Let's Play -- It's a Video Thing...

Let's Play -- It's a Video Thing...

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 11th Oct 2012

Back in 2005 when video geeks Chad Hurley, Jawad Karim, and Steve Chen founded YouTube they did not do it with the idea in mind that it would change the world -- but it did. Some geeks say that what YouTube did was make the world a smaller place, and we can see that, but the more popular view is that the service empowered its users to share content. We are going to ignore the monetisation of the channels on YouTube, and how some of the users on the service make a pretty good living at posting their videos there -- yeah, not gonna talk about that.

The bottom line is that while YouTube revolutionized everything from entertainment to education, what they also did was provide a platform onto which pretty much anybody can post a video in which they can express an idea, share an opinion, offer an observation, or lip synch to their fav song and, as long as the label doesn't throw a shitfit and ask YouTube to take it down, they get to be a star in their very own music video which is shared on YouTube and accessible from pretty much everywhere except maybe China, and how cool is that? Freaking Cool, that is how cool it is! Well, the whole posting and accessing thing -- China censoring the web, man, that is not cool! Bad China! No Fortune Cookie for you!

In addition to offering what amounts to a free (really not free, it is an advertising supported platform but let's go with free because that sounds cooler) platform, YouTube has also morphed into the new place to go to be discovered, and much like MySpace and Facebook before it, is now the goto place for aspiring singers, musicians, and comedians as well as actors, to post their own self-created content in order to be discovered. It is fair to say that YouTube has opened new doors for talented individuals looking to be discovered, brought people together from all over the world to share ideas or collectively cry about bad things and laugh about good things, and in many respects has changed the way that we laugh, cry, giggle, and share a moment with our friends. But that is not all that it has done.

Let's Play (Video Gaming)
At some point around the year 2006 -- as near as we can tell anyway -- a gamer somewhere got this idea of recording themselves playing a video game with commentary, and then posting it to YouTube. They called this a "Let's Play" video (often shortened to LP), and as it developed first from game play walkthroughs of the tougher parts of a video game that offered help to players who were stuck, and later into often funny commentary on game bugs, unexpected content or events, and often strange manifestations, it soon became something... Well... More.

The concept caught on so strongly that it had genuine impact throughout the industry, and in particular in the area of game play guides and walkthroughs to the point that today you cannot write one of those without including what amounts to a snippeted version of a Let's Play for the strategic sections of your guide! That requirement caused guide writers all over the world to be forced to become video capture and editing experts, but in the end that turned out to be a good thing because rather than just describe to the reader how to unlock that puzzle in the latest Assassin's Creed, the writer can show them. Kudos!

The typical Let's Player will record themselves playing a video game from start to finish, offering comments that range from droll and urbane to pretty freaking awesomely funny, as they proceed through the game. The video is then broken up into bite-sized chunks and posted to YouTube, where the more amusing Let's Players have obtained something of a following, and that is very cool. Very cool indeed.

What the Let's Play movement taught the world is not how to get the hidden crown from Level 7 in Wolfenstein 3D -- OK it actually DID teach the world how to get the hidden crown from Level 7 in Wolfenstein 3D but that is not what I want to emphasize here so ignore that -- but rather it taught the world that ANYONE can make a Let's Play video and maybe -- just maybe -- everyone should!

Give that some thought for a moment, OK?

Here at Gaming Update our thing is to encourage gamers to stay current with game news, but also to help to promote an online gaming nation of Internet Citizens who not only want to share their own special insight into retro and old-school games (new ones too) but then offer that insight, humor, and witty (snarky is fine too) creativity in the form of a Let's Play video -- the more obscure the game is the better, and seriously if you are bored and need an idea, we would love to see a series of Let's Plays on the classic Commodore C=64 game Elite Privateer, we are just saying.

The problem with that whole concept is that actually making a Let's Play video is not the sort of app that comes with your average computer, and it does require a minimal effort in self-education and some brain sweat on the part of the creator, but we assure you that anyone who wants to can do it -- and we are going to tell you how by taking a look at the tech that you need to make it happen! Yeah, we know you love us for that, but please stop walking up to us in public and hugging us, it is just weird...

The Anatomy of Let's Play
There are some basic components required for the making of a Let's Play video -- and those are:

(1) A PC or Notebook Computer
(2) A Personal Video Recorder Device
(3) The Video Editing Software (that comes with your PVR)
(4) A Game Console to play the game on or an old computer whatever...
(5) A microphone with which to record your commentary
(6) A headset so you can look like a DJ while you do it and hear the output

Once you have all that, you are good to go... Assuming you already know how to use all of that stuff that is. But the beauty of it is that the PVR devices that you will use to make your videos tend to offer support in the whole Learn as you Go persuasion of information and knowledge acquisition -- they are user-friendly in that way in other words, so this is one of those deals where a little experimentation and effort on your part will eventually lead to success!

After taking a long and hard look at this your GU reporters have arrived at the conclusion that the best way to help you to find your voice and follow the path to Let's Play initialization is to review some of the hardware that you will need. The thing about that though is that even though there are a lot of different devices available with which you can accomplish that basic goal, they are not all made equal, they are not all super easy to use, and some of them require a significant investment in fundage.

So what we did was we went looking for the best set of compromises that we could find -- we wanted a device that does everything that the high-end tech does, includes a versatile and easy to master piece of software, but does not break your wallet in spendage.

Tack on to that list of requirements a measure of ease in installation and ease in use, but also at least some measure of bulletproofing so that even if you do not desire mastery of the special effects or titling that all of these software suites and devices are capable of, you can still turn out a professionally produced video (or near enough) that you can be proud of without actually having to take a college-level AV course.

In the end that significantly narrowed the field to just a handful of devices, so we sent an email to the companies that made those devices asking them for a unit we could use to review the process and the tech. Then we used them. In the process that allowed for the elimination of several because they just did not work well or fit the criteria we set out when we started the process, but hey, that is now this works, so golden! We have two winners!

Of the eight PVR tech devices that we checked out, two of them stand out, and for different reasons. So today we are going to review for you the two solutions we found, and tell you why they made the cut: The Dazzle Video Creator Plus HD from Pinnacle, and the HD-PVR Gaming Edition from Hauppage.



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