Thursday, 11 September 2008

The forbidden love of one man for his microphone

If you've been using Moviestorm for any length of time, you'll have begun to realise that there's a lot of functionality there. Teaching people how to use Moviestorm fully and effectively is a difficult job. Unfortunately, it's also my job. It's made even harder by the fact that, no sooner have I finished a bit of documentation or a video tutorial than the blasted dev team selfishly releases a new update to Moviestorm with lots of extra whizzy bits and improvements, and I have to start all over again.

Nonetheless, I proceed undeterred. I've just put the finishing touches to a brand new (and up-to-date) set of video tutorials. They'll be going live on the moviestorm website any day now, and they'll replace the existing tutorials. As well as the four tutorials we had before ('Moving Around', 'Giving Instructions', 'Creating Characters' and 'Changing Your Set'), I've also managed to squeeze in a fifth - an introduction to the camerawork system. Each tutorial is between 5 and 10 minutes long, and designed to give you the basics of Moviestorm as quickly and simply as possible.

I've been using Camtasia Studio to produce these videos, and I've been very impressed with the package. Although it's practically unusable on anything but the beefiest powerhouse of a machine, it has a lot of incredibly useful options for video tutorials and the like. I'm also loving - and I do mean that in a slightly obsessive, scaring-your-friends-and-family kind of way - my Samson CO1U USB condenser microphone. Technically, it's Short Fuze's property, but if anyone tries to take it back, they'll have to get through me. I'm prepared to defend my precious mic with physical violence if needs be. I use Skype for voice chats fairly regularly. Since I've started using the CO1U, every single conversation now starts with the phrase "Wow, the audio quality is crystal clear - what mic are you using?".

Creating these tutorials is quite an involved process. As well as having to constantly work to tone down my usually gravel-strewn North-of-England accent, I also have to deal with the fact that sometimes I simply forget how to speak [1]:

Once the script has been written and the screen recording done, I edit the video down to the shortest length I can make it, and then add in all the overlays that show mouse button presses, screen highlights and zoom and pan. Finally, I tag the video with bookmarks at suitable points and then render it out as a streaming Flash video.

Somehow, despite my best efforts, QA always manage to get hold of these vids before they make it to the website. I live in fear of Ben_S wandering over to my desk and muttering, "Johnnie, that last video tutorial you recorded ... are you aware that you didn't mention [insert crucial bit of information]?".When that happens, there's nothing for it but to dry my tears, release Ben_S from the headlock, and re-record.

It's usually around this time that the next version of Moviestorm is released.

[1] Listen carefully at the end and you'll hear another thing that forced me to retake - the Squeakiest Chair In The Universe.


Matt Kelland said...

It is a very nice mic.

equinoxx said...

I'm a great fan (and proud owner) of the C01U myself. Quite happy with it.

Ash Mcgonigal said...

I'm rocking the M-Audio Producer USB condenser mic myself. Needed to get myself a pop screen and a better stand (the one that came with it was four inches tall and weighed about a third as much as the mic).

My cohort Danny has switched from the gaming headset he used in seasons 1 and 2 to an actual XLR studio mic with a USB adapter. I have no idea where he got that, but I think that's what we'll all be switching to shortly.