1 steam key giveaway for “Super Mega Baseball: Extra Innings”

I’m giving away one steam key for this really cool arcade baseball game! Just follow the instructions on this video to enter the contest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sj7LLfScCAw

Good Luck Everybody!

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Giveaway: Five Nights at Freddy’s – Sister Location

I will be giving away 1 steam key for the horror hit “Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location” over at my YouTube channel within the next 24 hours. Stay Tuned!

UPDATE: One of the first 10 commenters in the following video get the key! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oydLm763rsc

Let’s Plays Voiceovers: A few tips

It goes without saying that good voiceovers are half the battle when it comes to a Let’s Play Series, so here’s a few quick tips for newcomers:

 

Always record game audio and voiceover in seperate files

If you record them into a single file, you can’t edit squat afterwards or at least it’s very difficult to do anything meaningful. Yes, it’s a hassle to work with many files, but there really is no way around that part. Thankfully though, once you find a workflow that works for you it gets significantly easier.

A few things to note here: Be sure your recording software supports recording game audio and microphone into seperate files. You should also know beforehand how it accomplishes that, ie. does it produce different files or are all streams (1 video and 2 audio) jammed into a single video file? Usually the latter is the case, so you’ll either need your Video Editor to be able to work with such kinds of files or find a software that can extract the video/audio streams from said file. There are a few decent freeware options out there, like mp4box or mkvtoolnix and some commercial ones. I personally prefer TMPGEnc Smart Renderer 5 from Pegasys, which also does a stellar job at splitting and joining video files losslessly. I also use the easy, powerful and budget friendly Mirillis Action! for all my screen/game recording needs, but you can also go for the excellent (but more cluttered/confusing) freeware program OBS. In any case, the thing to look up in you search engine is “Multiplexing / Demultiplexing” or “Muxing / Demuxing” of video files.

 

Edit your voiceovers before mixing them with the game audio

At the very least you should denoise your voiceovers and rid them of breathing, sneezing etc sounds. If you wish to shed your “beginner” tag, you should also apply equalization and compression filters. Finally, you could start fiddling with de-essers and other filters. Oh and always normalize the volume of your voice recording as a last step (and i’d highly recommend doing a “loudness” normalization, not a “peak” normalization).

Denoising is the easy part because it’s mostly the software’s job to do the heavy lifting. If you want a good one though it will cost you. If you’re just starting out, stick with audacity, it’s pretty decent. If you want to get serious but are on a budget, Acon’s Acoustica comes with an excellent denoiser, among other very useful things and is my audio editor of choice. Going to the next level means a pretty steep price increase and if you are in that market, you probably already know where to look.

Removing breathing and other unpleasant sounds, like plosives (those nasty P and T sounds that microphones tend to capture) or neighbors screaming at each other requires the correct setup and some patient work afterwards. First off, get (or build!) yourself a pop filter – it’s essentialy a small piece of cloth that sits right between your mouth and the microphone and effectively stops the air produced by P and T sounds from entering your mic at full speed. It’s also generally a good idea to position your microphone not directly in the path of your voice, but maybe a bit to the left / right / up of your mouth. If you have loud neighbors / family or record close to your computer, you might want to go with a traditional dynamic mic instead of a condenser mic, since they don’t capture much of the distant sounds like the latter do. You can go for a usb mic when first starting out and lots of pros use them, but if you eventually decide to upgrade to a mixer (which also mostly negate the buzzing background sound that your pc sound card produces) you’ll probably need a mic with xlr connection. I personally use the very budget friendly AKG D5 dynamic mic and Behringer Xenyx 302USB mixer.

Equalization and compression are fairly cheap and easy to do (most audio editing software includes filters for those), so learn about those sooner rather than later. Equalization allows you to enhance or reduce certain frequencies of your voice, like the low-bassy part which can be unpleasant and overshadow the game sound. Compressors allow you to bring the silent and loud parts of your voiceover closer together, so that your viewer don’t have to constantly fiddle with the volume button whenever you’re too loud or quiet for their taste. Look at this tweet of mine to get you started on good compression settings.

If you are the kind of person that damages other people’s eardrums whenever speaking the letter S (you know, the ones that sound like you’re whistling), then you also need a de-esser filter. There are quite a few freeware options out there, just make sure your audio editing software supports vst plugins. A very good and cheap one to get you started, which also includes lots of other essential filters, is Toneboosters’ Track Essentials Suite of plugins.

 

TL;DR

So there you have it! A few good tips to start you out on your Let’s Play-ing (or even podcasting) journey: Buy a recording software that records game audio and microphone into seperate audio tracks. Get a pop  filter for your mic and position the latter a bit to the side of your mouth to minimize plosives. Denoise, equalize, compress and if necessary de-ess your recordings and manually rid them of breathing, sneezing etc sounds. Look at the links i’ve included if you’re looking for some good free or budget friendly software / hardware to start you out.

 

A quick thought on Pinnacle Studio 21 and other NLE’s

I had a very brief relationship with Pinnacle Studio 21 Ultimate, a non-linear video editor (NLE) produced by Corel, which sadly ended in me receiving a refund. I thought others might benefit from my experience, so here goes.

I’ve used quite a few editing programs in my life, be it for photo, music or video editing. As far as NLE’s go i’ve had experience with Apple Final Cut (during my Mac days), Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas (it was still owned by Sony back then), Magix Movie Edit Pro, TMPGEnc Smart Renderer and Cyberlink PowerDirector. As you can see i’ve done my due diligence :).

Every person has different needs of course and reviews products accordingly, so here are my top ones:

  1. A fast and speedy interface, to minimize the time i have to spend editing
  2. Features, that allow me to occasionally correct or spice up my videos
  3. Fast exporting of high quality videos

I’m a family guy with a regular job, producing mostly gaming videos in his spare time on a i7 6700, gtx 1070, windows 10 64bit pc.

The last few years my NLE of choice has been Magix’s Movie Edit Pro (specifically the “Plus” edition), because it does a good job in everything. Pinnacle doesn’t offer a demo for its software and has a reputation of releasing slow and buggy products. A lot of reviewers were adamant that this was a thing of the past though and the list of features that Pinnacle Studio 21 Ultimate boasts is admittedly impressive, not to mention the fast render times everybody was touting. All those reasons and more made me take the plunge, but boy was i in for a rude awakening!

All i wanted to do was convert a portrait hd video capture (960×1080 pixels) of a virtual reality game to something watchable on youtube. I though i’d add a blurry background of the video itself (because who likes those ugly black bars left and right?), stabilize the video (because in VR the camera is your head, which naturally can’t stay still) and maybe alter the colors and exposure a bit.

Lag. Lag. Lag. LAG. That pretty much sums it up. Lag when importing videos. Lag when moving things around the timeline. Lag when previewing. Lag when adding text. Lag even when trying to simply advance to the next frame of a source video!

At first i though I must be doing something wrong. Did i forget to enable acceleration? Did i turn off all power hungry settings like thumbnails etc? Did i kill all unnecessary programs in the background, restart the software and my pc a couple times? I did all of this and much more and it made zero difference. There are excellent features hiding behind all this lag – for example there are sliders for almost everything, giving you great control over the end result – but after spending a whole minute to find the correct frame for a cut and almost crashing my pc while adding a simple title (no outlines, shadows or anything), i was done. The only positive thing that came out of this was my new-found appreciation for my previous software.

A few last notes:

  • The refunding process was quick, painless and everybody was very polite.
  • I currenty use TMPGEnc’s Smart Renderer for projects that require almost no editing and Magix’s Movie Edit Pro Plus for everything else. Audio is handled by a completely different set of products, but i’ll save that for another article maybe.
  • Quick thoughts on the rest of the software i’ve used (disclaimer: some of them i haven’t used in years, so take my words with a grain of salt): Final Cut – excellent but you need a mac and it costs a lot. Adobe Premiere – very slow frustrating workflow. Vegas – was my second favorite before discovering Movie Edit Pro, more powerful but also slower to edit with. PowerDirector – too simple for my needs.

Looking for a good cheap DeEsser?

I sure was. While i’m usually recording full playthroughs without any commentary, i just needed a simple DeEsser for the few times i wanted my voice to grace a video. So i did my research and went with Toneboosters’ Track Essentials 3. I wasn’t dissapointed 🙂

It’s only 20$ and – except for the DeEsser – it comes with a few other plugins as well, such as a compressor, equalizer and gate. Importantly, there’s a 64-bit version of it. To be honest with you i prefer using my Acoustica’s built-in tools most of the time, but those don’t include a DeEsser – hence why i needed one.

tb_deesser_v3_screenshot

You can of course head over to the Toneboosters’ website and try it out for yourselves, but from my experience you are getting a nice, albeit simple, solution for all those nasty “ssssh”, “ttttt”, “pppp” etc sounds. As with most cheap DeEssers though bear in mind that this is designed to make things bearable, not completely remove sibilance. I for one am prone to really excessive “sss” and “sshhh” sounds when talking and this little plugin worked just fine to make me sound like an average person.

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel – Mindless shoot & loot fun :)

While waiting for the next “big” Borderlands installment, you should definitely pick up Borderlands: The Pre Sequel (on sale right now) if you’re a fan of the series and here’s why.

Borderlands: The Pre Sequel tells the story of what happened between the two previous Borderlands installments (thus both “pre” and “sequel” i guess :)), but this isn’t a game you really play for the story. Don’t get me wrong, it’s filled to the brim with hilarious moments, but after every quick laugh you’ll be focusing on two things: shooting and looting. And this does a pretty good at both of them – Shooting is simplistic but fun and there are about a gazillion different guns, shields etc in this game thanks to random generation and mutliple different stats. Mind you it all get’s a bit grindy though.

The game is set in space this time and this means you’ll spend about half your time in low gravity environments. This is a double edged sword, as it adds the immensely fun “gravity slam” mechanic (which i will really miss in the next Borderlands game if they don’t include it), but also makes the game feel a bit more sad and lonely than Borderlands 2.

Fans of the previous two games should definitely pick this up to see how jack and the other vault hunters come to be who they are and – of course – for the mindless fun that is the Borderlands shoot & loot formula 🙂. New players should also join in in said mindless fun, but i’d suggest playing through Borderlands 2 first – you’ll enjoy The Pre Sequel a bit more this way.

Btw, here’s a complete cinematic (aka minus the grinding) playthrough of the game:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLZgFmfbiSE

You can find and buy the game at various places, like Steam (currently 70% off), the Humble Store or even get a dirt cheap key at key stores like the allkeyshop.