Anyone who witnessed the birth of MTV probably remembers the video for Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing.”
The music video was one of the first uses of computer-animated human characters. Debuting in 1985, “Money For Nothing” beat 23-year-old John Gelardi by six years. But it helped pave the way for what Gelardi, a University of North Carolina Wilmington student, and his business partner, Christian Ames, have done to make a name for themselves in the online world.
The pair has racked up more than 55 million views on their YouTube and other online video channels, selling the soundtracks to the videos through iTunes.
Unlike a traditional music video, where a storyline is created to match a song, Gelardi and Ames create what is called machinima, using pieces of video footage from within different video games to create one complete video, which is then paired with a song of their own creation.
Machinima, a portmanteau of machine and cinema, is a popular trend among many gamers using game titles including Minecraft, Halo, World of Warcraft and others. Machinima videos are created using actual in-game video footage, characters and environments.
Since their start six years ago, Gelardi and Ames have created more than 80 videos, with the most popular videos being about the game Call of Duty and the pair’s three Minecraft-inspired videos called “The Mob Rap” numbers one to three. In Minecraft, an 8-bit style building game, Mobs (short for Mobile) are the in-game characters, such as animals and monsters, and the music videos feature each of the characters.
Gelardi said the pair was sponsored by the website Machinima.com for the first five years they were creating videos, having been offered a contract after the publisher saw one of their initial videos. While working for Machinima.com,Gelardi and Ames were paid based on the number of times the video was played at $2.50 per CPM (1,000 views).
For the past year, the pair has gone out on their own, and all the videos are available on YouTube, earning Gelardi and Ames revenue based on pre-roll and banner ads that play and display before or during the video.
Additionally, the original music the pair creates for each video is available on iTunes, where Apple splits the sale with them. Gelardi did not want to disclose how much the pair has earned so far but did say they have sold more than 2,000 albums, 80,000 singles and streamed 400,000 songs.
“It has been a very good chunk of change for relatively little work,” he said.
He said the process for creating a video starts when a new game is being released or if they come up with a new concept for an existing game. Ames works on the lyrics and music, while Gelardi produces the video captured from actual gameplay.
“Generally, Christian researches a new game,” Gelardi said. “He will make the beat and the lyrics [about the game]. Before the game comes out, I get all the game trailer footage, or in some cases I’ve had the game sent to us [from the publisher] before it comes out to the public.”
Some games allow for more creative expression.
“In a game like Halo or Minecraft, we can be 100 percent original. That’s what the Mob Raps are. They allow theater mode access, so you can shoot your own scenes,” Gelardi said.
Now that the pair has ventured out on their own and away from Machinima.com, Gelardi said their first task is “solidifying the brand and taking advantage of the potential we have.”
They are working on a fourth installment of the “Mob Rap” series, with the goal to release a new video each Sunday. They are also looking to expand their YouTube subscriber base from 48,000 to more than 100,000 by the fall.
When not making videos, Gelardi is a senior at UNCW working on a marketing and film double major and also has a short film in pre-production. Ames recently graduated from Ithaca College and is currently looking for a job in the film industry.
To see videos the pair has created, search for JT Machinima on YouTube or iTunes.