A guide to making videos - machinima

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A guide to making videos - machinima

Post  smashbrosdude91 on Sun Jan 31, 2010 4:26 pm

There is always some interest in creating your own videos off your computer (of emulations, etc). This guide was published by a person named Excl (who specializes in making Runescape Machinima, as can be found here). It gives a step by step guide in making good videos from the basics to the professional level.


People like to feel proud of their videos. They want to show off their first works to everyone and think they are great. They want everyone to subscribe to them immediately and they forward thier videos to popular video makers asking them to promote them. But that’s a lot like showing a high-level person that you can now wear mithril armor. Sure, it might be great for you ... but everyone else is going to be less than impressed. DON’T worry about subs or popularity right away! There is much to learn first, and you’re only going to embarrass yourself by showing people less than stellar videos. Get your video making “levels” up first ...


There are THREE things you need to make good videos: A Video Recorder, a Sound Recorder and a Video Editor to tie the Video and Audio together.

You can use popular search engines to find some good video making software. Many youtube video makers will list some of the software tools that they use in their profiles.

For video recording, Camstudio is open-source and free. The quality isn't as great as others, but it's free to everyone. Fraps is a high-level recorder (that I use), and you will either have to pay for it, or do quite a bit of video editing to use it effectively.

For audio recording, I suggest WavePad or Audacity. Audacity is completely open-source and free, while WavePad has a free version that you can use. Both are great to use.

For a video editor, it starts to get tricky. Windows Movie Maker is free and comes on most machines already, but it is very limited and rough to work with. It's still good to cut your teeth on and get used to video making. Might as well find out you’re not cut out for video making on a free program than on a $100 one. If you have money to burn, there are lots of programs out there for under *100. Just make sure they offer the features you think you will need. (Avid FreeDV and Wax are two other free editors that I don't know a whole lot about)

Now that you have your tools, play around with them. Find out what the settings do. Play with the options in every menu. If it’s too confusing at first, do a YouTube search for tutorials about that program.

For the screen recorders, play with the codec settings and quality levels. Depending on your computer, you may need to play with these to find a happy medium between smooth video and graphical quality. Find the best ways to record your screens without getting text in the way. Look for any other options that might make your recording life easier.

For the sound editor, play with the recorder. Wavepad lets you record both microphone sound, as well as PC sound. Try playing with your voice recordings. Try recording the sound from something playing on your PC. Then test out all the sound effect options. Wavepad has a “filter noise” effect, which can make your audio recording sound much, much better.

Finally, play with your video editor. Find out how to cut and trim your videos, how to add special effects, how to double up special effects, how to add a sound file on top of a video, etc, etc, etc.

This is a very experimental stage. You’re videos here should be no longer than 10-30 seconds. Don’t even think about uploading these to YouTube, and trying to share them with everyone! (lol) You are trying to figure out the tools here, and feel comfortable working with them.


RSMV’s might be the most overdone type of video on Runescape, but I still like them for one big reason: Music videos are a great way of getting started on the basics. With music, you don’t have to worry about making or editing the Audio portion of your video. If you’re not into music, try acting out the audio scene from a favorite movie or tv show. What you really want is a single track of audio track that needs no cutting. That way you can concentrate on learning the basics of editing video.

So what are the basics? FILM SLICING and AUDIO MATCHING. These two both go a long way towards making a good video. If you find this tedious and annoying, then stop making videos right now! This is the essence of a good video and you will be doing this over and over and over again if you plan on making videos.

Start simple. Stand in a location in Runescape. Start your recorder, and type out every single line to a song. Stop your recorder. Now, unless you are the worlds fastest typist, it’s doubtful your lyrics will match the pace of the song. That’s where the slicing and matching come into play.

Open your editor, and drag in your audio file to give yourself a base line. Open up you video file and place it on top of your audio. Now look for your “split” tool. On most editors it’s called “split” but it might be called something else. Learn the shortcut key for this, because it will be your most frequently used option.

Start at the beginning of your video. Play it until you get to the point where you start to say your first line. With the video cursor on that point, use the split option. This divides the video into two pieces: everything before you say your line, and your line (plus the rest of your video). Now select the first part and DELETE it. You won’t need it. You will probably end up hacking away 40% of your video, so get used to the loss.

Now you have the point in your video where you say your first line. You need to match it to your audio. Start playing your audio file and find the point where that line is said. Now drag your video clip and have it start on that point. Most editors will actually show the audio file volume-wave, so you can see where the sound goes up. This makes it a little easier to match the video to the point where the audio starts. If not, just play the video/audio together, over and over, until you get the two to line up.

Once you get that first line aligned, mouse over the leading edge of your video. Your cursor should turn into a sideways arrow cursor. Click and drag the leading edge of your video file to the beginning of the audio file. This will restore the blank space that occurs right before you say your first line. If you play it now, you should stand there with the opening instrumentals, until the first line comes ... and then say it right on cue.

With that out of the way, move to the point in the audio where the first line of the song is done. If you prefer, you can move a few seconds after this point. Split the video again. Go to the second half on the split and look for the next line. Now, do exactly what you just did for the first line and repeat this over and over and over again, until the entire song is done.

Sound tedious? Well it is. Nobody said video making was easy! Otherwise, we’d all have 100,000 subscribers. The good news is, this becomes second nature when you start doing it over and over. Practice makes perfect here. If you still think this is too time consuming, then video making might not be for you.

Now you may feel proud about editing your first full length video ... but don’t bother trying to share it with the world. You can upload it to YouTube for posterity sake, but everyone else will probably think its lame. Your best bet is to just junk it (gasp!) and do it all over again. Like I said, practice makes perfect here.


Now that you are armed with the abilities of splitting and audio matching, it’s time to make half-respectable videos. Try filming in different locations. Try emotes. Try anything that makes it look like an actual music video (outside of special effects - not yet young grasshopper!). You’re still trying to get the feel for splitting and matching here as that is your bread and butter! I feel people get too enamored with special effects too early, and then don’t pay attention to making well cut videos. Effects only work if the rest of your video work is sound and stable.

As you get better, you can try songs where the words are said quickly to offer yourself a better challenge. You can even try to do one-word-at-a-time, which incidentally is a special effect in its own right - called stop-motion animation. Here, you are basically cutting the video so quickly that the frames run on top of each other, and can give the appearance of you jumping all over the place. If you do it where you take one step forward per split, it gives the appearance of you floating across the ground. It’s a very effective special effect, that’s nothing more than intensive splitting and matching. It’s also very time consuming, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless you don’t mind taking a LOT of time to make a video. It can lead to a VERY impressive video though.

You can also start reusing previous clips by cutting and pasting. This is helpful for redoing a line in a song that was said earlier. It’s less video that you have to shoot, but it’s also going to look exactly the same as before, so don’t over do this! To go along with stop-motion, you can use copy/paste to repeat a short action in video, and make it appear longer. Say you want to jump up in the air, over and over, but the pause between emotes is too long. Simply trim up the part where your character is jumping, and paste it over and over. It will looking like quick repetitive jumps.


By this point, you should be comfortable with splitting and matching, so I won’t emphasize it as much anymore. Now you can start looking into special effects and scene transitions. See what you’ve got, and see what you can do. Toy around a lot with the effects, and see what kind of transitions you can make between scenes. There is a lot of experimentation involved here, and you learn new tricks every day.

But a point I must emphasis here - DON’T OVER DO IT! I can’t count the number of videos I’ve seen that were ruined, because someone just threw every special effect they could find at it. Sometimes simpler is better. I’ve found the most aesthetically pleasing transition is the simple fade-to-black-and-back transition. Lots of other transition effects just look plain cheesy. Same goes with video effects. Just because it’s there, doesn’t mean you have to use it.


The best thing to do at this stage is to WATCH what other people do. Try and mimic what the great video makers do, and hold yourself to that standard. Try to duplicate a scene you liked in a particular video, and don’t be happy with it until it looks as good or better than the original shot you are trying to duplicate.

This is also the point where you want to start working on your cinematography. Cinematography is the way you work the camera. Try moving the camera around (again, don’t over do it!), walk around as you film, try the same shot but with a different camera angle, etc.

You may also want to try “third-person” camera shots here. This is where you change into a rock or egg, and then hide behind a wall or other objects, while your friends act out a scene for you. Granted, you might have to do a bit of searching to find competent acting friends, but the shots will look much more realistic.

Next play with your editor’s zoom and pan capabilities. (if your software has it!) You can** zoom and pan during a normal in-game camera shot, but you can do it in your software. Get used to playing with these settings to move your camera around a bit.

The key here is to be your own toughest critic. Watch what the great video makers do, and hold yourself to those standards. You may start to get limited by what your software can do at this point, but do what you are capable of doing.

At this stage, you should be completely avoiding the following sins of video making:

1) Including the mini map and text box in the shot.
2) Non-video related text in the shot, which includes blue private chat (pet peeve!)
3) Words not matching audio
4) Scenes that run too long, or don’t flow smoothly with the audio.
5) Mouse cursors


Now that you can make a decent video, it’s time to find subscribers. How do you do that? Stop doing what you’ve been doing! (lol) As fun as making a music video might be, there are literally thousands of people who can do the same thing. That means finding something new and original to draw in viewers. This is probably the hardest part of video making - finding something that sets yourself apart from everyone else.

If you want, you can stick with music videos, but you better make them far and away the best music videos out there. Otherwise, you’re just going to look no different than the next guy. If you plan to stay with music, you need to look into doing them with some sort of unusual twist - something that someone hasn’t done before. Maybe doing stop-frame automation or mixing your own unique songs. But again, these are things that other people have already done, so it’s going to be very hard to make an entertaining video that people haven’t already “seen* before. That’s why I tell people to stay away from Music Videos - you can do it, but you are going to have to put a LOT more work into it to make your videos better than everyone else.

Look into other types of movies, and go with your strengths. I found that I’m a moderately funny guy, so I went into making comedy videos. Not everyone has the funny bone though, so try doing what you like. Some people are great story tellers. Some people have high combat levels and can effectively kill monsters better than other. Some people have great cinematography skills and can just make an aesthetically pleasing video. Some people can make great real-life monologues. Some people can write their own songs or even sing decent karaoke.

The big key here is BE ORIGINAL! Do not try and make your videos look like some other famous video maker’s videos - because you’re videos will look like cheap rip-offs! Why would people sub to you, when they can just sub to the guy making the originals? Set yourself apart!

Now that you have an idea for being original - PLAN OUT YOUR VIDEOS! This is crucial. You need to have a plan, and a well hashed out idea. Think things through ahead of time, and have a script that you can work with. Otherwise your video will look disjointed and unorganized. Even if you plan on doing ranting, in-real-life commentary video - you need to plan out what you want to say ahead of time.


With your original film genre picked out, you need to start improving your audio recording and editing skills. Nobody wants to read typed out text as part of your video. You’re going to have to act/speak them out yourself.

Part one is recording. Sound quality is crucial here, so make sure your microphone is up to the task. You want your voice to come through as clear as you can, without sounding muffled or distant. A standard PC mic will do here, you don’t need to over-do it price-wise. I actually tossed a more expensive mic for my cheaper mic, because it filtered out too much noise and my voice sounded muffled. Check out the noise filtering options in a program like Wavepad. You can make a poor sounding recording sound great with a little noise reduction.

Part two is editing in your sound. This works exactly like your video editing that you should be a master at by now. The issue here is, you will no longer have a solid, one-track baseline to match your video to. You will now have chopped up bits of audio to match chopped up bits of video. Try to align everything where there aren’t large gaps of time in-between spoken lines. Listen to the video by closing your eyes, and verify that the sound seems natural. The key to something like a comedy video is timing. Your jokes won’t work if you say the first part of the joke, and then deliver a punch line 5 seconds too late.

I always tell people to do audio first and then make the video match the audio. The trap that a lot of Runescape Filmmakers fall into is filming a scene on video and then trying to make the spoken words fit the typed conversation. This never works, because nobody can type as fast as the speak, and words in Runescape stay on the screen for 3 seconds, regardless of how short the line is. The result is a poor audio track that simply sounds like somebody reading off the screen. By doing the audio force, you are forcing yourself to make a more natural sounding audio track, and then matching the video to fit the sound track - which will look a lot better in the final product.

But the real trick here comes back to splitting and matching both the audio and video. It’s back to your editing bread and butter, except now you are manipulating both video and audio, instead of just video. This will take a lot of practice to master so stay vigilant.


This is the part that really takes you to the next level, and there is a lot to look at here. Well edited videos will have at least 3-4 different audio tracks that you really need to pay attention to and match up properly with the video. Let’s take a look into the four most common:

1) Voices: This is the toughest one to master. Voice acting is not something easy, and it takes a great deal of practice. You really need to “act” out a scene and sell it as if you are in the scene. Too many people will just try to read words off a page and try to inflict a bit of emotion as the do it. This ends up sounding way too rehearsed. Anyone who’s ever voice acted for me can tell you just how **** I am about getting an authentic sounding line. Sometimes, I get people pretty ticked at me for making them do the same line 20 times, and that added anger actually helps them express that emotion I’m looking for perfectly. You need to try and imagine yourself actually in that situation, and how you would say that line naturally. It’s DEFINATLY not easy, and I have a lot of room for improvement myself in this department.

As far as multiple characters, you need to either find decent friends to voice act for you, or find a way to disguise your voice. I highly recommend NOT using a voice changer for your characters, as it really sound fake and in some cases causes your lines to become to hard to understand. I feel you’re better off plugging your nose, or making your voice low, or any other type natural voice manipulation. Just make sure you keep the same voice for your character throughout the video.

2) Sound Effects: A very important thing to include, and also potentially time consuming if you get too focused on details. Sound effects can really make a video if used correctly. Again, like voices - make sure they fit correctly into your video. If your script calls for a quiet cat meow, and your sound effect is a loud cat scream, it’s not going to look right in your overall video. Also make sure the overall sound effect volume matches the rest of your video’s sound.

I’ve found a quick internet search will find me most of the sound effects I’m looking for. If you need a meow, look for: “meow .wav .mp3” - or you could also search for the type of sound effect, like: “animal sound effects”. If you can’t find the .wav file you’re looking for, you can always play a video that has that sound in it, and record it as a PC sound with something like Wavepad. If all else fails, hold your cat in front of the microphone, and record your sound effect yourself.

3) Background Music: This helps set the mood of the video. I highly recommend classical music as much as you can use it. There’s a reason that most Hollywood film-makers use classical music as the backing track for major movies - it’s perfect for setting a mood. Plus it also has the added benefit of not exactly being copywrited by greedy record labels. Just make sure your music doesn’t drown out your video. If your editor allows it, try to play the music louder during scene intros and then fade it down when you get to the speaking parts.

4) Ambient Sounds: Ambience is sort of the low level sound that’s associated with the location you’re in. This is a more advanced technique that you probably don’t need to worry about right away, but similar to background music ... it helps set the mood and scene. If you are in a cave, you’ll hear a low wind, echoes and maybe dripping water. If you’re in a meadow, you’ll hear grass blowing and birds chirping. If you’re near a river, you’ll hear a river flowing.

The reasoning for both background music and ambient sounds, as well as other sound effects, is to have audio happening at all time. It helps fill the emptiness of a video in-between spoken lines, and your video will seem more complete. Just as you wouldn’t want to have a black screen showing nothing in the middle of your video - you really don’t want to do the same thing with audio either. It’s just not as noticeable as the video.


The last part to video making is to take everything I’ve mentioned above, and constantly improve on it. Find new ways of doing things, and cleaning up the little mistakes that find your way into a video. There is ALWAYS room for improvement, and by constantly critiquing yourself, you can help make your videos continually improve. Also expand on your current abilities, mainly with special effects ... and work them into your videos so that they fit, rather than over-power your videos.

Happy video making!


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