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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Valinet's Let's (Role) Play Essay for School

This is the rough draft of the essay and when it improves it will be updated here as well.  

          “This isn’t going to be a regular Let’s Play; this is going to have a role-playing twist. So Let’s (Role) Play.” This is how I started my video series on YouTube. It has been decently successful for me and quite enjoyable. The video series is in the category of Let’s Play. A Let’s Play is video where the voice over is the player commentating or casting the action that is happening on screen, either live or afterwards. There are many gamers doing this on YouTube trying to become a YouTube personality for fame and money (from ads). Some of these videos I like and others I feel are poorly done. Most don’t talk enough about the game or actions they are doing and others talk about something entirely different from what is on screen as if the game was a moving background. I want to make a dent in the YouTube community so I started my own Let’s Play project. The reason for the role-playing twist is because of the belief: unless you can do it better than everyone that is already doing it, you need to do it differently. I am going to share with you more about this project, how it came to be, and the long process it takes in order to make one episode of the series.
            I have been doing this project of Let’s Play for the past 5 months. It started as a project I could do on the YouTube channel my friend and I started to share and get involved with the World of Warcraft community. My friend and I enjoy playing this game together and talking a great deal about it. We will regularly get together in person and record audio for a video that we plan to publish on our YouTube channel. The goal of the channel was to demonstrate our knowledge and love for the game and help educate others about the subtleties of the game the general player may not know. For a while my friend was unavailable to do these side-by-side recordings and instead of resorting to using Skype or Ventrilo programs to have an internet voice conversation, we decided only side-by-side recordings would have the quality that we wanted for our videos. So since my friend was unavailable I wanted to make videos for the channel, so I needed a project I could do without him, that’s where this solo project Let’s (Role) Play series came alive.
            I was inspired to this style of Let’s Play from my favorite video series on YouTube, Freeman’s Mind. It is made by a comedian and is a machinima with the game Half-Life 2. Machinima is defined as machine cinema, using a video game or virtual format to create videos. So all your actors and settings are captured from a digital program. This is different from special effects because those are created for a video. Machinima is limited the engine of the game being used, although some machinima directors have utilized special effects on top of the game engine. Freeman’s Mind is about the main character in the game and all the, fabricated, internal thoughts of the character as he plays through the game. The thoughts are voiced by the comedian and help tell the story of the game and make it quite entertaining. I wanted to do a Let’s Play in this style because I enjoy comedy and the lightheartedness of the presentation. I brainstormed a way to do it in the same comedic style as the Freeman’s Mind series, but I realized that since I could not do it better than what was already on YouTube, I had better do something different. I cycled through all the things I did well and could incorporate into the series and came up with Role-playing. I have been playing Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) for many years and have had many memorable times and thought that this would be something I could involve in the Let's Play with great results because of my knowledge of role-playing. 
            When I start the process of making a new video for the series I set aside between half an hour and one hour in order to have enough footage to make a few episodes from. I like the episodes to be between ten and fifteen minutes long. If I record between half an hour and one hour I am able to break it up into several episodes. This is the most effective way I have found to upload to the YouTube channel. It would take more time and effort to record each episode individually since there is some set up time for the game, the microphone, recording software, and other in-game settings, and there is quite a bit of time spent rendering footage to be used in the video-editing program. I still have to upload each episode individually to YouTube but that is acceptable because it is a passive step in the process. I can record more or do other things, even away from the computer, during the YouTube upload step.
            To start recording, I have to turn on or wake up my computer, it is usually on just on sleep mode when I go away for an extended period of time. It is sometimes not even on sleep when I walk away because I will have the computer processing some step in the process while I am away so that I can maximize my time most efficiently. I then have to turn on the game I am going to record; in this series it is World of Warcraft. I have to double-check my settings of my microphone because there have been times where I started recording and the microphone volume was too low or even turned off entirely. Then I open up my video and audio recording program called Snapz Pro X.  This is a great program for me and has turned into a valuable investment. I use an Apple Macintosh computer so I have fewer options for programs and hardware components than if I were operating a Windows computer. The reason it has become a valuable investment is because it records everything that happens on my screen, I can even adjust the size of the recorded space, and it is able to record audio all at the same time. It has a great feature where it records the audio that my computer outputs onto one track and on a separate track it is able to simultaneously record input from a microphone. This is very handy because after I record the Let’s (Role) Play episodes, I am able to adjust the sound levels of the game sounds and my recorded voice individually. This used to be a much harder process before I got this program as I would have two separate programs recording the audio from my microphone and game and it was hard to synchronize them together in editing. Before that, I would have recorded the game audio and my microphone with the same program and then I would be stuck with the audio of everything at the level during recording and would not be able to adjust them individually afterwards. So if the game’s volume was too loud I would be stuck with it or be forced to waste time re-recording.
After I do the live recording of the episode, I will have to wait for the program to save the movie and audio files so that I can later import them into the editing program to add all the titles and credits and over postproductions features that make my videos unique from the others on YouTube. The program usually to save the movie and audio takes 3 times as long as the live recording took. Only after then can I do the postproduction. Now that I am more practiced with the process it does not take me more than half an hour to prepare one episode. It then takes an additional two or so hours to put the final product into a format that I can upload to YouTube. The upload process varies on the length of the video but a 15 minute video has take me an average of two to three hours to finish uploading and ready for viewer by my subscribers. So at the end by the time it is published on YouTube to watch, I have spent roughly one hour to initially record, three hours to render, fifteen minutes to edit, one hour to process and one hour to upload, making three and a quarter hours of work into a fifteen minute episode. Luckily I don’t have to spend all three and one quarter hours in front of the computer, only half of that is spent actively working on this in front of the computer.
I enjoy this project quite a bit for several reasons even though there is some much time devoted to it. I really like playing the game that I use to make the series with. I have been playing it for four years. It has been updated numerous times since it came out so it has not been the exact same the entire four years which is probably why it has lasted over four years of me playing it. I also enjoy the story telling in the game. Most people who play World of Warcraft are focused on what happens at the end of the game, while I enjoy the middle part just as much. The game consists of completing quests or missions, and in an abstract sense, levels. These quests tell the story of the world and the people that live in it. Most players don't care about the story and subsequently don’t care why they have been given the quest they have. For example, if a computer character gave a player a quest to kill ten road bandits, most players would run out and kill ten road bandits run back and complete the quest and immediately start the next quest. I enjoy reading the quest as to why they are stealing from the people in the area, what the effect the bandits have had on them and what will happen when I help out. By doing the voice acting of my character I am able to force the viewer to see this part of the game because it is being read aloud, and hopefully, in an entertaining fashion. This is the next part that I enjoy is the role-playing portion. I get to make up what my character does in response to the quests and dialogues with the computer characters. What keeps it interesting is that if someone else where to do the exact quest that I have role-played through, they will have different reactions, just like in real life. Being in the virtual world and being recorded, I am able to make it more than the traditional reaction. I also really enjoy the video editing process. I developed a great love for it in high school making video projects of skits for my Japanese classes. I then took Cinema to be my first major when I applied for college and came to San Francisco State University. I have since changed my major, but I still have a great love for video editing.
This has really been a great time making these videos and has been my most popular series on my channel. When I do meet trolls who place nasty comments on the video I either ignore them or use politeness to make them get angry and have no way to retaliate since I have not given them the response they hoped to provoke. Doing this project has really improved my video editing skills and has even increased my confidence to have my voice recorded on a microphone. It gives me some kind of long term project to work on, similar to tending to a plant or garden and is something that other people can enjoy since it is on display on YouTube. My YouTube channel partner has enjoyed it as well since it is bring more traffic to our channel. This makes the videos that we do together get more views since when have subscribers interested in the other projects we create together.


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