Technology and YouTube appear to go hand in hand. Many will likely point to Linus Sebastian and his Tech Tips channel for the uprising of TechTubers as we refer to them.
But enduring the horror of socks being paired with sandals is not the only way to get a dose of technology goodness.
Enter UFD also known as UF Disciple also known as Brett Stelmaszek who is also affectionately known as South Africa’s American Tech YouTuber.
For the last two years Stelmaszek has been making YouTube videos that address topics such as wether integrated graphics are good enough to play games like Fallout 4 interspersed with reviews of the latest components.
We managed to get the techie to sit down for a second (barely) and answer a few questions for us about his channel, the local PC market and what exactly the UF in UF Disciple represents.
htxt.africa – I’m sure a lot of people are shocked to learn that you actually live in Pretoria given your American accent. What’s the story there? Are you natively from SA or did you head to our lion infested shores at a later stage?
UFD – I’m completely American, through and through, as is my wife. We came to South Africa on the invitation to work with a local church in Pretoria West as pastors. It’s a crazy story and it took us two whole years of preparation to finally move here with our two sons, but we’re primarily here because of our church work.
htxt.africa – You do a few tech reviews but a lot of your content appears to be centred around advice and curious things you’ve discovered such as the RX Vega mining video. What is the crux of your channel?
UFD – The channel definitely started off as completely reviews-based, but then it became monotonous. So we’ve just developed and implemented the philosophy that we’re going to enjoy technology and we’re going to do our best to communicate that to the audience. Sometimes that’s through the form of a review, and sometimes it’s through the form of hitting the box of a R9,000 graphics card with a pickaxe.
We just want to have fun with technology. I think I pigeonholed a bit too much into the computer components side of thing when I first started out, but we’ll be branching out to more diverse types of tech as time goes on.
htxt.africa – What was the first PC you ever built for yourself?
UFD – I was always that friend who begged for your old PC parts when you’re upgrading so that I could frankenstein a system together myself.
I didn’t have the cash to really buy components myself for a while, so it was always some OEM PC with an 8600 GT here, an HD 7770 there, whatever I could weasle out of my friend’s trash piles.
My first completely built-by-myself rig is actually my first video on the channel. I had finally saved up enough cash to do a full system and it was an i5-4460, R9 270X in a Silverstone RVZ01 Mini-ITX case. It wasn’t the first PC I had ever built, but it was the first one that I was able to call mine.
htxt.africa – It’s been killing us for the longest time. What does the UF stand for?
UFD – It originally stood for University of Florida as it was the gamer tag that I adopted while studying there. It’s since evolved and now the acronym is UFD.
htxt.africa – Given that you are from the USA, what differences have you seen in the tech space here in SA compared to overseas?
UFD – I think the biggest and most obvious is the prevalence of product availability. There’s some major brands that just aren’t represented locally and that’s a major bummer. But at the same time, the enthusiasts here are just as high-level and enthusiastic about the new products as anyone from the US.
htxt.africa – A lot of your videos quote prices in dollars is there a reason for that?
UFD – It’s mainly to reach the broadest audience possible. YouTube is a global platform, not a local one, so pricing things in dollars is universally transferable to most other countries & their currencies.
My audience isn’t majority American, or South African for that matter, because I have a large global reach. Over 218 countries are listed in my YouTube analytics with many of them taking up 1,000 views a month or more. So pricing things in dollars is the easiest way to reach everyone at the same time because most people know how to convert from a dollar value of a component to their local environment.
If I were to price my videos in Rand, it’s not just a direct conversion from the Rand value to someone else’s currency as $1500 worth of components here actually can come out to R30K instead of it’s directly converted amount. So pricing everything in dollars is the simplest solution I’ve found to actually working with everyone in my audience.
However, I will note that if I am doing a review, I always attempt to give its local Rand price and compare it in the local market. Sometimes this isn’t possible as I have a pre-release media sample with no South African pricing confirmed, so I have to only rely on the quoted anticipated US price.
htxt.africa – What equipment do you use to film your videos and also what do you use to edit?
UFD – I just did an update video recently where I upgrade to a Ryzen Threadripper system for my video editing (1950X 16-cores + 64GB TridentZ RGB RAM + RX Vega 64 + RGB – thanks Wootware!).
It’s made a tremendous difference in the speed at which I’m able to actually get my videos edited and rendered. For software, I primarily use Adobe Premiere Pro with a splash of After Effects when I need to do some motion graphics.
Regarding my filming, our primary camera is a Panasonic GH4 with a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens with a smattering of accessories such as slider’s, various tripod heads, softboxes, etc.
Camera equipment (and how to use it properly) is something that I was incredibly clueless on coming into YouTube so there’s been a lot of discovery of how to do things properly, and if you’ve been watching my videos for any length of time, you’ll remember how horrible my lighting & color accuracy used to be on videos.
htxt.africa – Do you think the number of PC enthusiasts in South Africa is growing or do prices make it hard for that to happen?
UFD – It seems there’s an ever growing amount of enthusiasts, but at the same time, they’re people who have learned to temper their expectations.
We, in South Africa, drool over things such as Nvidia launching the Titan Xp Star Wars edition cards, but then also recognize that 1) it’s likely not coming to this country and 2) it’ll cost a butt-ton to import. I think the PC people in South Africa are probably some of the least elitist people you can find in the community because there’s always that healthy tension of wanting the best, but then also recognizing the exchange rates & import fees make it a difficult reality to live.
I think the PC community is in a healthy space because prices seem to be perpetually high in South Africa, and the entire community just adapts to it.
htxt.africa – Who is winning the “war” for PC components in your opinion?
UFD – The consumer.
This is the most competitive the PC space has been for years because of innovation on the CPU side for AMD and by both AMD and Nvidia on the GPU side.
We have more legitimate options than ever and it’s a great thing. On CPU side, both Intel and AMD have their place and serve their own purposes. Intel is what you get when you want the best performance. AMD Ryzen is what you get when you want the value for your cash.
On the GPU side, it’s a bit more muddled, especially locally. Globally, Vega is a competitive platform, but locally it’s priced too high to really be a consideration. Nvidia clearly has the upper-hand no matter how you slice it.
They can just keep releasing versions of the Pascal GPU’s to beat AMD (1070 Ti) and they don’t have to innovate currently. That’ll be an issue in a few years since Nvidia might rest on its laurels, but at present, it’s acceptable since Pascal is still a great, fresh architecture.
But regardless of the CPU and GPU wars, we all really win in this.
htxt.africa – What advice would you give to folks that are building their first PC?
UFD – It’s a journey. Don’t rush anything, always double-triple check your steps to make sure you’ve got everything set up properly.
PC building requires time and patience. Go into it with that mindset and you’ll be golden.
I don’t know if it was just me, but when I first started building I was uber-careful with PC parts because I thought them to be brittle. As I’ve made hundreds of videos with them, I’ve realized they’re not like newborn babies. They can take a substantial amount of abuse (or accidental damage) before they really show it.
There’s some places you don’t mess around, like the pins on the motherboard, but other than that, raw PCB tends to be pretty hardy so long as you’re not trying to snap it in half.
htxt.africa – That leads us into our next and final question, is now the best time to buy PC components?
UFD – For some parts yes, others no. Certain products like RAM, is insanely expensive, but others are in a good space such as CPU’s.
The mining craze has settled down quite tremendously as of late, so purchasing GPU’s isn’t a mission like it was a few months ago. It’s always a tough thing to forecast though because prices fluctuate all the time and RAM prices could go down, but CPU shortages could jack the prices up there.
However, regardless of pricing, it’s certainly the best time to buy as far as variety is concerned. Most major products have been refreshed already this year, some even twice, and we’re not anticipating any major launches until the end of Q1 2018, so as far as buyer’s remorse, it’s a great time.