The trouble with lets plays: My frustrating experience with producing them

I love playing video games, a lot. In fact I like it so much that you could say when I am not scheduled to do anything else I try to make it a point to play some game or another.

When I first started doing YouTube videos way back before Google bought it out, I did a series of “video strategy guides.” This was before Let’s Plays and Long Plays became a thing. Of course back then you were very limited in the length of videos and there wasn’t ad sharing in those days either. I was doing the videos not so much as a business or even a job but it was a partnership with other colleagues who were trying to launch a business. In the end I walked away due to the convoluted way the site handled copyright strikes once Google got its hands on the site.

Since then I have dabbled on more than one occasion trying to get back into doing Let’s Play videos. My first attempt I spent money on a video capture device. I plugged my consoles into the computer and captured the video that way. Then I went back and watched the video footage while I talked over it. This was cumbersome.

I quickly gave up because it took too much time to produce videos in this manner. It also took all the fun out of the games. Due to the hardware limitations of my PC at the time I couldn’t play the games in real time because the capture card ate up all my CPU power. What I did to solve this issue was dual monitor out. I set it up so I could watch the footage live on the TV and record the footage on the capture card. It didn’t increase the speed of the process but it made the games playable.

I took a break for a couple of years while Let’s Plays became a popular form of content on YouTube. A few years ago I decided to give it another go. I invested in a more powerful computer and an HDMI video capture card. This allowed me to capture newer games real time and play them at the same time. I also picked up a Microphone and was able to record the audio at the same time. I was doing the part where you see my face on a separate camera because I didn’t have the capability at the time to do it all from the desktop. This added a step to the editing process. It also was a chore getting the audio to sync up with the video. It was a little more cumbersome process but it did produce a higher quality video. This venture didn’t last more than a week as each attempt yielded some technical difficulty in the chain each time that caused something to be wrong with the final video.

My most last attempt to do this I went simple. I downloaded a screen capture program and used the web cam in my laptop to record the video and capture desktop at the same time while recording the audio to a third program using the microphone. This was less complicated but it resulted in multiple hours of rendering. It was tiresome. It could take 8 hours to render a 20 minute video with all the parts. In an attempt to shave some time off I tried using the internal video capture of the emulators but again this required I play the game, render that video then watch it while recording the commentary part. This took too long so I gave up and deleted my channel.

I had maintained a separate channel devoid of Let’s Plays where I upload all my other content, be it personal or professional. I finally decided to try again. This time I am using two computers. The laptop will capture the screen image using the emulator and a screen grab program I downloaded. Then while I am playing the game on the laptop I will use my desktop to record the audio and video using an HD camera and microphone. I put everything onto a flash drive, migrate it to my working desktop that has all my video editing software and piece it together there. I decided to limit myself to 30 and 60 minute videos depending on the game I am playing. This way if something goes wrong and I have to redo the entire session it’s not the end of the world.

Recently I discovered one minor flaw. The capture software I use to grab the footage glitches out after a while and grabs random frames instead of full video. I haven’t solved this problem yet but I am at least finally using a setup that when it does work right produces a video I can be comfortable sharing.

That being said, I am going to do everything in my power to work out the kinks to improve the process. This time I am not giving up in frustration. I am making it a point to produce multiple videos each week. I don’t want my channel to become nothing but let’s plays. I am okay with making a number of them in an attempt to produce more content and, covertly at least, justify my desire to play old video games for the hundredth time.