Choosing Video Production Software for Game Trailers

This entry is part 4 of 12 in the series Game Publishing Lessons Learned

Introduction

In April 2012, Neil Carr, a member of the RPGGeek community, started a series of Amateur Kickstarter discussion threads. These discussions were partly his way of bouncing ideas off of the community and partly his way of getting advice about how to get started with a Kickstarter project he had in the works. I took part in these discussions and learned a lot of great lessons from them myself.

Now, one year later, I wanted to reflect and share what I’ve learned from those discussions and from my own experience since then. The more we can learn from each other, the better off the industry as a whole will be.

In this series I will recap, post-by-post, each of the 10 or so discussion topics raised by Neal. I’ll touch upon the topics discussed in each thread and elaborate with new knowledge I have gained since then. This article will feature his fourth post, “What video editing and post-production software to use?” Use the Series Navigation links on the right to find other posts in this series.

Original Post

I’ve stepped onto the path of being an amateur RPG publisher via Kickstarter. I want to see how far I can travel from zero-to-hero and I’m looking for help along the way. These series of posts are in part just me thinking aloud, but also asking specific questions as I put the pieces together to achieve rpg publishing victory.

Having a video to present your project is something that you need to consider. One thing that was a surprise though in the survey I took is that simply having a video did not translate into success. For the successful projects 74% used video, but even for the unsuccessful projects there was still 66% that used video.

There are a lot of reasons why crowdfunding succeeds or fails and when looking over 150 of these projects I saw videos which were painfully long, or otherwise cringe inducing in their production, but which nonetheless did fine. There were also some projects which had decently produced videos, but the project didn’t end up reaching it’s goal. Further, there are some wildly successful projects that didn’t bother with a video at all. So while a video can be important, there is still a lot of alchemy at work with the rest of the project to be successful.

There is also just the reality that video is its own art form. People with talent and skill will be able to put together a powerfully compelling video with nothing but the barest of tools. I have friends and family in the video and film industry and have even done a small amount of work on a few film and video sets, so I know how vast the skill and knowledge base there is to digest. I want to put that aside for the moment and just ask what kinds of digital tools should I be aiming for that I can leverage to make a compelling video?

I have access to an HD video camera. I grew up making goofy videos with friends and I think I have some natural eye to what you should do in terms of framing shots, editing, sound, script writing, etc.

In the last decade I’ve made some use of software to do “Ken Burns style” video productions, with all of the zooming, panning, and so on of fixed images, overlayed with sound. It works fine, but it would be great to go beyond that.

I’m a PC user, but if I absolutely have to I could borrow an older Mac laptop if need be, but it would be far more convenient to do it on a PC.

What is the InDesign (expensive, but not super expensive) of video editing?

What is the Scribus (open source and free) of video editing?

Where can I go to get inexpensive sound and music for post-production?

What is a good sound editor to trim and adjust music and sound effects to fit with the needs of the video?

How did the effects in Technoir get made? Is it completely out of reach for the amateur to pull off that level of slick effects?

 My Thoughts

At first glance, this post has a lot more to do with preparing to launch a Kickstarter project than publishing in general, but today’s Internet audience is fascinated by video and it is a powerful tool when marketing a product as well. Even OneBookShelf will be implementing product videos on its pages for electronic and print-on-demand books, so it’s time to familiarize ourselves with some amount of video production.

You don’t need a fancy camera or high-end video editing software to do a basic promo video. In fact, I used Microsoft PowerPoint and a free audio editing program called Audacity to hack together my promo video for the Psi-punk Kickstarter. For reference, I have embedded it below.

It’s not terribly pretty, but at the time I didn’t even own a webcam and I was on a tight budget. About 44% of all people who started watching the video watched through to the end, and from what I have heard (anecdotally), that’s not a bad percentage.

Nowadays nearly everyone owns some form of video camera — be it on their smartphone, their digital camera, or a webcam they use on their computer — and that’s sufficient for at least getting some video onto the screen. I purchased a Logitech C615 HD webcame for $70 from Amazon, which is a great camera capable of shooting 1080p video and comes with basic editing software. If you need to shoot a basic promo video, something like that is really all you need. You can film yourself talking at the camera and edit together as many takes as you need to get a coherent stream of footage to place in front of your audience.

Google  Hangouts

One other great option that has recently emerged is Google Hangouts. This software is free and runs in your browser as a simple plug-in. You can use it with any webcam to take video of yourself talking or to take video of a group of people talking. Best of all, you can set  your Hangout to be “On Air,” which will record the video and upload it to YouTube automatically. That YouTube video can then be used for your Kickstarter pitch video if you desire, or it can be downloaded and edited for further use.

I used Google Hangouts to run an actual play demonstration of Psi-punk during the Kickstarter campaign.

I also used Google Hangouts during an interview with christopher Helton.

These were both basic, effects-free videos but they demonstrate what you can do for free (provided you own a webcam). You can re-use the YouTube video as much as you’d like, and you can upload it to other websites as product demonstrations as well. It’s pretty raw, but for a new publisher on a budget it’s perfect.

Other Software

Admittedly, I don’t have much experience with other video editing software. If you want to do a spectacular video like the one used in theTechnoir Kickstarter, you’re going to need some additional time to research how to use video editing software.

If you subscribed to the Adobe Creative Cloud service that I mentioned in Part 1 of this series, you may already have access to Adobe After Effects and Adobe Premier Pro. These are the InDesign of video editing; everything you’ll ever need (and more) in video editing software is contained in these products. It’s great if you’re already subscribing to the Cloud, but not necessary if you aren’t.

If you’re not subscribed to Creative Cloud, those programs are incredibly expensive and probably not worth your time unless you’re planning on making video your other hobby or career. Instead, you may just want to use some basic editing software that comes pre-packaged with your operating system.

Windows comes with Movie Maker, which you can also download for free if you don’t have it. If you’re running Mac OS, you likely have a copy of iMovie hanging around.

As a final note, Neil mentioned in a follow-up to the original post that he wound up using CyberLink PowerDirector 11 to edit the video he made for his Kickstarter project. For about $75, this is sort of the Serif PagePlus of video editing. It offers all of the tools a non-professional might need without breaking the bank. If you find the free software just doesn’t do what you want it to, but you don’t want to spend a fortune on high-end video editing programs, this may be the way to go.

Hire Help

Of course, you can also hire someone with the tools and skills necessary to help you edit a video. If you want something that looks really slick but don’t want to develop an entirely new set of skills and become involved with an entirely new suite of software tools, this may be the best compromise for you.

Conclusion

Internet video is here to stay. It’s not just important for running a Kickstarter campaign, but it’s good for promoting your games in the future as well. As a game designer, you may not wish to get involved in the process of editing high-end videos, and that’s okay. With Google Hangouts or some free video software, you can cut together something basic that will do what you want it to. All you really need is a small investment in a webcam (if you don’t already have one) and you’re ready to go.

For those who are interested in the creative side of video making, there are a ton of options at your disposal. I just touched on the surface of what’s available, but chances are if you’re interested in creating high-end videos you’re probably already more knowledgeable on that subject than I am. If you’re not, consider taking a college course on the matter (and use your student discount to pick up some high-end software for cheap).

If you’re not happy with freebie software but want promo videos that really shine, you may also want to consider hiring a professional. There’s something to be said about tapping the talents of others, and there’s nothing wrong with supporting other people in the hobby.

Join me again next time as I discuss topic #5: “To hardcover or not, that is the question.

Series Navigation<< Choosing a Game Book PrinterHardcover, Softcover, or Both? >>

About Jacob Wood

Jacob founded Accessible Games because he wants to spread the joy of gaming to everyone, including people with disabilities. He is visually impaired and knows what it's like to need to adapt, and he brings two decades of gaming experience to the table.
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