Hey there everyone, it's me, Sgt D Grif, and I'm back for Halo101! It's taken a year, but Wilc0 has finally trusted me again to do Halo101. Apparently he felt that some of the information in last year's Halo101 wasn't completely accurate. However, I promised him that I'd follow as many of the steps given as possible and show my results, to give an accurate representation of the accuracy of my hypotheses (yay college buzzwords, works every time). Anyways, enough about the past, it's time to get into the topic of
today's this bimonthly installment: Let's Play. No, don't worry, I won't be getting into a boring history of how Let's Play was created (we only care about fictional history here!), instead I'll be showing you HOW to make your very own Let's Play!
Tools of the Trade
Before you can make your very own Let's Play, you will need to ensure you have the correct equipment and/or software! But fear not, there are many cheap substitutes for high-end and expensive equipment!
If you're playing a console video game, you'll need a television to show what's happening during the game, for both your sake and the audience's. Fortunately, televisions are highly prolific throughout the world. In fact, there's probably one near you RIGHT NOW! Now, due to the high variety of televisions in existence, you may be slightly overwhelmed about which one to pick. Like I said before, "fear not"! I'm here to describe the optimal television for creation of your very own, handy-dandy, Let's Play!
A cool feature with older televisions is that when you film them, you'll see strange horizontal bars traveling up the screen! While some people may think that those lines are bad, this is actually the opposite! Those moving lines will excite the viewer and keep their eyes moving. Just like artwork, you need the guide the viewer's eyes, otherwise they might look at the close button. Another nice feature with these old televisions is that the picture tends to be soft and blurry. This makes the video easier on the eyes, as it removes painful sharpness that may lead to migraines. If your television allows you access to settings, be sure to set the sharpness to its lowest value! Feel free to change any other values you see in the settings as well, as unique settings will lead to a unique video.
Unfortunately, nowadays, most people have carelessly (and foolishly) thrown away their old televisions in place of high-definition (HD) televisions. Modern consoles tend to also feature HDMI exclusively, making older televisions incompatible with them. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, you may very easily find yourself forced to use an HDTV. This is alright, as long as you strive to make your video as good as possible, people will overlook this increase in definition and the associated sharpness. An important trick to use when forced on an HDTV is to set your television's aspect ratio to the opposite of the game's. For example, an old 4:3 game should be stretched to 16:9 to look fuller, and a 16:9 game should be squished to 4:3 to give the illusion of an older television set. If these numbers confuse (or even scare) you, I'll provide a simple translation. 4:3 is the way televisions used to be, nearly square, before rising obesity levels brought in the newer "widescreen" format, the 16:9 which is now more frequently used.
Now that I've described in great detail the different types of televisions you may encounter, I'll try to make this next section a little quicker. In order to make a Let's Play of a game, you need to have a game to Let's Play. Finding a game may be slightly harder than finding a television as they tend to be a bit smaller, but stick with it, and you'll find yourself a game in no time! Once you have your game, you need something to put the game into. Sorry, but your television won't know what to do with a copy of Halo 3, regardless of the style of television. Even those ones with built-in DVD players will tell you to go find a more suitable device to shove your game into! If you're playing your game on a PC, be sure to fiddle with the settings so that you can have low framerate. Higher framerate takes up more data in a Let's Play video file, and delivering data can be tough! Even in the future, the Enterprise-D, a ship designed to transport Data, runs into problems every week! Just like televisions, older computers are the best to use! Older computers (along with cheap ones) have lower performance levels, meaning you can create these lower framerates automatically! Of course, if you're playing on a dedicated console, you'll have less access to settings. This will make your day even easier, but you're not completely off the hook. It's important to ensure that all notifications are enabled so that viewers can get a glimpse into things such as which friends of yours are online. This bring character and personality to the video, so that viewers feel comfortable bringing you into their homes via their screen.
Now, while you may have your game and corresponding television, you may be concerned about your skill level in the game. Like I keep saying, "fear not"! Being bad at a video game actually makes the video more exciting. Viewers are here for a Let's Play, not a walkthrough. Mistakes and failures are entertaining, and keep the video fresh and unique. If you're actually good at the game you're playing, feel free to purposely mess up every now and then. No one will be able to tell!
Now right now you may be asking "Grif, I have a PC, why would I need a camera?" It is important to keep in mind that this is pretyped words on a screen, I cannot hear any questions you shout at your screen, regardless of if you have a microphone. Even if I could hear you, it'd be too late, since these words have already been typed. But anyways, who needs special software like Fraps, or even an unregistered Hypercam 2? All you need is a video camera! Any kind will do, but older, low-resolution ones are recommended. This will ensure that the video remains soft as mentioned above, and many older video cameras also tend to have low framerates. This will save Captain Picard a trip on transporting Mr Data, and prevent your wireless modem from becoming a puddle of molten plastic. Because I'm so excited to be trusted with Halo101 again, I'm going to share three of my personal tricks I use when filming, tricks that I have never shared until today!
Scramble those settings!
Remember when I told you to play with the settings on your television? Well get ready to do it again, but this time on your camera! Some cameras may allow you to change the color and/or lighting balance to change how your recording looks. You'll either want really bright and oversaturated images to excite your viewer, or dull images to lull your viewer into tranquility.
If you can locate the microphone in your camera, be sure to direct your breathing towards it. This will let the viewer know two things. The first thing it lets the viewer know is that there's a real human being involved with this process. Like that old Styx song goes: "machines dehumanize". We tend to forget about real human beings due to the overabundance of technology in our everyday life. The sound of breathing is a nice reminder that humans still exist. Second, it lets the viewer know that you're still alive. You wouldn't want to scare the viewer into thinking that you've choked and/or become suffocated! They could even do something silly like call an ambulance! Your breathing is a subtle reminder that you are still okay and alive, which will reassure the viewer and put them at ease.
Shake it like a Polaroid!
You may ask "How can I keep the camera steady while I play?" despite me already telling you that asking questions to words on a screen is foolish. The real trick is to move your camera around, having it be shaky. This bring movement and motion into the video, keeping the viewer alert and attentive! The viewer will be more engaged into looking at the screen if they have to look closely to make out what's going on.
Making the Content
Whew, that was a lot of prep work, wasn't it? Don't worry, this next part is much easier. In fact, I'll make it a series of bullet points, because nothing says "factual data" like bullets! (Except maybe pie charts, but judging by the number of 101 courses you guys need, you'd probably just chew on the screen when one showed up)
- Make mistakes: Like I said above, mistakes make the video entertaining, fresh, and exciting. People love searching for fails, so give them some of your own!
- Start partway into the game: If you want the viewer to be engaged and focused, you need them to try to figure out where you are, and how you got there. This will cause them to pay more attention to details, in the hopes of finding a clue!
- Miss pickups/obvious things: If you're playing an RPG or a game with power-ups, be sure to pass on several of them. This will elicit emotional responses from the viewers! If your game has an objective like "Detonate the charges!", be sure to have difficulty in finding it! If you spend four minutes going back and forth past it, blaming the game for being confusing, it will lead to a spectacular payoff and conclusion when you do find it!
- Have background noise: I keep stressing the point of making your video unique. Great sources of background noise include:
- Passing airplanes
- Passing trains
- Car horns/alarms
- Crying babies
- Your mother yelling at you
- Violent urban activities such as gunfights and windows being shattered
- Loud dogs
- Microwave timers
- Fake accents: Try doing bad impressions/impersonations of celebrities or regions! Try to sound British, try to sound like Gilbert Gottfried, try to sound like a little girl if you're a man! Games with dialogue give you a great chance to test new voices!
- Make something hard to hear: Whether it's your voice or the game audio, making something hard to hear means that the viewer will have to listen carefully to what you say! Besides, in a little bit, we'll be adding music to your video!
- End abruptly: While we'll be getting into the finer points of editing soon enough, be sure to end the video when the viewer least expects it. Cliffhangers are one thing, but stopping halfway in a sentence or fight is even more jarring! There's a reason The Sopranos were popular!
- Feel free to pause: Need to go argue with your mom? Need to go piss loudly? Go right ahead and do that while the camera's rolling! (Just don't bring the camera with you to the bathroom.) While you can edit it out in a little bit, sometimes it's easier (and more interesting) to leave it in. This goes back to bringing personality to the viewer, and can even invoke the popular "fail" trend.
Well look at you! You've got your video file and you think you're done. While you could skip ahead to the next part and not look back, I'm gonna show you how to give it that extra spice and flair!
All your favorite television shows have an intro and so should your video! The longer the better, in fact. Include clips of all sorts of mundane activities in games, even if you have no interest in Let's Playing them. Showing your viewers a clip of you talking to an NPC shows that you're interested in the whole game. If you do feel the need for a little action, game cutscenes are an easy way to look "epic" without having to do anything badass yourself! Be sure to include your convoluted username and your favorite songs! If you're unsure as to which song to pick, we're about to go over that.
Like I've mentioned earlier, you're going to want to add music to help build a cacophony of unrelated and exciting noises! Popular songs for YouTube videos include "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence, "Bodies" by Drowning Pool, "Requiem for a Dream" by Clint Mansell, "Paralyzer" by Finger Eleven, Gary Jules's cover of "Mad World", "In The End" by Linkin Park, and Korn's cover of "Another Brick in the Wall".
The default settings on video editing software are usually white text on a blue background. That's fine and all, but you can go a step further and use white text on a light gray background! Remove as much contrast as possible to make the video easier on the eyes! If you really want to mix things up, throw some random fonts in there! Comic Sans is a must, as it conveys the friendly and human attitude you're trying to present to the viewer!
Watch out! These are a trap! Transitions are for people who aren't proud of their work and are trying to cover something up. If there's a gap in your video and you have two clips to show, simply own up to it and have it abruptly go from one clip to another. The viewer will see that things have changed, as it will be quite obvious, and move on. If you must include a transition (which I still highly recommend against) try to find one with lots of action, like the ones where the old video spirals off the screen, or the one where it's peeled off like a piece of paper.
Effects come in many varieties, but if you want to make the viewer know that you put your time into editing the video, find the boldest and most noticeable effects you can and layer them on! Hue spectrums are fun to watch, spinning videos are cool, and wacky distortions are simply fun! If the effect is mundane or subtle, replace it with a crazier one!
Call to Action
When your video is nearly over, there's one thing left to do. You must create a call to action, where you beg the viewer to "like" the video and then "subscribe" for more videos. Even though it's a given that your viewer will like, if not love, your video, YouTube has a system where viewers must manually click on a thumbs-up to display this obvious fact. Originally, they used a five-star scale, but having four-stars and lower was not necessary and proved to be a distraction, as all content creators strived for five-star quality. Subscribing allows the viewer to receive more of your videos easier, as going to someone's channel can be very difficult without the help! Finally, if you want, you can encourage your viewers to leave comments below your video. It doesn't matter what they comment about, just make them feel like they're helping out! (Fun fact: You can also comment on this Halo101!)
While most video editing programs will automatically determine what resolution and framerate you want, they all make the same mistake of making these values too high! You want low resolution and low framerate! Not only does making these values low reduce the filesize, but a lower resolution makes the picture "softer" on the viewer's eyes when made fullscreen, and a lower framerate means that your viewer's eyes don't get worn out, and can provide a similar cinematic experience to that of a movie theater. The typical human eye gets worn out above 20 frames per second (FPS), and can usually only see up to about 30 FPS. Anything higher than 30 is superfluous, and is just a cheap gimmick for marketing, as bigger numbers make a product seem better. On a similar note, don't be tricked by resolutions like 1080p or the trending "4K", as human eyes can only see a quality difference up to 720p on a television. While it may be the maximum quality we can see, 720p is too sharp of a picture for comfort. Aim for 480p and lower, YouTube provides that 144p option for a reason!
The final step is uploading your creation to YouTube for the world to see! If you already have a YouTube account, you can skip the following section, if not, I'll give some basic pointers for making one!
Making an Account
The first step for making an account is to come up with a username. Good usernames contain many random letters and numbers, to ensure uniqueness. However, there's also a few cool things you can put in your username:
- Have your username begin with "Xx" and end with "xX" as a form of quotation marks around your name to ensure that viewers understand that they're looking at a username, and not Spanish.
- Cool phrases connected to MLG and modern society such as "kush", "weed", "noscope", "epic", "headshots", "yolo", "dank", and the word "MLG" itself. For more information about MLG, see my previous Halo101.
- Popular numbers such as 69, 117, 360, 420, and 1337.
- Sexual innuendos
Once you've created your awesome new username, you'll also be given a free Google+ account! Google+ is poised to be the next Facebook, so hop on now!
Video Title and Thumbnail
Your video title is very important, as it lets viewers know what they're seeing. Be sure to give a lengthy explanation of what you're doing, and include buzz words like "awesome", "epic", and "fail". However, honesty is not required, as viewers will find out what's really going once they start watching. So if you think you have a clever idea for a clickbait, go right ahead! Fishermen use bait all the time, and so should you! On a similar note, your thumbnail also helps get people's attention. YouTube gives you the option to upload a custom image of your creation as the video thumbnail, so ensure you take full advantage of it!
Once your video exists on the internet, you need to get people to watch it. The best way to get someone to watch something is to present them the link, so that all they have to do is click! Not only can you share your video on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Myspace, Tumblr, etc. but you can copy/paste your link onto any forum or comment section of any website (with the sole exception of Halo Nation, I've already called dibs, so spam elsewhere). Just like commercials show off something to everyone watching, your spam and repeated links throughout the internet will entice people to click. The more people that encounter your link, the more people there'll be to click it and enjoy your content! McDonald's puts giant M's all over the place, you need to do the same with your video's URL!
Proof it Works (for Wilc0)
In order to prove to Wilc0 that my statements above are factual, I've followed several of them in creating my own short video below. Be sure to let me know in the comments below how these tips have helped you out! Also be sure to like and subscribe, so Wilc0 can tell that you liked what you saw!