Yesterday, Valve introduced the Source Filmmaker, a tool for creating movies using the Source engine as the set and studio. The tool allows digital directors to animate characters, set up camera angles, and realistically recreate dialogue using the program. As they put it, you get all of the “lights, camera, and action” except you can do the whole process in reverse, which they believe is actually more effective.
The announcement came along with the statement that the tool would be made free to the Valve community (or anyone else with Steam, Valve’s proprietary game distribution software) and also come with all assets from the world of Team Fortress 2. Valve also stated that Source Filmmaker could be used for noncommercial use without restriction as well and commercial use as long as no Valve properties (such as Team Fortress 2) were used in the final product.
This is very exciting news for film and video game enthusiasts for a variety of reasons. The release of this tool solves a very basic problem with machinima: the inability to present convincing dialogue from characters due to engine restraints. While this may seem like a minor issue, it has consistently been a problem for machinima makers over the years (Red Vs. Blue cleverly avoided this problem because of the helmets). By gaining complete control, filmmakers now have a tool to fully animate characters and dialogue without requiring an entire team of animators to take the helm.
Another great thing about the release of this tool is that it allows for people who might not have the tools and resources of an actual studio to tell stories. The Source Filmmaker acts as its own set and provides the actors (though, as mentioned, it is currently limited to the cast of Team Fortress 2), only requiring a script, a vision, and the know-how to operate the software.
Valve has been known for releasing their own software (most famously with level editors) to their communities to see what they can come up with. Team Fortress and Counter-Strike were both mods to 1998′s Half-Life and both went on to become incredibly popular gametypes and, later on, full-fledged game. The assumption here is that releasing their own video editor to the public will result in outstanding creative work from the community at large.
I am incredibly excited to get my hands on the tool and I can’t wait to see what new assets the community comes up with for directors and animators to work with. While Team Fortress 2 characters and locations are excellent templates to start with, the Source Filmmaker seems open to endless possibilities and community creativity.Experimental Film and TV Inspirations Interactive Technology