ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

GET LAMP Trailer Out —

The next GET LAMP trailer is now out.

To get to the page with all the various versions of this trailer, just go to this page. It’s not linked from the main page yet, but will be. Until then, feel special and exclusive. There’s a good set of variant renders of this trailer, but be assured it’s all the same content.

I even have Flash and Youtube versions, and in the case of the YouTube one I use my new best friend Format 18 so that it looks pretty darn crisp and clean. I can almost forgive the tiny resolution when it’s rendered in this higher quality.

I call this the March 2008 trailer. Whereas the previous teaser trailer had almost no information, this one has slightly more, and a trailer that will likely come out within a week or two of the final release will have even more.

I hate when stuff can’t stand on their own and needs to be “introduced” by the creator, so I won’t discuss the content of the trailer here. I just ask you to check it out if you’re so inclined. I hope you enjoy it. I certainly have enjoyed putting it together.

Now, back to the workbench.

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  1. Rubes says:

    Looks great, can’t wait to see it. The quality of that video is really excellent, I have to say. Could you divulge how large the video file was that you uploaded?

  2. LateBlt says:

    Disclaimer: I am the bastard who complained about the BBS Documentary.

    It really is fantastically difficult to gauge what will end up being an hours-long documentary by this 2-minute video, but the overall impression I get suggests that there may be more variety of footage in GET LAMP than the BBS Documentary had.

    To recap: My primary complaint with the BBS Documentary was that it didn’t make effective enough use of the video element of a movie. The audio was fine, but if you’re going to talk to a guy for half an hour, there’s no need to include scintillating footage of half an hour of this guy moving his lips. There were stretches of the BBS Documentary which I actually “watched” by playing the DVD and looking at something other than the screen, i.e. just listening to the audio. Later on, worrying that I might have missed something, I went back and checked these segments to make sure something hadn’t passed me by, but in most cases, nothing had; there really was nothing there but someone talking. Oh sure, there’s body language and facial expressions and all those little things that you see in a person when they talk, but those were mostly irrelevant to the topic at hand.

    In contrast, this trailer for GET LAMP doesn’t show the first two people talking. After that, you see a third guy, but the first half of the trailer is footage of a disk drive operating and words on a screen. There are also a couple of pictures of hand-drawn maps, the kind that I used to scribble on paper when playing these kinds of games.

    To use this tiny snippet of footage to draw any larger conclusions about the entirety of GET LAMP would be premature and silly. I can only offer my own impression of the trailer, which is simple: The trailer maintains one’s attention, because there’s something engaging about the juxtaposition of watching something happen as you’re listening to someone talk about it.

    To be sure, this must be done with balance and care. It would be easy to swing too far in the opposite direction, keeping the speaker’s face concealed long enough that viewers start to wonder “Wait a minute, who the fuck is talking, and what do they look like again?” Occasional fades back to the speaker, just to ground the audience and remind them that YES, YOU ARE LISTENING TO AN ACTUAL PERSON SPEAKING are quite appropriate.

    But the function of a documentary is to document. The purpose of a documentary is to impart, as effectively as possible, a sense of just what the film is trying to document, and what the subject is like. This is why I sometimes think of the BBS Documentary and think “That’s a pretty good documentary, but it is not a documentary of BBSes. It is a documentary of BBS *users*, which is not the same thing at all.” This trailer for GET LAMP explicitly states that it is about the games AND the people. That means that both must appear on the screen for the audience to get an adequate picture.

    Once again, this must be balanced with care. Occasional glimpses of computer screens with actual text adventures scrolling on them are interesting and engaging; they give the sense that something is happening, and they’re a nice change from talking-head video clips. On the other hand, a constant barrage of such footage would quickly become tiresome as well. Viewers will rapidly get bored with trying to pick out phrases here and there among the passing glimmers of actual gameplay. Similarly, the footage in the beginning of watching an Apple II disk drive’s internal workings is quite fascinating, and provides a nice counterpoint to the audio; it gives something relevant and stimulating to watch while you’re listening to the words of the speaker. It works for a few seconds, but the audience will *not* want to watch the disk drive working for more than about 30 to 60 seconds, tops.

    I’m well aware that there’s rather a lack of interesting things to film with regard to this subject. In this regard, I don’t envy Jason’s task in making this documentary, because there really isn’t a whole lot that you can film about text adventures besides people playing them or talking about them. That’s all well and good, and talking-head clips are perfectly fine, but if you’re going to make another 5-hour-long documentary, you need something else to show on the screen as well. Jason’s real-life expedition to The Cave will be fascinating, no doubt, and occasional landscape shots of the Lamp showing up in unlikely locations will be a cute little gimmick, but I really have no idea what’s good and appropriate to fill up all that talk-time with. I can only offer a reminder that if a documentary has a lot of people talking, it’s a more effective documentary if it can provide a visual image for people to see that matches what the speaker is talking about, instead of just looking at the speaker’s head as they talk. So, pictures of hand-drawn game maps: Good. Occasional footage of people actually using computers or playing text adventures on computers: Sure. Breaks here and there to show outdoor scenes that reflect context (“This is the street outsize Steve Meretzky’s house!”): Yeah, why not. But what else are you going to do with those 5 hours?

    That’s a rhetorical question for now. The answer, of course, will be the documentary itself. I think Jason is pretty good at balancing things out and trying to incorporate new and stimulating elements so that things don’t get dull, so I’m excited to see how it turns out. I think that’s a strong encouragement of good faith, considering that when you come right down to it, computer games in general (even those with fancy graphics) may be fun when you play them, but don’t tend to translate well into video documentaries. GET LAMP shows a lot of promise, just remember that the greatest footage in the world can flop if all the elements in the movie aren’t balanced out to create a coherent, flowing whole.

  3. Mike says:

    Rubes –

    YouTube allows some (all?) videos that have been uploaded to be viewed at a higher resolution than normal YouTube videos. To do this, you enter &fmt=18 at the end of the URL (check his link and you’ll see that it’s already been added).