Final Project: Combo Video
For my final project for this class, I followed through on my plan to make a tribute video for semi-professional Super Smash Bros. player Joel Jimenez, who is better known as Scizor in the gaming community. Motion graphics were appropriate for this project because the montage is not just a raw collection of clips from gaming streams. Rather, my project was inspired by a longstanding tradition in the gaming community of making tribute videos that use motion graphics, music, and clips from other sources to emphasize impressive plays. I played around with both Adobe Premiere Pro and Adobe After Effects, but ultimately, I was able to finish my project with Premiere alone. I used tools at my disposal in Premiere such as titles, transitions, visual distortions, and color to make a 1:30 video that I believe has a consistent aesthetic.
This essay is about motion graphics, not video games, so I will avoid gamer jargon whenever possible. That said, some explanation is necessary for the objective of the video to actually make sense. First of all, while Scizor is our protagonist here, he himself is never shown in the video. Link, the character he plays, is our focus instead. Scizor’s actions are represented by Link, who is the blonde young man who appears in most scenes in the project. Link wears a few different costumes, but all have a hat, a sword, and a shield. Smash is a simple game, where the rules are that you must knock your opponent off the platform on which both characters stand. Another aspect of Smash that is critical to understand for the purposes of viewing this video is that all the characters originate from other games. Mario is probably the most iconic of these.
My mood board contained many stylized drawings of video game characters who appear in Smash. I wanted to acknowledge the fact that all of the characters that Scizor faces with Link come from other games that have their own visual themes. To this end, I included footage from said games that alternate with the clips of Scizor playing, and put graphic transitions between them to make the video flow.
The video opens with a few titles that serve as opening credits. I chose to write all of my credits with the Apple Chancery font since I thought it looked as elegant as Scizor’s gameplay. The first one says “LINKED”, which is the title of the video. My use of the past-tense of the verb “link” is a reference to Scizor’s twitter handle, @ScizorLinked, but I also intended it to refer to the fact that in the footage I use, Scizor “linked” together several offensive options to create consistent states of advantage. Next is a title that credits me. Since my tag is Purp, I put my name in purple to make it stand out against the black background and white lettering. The titles slide in from the right. I put Scizor’s name in red, again to make it stand out, and because Scizor’s tag refers to a red character from Pokémon. The intro part of Deon Custom’s “Song of Storms” remix plays here. I tried to sync up the sliding of the titles into view with the harp chords in the song.
After the opening credits, I cut the music and put in the first gameplay sequences. Here, the countdown that starts every Smash game is alternated with footage from the original Legend of Zelda game from 1986, which was Link’s first appearance. A different opponent is used in each countdown clip. First is Sheik at the “3” count, as played by K9SBruce. Then comes a scene of Link from his original game where he enters a cave and is greeted by an old man who says “It’s dangerous to go alone!”. Next, Mario is introduced at “2”, followed by the old man saying “take this”. 80’s Link picks up his sword, and then the countdown finishes with “1, GO!” as Scizor begins a match against Ganondorf, played by Meepenator. The purpose of using the scene from the Legend of Zelda that I chose was to symbolize Link preparing for battle by receiving his sword and hoisting it confidently.
After the countdown, the rest of the song and Scizor’s gameplay begin. Scizor lands six consecutive hits on his opponent. I highlighted the last of these at 0:29 by using the turbulent displacement effect at 49.2 degrees. The clip then fades to out to white, and fades from white into the next segment. My general idea was to alternate the smash footage with clips of the characters that Link was fighting against being defeated in their original games. The segment that follows the fade to white is from “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”, where Ganondorf is trapped in an alternate dimension.
Next, Scizor is against a player named Saturn. Link is fighting against a chimpanzee named Diddy Kong (this can be found at the lower center-left of the screen). To highlight a particularly technical maneuver that Scizor performed in this match, I used a blue tint effect at about 0:35. I sampled the blue color from the blue costume that Link wears in this clip, and I think it goes well with the blue background of the stage. Soon after this, I emphasized the fact that Link hits Diddy Kong with a kick by using key frames. I set five key frames in the short duration of the attack, and I adjusted the y-axis position of the footage at each key frame. I shifted the first up to about 400 from 360, and the next down to 320 and so forth. The finishing move that Scizor performs at 0:40 is emphasized by a lens distortion with -63-degree curvature. I was tempted to use turbulent displacement again at first, but I decided against it. I feel that using different effects at the end of every clip highlights the uniqueness and therefore innovation of Scizor’s playstyle. This clip is followed by footage from Diddy Kong’s home game Donkey Kong Country, where Diddy is attacked by an enemy and a “Game Over” screen comes up.
The next clip uses the same rumble effect as the Diddy Kong footage in two separate instances. I adjusted the values of the displacement of the y-axis slightly. The values when the sword connects with Yoshi at 0:52 are on average ten units further from the 360 baseline of the y-axis than when Yoshi is hit with an arrow at 0:53. Again, I use a unique effect for the finishing blow at 0:57. I used the mirror effect and shifted it so that the split between the mirrored sides would be perfectly in the middle of the screen. I cropped the left side off and shifted the field of view to the center of the video to maintain symmetry. A simple fade to black follows, as another “Game Over” screen is shown, this time from Yoshi’s story.
From a player’s perspective, Scizor’s achievement in the next clip is the most impressive, which is why I put it last. This is from a set against a well-known professional player from Japan. The same blue tint from 0:35 is repeated at 1:05 and 1:06 as Scizor performs the same feat of skill that he performed in that match, but this time he does it twice in a row. The next two hits both use the key frames rumble effect I created, and the second one (the last sword strike of the video) is accompanied with a yellow tint. I sampled the color for this from the background of the footage. After this, the video cuts to the defeat of the opposing character, Sonic the Hedgehog, from a game in his franchise. I then let the music play out for a bit and end it with some exponential fade.
The outro of the video is footage from the same game as the intro. In the intro, Link had just received his sword to prepare for his quest. In the outro, Link is congratulated by Princess Zelda, whom he has rescued. The two characters celebrate their victory while the screen flashes, and I decided to use a cross zoom here to wrap things up. The end credits are the conclusion of the video: I thank the viewer, credit the DJ and song, and share the twitter handles of those involved. The color that I used for Deon Custom’s name his title credit was sampled from the video for the song on YouTube.
There’s some roughness around the edges here and there, but in general I’m happy with how my project turned out. I feel like I learned a lot about the medium of video can be enhanced with editing to present a coherent aesthetic. I hope that my video is at least visually pleasing to those who are uninitiated when it comes to Smash, and I think it’s fairly clear that it shows a particular individual conquering his foes. The project that I turned in is actually a truncated version of my overall product that I pared down to meet the 90 second maximum for the class. A full combo video that is almost 3 minutes long can be found on my YouTube channel. I will link it below. I have shared this video publicly with Scizor, and he and others in the Smash Bros. community are quite pleased with it.