Kizuna Ai is one of the content creators taking the world by storm. With her long shiny brown hair, aquamarine eyes, and short white sailor uniform, Kizuna Ai is certainly an eye-catching sight. Oh, her giant pink bow is also hard to miss when browsing through your YouTube recommendations. Just like other top YouTubers, she uploads plenty of content onto her channel. From original songs and dance covers, to auto sensory meridian response (ASMR) videos, and sometimes even just sharing stories with her audience.
However, what makes Kizuna Ai stand out from other popular YouTubers is the fact that she isn’t real. No, this energetic internet celebrity is a computer generated VTuber or virtual YouTuber.
If you’re new to the anime scene or simply stayed away from that part of the internet, you may be wondering what is a VTuber? Don’t fret, though, because we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll guide you through the basics of what is a virtual YouTuber and how it became a million dollar industry. Moreover, we even have a few useful tips and tricks if you ever decide to become one. After all, who doesn’t want to look like a bright-eyed character from their favorite anime on GogoAnime? It is also good to know that you can make a few hundred dollars by doing so.
What is a VTuber?
A VTuber is a YouTuber or streamer that uses 2D or 3D anime-inspired avatars to cover up their appearances in videos. The computer generated avatar follows the movement of the person in real time during streams. There are a few who film and edit their footage before uploading it online, though.
A VTuber’s content mirrors that of any other type of content creator. There are those who stream their gaming sessions, put on mini concerts, and create question-and-answer videos. Some even just go live to chat with their audience about their day. There’s a limitless amount of possibilities for these new breeds of entertainers.
VTubers are nothing new, especially in Japan where the trend originated. If you’re wondering who was the first VTuber, then that moniker would go to the bubbly Kizuna Ai. In 2016, she was the first one to coin and use the term “VTuber” in her first ever YouTube video. Although, if we’re talking about the first virtual vlogger, then the answer would be Ami Yamato, who debuted in 2011. The difference between the two is that Kizuna is self-aware that she’s a virtual character, while Ami seemingly does not.
While the rise in popularity of VTubers has roots in Japan, it’s slowly making rounds in the Western market. Nowadays, we see more and more content creators hop onto the trend. Even popular Swedish YouTuber PewDiePie, who got his start uploading Let’s Play (LP) videos, shocked the online community when he made his debut as a VTuber.
How to Become a VTuber
After the initial successes of VTubers in Japan, the trend easily spread overseas. This is especially thanks to agencies like Hololive, VShojo, and Nijisanji who specialize in creating and promoting virtual YouTuber’s content outside of Japan. On top of these, we’ve seen an increasing number of independent VTubers online from other countries.
And becoming a VTuber isn’t just about fun interaction with fans. It’s a legitimate industry worth millions. The top virtual YouTubers have millions of subscribers and double the amount of views on their channels. Both equal to huge revenues on the livestreamer’s part. It’s no wonder why so many people are creating and using anime-style avatar personas in their videos.
With that said, how does one become a VTuber? Besides learning how to live stream on YouTube or Twitch, there are a few things you need in order to start your career as a virtual content creator.
Things You Need To Become a VTuber
Invest in the Best Gaming Laptop or Desktop
It is possible to begin your virtual YouTuber career with a mid-tier gaming laptop or PC. However, if you’re looking to stream the best PC games, you will need to use the best gaming laptop. This is especially if you’re using the same device to create and render your VTuber avatar. Some of the best and more sophisticated virtual YouTuber software available can take a toll on your laptop or desktop’s random-access memory (RAM).
Not only will a slow computer impact the performance of your game, but it will also severely affect the quality of your live stream. Consequently, this will also affect your audience’s viewing experience. You wouldn’t want them leaving mid-stream because your computer couldn’t handle running the best Steam games and VTuber software simultaneously, would you?
It should go without saying that you will need high-speed internet with strong network reliability to live stream videos smoothly. After all, livestreaming is all about upload speed. You may own the latest laptop model, but what good will it do if your connection barely reaches the minimum kilobits per second (Kbps) you need? The minimum Kbps that you should have to live stream with no buffering on your viewer’s end is between 672 Kbps to seven megabits per second (Mbps). Fortunately, most internet service providers (ISPs) nowadays do offer high-speed connections enough to warrant hours of live streams.
Motion Tracking Camera and High-Quality Microphone
You can get away with using your laptop’s integrated webcam if you’re just beginning your career as a VTuber or streamer. Albeit, it won’t have the same quality and resolution as external webcams. This is because they have more space for lenses and other internal hardware. Because of this, they offer better resolutions and overall quality. You will need the best motion tracking camera that will not only capture your face and expressions but also recognize your movement. Brands like Logitech and Canyon offer the best webcams for motion tracking out there.
Additionally, you will need to invest in a high-quality microphone for your live streams. If you already own the best gaming headsets, you may not need to purchase an external microphone. This is because the attached mics on them should be decent enough for your audience to hear you clearly. Although, it also wouldn’t hurt investing in the best microphone for streaming if you want to share your silky and cute voice to your audience. Using the best quality microphone can also help you sound more natural, even when you’re using a voice changing software.
Motion Capture Equipment
A motion tracking webcam should suffice in capturing your facial expressions, mouth, and head movement. However, if you really want to devote yourself to the VTuber business, you can also invest in motion-capture equipment to track your every move. These include full-body gesture recognition and hands and fingers tracking.
There was a time when motion capture seemed like something only big-budget blockbuster Hollywood films used. In recent years, though, we’ve seen other groups and companies utilize this technology. Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends and virtual K-pop inspired girl group K/DA, used motion capture suits to capture the movements of the real life members. Afterwards, they used advanced software to translate the movements to the virtual group’s live performance through augmented reality.There’s also Xsense, which offers several motion capture software and suits that can capture and track your movements in real time.
VTuber Software To Create Your Own Avatar
If you have an artistic hand, you can go ahead and create your own 2D or 3D VTuber avatar. Although, if you don’t have enough skills to design your own character model, here are a few of the best virtual YouTuber software to easily make one.
- Vroid Studio – This application helps users creating 3D models of their own avatars and characters. It’s by far the easiest software to master thanks to its intuitive controls. You won’t have to worry about looking up tutorials just to make a decent looking 3D VTuber model. Vroid Studio download is available for free on Windows and Mac devices.
- iClone – This real-time 3D animation software prides itself for being an all-in-one solution to animators and game developers. It also features one of the most user-friendly interfaces out there. The iClone character creator also offers its users a vast library of animations to choose from and even allows them to generate an endless number of avatars. You can easily let out your creative juices with this software.
- MikuMikuDance (MMD) – This animation software is considered to be the one used in creating Kizuna Ai. Originally used in producing Vocaloid character Hatsune Miku, MMD not only allows users to design their own 3D avatars but also move and animate them accordingly. On top of that, users can even import accessories and backgrounds to create an environment, as well. If you want to add effects such as lens flares to your 3D animation, you can accomplish that too on MMD. MikuMikuDance download is available for Windows devices.
Admit it, besides their cute appearances, the appeal of VTubers relies heavily on their cute, or at times sultry, voices. Unless you’re a professional voice actor who can easily modulate your voice to sound like the cutest anime girl, you will need a voice changing software.
- Voidol – This real time voice changer is perfect for beginners. Its free version allows users to convert their voice into two preset character voice models. You can choose from a male voice model called “Kanade Minato” or the boyish female voice of “CRIMMZOH.” Admittedly, this does limit your choices, but you do have the option to purchase other voice models. The company behind the app is also working on adding more voices. Thus, users will soon have a wider range of choice for their live streams, online chats, or YouTube videos.
- Voicemod – Designed specifically for VTubers, Voicemod is a paid audio tool that offers an array of voice-changing filters. You can change the pitch and gender of your voice in real-time thanks to the Voicemod voice changer. You can even make yourself sound like a robot or a satanic demon! This application’s preset filters are great for VTubers who are just starting out in the virtual streaming world.
- Voxal – Thanks to its simple user interface, Voxal is the easiest to use voice changing software out there. It offers real-time voice effects and allows users to modify pre-recorded audio files. There is a free version of the Voxal voice changer available, albeit the choices in voice changing options are pretty limited. The more advanced features, like creating an unlimited number of custom voice effects, will cost you a lifetime license.
Popular VTubers to Watch
Since the debut of Kizuna Ai’s first ever YouTube video, we’ve seen an influx of VTubers taking on the internet. Most of these virtual content creators are based in Japan. Although, because of their growing audience outside of their home country, the majority of them offer subtitles in other languages like English. There are even some virtual YouTubers who speak English in their videos! We think it’s safe to say that the VTuber industry is steadily on its way to globalization.
Now, a simple search on YouTube for VTubers will have you looking at hundreds of videos from dozens of virtual content creators. If this is your first time, you probably don’t know which one to watch first. Here are some of the top VTubers you should definitely check out.
Courtesy: Gawr Gura Ch. hololive-EN
First introduced on Hololive’s Twitter and YouTube accounts in late 2018, Gawr Gura is a member of the agency’s first generation of VTubers. Her debut though wasn’t until late 2020. In Gura’s introductory YouTube livestream video, she claims to be a nine thousand year old descendant of Atlantis.
This shark-humanoid VTuber mostly streams her gaming sessions. Majority of her videos are of her playing Minecraft. Although, she also has livestreams of her playing the best survival games like Left 4 Dead 2 and Terraria. Additionally, Gawr Gura does collaboration videos with other VTubers from Hololive.
While her gaming skills are impressive, it’s ultimately her intense and fun personality that’s gaining her millions of views on her videos.
Courtesy: Korone Ch.
Inugami Korone’s sweet and docile nature is the perfect contrast to Gawr Gura. Similar to Gura though, she’s not quite as human as other VTubers. Her dog ears, tail, and overtly dog-like personality can attest to this.
Her first video went live on her channel in April 2019. Before that, though, she already made appearances in her label mates’ livestream videos since March of the same year. Korone’s goofy and lively personality earned her one million subscribers in November 2020. At the time, she was only the second Hololive VTuber to achieve such an accomplishment.
Her livestream gaming videos mostly center on retro games such as Tetris and Super Mario World. Although, she is also a fan of the newer games. Korone has also played the best Switch games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on her channel. On top of these, she also produces simple and wholesome content on her channel, like chatting with fans and interacting with other VTubers.
Courtesy: Kaguya Luna Official
Departing from the overly sweet and cute nature of other Japanese VTubers, Kaguya Luna is the bad girl of the VTuber community. While she remains energetic and charismatic, she’s often vulgar. She even insults her audience, although this is still in good nature, of course. However, it’s her arrogant persona that truly makes her one of the most entertaining virtual YouTubers out there.
This fun loving virtual content creator mostly has YouTube livestream videos of her talking to fans and answering their questions. Since her debut in 2017, she has evolved from a regular VTuber into a full on entertainer. From producing live shows of her singing and dancing, she is now signed with Sacra Music, a Sony Music subsidiary. Kaguya Luna has even appeared in several live television programs in Japan.
With these in mind though, when browsing her channel, compared to other known virtual YouTubers, you won’t see much videos uploaded. Nevertheless, she is still one of the most recognizable faces in the VTuber industry.
This blond-haired and blue-eyed beauty enjoys singing, dancing, playing video games, and watching YouTube videos. Mirai Akari has a very extroverted and energetic personality. Her over the top gestures during videos accompanied by her expressive faces make her one of the most entertaining VTubers in the industry.
Her videos consist of her trying out different apps like TikTok, taking online quizzes, and ASMR videos. Although, her most popular videos are her singing videos. She uploads both covers and original songs onto her YouTube channel.
Akari is also the first virtual YouTuber to interact with her fans on VRChat. For those unfamiliar, VR Chat is a virtual reality platform that allows users to interact with 3D characters, including VTubers. The virtual playground is steadily gaining traction due to active online communities and interactive experiences with VRChat avatars.
Unlike other aforementioned VTubers, we know exactly the face behind CodeMiko. Referred to as the Technician, this Twitch VTuber uses Unreal Engine, an advanced real-time 3D software to create the appearance of CodeMiko.
Moreover, in contrast to other virtual YouTubers she isn’t necessarily a gamer. Yes, she does do live streams of her playing games like Among Us. However, her Twitch live stream videos often involve her interviewing famous Twitch personalities and celebrities. Miko has even interviewed Korean boy band member Jae of DAY6! The appeal of this VTuber is her lack of filter. She often interrupts guests and asks them with inappropriate questions. Admittedly, this attitude could easily get her in trouble. Nevertheless, it’s such a well-balanced act that it is just enough to fluster her guests.
Besides this, though, CodeMiko’s Twitch streams are also quasi-interactive. Her audience can alter Miko’s physical appearance via the chatroom. Albeit, this will cost you. You will need to use Twitch Bits, the platform’s own special currency, to do so. Do you want to have interactive shenanigans with this Twitch streamer? You will have to learn how to livestream on Twitch first before you can appear on her channel.
How to Make Money as a VTuber
A few years ago, watching anime girls livestreaming video games would have been considered an odd way to pass your time. Nowadays, though, anime-inspired VTubers are one of the most profitable industries.
Part of the revenue of Vtubers comes from YouTube’s Super Chat and Super Stickers features. These allow viewers to pay to highlight and pin their comments during live streams. Audiences can spend between one dollar to $500 to get the chance of being noticed by their favorite VTubers. Some virtual YouTubers’ channels even have paid memberships, where fans get exclusive content like special videos, live chats, badges, and other goods.
Meanwhile, Twitch has a similar system. In lieu of actual money, the streaming platform uses their own currency, which, as mentioned above, is called Bits. For every Bit that a fan donates to a streamer’s channel, Twitch pays them one cent.
Furthermore, there are also VTubers who have their own advertising deals and campaigns. Japanese brands such as Nissin and SoftBank have utilized VTubers as their brand ambassadors.
The Rise of the VTuber Industry
There’s no denying the recent boom of live streamers across several platforms. It is a great way for content creators to build stronger connections with their viewers in real time. With the rise in popularity of virtual YouTubers, though, are we entering a new era of online entertainment? The primary appeal of livestreaming is the touch of human connection that viewers get. Thus, one might wonder: what happens when they’re not necessarily talking to a human?
Evidently, millions of views with even more revenue. Top VTubers have even sprung away from their livestreaming roots. Some are now taking on the world of television, while others are appearing in gacha games as special guest characters. The likes of Kizuna Ai and Mirai Akari have even attended global festivals and conventions. Thus, they cement themselves as not only VTubers but virtual idols as well.
Moreover, with the success of VTubers increasing, it’s no wonder why more and more people want to join in on the craze. The technology behind creating a VTuber avatar is becoming more accessible. Because of this, it wouldn’t be a surprise if we see another influx of VTubers on multiple live streaming platforms.
We hope this article was helpful in your potential virtual YouTube career. Carefully constructed yet charming digital avatars seem to be the perfect alternative for those not yet ready to face the digital world head on.