The AVID Assistant Kickstarter is live. Finally. After more than three weeks of laying the ground and telling people it will happen, and getting approvals taken care of by Kickstarter itself. And a week of learning how to use a non-linear video editor for something that I was told should take about a day, tops.
Video editing without formal training is like learning Photoshop when you sorta kinda know what MS Paint is. I’ve figured out a fair bit about what the software I use (Sony Movie Maker Platinum) does for its features, but there was a lot of “Why the heck is it doing that?” and “Why did that menu come up?” and “I want to slow down the video of the spaceships to have it run the length of the audio…why can’t I?” Even installing it was…tricky.
Dr. Pournelle made a career as a computer journalist by “doing dumb things and taking notes.” His formula always had a happy ending and he spun a narrative of how he troubleshot whatever program he was using.
So, I started out getting a video clip and an audio soundtrack – the credits are at the end of the Kickstarter Trailer Video for the people I used. And I had screen capture software I’d already become somewhat proficient in. And found that I had nothing suitable to composite these with. I downloaded Microsoft Live Movie, and found it unusable. I downloaded WonderMark Movie Maker and found it less unusable. I asked around and found that what I needed was either Premiere, Final Cut, iMovie or Sony Movie Maker. Of those, the cheapest was Sony Movie Maker.
In Sony Movie Maker, you can layer multiple sound tracks under a video track, and you’ve got a separate track for overlays. It also accepts image drop ins fairly easily. Once you figure out their user interface conventions, it’s straightforward to use, though I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out how I’d sped up a section of video when I’d meant to trim the end of it off – I’d stumbled across a feature/interface decision: Holding down the “CTRL” key while dragging a handle doesn’t trim or lengthen the time a piece runs. It compresses or expands the running time and speeds up the video or slows it down.
Four days later, having abandoned that iteration of the edit because I couldn’t figure out how to undo that, I was desperately searching for how to do it again.
My next frustration was shooting the video. While I’m not camera shy, I’m not exactly movie-actor handsome, either. And while neither are a lot of Kickstarter creatives, it put me into a realm of appearance-driven introspection that was new to me. Making matters worse, I’m blind in one eye, and see at 20:60 with correction in the other. If I’m not careful, I tend to tilt my head to the side the good eye can see out of, and all you can see of the bad eye is the white. Makes me look like an extra out of a zombie flick, or some movie about hillbillies from Saskatchewan or New Jersey. One way to fix this is to put a small clip on the nape of my neck that will pinch if I tilt my head the wrong way.
I’ve got experience with public speaking. I’ve done radio announcement. I was very rusty when I started, and needed to put pace markings in the script – and have the script blown up at 300% on a second monitor so that I could read it over the lid of my laptop.
I had takes where I flubbed lines. I had takes where I went completely off script. I had takes where I was happy with it…and then some sounds from the house would get caught by the microphone. I had takes (too many of them) where it was clear that I’d memorized the script and was reading aloud at 150 words per minute.
I’d do a take, trim out the dead air and such, throw it in the editor, composite it and have people look it over. And over. And over. The script grew as people asked for more information. It shrank as I moved that information off to a different video that was a feature walk through. It shrank again as I condensed. It grew again as I added details on the two boxed games I have published. It shrank again as I tightened up the sales pitches. I had a take that seemed perfect…except it sounded like I was reading the script with a gun pointed to my head.
And this took over a week. I had help from a professional videographer, and a lot of interactive cold reads via Google Hangout and Skype until I got something I liked.
Then I took another read through, put it together and learned better (but still not ideal) ways to synchronize music.
I re-shot the AVID Assistant Video Movie three times. I still read it too fast if you’re not watching the video to go with the audio stream…and then I got feedback that made me do these again. And again.
Projects are often not completed so much as kicked out the door because you’re tired of looking at them. This came very close to that latter stage…but anyone who’s worked manual or computer game development has been through that experience in the past.
I’m glad it’s up, and I can recommend the software package I use quite highly. It’s got a learning curve, but it’s cheap – about $56 on Amazon.
As I write this – about an hour before this posts – the Kickstarter is up to $1120 out of a $5,000 goal. It may be higher than that by the time this actually does post.
Aside from the aggravation of learning a piece of software under a deadline, I’ve learned a few other things about Kickstarters:
1) Make it a personal appeal. Explain how the audience isn’t just benefiting from what you’re providing, but make them feel included. Put together items that make them feel like project owners, not just buyers who pulled out their wallet.
2) Preview the launch – tell people you’re going to do it.
3) Have your stretch goals planned out already.
4) Talk to people in your core demographic and outside of your core demographic and have them both look at things. The people in the core demographic will ask for more detail, the people outside the core demographic will go “What’s an X? You refer to it as if I’m supposed to know what it is…” and both inputs are useful.
Anyway – next week, we’ll go back to game design articles! I do hope you check out the Kickstarter, and if you buy video editing software, use the link I put up above. I get a small percentage from Amazon if you do.