Updates, Updates, Updates!
*Note: There is a full video  version of this post right here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D4ntMqJF7Fs&feature=youtu.be


As well as a copy already online on the direct video access drive. Speaking of the direct drive: I've permanently dropped the price of access by $5, for reasons explained a little below!*






Hey guys! A week or so in the dark of videos, but I'm back with regular uploads again now and I wanted to take a moment to explain what's been going on. Why? Because it's all very exciting to me!


Background:

A long while back, during the first few episodes of "The Legend of Grimrock 2", I started getting really into editing and improving my videos. Those who watched will

remember some cool little animations and effects that would play as I read lore. As I got more into it though, and after MORE than a few conversations with Matt, I started to notice the video quality was really not where I wanted it to be. The cool little effects and things I learned stopped, and I instead went about looking for new ways to record, render and upload.



The more I looked though, the more I found things I wanted to do differently. A classic situation of "Work smart, not hard". My day to day was filled with trivial things that I just KNEW could be done faster and simply weren't: I could have more images in videos if I just set up X, I could edit faster if I just did Y and Z, the videos wouldn't take so long to render if I had A and B.


 And so on. 


Eventually I bought a capture card [that I no longer use] and basically gave up the pursuit several months down the line. Heart of Thorns had just been announced, I had FFX-2 AND Grimrock still on the go, and not enough time.


I resolved to do the big channel make-over at a later date.


Welcome to a later date. 





Things you will all readily see:

+ 1440p 60fps video quality

This has been the main catalyst for all other changes! The Grimrock videos looked like ass, especially compared to the videos on my hard drive. This is because when you upload to YouTube it re-encodes your video to have a lower bit-rate so that it can be more comfortably be stored on their servers and streamed to users of the website. For a lot of videos this isn't a huge problem, but for very sharp and high detail games (like Grimrock 2's outside sections, think of the foliage...) it creates a horrible blurring haze and macro-blocking effect. The same is true for Guild Wars 2, and only gets worse when you use **sharpening** from something like SweetFX or Reshade. Imagine my frustrations when I make the game look so much better on my end only to find the YouTube videos are coming out even worse! The low Bitrate is also a big problem when it comes to high-motion video, by the way. Think back to Grimrock again for me, and you'll recall the very sudden turns left and right that make up much of that games movement. It should be no surprise then that it was while producing this series I  started looking for an improvement.



One thing some YouTube users like to do to avoid this is upscale their footage to a resolution HIGHER than 1920x1080. This way, even though that video *technically* doesn't have any more detail on it, YouTube will think it needs more bit-rate allocated to it and give you more! This is a fairly well known process. All you, the viewer, have to do is select the higher resolution option on the Youtube player (even when your monitor actually isn't as big as the video is), and you're good to go. But not many content creators do this. And for good reason - it blows up your Rendering/Uploading times by a huge amount, with only a minor or sometimes placebo improvement in the end. It's nearly never worth the effort.



However. If you're *actually* capturing at a higher resolution than 1920x1080, such as 2560x1440, AND you can capture that footage at a solid 60FPS AND you can deal with the bloated rendering/uploading times - then the eventual videos you post online will very well and truly be much better. The macro-blocking and related issues all go away.



This is where I am now happy to be. Getting here wasn't easy: I've basically rebuilt my old PC as a dedicated render box to half my video production times through a jury-rigged network drive and made several alterations to the way I capture footage to make it all work just as fast as the old videos did.



Pick the option if you can to make me happy!




+ Higher Audio Quality

I believe my struggles with finding a decent microphone and voice sound are fairly well enough trodden ground by now - but this isn't actually related to that at all.


YouTube best supports audio streams with a sample-rate of 48khz or 96khz. Those are common standards and ones I believed I had always been delivering - but three or four months ago I discovered by coincidence that this wasn't true. How could that be? I have an audio interface delivering 96khz sound. I have video capturing software capable and configured to capture 96khz. I record my microphone at 96khz. I edit all videos in a 96khz audio project preset! So where is the problem?


A little background: My preferred Video editor (Sony Vegas) doesn't actually support my preferred video encoding method (X.264). About two years ago I started using an intermediary renderer (frameserver) to export from Vegas into a seperate x.264 encoder (handbrake). That way I could have my cake and eat it too. The problem? Framserver was only delivering a 44.1khz audio stream and THAT is all handbrake ever had to work with.

That's then what YouTube got. 44.1khz is particularly bad, for what it's worth. The maths it takes to jump from that to YouTube preferred, higher standards, is error prone, slow, and won't actually sound as good as if I just delivered a better standard in the first place.


So that's what I'm now doing.


The solution? I now render ONLY the video with Handbrake, and audio is rendered as a dedicated separate file from Vegas - set to exactly what YouTube wants. These streams are then muxed (combined) together AFTER, and bobs your uncle - we have a gold standard .mp4 at the end.



+ New intro

Bumping the video quality to 1440p60 introduced a set of challenges for me beyond just the logistics of producing at content at that quality. The intro for all of my videos was at a measly 720p30, for example. Considering that the first few minutes of a video are always the most watched, it sucked to think this ugly up-scaled thing would get so much screen-time! With a quality bump I knew I wanted a new intro.


So that's what we've got. Not only this, but I can actually hot-swap the background whenever I feel creative and produce different variants and styles on-the-fly. I have a lot more control and I'm super happy with the work Marco from pixxample.com did for me. The new intro is built in the same style as the old: Which I actually really like. A distinctive sound effect, simple premise and short, snappy length. Perfect.





+ Endslates

If I'm grabbing a new intro, why not actually start using end-slates? This is the process of ending a video with a screen of annotations people can click to visit other things I've made. It's nothing major, but one of those 'best practices' things I've wanted to be doing. Who knows, over a few years it might help retain and grab a lot more people.


This actually isn't the first time I've started using endslates on videos, but honestly it's always been a MASSIVE pain in the ass to manually click through and do obnoxious annotating every. Single. Day. Screw that. Lucky for me, I spent some time looking up a method to automate the whole process, created a better workflow for myself and now it's very little more effort for me to do. Awesome.


There was also the matter of making the end-slates, how the audio would mix, what cool footage I could use, and so on. I learned a lot about Vegas with this one. Nesting projects inside projects, multi-cam editing and using takes, the impact of various plugins on render times, and so on.


I'm super happy with what I got at the end. The cool part is that just like the intro, I can easily hotswap the background, the related videos AND the music accompanying it with a single keystroke. You're currently hearing some nostalgia

music from a childhood game of mine, but we might see that swap soon.




Next up, some minor differences that I've regardless been working on:




+ New general annotations

Since I can automate annotations now, I'm using them before the end-slates too: About a third of the way into the video are reminders that 1440p is available and people can try it out, and about two thirds through the video there may be a prompt for people who watched that long if they want to like the video. I really don't want these to be annoying or on screen for long, so that's totally not the plan - but again it's one of those 'Work smart, not hard' things that will hopefully get some mileage in the future.



+ Altered descriptions

Not particularly exciting for you guys, and more of a test than anything, but I usually have a lot of information in my descriptions yet it's rarely read or clicked. I've changed the way they read to a third-person perspective and I'm encouraging clicking of the 'more information' section a bit better now, to hopefully get people to look at those links some more.


The third-person perspective thing is pretty odd. It feels strange to type and almost even dishonest on a level, like the suggestion some-one else is helping me write them and I'm more than a one-man-band! But the analytic's don't lie: Third person nets you more clicks. Best practices and all that, I figure if we're making a lot of change this one can go on the pile too. It's not hurtful to the content in any way, at least.


+ Tagging

Again, something to note that I've been busy on but won't mean much to all of you: I've spent some time looking at the way I tag my content. Tagging is what YouTubers do when uploading videos to help their productions sit higher in search lists. For example, if I tag my video " Guild Wars 2 XXX Hot Dog Scene" as the first tag - then when someone searches for exactly that on YouTube I'll appear at the top of the list. There is a limit to how many tags you can use before they become ineffective, and most super generic tags like "Video Game" mean nothing at all, yet for five years I've found myself using them. Long story short, not only can I now spy on what other YouTubers tag their videos with but I've put actual effort into my own.



+ New Channel Icons and Banners

This one happened a few weeks back, but it's been a part of all the same makeover: I slightly tweaked the channel icons, got a banner for WP2 and generally touched things up. I WOULD still like to remake my main channel banner, too, but

that hasn't happened just yet.


+ Patreon Drive Access

The Patreon direct access has been really cool to provide for you guys, but I've been a little disappointed with my own ability to keep it up to date. I bulk out X-2 videos and so those have been really regular and uploaded super early on there, which is awesome, but Gw2 stuff has been too sporadic. I'm now auto 7-zipping the files (as opposed to winrar..) after muxing directly in to the folder. If that sounds like double dutch, it essentially just means things are going to be far more consistent on that end.


Also, as of this post I am dropping the price of the patreon direct video access by $5. Because why not! Some more people might try it out now, and it's nice to be nice. You guys will remember I only originally priced it on the higher side because

I didn't want to promise something I couldn't keep up with, and things seem totally okay on that end. I hope you guys do think about it!




+ VisualWood


Last but not least, VisualWood has returned! For those out of the loop, a few weeks ago Matt and I ended our weekly live-stream podcast, promising something new to replace it. That new thing can be found on the VisualWood channel, where every day there will be a new video hosted by me and him. Thats right, every day. If you remember me mentioning on a recent X-2 that I recorded 20 videos in one day? Well, this was it:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SFDS4oAWm9w




It was a LOT of fun to make, and I really like the videos but they're getting fairly low viewership right now - check it out if you've got time!





Conclusion


So that's it. Those are all the major things and I'm thrilled with them! A couple of weeks of slower videos has been quite painful, true: We've lost a considerable amount of ad-revenue and support on Patreon over it- but I do think it's been worth it.


Looking at it logically: General Gw2 viewership and inspiration is at a low right now, so what better time to step back and change how I work? It's just the breathing room I think I needed.


Thanks for reading this far, guys! Hope something was interesting to you, and I'll be in the comments.