Do you Machinima
If you're like most readers of this site, you've seen examples of Machinima already, like Red vs Blue, Never Stay Tuned, and Medieval Weapon. Like movies in general, these are polished examples of series that make Machinima look easy - so the contest just announced by FiringSquad.com
probably peaked your interest.
Is Machinima really that easy? The answer is as you'd expect: It depends what you want to do. Red Vs. Blue, for example, takes a crew of people 40+ hours to assemble a single episode, employs professional voice actors and musicians and makes use of heavy video editing tools. While this is impressive, it doesn't mean that you need to go to those lengths to create a short using machinima.
Here is a simple look at an approach to creating machinima. I'll assume the use of a first person shooter game, as well as a Windows machine. If you're using Linux or a Mac, your mileage may vary.
Step 1: Come up with an idea
As silly as this sounds, you do need an idea before you can proceed. Not only will a basic idea make the end product watchable for someone who isn't you, but it will influence step 2:
Step 2: Choose an engine
People tend to gravitate to a few games to create machinima. World of Warcraft, for example, is very popular among comedy series due to the range of characters and actionable emotions (dancing, laughing, etc). Of course, you can't easily use World of Warcraft to do a series about life in an accountant's office, and The Sims (another popular software for machinima) won't play well in a medieval world. Choose your software to suit what you want to do, and you'll spend a lot less time trying to shoehorn dialog in to incompatible situations.
Note: You don't need a technically advanced game to do machinima. Anything that you have in your CD binder will do just fine - obviously, the more effective the setting, the less time the viewer will spend acclimatizing to the situation.
Step 3: Record your movie
At this stage in the game, you're not looking to record sound or anything like that. All you want to do is record the "actors" doing what you want them to do. You're also not interested in it being a continuous scene - set up the scene that you want to shoot, and record the character doing what they need to do so you can overlay the dialogue later.
There are numerous methods for doing this. For simplicity's sake, it's best to recruit a buddy to help you out (an offer of a case of their favourite beverage tends to help). Using a first person shooter as an example, the basic method is this:
- Load up either FRAPS (easiest capture tool to use, though the free version leaves a little bit of text on the sceen when you capture) or Taksi (an excellent free alternative, though arguably slightly more difficult to use).
- Start a Deathmatch game against your buddy. Have them join as the character that you want to take video of. Your view in the game will be the "camera", and your buddy will be the "actor". Make sure you're using a map that has the basic scenery that you want to capture.
- Get your buddy to move to the setting that you want. Once he's ready to go, tell your capture software (FRAPS or Taksi) to start recording. Don't worry about extra film before or after - this is easy to edit out.
- Have your buddy do what you wanted the character to do. Remember - your view is the camera. Whatever you're seeing is what the eventual audience will see! If you think he's too far away, then move up closer. Strafe around and change the angle as you'd like.
Tip: Have your buddy on the phone (VoIP or regular) during this, and have him 'say' the lines of dialogue as he does his actions. This will help make sure that you're shooting what you'd expect. Don't worry about capturing his dialogue.
Tip 2: It's most effective if you have your actor *do* something while he speaks, to give the impression of the CHARACTER speaking. Common things to do are to have him change his view slightly (look up / down), or move slightly forward or backward. Without facial expression or movement, voice will tend to come out as being separate from the video.
Tip 3: If you don't want to involve anyone else, try a third-person game, and record your actors yourself.
Once you have all your individual scenes together, it's time for: