Like many of you, I enjoy (wasting countless hours of my life) watching Youtube videos. A great way to do this is to watch highlight videos. Particularly those with a “Harris Highlights” watermark, bar none the best out there. This channel gives everyone equal love, from the tiny DII schools to Heisman candidates. So to further understand the realm of making highlight reels, I tracked down Blake Harris, the creator of Harris Highlights.
Blake’s videos have been viewed by more than 25 million people.
Runnininplace: You put together highlight tapes for draft prospects. How did you start doing this?
Harris Highlights: I started making highlight tapes about five or so years ago. I remember the first ever tape I did was of Blake Griffin. It was during his rookie season, and I put together a short reel of his best dunks. But what really got me started in highlight videos was after I made one for Robert Griffin III. After he won the Heisman, I put together a quick tape for him, just for fun. I didn’t really do much Youtube back then, so I checked back a few days later and I remember it had about 10,000 views. I was in disbelief. There were also about 100 comments or so, which were mostly positive. That’s when I thought to myself, “Hey, this might be fun.”
RIP: Is there one video that you can point to as to when or how your popularity took off?
HH: The video I would pin-point as what kind of the growth of my channel is my Top 100 plays of 2013-2014 video. When I uploaded that video it was my “Thank You for 1,000 Subscribers” video. And now the video has well over 3 million views. I think because of the originality of the video, it captured viewers’ attention, and they wanted to see more.
RIP: Do you ever get star struck having (somewhat) famous college football players hitting you up for their highlight reel?
HH: At first, I was completely star struck. It’s crazy, you watch these guys on TV and admire their game, and you get emails/tweets saying they admire MY WORK. That’s what is so unreal. I remember when Su’a Cravens of USC hit me up and asked for a tape. Being a USC fan and watching him play every week, that’s definitely the most star struck I have gotten with a player.
RIP: As someone admittedly unfamiliar with the highlight video industry, do you see this as a new frontier? There don’t seem to be many of you out there (Youtube channels).
HH: I really do. There’s about 4-5 channels I can think of that have a good following behind them, but new highlight channels are starting everyday. Which truly is great, because each channel will offer a different variety of videos than others.
RIP: Is it typical that players ask someone to make their reel? Or is it more the under the radar players with limited exposure asking you?
HH: It’s typically more of the under the radar players who have nothing on YouTube. The bigger name athletes will have multiple highlight videos on Youtube due to their popularity. It’s also players who are going into the draft that typically will ask because they want something to show scouts. Funny thing however, it’s sort of a chain reaction. For example, a player from Texas Tech hit me up for a highlight. After tweeting the video, I had about 6 other players from TT who hit me up asking for a tape. Same thing goes for Georgia, a player hit me up, tweeted the video, and then I had about 4 players from Georgia hit me up asking for tapes as well. So the word gets around quickly there’s a guy who can make a tape for you, and these players definitely jump on the opportunity!
RIP: How long does it take to make one video?
HH: It’s completely different for every player. This depends on the footage available, finding a song, etc. There are times where it’s taken literally less than an hour to put something together. But on the other hand, I’ve spent days going through footage and editing a video.
RIP: Favorite video?
HH: As I mentioned earlier, since the Top 100 plays is kind of what jumpstarted my channel, I’d have to go with that one. Also, it is by far the most fun to make. Going back and looking through so many plays and choosing 100 is quite exciting.
RIP: Favorite player?
HH: Being a USC fan, I’ll have some bias here. But Su’a Cravens is probably my favorite. He was the first big time athlete to contact me. And it wasn’t this season after my channel took off, it was last season when I was still growing. He was so satisfied with mine last year, he hit me up a second time and asked for another one. Also he’s a great guy, and I guess you can say we’ve somewhat become friends as well! It also doesn’t hurt that he was a star for USC as well.
RIP: One thing I wondered about from the start is the copyright issues you must run into since you don’t actually own the game film. How does that work? (I saw your “Copyright sucks” video).
HH: Copyright is very tricky, and a tough thing to really explain. For the most part, we follow along with the “Fair Use” policy. Rarely, and I mean rarely will you have trouble with a school for using footage. LSU is well known for being strict with their content, hence why you can’t find many LSU videos on YouTube.
RIP: I’m assuming that players don’t pay you, but what about revenue from Youtube views and/or sponsorship?
HH: I make $0 from all the videos I do. Because it isn’t my footage, I wouldn’t be okay with making a few bucks off of what other people have filmed.
RIP: Where do you plan on taking this? Is it still just a fun hobby or do you want to make a career out of it?
HH: At first, I didn’t really know. It was just a fun hobby I had. But this past year has definitely been eye opening, and has made me want to continue editing highlight videos. I actually will be attending Arizona State in the fall and majoring in Sports Journalism. So hopefully in a year or so, I’ll be the one in charge of editing all of the highlight videos you can find on the ASU pages. As for a career in this, I’ll get back to you in five years haha!
RIP: Something people might want to know is if you are in school and what you are majoring in? Do you see it relating at all to what you’re currently doing with the videos?
HH: As I just mentioned, I’ll be attending ASU in the fall for sports journalism. I’m currently at Pasadena City College right now, but I am pretty much just knocking out all of my GE’s. But there are lots of classes they offer that are in relation to what I do. You can take classes such as video production where you can learn about editing with different software. What I highly recommend is for high school students to join their school news program, if they have one. I joined my high school’s program my senior year, and got to cover all sports such as football, volleyball, basketball, etc. It really helped me get a better understanding of the field, and how to go about it. I learned a lot of valuable things, and the best part is you can go into it with no knowledge of how to edit a video, get footage, do interviews, etc. It was a great experience for me, and definitely helped me get to where I am today.
RIP: Clearly you know college football. Who’s your favorite prospect heading into the draft?
HH: Oh man, that is a tough question. All the players who I’ve been in contact with are my favorite! Come draft night, there will be about 50-60 players who I’ll eagerly be waiting to hear get drafted.
RIP: If nothing else, thank you for making it apparent that Josh Doctson is the best receiver in the draft. Why do you think he’s been able to fly under the radar?
HH: Although TCU has been a dominant program, they just don’t get the same amount of publicity as other schools. I think what also helped him was just more attention going to other WR’s. I mean if you look at some of his catches he’s made, you’d think by now he’d be a household name. But for some odd reason, he isn’t.
RIP: Do you like to think of yourself as leveling the playing field for guys who had great seasons and careers but don’t have the hype or attention to show for it?
HH: That’s my favorite part about this process. Crazy story. About 2 months ago I was hit up by a guy named Kent London out of Southeastern Oklahoma State. Now nothing against them, but I had no idea that team even existed. He sent me a few clips from his season, and I put a video together for him. A few months ago nobody knew who this guy was, and now, he’s the #10 ranked safety on a draft board that I just saw yesterday. And a huge reason for that is because this guy has film that lots of draft experts have been able to watch. Now obviously I don’t want to take credit for his rise in draft stock, but it’s definitely helped him out!
RIP: Has this taken the fun out of watching Sportscenter where you catch yourself saying “I could’ve put together something better.”
HH: Haha I joke with my friends about that all the time. We’ll be watching TV and see a promo for a game or something, and I’ll just go, “I can do that.” The other day my friends and I were at a Clippers game, and they did the 3 min intro video before the starting lineups. My friend leaned over and said, “Blake, I KNOW you could definitely put something together better than that!” It’s fun though, because I have a new perspective when I watch games. Seeing the way these quick highlights are put together actually help me with my process. They give me better ideas on how to approach the videos.
RIP: Thanks for doing this and best of luck in the future.
HH: Thank you so much for interviewing me. Being my first interview, I sure have had lots of fun!
Blake can be found on Twitter @BlakeHHarris or on his Youtube channel
**Shockingly, Harris Highlights was taken down only a day after this interview**
**Anddd his channel is back up, good news for all**