I get this question a lot, so here's the complete list, including links, to all of the programs that I use for video creation. 

Now, it's important to state this: I've made investments to get the stuff I use (I paid to register FRAPS, I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum instead of the Windows Movie Maker that comes with Windows, etc), because I wanted the ability to do more.  You may need to start a little less intensely - that's fine.

/DEMORECORD (the slash command in the COH game), to actually capture in-game events

NOTEPAD, for editing the textual code of a .cohdemo file

ZLOTH'S DEMO PLAYER, for playing back the /demorecord footage I capture

FRAPS, for converting the playback into a video file

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP, for customizing graphics, text, or other visual needs

SONY VEGAS MOVIE STUDIO, for video editing

NERO WAVE EDITOR, for messing with sound and music

SB AUDIGY CREATIVE SMART RECORDER, for recording sound effects, dialogue, and the like

The article below is a reprint of an article I'd written for the February 8th, 2008 edition of the CITY OF HEROES online newsletter called the "City Scoop."  Based on popular demand for a reader-friendly guide to making videos, I dashed this off one evening and sent it in.  It's proven to be extremely helpful for the novices to CoX video creation, so since a lot of people hit my site, I'm reposting it here!


Video editing, like any other creative endeavor, is equal parts craft, art, and the desire to have fun. But how do you start? Unfortunately, it's not as easy as picking up a pencil and doodling your favorite toon in the margins of your college algebra notes. With a little planning, some time, and a really cool idea, a City of Heroes/City of Villains video is quite possible!

Will it happen overnight? Not unless you're willing to forego things like food, sleep, and the hygienic habits that make you acceptable in public. The fastest video I ever created for CoX was completed in four days from start to finish. I've been making videos for almost five years now, though, so I've got an advantage.

First things first: you need an idea. What is your video going to be about? Is it the story of your toon? Your villain group fighting the not-so-good fight? Or how about highlighting the latest issue for the game? Maybe you want to prove why Necro/Dark Masterminds are the only REAL character build in the game. Or maybe you've heard some fantastic song and thought, "Wow, that'd make a fricking awesome video!" Get your concept in your head, and the rest will follow.

Case in point: I've done three videos now based on releases for the game—one for Issue 10, two for Issue 11. I had the ideas first, and then I figured out how to create them. I've also begun work on two separate “commercials” for supergroups, have completed one “music video,” and have begun work on two others.


You've got your uber-cool idea. Great. Now, my usual method is to pick out the music or audio accompaniment to said idea next. Make a list of music that you might want to use. Even if you don't choose any of them, you can see the trends of what type of music you're imagining for your video. On the other hand, you might already have the perfect song picked out (like the theme song of your supergroup or toon), and you're ready to move on.

Case in point: my Issue 10 Rikti Invasion video, right from the get-go, was going to need something big, alien-sounding, with more than a little menace, and extremely intense. My Issue 11 teaser needed something fast-paced, almost ticking like a clock. By comparison, one of my anime videos (available on YouTube) came about because I'd heard the song first, and then had the idea for the video. Whatever works.


Concept idea: check. Music idea: check. Next up on the roster: scenes. You can either base them on the lyrics of whatever song you might be choosing or use the rise-and-fall of an instrumental piece to give you ideas. If your music is 100% in-your-face action, then you're going to want to see your toon stomping on the foes of your choice. I like making outlines with time codes (or using lyrics as the reference markers) to know what scenes go where.

Go for some variety. Yes, Nova is a cool attack, but three minutes of your toon using the same move over and over again does not make a good video. Different zones, different attacks, motion versus stillness, all of these things make your video more compelling. Also, try messing with camera angles. (This is really easy—just hold down the “Page Up” button on your keyboard and move your mouse. Voila, camera angles!) Experiment! But be sensible—practicing changing camera angles while fighting Lusca is not a good idea. That's what the Hellions in the Atlas Park parking lot are for, in my opinion. Get the hang of it there, then go out and fight.

Case in point: my latest COH video was done to Blue Man Group's "Time to Start." Thanks to the lyrics, I knew I was going to need to show my toons (or other people's toons or NPCs) following along with the instructions of the song. 


Here is where you have two options. (By the way, there's no "right" way or "wrong" way—pick the one that you feel most comfortable with.)

Option one: using the nifty in-game feature known as demorecording. In a nutshell, let's say your favorite hero is about to join a group that's going to do something spiffy—fight a Giant Monster, do battle in the Arena, whatever. You want to immortalize your moment of glory. All you need to do is type /demorecord [filename], replacing [filename] with whatever you want to call the file. My preference is something like “KRJoRikti.” This way, I know at a glance that the setting is Kings Row, the toon in question is my favorite en/en blaster Johanna Sinclair (she's on Triumph, by the way), and she's taking part in a Rikti invasion. Your preference may vary.

Option two: for the slightly more ambitious (and perfectionist) folks, you can code a demo file from scratch. To this end, I highly recommend Scuzzbopper's fantastic site, which has more info than you can shake a Nemesis staff at. Choose your map, models, FX, weapons, emotes, and start coding. However, it's not quite as easy as I make it sound. I recommend the guide created by Zloth (available on the COH forums), which has several other handy links. And for an absolutely brilliant example of a video created in this fashion, I cannot praise Vertical Studios' "Night Prayers" (available on YouTube) highly enough.

My preference for scenes—I use a bit of both. I run around in-game, getting scenes that I want to use. Sometimes I leave them as is, other times I open the demo file and change a few things around. (If you've seen the "Time to Start" video, this is how I have Lord Recluse jumping up and down like he's moshing at a concert.)

Case in point: on almost every North American server, back when the Rikti were invading, the minute the skies went dark, a message would go out over the broadcast - "Okay, everyone, look cool—I'm filming this!" And immediately following that announcement, I would start demorecording the invasion and the battles. Once they were over, I'd stop recording. Until the next invasion...

Note: Demorecording is not without its flaws. First of all, for some unknown reason, demorecords will occasionally be saved incorrectly, which means they won't load. I could write a whole separate article on fixing them. For this reason, if it's really important, record the scene twice if possible. Second, since customizable weapons came out in Issue 11, demorecords will not always play them back correctly, so you may need to learn just enough editing to remove the customization. The developers are aware of this. It's just a question of whether or not they'll fix it. We can only hope so. My katana scrapper looks really stupid waving her arms at an opponent.


Progress! You've got your scenes demorecorded...but you can't just open Windows Media Player and watch them. You'll need to convert them from text code to a video file. You'll need a recorder. FRAPS is one of the most popular screen capturing programs out there, it's dirt simple to use, and for the most part, it's free. All you need to do is use a demo player (I use Zloth's), and use FRAPS to record the demo as a video file! (Word of advice: spend the $37 and register the program. First of all, it removes the five minute recording limit, and second, it gets rid of the FRAPS URL at the top of the screen.)

You'll need to record each demo file one at a time, which is not that big of a deal. Also, if the demos are reasonably short (or your memory is good), you can record only the segments you want saved as a video file. Name your demofiles accordingly so you know what they are. And make your life simple by putting them all in one place so you know where to find them.

You've got your scenes saved as video files. Your character's coolness committed to video. You've got your music, whatever it might be. But you're not done yet...

Now you've reached one of the most important steps yet: editing.

You'll need a video editing program, such as Windows Movie Maker (which I don't recommend, but at least it's free), Adobe Premiere, or my own personal favorite, Sony Vegas. What these programs allow you to do is import in your video and music files to create a project.

First off, get your music into the project. Why? Because this is usually your best reference for your video—part timeline, part inspiration. And it tells you just how long you have to tell your story. Unless you're using Wagner's full "Ring" cycle, you've got usually two to six minutes for your video.

Now, start adding the footage you've recorded into the project. Depending on the program you're using, you can trim it, slow it down, run it backwards, or add a filter to it. Special effects are cool, but don't overload your video with them. You want people to admire your toon's coolness, not go into an epileptic fit because you've added thirteen color filters to the footage. The best special effects are the ones you barely notice in the grand scheme of things.

Most programs are drag-and-drop. Get the footage into the project, then move it around to synch up as you need it to.

Now, repeat after me. Save often! Again. Save often! You do not want to have to explain to the cops why you threw your computer off your balcony after you spent sixteen hours straight working on your video only to have the power go out and lose all your work. So save often.

Stop and watch your project every now and again. Get some fresh ideas, or try moving things around. See what new concepts might spring up as you go. It may be that while the footage you shot earlier was okay and all of a sudden you get an absolutely killer idea on how to highlight your toon. Go back into the game, demorecord it (or write the code), film it, and bring it in!

Case in point: for the Issue 10 Rikti Invasion trailer, I recorded over 100 separate Rikti invasions in almost every city zone in the game. I even had other people record them and send me footage of their toons kicking Rikti tail. The end result was a ton of viable footage that allowed me to pick and choose the absolute coolest scenes. However, it wasn't until I started adding text to the video (more on that next) that I had a fantastic idea for a I had to jump back into the game. Do you know, despite it being an Invasion weekend, I had to wait six full hours for the Rikti to invade Skyway? All because I needed one five-second shot. But it paid off because I was able to capture footage of a Rikti drop ship bombing the Legrange medical center as it flew overhead.


In the great tradition of coming attractions everywhere, a little helpful dramatic text can add that something extra to your video. Whether it's your video's opening titles/closing titles, or just some helpful dramatic phrasing, you might want to add a line or two to your trailer. But don't go too crazy, unless you want them to focus more on reading your video than watching it.

Case in point: My Issue 11 teaser has several items of text, used to indicate major events in the CoX timeline, and peaking with two particular phrases—"Winter 2007 Everything Changes" and "Get Ready to REMAKE History." The Issue 10 trailer also has several text “hits” (No Retreat, No Surrender, No Mercy) to build dramatic emphasis.


Now you've got everything in your project. Terrific. Watch the whole thing from start to finish. If you've got a somewhat slower computer (or one that's a resource hog), I recommend saving the project as an actual video file and watching it. Watch the whole thing from start to finish. Does it flow? Does it have all the scenes that you wanted? Does it convey what you want it to convey? If not, open the project again and get back to work. Make sure you take the following into consideration:

1) Pacing. Too slow, and it will drag. Too fast, and people will go, "Huh?" Make sure you're not jumping from one scene to another if you're trying to tell a story.

2) Quality. All too often, I've seen videos that were fantastically edited, but the sound quality of the audio file was absolutely atrocious. Use a good quality mp3 or WMA file for your sound. And always double-check the volume settings.

3) Transitions. Depending on your program, you have options for how one clip moves into another. Make sure these are clean, and either sharp or subtle as necessary for your video.

4) Titles. Opening and closing credits are almost always a good idea. Every video of mine contains the Samuraiko Productions opening and closing credits (in one form or another)—the opening credits with my production info, and the closing credits with info on the video and its source material (and usually a dedication). In fact, I keep separate project files just for these so I can customize them as necessary for each video, and then attach them to the project.

Case in point: The Issue 10 Rikti Invasion trailer starts out with several video “hits.” The scene opens with no transition and fades to black, synched to the hits in the music. It's not until later in the video that there are no fades between scenes, when everything is coming at the viewer so fast that there's no need to use them.


You're finished! Save your video in the file format of your choice. I personally recommend WMVs because the quality is good and the file sizes aren't larger than the gross national product of Burma. The other popular choice is AVI, but it's all a matter of preference.

Now, depending on if/how you want to share your video, and especially if the file is big, you'll want to save it two separate ways: one high quality version, and one low quality version. I only save a high quality one, but then again, I host the video on my own website. I use YouTube to make the low quality versions available.

Be proud! You've finished your first video!

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