Japan: Arrival (01) - Making the Video

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Making Japan: Arrival was a lot of fun. It being the first video I've ever truly edited - meaning I'm excluding the two very, very minor things I've edited in the past using Windows Movie Maker - meant that I had to get a program capable of doing what I wanted to do and learn how to use it on my own. After browsing reviews, I settled on CyberLink PowerDirector 9. I went to The Pirate Bay and torrented a copy (I soon purchased a legal copy of CyberLink PowerDirector 10 to replace it, which is what produced the final video) and was impressed by how fast it loaded up and how easy it was to use. Having practically zero experience with this sort of thing, I was expecting it to be more difficult than it was to figure everything out.

I watched all the videos saved in the "July 15th" and "July 16th" folders and threw them into PowerDirector. Totaling a little over six gigabytes with a run time of 35 minutes, most of the videos consisted of shots outside the window on the Narita Express. While the landscape was beautiful, watching a video of it would only be interesting for so long. I knew I would have to make some drastic cuts and throw in some music to make it watchable. Not wanting to risk having my videos taken down by YouTube or anything, I would either need to use some royalty-free music or get permission from someone whose music would be a good fit. I've been following Hamst3r for a long time now (before The Giant Bomb Community Song, even) and had the idea of using his music for my travelogue since the trip. I didn't want to just be some guy asking for his permission, however, so my plan was to make the video as if he had said yes and send it to him privately. I went to his website and listened to a bunch of tracks, going mainly off of their titles, until I stumbled upon "At Last...". It was both a fitting title and theme for the video, so I downloaded it and added it to PowerDirector.

Now that the music and videos were in, it was just a matter of making everything fit. Being a huge fan of the work done by 2 Player Productions on Penny Arcade: The Series (and later Vantage Point Productions), I had wanted to edit everything in a similar vein before we even went on the trip. (Being a huge fan of Whiskey Media has influenced my thinking when it comes to video editing, as well.) That's easier said than done, however, especially since no shots were planned on the actual trip, and it was just me walking around with a video camera. One of the main influences I took from these guys was editing the progress of the trip to the beat of music; it's not a concept they invented by any means, but they're where I got it from. "At Last..." is only two minutes long, so this meant making further cuts to the footage of the train ride. I ended up having to be very selective with the shots I chose, especially since each one would only last a couple of seconds at most. Maybe after the series is done I'll upload the whole files for people interested in them, but I'm happy with the final sequence. Most of my time was spent stretching out the file editor and shaving milliseconds off different clips to make the scenes change on the beats. I've probably heard "At Last..." almost a hundred times now!

Making something of your own is just as much about avoiding the things you don't like as it is copying the things you do. One of the things I find most annoying when watching a YouTube video are long opening credits - the kind where there is one sentence per page followed by slow fade transitions, all before you ever see anything of the actual video. I've always been a big fan of just jumping right into the action, which is why Arrival starts in the middle of me playing Rastan. Anything that needs to be said can be said later in the video after something has happened, preferably with something going on in the background.

After stitching everything together I added in the ending credits over the television scene. Though I will always credit the work of others at the end of my videos, future credit segments will be far shorter. I felt it was appropriate to give them more time in the opening and ending videos, however. With the video nearly finalized, I uploaded it to YouTube and marked it private, embedded it into a PM and sent it off to Hamst3r to ask for his permission; he quickly got back to me and said it was fine. This happened over three months ago, and since I decided I wanted to start the project in 2012, I had plenty of time to make whatever changes I wanted to before January.

Only a few changes occurred between then and the video's release, most of them minor. I edited the opening paragraphs and added in the kanji ("Japan") under the late title card (I love late title cards). I also took out the "Special Thanks" section I had at the end of the credits, which listed Whiskey Media, Penny Arcade, 2 Player Productions, and Vantage Point Productions. I chose to remove this part to avoid confusion, as they had nothing to do with the video and may not want to be associated with it. The only major change was the final part of the video, the one that plays after the episode information pops up. Before, it was bit more ominous, with the camera slowly zooming in on one of the televisions in the Narita Express while an accident report for another train line shows up and the video then cutting to black. Then I had the idea of doing what I've seen the likes of Freddie Wong and Corridor Digital do (even Egoraptor does it now) and added in clickable annotations at the very end. I already had the perfect shot - the one where I scrolled through all the games on the Global Arcade Classics machine - so I took some screens of the Giant Bomb blogs I wrote along with the list of episodes and overlayed them on the sides of the arcade cabinet. Since the Arrival blog couldn't be finished until the video was uploaded, I posted an unfinished version on Giant Bomb, taking a screenshot and quickly deleting it. This was all before I found out you couldn't place external links in YouTube videos, so I ended up just adding an "All links in description." speech bubble. I also added a Subscribe button at the bottom and decided to take a screenshot from one of the videos I would be using for Episode 02 to later turn in to a link for the next video. I made sure annotations would only come up at the very end since I personally hate having to turn them off every time I play a video after one pops up.

The video was then complete. After asking a few members to watch it to ensure there weren't any issues with it (online playback was choppy on my computer), I soon finished the blog post and released the video to the public on January 12th.

Three more things:

1. Someone asked why everything looked blue. This was because for the first bit of the trip I hadn't realized the video camera was set to "Tungsten". Whoops!

2. In the introductory blog post I said I wanted to edit and show everything in chronological order. I already broke this rule with the first video, as the superfast train sequence after the tunnel actually happened before the tunnel. It was the only bit of footage I had that fit with that point in the music!

3. This is one of my favorite Penny Arcade episodes. It has thus far been impossible for me to watch it without at least one tear!

Here's Japan: Arrival. Episode 02 will be released in February! -