What I Learned From Interactive Friction Season 4

Season 4 was probably the first time I had a handle of things throughout the post-production process. Editing was really smooth and videos were posted regularly with only one mishap. Recording on the other hand was kind a nightmare.

We discussed in the video the problem we had wherein Shadowplay botched the video/audio sync (which it has done before and since), but there was also another audio problem that you may not have noticed. Long story short, my audacity didn’t record beyond the first few minutes during the couple of times I restarted it, and Brandon forgot to change his recording device from his crappy headset to his expensive desktop microphone. Luckily Brandon also told me to record our TeamSpeak audio before we started, and that’s what we ended up using.

So what I learned that I want to pass on first is: make backups. It’s much harder to do for video, but at least for audio, have your local Audacity recordings (which is ideal) and a Skype/TeamSpeak/mumble recorder, or have your video record your commentary as well if all else fails.

Splitting tracks leads me into something I didn’t go into for the Neptunia video, but part of the reason we made that was to test a new audio setup, which is my second piece of advice.

Split your audio tracks as much as possible whenever possible.

I could have made Seasons 1, 2, & 3 so much better had I know this at the time, and now that I’ve worked with separate audio tracks, I never want to go back. If you’ve got the time you can take out coughs and sneezes and minor problems, and if not you can at the very least level everyone’s audio to about the same volume.

Lastly, and this one is already super obvious to some people, a bit about post-production.

Upload and have as many videos ready to move from “unlisted/private” to “pubic” as possible.

For seasons 1 and 2 I rendered the videos the day of, and that turned out terribly. For Season 3 I thought I got smart and at least edited and rendered most of them beforehand, forgetting that YouTube takes a long time to upload. So for this season I uploaded about the first 6 episodes before we even announced the season. Aside from YouTube not letting me schedule multiple videos in advance for some reason, it worked out fantastically.

In the future I might do some “What I Learned” for the prior 3 seasons, but no promises. Until then, look forward to the next project we’re doing and Interactive Friction Season 5 after that.


Interactive Friction Season 4 & The Making Of A Trailer

After a longer break than I expected, but still appreciated, Interactive Friction has returned. This time however I’m going to work harder to keep on schedule, and I’ve already completed the first step by editing all the footage prior to this trailer going up. Additionally season 5’s raw footage is already mostly recorded, and the audio for our new project is primed for editing. The latter of these should be what to expect next from Brandon and I.

Now about the trailer. Since season 2 I’ve been making an effort to create “teaser” trailers for each upcoming season, though season 3 was the only one that was vague in any sense. Regardless I went with a style much more reminiscent of the Tomb Raider trailer, which is very movie-like in its structure. This time though I went another step further by using the cutscene audio wherein Faith sets up the universe, and that posed a novel challenge for me. For instance, when the helicopter blades come by, I had to find matching footage of a copter for that. Same with the footsteps as the music breaks in.

That aside, producing a trailer made me try and think more about how to engage someone and set up their expectations correctly. Since an average audience wants something interesting within the first few moments, I figured using quick cuts over Faith’s monologue would help keep things moving, with characters relevant to her lines appearing as a bit of foreshadowing for new viewers or a nod to previous players.

I also considered having the trailer start with Faith running down a relatively straight path with these moments cutting in when appropriate, because trying to match the flow and rhythm of the source material is another consideration.

Take for instance this Battlefield 4 fan-made trailer.

While it’s easy to dismiss this for it’s rather standard war movie framework, it’s also indicative of how a normal Battlefield match runs. It weighs heavy on the calm before the storm, and when the chaos begins, it never ends. Makes sense for a 64 player shooter.

For Mirror’s Edge it was difficult to think of a way to capture the essence of running without merely showing part of a level off, but its characters are definitely not its strong suit either. In the end I went with the aforementioned matching of Faith’s dialogue while also trying to find pieces of smooth movement. If I had more time to sort through all the footage I would have loved to capture the moments of distinctive animation when Faith slides down escalators, runs along walls, or seamlessly disarms an enemy without breaking her pace.

Mirror’s Edge is a game of motion, and its trailer should reflect that.

The Killing Game: Three Seasons Of Interactive Friction

It’s a little hard for me to believe that not only did I complete a video series, but that I’ve done so three times now without giving out. Truth be told, it’s quite an incredible feeling to look back at a piece that you’ve worked on for so long finally be finished. While I can’t say the content is wholly my own as I don’t own any of these IPs or Brandon Carey, I still poured more hours of labor into this than I ever imagined I would.

I suppose it’s funny to remember then that Interactive Friction started as an incredibly low budget production. By the time it started up Brandon had already gotten me deeply interested in the world of game’s criticism and more recently so “Critical Let’s Plays”, a la Spoiler Warning. So one day, because Brandon’s not one to simply daydream about ideas all day, he got me to start a new game of Far Cry 3 with the idea of discussing the game’s narrative themes and gameplay mechanics with him. At the time I had only a Blue Snowball microphone, a pair of headphones, Skype, and a cursory knowledge of Sony Vegas and general video editing.

In retrospect the first season really doesn’t hold up all that well from a production standpoint, but at the time I considered it a major achievement. Of course, as Brandon and our audience found out eventually, “good enough” is never enough for me.

As this season concludes I’ve gotten a new motherboard and CPU with water cooling to keep the fan noise down, a new monitor with a much bigger screen and higher resolution to help with editing, and a monthly subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite for photoshopping Thumbnails, creating bumpers, and of course editing the audio and video of each recording.

Editing as much as I do wasn’t the original intention however. At the beginning it was supposed to be just raw footage so it would be easy to simply render out and upload immediately. No audio work, no bumpers. Nothing. That all changed with the advent of season 2. No real editing work took place until about halfway through, but as I would die repeatedly I told Brandon that I wanted to start cutting down what we had to keep it interesting.

This means every video went from simply “record it, upload it, never look at it again” to “test record for audio, record episode, fix audio with hard limiters, carefully scrub footage for dull moments to cut, add in corrections through title text, toss bumpers in, render, and upload”. It’s a lot more work that I ever thought I would do, but it also made me realize that I rather like editing and design, and have since started going to school for it.

The only bothersome point that the editing brings with it is the dramatic change in the flow of the episodes. Much as I don’t like showing my deaths over and over, they, and similarly traveling from one location to another, are part of the game. Even barring missing incidental dialogue from the game or us, it takes a takes away the aspects of a video game that make them wholly unique. If I were to edit the footage to show only the missions or firefights and not the travel in between them it would feel as though the open world structure need not exist. In an effort to keep our viewers interested by creating a more cinematic experience I feel as though there’s a tangible loss in the more “game-like” aspects of the design, and I’m not quite sure how to reconcile that.

As we move forward Brandon and I have already discussed a number of changes that will begin with the next season, big and small.

For right now though, we’re 62 videos in since starting this January, and I’m ready to take a break.

See you in Season 4!