Recording Product Preview Videos

When putting together a video preview of a product, it’s important to be organized so that you can look and sound professional. Unless you know a product inside and out, you can often find yourself fumbling to find the exact portion of a module that matches up to what you are speaking about. Larger products contain a greater the amount of content, so it becomes easier to get lost in the navigation.

In today’s post, I’m going to detail a preview video recently completed for a Grim Press Fantasy Grounds conversion called: The Sentient Weapon. Within, I used a system of a prewritten script and call-out markers to Fantasy Grounds minimized assets to help keep myself organized.

Writing a script

It’s certainly possible to adlib what you want to talk about, but having a script, even a simple one, will help ensure that you cover all the topics that you want to.

I start by making a rough outline of the major topics that I want to cover. If there are parts of the module that are particularly well done or that you find unique, this is the point to capture those. While you might not include all of them in the final recording, this is your chance to brainstorm as you make your first pass.

Your outline might just snippets of concepts, or you might start to fill it out with complete sentences.

You may, or may not, have your visuals planned out at this point. That’s ok! I like to use fancy brackets to offset my “stage directions” and what I want to show on the screen while I’m narrating. This will usually  start off with something simple like { Show image of monster }. Then, I’ll refine it further when I have the exact image that I want to show.

Planning your visuals

Once you have your rough outline, you’ll want to keep revisiting and refining it as you go. Even though I might not be reading the script word for word, having complete sentences helps to reinforce the points I am trying to make. If you simply put down partial sentences or keywords, then your brain has to assemble that into a complete thought while you are recording. Rather than speaking smoothly, you will find yourself pausing or stuttering as you speak.

Next, you’ll want to find the best assets in the module which clearly illustrate your point. When you find them, you’ll want to minimize these to a thumbnail, something that easily overlooked in the Fantasy Grounds UI. Bring up the radial menu with a right-click, and then choose the minimize icon.

Depending on the category of the asset that you minimize, you will have a different icon your virtual table. They will initially appear direct under the asset that you’ve minimized, but you can drag the icon anywhere on the table that you want.

When you hover over the icon, you will see a label which indicates what it is.  In this screenshot, you will see the minimized icons for an image, a background, a story, a table, and a character respectively.

Alternately, you can use your hot bar for a similar purpose, as anything with a link can be put onto your bar.

There are pros and cons to each, and you’ll need to determine which works best for you.

Only items which have links can be put on the hotbar. It might not be immediately obvious, but you can actually use the character portrait as a link! If you drag it from the character window, it will even include the character’s name.

When you are working with a minimized thumbnail, if you accidentally close the asset when you restore it to normal size, the minimized icon disappears. If you had put it on your hotbar, it would still be there.

You might ask why does that matter? It all depends on whether you are going to be recording in a single take or stitching together several recordings. When using the minimization technique, if you forget to minimize it properly, then it will be obvious in the final video where your edits are. The giveaway will be that when recreate it, the minimized icon won’t be in the exact same spot and the viewers will see it “jump”. If you aren’t worried about your viewers knowing that the sequence was edited, then this shouldn’t be something to concern yourself with.

Fine tuning your shortcuts

What’s important is that you start to gather all of your thumbnails or hotbar links in a logical manner that matches the flow of your script. By now, you will start reorganizing the order of the items that you talk about and beginning your final script revisions. As you begin to finalize things, you can make indications in your script as which icon you want to be clicking on. I used a shorthand of “T” for thumbnail, followed by its number.

There may be situations where you will have multiple items that you wish to show at the same time. The good news is that Fantasy Grounds remembers the size and position of each of the items on your screen when you minimize them.

For example, at one point in my preview, I wanted to showcase a variety of images, but I didn’t want them on screen too early to avoid distraction while I was talking about something else.

In that case, I setup a series of 5 images at the bottom of my screen. I open each one, resized them and positioned them exactly where I wanted them. Once I was happy with my final layout, I then minimized the 5 images to their thumbnails. As I reached that point in my preview, I simply had to click the minimized icon to restore it to its last location.

It doesn’t matter where the minimized thumbnail is located, the asset will restore to the same position it was when you minimized it, allowing you to organize your thumbnail placement in a manner that’s efficient for you. Use this asset window memory to your advantage. Maximize your screen real estate ahead of time. Rather than having to position, resize and move assets around the screen while you are talking, plan out exactly where you want them to appear.

You should be aware that although the hotbar can hold links, and that the window position of the asset is maintained, hotbar linked items do not retain the scroll position.

On the left, you can see a story entry which was minimized after scrolling almost 50% of the way through the text – specifically because I wanted to discuss that portion of the entry. On the right, the entry was opened from the hotbar and immediately returned to the default position scrolled all the way to the top. This window “memory” is only one of several reasons that I prefer the minimized method.

Practicing your timing

Now that you’ve got your script and visual accompaniments in place, I would recommend that you practice talking and opening up your thumbnails/links at the same time. The beauty of everything being digital these days is that there is no cost to practicing, except for time. Take the opportunity to record these dry runs. While the instinct might be to delete these immediately, keep them around until the end of your project. When reviewing these rehearsals, you’ll see what works and what doesn’t. With these insights, you can revise your script and prepare for your final recording.

Wrapping things up

While all of this preparation may seem like overkill, it really helps you to develop a polished final product. My grandfather always used to say, “Measure twice, cut once”. While that may have been true when cutting a 2×4, it isn’t quite the same today when working with digital media  – where you can cut and recut and start over as many times as you need to. The part which does stand the test of time, however, is about the importance of preparation. The more prepared you are, the better the outcome.  

And, here is the finished video:

Note: The Sentient Weapon – a new combination of race and class (created by Unraveled Archives, Michael Rollins, and Caleb Willden; adapted for Fantasy Grounds by Grim Press) is available for sale exclusively on the DMs Guild in PDF and Fantasy Grounds formats. All assets owned by their respective parties and used with permission.

Article written by D. Bachen

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