The Making of a Sackboy Music Video

I’d like to talk about a little personal milestone that just happened this week. My music video, “Little Big Planet 2 Soundtrack – Victoria’s Lab,” reached 200,000 views on YouTube. This is not an astounding view count – it isn’t viral by any means. However, it’s a lot more than I ever imagined when I first decided to create a music video for one of the songs I composed for the LittleBigPlanet 2 video game. I thought it might be interesting to talk briefly about how this video came about, and how the LittleBigPlanet game makes it possible to create a humorous music video like this one.

While there have been many other music videos made with the characters and creation tools of LittleBigPlanet 2, I think this one may the first (and perhaps the only) music video made by a LittleBigPlanet composer. The track, “Victoria’s Lab,” was the first I’d composed for the LittleBigPlanet franchise, and I was tremendously excited about it. The track included an ambitious vocal arrangement for four singers. I sung all the parts in this fugato, which is a composition in which multiple independent melodies play simultaneously. They echo each other’s melodic content and then branch off into lots of variations.  While this was essentially a serious vocal composition style, I performed it in a whimsical way using syllables such as “la dee dah.” The whole thing was supported by an accompaniment that included string orchestra, circus organ, beat boxing, rock guitar, vocoder, and lots of other odd and eccentric instruments.

The real fun of a vocal composition like this one is watching it performed live. If you’ve ever seen this kind of vocal counterpoint performed live, you know how interesting it is to watch the melodies shifting from one vocalist to the next, while the others sing independent and related parts. I had this desire to create a visual experience for my Victoria’s Lab fugato… but how?  I really didn’t think that anyone would want to watch me in splitscreen, overdubbing vocal parts into a microphone – that would be boring. The LittleBigPlanet aesthetic and sense of humor heavily influenced this composition, so wouldn’t it be more fun to see a group of Sackgirls singing together?

The developer of the LittleBigPlanet game, Media Molecule, did a wonderful job of creating both a fantastically entertaining gameplay experience, and a imaginative and inspiring creation tool for making game levels. Moreover, they also made it entirely possible to create short entertaining films with LittleBigPlanet, too.  Characters are called “Sackbots” and have the ability to lip sync as you speak into a microphone connected to the PS3. For my music video, I created and dressed up three Sackbot singers. Then I played back recordings of each of the vocal parts into the PS3’s microphone. I played them one at a time, isolated from each other and from the rest of the composition. While each of the Sackbot singers recorded their individual parts for lip sync, I moved the Sackbot’s head and body using the PS3 controller, animating the Sackbot to give it a more realistic “performance.” I recorded each of their dramatic singing performances against a green screen backdrop, so that I could put them into any environment I liked. Sometimes I had them singing on a theatrical stage. Other times, they sang in square frames on screen, Brady-Bunch-style. Finally, I dressed up a Sackbot singer to look just like the character of Victoria Von Bathysphere from the LittleBigPlanet 2 game. Victoria got to sing the operatic, aria-like parts, which she performed with intensity and dramatic flair.


Since I couldn’t leave Sackboy himself out of the fun, I created scenes in which he vigorously headbanged and rocked out to the music. I had him dancing alongside large skeletons playing guitars. Finally, I let him run around the delightfully wacky environments created by Media Molecule for the Victoria’s Lab levels, where this music is actually heard in the LittleBigPlanet 2 video game. The levels created by Media Molecule are pure genius – a combination of joyous silliness and sublime artistry that come together to form the perfectly delightful playground for Sackboy and all his friends.

I recorded all these performances and action sequences using the Hauppauge PVR system, which allows PS3 video to be fed into a computer and captured as video files. Then I edited the video in my computer using Final Cut Pro.

It was a bigger job than I thought it would be, but I had a great time creating the music video. I’m very happy that people have enjoyed my singing Sackgirls and headbanging Sackboy. 200,000 views may not be huge by YouTube standards, but it certainly makes me smile to think of that many people watching my Sackgirls sing. Making the music video was a great way for me to participate in the LittleBigPlanet philosophy of Play, Create, Share.

Rest in Peace, Game Developer Magazine


I was incredibly saddened to hear that Game Developer Magazine was to cease publication. I’m looking at the magazine as I write this. It has a bleak jet-black cover with the words GAME OVER, dead center in plain white lettering. Those two words bring a pang to my heart.

When I attended my first Game Developers Conference, I was offered a free subscription to the magazine as part of my registration process. I signed up for the subscription right away – it was a bit of a thrill for me. For someone so new to game development, being offered that free subscription felt a little like a secret initiation – as though I had been found worthy of joining the community and would now receive the benefit of knowledge that only the insiders knew. Of course, I was well aware that this was a tremendous exaggeration, but a part of me clung to the conceit that the magazine subscription was a little rite of passage.

I rarely read the magazine in any organized, consecutive manner. Mostly, I enjoyed opening to random pages and reading whatever article I saw there. The Design of the Times articles were eye opening for me, providing tremendous insight into the struggles of designers. I had no idea that the pursuit of the fun factor would be so remarkably complex, requiring such a deep knowledge of psychology, economics, and the long and rich history of game systems from both the ancient past and the present day. With every issue, my appreciation for the struggles of game designers grew.

Articles about programming languages, artificial intelligence and physics were written in an arcane lingo that skimmed my consciousness in the same way that liturgical Latin might have done. This was the language of the ancient society of technicians, engineers and coders – it wasn’t meant for me. Nonetheless, I did read a lot of these articles, because now and then there would be a moment of humor, a glimpse of pathos and exhausted camaraderie, or a spark of enthusiasm and inspiration that would reach out of the labyrinthine text and capture my imagination. If I had overheard such a conversation at the watercooler, and one of the engineers noticed me listening and gave me a shrug and a smile… that feeling is close to how I sometimes felt, reading those articles.

The interviews were always surprising and interesting. It seemed to me that there must have been something about the journalists of Game Developer Magazine that inspired people to speak with startling frankness and gritty honesty. I read blunt observations about the video game marketplace. Successes and failures of games were discussed in the context of economic realities and the changing expectations of gamers. Prominent developers openly grappled with the problem of fitting their creative aspirations into a business model that sometimes couldn’t accommodate them. Triumphant developers crowed about their bestselling games, and hardened veterans shared war stories about the big hits that almost were.

Of course, I eagerly pored over the Aural Fixation column, since it focused on the audio side of game development. The technical articles were always fascinating, and this extended into the audio product reviews. Several products that I first learned about in Game Developer Magazine are now a part of my working life.

I loved the Arrested Development column at the back of the magazine, where the keenest observations about game development would come leaping out of the magazine, dressed in the disguise of sharp and irreverent humor. This sweetly acidic dessert at the end of the meal was always the perfect finish… but I’ll admit that I often ate dessert first.

As a magazine that depended on advertising revenue to stay afloat, Game Developer Magazine was wounded deeply when many of the companies making software development tools consolidated. Where before, there were many software companies buying ad space in the magazine, now there were only a few. For the magazine’s parent company, the meager profits simply couldn’t justify the continuation of Game Developer Magazine. The decision was made, and that final issue with the stark black cover was shipped out. GAME OVER.

Nothing I can write here could adequately pay tribute to Game Developer Magazine.  It provided me with a connection to an industry I loved. Every month, the magazine helped me to cultivate a deeper understanding of the struggles and successes of my fellow developers, and for that I am grateful. My heartfelt thanks go out to the writers and editors of Game Developer Magazine, for their creativity and their passion.  I’m sure that they will all find great opportunities awaiting them in the field of digital games journalism, and I am looking forward to reading their contributions… but I will miss the unique combination of talents and personalities that made up this dynamic team of writers.  Thanks to one and all for the many years of insight, instruction, and community spirit that you shared with me.  I’ll never forget it.

You can read the entire final issue of Game Developer Magazine in a free PDF that they’ve made available at this link. Below you’ll find a list of the former editors-in-chief of Game Developer Magazine, along with either their Twitter pages (if applicable) or their LinkedIn profiles.

Patrick Miller @pattheflip

Brandon Sheffield @necrosofty

Alex Handy

Jamil Moledina @jmoledina

Simon Carless @simoncarless

Jennifer Yeamans (Olsen)

Alex Dunne @adunne

Mark DeLoura @markdeloura

Larry O’Brien @lobrien