Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Lessons from Audio-Visual Equipment in a LARP

LARPs are interesting beasts.  Creating audio-visual clips for a LARP is an equally interesting experience.  For my previous three big note LARPs I have used such clips projected onto a wall and my upcoming big session will use the same.  During one of these sessions, it was a typical news reel player before the game to give context.  During the other two sessions it was part of a campaign game and there was a constant image projected against the wall that went black in favour of white writing every so often.  There was also music that played along with it the entire time as part of the "movie."

My mistakes the first time around were two-fold. 

As there was no auditory cue for the shift from image to text, many of the text sections weren't seen which was doubly problematic because certain numbers were actually cues for certain player characters to become possessed.  So when you create such "clips" for your game it's important to make sure that any important shifts also have an auditory cue.  In the second session I fixed it by having the music shift from instrumental to lyric-based which drew attention to the screen.

I also made the written sections flash past too quickly.  It turns out that reading at a computer screen is far easier and quicker than reading on a projection screen.  Even my speed reading had a bit of trouble at times.  I've found that five seconds for one line and around 20 seconds for six lines works out much better, though erring on the side of more time rather than less is a good idea as it still seemed a little quick in the second session.

In my upcoming game I'm including actual short movie clips with subtitles for the hard of hearing, and for those inevitable times when half the players are talking among themselves (or talking about what's on the clip) which would make it harder for the other half to hear.  With subtitles, players don't necessarily have to shush other players unless their character would do so. 

Since it's such a large space, players who grow bored by the clips (3-4 minutes of writing from Cassandra than a 3-4 minute movie clip from another character's point of view) can always move elsewhere to continue their action.  These movie clips also start after the first hour and there are five of them - one for every half hour - which may prove too many.  I'll see how it goes.  These break points also signal me to bring new elements into the game which will create some pretty rapid pacing which may not be a bad thing with my players who are typically more into so-called brute force plots where there's plenty to do.

Since these new elements involve Emotion Cards that unlock sections of their real memories, inspiring new roleplay, it shouldn't be too bad since it's at least a social opportunity rather than an six to eight minute combination of clips and then BLAM!

Personally I think it's best to err on the side of shorter clips but as this is part of a campaign LARP, the players will doubtless be more forgiving than if it were a one shot for multiple reasons.  For one, players are typically more forgiving of a game that has had only six weeks of lead time rather than six months and when that lead time is the result of a campaign's pace rather than procrastination.  Secondly, players reprise their roles for later sessions so such clips actually give them more to play with (potentially) and remove a smaller percentage of overall game time than in a one shot.

Whether this means they actually enjoy these clips, or find them too long, is yet to be determined.  Odds are personal preference will come into play but so long as the majority don't mind them and a few wouldn't mind them being a big shorter (rather than loathing them), I'll be happy.

Finally, I'm bringing two laptops because you always need a back up, just in case.  And two USB devices.  You never can tell when things will go wrong. 

Have you used audiovisual elements involving clips in your tabletop or LARP games?  How'd it go for you?

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