My attempt with this guide is to provide useful information to the aspiring machinima maker who has little to no experience at making machinima movies. I have received an uncountable number of requests from fans on YouTube, my forums, WCM and by email for advice on how to make machinima, and I will answer the most commonly asked questions in this guide. This is in no way a guide for the advanced machinimator—I will only cover the very basics here.
One of the best ways to get help is to ask the experts. Some of the best artists in the World of Warcraft machinima community frequent the following forums, and have areas designed specifically for those who have questions and need advice. If you are stuck and need help, go here and do not be afraid to ask:
In order to obtain footage for use in creating machinima, you must first shoot the footage yourself. Here are two programs that work well for capturing footage:
· Game Cam – www.planetgamecam.com
Game Cam comes in two versions, Game Cam and Game Cam Lite. Both versions limit functionality unless you register the product. Registration is a one-time fee of $25 for Game Cam and $10 for Game Cam Lite.
Game Cam is what I used to make all my movies up to Oxhorn Tells Off Xfire. I always had problems with getting it to work with World of Warcraft (but I should note that I used a much older version, and they have come out with a number of upgraded versions since then.) I hear that people can get Game Cam to work just fine, but I am not one of them.
· Fraps – www.fraps.com
I personally prefer Fraps. You can download and use Fraps for free. However, until you purchase the program, a watermark is placed at the top of everything you shoot. Registering Fraps is a one-time fee of $37.
I have been much happier with Fraps. The interface is simpler and all you have to do is load the program and start shooting, instead of associating it with certain programs. One of the drawbacks of using Fraps is that any footage you shoot will be saved as an .avi file that is ridiculously huge. You must have a lot of disk space in order to use Fraps. Also, the program can lag your machine down horribly, and some machines just cannot run it and World of Warcraft at the same time. If you use Fraps, be sure to turn off all other programs that are not necessary for your system to operate properly.
World of Warcraft Tools
· WoW Model Viewer –
WoW Model Viewer (WMV) is a tool that allows you to pull characters, monsters, items, spells and other models out of the game. You can change their clothes, the way they look, and you can play with every emote and movement in the game. Advanced machinima makers use this tool to record characters doing things that they would not be able to do in the game, like grow 100 feet tall, fly through the air with the greatest of ease, or chase after beggars with a big wheel of cheese.
To use WMV, load Fraps and minimize it. Then load WMV, create your character, and decide upon a motion you want him to do. When you are ready, hit record and have your character do his motion. You can drag him around with your mouse, spin him with the arrows, make him grow with the mouse wheel or whatever.
If you want to record a character and place him into another scene when you get down to editing, you will need to shoot him against a blue or green screen. To do this, simply change the background color in WMV to blue or green. I will show you how to take this footage and make the blue and green disappear when I get into video editing.
· WoW Map Viewer –
WoW Map Viewer (WMPV) allows you enter Azeroth and explore without any monsters, NPCs or limitations like gravity. You can fly around and record footage wherever you want to. You can change the time of day whenever you want, increase or decrease fog, make doodads, buildings and even land disappear and reappear, and explore places that would otherwise be inaccessible. You can also explore individual instance dungeons without those bothersome monsters who want to kill you, for some inexplicable reason.
There are many problems with this program and I have met few who have been able to get it to work. First, it appears to no longer be updated. This means that it will not work with World of Warcraft if you have downloaded and installed any recent patches. Second, it presents you with an imperfect version of the game world. You will often come across artwork in the game that has rough or black edges, such as the rope bridges connecting the rises at Thunder Bluff. You will also find some doodad elements that are in places where they shouldn’t be, or which seem to rise into the air forever, such as the hanging chandeliers and spires of the Undercity. Lastly, the program is horribly laggy. Even though my computer runs WoW just fine, I cannot move very far or fast at all in WMPV without getting hiccups of lag, especially when recording with a memory hog like Fraps. Sometimes you have to come up with nifty tricks in order for footage to look right, such as shooting a scene at an incredibly slow speed and then increasing its speed in your editing program. I can still get WMPV to work, but it is fussy and does not give you consistent or quality results.
There are a number of programs out there that allow you to edit video footage. I am only experienced with two; Windows Movie Maker and Adobe Premiere Pro, and so I will only talk about these two.
· Windows Movie Maker –
Windows Movie Maker (WMM) is one of the simplest and least powerful programs to use. It functions well and gets the job done, but you are limited in what you can do. You cannot tinker with footage much—all you can do is insert footage into a timeline in the order that you want. There are a few things you can do to spice things up, like adding transitions (of which WMM has a plethora to choose from) and adding special effects. You can also use a number of pre-made text effects and transitions, though you cannot change them. You cannot use WMM to shoot characters in WoW Model Viewer against a blue or green screen and then place them wherever you want. You are also limited to one audio track, which means that you must edit your audio into one complete file using an outside program, like Cool Edit Pro or Wave Pad.
Despite its limitations, WMM works, and you can make good movies with it. I made many of my better known movies, including Inventing Swear Words 1, Red Snapph! and Racing the Grimtotem, with WMM. It is a good program to start with, and it is free, but if you want to do the fancy stuff, you need to get a more advanced program.
· Adobe Premiere Pro – http://www.adobe.com/products/premiere/
Adobe Premiere Pro (APP) is a powerful program, but it is $800. From the Adobe website, you can download a 30 day free trial, with full functionality, but after the trial period you must purchase the full version or, if you have purchased a previous version of APP, you must buy the upgrade, which is $300.
APP is nice and allows you to do what you need to. It is still not the best out there, and if you want to do the really fancy stuff, you need Adobe After Effects (AAE). I will not get into AAE in this guide. I have made all my recent movies with APP alone, and even though it is harder, it is still possible to do some nifty tricks with APP. For now, I will simply cover the basics.
The number one question I get is, “How do I put more than one character into the same scene with footage that I recorded using WMV?” You do so with keying. Remember when you recorded your character against a blue or green screen in WMV? Now, start APP and import this file (File > Import and then browse for the file). Once you import the clip, it will appear in your Project window. Drag the file onto the timeline. The timeline is the large area with three video tracks and three audio tracks. Place the file on Video 1.
You should now see a preview of your clip in the Monitor window. You can view any portion of the clip you want by dragging the little red line up and down the timeline. Right now, we want to get rid of the blue or green screen. In the Project window, click on the tab that says Effects. You will see many folders. Click on the arrow next to the Video Effects folder. Inside this folder are even more folders, but we want Keying, so click on the arrow next to the Keying folder. You are now presented with many options. Let us assume that you shot your character against a blue screen. Select the Blue Screen Key effect and drag it onto your clip. Your blue screen should now disappear. You can now place anything you want behind this clip, like a background, simply by dragging your clip onto the track Video 2 and placing your background below it.
The problem with the Blue Screen Key and Green Screen Key effects is that they are not perfect. You may notice that your character is a little transparent. If you want to change this, go to the Effects Controls tab within the Monitor window. You will see the Blue Screen Key effect listed. Click on the arrow next to the name to see a number of options. Click on the arrows next to Threshold and Cutoff to see two sliding bars. Experiment with dragging these bars around until your character looks the way you want him to.
There is another way to do keying that I prefer (although it isn’t suitable for every circumstance, which is why it is nice to know how to use the Blue and Green Screen Key effects). Delete the Blue Screen Key effect in the Effects Controls tab by selecting it and hitting the Delete button on your keyboard. Your blue screen should reappear. Next, select the Chroma Key effect from the Effects tab in the Project window and drag it onto your clip. The blue will not disappear yet, because we need to tell the effect which color we want to make invisible. To do this, go back to your Monitor window and look under the Effects Controls until you see the Chroma Key effect (it will be in the same place the Blue Screen Key effect was). Click on the arrow to show the effect’s options. You will see a color box and a little eye-dropper icon. Click on the eye-dropper and drag it over the color in your monitor window that you want to disappear (in this instance, blue). Then release. The color in the box next to the eyedropper should be blue. Now, click the arrow next to Similarity and drag the slider all the way to the right. The blue should be gone!
Now, what we don’t want to see happen is for part of your character to disappear too. In order to prevent this, drag the similarity slider back to the left. Now click the Mask Only box. The screen should turn white. Now slowly drag the Similarity slider left until the blue background is completely gone, and your character is still completely white. If portions of your character begin to vanish too, then this means that these portions will be transparent, so be sure to bring the slider back some so that your character is completely white.
You can also fiddle with the Blend slider and the smoothing option, if you want to try for a better keying job.
You want your characters to movie around, right? Let’s suppose that the clip you recorded in WMV was of an orc in a pink Easter dress facing to the right and walking. You want him to walk from the left side of the screen to the right. We have to do this manually with the Motion control, found under the Effects Controls tab in the Monitor window.
Click the arrow next to Motion. You will see a number of options, such as Scale, which increases or decreases the size of the character, or Rotation, which will spin a character clockwise or counter clockwise. We want to play with Position. Next to Position are two numbers, 360 and 240. 360 is on the X axis (left and right) and 240 is on the Y axis (up and down). Bring your cursor over the number 360 and drag it to the left. The number should go down and your character should move across the screen to the left. Keep doing this until your character disappears off-screen. Now, you will see a white circle next to the Position effect. Click it. You have just added a keyframe, and a little diamond has appeared at the beginning of the clip.
Look at the Effects Controls tab and the Monitor window. You will see a red line going down, just like in the Timeline window. This area represents the entire length of your clip. Click on the blue marker above the red line and drag it back and forth. The Monitor should cycle through your clip. We want your character to start off-screen and end off-screen. We have already positioned him to the left off-screen and added the keyframe (which tells the program that your character starts off-screen at the beginning of the clip.) Now, drag the blue marker to nearly the very end of the clip. Once there, drag the number on the X axis (the one you changed earlier) to the right. Your character will reappear on screen and as you drag to the right, he will continue to move. Keep doing this until he disappears off-screen to the right.
Now go back to the beginning of the clip and preview it by pressing the play button in the Monitor window. Your character should look like he is walking from one side of the screen to the other.
That is all there is to motion! It is a little time consuming and awkward, but it works. AAE does Motion much better than APP, but you and I are too poor for AAE, so we will have to make do with APP. You can use Motion to do any sort of fancy maneuvering. In my The Anti-Elf Anthem, I made the singers jump off the balcony simply using this Motion control and adding keyframes wherever I wanted my character to be.
Those are the basics! There are a number of other things that you can learn, such as changing the color of clips to match background, adding transitions and blurs and so forth, but I will not cover them here. If you have questions, go to the forums I listed at the top of this guide and ask for help, or you can go to my own forum which you can find on my website (www.brandonmdennis.com). I hope this guide answered a few questions, and I’ll be sure to update it as I feel it is necessary.
Good luck with making your own movies! It is very satisfying to see something you made enjoyed by others.