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Levering_2pp

Making the Pitch Video

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This post was originally from the 2 Player blog. I'm reposting it here in case anyone missed it.

We arrived at Double Fine early in the morning, not entirely sure what to expect. We knew that we would be shooting the pitch video that day but we hadn't seen the script yet. Greg Rice, the project producer, had assured us Tim had been working on it all that week and late into the previous night.

We waited in the office rec room for Tim to come out of a morning meeting. When he finally emerged from his office he came over to greet us, and promptly went to print out three copies of the script which he then handed us to read. We weren't sure what to expect but I had a sneaking suspicion what we would be in for.

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Black screen.

Title: Double Fine & 2 Player Productions present

Title: Double Fine Adventure Adventure

An outrageously intense drum solo plays. Obviously, it’s one of the top drummers in the world. We feel like our heads might explode from how awesome this drum solo is.

Cut to: Cold Room at Double Fine offices.

Tim at the drums, hits the crash cymbal. He looks winded as if he had just finished the most awesome drum solo in the world. He’s wearing a terrycloth head and wrist bands.

Tim: Oh, sorry. Didn’t see you there. I was just dabbling in one of my many impressive hobbies. I’m Tim Schafer.

Tim walks out through the drum set, knocking over cymbal and drum stands.

Tim had basically written a four page comedy skit, and it was awesome. This was both fantastic and terrifying. Fantastic because Tim is a funny guy, and the script was great. It was fun and it got across all the key points of the Kickstarter pitch. Terrifying because we’re a documentary team, and no one had shot any staged videos like this for years. Asif had shot a few narrative films a few years ago, but otherwise it was a long time since we had done comedy.

We didn't mention this to anyone though! We only had one day to shoot the video, and with all the different scenes there was no time to waste. We immediately started blocking out the scenes and trying to think of how this was going to work.

The Double Fine office is a modest size, but it has a kind of weird shape. It’s very long and narrow. The script started us off in a room that was at the far end of the building and ended in Tim’s office which was at the opposite end. It seemed logical that we would shoot each scene as if Tim was just steam rolling from one side of the office to the other, having this conversation with the camera with total disregard for the environment around him.

We started shooting the scene in the cold room with Tim at the drums. The sun was to Tim’s back so we had to pull the curtains down and try to light him as best we could while still keeping our light rig out of the wide shot. One of the curtains was broken. Tim pulled it down anyway.

He spread the script out over the drums and started going over his lines. After a few warm ups we just started to go for it. Our director Paul Owens suggested that Tim should grab the cymbal after he hits it, it just seemed funnier.

I think we were all impressed at how open Tim was to suggestion. We gave him direction and changed some things around. Greg hung back and watched all the takes, letting us know how they looked. With the three of us actively shooting and recording the sound it was hard to take in the big picture. Everyone was throwing ideas back and forth; it was really fun. After the seventh or eight take of Tim knocking the cymbals over we figured the downstairs neighbors wanted to kill us, so we called it and moved on to the next scene.

Tim: Besides drumming, skydiving, and, like, charity or something, one of the things I’m most passionate about is making games.

Tim is now standing by framed concept art for Grim Fandango.

Tim: And one of my favorite types of games to make is adventure games.

Tim: But these days it seems like adventure games are a lost art form. They exist only in our memories and dreams and Germany.

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This one had been mixed up a little because Tim just ended up reading the first line while he was still at the drum set. The corridor from the cold room to the Fandango art was dark and narrow, so it would have been difficult for us to get a good tracking shot.

The angle of the corridor made placing the light difficult, and it was awkward finding a good place for the second camera to be. We settled on Tim walking into the second camera after saying the lines and shot some b-roll of the art to put up over the transition. We knew we had to get through this scene fast since the next one was going to be a bit more complicated.

Tim: People come up to me daily and say-

A game fan walks up to Tim.

Fan: (sweetly) Hey, why don’t you make a point-and-click graphic adventure?

Tim: You, know, I’d love to but--

Fan: (suddenly angry) ADVENTURE GAMES ARE NOT DEAD!

Tim: Hey, whoa, I’m on your side. But if I tried to pitch an adventure game to a publisher right now, they would laugh in my face.

Fan: But I’d buy a copy!

The Fan holds up a wad of cash. Tim takes it, counts it, and shakes his head as he stuffs it in his pocket.

Tim: That’s great, except that’s not enough money to make a game.

Fan: But I’m not the only one! There are lots of us still out there!

Tim: Hm. Could that really be true?

Fan: Yes!

Tim: Not talking to you.

Tim: What if there ARE a lot of fans out there who want adventure games? Is there some way that we could just talk to those fans directly and skip publishers all together?

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Now we needed another actor, and sure as hell none of us wanted to do it. We moved into Double Fine’s large conference room, all the adventure game posters in the background seemed like a good backdrop for the scene with the fan. Greg wrangled up a staff member to play our fan, David Gardner, an animator that’s been with the company for 3 years. Animators tend to make good actors since they’re, well, very animated. When working out character animations they’ll sometimes watch themselves in a mirror and perform the motions, so adding a few lines to the mix doesn't change things much.

This was one of the longer exchanges in the script and we just tried to shoot a few lines per angle before switching to the reverse so Tim and David wouldn't have to memorize the whole thing. David did an awesome job and this one went by really smoothly. Owens made the suggestion to add the insert of David’s eyes following the money as Tim stuffed it in his pocket. Satisfied, we stopped here and let Tim go. It was getting close to lunch time already and Tim had to leave for a pitch meeting. He would be getting back in a few hours so we had some time to block out the rest of the scenes.

Tim: And that’s when it occurred to me...

Insert quick picture of Paul with text: “Actually it was my idea.”

Tim: Kickstarter! We can use Kickstarter to make a fan-funded, old-school adventure game! It’s perfect! We have the perfect team here at Double Fine to make it. We even have one of the creators of the genre here and--look there he is now! Ron Gilbert!

Ron stands by the door to his office.

Tim: Maybe he’ll help us!

Ron closes the door to his office, shaking his head no.

Tim: He’ll help us.

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This one was tricky. We decided to have Tim emerge from the teams design area and start walking towards the camera. This didn’t really make sense geographically with the location of the last scene, but eh, whatever. He needed to motion towards the team during the shot. The area around the team’s desks is a little darker then the rest of the studio and since it was a tracking shot we kept having Tim emerge a little closer take after take so we could get him into the lights of the reception area sooner.

We had to fake the pan to Ron Gilbert’s office as well since it was just too much ground for Tim to cover while he did the lines. As Tim delivered the line “Look, there he is now!” Asif would whip the camera fast to the left. This would cause everything to go into a blur, so when we shot the scene with Ron in his office all we had to do was whip the camera to the left and shoot into his door. You cut in the middle, connecting the two pans and no one can tell because of the blur.

Tim: But that’s only HALF the story. We will also be filming the whole thing as we go--well I mean THESE GUYS will be.

Tim pulls in film crew member from off camera.

Tim: This is...

Paul: Paul.

Tim: ...some guy... from...

Paul: Two player Productions.

Tim: ...The, uh, guys who made that documentary about... nachos.

Paul: Notch!

Tim: Whatever.

A link to Minecraft doc appears on screen, maybe a picture of Notch.

Paul: (yelling as he’s shoved off screen) Minecraft: The Story of Mojang!

Tim: These talented documenteers are going to film the whole process from beginning to end and put it up on the Internet as we go. A hi-quality, serialized documentary providing an unprecedented look into what really happens when a company like Double Fine makes a game.

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None of us likes being on camera, so this one was painful. This scene breaking the fourth wall felt like a reference to that part in “Space Balls” when they kill the stage hand during the light saber fight though, so it’s cool. I’m pretty sure Tim made up the word “documenteers” as well, but that kind of sounds like “The Rocketeer” which is also an awesome movie.

Tim: You know how they say you don’t want to see how the sausage gets made? Well, we’re going to to show you how the sausage gets made. We’re going to put our sausage in your face, warts and all.

Some people walking by in the background are grossed out by what Tim is saying and he gets embarrassed.

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Tim just moved over to the side of the reception area for this shot and stood in front of the trophy case. We thought for a few minutes if having him in front of the trophy case was too vain, and after agreeing that it was we decided to keep it. Again we pulled another Double Fine team member away from their valuable work to be an extra. This time it was Allison the Office Assistant. She must be really use to reacting to Tim with a sense of disgust, since she nailed the scene in just two takes.

Tim: Whether it goes well, or whether it all goes to hell, we’ll show it all. Isn’t that exciting?

Tim: But the conversation won’t be just a one-way street. This is a game for adventure fans, funded by adventure fans, so we want to make it with adventure fans! You will be able to talk back to us on the exclusive on-line community of people funding the game. You’ll give us feedback on concept art, the music, the progress we’re making on the game, and your input will affect the direction the game takes. It will be like a collaboration.

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This scene had Tim in front of the Brutal Legend wall. This was the longest single bit of dialog in the script, so we figured we would cut to b-roll of shots around the studio and just let Tim read off the script. Easy!

Tim: Or more like Little Orphan Annie, where we’re the cute little red-haired girl who sings and tapdances for your pleasure, and you’re Daddy Warbucks who is--bald or something, but he’s cool and everybody likes him and that’s the point: If you participate in this Kickstarter project you will be cool and everyone will like you. Guaranteed.

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This scene had to change up a bit. The script had Tim delivering all the lines and doing the pixel hunting joke in front of his office door.

Tim: We are asking for $200,000 to make this game and $100,000 to film it. That might sound like a lot of money, but it’s pretty small for a game budget these days. But we’re not scared!

Tim: It’s going to be an adventure--both the process and the product. What could possibly go--

Tim tries to open his office door but the handle won’t turn.

Tim: What the?

He scans the door with his hand, and starts doing strange bowing moves.

Tim: Oh man, I hate these kind of--

He backs up an the words “Open Door” flash at the bottom of the screen and then go away.

Tim: Grrr!

He keeps moving around as the words flash on and off until he gets in exactly the right position and they stay up.

Tim: Ah, there it is!

He opens the door and enters his office.

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It was a lot of dialog to deliver in one scene, and the space around the office door didn't offer many interesting angles to cut around to. In proportion to how the other scenes had come out it seemed to spend a lot of time in one place, possibly throwing off the rhythm of the edit. We decided to just move Tim into his office and start the delivery with him sitting down at his desk.

At this point in the project we still hadn't settled on what the goal of the Kickstarter should be. The script had a 300k total but we had talked about that probably not being enough. We decided to just have Tim make the hand motions so we could add in the numbers with effects later on.

We thought for awhile about how to represent the pixel hunting joke. Cropping the video would have been weird, so we decided to just shrink it and add the classic adventure game command box below.

Tim: What will happen? No one can say for sure. But here’s my promise: Either the game will be great, or it will be a spectacular failure all caught on camera, which will make for a great documentary. So, the game or the doc will be great, or both, so you can’t loose.

Tim: What could possibly go wrong?

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Ahh the last scene, we’ve made it! It’s getting close to quitting time but we actually managed to get everything in a single day, so that’s kinda awesome. We had Tim move to the other side of his office and flop down on the couch for the last shot. Keeping him constantly moving from one scene to the next gave things a sense of momentum and made transitions between the line readings much easier. No one was expecting Tim to memorize the whole script that day, and it would have been kind of weird to have too many cuts while he was talking in the same location.

After wrapping this last shot we left the studio to grab dinner. The whole day had rushed by so fast and everything was done so seat-of-your-pants we weren't even sure if the video was actually going to work. We had the following day to do some re-shoots if absolutely necessary and we told Tim to bring the same clothes to work just in case.

Once we got back Asif immediately started hacking away at the footage. He just went through and took the last take of each scene and edited it all together. To our surprise it was actually good. Everyone in the piece did a great job and all the scenes flowed together well. Catastrophe averted! Greg and Tim loved the cut we showed them, and we only had to make a few minor changes before settling on the version for release.

Shooting from a script and working with Tim and Greg had been a welcome change of pace for us. We’re use to just showing up and kind of being a bother to people. I mean, who wants some guys sticking a camera in their face while trying to work? People are usually nice and they go along with it, but the reality is it’s weird for everyone involved. But Tim was totally down for all of this, he believed in the project and he gave it his all. His enthusiasm only drove us to try harder and we all ended up having a lot of fun. The experience seemed to reinforce that this whole experiment we set out on would turn out to be really cool.

More then two million dollars later we really don’t know what to say. I remember practically begging Tim and Greg to extend the campaign a few days before we launched, just so we would have extra time for that push to the goal. That was seriously what we were thinking. That we would need those extra days to tell all the blogs, to tell people on the floor at GDC, to tweet incessantly about this project we all cared about so much and really wanted to happen.

And then we hit the goal in less then 8 hours.

Thank you. Thank you all so very much.

-2PP

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Yowza, I was just hoping for something new! :)

Smiles

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Yes, I already read it before. However I found this super-transcript very well done and interesting. Thanks. ;-)

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DF is so nice, they let Tim the intern present the pitch video.

Sounds like he has potential, maybe he could write about this day from his point view.

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That was a very cool write-up :-) The Double Fine pitch video was the most professional, well-polished one on Kickstarter -I'm sure it was a big cause of all the support!

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Thank you for posting this here. I had a great time reading it and finding out more about what happened behind the scenes in making the pitch-video.

Thanks!

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Nice to read again!

As a curiosity and not a bug, they were asking for $300,000

"$200,000 to make this game and $100,000 to film it"

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Had read this before, but was really impressed and interested when I originally did - would love to see more of this kind of blogging, although time is probably something of a limiting factor on that, since I bet a post that detailed takes a while to write up!

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Had read this before, but was really impressed and interested when I originally did - would love to see more of this kind of blogging, although time is probably something of a limiting factor on that, since I bet a post that detailed takes a while to write up!

It is fun to put together posts like this, but most tof the time i think the limiting factor is just level of interest. Most of what goes into making an episode isn't very interesting, the pitch video just happened to be a special case scenario. I would like for us to release more content like this moving forward, so if the opportunity does come up we'll put something together.

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This is really interesting! For the final release of the documentary will there be some kind of commentary like this? I really like hearing about how films are made.

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I think that the Pitch video should be on the Blu-Ray/DVD Extras. It's an important part of the whole project. :)

A commentary on how this was put together would be cool too.

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I'm interested why you didn't use the picture of Paul displaying "Actually it was my idea" and why "Minecraft: The Story of Mojang!" was changed to "2Player Productions.com"

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It was a pleasure to read it for the second time. I think our level of interest is ultra high so feel free to share any other stories like this one!

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Great post, full of interesting bits about the video process, setting up, blocking out, very informative and nicely written. Would welcome more of this as video can be such an important marketing tool these days, so to me its just as relevant as the programmer and designer blogs.

Actually it was so good I think i'll go and watch the Pitch video again.

Thanks

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This is really interesting! For the final release of the documentary will there be some kind of commentary like this? I really like hearing about how films are made.

Yeah, we'll be doing a commentary track.

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Thanks for the post! I love reading stuff like this! :)

I think that the Pitch video should be on the Blu-Ray/DVD Extras. It's an important part of the whole project. :)

A commentary on how this was put together would be cool too.

I agree! I'd be surprised if it wasn't on there.

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Interesting read. Thanks for posting this! I was wondering, what music did you use in the pitch video? I remember reading somewhere that you had used some stuff from DF Happy Action Theatre. Are all pieces from that game? And does Double Fine own the rights of that soundtrack?

I also loved the themes you used in the discussion-video with Tim and Ron.

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Thank you very much for posting this. I'm also looking forward to the commentary. Will this be 2PP and DF doing commentary together?

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Thank you very much for posting this. I'm also looking forward to the commentary. Will this be 2PP and DF doing commentary together?

Probably. Too early to say exactly how that will come together.

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read this on your blog (so why am I commenting here?? duh) great read. the only thing that bothered me a little bit was the "point and click" reference in the pitch. where tim picks up the bottle? why is the cursor on the bottle and then hes struggling to pick it up? what is that a reference to and when is that ever a problem in adventure games? usually you wouldnt notice that bottle in the background or something like that. or that itd be unnecessarily tedious to pick it up, take the cork off, then use it on tim...etc?

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Thanks 2PP-people, very interesting read! Great to see you guys so active in here, and so passionate about the project.

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read this on your blog (so why am I commenting here?? duh) great read. the only thing that bothered me a little bit was the "point and click" reference in the pitch. where tim picks up the bottle? why is the cursor on the bottle and then hes struggling to pick it up? what is that a reference to and when is that ever a problem in adventure games? usually you wouldnt notice that bottle in the background or something like that. or that itd be unnecessarily tedious to pick it up, take the cork off, then use it on tim...etc?

It was supposed to be a pixel hunt joke, like Tim was having a hard time finding the exact right point he needed to select in order to pick up the cup.

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