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How To Make PS3 HD Youtube Videos – A Journey

I have been posting Youtube videos for about 6 months.  They have been strictly for Dark Souls, an action RPG critically acclaimed for its difficulty, art direction, boss designs and online component.  What started out as a recompensation to the Dark Souls community, for all the information that helped me finish the game, has become a bit of a hobby.

As I posted more videos and gained subscribers, I became intimately familiar with the  pluses and minuses of Youtube.  Thankfully, encouraging remarks and critical feedback have so far outnumbered trolling comments.  I did have to take down a video that became the personal battleground of 2 viewers.  Unfortunately, the battle quickly descended into a series of profane and hate-filled retorts that spread to each other’s mother’s and  extended family.

Overall, it has been a satisfactory experience.  Watching viewer and subscriber rates click upwards is addicting and leaves one with the desire to provide a better product for the all important audience: viewers and subscribers.  I am not a professional by any means but I have tried to improve my videos with interactive notes, links, transitions and even post and live commentary.

I have received the feedback that my videos are good but the video quality detracts from the overall experience.  My first videos used a point-and-shoot camera and tripod to capture HD video, which was then directly uploaded.  The next step was to use an HD Video Recorder.  The quality improved but periodic nudges or inadvertent sounds always seemed to creep in at the worst of times, like in the middle of a particularly long boss fight or difficult platforming area.

After much viewer complaining, I finally broke down and purchased a third party recording solution.  Hauppage makes an external video recorder that can be plugged between the PS3 and a PC.  The device records and transcodes on the fly, outputting movie files in high definition.  It is compatible with both PS3 and Xbox 360 and comes with all the needed media cables, something other devices seem to forget.

The digital era has made video much more accessible and mobile, but surprisingly more difficult to capture.  Thanks to the big Hollywood studios and their fear of movie piracy, digital rights management (DRM) software has crept its ugly head into our home.  For the layperson, DRM attempts to prevent consumers from making exact digital copies.  For game players like me, this means that it is impossible to capture full definition PS3 game play.  The PS3 does not output 1080P via HDMI to recording devices, only to TV’s.  The Hauppage comes with a special connector for the PS3’s SCART output that converts to component  video plus analog audio.

So, I was stuck with 1080i recording (since 1080P is only available through HDMI) but nonetheless that would be a massive improvement over my low tech methods.  My subscribers were sure to be pleased.

After reading the instructions, hooking up the cables, and installing the software and drivers, my heart sank when I was greeted with a blank screen on both the recording software and my TV!

What to do, what to do…  Luckily, I realized that my previous PS3 connection had been over HDMI. The PS3 was configured for 1080P digital output.  But now I had hooked up to the SCART and the Hauppage was expecting a component signal with analog audio.  Even worse, the manual had a cryptic reference to video passthrough disabled as a default.  So, even if I could get the PS3 to output the right signal, I would not be able to watch it on the TV until I had configured the software on the PC.

The solution, obvious to me now, was to unplug everything, and hook up the PS3 with both an HDMI and component cables.  The trick was to configure the PS3 video options with the HDMI input on the TV, then switch the output to component while quickly changing the TV input accordingly.  The PS3 gives you 30 seconds to confirm a video output change.  My couch potatoes skills with the remote were up to the task.  I now had a PS3 outputting in component video at 1080i with 2 channel analog audio.

Back to the Hauppage.  I replugged everything based on the recommended schematics for the PS3 and after a few nervous moments, the picture on the TV was faithfully reproduced on my laptop.  Success!!!

Well not quite.  Recording digital video is only half the battle.  I narrated some commentary and spliced the audio with the Hauppage’s movie making software.  I then waited patiently for the new HD movie file to be created.  Now I was ready for the internet.  Youtube’s evil genius forces you to upload movies in a specific format.  The submitted video is re-encoded to decrease the file size and uploaded to some server field in Uzbekhistan or Siberia, I imagine.  The process is long and depends on the upload speed of your internet connection (don’t get me started on upload versus download speed!).  Eventually, my first HD video appeared in Youtube.  But with contraction artifacts and at lower resolution, even with the HD setting on high.

I was still proud of my accomplishment and could not wait for the kudos which were sure to come from my faithful viewers.  The first posted comment said it all: “Love the new video quality.  Now time to get a good microphone”.

If you are curious, here is my first Youtube HD video.

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Dark Souls PC – Beat Manus without the Silver Pendant

Manus, Father of the Abyss, is the most challenging boss fight of the new content and on par with the end boss fight.  From Software have given us 2 items to help us with Manus.  The first is the silver pendant, the second is the ability to summon baby Sif.

The Silver Pendant surrounds you with an impenetrable magical aura protecting you from Manus’s black magic attacks.  It must be added to your items slot and you activate it like an Estus flask.  Sif, provides a bit of a diversion and welcomed camaraderie during the fight.  Manus will still focus most of his attacks on you, but Sif does help and may create an opportune healing window. 

But… who needs the help!  In this video, I show you how to defeat Manus without the silver pendant and no summons.

I used the Great Scythe plus Power Within to beat up this bully.  The key to the fight is high stamina and the ability to recognize his 3 different magic attacks.  When he points up his catalyst, expect a rain of black magic and roll or walk back with your shield raised.  When he pushes his catalyst on the ground, a round wave of black magic will surround you and collapse on you.  Break lock, turn around and hold up your shield to survive (you can also roll very close to him to avoid being hit).  His final magic straight-on burst is very quick but can be dodged with a sideways roll. I find it easier to block or evade his magic attacks, as opposed to using the silver pendant.  

Most of his physical attacks can be dodged or blocked.  But be very wary of his 6-hit grab combo.  When he roars, immediately roll back several times to avoid this multi-hit “ground-and-pound”.

If you are having problems with Manus, bump up your vitality and endurance and use a shield with high magic defense.  I like the Crest Shield but you can also use the Eagle Shield, Grass Crest shield or even Dark Hand.  Also use a strong weapon with good reach.  He gives you plenty of time to heal so bring in lots of Estus flasks and heal frequently.

Like other DLC bosses, Manus is powerfully aggressive and may 1-hit you if your defense or vitality are low.  The premium is on dodging and taking 1 or 2 shots at him with your strongest weapon.  Strength builds can use an uber sword without PW.  But intelligence builds should use PW, Crystal Magic Weapon and the Lingering Dragoncrest Ring.  Dexterity builds can use the Great Scythe, or Lucerne plus the Leo Ring.  Higher level builds with high vitality, endurance and defense can outlast Manus by tanking and chucking Estus Flasks, with the occasional poke to score damage.

Let me know if anyone has tried a Faith build with Great Magic Barrier equipped.  That might be my next build.

Dark Souls PC – How Access The New Content (Artorias expansion pack areas)

Here is the HQ video with the detailed walkthrough to open the portal to the first bonfire in Sanctuary Garden.

The PC version of the game includes the Artorias expansion areas (Sanctuary Garden, Royal Woods, Oolacile Township, and the Chasm of the Abyss).  The video starts at the lake in Darkroot Basin after the Hydra mini-boss fight.  Other pre-requisites are to have defeated Smough and Ornstein in Anor Londo and to have placed the Lordvessel to unlock the Duke’s Archives.

The process is a little convoluted, in true Dark Souls style.  First, you must break free Dusk from her prison inside a Crystal Golem.  You may have to reload the game or go to a bonfire and return to make the golem appear.  Then, you must talk to Dusk and answer YES to all her dialogue challenge questions.  Now, find her summons sign and again talk to her.

You are ready to warp to Anor Londo and proceed to the Duke’s Archives.  After defeating the armored boars, take the elevator to the ante-chamber.  You will have to fight several crystallized enemies that may also be buffed by a sorcerer.  To the right of the ante-chamber, you will see a large blue Golem.  This is a new enemy and our target.  Once you defeat him, the Broken Pendant will be added to your inventory.  There is no drop to pick up.

We are finally ready for the portal.  Return to the Hydra lake.  If you did not rest at a bonfire, you can use a Homeward Bone or Homeward miracle to get you close.  Otherwise, warp to Firelink Shrine and walk back to the lake.  Near the area where you fought the Crystal Golem and freed Dusk, you will see a fuzzy cloudy round portal.  To its side, you can pick Dusk’s armor, including the Crown of Dusk which will increase magic damage by 20% but reduce magic defense by 30%.

Walk up to the portal and examine it.  The hand of Manus will take you into the past of long lost Oolacile where you can experience the new content.  You will face an immediate boss fight with the Sanctuary Guardian.  Oolacile’s enemies are pretty strong and high magic defense will help.  The Crest, Grass Crest and Round Warrior’s shields are good options.  You may need a very high stability shield for the boss fights.  I recommend the Eagle shield, due its high magic defense,  stability, and low requirements.  It no longer blocks 100% physical damage but your character should be pretty strong by this point in the game and the small amount of damage taken should not be an issue.

If you need help with the new content, check out my videos for tips, secret areas, walkthroughs and boss fights.  Good luck!

Dark Souls PC – Windows and Hardware Requirements, Graphic Mod, Controls and Menus

Dark Souls for the PC has the potential to look very good and run much faster on a capable PC than the console versions.  There are some tweaks and lessons learned from my installation experience that you might find useful.  Watch the video for a summary.

Resolution and Graphics Mod

The menu options reveal that the game can run from 800X600 all the way to 1920 X 1080.  However, the out-of-the-box graphics are not much improved from the console versions.  Here comes the internet to the rescue.  Dark Souls community members have responded with a number of graphics mods which will improve the look of the game.  There are many available with different levels of detail.  The one I am using in the video can be found at:

http://blog.metaclassofnil.com/

After installation of the mod, you will notice some graphical artifacts during the starting screens and some menus, but they are not obstrusive and constitute only a small price to pay for the much cleaner and detailed visuals.  Textures, shadows and item details are immediately improved and increased without any side effect to the frame rate.  Let me know if you have found other graphic mods or other “fun” mods for Dark Souls PC.

I definitely recommend turning off anti-aliasing and motion-blur.  Anti-aliasing in particular completely blurred my game with a frosted window look prior to the mod installation.  After the mod, this option would force the game to run in a small window about 1/4 of the full screen size.  This may be related to my GPU or other system setting and you may not run into it, but beware of the possibility.

Hardware Requirements and Windows Compatibility

I tried to install the game on several machines, both desktops and laptops.  All met the published minimum requirements for the game.  However, I was only able to play the game on my newest desktop system with the following hardware/software:

Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Build 7601

Intel i7-2600k 3.4 CPU

ATI Radeon HD 5800 GPU

An older Windows XP desktop with a low end graphics card did not run the game at all. A newer Windows desktop with no GPU ran the game but at an unplayably sluggish frame rate.  The game checks on the frame rate and will not let you play online if it is too slow.  Installation on 3 and 2 year old mid-line Windows 7 laptops were successful up until Windows Live joined the party.  After you begin the game, the Windows Live interface will run on top of the game.  Windows Live did not run properly on the laptops and crashed the game.

Make sure that Windows Live works in your intended computer prior to purchasing the DLC.  I was not able to resolve my Windows Live issues and the game remains playable on just one of my machines.

The game runs at a solid framerate with very fast loading screens (after you die or when you warp to a new bonfire).  I did experience some slow down during the Seath the Scaleless boss fight, while he uses his Dragon Breath attack.  The new content ran perfectly with absolutely no slow down in any boss fights or new areas.  I have played about 80 hours with both local and online games and have experienced a grand total of 1 crash after a death.

Controller and Menus

Although all of the game controls can be customized and mapped to the keyboard as needed, the game really has to be played with a gamepad.  Xbox devotees can use their standard controller since it is recognized by Windows.  However, PS3 users will have to do some driver modifications to get to use the superior PS3 controller on the PC.  You can search the internet for the drivers and installation videos, but you may be forced to play with a wired PS3 controller only.  Please let me know if I am incorrect and someone successfully created/modified the bluetooth drivers to allow wireless use of PS3 controller.

I am using a Logitech wired gamepad.  Logitech and many other companies sell gamepads, in all price ranges, that mimic a PS3 or Xbox controller.  Since the DLC will be coming to the PS3 next month, I am happy to play the PC version with an inexpensive wired controller until I can switch to the PS3.  The game recognizes gamepads automatically.  There are no gamepad specific menu options.  My gamepad came with a program that allows remapping the buttons but the re-assigned button actions were set back to their defaults by the game.

Some keyboard shortcuts for the PC might be useful, especially if you can bypass a menu screen and execute the action directly with a simple key click (gestures for example), but I have been using the gamepad exclusively for all menu and game controls.  Let me know if you think the keyboard can speed up your gameplay or complement use of a gamepad.

Steam and Windows Live

Steam has built a credible reputation as a robust gamer service with relatively simple installation.  You must install Steam prior to running the game.  You can purchase the game from Steam or another game portal such as Gamestop.  I took the Gamestop route and was forced to install a Gamestop portal first, followed by Steam.  If you want to save a step, you can download from Steam directly.  The only annoyances I found with Steam are the advertisements you get after quitting your game, and having to hit SHIFT+TAB twice to get a clean screen.  By the way, I love that Steam allowed me to install the game on 5 different machines, since the first 4 installations did not work.

Once you start the actual game, you will be asked to sign in or create a Windows Live profile.  Windows Live corrupted several of my installations on other machines, which still remain unplayable.  There is nothing good I can say about Windows Live other that it allows you to have more game saves than the 10 allotted in the console version.

In case you did not know, you can create offline profiles in Windows Live if you prefer to play offline (a useful thing for speed runs or when making videos with a specific purpose).  You must first sign out of your current profile and then create a new one.  Under the settings for the new profile, you can assign the profile as local, meaning offline.  Be aware that whenever you start the game, your online profile will be loaded as a default.

Conclusion

Dark Souls PC will not tax your system like Battlefield or other graphic intensive games.  If you are familiar with Steam and Windows Live, and both are already properly working in your system, the game should install and run without a hitch.  If you are new to Windows Live and Steam, I recommend you install these first and make sure they are running properly before purchasing Dark Souls PC.  As far as the game graphics and framerate, any newer mid-line or above graphics card and Sandy Bridge processor should result in very smooth gameplay.  Various graphics mods will improve the resolution details, assuming your graphics card and processor can handle the extra computation.

I hope these tips are helpful and you are successfully playing Dark Souls PC after your very first install.

Darks Souls PC – HQ Videos Coming (Finally!)

If you have been watching some of the my Dark Souls PC videos in my Youtube channel, you may have noticed the video quality of the newer videos is not as good as before.  This has to do with playing the game on a PC vs the PS3.  I just don’t have the same setup for the PC and my camera has been running crazy with the autofocus.

Well, the problem has been fixed.  So, enjoy the higher quality videos from now on.  I will be posting all of the new equipment and armor in the additional content as well as re-shooting the walkthroughs and boss fights.

When the DLC comes out for the PS3, I will switch back to my old setup but with the better camera which should allow for even better quality videos.

I am also going to take this opportunity to talk about the graphics in Dark Souls PC.  The resolution is only marginally better out-of-the-box.  However, it can be improved significantly by downloading mods.  There are now several available.  You can pick and choose based on your graphics card and resulting performance.  I am using one of the first ones available.  Other than adding some very minor artifacts during the game start screen, it works perfectly.  Details, highlights and shadows are much improved at 1920 X 1080.

I did not run into any issues with this mod but, it is a mod after all, so install at your own risk and make sure you scan the file prior to running it.

Here is the link.

Dark Souls PC – Kalameet and Gough (the Obsidian Greatsword)

I took advantage of the long weekend to get more intimate with Dark Souls PC.  I am starting my fourth playthrough of the new content and I am finally feeling comfortable with the boss fights.  I will be posting my thoughts on different builds and weapons over the next few days.  Dark Souls PC is definitely harder with the equipment tweaks.  But the new content is tremendous.

Here is the video for the Kalameet story arch (including the tail cut and boss fight).

Your playstyle will dictate how you decide to tackle Kalameet but I tend to rely on the following tactics:

– Use a very stable shield.  The Eagle Shield is perfect for this boss fight because it also has high magic resistance.  A maxed out Crest Shield may work but a large shield is better.  Careful with the Balder Shield and Black Knight Shields.  They are stable but have very low magic resistance, and are good options only if you can get the timing right for completely evading  Kalameet’s magic attacks.

– If you are going for the tail cut, be extremely patient.  Learn from my mistakes in the video.  He will only drop his tail on two of his attacks.  You need to be ready for the opening and chop with a strong weapon.

– The most difficult part of the boss fight is to learn how to dodge the arching dark magic breath attack.  He will run past you and then spray dark magic in a semicircular pattern as he swings his neck.  As soon as you recognize this attack, back away or break lock and run back.  If you are close, quickly roll and circle left and you should be safe.  If you evade the attack, this is a great opportunity to heal.

– Your stamina will be sapped by either the constant rolling or blocking.  You will also get hit.  I recommend a minimum of 30 Vitality and 30 Endurance for this boss fight.

– Stay close to him and eventually you will be able to attack him.  It is also possible to get underneath him and score some hits.

– Kalameet went down quickly with the Obsidian Greatsword.  It does a flat 480 physical damage with no stat multipliers.  Any weapon that can do about this much physical damage should take large chunks off his life bar.

Dark Souls PC – Knight Artorias

In this video we take on Knight Artorias, the second new boss in the extended content for Dark Souls PC.

It is a good thing that Artorias only has one arm. He would be a tremendous nightmare of a fight with two arms, assuming his attacks would do more damage. As it is, you cannot get hit more than once prior to healing. He has 2 and 3 attacks combos, and if it feels like he can chain multiple attacks because of his very short recovery time.

His most potent attacks include a very rangy jumping, rolling smash with his sword. If he connects, he will follow up with two quick smashes that are very difficult to evade. He also has a sword thrust that requires a lot of stamina to block. Make sure your shield is as stable as possible and mind your stamina bar. After blocking and when safe, put your shield down to replenish stamina quickly.

When evading his attacks, roll to the side and not back or front, as he will always connect in the area in front of him. Do not let your stamina or your vitality fall below 50%. Back away after you score a hit. Finally, watch his range. He can hit you from very far away.

Because evasion is the key to this fight, I used the newly nerfed Dark Wood Grain Ring with equipment under 25% of load. I also used a Lightning Gargoyle Halberd +5 and a Grass Crest Shield +14. The shield is not as stable as others but I wanted the stamina regeneration buff.

Dark Souls PC Boss Fights – Sanctuary Guardian

Here is the video for the first boss fight in the new content in Dark Souls PC.

I apologize.  I got excited and accidentally nudged my tripod making the screen a bit crooked but I did not realize it until later. This is a heck of a fight.  Think Gargoyle + Siff + Armored Boar + Lord Gwyn.  The Guardian has melee, ranged, flying, spinning and dashing attacks.  They can do physical and magical damage, and the tail can poison you.  Like the Gwyn fight, stamina management is important, as well as finding a good time to heal.

My equipment is a +10 Fire Washing Pole, +7 Grass Crest Shield, Havel’s Ring and the Ring of Favor and Protection. My level was 57.  I gave up on the Dark Wood Grain Ring since it is now severely nerfed.  You will not be able to flip unless your equipment load is 25% or less.  This makes the game harder since you cannot combine the ring with heavy armor.

Because this boss eats your stamina like candy, I recommend you either use ranged attacks with quick evades, or, poke at him with your strongest weapon.  He is very quick and difficult to hit.  A good time to heal is when he circles and measures you, or after evading his wind push attack created by his wings.  Do not try to go toe-to-toe unless you have massive defense, stamina and can deal a lot of power.  Rolling under his attacks is not a good option either.

Dark Souls Washing Pole – Gwyn, Lord of Cinder

There is only one boss left to fight, Gwyn, Lord of Cinder in the Kiln of Flame. Here is the video. Let’s rock ‘n roll!

Washing Pole Strategy
By now you should have a favorite strategy and more or less a go-to gameplay style. Lord Gwyn can be defeated with melee, pyromancies, magic or miracles. The key to this fight is healing at the correct time and managing your stamina. A good melee strategy with the washing pole involves mixing parries and ripostes, with side attacks when you are given the chance. Heal only after you have riposted Gwyn or after he loses his balance from a failed grab attack. He can chain together several attacks, stun you and then grab you. This combo can kill you at any time if your vitality is too low. The range of the washing pole is critical for landing side shots when given the chance. Watch your stamina since you will be doing a lot of blocking and dodging. Use the pillars to gain time for healing or refilling your stamina bar.

Other Strategies
If you favor a parry and riposte style, you can do a lot of damage with the Hornet Ring equipped. However, Gwyn’s attacks have slightly different animations and timings for the parry. You will have to memorize them to land a parry. This strategy can help you finish the fight quickly and with little damage taken. If he is just too fast for you, put on your strongest fire armor and weapon, cast Iron Flesh and go toe-to-toe with him. You can cast the pyromancy as soon as you walk through the fog door or after a riposte. You can also try the parry strategy with Iron Flesh on you. All builds should consider the Black Knight Shield for its high stability and fire defense.
After the fight, take a moment to yourself. Congratulations, you have beaten one of the most difficult games ever. Now, prepare to die all over again in NG+.

Dark Souls Washing Pole – Gravelord Nito

Here is the video for the boss fight with Gravelord Nito in the Tomb of the Giants.

Washing Pole Strategy
Gravelord Nito is sensitive to fire so we will take him on with the fire washing pole. Nito can be a rather tough boss fight if you choose to rush in with frontal attacks. He has quite a bit of vitality, strong melee swipes and grabs, and a ranged Gravelord summon magical attack. What makes him particularly dangerous is his ability to summon undead skeletons. If you have a melee tank build with plenty of Estus flasks, you can go toe-to-toe with him, as shown in the video. His attacks will damage the skeletons and render them irrelevant. If you are susceptible to a one-hit-kill, then you need to deal with the skeletons and avoid Nito’s attacks. The shockwave in particular is quite deadly. Immediately run away to safety when you see the starting animation for this attack.

Other Strategies
Players who favor ranged attacks should first dispatch all of the skeletons with a divine weapon. Then, you can pick off Nito from a distance (but watch out for his Gravelord summon). Pyromancers can park themselves in front of Nito, cast Iron Flesh and Great Combustion and heal as needed. Faith builds can use their strongest divine weapon on the skeletons and follow up with ranged miracles or by buffing a normal weapon with Sunlight Blade.