Greg's Design Blog

A collection of posts by game designer Gregory Carslaw, including mirrors of all of his blogs maintained for particular projects. A complete index of posts can be found here:
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Making Movies

United Kingdom
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Original Post (with bonus embedded video)

I added a video to my kickstarter page today, I'll be launching in a week so it seemed like about time. The act of recording it was pretty interesting, since it lay far outside of the scope of what I signed up for with the game designer gig. I think it was in a good way, being stretched is important, but I figure I'll discuss it a little in the hopes that it might help future game design types.

The first thing that was clear is that no plan survives contact with the enemy. I wrote a script on July 2nd, which I passed around for comments, edited and improved. It was finalised July 4th and sent along to the video folks who declared that they wanted a storyboard. I don't watch dvd extras very often so I wasn't really sure what one of those was, I made an effort to offer up a shot by shot account of what I was looking for out of a video. I'm not sure what the worst storyboard is, but I like to imagine that I got close.

I tend to do these things in a somewhat tongue in cheek fashion, something I've had to be talked out of for the kickstarter itself (which is probably for the best, MSPaint is some sort of backer scarecrow.) It did the job well enough, but by then the video guys were needed for the next project and the 404 video got put back once or twice, until it was suddenly the end of August and it still wasn't done. With that in mind and the staff here a little overloaded we sprung for some outside help that arrived in the form of Andrew Robinson. We sat down together, worked out a new script and running order before starting filming. During filming we altered the script after every other take. For the two of us this worked.

In future I'm going to worry more about what I'm going to say and less about how I'm going to say it. A lot of the time spent scripting was a waste of time, because once we started filming we started experimenting with different ways of saying things. This left Andy with a lot of options on the cutting room floor, to chop together whichever segments worked well, not only on their own but also in the context of the surrounding shots. This worked for me because I did improvisation for a little over half a decade. Somewhere in that I dropped a lot of my inhibitions, but picked up the knack for finding a dozen ways to word something and a tolerance for exploring different uses of language. The result isn't perfect, but we had most of our footage by lunchtime which left more time for that sweet intro.

On the other hand I was surprised to find out that Tom is a little camera shy. Most new businesses fail and it's been tough lately, so I've got a lot of respect for what he's managed to achieve here. Somehow I thought that this would translate into an easy camera presence, but of course that was silly of me as those things are totally unrelated. In his case he benefited a lot from tighter scripting, "Just spend 20 secs talking about 3DTotal and why we can deliver a project on time, mention that we've been around 14 years and that we kickstarted a card game that we delivered on time and you're golden" wasn't helpful for him. In his case pinning down an exact script in advance and getting a few chances to practice it were more valuable than the trial and (mostly) error approach that I adopted.

My point is that different approaches work for different people. To find success you need to know your strengths and weaknesses and make sure that you play into them. If you're bad at memorising scripts but happy to try lots of approaches plan for that. If your video editor is good and is able to hide stammers and stutters with clever editing work then plan to take advantage of it. If you need a good script to get going then make sure you have one. I had no idea how I felt in front of a camera before last Friday, it was interesting to find out and I'm sure the next project will be better organised from the get go to suit that.

Another important thing to bear in mind is who the star of the video is, it's really easy to think that it's you. Especially if you're the only person in the video. For this purpose it was important to understand early on that in a very meaningful way this video isn't about me, it's about the project. The game is in shot for more of the video than I am and it's always the subject of the conversation. I'm interested in my story, how I came to work for a small publisher in a rare arrangement, the potential of this project to let me develop more games nad all of that jazz. I think it was important to recognise early on that most people watching the video don't care about that, some will, but an awful lot are more interested in what they might get. With that in mind we tried to stick to the point, which I think has worked pretty well.

I'm running out of time, so lets just mention one more thing: Time. Everything took MUCH longer on video than I predicted that it would. I've already been told off for speaking too fast on camera (but I was slowing down!) so it should've taken even longer. I know that an ideal kickstarter video is 2-3 minutes and mine weighs in at 3:10, which is a little heavy, yet I'd predicted it might be too short. Words on a page don't look too intimidating, but even a short script takes quite a long time to say. It's hard to get an idea for how a particular quantity of text translates into speech. I think it'd have been worth finding out, by trying it or listening to more Erfworld epilogues.

I'm sure there's a lot more to think about here from a technical perspective, but other people did those parts of the project. From the point of view of a designer who was asked to have a fair amount of input into the video those are the things that really stuck out for me. There was just one more thing that seemed important: Have some fun with it.
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