What Is A VTuber? Everything You Need To Know

As technology develops so does the content that we consume. The emergence of the very first VTuber revolutionised online content creation. VTubers nowadays have taken the internet by storm as we can find them on all major streaming websites such as Twitch and of course YouTube. VTubers have become a new form of influencer in their own right by presenting themselves as an avatar and simply upholding the voice and persona behind it. 

We are truly living in the digital age where everyone can be whoever they want to be. So in this article, we are going to explain everything there is to know about VTubers one of the fastest-growing online communities.

What Is a VTuber?

The name VTuber itself is an abbreviation for the term Virtual Youtuber, the place where many of us might have first seen these animated personalities. Some of the most popular VTubers have avatars that resemble the iconic anime art style with their wide glistening eyes and sinuous hairstyles, but this isn’t always the case. With the freedom to become anything you want, avatars range from fairies to furries and anything in between. 


VTubers rely on real-time tracking technology to have their avatars mimic their every move. Just to clear up any rumours about them being robots or AI. Content like this would usually be reserved for fancy studios back in the day but thanks to the development of facial tracking software anyone with a decent webcam can now replicate this. Hence explaining why you’re hearing more about them now than ever before. Millions of people tune in every day to watch their favourite VTubers play video games, chat, sing and interact just as they would with any other content creator.

VTuber Kiryu Coco Livestreaming

Where Did VTubing Come From?

With all this popularity you might be wondering where this all started. The digital trend originated in Japan in the mid-2010s but the earliest recording of VTuber content on YouTube was from Ami Yamato back in 2011. Ami Yamato is a Japanese VTuber vlogger based in London. She is a 3D animated character who doesn’t realise that she is an animation which you’ll establish from her interactions with the world and outlook on life.


It didn’t take long for the success of Ami Yamato to inspire big companies like the creators of Barbie to appeal to the youth and utilise it as a marketing tool. Barbie had its very own VTubing vlogs where the main characters of the show Nikki, Barbie and Ken would discuss pop culture and some heavy topics such as race and relationships. As the internet generation moved away from television it certainly was a smart move to grab them at their computers as they sought out new forms of entertainment with VTubers.


However, the actual VTuber to coin the phrase began with VTubing sensation Kizuna AI who is seen as a pioneer of VTubing. The community pay homage to her contribution by considering her the Oyabun or Boss of the Four Heavenly Kings. For those who aren’t familiar with VTuber culture, this is the status given to the four original VTubers to bring the content into the limelight Dennou Shojo Siro, Mirai Akari, Kaguya Luna and Kizuna AI. The term Four Heavenly Kings is derived from Buddhist mythology and used to compare these VTubing legends to deities!


Kizuna AI was the first VTuber to begin live streaming and interacting with viewers which was something exciting and unheard of compared to the prerecorded content that fans were used to. Kizuna would primarily carry out Q&As, discussions and let’s plays on her channel, propelling VTubing to another level and acquiring 2 million subscribers in less than a year on YouTube alone. 


The viral reaction to Kizuna AI lead to unofficial communities of people dedicated to translating her content for fans around the world. Despite being managed by an entire company, the trend that Kizuna had set in motion would ultimately lead to the development of independent VTubers, agencies and much more!

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VTuber Ami Yamato Vlogging With Friends

What Does A VTuber Do?

On face value, it can be confusing as to what makes VTubers so appealing. To put it simply, VTubers are like virtual internet personalities. You’ve seen millions of people tune in to watch PewDiePie, Pokimane, and numerous other content creators for their loveable personalities and reactions; well it’s essentially the same for VTubers.

People hop online to watch their favourite VTubers for their polarising and entertaining personas that can be as real or as fabricated as they like. Similar real-life internet personalities apply this concept like DrDisrespect who is always wearing his signature moustache, mullet and sunglasses when he’s in character. VTubers more or less do exactly what any content creator does. They stream video games, talk with their viewers, sing, react to videos and even collaborate with other VTubers.

What Is A VTuber Avatar?

A VTuber avatar is a computer-generated image that the person behind the camera is controlling. However, a VTuber’s avatar is much more than just a cartoon image. No one who takes VTubing serious creates an avatar on a whim. Most of them are carefully thought out with lots of attention to detail. The avatar must fit and represent the persona that they wish to portray. This will determine the audience that they appeal to and ultimately their interactions with fans. 


Most VTubers will design their avatars themselves or at least create a detailed profile of them in order to have them commissioned by a professional artist. VTuber avatars are only limited by the creator’s imagination and thus we have such a wide and wonderful range of characters that come from this. 


VTuber avatars are however limited to 2D and 3D designs. Most VTuber these days tend to opt for 2D VTubers based on the less expensive hardware requirements and the freedom of toggle expressions. As we mentioned earlier VTubers have to be prepared to react to anything just as a real person would on camera. Although the facial tracking technology is good they still aren’t magic. VTuber expressions require skilled artists to design, animate and rig all of these in order for the user to be able to toggle them at will. This isn’t to say that it’s impossible to pull this off on a 3D model but it tends to be more complicated and expensive. 

3D VTuber model commissions do however have their advantages as they offer better full body and individual digit tracking. Ultimately it depends on the VTuber’s preference and intended purpose for their avatar, as many VTubers dabble in VR games such as VRChat where they like to maintain their current VTuber avatar and have it imported into the game.

VTuber using VTuber Maker Program

How Does VTubing Work?

It’s time to unveil the mystery behind the virtual YouTubers. VTubing typically works by having a 2D or 3D generated avatar that has been rigged to move and perform particular animations as the real person in front of the camera moves. The term rigging refers to the process of defining the animations that will occur alongside the person’s movements. VTuber rigging is a skill in and of itself so a lot of effort goes into making these avatars.


The avatar will be tracked using motion capture software that is compatible with just a decent webcam. As the person in the background tilts their head the camera picks this up and mirrors it to the avatar. Some of the most popular motion tracking software for VTubers are Animaze, VTube Studio and Hyper. Some programs are great for full-body motion capture and tracking while others are better for facial expressions and lipsyncing. A lot of these programmes have their pros and cons but it’s all down to the user’s budget and intentions with VTubing. 


This is a pretty long-winded process to set up and you can find a lot more detail in our how to become a VTuber article.

Facial Tracking Software

What’s The Difference Between A VTuber And A YouTuber?

As you probably might have guessed by now the primary difference between a YouTuber and a VTuber is the fact that VTubers operate behind an avatar and persona. This is usually the main appeal of becoming a VTuber as they can remain completely anonymous. Creators can feel newfound confidence and freedom of expression that they would otherwise struggle with in front of the camera, in addition to this, VTubers protect all of their personal information like their names as most of them go by a catchy alias. 


Of course, an awesome bonus of making it as a big-time VTuber is you can get all of the fame and notoriety without getting recognised in public. In VTuber culture it is actually quite frowned upon to pry into and discuss information about the people behind their avatars. Fans explain that the content should be appreciated for the entertainment and art that they are creating not for the person behind the scenes. 


Another thing that sets VTubers and YouTubers apart is preparation. This isn’t to knock YouTubers and say that they don’t have to put effort into their videos but the bare minimum requirement to start recording or streaming is a video and audio check. VTubers on the other hand have to ensure they have a background rendered, their motion capture software is calibrated and make sure their avatars are moving correctly, alongside most of the provisions that YouTubers have to make.


We say “most” as VTubers don’t have to make much of an effort for their own physical appearance due to the fact that they won’t be shown on camera. So in this respect, there’s no need for a new wardrobe or hair and makeup!


Overall, there are a lot more similarities than differences when it comes to VTubers as they produce a lot of the same content. Not only this but they both usually fill a particular niche within the world of content creation and target a particular audience. VTubers sometimes lose traction with older demographics due to them being considered childish. While a cartoon can be offputting to adults the VTubers content itself may not be suitable or targeted at children. As well as being derived from Japanese culture another reason why creators opt for an anime VTuber avatar is probably because of how appealing anime is becoming to young adults in the western world.

How Do VTubers Make Money?

Just like any other content creators, most VTubers rely on donations, sponsorships, merchandise and subscribers to support them financially. As a general rule the more viewers and subscribers a VTuber has the more the streaming platform pays them. But this is just the money they receive from the streaming platform. Viewers who have subscribed to the VTubers channel pay a monthly sum of money to the creator depending on their tier of subscription. The minimum payment on Twitch being $4.99 a month for a tier 1 subscription and $24.99 a month for a tier 3. 

VTubers also make money from donations during their streams as fans send in money to ask questions, interact or simply support the content that they are seeing. There is no cap on the amount that a fan can donate so there have been many generous donations in the history of streaming. 

Building a large following as a VTuber is extremely lucrative as many of the biggest VTubers sell their own merchandise and increase their chances of landing big sponsorship deals. The previously mentioned Kaguya Luna took part in a publicity stunt sponsored by Pot Noodle; to be the first VTuber to stream at an altitude of 30km above sea level. As you can probably imagine this event likely paid well.

It’s safe to say with all of these revenues combined that the top VTubers make very good money. Kiryu Coco is the highest super chat earning streamer of all time. She makes around $134,000 a month from these donations alone. Of course, all of this money isn’t going directly into her bank account as she belongs to Hololive one of the biggest VTuber agencies in the world, but even making a fraction of that sum would be a healthy living.

VTuber Kizuna AI

Can Anyone Become A VTuber?

If you were to ask this question 5 – 10 years ago the likely answer would have been no. But thanks to all of the amazing technological advancements we’ve made over the years it’s totally possible for anyone to become a VTuber. The hardware requirements are as simple as a computer with a decent processor and a video recording device. A lot of smartphones nowadays can even be substituted for webcams based on their amazing cameras and facial tracking compatibility. 


So long as your internet provider is good enough to support a good quality stream for a few hours then it should be no problem. We should also bear in mind that a lot of VTubers also create YouTube videos so this is the perfect alternative for those who aren’t ready to stream yet.


The best place to start will be getting an avatar commissioned but for those who are simply looking to dip their toes in, there are plenty of VTuber maker software and tutorials to get a very basic avatar to get started. So if you’ve got the golden voice and the hustle then why not give it a try?!

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