Valve Source Filmmaker, The Ultimate Animation Tool…

Movies and video games have become tightly inter-twinned in recent years. Valve, software developers of the gaming kind, are doing their bit to drive the trend with the release of their in-house movie making software. Released this week to the public, and it’s available for free, is Valve’s Source Filmmaker (SFM). Bringing film making and animation tools to the public’s desktop.

Until the public release of the beta SFM the software had been used in-house by Valve. Used to create the type of short films that marketing departments love and cut scenes for the latest games. SFM has quickly evolved, becoming a one-stop shop for animation and possibly the most efficient animation tool to date.

Over 50 short films have been built using SFM, including the ‘Meet The’ series along with many in-game short films. Included for your viewing pleasure is the latest film in Valve’s ‘Meet the’ series, ‘Meet the Pyro’. Built using Team Fortress 2 game models and 3D objects it’s an atmospheric short film that highlights the power of SFM. Also included at the end of the article is the video introduction of SFM by team fortress, a must watch for the animation inclined.

“The goal of the SFM was to develop a story telling tool that allowed us to create computer animated movies more efficiently, and with greater creative freedom,” said Bay Raitt, designer at Valve. “Over the past five years, we’ve produced more than 50 animated shorts with the SFM.”

Meet the pyro.

In development and use for the past five years SFM is now an advanced and mature animation suite that makes use of game data when building films. Allowing real time experimenting with-in a scene.

Making use of the power of modern video cards and CPU’s combined with the real time nature of the Source video game engine SFM is real time and fully rendered, no wire-frames here. Initially only Team Fortress and your own hand built 3D objects are available for use in SFM but this will naturally grow over time.

The 3D recording you create in the SFM can contain recorded gameplay, objects, cameras, lights, particles, animations, effects, and sounds. The motion information for each element can also change over time allowing complex motions. Film locations are based on game maps, with any available map able to be selected as a scenes location. The on screen display is fully rendered and real time, with various tools available to allow selecting and changing every part of an animation on the spot.

SFM’s virtual world stores your recording as a movie or still image along with all the 3D motion data for every element. This allows modification of any aspect of the recording at any time. Last-minute changes that would be extremely expensive in a live-action studio are SFMs bread and butter.

SFM will also allow creating machinima easier than ever. Machinama is the modern art of using a video games to create a movie. Originally this involved assembling a group of friends, each responsible for acting a character in the scene. Then performing the scene in one take and recording it as a complete film, no editing possible. As Machinama has evolved the software as improved allowing a single person to script and execute the entire scene. SFM takes this concept to the next level.

SFM represents a new way of making movies that condenses the entire animation process onto a single PC. Allowing extremely high quality films to be generated by everyone, from the lone animator to a team of artists. The current kings of animation, 3D Max and Lightwave, have a new reason to look over their shoulders, there’s a new kid in town, Source FilmMaker.

Reference: Valve Source Filmmaker