#1 Posted by ultraspacemobile (63 posts) -

Dear Giantbomb community,

My object in this post is to solicit the advice of anyone with experience making a "Let's Play"-type video.

We all enjoy Giantbomb's "Endurance Run" series. However, whereas longsome intervals separate the different ER series, a friend and I have resolved to attempt producing an "Let's Play" series similar in format and spirit. Although we feel confident in our joke-writing and improvisational skills, we have little experience in video production. Do any of you have such experience?

We expect to spend about two to three hundred dollars on materials including:

(1) microphones and pop filters - any recommendations? We are currently considering the "snowball" from Blue Microphones.

(2) a video capture device - Elgato makes two capture devices, an expensive one that hooks directly into the system and captures in HD, and a cheaper one that captures from any source with RCA output. Tested.com also recommends the Hauppauge HD-PVR, and a commenter mentions the BlackMagic Intensity, but these are even more expensive. Which of these would make for the most enjoyable video?

(3) a video-editing program - any recommendations on something inexpensive and, preferrably, simple? We have both OS10 (on my Powerbook G4) and Windows, but would like to keep all the video matter on the windows machines. I have some understanding of the basics of two-screen editing, but have not so much as thought about it since highschool.

(4) audio-editing program - We figure that the free version of Audacity will suffice to edit the voice tracks (cut out bad takes, adjust levels, etc.), but this assumption is unfounded. Is there anything we don't know we don't know about this process?

(5) I have a copy of Adobe Media Encoder, which came with Adobe suite. I have never used it and have a dim conception of its function. Is this program useful toward the end of producing a simple youtube video?

We would also accept with alacrity any suggestions on games to constitute the subject-matter of the video.

Thank you for your kind input!

#2 Edited by Xymox (2051 posts) -

@ultraspacemobile said:

(1) microphones and pop filters - any recommendations? We are currently considering the "snowball" from Blue Microphones.

1 I have experience with the snowball. Don't get the iCE unless you're comfortable with audio editing. Using it with Fraps is not "hit record and go", you'll still need to edit stuff afterwords (I pop in the entire videofile in audacity, boost the audio by about 10, and re-save it as an audio file...) mainly because the recording volume is extremely low even at 100% and there's no microphone boost. The quality of the recording is fantastic though, even when boosted. But you might want to get the full version (non iCE) which can change recording environments. You shouldn't need a pop filter for it, I don't need one for the iCE.

@ultraspacemobile said:

(3) a video-editing program - any recommendations on something inexpensive and, preferrably, simple? We have both OS10 (on my Powerbook G4) and Windows, but would like to keep all the video matter on the windows machines. I have some understanding of the basics of two-screen editing, but have not so much as thought about it since highschool.

(4) audio-editing program - We figure that the free version of Audacity will suffice to edit the voice tracks (cut out bad takes, adjust levels, etc.), but this assumption is unfounded. Is there anything we don't know we don't know about this process?

3 I find windows movie maker to be the least laggy while handling gigantic files, which helps a lot with your own sanity when doing video editing. It can be a bit tricky to get audio and video synced, however.

4 Audacityis a fantastic program, and the free version should have everything you'd need and more.

Also, if you're not able to produce 790p+ with clear audio, there's little to no point in doing them. But I see people with great setups who still get about 11 views on their videos, because most games have been done to death on youtube at this point. What games do you intend to LP, and what's the format you're going for? Endurance run "play and show everything" or editing out annoying parts like load screens, backtracking? Will it be more like a guide or walkthrough?

#3 Edited by PandaBear (1295 posts) -

You know the problem with some of the other "Endurance Run"-type videos I see is dipshits trying to be funny. Don't take that as dis at all, I mean you seem to give a shit about making a quality product so that's a good start. But my only input is learn from guys on YouTube who suck more than the GB guys who did it brilliantly. You learn more from failure, so learn from where others went wrong.

For example (IMHO) Irate Gamer is a borderline retard who thinks the word "fuck" is funny regardless of how it's used and that video production isn't worth considering, while AVGN (while not often funny IMHO again) puts a lot of effort into his productions and writing and makes a fair better product.

That's my two-cents, hope it goes well. Try and get it featured in the "community made stuff" part of the GB front page.

#4 Posted by Athadam (673 posts) -

@PandaBear said:

You know the problem with some of the other "Endurance Run"-type videos I see is dipshits trying to be funny. Don't take that as dis at all, I mean you seem to give a shit about making a quality product so that's a good start. But my only input is learn from guys on YouTube who suck more than the GB guys who did it brilliantly. You learn more from failure, so learn from where others went wrong.

For example (IMHO) Irate Gamer is a borderline retard who thinks the word "fuck" is funny regardless of how it's used and that video production isn't worth considering, while AVGN (while not often funny IMHO again) puts a lot of effort into his productions and writing and makes a fair better product.

That's my two-cents, hope it goes well. Try and get it featured in the "community made stuff" part of the GB front page.

Although I can't say anything to help the OP in terms of technicality, I'm going to add to what you said and say this; Make sure the jokes aren't forced in too much. I prefer natural reactions to situations, meaning that you shouldn't write jokes.

#5 Posted by ultraspacemobile (63 posts) -

@Xymox: Thanks for the great advice! I'm glad you gave me the heads-up about video quality, since I was leaning toward the cheapest option.

#6 Posted by ultraspacemobile (63 posts) -

@PandaBear: @PandaBear said:

For example (IMHO) Irate Gamer is a borderline retard who thinks the word "fuck" is funny regardless of how it's used and that video production isn't worth considering, while AVGN (while not often funny IMHO again) puts a lot of effort into his productions and writing and makes a fair better product.

I thoroughly agree. We actually plan to make this a very structured series focused on intelligent commentary spun in a humorous way. I am currently a graduate student in design and want to work in some of my research. While the occasional "fuck," well placed, can be funny, in excess it starts to seem artificial.

#7 Posted by iFail (236 posts) -

One thing I notice often is two people doing a let's play together often end up throwing around in-jokes or saying things that don't make sense if you're not in the same room. I think the Giant Bomb crew does a great job with this by relating as much of the humor as possible to the game itself, thereby connecting to the viewer and making them feel like they're in on the experience.

#8 Edited by Xymox (2051 posts) -

No probs. You might want to considder reading up on "ducking" as well. It's something that saves me some editing time - basically it lowers the in-game volume whenever you're talking. I use it together with push to talk. It sucks to find an acceptable youtuber but his/her voice is constantly getting drowned out by the game audio... The easiset way I know of is by using ventrilo. Basically setting up your own ventrilo server, and enabling ducking when transmitting. iFail also has a good point.

#9 Edited by envane (1159 posts) -

yeah audacity should be fine , you might find some simpler packages (non freeware) that do exactly what you need with a simple button press (fancier noise reduction , auto ducking, gap removal etc), but if you know what you want to achieve then audacity should do the trick. just make sure you use a nice compression plugin and not some nasty normalizer.

#10 Posted by PillClinton (3290 posts) -

@Xymox: I've been saying GB should use ducking in QLs for the longest time now. I wish they would so game audio was always audible, as opposed to only sometimes, which is how I experience it. It's really quite easy to do too--almost certainly wouldn't hinder their workflow, I'd think.

#11 Posted by Humanity (8705 posts) -

@ultraspacemobile:

I have experience with the Hauppage for capturing and editing footage from my 360 and it was a pretty solid experience. You basically hit RECORD on the software and go - the program outputs MKV's and other formats. Very rarely did it ever drop recording in the middle of a session and that was probably more an issue with my outdated pc at the time.

As for microphones I'll defer to the guy who gave advice before as I never recorded commentary. I honestly don't think you need spend THAT much as, at least in my experience, most of these videos you watch for the video and not the guy commenting. If you are a known quantity like GiantBomb or some of those "YouTube celebrities" then people will watch grass grow with your commentary over it. If no one knows you it's safe to say they're choosing your video because it's good HD quality and they just want to see what happens in the game.

Editing software - Final Cut is very popular as it's known brand name in the likes of Photoshop. I've never used it so I can't speak for it. I have experience with Sony Vegas Video 2 and previous versions as a Windows alternative and I think it's a very good piece of software. Not overly complicated, if you did any editing in the past then you'll catch right on how to splice, cut and add effects. As a side warning - make sure to setup your Project Files correctly from the get-go as Vegas Video won't tell you that this widescreen 720p video you're editing is actually setup in the project files as a 4:3 NTSC video - and it will politely just try to make sense of it when you go to render causing all sorts of effects and text to get completely misplaced than what the preview window had you believe. If you are planning on purchasing then be warned this is photoshop price level territory.

You could alternatively use Windows Movie maker but I find it is just too rigid and you will be struggling to do things that other programs will take literally a second with - like for example synching audio and video streams and trimming video.

For sound editing, not that you should need to do much, as previously mentioned Audacity is a free program and although a bit rough around the interface edges, it gets the job done. Make sure you get the appropriate codec packs.

As for content I'm sure as you said you have a plan - just be aware that YouTube was a bright new frontier a few years ago and now is so overly saturated with styling gurus, comedy and news channels of all variety, not to mention every 12 year old ever with Call of Duty and a capture card that finding any sort of lasting audience without getting "sponsored" or mentioned by these big name channels is extremely hard. Best to approach it as a fun hobby at first.

#12 Posted by Damodar (1283 posts) -

Do you have any way you could do a trial run before you spend money on the equipment? ie if you had anything like crappy headset mics or rockband mics or something that you could use and whatever way to capture the game etc. It doesn't really matter if it's all super bad quality as long as you could put something together sort of as a proof of concept that you could review and see what does and doesn't work well etc and maybe even throw it on here to get some feedback.

I would say you really don't need to spend too much money on things like microphones. As long as it's clear, you don't need to worry about having particularly good mics that have great transient response or anything like that. Pop filters, just bend a coat hanger in to a loop and stretch a bit of stocking over it or something. As far as software, depending on what you're planning (ie the GB ER's have very minimal editing work, it's basically set mic levels and go, then tack on the little bumper at the start, fade in, fadeout) you could very likely achieve whatever you want with free software.

One last bit of advice is that it's always better to have your mic levels right before you start than to record and then boost the volume later etc,.

#13 Posted by Dogma (943 posts) -

If you only will do voiceover on video footage then my experience can come in handy. Observe that I'm not a audio expert or anything like that.

When I record podcasts and when I'm recording game footage at the same time as audio I'm actually use Snowball. It has been a trusty companion for our stuff for about two years soon and it gives good sound. A big reason we got it was because of it's 360 recording radius BUT it has to be mentioned that sound that record from the back always sounds a bit less clear. If you on the other hand plan to record from the front (like if you're sitting on a couch beside each other) then it has no problem. Someone above mentioned that the Snowball lacks boost. This is true. I use a program that's called Audio HiJack Pro to both record and boost my mic and the results are good.

Don't forget to get headphones and long audio cables so you don't get sound from the TV into the mic.

I also use the Happauge HDPVR. I have used it both on PC (built in software) and on Mac (EyeTV). No troubles and it spits out good quality movies. It's up to you how much you degrade the video quality afterwards in editing and exporting.

Since I'm a Mac user I work with iMovie and that works fine. As I said earlier the video footage may degrade so be catious about which settings you have before exporting. I Movie works like a charm and I have no reason to believe that Windows Movie maker can't do such a simple task as putting audio on video footage. As long as you're not trying to cut footage of yourself in a counch in and out I don't belive you will have a problem.

One more thing. I don't use Audiocity so I don't know if this works as well but when it comes to clearing away noise and such I use a program called WavePad. But if you are in a Windows enviroment I don't know what to recommend. But it can be very important to get rid of extra noise.

#14 Posted by Xymox (2051 posts) -

@PillClinton said:

@Xymox: I've been saying GB should use ducking in QLs for the longest time now. I wish they would so game audio was always audible, as opposed to only sometimes, which is how I experience it. It's really quite easy to do too--almost certainly wouldn't hinder their workflow, I'd think.

Yea, for sure. I've noticed the lack of ducking in them as well. They usually remember to put on subtitles though, which is always nice.

#15 Posted by 49th (2666 posts) -

Do different stuff. I'm not going to watch you if you play and do the same thing as everyone else.

#16 Posted by ultraspacemobile (63 posts) -

@iFail:

That is an astute observation. Part of the charm of GB seems to be their ability to create in-jokes within the series, e.g. the "wall lady" bits. That's also a good argument for limiting the amount of canned material, which is an issue we're currently debating.

#17 Posted by Illuminosopher (317 posts) -

The most important thing as corny as it sounds is to be yourself.

#18 Posted by ultraspacemobile (63 posts) -

@Xymox:

I had not considered it before, but subtitle tracks seem like a must. We had the idea at one point to enlist some other friends to add voice to old, silent games such as Secret of Mana, but abandoned it concluding it would too too much work and come off as ridiculous in the end. Simply playing the game and ducking for our commentary sounds like a good idea, especially as we get our legs in the trial run.

#19 Posted by Xymox (2051 posts) -

@ultraspacemobile said:

@Xymox:

I had not considered it before, but subtitle tracks seem like a must. We had the idea at one point to enlist some other friends to add voice to old, silent games such as Secret of Mana, but abandoned it concluding it would too too much work and come off as ridiculous in the end. Simply playing the game and ducking for our commentary sounds like a good idea, especially as we get our legs in the trial run.

The adding voice actors stuff is something unique to me, I haven't heard of it before. Could see it working for text-heavy games like icewind dale or planescape. Actually sounds pretty interesting. I did watch an LP of Day of the Tentacle where the guy who did the LP basically voice acted all the text in the attempted voice of the characters himself, and I enjoyed that a lot. Ridiculous might not be a bad thing always :). You'll eventually find something that works for you. I always enjoy when LP'ers read the text. Generally, I'm pretty lazy and if a game is text-heavy and the LP'er isn't reading the text, I tend to just ignore it. They don't have to be the best of voice actors.

That's what's so good about LP's... that there are so many different formats to use for it that viewers can find one they like, but it also ends up pulling very few viewers to your channel if the game is LP'd by lots of people.

Subtitles would be a must for me if the LP'er talks over cut-scenes and such (some don't out of courtesy, others do, because hey it's a commentary). It differs from game to game, too. I wouldn't watch a horror LP if I knew the viewer had already beaten it (blind let's play) but I'd not have much interest watching an LP of a point-and-click adventure game if the LP'er doesn't know what she's doing.

#20 Edited by NickL (2246 posts) -

DON'T FORGET THE SUBTITLES!

edit: And don't talk over the cutscenes!

Those are the two things that will make me instantly turn off any "Let's Play"

#21 Posted by Sign (291 posts) -

If you are serious about making a Let's Play I would check out the LP forums on Something Awful and specifically look over their Sandcastle and Tech threads. Those guys are serious about quality Let's Play's and have some real good advice.

#22 Posted by AuthenticM (3695 posts) -

For the video production, my advice to you would be to contact Will Smith at Tested.com. Send him an email; I'm sure he'll be happy to answer you in style.

#23 Posted by Bribo (589 posts) -

Go to Youtube, watch Game Grumps and don't do any of that shit.