Stuff About Making Videos

I think I’m probably half the hits for the videos I make and put up on Youtube. I watch them from time to time to check for mistakes, and I try to take notes on those mistakes. Well, part of working out loud is showing you my mistakes and talking about them.

I imagine that I should be able to sit and look at videos on my computer and see them work fine and then make corrections based on that. Kinda not how it works at this point, though. If I detect a problem with a video after it’s rendered, it’s got to be something immense that makes me change it. Like, ‘oh wait, what I said sounds racist and I’ve been too close to it to notice that.’ Time spent planning ahead is time spent not having to correct mistakes. Showing people work as it’s being done is a way to avoid saying something I’ll regret later.

This year, I’ve done nine-or-ten videos, depending on when this goes up. I’m working on the script for what should have been the most recent video, a compilation of my essays on Hotline Miami. Ten videos, ten things I’ve learned and am going to try not to do going forward.

1. Brinkwood

Values and Violence in Brinkwood: The Blood of Tyrants

This video was largely pan-and-scan over the game’s very lovely art. No avatar here. I think in the case of a horror game with the heavy theming, my perky anime boi avatar isn’t really adding to it. This is ‘fine’ but I argue with myself if it’d be better to do faster pans over the artwork and loop back and forth.

This also started me on ‘how do I want to talk about TTRPGs’ which I’ve been refining since then, because someone asked me to do more.

2. Player Engagement in Cobalt

Player Engagement In Cobalt

The gameplay footage on this one is pretty disconnected from what I said. I feel that this is something that only deeper understanding of the game could really address: The game is really chaotic, and really deep, which meant that instead of footage of four or five levels that looks interesting to talk about, I instead got four or five loops through one level.

This also featured an attempt to make two objects collide. I didn’t do a good job on that effect and I want to learn how to do a better job.

I think this is my last simplified avatar: I upgraded to Honk for the next one.

3. Picking Up The Pieces

Picking Up The Pieces: What, Why, And Who Are Games For

I’m really happy with this one. The challenge of this game is that it has almost no art I can use and it started me on the paper-and-desk combo for talking about art-light games. I’ll probably use this for talking about text adventures in the future.

4. Returns, by Caelyn Sandel

Returns, by Caelyn Sandel

This one feels like it doesn’t quite fit with what I’m doing lately, which bums me out. These kind of small interactive fiction games deserve to be seen and recognised, but I also feel that if you watch me play it, you’ve more or less gotten most of that game – a kind of audiobook of it. I want to do more of these, if just to show Caelyn the games she cared enough to make being cared about enough to be examined.

This video is very easy, though, so I may start making videos like these to release ‘between’ the proper videos?

It reminds me of a kind of musical performance; my friend composes the notes, then I invite you to hear me play it.

5. Overwhelm

Overwhelm and Our Relationship To Difficulty

This is a straight up reiteration of my Overwhelm article, which I think is a good lesson and transfers well, so I wanted it to be easily shared in video form. I think I balanced the music here a bit badly, and I think that the timing on the difficulty menu was a bit bad.

I think I need to start putting in more silence. Like actually just putting big blank spots where I’m not talking and just use the video to show things.

6. Prole

Prole - Doing A Lot With A Little

Finding ways to talk about games that do very little is interesting to me. I was surprised that I could make 15 minutes out of a game that was so deliberately and aggressively small.

I think this is important, by the way: There are lots of games with thousands of layers to peel back. There are very few games that are simplified to this extent. Examining simple games teaches you a lot about how basic your examination is of complex games.

7. Dragonraid

Dragonraid And Other Christian Replacement Media

I made a graphical error with the spell card in this that bugs the hell out of me. It’s simple, I should have known better, and it was a byproduct of, basically, leaving a tool in a mode it shouldn’t be left in when I’m not using it for that purpose. So irritated with myself there.

I think for this video I should have gotten some background music. That’s been useful for covering for the low-key fuzz of my recording space. Also I chromakeyed my avatar really badly here, I’ve got purple fuzz around me. Learning this technique.

8. Final Fantasy XIV

Final Fantasy XIV And What Is 'Good' Storytelling Anyway?

The thing I’m the happiest with on this one is a bunch of positional stuff. I learned how to do hard snaps, so I didn’t need to make a pile of graphics for every part of the lineup of characters scrolling by Rin. That also let me do moving masks for the Hamlet jokes, which meant that was one graphic, not five. I also made one big mask so the right side of the screen isn’t showing me fiddling with the timing on the ‘talk, don’t talk’ puppet controls in gpose.

I’d originally meant to have a clip of Bellular talking about how the Maw-Walker in WoW is a mere participant in the story, while the Warrior of Light in FFXIV is a whole and realised character, which meant I had an abrupt bit of speech that didn’t work. I gotta re-record if I’m going to leave stuff out like that. Should have just bit the bullet and gone looking for the clip again.

I really liked how I got the trailers to work in this video! Clipping the trailer logos so they introduced on the word, then played trailer footage looks, to me, really good!

Also: Chapters!

9. Avatar Legends

Who is Avatar Legends: The Roleplaying Game For?

This is basically the most recent finished one as I write this. Some stuff I remember very keenly:

  • Just finding the right terms for the symbol in the opening graphic of the ‘water’ bending frame was really hard.
  • I originally planned on doing more introductory stuff on each playbook, but as I worked through the outline I realise that the top-level ideas are more interesting, so I cut that to not get bogged down.
  • Showing splash art from the game felt like a good visual element to emphasise that the book is very pretty

10. Hotline Miami

Hotline Miami And The Fantasy Of Violence

Know what the big lesson here for this one? As I write this, before the video’s been released?

Script management. In the Final Fantasy XIV and Avatar Legends videos, I started using tables with bullet points showing key points I wanted to hit and images I wanted to include in the videos. This time, I have spent two days just getting the text for this video together so I can read it all as a whole and see if it really ‘works’ in this form. Redoing the script is work, so making tools and patterns to make that easier is a way I can improve it.

I’m a tiny bit annoyed at the way the head-waggle of Don Juan works and I think if I’d given myself more time and tried something less ambitious (because the script for this one was nearly eight thousand words, and I cut it down a lot), I’d have done punch-in letting for the title cards.

Self-Affirming Repetition

I can see ways I’ve improved. I’m planning ahead better. I’m being willing to reuse my own work. And I’m learning even small improvements like that the chromakey plugin works differently to how I thought it did. Background music is helpful for making quiet spaces work. Be willing to be make cuts. Tabletop RPGs are discussed as ideas and interface. Maybe do more IntFic as ‘non-main’ content.

There! That’s my notes! Reflect on your own work and don’t be afraid of talking about ways you can see you’ve improved.

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