This was a task.
Last month, in September, a video article of mine went up, and it was great and I’m very proud of it and it was a lot of work to make. It was about the Sonic the Hedgehog games and whether or not ‘Sonic The Hedgehog is good.’ This is a dumb question, but I was able to use it as a launching point to explain a bunch of different research methods and why you might use a particular tool and how to make it work.
And I want to account for how it got made.
Absolutely step zero was ‘have the idea.’ The idea started as just a spreadsheet joke — I was going to just have a spreadsheet that slowly got longer and longer as you read it. But I couldn’t find a way to code that, and like, I love a spreadsheet post, but I don’t know how popular they are. Check out my Commedia Del Anime spreadsheet builder, if you’re into it, yes, that’s some crosspromotion but whatever. And then when I filled in my spreadsheet and saw that I got a square 50/50, I envisioned the joke, and figured it’d make a good video.
Okay, so then I had to make the spreadsheet. The jokes about how it got made worked into the video proper, but it was a task. I went to wikipedia, I looked up all the games, I copied that into a list, then I checked for variants that I could get from other sources. I was seriously this close to categorising the McDonalds happy meal games, when I realised oh my fucking god who cares and moved on to the next step.
That move, that oh my fucking god who cares and move on, happened a few times.
Then I had to write the script. This was the bit that ‘feels’ like it should be the hard bit but in hindsight was both the most fun bit and the easiest bit. I’m familiar with explaining these types of methodologies, I get to reference fun stuff like how Roland Barthes liked pro wrestling, and you know, that’s all good.
I had to check in at this point with a couple of people I consider Sonic fans – in this case, curiously, all women, because I wanted to make sure that while I was making fun, I wasn’t being cruel. That’s a thing, by the way — if I’m gunna provide a basic bit of thoughtful care about something as silly as Sonic, you can probably afford to spend some time checking with affected parties about your ideas about more serious stuff.
Then I had to go back through the lists I talk about in the script. Because I had to check to make those lists, to see about ways to apply my criteria to them. That meant I had to start searching through a variety of Sonic wikis – not linking because I don’t think they’re good sources and I don’t trust Fandom now it’s owned by like, military industrial entertainment complex people – to see if there were references to other spaces that I could track back. Eventually, what I did was find a Sonic Mania wiki and went to its ‘references’ page and just tracked back through that. Mania made a reference to everything, which meant that model of canon kind of had to deliberately dissolve.
Okay, that’s how I got the plan.
I started out making a typical video, on my normal crumpled paper design. Then, I had the bright idea of messing with it, and breaking the formula to do something with a sonic avatar. That created the question of how. My first idea was to pixel-edit a Sonic sprite, but that was very hard. I don’t like depicting myself — I find it hard to do, just in and of itself, and so creating an avatar for myself was difficult. Also pixel art is outside my skillset, and learning how to do it for this video was hard.
I did still experiment though!
What I remembered is Joyce-Stick’s picrew avatars she used in videos like her Madoka essay. That seemed like something I could use, someone else already doing the expressions. That put me on track to go looking for picrews. I found one – that was taken down by copyright demand, and then rereleased as psd. I started to mess with it, and Fox found the results… uh… aberrant.
So she volunteered to give me an avatar. Which meant I took some time waiting for
There were five rounds of mockups, with avatars in different sizes. There were different frames – a big ring with my avatar leaning out, with wings and banners and other manufactured assets. But shrinking the avatar made the line weights a problem. Fox didn’t like that, and then we had the choice of either waiting until Fox could redraw the art with thicker lines, or I redo how I framed the avatar on the screen. That meant that I wanted to try and maintain it as big as possible, and that’s why that really big avatar in the video.
Fox also did the art for Pedant the Fox, which was actually organic – when I did my first read-through of the article, Fox dissented in that paragraph, and that meant implementing the edit, and then when she did the avatar, she also provided art of her 90s Sonic OC. Neat little continuity nod for her longest-term friends.
Then with that blocking in mind, I had to do all the interface pieces. I mimicked Mania for the block my avatar is resting on; I also added the rotating rings from the Mania menus. And once I had them made as images… I had to make them work.
Making the rings match each other in size and orbit around the same point involved coming to understand the proper positioning tools in Vegas. Like, making it so they rotated around the same central point.
I then made the different avatar slides out of the vector art of the ferret character in different poses. This was overwhelming. There were two eyelid positions, four eye positions, three position for each hand, a sweat drop, four mouths and oh no there are too many choices. I simplified what I wanted and relied on the text and audio to pull focus from when I wasn’t showing the most perfectly timed avatar stuff. It was great but it was complicated, and I couldn’t manage that complication. Being overwhelmed by that avatar was a big part of why I struggled so much with this stage of things.
The most technically complicated thing in the video is the transition like the Megadrive sonic game. That’s three slides, timed to arrive at the same point, hold, then leave either by the same or different routes. It was just very difficult to time it out.
I had to get the visual elements for the video. This is standard stuff at this point, this is very normal. But because I had to get a large variety (about forty slides), what I tried to do is go through the script, look at the pictures I’d want, then get them all at once, save them in to the directory for this video. Put them into the timeline generally when they need to be there, then go through on another pass and make sure they line up properly with the time. This is fiddly work, but you know, whatever. Once the timing is right, go through another pass and position and size them properly, which is also fiddly, but we’re at pass number four or so at this point.
Then I have to make for any transitions or transformations, you know, effects like making the fanart section ‘fade in,’ or the sliding script text. The text was really hard to work with as it was, so it was easier to make a single huge text image and then slide it up like it’s a normal ordinary slide.
Then, render it. Rewatch the render. Make sure it’s okay.
In this case, I made some mistakes I missed, and went back to re-render it after some sleep.
Upload the render, and then while that’s processing on Youtube, make the thumbnail. That’s a single image and I already have the fonts downloaded, so there…
And goodness me, that was a lot of work. This video took weeks to make from script to complete and I at times felt like I was failing. But what’s the point of having a big backlog of articles written and videos made if I’m not going to use that time to make something that eats a little more time.