How Vi Hart Makes Her Viral Videos: A Look Inside Her Creative Process

Spend some time poking around on the Khan Academy, or this site for that matter, and your chances of running into mathemusician Vi Hart are extremely favorable. 

I’ve tried—and failed—to keep up with her highly digressive, rapid fire, doodle-based explanations on such topics as net neutrality and the space-time continuum. I had better luck following her directions for turning squiggles into snakes, a math-based parlor trick that seems more like magic to me.

What I really wanted to know is how does she make those funny little videos of hers?  Doubtless, any seven-year-old who’s logged two or three hours in an after-school program devoted to stop motion animation would have the chops to explain how to make simple drawings rendered in Sharpie on a spiral bound notebook come to life, but what if I still didn’t get it? I wouldn’t want to give the shorties the impression that the laymen and women of my generation are too dim to keep up with modern technology.

Then on a whim, I typed “how does Vi Hart make her videos” into a search engine and voila! The video above, in which the doyenne herself reveals exactly how she does just that.

Actually “exactly” might be overstating things a bit, given that she does so in her immediately recognizable style. If I understand correctly, she starts with a script, which she pares to the essentials, before shooting the segment with a team of interns, some of whom serve as body doubles for her hands, their arms encased in funky, detachable sleeves. Then she speeds things up by deleting the frames in which the moving hand obscures the page. I’m pretty sure she wings it when recording her voiceover narration, but I could be wrong.

She also seems to have a thing for pinning her long brown hair up with a turkey feather. Even so, I’ll bet the decision to give her adoring public a glimpse of something beyond mere hands cemented many a celebrity crush. She’s a Tina Fey for the geek set. (Not that Tina Fey isn’t already serving that function for the same demographic.)

As winsome as she is, I have to say, I preferred her 14-year-old intern Ethan Bresnick‘s conscientious behind-the-scenes look at how these things come together. Have a look above if you’d like some straight dope on software, camera positions, and the like.

(Depending on how much work you’ve got to get done today, you may also enjoy the extremely informal, hour-plus interview Ethan conducted via Skype, during which Hart eats her dinner and invites fans to join them via Twitter.)

The only thing lacking is the nitty gritty on how and where Hart stores her enormous video files. Without a benevolent Khan Academy to oversee my work, such technical specs would definitely come in handy for a beginner such as myself. The Sharpies on spiral bound I can figure out on my own.

Related Content:

Vi Hart Uses Her Video Magic to Demystify Stravinsky and Schoenberg’s 12-Tone Compositions

Vi Hart Explains & Defends Net Neutrality in a New Doodle-Filled Video

Mathemusician Vi Hart Explains the Space-Time Continuum With a Music Box, Bach, and a Möbius Strip

Ayun Halliday is the author of seven books, a couple of which have morphed into ebooks. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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