Giant Bomb HD Remix - Endurance Run: Persona 4 - Behind the Scenes

You can watch the currently released epsiodes in this YouTube playlist. Parts 1-10 are out now; more coming soon!

Background

Earlier this year, I finished setting up my new PC, monitor, and capture card. I had a couple of things I wanted to test - PS2 emulation performance, VitaTV capture settings, and Adobe Premiere - which lead me to revisit a really bad idea I had during the last time I watched the Persona 4 Endurance Run - what would these videos look like if remastered using footage from the Vita re-release of the game?

I spend a couple of hours messing around capturing footage, and edited together a fairly rough version of the first episode and posted it to the GB subreddit. At that point, I hadn't really thought about continuing the insanity - it was just an amusing way of testing my new gear - but the positive response it received, plus the fact it was an enjoyable way to learn Adobe Premiere, led me to continuing with the series.

Even two episodes into this, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable with Adobe Premiere and have learnt a lot of new techniques, so this isn't a complete waste of time :p

Overview

Most of the footage for this series is being pulled from the Vita re-release of the game (Persona 4: The Golden), captured on a VitaTV. A few scenes / menus are taken from the original PS2 release (captured using the PCSX2 emulator) where necessary.

To make editing as easy as possible, I need the captured Vita footage to match up with the Endurance Run footage as close as possible. The way I'm doing that have the ER playing in VLC, and the capture application open alongside it. Doing that (plus having watched the ER a little too much...) means that I can usually get them pretty close, with the main differences coming from The Golden additions (see below) or load time differences (Vita loads about twice as fast as the PS2 version).

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Fortunately, characters don't move very much during most of these story sections, or repeat the same animation on a loop. This makes cutting out some sections of the video, repeating a segment of the video, or changing playback speed to sync the new footage to the old audio relativity straight-forward (It'd be much easier if I had separate commentary/game-audio tracks, but I've no idea if they even exist).

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Why not just upscale the PS2 version in an emulator?

A few people have asked why I chose to use the Vita re-release of the game, rather than running the PS2 version far beyond its native resolution in an emulator. It would certainly be easier (the changes made in The Golden can be a pain to edit around), and the 3D stuff would probably look better, but overall I think that The Golden gives a better result for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, and probably the strongest reason, is that whilst character models look a lot better in an emulator (raising the resolution to 1600x1200 or so will do that!), a lot of the background textures scale poorly, making the whole thing look a little weird. It's pretty subjective, but I think that The Golden gives a more consistent, thus pleasing, look.

Example of the sort of bugs running at the PS2 version in widescreen can introduction (from Part 06)
Example of the sort of bugs running at the PS2 version in widescreen can introduction (from Part 06)

Secondly, the idea of doing a HD Remix of the Endurance Run but keeping the 4:3 resolution didn't seem like the right thing to do. I played around with forcing widescreen in the emulation (and use that footage where necessary - see below), but the widescreen hacks I used introduced some weird bugs that stood out too much. The funniest one I saw was during one of the early classroom scenes - Chie is supposed to walk in from off the left of the screen part way through a conversation. The widescreen hack caused her to be visible for the entire scene, but was just walking in place at the left edge until the "enter scene" trigger was hit. It looked pretty dumb.

Future Plans

I don't want to commit to this too strongly - if this starts driving me crazy (some may say crazier :p ), I'll take a break or stop - but I really want to re-make all of the story episodes. If it starts getting overwhelming, I might start skipping to important episodes (I definitely want to do episodes 50, 100, and the finale as a minimum).

A few people have cautioned against continuing if I'm not enjoying this (I appreciate the concern!), and not being forced to continue to satisfy the audience. I'm not really worried about that - I hope people enjoy these videos, but ultimately the main draw is Jeff and Vinny's playthrough which is already viewable. This is just a neat way to re-visit the series, and for me to learn Premiere.

Some of the episodes (the dungeon crawls and fusion-heavy episodes primarily) will be a nightmare to do due to the random nature of them. For now, I'll be skipping over them, and just focusing on the story. I'll need to do some battles (bosses mainly) - that'll probably be a case of multiple takes, ignoring minor differences if Vinny and Jeff don't comment on them, and some heavy editing.

The first battle (during the dream-like sequence in episode 2) wasn't too difficult to sync to the existing audio (though it is a simple, short fight), so hopefully the bosses won't be too bad if/when I get to them.

As you can see in Part 09, I skipped over both battle scenes (including the boss fight). Getting the new footage to line up with the commentary is extremely time-consuming (especially as mechanics slightly change in The Golden), and I figured time would be better spent moving forward with the story. If I manage to make it all the way through, I might give them another shot (I've split the video into three, so I can always re-add those segments to the playlist easy enough)

Changes in The Golden / Difficulties Encountered

Anyone who has played both the original game and the Vita version, or watched the Endurance Run and played the Vita game, will know that there are multiple changes between the two games, some minor (e.g. tweaked dialogue/menus) and some major (e.g. two new social links and a new character).

Weather mask from Part 04
Weather mask from Part 04

The toughest part (so far at least) was during the second episode - Vinny checks the TV, which in the original game shows the weather, and comments on it. In the Golden re-release, it doesn't show the weather - just says "A quiz show is on TV...". To fix that, I emulated the PS2 game in widescreen, and re-recorded that the section of footage. I had hoped I would just be able to substitute the footage, but it looked too different (model quality changed, curtains change colour etc.). I ended up over-laying the PS2 footage over the Vita footage, and keying out most of the image to reveal the Vita version. It looks a little off if you look closely (look at the edges of the textbox, and you'll see it blur slightly), but overall I'm pretty happy with the result.

Part 06 of the HD Remix: Persona 4 The Golden decides to mix things up a little. I had to fall back to an emulator for this classroom scene. On the plus side, it did give me a reason to work out how to colour-correct footage in Premiere so that it matches the Vita version a little better.
Part 06 of the HD Remix: Persona 4 The Golden decides to mix things up a little. I had to fall back to an emulator for this classroom scene. On the plus side, it did give me a reason to work out how to colour-correct footage in Premiere so that it matches the Vita version a little better.

Also, if you've played The Golden, you'll probably recall that a new character is introduced just after Charlie meets Dojima for the first time. Fortunately, Premiere has a built-in iris-out effect that looks pretty much identical to the Persona effect, so hiding it was fairly easy. Not sure how I'll handle that character going forward (she is visible in most future Velvet Room scenes) - probably need to re-use footage from introductory Velvet Room scene to hide her presence.

Now that I'm getting deeper into the game, the changes made in the re-release are starting to become more apparent. The very first S.Link (Yosuke) changes his new skill from "take a mortal blow for you" to "wake up a downed ally". To fix that up (obviously @jeff and @vinny comment on it), I had to pull footage from a later S.Link and merge the two videos. Personally, I think it came out pretty good.

Part 11, which I am currently working on, introduces a new character to the Velvet Room, visible in all future scenes. Editing her out is going to be rather challenging (I think I can do it by pulling earlier VR footage, and overlaying a segment of that over the new footage. Hopefully it'll be that easy...)

Marie making life easy
Marie making life easy

The biggest difficulty other than the changes is Vinny's tendency to cycle through all available menu options (example), and the game makes a noise every time you change which is highlighted. Most of those end up being made up of a bunch of tiny clips, cut down to match with Vinny's movements (the name entry at the start of the game is made of about 20, for example). Adjusting the playback speed of each clip individually lets me get the audio back in sync, without making it obvious that cuts have been added.

After uploading Part 06, it bumped it to something I hadn't really thought about - Atlus USA monetised the video following a content match (on one of the anime cutscenes). It doesn't really bother me, but mentioned in here in case anyone thinks I'm re-using GB content for personal monetary gain. None of the other parts (01-05) have triggered a content match, nor have they been monetised by myself.

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