Making a strange little video essay

Link to the video essay here.

I’ve released my first video essay on the strange and surreal RPG OFF. What was my process, and what things have I learned to take into the future? I’ll talk about my experience researching, writing, voice recording, and video editing.

Why analyze games?

Video games have been a constant in my life since I was 5 years old, cruising around the stages of Diddy Kong on the N64. In adulthood, my time actually playing games is much less, but I maintain a connection to games in a number of ways. Through making them, watching a handful of streamers (mostly just Northernlion) play them, and through video essayists like Joseph Anderson, HBomberguy, and Mandalore Gaming.

As with starting any new venture, having some context helps, and these influences taught me a number of things:

  • Have a clear and unique voice,
  • Structure your video to have a particular premise or opinion
  • Have editing that keeps footage always relevant to the voice over

Keeping these considerations in mind, poured over hours of gameplay footage for OFF, and composed a script that narrowed my topic down to 1 clear thesis- the theme of impurity that is strung through the entirety of the game. I’ve published the script I wrote in a previous blog post.

But script writing was going to be the easy part- writing a few hundred words on a game I’ve known about for over a decade sat well within my comfort zone. But taking that content and making it a video?! Completely uncharted territory.

Learning the magic of Da Vinci

Da Vinci Resolve is a great and mostly free resource for video editing- it’s an incredibly powerful used for editing everything from professional movies to short-form content. I found my skills with photoshop applied surprisingly easily, a little like taking a 2D drawing and making a 3D sculpture from it- overwhelming, but I knew what direction I was heading in.

Voice recording proved to be another challenge. Mic positioning, pop-filters, EQ presets, compression- there’s a lot to know, and a lot of opinions on how to ‘do it right.’ But the beautiful thing about sound design is that finding references is easy- I had YouTube playlists full of videos that had footage I could study. But all I really needed to do was to keep a steady volume and even tone, and let the tools do the rest.

Video editing is intensive

I took around 10 hours to edit down 10 minutes of video. It was filled with decisions- where to snap clips into place, how to use transitions and inserted text to aid in essay storytelling, when to lay a musical bedrock underneath that fit the tone of the different sections.

I often thought back to watching Chopped, and the subtle manipulation that a soaring string sample or a dull and disappointing clatter sound effect can manipulate the emotion of a scene. Logical details in the periphery shaping the perception of the viewer in ways you don’t even know unless you’re looking for it.

It seems overwhelming. But even though there’s a million choices you COULD make at any given second of video composition, often the choices that fit your style and serve the story end up being far, far fewer. Like any other creative endeavor, approaching it with both an open mind and narrow goals proves to be potent.

Share your thoughts