Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Making of Indie Van Game Jam, Part IV: Editing

Let’s wrap this up and talk about post-production and editing!

How long does it take to edit an episode of Indie Van Game Jam?

The short answer is two months.   In the spirit of being completely transparent about our process, here is the editing schedule for episode two:

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What’s your editing setup/process look like?

I edit on a Macbook Pro laptop w/ Premiere Pro.

The first step I take is to create a folder structure for the project:

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I’ll then import all the audio and video footage into PluralEyes in order to sync them.  PluralEyes is exceptionally good at syncing — I’d say about an 80-90% success rate — and the rest usually needs to be manually synced (possibly because the camera audio is too low for the program to detect or that either the camera or H4n stopped recording, so PluralEyes can’t find the companion clip).

Next, I’ll set up bins in Premiere Pro like this:

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Then I import the footage.  I’ll also create a few Google documents and share them with the team: (1) Master Assets, (2) VO Scripts, (3) Master Schedule, (4) Color Keys, and (5) Treatment.

After organizing the bin structure, Chad or Zeb and I meet up for several days to cull through the footage and sort it all into folders or sequences.

All unsynced footage resides in a bin called RAW FOOTAGE.  All synced footage is placed chronologically onto a timeline called THE WELL.  Between those two places, we cast our fishing lines and scoop material into folders, giving them scene names.

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I think one of the fundamental theories of editing is that it is easier to work from a micro to macro level than from a macro to micro level.   Simply, this means that it’s easier to build up than to have to remove. (Maybe this holds true to part of the human condition as well; it is easier to forge bonds than to destroy them?  Who knows.)

How do you pick and choose what to add to the timeline?

We’re both watching and listening for funny lines, important game development stories that progress the narrative forward, threads we want to keep or move into the Detour bin, etc.  It helps for me to sit down with a developer to understand some terminology and note the difference between things that were actually carried out during the game jam and things that were part of a wish list.

For each clip, we try to consider sound, image and story as three equally important components to the episode (e.g. Will it be possible to improve this sound later?  Does he go into too much depth here on the topic of free-to-play?  Should we move it the Detour bin?  Let’s grab this bit because of his facial reactions when he plays the game for the first time.)

It’s very important at this early stage to go through all the footage together not only so that we know what we have but also because filtering footage into as many bins as possible puts us ahead of the game when we’re trying to find it again later.  For example, general travel footage can reside in the ‘Travel Bin’ and also ‘Whiteboarding’.  If it sounds tedious, it’s because it probably is — but uber helpful down the editing pipeline.

While we’re sorting, we will also start color coding clips based on their content:

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After one or two passes through sorting, I’ll group the colors together, then make edits into the clips, almost like creating a radio cut without paper.  What we’re doing here is eliminating the time that it takes to transcribe interviews, strike out sentences, and build an editing script.

Sometimes though, I will take story notes in a document I call ‘Treatment’.  It is a prose version of how scenes progress, but I generally use bullet points.  For example, there is a scene in episode 3 where I wrote down:

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After we finish sorting, hopefully the cut is down to a little over an hour.

Then we kind of attack the editing from all sides.

There is a document that’s called ‘Master Assets’.  It’s a list of things we think are necessary for the episode to stand on its own.  That includes Diego’s artwork, character animations, Chad’s code footage, Zeb’s level design footage, Zeb’s music, gameplay footage, VO scripts, After Effects Map Animations, nameplates, game jam scorecard design, etc.

Everyone pitches in to create the assets while I attempt to cut a scene down to its projected run time.

At this point,  I’m thinking a little about pacing, maybe music and moving assets around, but mostly just trying to get through one scene pass from start to finish through trimming.

I am trimming up the uhs, ums and pauses, making everything sound quick and deliberate.  If there are any design ideas that come to mind, I’ll jot those down, too.

At the end of the day, I’ll rig a time code stamp on the video and ship it to the team via Dropbox.  I’ll usually receive feedback the next day but won’t look at it until I’m done doing first passes on all scenes.

The notes from the team are extremely helpful.  They consist of suggestions for assets we need, comments on confusing lines, etc.  The master asset list is updated again.  Zeb made a very interesting observation one day that there’s this kind of ebb and flow happening where the timeline and list of things to do will expand, then contract, and finally we’ll start to see what the episode wants to be about.

We’ll kind of all have this instinctive feeling when we are one or two weeks out from finishing the episode.  Backers are sent a rough cut and encouraged to email us with comments on the upcoming episode and suggestions for improvement.  I do read all of them and take these into consideration!

There are more choices made with regard to music, sound effects, animations, title designs, fonts, etc.

I’ll spend the week leading up to release sound editing in Audition and color correcting, tweaking visual and audio transitions, moving around key frames in Premiere and/or After Effects.

The day before release, I render all the effects, export and upload the master sequence to YouTube on a private channel, type in the episode description and search tags.

On Friday, the episode is out there, and I am like the parent waving goodbye to the kid at the bus stop on his first day of school.

That’s it, folks!  I may edit this series and include more pics on the process at a later time.  I hoped you enjoyed that insight into the making of Indie Van Game Jam!

Ride on.


This is the final part of a four part series. Check out the first part on our gear, the second part on pre-production, or the third part on filming.

The Indie Van Game Jam is a comedy documentary web and video game series in which we travel around the country, interview independent game developers, and make games along the way in our van. You can check out the series on and vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

The Making of Indie Van Game Jam: Filming an Episode

Hey everyone,

If you’ve been following these Behind the Scenes posts, you know that Indie Van Game Jam oscillates from a one to two-person filming team.  That means I need to be on my toes most of the time monitoring what’s happening on camera and checking audio levels in order to not miss the moment — it’s a tight rope act of juggling three people (a programmer, level designer, and artist) where staying focused is paramount to success.

It ultimately means editing in your head and at the speed of thought.  Much like the editing process, here I am also making difficult choices about who to capture.  I am trying to give myself options in the cutting room while I am filming (for ex. by pointing the camera at someone who is not speaking, I am editing in a reaction shot — a dart of someone’s eyes from left to right — to break up the speaking section.)


Shooting for episodes typically begin the weekend before travel, and everyone goes to Zeb’s place to film the Binary Solo HQ scene.  They play a smorgasbord of the developer’s gameography and then pretty much can not leave the apartment until they agree on a game design question that is interesting and exciting.  This process/filming lasts for about 4-5 hours.  Episode One’s Binary Solo HQ raw material totaled about 27GB.

Then early Monday morning, we’re on the road.  Zeb writes the design question on the top of the whiteboard, and I begin filming.  Whiteboarding usually lasts anywhere from 2-3 hours (8.33 GB *I’m using info from Episode One).  And I must keep rolling because who knows when someone is going to say something that turns out to be a gem sound bite?  Who knows when that moment is going to happen when someone is suggests the game premise?  I suppose I could’ve stopped filming, then have someone notify me that to film, or pickup the conversation (which happened a couple of times — people would have to tell me they’re about to have a conversation or redo it because I wasn’t either there or prepared to film it (#RealityShow problems)  Other times, when I was tired, I let anyone who was game jamming in back use the GoPro to record (it was mounted to a TV screen.)

After whiteboarding, there’s usually a pit stop to switch drivers.   Now Zeb will drive; Chad and Diego will break out their Surface and Wacom tablets, respectively, and begin generating scripts and character/map assets for Unity.  I’ve decided to stay in the front passenger seat as opposed to hop back to the furthest seat in the van in order to record OTS (over-the-shoulder).

I’ve decided to stay here because I can pan the camera to see everyone’s face rather than have everyone in profile.  And I don’t want to slow anyone down by asking to stop the van so  I can move to the back seat.  Ultimately, the van scene is shot from two positions (front passenger seat and Go-Pro shooting at a high angle pointed down) so I could see the developers speak, react, then pan around to grab B-roll of the road, cityscapes, etc.

The driving scenes are kind of a big fog to me.  I was in and out of filming, sleeping, staring out a window, driving and reflecting on the vastness of the open road.  I definitely had a different operating schedule than the developers; I would be awake for certain moments, then sleeping for others.

Looking at episode one, it seems like there are 11.9 GB of footage for driving, excluding the white board and journey home scenes.


Disclaimer: I am by no means an expert of media management!  This is what worked for us.

I cut small squares of gaffer tape and labeled my 5-6 CF cards with letters A-F.  I’d make a note that all the whiteboarding material was on CF card A, for example.  Once a card filled up, I’d deposit in into a small compartment in my camera bag, separate from the empty cards.

We’d arrive in a city at night, and put our stuff in a hotel.  I would take all the filled cards and back up the footage twice: one copy would go on my Macbook Pro and another would reside on a 500GB external hard drive in my suitcase.  I’d also keep footage on cards as long as possible as a third temporary storage unit.

Ideally, you need to back up your stuff three times, minimum, and each storage backup in a different place (there’s little sense in having all three drives in the same room in case of a fire.)  You can read here how the Indie Game: The Movie filmmakers managed their media here (it really is an interesting post):

In the mornings, I’d try to email an itinerary to the team that I discussed with Zeb the night before in order to give everyone an estimation of call and wrap times at the studio.  This  day was usually a full day of interviewing, studio tour, b-roll at the indie developer’s place.  At Klei, for example, we arrived super early, and I was able to take advantage of that time to shoot B-roll.

When we rolled up to an indie studio, I would make an effort to quickly location scout and think about the most visually and appropriate spots to film.  Interviews typically lasted anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour.  In episode one, I suppose the interview was part of a lunch with Rob and Ryan.  That scene was 7.52 GB (about 1/2 hr.)

Either the same day in the afternoon or the next day, we’d have a game jam playthrough with the guest developer(s).  We’d find a room (hopefully with a TV so we could use an HDMi cable and El Gato device to capture gameplay footage) and I’d set up the frame.

We spent a great deal of time explaining to the guest developers that this was the Tim Gunn moment on Project Runway, the part where the seasoned pro checks in with the designers and gives feedback and caution.  He doesn’t tear it to shreds.  We wanted everyone to feel like was a safe environment to provide candid thoughts; this was a supporting zone.  To bolster this idea, we tried not to stage guest developers on opposite sides of a table.  Everyone was allowed to sit where s/he’d like.

The playthrough for episode one lasted about 40 minutes and was 9.25 GB.  Sometimes we asked developers to sample game jam prototypes from other episodes, and this took a little longer.  They were true sports about that, despite their hectic schedules!

At night we’d go sometimes go out to a Barcade to celebrate with the developer(s) and we’d film there, too.

Finally, there was the Journey Home.  In the Journey Home scene, the developers wrote down any feedback from playthrough, began to improve the games on the way back to Austin, and then had a post mortem summary at the end.  This scene was the toughest part to film because it typically took place at night.  We used Diego’s camping lights and strung them up for sidelight.

There’s also pit stops that we take along the trip, where we film hypothetical situations.  Hopefully, you’ll see what I mean in episode three.   So factor that in as well.

Each episode contains anywhere from 70 GB to 100 Gigs of camera footage.  (the conversion is a~10 hrs. = 166 GBS, so each episode has a little under 10 hours).  Additionally, there are several GBs generated from asset recreation (I’ll get into this more in Part V.)


How does one stay motivated and focused during such an intense filming and game jam schedule?  During all of this, I was training for the Austin Marathon in February.  My schedule consisted of waking up at 6AM and running around the cities (Vancouver’s run was the coolest in terms of scenery!)  These runs allowed me to assess the day’s goals and challenges.

I could not have gotten through both filming and running without the unwavering support of my coworkers, friends and family who thought that a road trip/video game web series was seriously an awesome story to film.

Another source of motivation has been the responses we received from our Steam Greenlight campaign, which we kicked off last week at SGC.  The responses have been mostly positive, and I’m extremely glad to see a demand for the series.  Here are some of the comments that have been coming in:

I think part of the reason we’re opening up our process (both in terms of filmmaking and indie game development) is to really show people how easy it is to take the first step into doing something new.  Three developers set out on a road trip and in 3-4 months made 7 game jam prototypes.  We want to open up that process and experience.

In episode one, I chose to include what is perhaps the most important image of the series:



In case you’re wondering about the marathon:


This is Part III of IV on the making of Indie Van Game Jam.  Check out our previous posts on the gear we use and about our pre-production phase. Next week is the final post on editing!

The Indie Van Game Jam is a comedy documentary web and video game series in which we travel around the country, interview independent game developers, and make games along the way in our van. You can check out the series on and vote for us on Steam Greenlight.

SGC 2014 Wrap-Up!

This weekend we were fortunate enough to be exhibiting at the Screwattack Gaming Convention (or SGC Wooooooo!) We brought a few of our games from the Indie Van Game Jam in order to promote the Steam Greenlight campaign we launched that morning, Friday July 11th. Although only Scott and I could attend, we had a total blast in Indie Heaven!

First of all, many thanks to our friend Drew McGee for helping us out and tending the booth with us. Drew is a former compatriot of BioWare and has written for titles such as Bumble Tales and The Banner Saga. He’s also a bright, smiling face who got plenty of people to the booth as well as the hookup from the roaming Red Bull distributors. (Dat Red Bull Silver!)

It was such a treat to meet so many new faces and watch as people genuinely enjoyed our games. We met cosplayers of impressive caliber. Hardcore gamers with impressive skills. Parents who forgot how a simpler game could be fun for (and played by) anyone. Check out some of our attendees on our Facebook page!

Someone just found the sea serpent in our game 'Round the World!
Someone just found the sea serpent in our game ‘Round the World!

As mentioned, we were trying to promote our new Steam Greenlight campaign for Indie Van Game Jam! Everyone seemed to be digging what we were laying down. Everyone was crazy supportive. Fans loved our stickers and seemed to be really interested in the Indie Van Game Jam. Honestly, when you see Stunt Mitch or Round the World in-person, it’s hard not to be a fan.

Indie Heaven, the happening place for indies, was full of great stories and talent. From our high-school neighbors, SmartCade, to the hometown heroes, Dallas Society of Play, the room contained a great level of passion. While Scott got completely addicted to Tumblestone, Chad flocked to KR-17. Big thanks to them and all the other exhibitors who we got to meet.

Can’t wait for Classic Game Fest!

Indie Van Game Jam Episode 2!

Hey! Hey! Hey! Have you been impatiently waiting for the second of Indie Van Game Jam? Well, you’re in luck! Our second episode, “Wizards of the East Coast”, just dropped. In this episode we travel from Austin to Orlando to visit Phyken Media, creators of Wizard Ops and Wizard Ops Tactics. You can check it out at the Indie Van Game Jam site and download the game, “Who Wants to Play a Game About Beekeeping!?”

The Making of Indie Van Game Jam: Pre-Pro

Indie Van Game Jam is a reality web series about the challenges three indie game developers take to create video games in a van — in a compressed amount of time — as they road trip across North America.  Special guests (seasoned indie devs) play the games and provide helpful feedback and suggestions for improvement along the way.  The team learns valuable lessons about game design and teamwork along the way.

Our plan was to travel to 7 cities in less than 90 days.  In fact, for two weeks back-to-back we shot three episodes and traveled to three cities!  That’s three playable games in 2 weeks — and a lot of coffee!

This is the definition of BADASS.

Here’s what the team’s January calendar looked like this year:

shooting schedule for January
Shooting schedule for January

Step 1:  Buy a van.


blue van is a GO!
Blue van is a GO!

Diego’s brother (who is fortunately a mechanic!) helped the team out by sending us Craigslist links to about 8 conversion vans in the DAL-ATX-HOU area, as well as tagging along to inspect its quality and driving performance.

Once we procured Big Blue and had it brought to our mechanic, Art, for repair and winterization, the series’ biggest missing component had been solved.  The van was a Dodge B2500 High Top Conversion Van with over 100,000 miles on it.  She turned out to be gentle and kind to us even as we racked up another 100k miles.

(We toyed with the idea of painting her with the IVGJ logo, gutting her insides pimping our ride, but we fell short on funds… Six seasons and a movie?)

Step 2: Contacting Studios

While the logistics were being ironed out for purchasing a van, I was reaching out to indie studios and gauging their interest level in being part of the web series.

In my opening emails, I would try to address questions that I felt indie devs would inevitably ask, such as, “Who are these guys?  What is the web series about?  Why should we [the indie studio] let them film here?  Why do they specifically want us in an episode?”  I wrote that in exchange for access to their studio for a day or two to film and demos/beta keys/etc. to play their games and capture gameplay footage, we’d provide them with high quality marketing material that would showcase their latest and greatest games.  Plus, we’d take them out to lunch.

I was surprised by how welcoming people were!  Here are some of the emails from the indie devs:

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Reading these emails again made me feel incredibly appreciative of how welcoming and receptive the indie devs were to our pitch.

Once we had all seven studios on board (we tried in lock in all filming dates with studios before traveling), it was time to get serious (not that we weren’t up until that point!)

Step 3:  Prepare!

We set out to procure what we didn’t have: hotel room reservations and/or lodging with friends, episode travel itineraries, emergency supplies, equipment purchasing/rental, equipment insurance, car insurance, release forms, beta codes and/or demos to play the indie games on Steam, driving directions, packing equipment, hard drives, etc. We actually got really lucky and only had to do the hotel deal twice.

We researched what news had already been covered on the developer/studios.  Doing so forced us to familiarize ourselves with the company’s culture, history, and the surrounding indie scene in each city (for example, this Polygon article on Klei: , as well as generate interesting interview questions if we ran out of ones to ask.

I’d like to state that we followed through with all of these plans as a team of FOUR people working at a startup.  Again, that’s badass.

Step 4: More Research!

The components of any single episode ideally include:

  • Intro Animation
  • Binary Solo HQ: Game Analysis
  • Studio Intro
  • Travel: {Whiteboarding, Art, Coding, SFX, Pit Stops, etc.}
  • Studio Game Jam Playthrough
  • Game Jam finish (in the van)
  • Wrap-up
  • Credits
  • Link to download the game

I then set out on to put together a kind of “look book” for the series based on web series with similar content, tone, and aesthetic for reference.  In retrospect, this was a tedious task but a necessary one, IMO.  I wanted to understand what other web series were doing, the aesthetics they embraced and how we could possibly differentiate ourselves from similar ones.

The series we looked at for inspiration were Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee, Man Vs. Food, Mythbusters, Penny Arcade, and Indie Game: The Movie.

In addition to assembling a look book, I started to create a shot wish list, breaking down the scenes into their visual components.  For example, under the Whiteboarding scene, I wrote down “packing, tracking shot of van, GoPro dev cam, pitstop commentary, computer screens, keyboards, eyes, interviews with the team.”  I knew that at the very least, if I captured a majority of these things on camera, we could stitch together an arc to the episode.

One of the last components we had to film as a team that I still consider pre-pro was the Binary HQ scene for all episodes.  This segment consisted of having the team meet at Zeb’s place on a Friday or Saturday and spending time sampling the indie studio’s gameography, then thinking about the common threads their games exemplified and finally developing the central game design question for the episode.  For instance, the game design question in episode one was: How can we remove an essential element from a game genre and still have people think it’s that genre?

And with that, like when Captain Picard took the helm of the Enterprise and set sail to Farpoint Station, we started the drive to Chicago, IL in December to visit Rob Lach.


This is Part III of V of a series about the making of Indie Van Game Jam. See Part I about the Gear used in Indie Van Game Jam. We will also be posting about our filming (production) phase as well as the editing (post-production) phase.

Indie Van Game Jam is currently performing their Steam Greenlight campaign. To help them get Indie Van Game Jam on Steam, consider donating a Yes vote now on their Steam Greenlight page.