Making Video: Outlined & Unscripted

Hey, one of the things I try to do is put the tools for making in other people’s hands. I realise that while I’ve been making videos, I haven’t done much to make it clear how I’m making videos, and what I’ve learned.

Here’s one of my older videos, and below the fold, my recording of how I made it.

This video is an example of what I think of as an outlined, unscripted video. That is, I worked from an outline, rather than a script. I make videos like this because I don’t like how full scripts feel unless I’m making a really specific point. It’s easier and faster, so let’s talk about the process.

First I jot down what I want to talk about. I write a list of points in something that can do a bulleted list (I used this blog itself, for example). This becomes the outline for the video, as I add points I want to mention and compare.

This includes details like dates and years and references for ideas and where I got them, and make sure I hit all the points I want to hit. This starts out as a bulleted list – simple points, then I flesh it out as I look at points and think about things I want to include. I will copy and paste bits around, and see if I can do a throughline as I look at it.

With that structure, I’m not producing from a script, per se, and it makes the whole video easier and relies more on my practice at rhetoric. I’ll overlay it over gameplay footage, I captured, spliced up to provide an interesting background, trimmed in places.

  • Introduce Heretic.
    • Raven Software, 1994, two months after Doom 2
    • Sequels of Hexen, Hexen 2, and Heretic 2
    • Following Corvus as he pursues D’Sparil
  • The game gets to build on a text
    • Doom as origin point
    • The weapons as homage
    • The Tome of Power modal changing
  • Monster design
    • Doom’s
      • Hitscan weapons
        • Yours: Shotgun, pistol, chaingun
        • Theirs: Shotgunner, chaingunner, pistoler
      • High variance weapons
        • Shotgun, chaingunner, pistoler
      • Nightmare’s regenerating enemies
    • Heretic’s
      • Hitscan weapons
        • The only person with hitscan is you
        • Enemies are all projectile flingers that you can dodge
      • Lack of regenerating enemies on Nightmare
    • Destiny
      • Same kind of you hitscan, they projectile
  • Narrative
    • John Carmack (porn)
      • “Story in a game is like a story in a porn movie. It’s expected to be there, but it’s not that important.”
    • Gus Van Sant (cuts)
      • “the videogames were also informing, doing what we were doing in gerry – to get from point a to point b, you have to travel there, you can’t cut like we do in cinema. You have to walk, like we do in reality. Because of that, I thought about cinema like that. “
    • The story outlined in Heretic
      • What it means to be a Heretic
      • What can we tell about
      • The character I imagined
      • The meaning of the word
  • How much I like Heretic

So I sat down, I recorded the audio using Audacity, with some redoing. This was stop-and-starty; I’d sometimes think about what I said, or the wording I chose, and decided it wasn’t good enough. Sometimes a noise in another room would rattle me, and I’d stop and redo the recording. With a specific script this can get harder.

Then, I listen to the audio, and with the outline as a template, I went through these steps:

  • First, I ran a ‘Noise reduction’ filter on it. I ran it about two or three times – can’t be too certain. This has the effect of blunting some of the ways I spoke, but it also gets rid of sounds that are beyond my ability to blunt in my current recording setup. That includes stuff like the sound of the fridge in the same room, and any background audio from Fox listening to her computer in the literal bathroom. My mic is very sensitive.
  • Then I break each bit of spoken text into a chunk, cleared up any word choices I don’t like, and recording bits I wanted to fix.
  • Once each section is separated out, I divide them up, using ctrl+I in Audacity.
  • In each individual section I run a ‘Truncate Silence’ filter. This makes my pauses standardised, and it also has the nice side effect of largely getting rid of any audible breaths.
  • Then, I space each section with a small clip of audio, and I run any effects I want on specific audio.
  • Because my mic only takes in mono sound, I then add a stereo track and mix them together to get a stereo track
  • Then, I export that stereo track. That’s my template for how long the video is going to be.

This here is important: I take a break here. This was done in the evening. I did not try and finish the project in one sitting. This is basically a good chunk that I can see as ‘done.’

Then, with that recording done, I go and play the game for about the right amount of time. With the audio on hand I can take notes on what is involved in the video that I may need. In this video’s case, in hindsight, I wish I had recorded video of dodging a melee attack to highlight in that section.

I record this video, in this case, with DOSBox‘s default recording – press ctrl-f5, and it’ll record it as a .avi. To edit that, I have to put it into an mp4 format, which I do using Handbrake. If I’m using a game that doesn’t use DOSBox, I use OBS, which lets me record my gameplay. I like DOSBox a lot because it only takes game audio from the DOS window. OBS will pick up things like discord chirps and other messenger programs or alarms. Not a big concern, you can plan around it, but it’s nice to not do that. Also, I like to listen to podcasts when I play – so when I use DOSBox I can do that with my computer.

Alright, so when I have the audio and the video, it’s time to put them into my video editing program. I do not know what you use or what’s available to you, but fortunately, video editing tends to be done with a reasonably standardised set of tools: You’ll usually have access to a timeline, and layers, and the ability to add notes.

What I start with is putting in the audio. I listen back to it, and put notes on the timeline at points I want visual information added to the video. I use this to compile a list of resources I want – things I want to mention or show, then elements I’ll need to go find. This is where I check audio, get graphics, compile those things and put them into a folder. I put the items in the timeline when I need them – but crucially, that’s all I do. I don’t tighten up timing or positioning, I just get things in the general space.

Then I went to bed.

Next day, after some work was done, I pulled open the video again. Now it’s just pulling things together. With this video, what I mainly did was make sure everything was timed correctly, then, once it was, I laid the game video into the video and put it underneath the other layers, so it’s always on the bottom. I crank the audio down to -10 DB, so there’s a marked gap between my audio and the game audio.

Then, the next stop is just going through and refining all the pieces in place. Picking a font for the text, making the graphics sit nicely in a good position – adding effects like transitions and fades when I need them.

Then, when the images are positioned right, the game video works for what it’s being done, I render it. In this case, I rendered it, accidentally, muted, so no audio came through. Oops! That just meant I rendered it twice, which is why it’s good to check these things.

The last thing I need to do is make a thumbnail. I tend to do that while I’m uploading the video to Youtube, which takes about twenty minutes for me. From there, it’s just filling in a Youtube form, and there we go.

Hopefully this makes the process seem interesting? I guess? And also give you a clear image on what it’s like to be a one-person producer-and-editor. These are the tools I use, and how I use them. It’s not about big chunks of getting it perfect moment to moment. I find shifting the skills I need to use and the tools I’m using makes it easier to make this kind of video with a variety of content.