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My casting

Posted: Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:52 pm
by IskatuMesk
When sc2 beta began I launched myself into the world of public casting. Of course, I had been dealing with video projects for years beforehand, but nothing comparable to what I was asking of myself in doing this. I was running on limited drive space and had to work out all the kinks of my audio, compression, formats ect. I wasn't prepared for this when I began. It was an entirely new experience.

My first casts were all FPVOD's. I probably posted the first FFA FPVOD in all of sc2 - the one with Rylin, Lavarinth, and I believe Tipereth. This replay garnered massive reknown very, very fast, as did the rest of my FPVOD's - and criticism.

Although I had modded Brood War for many years, and had an exceptional level of understanding of it, I had not played competitively since 2000. My playing skills were not up to the challenge of being compared to top foreigners. When people see an FPVOD, they immediately expect 200apm and perfect understanding. I didn't have this. In fact, I didn't even use hotkeys or control groups. This criticism forced me to play better. It forced me to master the mechanics of this game.

I did not master the mechanics of Starcraft 2, but I reached high platinum in beta when platinum was still top. I began to receive less criticism and more complements, especially on my decision-making and micro. However, I quickly lost interest in the game. Starcraft 2 is not a fun game to play. It's not a rewarding game to play. Starcraft 2 rewards counters and mechanics more than strategy and game sense. I felt a keen lack of design values that made Brood War what it was. Frustrated with gameplay, I turned to casting replays almost exclusively, occassionally playing FFA's. I could probably be grandmaster level right now if I had invested the last year into practicing at least semi-consistently. Instead, I took the backseat. Probably better for my mental and physical health.

In watching FFA's and various 1v1s, especially higher level games, I was able to watch Starcraft 2 evolve. Or, perhaps, stagnate very fast. Retail came and went, a year has passed, and the game has hardly changed. The maps have changed - in a few ways - but the game remains largely the same it was in beta. The most significant changes post-beta would include things like the removal of the Templar mana upgrade and the change to Tank damage, as well as nerfing HSM into the ground. But the game as a whole has barely changed. The players have matured much faster in sc2 than they did with BW. The scene is much more intense, has far more coverage, and is more open. Sc2 has a notably lower skill ceiling than BW - the top level sc2 players were scraping the bottom of the barrel in BW, almost faceless amongst a crowd of like-minded lower bracket professional players (source). Still the skill gap remains between Koreans and foreigners, however.

While the game stagnated and the months went by I was pumping content as fast I could. I learned quickly in beta that youtube downscaled 960x600 to 480p, utterly murderous video quality. So I opted to record everything in 1920x1200, my native resolution, which gets downscaled to 1080p instead.

Initially I used a cumbersome and annoying method to deal with my videos. I frapsed them, and then dumped them into vegas to produce an uncompressed encode totalling hundreds upon hundreds of gigabytes, and THEN I used a program called Staxrip to encode the uncompressed video into a x264 ready file. These files had lower quality than my current uploads and were over three times the size!

HKS introduced me to megui and my encoding process enormously simplified. Also, the advantage of having a 8 core processor truly kicked in with this program, encoding videos often 3 times as fast or faster than an overclocked core 2 duo. Additionally, the settings in this program were much more direct and powerful, allowing me to tune the quality to the content and fine tune it as I progressed through my videos.

One thing I always struggled with was audio, however. I was recording from just one audio source - my Mic. Studios like GOM, the MSL, ect. will be producing audio from two sources - the commentators and ingame, separately. I was recording with only my mic. The game audio was coming from behind my mic, from my speakers. The volume was difficult to control, often too loud or too quiet, and the game audio was distorted. After I was comfortable with my megui pipeline I realized I had the potential to very easily take advantage of my audio editing skills. I can rip the AAC audio directly out of an encoded video into Audition, edit it, export it, and then merge it back in without re-encoding through mkvmerge - which I need to use to split files for the then 10 minute limit and now 15 minute limit on youtube.

Speaking of which, that limit is fucking bullshit. Old director accounts still have unlimited access (TL's Nevake account) and random accounts received unlimited access a little while ago, including both Ricky and Mucky. But not me! Nope! I have over 1300 videos cluttering my My Videos page, including 100 or so failed uploads because "file too long". I leave them there intentionally to clutter their fucking servers. Youtube is a bloody disaster. None of the pages are synced in the least, it updates in weird and demented ways, and its uploader has always leaked memory like a bitch. All of the alternatives suck, too.

Anyways, back to Audio. I used something called a Compressor. In Audition, it's called Dynamics Processing. It's incredibly powerful and allows you to manipulate volumes in ways only Wave Hammer can come close to. But it's more powerful than Wave Hammer, it allows you to handle volumes very specifically based on various parameters including how to handle peaks of different lengths. Using my existing Dynamics profiles for my voice acting, I began applying extremely powerful filters to my audio. It worked, but the base from recording game audio externally was beginning to annoy me. I'm a perfectionist.

Also annoying, and still annoying to this day, is the difficulty in controlling the audio of my voice. If I speak quietly, I'm too quiet. If I speak too loudly, it destroys peaks. I experimented with both my Dynamic and my Condensor mic and had the same problem with both, but the Condensor always produced a much more reasonable normalization for casting. Both are USB mics, by the way. Something that would bite me in the ass a few times.

As I adapted my dynamics profiles I started using a new option in fraps to record both windows 7 sound and the mic. I reduced the ingame volume to around 20 and then 15% - any higher and you could never hear me, since it was a direct audio stream dump unaffected by speaker volumes. This allowed me to record the game audio in a reasonable way, and it didn't get mangled by Dynamics nearly as much. As time went on I learned more about compressors, how they worked best with my voice, and I custom-tailored profiles to various situations.

I bought multiple high-performance hard drives to facilitate my recording needs. Starcraft 2 in 1920x1200 equates to around a minute to a minute and a quarter for 4gb of space when frapsed. Not uncompressed, but you can go through your drive space in a hurry.

After retail, the big spammy casters with their youtube partnerships gained tremendous steam and pretty much destroyed competition from smaller, less-known casters. My casting style in particular is very unique. I cast much like how I post. I'm direct, blunt, to the point, and I focus very much on humor and entertainment. Most people who share a forum with me hate my balls, and the same was true with casting. But, as Archangel said, I have a voice you either hate or love. I garnered a cult of exceptionally devoted viewers over the months, tapering off at around 1300 viewers around beta's end which has remained fairly consistent to today.

I didn't put any effort into promoting my channel after beta. I didn't feel it was necessary. I wasn't in the casting for the fame. For a while I entertained the prospect of trying to adopt more of a mainstream cast, but as I watched these big name casters I realized why I never did that to begin with. It's boring. You're just repeating the same old shit everyone already knows. I gave my insight into strategy, decision-making and design, and I analyzed when requested, but otherwise I didn't feel the need to tell the viewer what the player was doing each and every single game. I don't like repeating myself. This is true with my casting. I would think a year into the game most people know what a 4gate entails, why people scout in certain patterns, ect.

Some months into 2010 I was beginning to become very burned out with sc2. I largely stopped casting pro games and focused very much on FFA's, Team games, ect. One of my replays in particular, the FFA with SpoR aka the real CharlieMurphy, gathered insane amounts of hits from a hotlink in reddit, as well as a lot of trolls to be banned. I discovered a trend in this. Every time one of my videos got linked on reddit I had at least a dozen incomprehensible retards to ban. Some of them even went as far to make duplicate accounts to whine at me in PM's. I loathe youtube's community, it's full of dumbshits, and I was knee-deep in tofu with a casting style that made many a preteen rearsore. Some of the comments I have gotten are truly mindbogglingly retarded. Like the guy who comments on a 5 month old video "clan pms doesn't count, nerd". I mean, what the fuck. Most of the comments I've gotten from would-be trolls are not even legible to begin with. I don't fuss, I troll and then ban, or simply delete and ban, depending if I can read the text or not.

In the midst of this I acquired a lot of viewers who would indeed best be considered a cult. I am like the Apple of casters. Shiny on the outside, murderously hateful on the inside. Some people loved that, often to the point of stalking me in strange and sometimes disturbing ways. A large portion of FFS players came from my youtube, and some from Ricky's. Some people even watch Ricky's channel just to see if I am in any of the games! I can only imagine what HD or Husky deal with, much less Day9. I can tell you that Day9 doesn't read his PMs, that's for sure.

One of the things I uploaded to youtube was a full-length playthrough of Sc2 on brutal difficulty. It was terrible. I played the campaign in the worst possible order and ended up in some really bad spots. But I also abused the living hell out of it and gave it the angry review it deserved. Sc2's campaign was terrible. Utterly horrible. I've played some bad campaigns, and sc2's was the worst. But I liked the idea behind playing through something and casting as I did so. This was known as a Let's Play. I believe they mostly originated from Something Awful. A lot of LP's are just screenshots. I was to take this to the extra mile.

I think my first true LP, other than sc2, was Darksiders. I had recorded previous LP's you could say - Left 4 Dead 1 and 2, which I had released quite a time before sc2 came out, but only on CC and to specific private viewers. But this was to be my grand entry into LP'ing. Darksiders was a great choice. It was a decent game with a sensible length to it and had elements that greatly complemented my casting style. The only problem I had with the LP was that I couldn't hear non-vocal SFX or music in pre-recorded (not rendered lolwtf) cinematics. Stupid console ports. Anyways, Darksiders was a hit.

But I noticed something extremely unusual. Although I had an average of 1280 subscribers, most of my videos received at most 400-500 views, some only 300ish. I concluded that at least half of the subscribers no longer even used youtube anymore - they were from beta, after all. The only reason they would have subscribed in the first place was because they didn't have the game. Plain and simple. The others were mostly die hard fans, sticking through the thick and difficult brawn of my various LP's. Youtube's 15 minute limit made uploading LP's utter murder. It was easy enough to split, but a total bitch to deal with on youtube. The interface for playlist editing requires individual number changing for each and every single video to get them lined up in order. For Darksiders that was around 100 individual videos. Holy shit!

After a while I decided to drop youtube for LP's and started using CC's server.

Anyways.

I had a taste of that glory I had longed for in the old days, when I was still modding consistently and producing content worth talking about. Before I had made an idiot out of myself one too many times, before depression became a serious issue, ect. I tasted fame and I tasted the mind numbing work of constant casting and dealing with high-definition videos. LP's in particular presented huge amounts of work to get ready. Recording was only the beginning. I have to verify the videos, too. Even though my i7 is powerful, encoding these videos still takes forever. Each and every day for months after sc2 beta was spent either casting, uploading, re-uploading because of stupid youtube errors, encoding, or most often all of the above. It was a constant juggle of resources and time. I learned to appreciate the consistency of casters like HD and Husky, even if I don't particularly like mainstream casting voices. This is why I don't bash these guys too much. The work doesn't seem like much, but it's extremely easy to fuck up and takes forever to get just right.

The only thing I would criticize very heavily is people who watch replays before casting them. I never do that. I think it negatively impacts the cast very heavily. Casting something when you already know what's going to utterly destroys the cast. All of these weird ass replays I have casted, none of them would be half as entertaining if I knew what was going to happen. As time passed I have become less a caster, and feel more like an avenue of silly replays from one person to the next. I stopped casting random replays a long time ago, focusing entirely on the silly and FFA's with the rare W&M FPVOD and such. But even this is feeling like a chore. The game still isn't fun. It's not an entertaining spectator sport. At this point, it's entirely the unusual, silly actions of players in weird as fuck games that are making the replays, not starcraft 2. Mucky can pull out any equally amusing replay in BW and it will be twice as silly because the game is just that much better. The one BW game I casted a while back was ridiculous.

Even so, it has been over a year since I started consistently producing content. Both LP's and casts. Some incredibly difficult challenges have been faced. The difficulty with Viking, constant struggles with audio volume levels, finding and making XXE content, searching for silly replays, and pulling myself out of depression long enough to give a cast my absolute best. You may not think much of me as a modder, because I've never finished anything besides AO and ZAPOC, but I hope you can appreciate the ridiculous amount of work I have put out in the last year. I learned a huge amount in terms of casting, observing, and game design as a whole just by approaching this material from my modding background. I think it has bettered my efforts elsewhere as a whole.

But, at the same time, I think my time is ending as a caster, at least as a regular caster. I am tired of casting. I am no longer genuinely amused by low-level play. I've seen almost everything this game has to offer in terms of silliness. I feel the repetition wearing down my casting itself. The latest uploads have been loosely strung together, even though they've been casted and recorded for weeks. I just don't have it in me anymore. I am exhausted. My hands, who were suffering from CTS before I even began Starcraft 2, are in agony. 3d modelling and WoW didn't help, but neither did SC2. This is the kind of thing that can cause progamers to retire, or people like TLO to take months off of gaming. I've managed to keep the pain at bay just enough to get my work done, and I'll have to keep fighting it because I have a lot more work ahead of me. Work I'd love to be able to focus on without any distractions, but we know that won't happen.

I wanted to focus on LP'ing, but now I've just lost the entire 16-hour Alice LP due to yet more retarded issues with audio. I have too much video work to do and no energy left to do any of it. I can't even bring myself to verify Earthbound and get the damn thing uploaded and done with. I can't record and process LP's with the constant issues with hardware, software, and my depression. I'm in exactly the situation I did not want to be in - backlogged, with no motivation to clean up the mess. I have 18 hours of Hunted to verify and re-encode top to bottom because it's too big, I have 12 hours of Earthbound to edit and verify, Dante's Inferno to edit and verify and then encode, and finally Killzone 3 to manually and painstakingly resync every minute or so.

To all of those who lurk on CC from my channel, I apologize for the staggered uploads. And I apologize again, because it's going to remain that way for a long time now. I am exhausted and I need a long break.

/e

As long as my mic doesn't break again CC's podcast remains unaffected by this. I will continue to produce podcasts as usual.

Re: My casting

Posted: Thu Jul 07, 2011 7:57 am
by Tyrienous
Mesk, it has always been a pleasure to watch and listen to your content, in all its forms. I understand the immense difficulties in providing a frequent reliable service in this field but I thank you for putting in the effort, and more then what most would require. You have no need to apologize for anything, we take what we can get from you and we love you for it.

Personally, once every two weeks I have a gaming and drinking night with at least 10 of my close friends and colleagues, and it usually ends up with your casts on the big screen while we drink beer and laugh along with you.

I implore you to keep up the good work as you provide much happiness and entertainment to many people.

<3 your biggest fan in Australia.

Tyrienous

Re: My casting

Posted: Fri Jul 08, 2011 8:59 pm
by IskatuMesk
Your support is most welcome, sir.

Re: My casting

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 6:32 am
by Taeradun
Tyrienous wrote:your biggest fan in Australia.
it's true

Re: My casting

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 9:18 am
by Mucky
What is the single highest number of views on your videos? I ask because, knowing I can upload beyond 15 minutes, I did have one video with over 50k views before I took it down. That seriously is the only thing that comes to mind, because if it were determined by number of videos, or total number of minutes/bandwidth/cocks, you'd have gotten the 15+ minute privileges long before I did.

Also, at the risk of being vain... what will become of our beloved BW dual casts? :(

Re: My casting

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 9:38 am
by Lavarinth
I believe it's dependent on the CONTENT of your videos. I have no videos relating to recorded screens or the such, and their all junk test renders and my final portfolio, nothing with anything near a significant viewcount, yet I was allowed to upload over 15 minutes.

Re: My casting

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:00 pm
by Ricky_Honejasi
For the 15+ minutes, I also heard that a possibility is also NOT getting flagged your videos as inappropriate by pretty much anyone possible (seems even much more likely on any potential 15+ minutes videos thus losing said ability to upload 15+ minutes). In addition, if you are prevented/lost the ability, it seems it's pretty much impossible to regain it for said account.

Due to that, I am still avoiding to upload very large videos unless it's a video that truly should be longer than 15+ minutes (ex : some 2+ hours videos in a row that is "worth the risk").

If it's truly the above then you have better odds to create a few side Youtube accounts with a few videos in each that nobody would object and hope you get granted the 15+ minutes benefit eventually.

EDIT : If somehow you manage to get lucky then you try to make it your long video only account.

Re: My casting

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:16 pm
by UntamedLoli
It was randomly picked, thats all it was. Random.

Re: My casting

Posted: Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:32 pm
by IskatuMesk
Mucky wrote:What is the single highest number of views on your videos? I ask because, knowing I can upload beyond 15 minutes, I did have one video with over 50k views before I took it down. That seriously is the only thing that comes to mind, because if it were determined by number of videos, or total number of minutes/bandwidth/cocks, you'd have gotten the 15+ minute privileges long before I did.


I think 20-25k is around the max views I've gotten but I am not entirely sure. Most videos do not exceed 500-600 views and extremely few exceed 800.

Also, at the risk of being vain... what will become of our beloved BW dual casts? :(


Not at all; since they are already casted all I need to do is edit them which I have been making gradual progress on. There is a truly large amount of video to edit though, and I'm trying to cut down the length a bit since right now I estimated about 7:30 hours of video. Good Christ.

I have been told that so much as deleting a video on your account can break the unlimited upload and reset you back to 15 minute cap again.

My account says I am in good standing as far as copyright is concerned.