Guide: Recording video, recording audio, and editing for YouTube

I wrote this guide a while back for my guildies and I figured I could share it here for folks as well. Are you a YouTube noob who wants to start making game videos? Below is my advice for how to jump in, at varying levels of commitment and expense.

Also, if you like game videos such as the Spelunky Daily Challenge or a review of Democracy 3 or the Cat Context podcast video version, check out our YouTube channel!

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Even in the era of YouTube domination, recording video is still kind of confusing and technically obtuse, and also the more you learn about it the more you realize how much more you COULD be doing if you really cared. You monster.

I am by no means an expert I wrote a guide to getting started anyway! It’s broken down into three stages of increasing commitment, expense, and .. um.. fanciness. Start with #1, and if you find you like making game videos and want to get more in depth then read the next stage. (There is no shame in doing the simple and cheap stage forever, either.

Stage 1: Look, nerd, I just want to record a game. (Video)
Stage 2: Is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up, man. (Audio)
Stage 3: But what I really want to do is direct. (Editing)


Stage One: Look, nerd, I just want to record a game.

Cost: $30. Set-up time: about an hour.

Video
Go download the free 30-day trial of Mirillis Action!.This is relatively new software and I hear it not only does a good job but it’s also very user friendly. If you like it, it’s also the least expensive game capture software out there right now with a one-time price of $30. There’s a pretty good video on YouTube of someone going through all the Action! menus and explaining the settings that is probably worth skimming at least.

Hint! A nice compromise between file size and quality for YouTube is 720p, which means you want to set your recording software to record at 1280×720 AND your game window resolution to 1280×720.
Hint! Raw video files are huuuuuge. Apparently Action! has pretty good compression naturally, but plan on using up about 1 gb for every 60 seconds of recording.

Audio
At this stage you can just record your audio live with whatever mic you have through Action!.

Hint! You want to hear your voice over the game sounds, so make sure you keep the game volume pretty low while recording.

Editing and Uploading
Let’s not worry about editing at this stage. You have a video with game audio and commentary! Log in to YouTube and upload that puppy.

Hint! If your YouTube account lets you add custom thumbnails, they should be 1280×720 in size.
Hint! The main way that new people will find your video on YouTube is via the tags, so make them good. For example: “The Wolf Among Us”, “Wolf Among Us”, “Telltale Games”, “Wolf Telltale”, “Wolf Among Us Walkthrough”.

Stage Two: Is that Freedom Rock? Well turn it up, man.

Cost: $0. Set-up time: 2 hours.

Video
We took care of video in Stage One for the most part, so there aren’t really any tweaks here. If you are so inclined you can find alternate codecs to do various things, including ones that will record a very similar quality at a much smaller file size. I use the Lagarith Lossless Codec myself, which gives me files of about half the size as the default codec.

Audio
The first step to improving audio is recording your commentary to its own track. Download Audacity, which is free and freaking amazing. You can do a lot with Audacity, but basically at this point you only need to know two things: make sure the microphone drop-down menu right above the recording area is set to your mic, and then click the red circle button to record. You can run Audacity while you’re recording the video for live stuff, or record the voice track later for post-commentary.

Choose “Export -> as wav” when you’re done. Now download Levelator, which is also free. Drag and drop your .wav file on top of Levelator and it will work its magic to make it sound better.

Hint! There could be a whole additional post on Audacity, but basically highlight any part of your sound file with your mouse and hit the Del button on your keyboard to remove it. Highlight a segment and click Generate -> Silence to make it silent. CTL+2 zooms in, while CTL+3 zooms out.

Editing and Uploading
So now you have a video file with game sound and an audio file with commentary. Open up the free Windows Movie Maker (or I guess the free iWork editor if you are on a Mac?). Click on “Add Videos”, and point it to your video file. Use the little pull-down menu next to “Record narration” and select your audio file. Save, and under the “Save Movie” pull-down menu select “For YouTube”.

Once that has finished rendering, upload it to YouTube. Watch your video and savor the improved sound quality.

For extremely basic editing after uploading, try the YouTube Editor. It handles like a 3-legged cow, but it is free and will do basic things like combining uploaded videos into one or trimming the ends off a video.

Hint! Rendering takes a super long time, probably at least twice the runtime of your video depending on your computer. Start the process and go watch some tv or do something else on the computer that doesn’t require much processing power.

Stage Three: But what I really want to do is direct

Cost: $50+. Setup time: 3 hours.

Video
Keep being awesome.

Audio
Also keep being awesome. Have you tried post-commentary yet? I like watching my video after recording and then doing the commentary, although sometimes that makes my obviously awesome jokes sound a bit rehearsed.

Hint! Want to just put some music in the background? Check out the Free Music Archive. Don’t use copyrighted music or YouTube will kick your butt. Also, don’t forget to turn the music volume down very low in your editor so it doesn’t muddle your voice.

Editing and Uploading
Okay, let’s get serious about editing! The first step is telling Windows Movie Maker to bug off. There are a lot of video editing software options but I like Sony Movie Studio which starts at $50. Here’s a quick video I found on setting up Sony Movie Studio the first time, but the important bits are making sure the editor is set to 1280×720 (just like Action! and your game) and “Internet” or medium-level quality. YouTube compresses things a lot, so a mid-level quality means short rendering times and just losing quality that YouTube would stomp down anyway.

Like Audacity there are SO MANY THINGS you can do with Movie Studio that I can’t even get into it. Project -> Import Media lets you import your video file(s), sound file(s), and any still images to use in your final video timeline. Like Audacity you can highlight segments with your mouse and then cut/copy/paste. The other things you need to know is Project -> Render As (create the video file on your hard drive) or Project -> Make Movie (create the video file and then upload to YouTube). You can choose to render your whole video or just the highlighted part, which is good if you have a long recording that you want to break up into two subsequent videos.

Movie Maker also has a fairly solid internal sound recording feature which is good in a pinch, but you will get the best quality by recording and editing with Audacity and then importing the sound file into Movie Maker.

Hint! There is way too much to talk about here for Movie Maker, but if you want to explore some of the advanced moves click the little “Event FX” symbol in the far right corner of any video track. This opens up the FX window and lets you play with pan, zoom, adding watermarks, and a bunch of other things.

If you finished Stage 3, you now have now learned some techniques for advanced video, audio, and editing. Now it is YOU who is the YouTube master.

Adventures in WoW: Sunday night turtle festival
Feb25

Adventures in WoW: Sunday night turtle festival

I definitely go through phases in my gaming (like most people I suspect), and this past week it has been all Warcraft, all the time in the Liore household.

I know some of my friends who used to play WoW are pretty sceptical about returning to it and I don’t blame them. There are a lot of things still in the game from the bad old days like slow content updates, uninspired kill 10 rats quests, and idiots ranting about gear ilevels in trade chat. (Trade Chat: terrible for almost 10 years.)

But I also genuinely think that Blizzard has added some pretty cool things to the game in Mists of Pandaria. The introduction of flex raids is a good example of that, and cross-realm grouping. Account-wide pets and mounts are great, and they’re finally merging servers. Occasionally they surprise even me with their focus on the little things.

I was flying around the Krasarang Wilds in Pandaria on Sunday night doing quests to make Nat Pagel be my friend (I am a sucker who wants a kite mount) when I discovered a big turtle statue and a Pandaran NPC who told me to come back in an hour for the “Wanderer’s Festival”. Who am I to deny the requests of random pandas?

turtlefestival 500x296 Adventures in WoW: Sunday night turtle festival

screenshot from WoWHead

I returned at 11pm PST, and the festival began! First floating lamps appeared along the shore. Then a bunch of Pandaran showed up, including a few familiar faces, and they built bonfires and danced. There were fireworks, and a mass spawn of rare level 23 turtle pets.

I even got an achievement for being present: .

Apparently the Festival takes place every Sunday night between 9 and 11pm PST. It was just a small thing — the party was over in 15 minutes and as my battle pets are only level 6 I couldn’t personally get a turtle.

That didn’t matter to me though! I got to stumble on a little event and see things I don’t expect in this game. It’s nice to see Blizzard trying different things and throwing in little surprises for those who look for them.

House of Cards Stole My Game Time; Democracy 3 Review
Feb24

House of Cards Stole My Game Time; Democracy 3 Review

I didn’t play many games this weekend because I was too busy mainlining the new season of House of Cards. Man, is it good. If you enjoyed the first season or you like intense political dramas, you absolutely should check it out.

Anyway, instead of writing about games today I’m writing five (spoiler-free) reasons to love House of Cards!

1) Claire Underwood, played by Robin Wright, is amazing. The character is a smart, beautiful, ambitious woman who also happens to be in her mid-40s and pre-menopausal. We usually don’t get to even see “women of a certain age” on major television shows, much less ones that are amazing full characters. Also I covet her haircut and pretty much all of her outfits so, so much.

2) The relationship between Claire and Frank (Wright and Kevin Spacey) is wonderfully written and portrayed. I mean, let’s be clear: they’re both horrible, horrible people. But I love the chemistry between the two actors, and the utter honesty between the two characters. I love watching their joint ferocity, and the way they subtley back each other up and keep each other going. Nowadays marriages are often portrayed as being irreversibly broken (True Detective) or built on violence and lies (Breaking Bad), appreciate the Underwoods.

houseofcards 500x374 House of Cards Stole My Game Time; Democracy 3 Review

3) The multiple journalist side plots have some Things To Say about journalism. Arguably the journalist characters themselves can be a bit daft at times but there’s lots of on-screen discussion about how to put together a good story and when to be be brave (and when to back off, Lucas). The definition of “journalism” is a subject that has come up lately in games writing, and while I realize it’s fictional television the journalists on House of Cards get me thinking.

4) Character actor Jimmi Simpson has a small role this season! I think everyone has their favorite “hey, it’s that guy” actor and I admit to being excited to see mine pop up in the role of a master hacker who loves guinea pigs. (Although I will probably always think of him as one half of the creepy McPoyle brothers on It’s Always Sunny.)

5) The women of House of Cards, collectively, are smartly written. I already mentioned Claire in the first point, but this season you have Linda Vasquez, Janine Skorsky, Jackie Sharp, and more. They’re older, they’re professional, and most importantly they’re flawed in ways often only accorded to male characters, whether it’s cruelty, or cowardice, or all-consuming ambition. (Between this show and Orange is the New Black, I think Netflix deserves some mad props.)

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Speaking of politics, Democracy 3 recently released their Social Engineering DLC and occasional podcast guest Aurelia made a great video review with all of the deets. Live out your horrible House of Cards-like fantasies, oppress the masses, and maybe even get assassinated. (Or, you know, be a kind and beneficent ruler. I suppose.)

Watch it below:

Raid Leader Anxiety Never Dies

I started the guild Machiavellis Cat in late 2005. We began raiding in 2006, starting out in Zul’Gurub and moving on to Molten Core and a bit of Blackwing Lair. The guild gradually got more serious about raids, eventually moving into “hard modes” in Wrath of the Lich King and a bit of Cataclysm.

I stepped down as the guild leader and people manager in early 2011 and quit WoW completely (for a while.. you know) shortly after that. While it was just kind of my time, much of the reason I quit was the Icecrown Citadel doldrums at the end of Wrath. ICC, for those not in the know, was “current” content for a year. That’s a long time to be doing the same raid.

It wasn’t very surprising when people stopped showing up after six months of ICC. I would recruit more if for no better reason than a core of us wanted to finish hard modes, but after a while the drifters and quitters started to get to me. I took it personally, even though it wasn’t meant that way. Over time I started to get pretty bitter from logging on only to see yet again a raid of 21 people, a size that meant no progression could happen, and having to apologize for wasting their time or jolly them through old content.

(I should note that although the situation was pretty terrible for me, it’s not any individual player’s fault. People stop playing games, it’s okay.)

It’s only about six months ago that I fully embraced WoW again as my “main game”, and only in the last six weeks that I started organizing very casual flex raids on Saturdays. That is a break of almost three years. I am certainly no longer burned out on WoW or group content.

But the moment I got an inclination of expectations around these new flex runs — reasonable expectations like actually doing them or having fun during our scheduled time — all of the old anxiety came rushing back. My heart started beating a million times each second and my stomach flopped. I started to panic. “Maybe I just shouldn’t make events. Maybe I should stop wanting to try group content. No wait, I know, I’ll just change my name, disappear, and never log on WoW ever again!”

It’s been three years, and although time has rekindled my enjoyment of WoW apparently that enjoyment is contingent on me never again being responsible for anyone’s in-game happiness but my own.

It’s a testament to the power of MMOs — they can create friendships (and relationships in some cases) and opportunities for amazing positive memories. But on the flip side, all that emotional investment can also set up some easy triggers to make us anxious and terrible, and they will linger even years later.

Cat Context 45: The One Where We Fight About Player Generated Content
Feb19

Cat Context 45: The One Where We Fight About Player Generated Content

cat context vertical Cat Context 45: The One Where We Fight About Player Generated Content

Ostensibly Liore sat down with Arolaide and Ellyndrial to talk about their beta experiences in Titanfall and The Elder Scrolls Online but what actually happened was… a long battle over the definition of “player generated content”.

Apparently sandbox MMOs are the way of the future because we players tear through studio-generated content too quickly, but what counts as player generated content? Is it building a house like EQN Landmark? Is PvP player generated content, and if so is that why games like Counterstrike are fun even years later?

We’re not sure, but we have differing opinions and we’re going to shout about it!

Also, there’s a little talk about the TESO and Titanfall betas. Just a bit.

This podcast was also livestreamed as a hangout on air:

It would be downright awesome if you gave us a vote on iTunes. :)

* John Smedley’s blog on SOE and player-generated content.
* Free Music Archive page for our theme, in THE crowd by The Years

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