Launching Ain't Easy: Behind-the-Scenes on a Doc Series About the New Gaming Website 'Polygon'
As some of you may know — and as others may be glad to hear — we are redesigning this site from the ground up. Some of you may also know about a recently-launched, already-popular tech site by the name of The Verge. As we set out to redesign our own web experience, The Verge has similarly been expanding with a sister site about video games, Polygon -- which just launched today -- and they decided to document the process thoroughly with a web series. That series, entitled Press Reset, is reminiscent in tone of the great Indie Game: The Movie, and I recommend it if you're interested in what goes into designing and launching a web site. I've embedded several episodes after the jump, and I'll do my best to relate them to filmmaking as well as our own little fledgling web redesign. We also talk to Senior Producer Stephen Greenwood about the production of the show.
We're going to start things off with episodes two and three, which is where the series really begins to focus on the process of building a website. The series also delves into dealing with how to split forums into different categories, evaluating the size and density of the site navigation, and designing for multiple screen sizes, which “more than triples the work.” Building a website is easy. Building a great website is anything but.
Says Greenwood about the production:
In mid-July, I was asked to head up the project by the director of our studio, Chad Mumm, along with Executive Producer, Russ Pitts, who is overseeing video for Polygon. For the first few weeks, my main objective was meet almost all of the 16 members on the Polygon team (all across the country) and conduct initial interviews with each of them. My usual set up when I'm shooting solo like this is almost always:
Episode Four covers the “separation of church and state” that web sites strive for as far as editorial and advertising are concerned. We try to keep them as separate as possible here on NFS and our writers usually don’t even know who is and who isn’t advertising here.
Greenwood on acquisition:
I love the versatility of the 5D Mark III -- I decided early on that I wanted to work almost entirely with available light, and the Mark III has been great for that. Tom Connors (Associate Director) & Pat McGowan (Lead Editor) joined soon after I started shooting and we had about three weeks together to figure out the style, tone, and pacing of the episodes. We knew at that point that the series would be between 10-13 episodes long and had a rough schedule outlined, but because of time constraints, we had to be shooting & editing almost simultaneously to capture moments that wouldn't happen twice (needed for later episodes) and also get enough to actually complete our first few episodes; which was a major challenge.
About editing, Greenwood shared:
One of the biggest challenges in the first place is the fact that almost the entire Polygon team is scattered around the country (which we cover in Episode 5). We resorted to Tom & myself doing a lot of traveling, frequently splitting up to cover more ground, and shipping hard drives back to our studio in New York when we need to be out on the road for multiple days. As we amassed enough footage to bring on a second editor, we added Jimmy Shelton to the team a few weeks ago, so that he and Pat could be working on episodes simultaneously (and get a day off here and there).
For editing, we've been using Premiere Pro CS6 with Pluraleyes (color with Magic Bullet) and storing the footage on a local networked SAN, running SANmp. I've used Final Cut Pro for most of my life, but we decided to make the switch for this project to avoid transcoding our footage. Some of the motion graphics that you'll see (most notably in Episode 1) were done by our amazing in-house motion artist, Noah Shulman in After Effects.
Episode five of Press Reset covers (among other things) the oxford comma, which for the record I am in favor of:
As for the release schedule:
Episodes have been running every week on Wednesdays, so during those first few weeks, we'd try to have the majority of the episode's content shot by Friday or Saturday, with selects/radio edit by Sunday/Monday and a final draft for other members of the team to view by Tuesday. There were many all-nighters, export / render problems at the worst possible times, and tight deadlines - but our small team is incredible persistent and dedicated, which I'm extremely grateful for.
I'm going to go ahead and skip ahead to episode nine, which covers today's launch of the site, but you can find the full series here and linked to below. Since we're just getting started on the NFS redesign, we're a long ways off from "welcome to alpha, bitches," as seen in the next episode. To relate it to filmmaking, alpha = rough cut. Or perhaps alpha = assembly edit, and beta = rough cut.
Man, all this stuff looks like a lot of work, right? There are a lot more people in the world who play video games than there are that make movies, so Polygon on day one is already a much larger site than NFS. That’s also why we don’t have and can’t support (yet?) a bunch of full-time positions. But that also means that, even though I’m not going to be the one pushing around the pixels in Photoshop myself for the new NFS design (as I did for the current one), there’s a lot to do. I’m not posting the majority of the stories to our site these days but I’m actualy spending more time on the site, according to my time tracking these days. And of course I’m working on that feature at the same time, so it’s a juggling act these days. The interesting thing about both projects is that they are similar at times, in that they both boil down to the act of describing to others your intentions, and trying to get the most out of the people you’re working with... which is to say, they’re both directing.
But let's get back to Press Reset. What are your thoughts on the series -- and web site?