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Author Topic: My Super Awesome Guide to Making Let's Plays (Commentated Walkthroughs)  (Read 30958 times)
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« on: May 15, 2012, 08:10:09 PM »

Throughout the guide I will be calling commentated walkthroughs, Let's Plays because most people are more familiar with that and it's easier to type.

This is going to be a four part guide.  It will take some time to complete so each part will be completed on different days.  Even if you are an experienced Let's Player, this guide can still be used to find some new tips or food for thought.

Table of Contents

1. The Art of Let's Playing - Commentating and Overview [BELOW]
2. Getting the Show on the Road - Recording [NOT DONE YET]
3. Fine-tuning the Results - Editing [NOT DONE YET]
4. The Grand Finale - Uploading and Generating Views [NOT DONE YET]

The Art of Let's Playing - Commentating and Overview

Hello everyone, I'm Martenous and I will be helping you, yes you gain mad skills in making Let's Plays that will potentially help you start with your Let's Playing career and make some friends, have some fun, and get some fans.  First of all let's take a deeper look into the art of Let's Playing:

What is a Let's Play?

Let's Playing is the act of recording a walkthrough of a game (recording the game start to finish) and providing commentary.  One thing that's important to look at is why do people find these videos entertaining.  There are multiple reasons: first it offers the gameplay of a walkthrough, commentary can be entertaining or funny to listen to, and commentary can be very informative.

Some of the first Let's Plays I watched I liked were one random ROM hack Let's Player who was interesting to watch as his had gameplay of unique ROM hacks and informative commentary to explain it and as a lot of people might know, ProtonJonSA whose rage and randomness made it hilarious and funny to watch his videos.

Like many, I enjoy Let's Plays and that's why I started making my own and you are probably here for the same reason (or you could be looking for some new food for thought).  Let's take a general look at how it's done.

Outline for Making a Let's Play

Before you start on your journey there are a few things to consider.  Let's Playing is a process that does take a good sum of time.  You should make sure you actually enjoy making Let's Plays rather than be looking for  revenue or internet popularity, both of which are nice but the main reason we should be doing these types of videos are to have fun and share games with other people who may not have the opportunity to play them or wants to see another person play his or her favourites.

So the general outline is this:

1. Picking a game. (We will look at this next).
2. Record game footage (to be discussed in Part 2 of this tutorial) and commentary if done live.
3. Open footage in video editor and align video game footage and commentary (if live).
4. Edit to remove areas with too many deaths, interruptions in live commentary (your room mate bugging you or something), turning all the footage in a single part (to be seen in Part 3 of this tutorial).
5. Watch footage and post-commentate (if not done live).
6. Render (encode) video to compress it down and still attain high quality (to be seen in Part 3 of this tutorial).
7. Upload and generate views (to be seen in part 4)

Let's look at picking a game and commentating in this part.

Picking a Game

Before you pick a random game off the shelf please note a few things:

- Are you capable of playing through all this game?  It wouldn't be good to work really hard on a Let's Play and be unable to beat some of the final levels.  Your walkthroughs do need to be from start to finish to be accepted here.  Save States are not good to use.
- Is this game overdone?  There's no problem doing a game done to death but it's a good idea (especially to stand out) by doing a game that hasn't been walkthroughed here at GameAnyone.
- Do you enjoy this game enough to handle having to be stuck with it for days, weeks or possibly months?  Making a walkthrough can take a long time especially for long RPG games.  A lot of time will be put into a long game so make sure you enjoy playing it to help motivate you to finish it.
- If you haven't played a game before (doing it blind) make sure you at least will be able to get through the game without getting stuck often and dying much.  Nobody wants to see that.  Not even your pet cat.. and if you don't have a pet cat, then your pet fish and if you don't have that.. then the dust mites on your bed.

Now that you have your game, let's look at how to commentate.

Live vs. Post  Commentary

There are two main ways of doing commentary: live and post.  Let's look at both.

Live commentary is my preferred method by recording my commentary as I play the game.  Which lets me express my feelings or paradigms for what I'm doing while I'm playing which I might forget while doing post-commentary.  The only problem with that is if you severely screw up your live-commentary it can wreck the gameplay as well (but you can still edit it).  Live commentary does take practice but it can be more rewarding especially due to authentic emotions in the video.  Like how are you going to shout and scream when you glitch through the floor and get a game over after working so hard with post commentary? 

Post commentary is a good alternative to live commentary.  It is great for people who want to have time to think of what to say or ones who want to write a script.  It can even enable making fancy Let's Plays with highly fancy editing and if someone's a good writer they can make some really good commentary with a script.  The only thing is it's hard to stay enthusiastic while watching what game you played and some people find it boring to commentate this way.  Post commentary also allows for re-takes which can help newcomers who are not used to commentating.

Commentating - Doing it the Right Way

Well the fact is, there is no right way of commentating.  It all depends on you.  Some people are funnier than others while some can know more about video games than others.  The best thing to do is experiment.  You're not going to be perfect right off the bat and you're probably most likely are going to be very self-conscious of your new works.  So make sure to relax and give yourself some credit even if you don't think your new video is good.  Just make sure to keep your mind open to feedback and make sure to strive to improve even if it's only baby steps.  The general rule of  thumb with commentating is just say what feelings you have about a game while playing it, what you are doing, what we can't see (facts about games, why something exactly happened, etc...), personal experiences with the game and pretty much facts about the game as well.  It'll be hard to come up with things to say at first but you don't have to fill every second of the video with your voice. You can take a few seconds and just play the game and something will probably come to mind.  Try to stay enthusiastic, if you're bored while commentating chances are we'll be bored listening to you.  If you're enjoying what your doing, we'll probably enjoy listening to your commentary.  Let's Plays also don't necessarily have to be funny if that's your weak point, you can either try to be enthusiastic and informative.   Telling us things we might not know about the game.  In the end, there is no right way or wrong way, just make sure to get feedback and do commentary the way it feels comfortable for you and... PRACTICE, PRACTICE, AND PRACTICE!!

Getting your Friends Involved - Co-commentary

Co-commentary can make a video more entertaining to watch especially when a game isn't particularly interesting to watch.  As having a second or third co-commentator join in (or more but don't have too many) can add a bit of jazz to the mix and make it more exciting to listen to.  How a person would go about doing this is in one of two ways:

1. For single-player games having the recorder record the footage and send it to the co-commentator.  Both meet up on something like Skype and both start watching the footage at the same time.  The recorder would then record the commentary and add it to the raw footage.  I wouldn't recommend doing this live because doing so might hinder the skill of the player from being distracted by the other co-commentator(s).
2. The people would meet up on Skype and play a multiplayer game together online or in person (just sharing a microphone or something) and play while commentating.  It is highly recommended to make sure you can see what the co-commentator is doing as well in the footage.  Nobody wants to listen to some co-commentator in a game of Mario Kart when you can't see his screen to know what's he going on about!  This can be achieved by playing together in person or all people involved recording their game and sending it to the video editor who will make the final video split screen.

Afterwords

If you have any suggestions feel free to tell me. 

I started this because I noticed there have a lot of people on GameAnyone's forum asking questions about how to do commentary as well as how to do it right, so I thought I would try to make a tutorial to help try to contribute something to GA.  I haven't actually done something like this before so I hope it's good.

I'm considering making a video to re-iterate what I have said.  Do you guys and gals think it's a good idea?

I think I'll have the next part out tomorrow or the next day depending on my workload.
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« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2012, 06:12:09 PM »

nice tutorial, will try to use it as a future reference.
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« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2012, 08:26:47 PM »

Now it's time for Part 2!

Getting the Show on the Road - Recording

So, you've picked your game and got a basic idea of how commentary will go down.  Now it's time to get the ball rolling.  The most crucial step to Let's Playing is actually recording it.  You can talk to yourself and play through a game but that doesn't really matter if no one can watch it.  Let's take a look at the different setups for different situations.

There are a ton of different ways of recording video game footage, I will go over the common and most convenient methods that produce good quality.

Your Wallet and You!

I highly do not recommend jumping in and going full out buying a HD capture card, a new high quality microphone and the software needed.  Start out small and work your way up.  Make sure you will stay committed to Let's Playing and enjoy doing it, so you don't regret spending a huge sum of money later.  Preferably start out with emulator games or PC games in the highest quality possible and if you enjoy doing that move towards consoles.

Recording PC Games or Emulators

What you will need:

- A PC game or emulator
- Recording Software such as FRAPS or Bandicam
- A good computer that can handle playing a game in high settings (it would be best for max settings) and still record in very high quality.  It can be recommended to have a second HDD for recording if you wish to record with extremely high settings while playing very high-end games.  Do not use something with a watermark (like Unregistered Hyper Cam 2) or something that leaves the final video looking bad or having a bad frame rate.
- A lot of HDD space since most PC game capture software do not compress well to save CPU cycles for games.
- A microphone (we'll talk about this later)
- Audio recording program (like Audacity) if game recording software does not allow two audio devices.

The Process

First of all make sure you know how to use your game recording software of choice (meaning either read the included help and documentation) or watch/read a tutorial for it.  I will not cover how to use different software.  It is always recommended to adjust the settings, some people manage to get very nice quality with low file sizes  by changing things around.  There are plenty of tutorials with settings, some even in this forum.  If you are doing live commentary make sure you enable to record two audio devices at the same time (your game and your microphone) in the capture software (FRAPS and Bandicam both support this) although make sure to turn down the game's audio so we can hear the commentary clearly.  The only gripe about that method of recording commentary is it's hard to edit major mistakes in the commentary but it is the easiest method.  If your capture software does not let you do this then record audio with another audio recording program like Audacity.  But that can use up some resources on you for high-end games.

For emulators, it's the same thing except some game capture software do not like certain emulators like FRAPS has a hard time with ZSNES unless you tweak ZSNES' settings.  So if you have difficulty, make sure to google around for a fix.  Emulators also include built in recorders but I do not recommend them because of if you record your commentary live, your commentary and gameplay will be playing at different speeds and will end up out of sync.  Since how the emulator was when you played it and the fact that the final emulator recorded video doesn't contain slowdowns or dropped frames.  Built-in emulator recorders are also typically hard to use and don't have the best results.

Recording Consoles

What you will need:

I will not recommend getting a cheap SD capture card for anything before the current generation (at time of writing: PS3, 360 and Wii) games (emulators produce better quality anyway).  With today's games, capturing them in SD leads to almost unreadable text and a lot of jagged lines from interlacing. 

-Capture Card for capturing (preferably one that accepts component video (orange-red, blue and green cables)). Do not buy one blindly, do your research as a HD capture card is an expensive investment with most ranging around the $200 price range!  There are the odd few capture cards that accept HD connections while only recording in SD like the old BlitzBox HD.  If in doubt you could ask in the forums (better yet search the forum before hand)!

Some good ones from what I heard are the Black Magic Digital Intensity capture cards, the Hauppuage capture cards and the AverMedia capture cards.  Make sure to read reviews!

HDMI is not necessary as you will not be able to tell the difference between it and component as well as for the fact that some consoles (like PS3) block recording HDMI video.

- Splitters (if your capture card or TV does not split feed for you)
- Extra cable if you don't have two cables (depends on type of video cable being used)
- A television to play the game on (you will most likely need a HDTV if you record HD)
- A microphone (we'll talk about this later)

A Brief Lesson on Audio/Video signals

I'm going to explain it in the most beautiful chart made by paint Smiley



The Process

The theory is this:

If Capture Card Contains Outputs

1. Plug in video cable of choice to capture card.
2. Plug capture card into computer (some store on external media now)
3. Plug output into TV or monitor with extra cable (some allow you to use a different video cable to connect to TV.  Like plug HDMI into capture card and use a capture card's composite output, but depends on capture card.  Read your manual for it or google around).
4. Use recording software (most likely included software or another software like VirtualDub) to record.
5. If live commentary, open an audio program like audacity and record your microphone.

It's best if a capture card has it's own outputs because that means it will most likely amplify the video signal during output.  It's also the easiest setup and most modern capture cards are like this.

If a capture card contains no output:

This is where things get complicated. 

You have two options:

1.  If your TV contains an output, plug your video cable into the TV and plug an extra cable from it's output into the capture card.  It should work good.  The TV should amplify the video signal on output.

2.  You can buy a splitter for the type of video cable and split the video to have it going to both the TV and the capture card.  You will need to use an extra cable.  The only problem with this method is it weakens the video signal so it's not as strong (not as bright and it can often experience ghosting) which can mess the quality a bit.  You can get splitters that also amplify the signal but those are expensive.

After that just use the capture software (most likely included software or another software like VirtualDub) to record and if there is live commentary, open an audio program like audacity and record your microphone.

The Microphone

What ever you do, do not use a very bad microphone that has a lot of static or loud background noise.  It will piss people off and people will stop watching.  We need to be able to understand what you are saying.  You don't need a perfect microphone but you should buy a new one (doesn't have to be expensive) if you have a built-in microphone or a very bad microphone.  Make sure to read reviews or listen to how the microphone sounds so you don't waste your money on a bad microphone like I almost did today when upgrading to a more expensive microphone.

You can also edit out some static if you use something like Audacity but you can't hide having a bad microphone. 

Technical Issues

What happens if the gameplay is out of sync?

Either your software for recording sucks, your settings suck or your computer sucks.  Try closing unnecessary programs while recording.  You might be able to fix it by loading the video into VirtualDub and going to Video > Frame Rate and choosing the Sync with Audio option and saving the AVI (with some form of compression or expect to have a 100GB video).

Quality of recording is bad.. what do I do?!?!?!?!

Relax, making test recordings and try to adjust your settings.  Make the bit rate high and make sure you are recording on the highest resolution possible.  You should record the video at 30FPS.  Any higher is a waste of space since most online video websites only support 30FPS.  If you're still having trouble, try looking for settings or use different software.

Good luck, make sure to do tests before going on Let's Play marathons.  Make sure to also tweak and experiment.  You will learn a lot.  In the next part it's time to start editing and finalizing the finished recording!

Afterword

- If a mod is reading this, is there anyway I can retain the ability to edit these posts at every time as they're long and I might want to add more to it later or fixed mistakes I made in grammar?  I seem to lose the ability to edit a post after some time after posting it (especially because I need to link this post above in the table of contents which I can't edit now) XD!

Part 3 of this will be out most likely tomorrow or Saturday.

As always I would love to receive suggestions for this tutorial series, I'm enjoying making this and I want to make it as helpful as possible.
« Last Edit: May 16, 2012, 09:19:00 PM by Martenous » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2012, 08:10:49 PM »

Thanks!
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« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2012, 09:52:41 AM »

Good tutorial for those who are starting. Cheesy
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« Reply #5 on: September 12, 2012, 04:53:11 PM »

Great tutorial!
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« Reply #6 on: October 07, 2012, 01:07:56 PM »

Good comparison on best cables. I found component is the best. I use a HD PVR and it is great for my 360 LP's.
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« Reply #7 on: October 20, 2012, 05:58:58 AM »

Nice tutorial, just read one of these and was quite similar.
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« Reply #8 on: April 22, 2013, 06:56:32 AM »

nice, thank u
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« Reply #9 on: April 22, 2013, 10:00:21 AM »

Very well done.
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