really good at GeoGuessr, that is super knowledgeable about geography and all sorts of tricks to figure out where you are when plopped randomly on Street View. This guy is allegedly better but IMO less entertaining.
Media Molecule
Lots of videos about Dreams, the most impressive feat of software engineering I can think of, but that’s another potential future article. Includes compilations of cool creations, tutorials from talented artists, and explanations by developers of how it works.
Jonathan Blow
Recorded live streams of programming and demoing his game and new programming language/compiler. Clearly very skilled, also overly brash at times, but his ideas and perspective is interesting and his videos are the only ones I watch of live programming.
Sethbling
Does Super Mario World speedruns involving code injection via carefully placed shells and a glitch to warp directly to the credits, as well as various other technical video game trickery.
Harstem
Professional StarCraft 2 player. Critiques people’s submitted replays, plays serious games while explaining his thoughts, tries playing with terrible strategies and winning purely on having better mechanics. Interesting to see what kind of thought, considerations and practice it takes to get to the highest level in a competitive strategy game.

D Tier: Good quality stuff I like watching

These are just a whole bunch of channels I’m subscribe to, where I’ve watched a bunch of their videos and liked them. I may not watch every video from all of these channels, but the ones I’ve decided to watch have been good and I’ll often watch new ones when they pop up. Some of these channels are really well made and might be in other people’s S tier, I’m just not as interested in them. If you’ve liked my other recommendations I encourage you to check these out! I’ve split them up based on the broad theme of what type of videos they have:

Explaining

Two Minute Papers
Short explanations of interesting machine learning and computer graphics papers.
Makin’ Stuff Look Good
Tutorials on how various cool shader effects work.
Keystone Science
Some cool science videos.
Cody’sLab
Miscellaneous geology, farming and engineering.
Blender Guru
Really good Blender 3D modeling tutorials. I learned a lot about what goes into photorealism that I applied when choosing features for my path tracer.
Bruce Yeany
Science teacher who makes cool demonstrations.
Smarter Every Day
Very popular science and engineering videos.
AvE
Crass guy with an idiosyncratic style of speaking has a cool series called “Bored Of Lame Tool Review?” where he takes tools apart, explains how they work, critiques their design and guesses how they’ll fail.

Making

bitluni’s lab
PCBs and neat huge LED walls.
Strange Parts
Tours of cool Chinese factories.
James Bruton
3D printed cool robots.
Brick Experiment Channel
Interesting engineering using Lego, like making submarines.
Simone Giertz
Originally made shitty robots, now makes miscellaneous cool artsy objects.
BPS.space
Very fancy model rockets with cool control systems, like Falcon propulsive landing.
Allen Pan
Cool engineering projects kind of in the style of The Hacksmith.
Mark Rober
Interesting engineering and science projects.
Peter Sripol
Makes his own small and model airplanes.
Michael Reeves
Comedy robot videos.
I Like To Make Stuff
Miscellaneous crafts.
Jairus of all
Some cool projects.
Breaking Taps
CNC milling, making molds. Well produced, good at explaining the challenges and design process.
How To Make Everything
Makes things like lenses, chocolate, clothing and food from scratch harvesting and processing all his own materials.
Matthias Wandel
Impressive woodworking and wooden contraptions.
The Taste Emporium
Cooking channel by the same guy as The Thought Emporium about making very fancy recipes.
Joseph’s Machines
Really amazing Rube Goldberg machines.
Makercise
Making a Gingery lathe and shaper from scratch by aluminum casting.
EvanAndKatelyn
Miscellaneous home crafts and art.
I did a thing
Comedy DIY videos like “Can I make a spoon using only a spoon”.
DIY Perks
Well-made DIY projects mostly building custom lighting and weird computer equipment.
Ferris
Really good programmer, part of my favorite demo group Logicoma, interesting streams.
The Brick Wall
Sophisticated and impressive working Lego farm equipment and factories.
Colin Furze
Wild engineering projects often involving making dangerous but impressive vehicles.

Other

JL2579
Technical Minecraft player. I don’t play Minecraft anymore but still love seeing what kind of weird behaviors they find and exploit to build useful Minecraft contraptions.
ilmango
Another impressive technical Minecraft player.
Curry On!
A good programming conference that tends to have talks I like watching.
Strange Loop
Another good programming conference with lots of talks I’ve liked.
Roger Kilmanjaro
Really beautiful minimalist CG looping animations that are very much my aesthetic.
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