As instructional YouTube videos go, it isn’t the fanciest. There are no slick graphics, fancy transitions or endless calls to “smash that subscribe button.”
Instead of frenetic, this host is patient as he takes viewers through an 8-minute overview of three basic canoeing strokes: the sweep, the power stroke and the J-stroke.
But what this 2015 video lacks in overedited fluff it more than makes up for in quality content. And viewers have taken notice.
“By far the best explanation of the basic strokes,” one reviewer writes. “I do not understand English, but I understood everything,” another adds. “You are a good instructor.”
“Our family of four watched this video before going out to canoe a new river in a new canoe and had a MUCH better trip due to your instruction,” writes a commenter named Brandi.
Four years after Vic Rowberry posted that video — “just for fun,” he says — he had mostly forgotten it until his son Tim brought it up.
The year was 2019, and Vic had just retired from a 39-year career with the Boy Scouts of America — concluding his time as a BSA professional as director of support services for the Great Salt Lake Council in Utah. That’s when Tim approached his dad with a thought.
‘We are filling a niche’
“Tim pointed out that the canoe instructional video had over 60,000 views,” Vic says. “He suggested that we consider producing more content.”
Each week, they share high-quality, impressively shot videos covering an array of outdoor skills — like how to deal with mosquitos, purify water, make a bear bag, read a map, start a fire or prepare Dutch oven jambalaya.
“There are not many channels teaching the basics of outdoor skills, so we feel like we are filling a niche,” Vic says. “We think we can be the gateway to the outdoors for many people.”
Videos are shot on location — sometimes at a local Scout camp — and there’s even a well-made intro at the start of each episode. But Vic’s patient style remains. He comes across as a trusted friend, cheerfully imparting knowledge gained from a lifetime spent outdoors.
“There are people all over the world that want to get outdoors for some nature therapy, and they aren’t sure what to do,” Vic says. “We are teaching them how with fun and safety.”
How ideas are hatched
To come up with ideas, Vic and Tim start with their own interests — such as canoeing and camping.
“Personal experiences on our Scouting adventures play a huge role in deciding what to produce next,” Vic says. “We talk about what we did, things that went right and how it could have gone better. Those discussions turn in to scripts for videos.”
Vic has been hooked on the outdoors since his first Scout outing in the Uinta Mountains as a boy. When he got home from that trip, he remembers reading “all the materials Scouting had to offer” about the outdoors.
When he was older, he even took a 10-day wilderness survival course offered through Brigham Young University.
To refresh his memory before creating a video, Vic reads the Scout Handbook, Fieldbook and checks with subject matter experts “to make sure we are sharing the latest, most accurate techniques.”
The father-son connection
While Vic gets the camera time, he’s quick to point out that the channel is a collaborative effort with his son.
“I think we’re a great team. We both have outdoor skills. I have a lifetime of teaching experience, and he has tremendous production skills,” Vic says. “Rarely does a father get to work each week with his son on a project that they both have a passion for. I don’t take that for granted.”
Vic calls Tim “wicked smart” with a “great eye for content and presentation.” He says Tim has coached him to be better on camera — sharing how to use the right inflection or demonstrate a skill at the best angle for video.
“Not all shots are done in one take,” Vic says. “I’m still a work in progress.”
Tim, who has worked on shows like Brothers in Arms on History Channel and Agua Donkeys for Roku, says he thought the instructional videos would be a fun way to share his passion for the outdoors with the world.
“Having been in Scouting made me realize the wealth of outdoor knowledge I had,” Tim says. “Things as simple as certain knots, or starting fires were like second nature to me having grown up in it, but they’re new and possibly scary to learn for someone unfamiliar.”
Tim’s camera skills are obvious in the videos, but he’s quick to praise his dad’s on-camera skills, too.
“The fact that he’s so easygoing and knowledgeable in what he’s talking about, I think it really comes across as welcoming,” Tim says. “Those who are watching feel at ease when learning a new skill.”
Tips for making instructional videos
Ready to try your hand at a video that teaches someone a skill? Here’s what Vic and Tim suggest:
- Know your subject and be confident in your presentation.
- Start with a short, attention-grabbing introduction of the subject and then get right into a hands-on learning activity as soon as possible.
- Be patient! Don’t expect your students to “get it” right away.
- Don’t overthink it.
- Have good sound. “Nothing ruins a good video quicker than not being able to hear the person on camera clearly,” Tim says.
Be sure to check out OSME.tv to support Vic and Tim Rowberry — and to learn the skills you need for your next adventure.
Thanks to the BSA’s Peter Simon for the tip.