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DiResta is a name that has become synonymous with “maker videos.” Some see it and think maybe it is a tool brand or a network name, but it is the last name of Jimmy DiResta, a maker based out of New York.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen DiResta’s videos. From his Discovery TV show years ago, to his own YouTube channel, to the countless others that he has contributed to (Make: for example), his work has spread far and wide. His telltale style is purely focused on the build. He doesn’t typically narrate or talk you through his motivations, you simply see his hands working, feeling their way through each project to get to his desired goal. Time is a flexible thing in a DiResta video, with some sections going hyper fast, and sprinkles of slow motion to accentuate a point. It marries together into a mesmerizing effect that keeps you streaming video after video of his. Others have started replicating it but he still does it the best.

At a Glance
Channel: youtube.com/jimmydiresta
Year joined: 2006
Types of projects: Wood, metal, foam
Subscribers: 1.62M
Total channel views: 265,982,046
Does own editing: Yes
Cameras: Canon 80D; DJI Osmo Action

In discussions with Jimmy, you’ll find that he is silly and playful in behavior, something you can easily notice in his projects. He doesn’t have classical training to build what he does, nor does he typically have a plan. Rather, he just begins, takes each problem as they come, and tries to be creative in his solutions. Even his editing can show this with bits of humor sprinkled throughout.

With 1.6 million subscribers at the time of writing, DiResta’s YouTube channel is not the absolute largest in the maker community, but when you see Jimmy at an event you understand that he is a true celebrity. Crowds gather, lines form, and yet Jimmy is always humble and gracious, willing to talk and swap stories.

We caught up with him to learn the ins and outs of how he produces his ever-popular clips.

 

MAKE: What got you into making videos?

DIRESTA: My channel started as a reaction to my show (Dirty Money, 2011) getting cancelled on the Discovery Channel. I was trying to show off and let the TV people see what they’re missing — they never really seem to pay attention but the fans did and that’s what really matters in the long run.

What makes a build a “DiResta” build?

When I began making videos I knew that I needed to make a lot of them so I avoided using a voiceover or trying to string together a series of explanations. I knew that it would slow me down in the edit. I strictly stuck to telling a story with visuals and I believe that’s what set me apart early on and established what a “DiResta build” is. Also I was never overly concerned with the audio. The sound of the tools is what I used. No music or complicated copyright decisions to make.

Four steel knives on a wooden work table with the word DIRESTA stamped out of each handle

Jimmy’s laser-cut, hand-sharpened steel knives.

What is the big “ooooooh aaaaaah” shot for your videos? The one that viewers wait for?

I guess it’s when I go from superfast to super slow; many people always expect an accident but most often I’m just trying to highlight something that I want people to recognize or a technique that I need to slow down so people understand.

How much do you plan your videos?

You might say I storyboard it all inside my head while I’m making any video or product. I keep asking myself what would I want to see next and this helps me lay out the video in real time while I’m working on the project.

What influences your project selections?

I choose projects based on what I’m feeling at the moment. I don’t typically plan a video just because I know it will do well and most often plan a video because there is some personal challenge in it that I need to overcome or get good at or learn something about.

Group of 20 mostly men sit on and surround a red tractor

A group gathers at DiResta’s upstate NY farm for classes in various maker skills.

Give us a couple “Here’s a cool trick” tidbits.

A thing learned while editing hundreds of videos is shoot very tight. I see far too many beginners shoot every single part of the process and find it impossible to make a 10 minute video out of 16 hours of footage. Only shoot when material changes from one shape to another.

Another funny edit trick I use often is when something has a left and a right side (symmetrical stuff like tables and canoes) I often just shoot one side of it and then flip the image in the edit, it makes it seem like I went from the left side of the project then I did the same thing to the right side of the project. Many times words and label appear as a mirror image and no one seems to notice!

Jimmy DiResta carving the letters MAKE on a bandsaw

Jimmy working the bandsaw at the Louisville Maker Faire.

How do you handle negative comments?

Out of respect to my advertisers (I call them clients) I try to keep my responses upbeat and funny, and never call anybody nasty words. But if somebody really comes at me I simply delete the comments and block them. I never let a thread go too far before I just simply delete it.

What would you say to someone wanting to start making videos about making stuff?

You just have to start. I see too many people waiting for the giant moment of inspiration that’s going to set them apart. This is something that you need to do over and over and over again to find what is absolutely unique to you in your process. Don’t just wait for it to happen because it never will unless you’re actually working at it.

You might say I storyboard it all inside my head while I’m making any video or product. I keep asking myself what would I want to see next and this helps me lay out the video in real time while I’m working on the project.