From car reviews to sim racing and PC building with Andie the Lab

Articles: News
Dec 04, 2020 Written by:Chris_Barr

Content creators ranging from professional musicians to esports stars use ROG gear to make their mark, but Andie the Lab is the very first four-legged friend to join the ROG team. Andie may be the star of the show, but it’s her owner Deb that puts in most of the work for the duo’s popular YouTube channel. Together, Deb and Andie have made a name for themselves reviewing everything from home gadgets to the latest supercars by framing those stories from a dog’s perspective. 

Lately, Deb has spent more time in the virtual driver’s seat as she’s discovered her passion for sim racing. She’s fueled up her setup with a special full-motion racing rig that lets her experience the thrill of driving a real race car without leaving the comfort of her home, and it’s powered by the finest ROG hardware. Deb documented the process of building this beastly rig in her recent Threadripper build video.

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Read on to see how Deb’s and Andie made their journey from a few simple Instagram posts to the hit YouTube channel that they have today.

Finding a passion for videography

It all began with Deb’s grandmother. Deb is a licensed speech-language pathologist and spent around 10 years in the field. In that time, she developed a love for working with seniors, as well as a budding interest in learning how to shoot and edit videos. “I didn’t go to school for video or editing at all,” Deb explained. “On the side, I started to just play around with video, actually filming my grandmother.”

In order to hone her video skills, Deb committed to making one video per week with her grandmother, doing everything from shooting to editing and uploading it. The result wasn’t just an improvement in her skills—it also had a profound effect on her grandmother. “I started seeing an amazing transformation in her life in terms of word-finding and excitement for things. Her whole outlook on life changed.”

By the end of the year-long project, Deb said “I’m digging these videos and editing them—I really got into it.” But she didn’t want to stop there. She wanted to challenge herself to create videos beyond the ones she was shooting with her grandmother. And what’s more challenging and exciting to film than a dog?

Andie the Lab becomes an internet star

Deb has no issue telling anyone that her Labrador Andie is her best friend. “I’m your typical obsessed-with-her-dog type of person. My dog is my best friend, not embarrassed to say that.” And if you’ve spent any time watching their videos together, it’s easy to understand why. Andie is one cute pupper.

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Deb and her husband decided that for her next project, they wanted to document Andie’s life. Taking photos and videos was a natural way to chronicle the life of a cute dog, so they created the @AndieTheLab Instagram page, filling it with content that they shot on a GoPro and their smartphones. It was originally conceived as a personal scrapbook-like page for themselves and other dog lovers, but it eventually grew to become much more than that.

When I asked Deb how the page transformed from a simple doggy scrapbook into the successful YouTube channel it is now, she explained that “what ended up happening was that my Instagram really started to grow, and that opened up the door for companies to come in and say ‘hey! Do you want to review this dog product? And if I believed in it, I was like ‘sure’ because it gave me content, and more practice filming and editing.”

From there, Deb and Andie reviewed select products from the perspective of a pet and owner. Making content from this angle presented new challenges, but also plenty of opportunities for Deb and Andie to sink their teeth into some really exciting products.

“Lab testing” the latest cars

When auto companies came knocking, it was as much a surprise to Deb as anyone. It was a big leap to go from testing dog toys and home gadgets to focusing on the latest cars. Serendipitously, it was also an exciting new chance for someone who already had an interest in everything automotive to begin with.

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“About a year or so into it I had an opportunity to film a vehicle—a Mazda—and that’s when my content started to shift. I had that opportunity, then I had another opportunity, and then I had another car shortly after, and within six to eight months, I was sort of positioned into this automotive space,” Deb recounted. “From there, it was a lot of forging relationships with manufacturers. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some wonderful people, and they’ve given me the opportunity to film their vehicles, and now it’s nonstop and this is what I do. I have about a car a week.”

Early on in her journey towards making car reviews, Deb checked out what others were creating for inspiration. But as she looked at the work of other reviewers on YouTube, she noticed that many of them had similar formats, and focused less on the cinematic style of the video than what was being said. And for Deb, the look and feel of the video are some of the most important parts.

Since automotive YouTube content is primarily produced by men, Deb didn’t want to do the same kinds of videos as everyone else. Plus, as I’ve noted before, she enjoys a challenge. “I’ve always loved cars, but filming a car was very interesting for me because I had to learn how to do it,” she told me.

When I first discovered the Andie the Lab channel, I had no idea that Deb did all of the work herself. In fact, the high production values and insightful commentary belied the fact that this one-woman production crew was completely self-taught. It’s apparent that Deb spent a lot of time finding the best way to film something as sweeping and detailed as a car review while avoiding common formulas used throughout the automotive community. Her focus on storytelling and visual presentation make her channel stand out from the crowd. Deb believes that much of the channel’s success in the space has been because she focused on these key areas, as well as putting Andie’s unique pawprint on the videos.

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It may seem easy to put a camera on a tripod and shoot a video, but Deb’s attention to detail and her desire to create a polished end product that people will enjoy means a lot more work has to go into the process. “It’s work,” Deb says. “This is more work than I’ve ever done in my entire life. I’m doing everything: storyboarding, doing research on the vehicles, making the script, filming, editing, and then starting over again.”

All of that is a lot of work for a video that only includes one host, however, Deb rarely shoots anything without her best friend. And while she loves getting to share her experiences with her pup, she admits it can be hard work. “It’s not the easiest thing to film with a dog. You gotta exercise your dog, you’ve got to make sure they’re cool. There are a lot of extra variables that complicate things. But I love Andie, and I get to work with her by my side all day long.”

I asked Deb what some of the biggest challenges were when trying to film car videos with a dog like Andie. “The heat is a huge challenge,” she explained. “I love the winter. It’s a game-changer when filming with a dog. You can have the car on and the A/C blasting [in the summer], but it’s not ideal.” Deb went on to tell me that she has a soft spot for cars that have three-pronged outlets for Andie’s favorite fan, which helps a lot on the hot days. The two take frequent breaks whenever they’re filming, as Andie’s health and comfort are far more important to Deb than any video she’s trying to produce.

From live cars to virtual races

Several times throughout our conversation, Deb told me that she really enjoys taking on new challenges. She’s had the opportunity to start taking on multiple car reviews per week, but she realized that she would have to cut back on production values in order to make that kind of time. Instead, she decided to try out new types of content that didn’t involve filming even more cars.

Earlier this year, Deb was introduced to the world of sim racing and fell in love with it immediately. She explained that this was the inspiration she needed for her new videos. “I wanted to make more content, but I felt like there was only so much I could do without degrading [it]. There was this whole idea of starting a stream and doing sim racing but also linking real-life cars. I have a Nissan GTR in real life, and I’ll drive a GTR in the game. It felt more natural than me trying to do something random like Fortnite.”

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Since discovering sim racing, Deb has gone all-in on it. She has a full-motion racing sim setup from Next Level Racing that’s powered by her ROG Ryzen Threadripper build. Unlike most of us that get by with playing racing titles in a regular chair, Deb’s whole rig moves with the in-game car, so she can feel the seat shift and bounce along the track as she speeds around each turn.

No racing sim would be complete without the perfect display. Deb favors the ROG Strix XG49VQ as her monitor of choice. This gigantic 49-inch screen wraps around a large portion of her periphery, giving her the most immersive view possible on a single display. According to Deb, “if you’re doing a single-monitor setup, this is the one to get.”

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Deb has the most fun driving in Assetto Corsa Competizione and the Forza Motorsport Series, but she’s also serious about racing against living, breathing opponents. On the competitive side, Deb has participated in a number of series including the SRO GT Rivals Series, the Sim Racing Grid: More Female Racers Series, and the SRO e-sport  FCP GTWC America Esports Championship AM series.

A racing rig that’s ready to rip

The Ryzen Threadripper build that Deb uses to power her ultimate sim-racing rig isn’t just a collection of powerful ROG hardware. It’s the first system that Deb has built herself. While it may have been intimidating at first, she really enjoyed the experience. “Doing the build was a lot of fun, even just in terms of learning. I’d never built a computer before. We’ve got gaming computers in the house, but I’d never built one.”

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I asked what the most challenging part of the build was, and for Deb, it came down to the custom cooling loop. Getting all the tubes and connectors to fit perfectly presented a unique set of challenges. But since she enjoys challenging herself, this ended up being the best part of the build for her. “My favorite part of building it was the tubing. I love bending the tubes.”

To find out more about Deb’s impressive Threadripper build, be sure to check out the video she put together on the process:

Deb will also host and participate in the "Women Who Build" segment of our PC DIY Day celebration taking place on December 3, 2020. To hear more about her experiences with PC building, make sure you tune into our event starting at 11 am PT (2 pm ET) and watch the broadcast on the ASUS PC DIY Day page.

Andie the Lab and Deb the Human

Whether they’re filming the latest SUV on the market or checking out new gadgets together, Andie and Deb make an incredible duo. And when she’s not reviewing real cars with Andie, Deb has taken to the virtual tracks in the competitive sim racing scene. She’s a passionate content creator that’s always looking for new challenges and new ways to include her favorite furry friend.

Keep up with the latest videos featuring Deb and Andie by following thme (and the newest lab, Abby!) on Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and Twitch.