A question often asked is how I make my videos. So I figured I’d make a little how-to on how I actually do them. This how-to will be for making PC let’s plays and will not include recording footage from consoles. Note that I might update this how-to later to add pictures and/or videos to clarify more, feedback is always appreciated!
Note: I’ve decided I’d use links to link to pictures of what I’m talking about, see if that clears things up some, as said – feedback appreciated. 😉
1. Recording the footage
Regardless of what application you’re using to record, in general you’ll want to stick to one of the following resolutions:
- 320p – 480×320
- 480p – 640×480
- 720p HD – 1280×720
- 1080p HD – 1920×1080
For the recording part there’s 2 major pieces of software you can use, Fraps & Hypercam. Both program do virtually the same thing; albeit in a slightly different way. They will take the information being shown on your screen and write it away on your harddrive in the folder you specified. Now you should know that this will take a lot of performance out of your machine. Also you should not run the game from and record to the same harddrive. This’ll cause lag, increasingly so on higher resolutions.
So fraps doesn’t have much on configuration and is my favorite recording application, it uses it’s own compression algorithm to decrease filesize and load on your machine and it’ll record in full or half resolution of what you’re running. General settings would be to record at full resolution and at 30 frames per second. It also lets you easily view the current frames per second in any game which can help to fine-tune settings. It finally offers an easy way of taking screenshots. The way the video will be recorded is by splitting it into 3.99GB files, creating as many as it needs.
The frequently used alternative to Fraps is Hypercam as mentioned above. I personally haven’t used it much but it has some advantages over Fraps, you can select your compression algorithm and area of the screen to record. Different algorithms differ on the quality and filesize of the recording as well as how much it takes out of your machine performance wise. A big difference from fraps is that hypercam will record in 1 big file instead of multiple small ones. This can be a problem if it goes corrupt, but there are many ways to repair files after all. A sample of settings you could use.
Now for recording your microphone if you decide to do commentary. Get the application from here. What it’ll do is use your default recording device set in Windows, so you might want to check those settings.
If the correct device is set – Press the red record button and you’re ready to go! After you finish recording you can save the data through “File > Save Project As…” If you want to really get the audio file you will need to “File >Export…” The default quality is fine. Then you’re all done!
PS: You might want to change the directory to which audacity will write the data should anything go wrong, example.
2. Editing the footage
Now for the editing of the recorded footage. This is actually not that big of a step for me, but many others can spend hours upon hours upon hours on this.
I prefer to use Sony Vegas Pro for my editing as it’s a very powerful program and allows for scripting which helps in both editing and rendering. So let’s get to work, the process is actually fairly simple, use the file manager to go to your recorded files and drag them into the project and wait for them to get processed. Do the same with the audio file if you have one.
Then what I proceed to do is select all the video parts from the video files and rightclick them to “Switches > Disable Resample”. This reduces the chance of the screen randomly turning black for random periods of time, something I get somewhat often. In the same menu you may also want to untick “Maintain Aspect Ratio”. This will change the dimensions of your recording making sure your videos will take up the full screen if you didn’t record in the above-mentioned resolutions. To (almost totally) get rid of it you need to go Options > Preferences and in the menu untick the highlighted options (Thanks to xIntenso).
After I do that I’ll cut off the empty beginning and ending of the commentary file and synchronize the video with the commentary, however I’ve since switched to using a small application called MiniRecorder which entirely gets rid of this process. Another thing you may notice when you’re watching the footage is that either your commentary or the game is too soft/loud, you may want to change this by using the sliders to the left of the footage to change volume on the entire track to balance it out.
Then there is another common step to take, which is changing the brightness of the video. As you may already have seen or heard, when rendering videos they may turn out darker than they were originally recorded in. To boot, youtube’s processing and white interface makes them even darker, so it’s not uncommon to have to raise the brightness some. To do so, you want to click “Track Fx..” right above the audio slider. A new screen pops up where you can select plugins you want to choose, double-click the Brightness and Contrast so it appears in the top left corner of the screen. Then click OK on the right side. Then you will see the actual options for brightness. Here is where you then raise (probably both) brightness and contrast, from my experience, raising it to 0.10 for both is correct in most cases but you’ll just have to experiment for every game. Then simply close the window.
3. Rendering the footage
For rendering it all comes down to the settings used, I’ve messed about with my settings for quite a while until I found the ‘perfect’ quality where I’m saving diskspace by dropping quality without it becoming noticable on Youtube. I’ve spoken to plenty of other let’s players about this and found that their settings tend to be a bit lower than mine. So take that as a guideline, I did my own testing and found my own settings good, I did notice the difference if I went for lower quality.
If you’re using Sony Vegas Pro as mentioned above you can simply download the Scripts archive and extract it to your Scripting Menu folder. Otherwise you’ll have to manually create regions instead of using the scripts. Also you may download the Render Templates and place them in the location mentioned in the textfile in the archive. Note that these templates are for the “Sony AVC” codec as that’s what i use for my videos.
So on to the actual rendering settings then. I’m using the well-known H.264 codec (.mp4) with my own custom bitrate to determine quality, here are my settings:
- Audio: 96 Kbps, 48,000 Hz, 32 Bit, Stereo, AAC
- Video: 30 fps, 1920×1080 Progressive, YUV, 8 Mbps
- Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.000
- Audio: 96 Kbps, 48,000 Hz, 32 Bit, Stereo, AAC
- Video: 30 fps, 1280×720 Progressive, YUV, 4 Mbps
- Pixel Aspect Ratio: 1.000
I’ll usually run the 15 and/or 30 minute scripts to create regions of the same length for the set. (it’d be ridiculous to have the final video be less than 2minutes, right?). You run the scripts by going “Tools > Scripting > (script name)”, it’ll then execute the script. Afterwards I then rename the regions with the names I want the videos to have, which are the ones you see on youtube. Then finally I render the videos using the Batch Render script, which will automatically render all the videos using the selected template.
4. Error checking
After the rendering’s been completed you’ve generated several files, which you should always check for any kind of error and to double-check on the audio synchronization if you did commentary.
The problem with this though is that this’ll obviously take a while as you’re going to be watching all of it. The way I prefer to do it is with my personal favorite mediaplayer Zoom Player. The reason for this is that it allows me to skip forward 5 seconds with the press of either a mouse or keyboard button by default. This greatly speeds up the errorchecking process. If you find an error you’ll want to re-render the video again or if you don’t it’s time to start uploading.
Finally to the uploading of the videos, you can do it directly to youtube itself using their own uploader which I do myself, or you may use the Free Youtube Uploader software which I’ve heard positive things about but it wouldn’t work properly for me.