Valve, makers of the Steam social gaming platform and award-winning game franchises like Half-Life and Portal, have a new surprise up their sleeves. This week, the company introduced the Source Filmmaker, a 3D animation and editing suite based on the company's Source engine. As project director Bay Raitt puts it in the introductory video, this allows users to create "movies on location, inside the videogame world."
Though Source Filmmaker is currently an invite-only beta, Raitt, whose bio includes leading "the creation of Gollum's facial system for The Lord of the Rings trilogy" before joining Valve, and his team have been using the software for seven years to create promotional videos for Steam's top games. "We condensed the entire pipeline of an animation studio down onto a single gaming PC," he says in his introduction of the system.
Technologically, Source Filmmaker appears to be a breakthrough, melding the videogame world with traditional filmmaking techniques. For years, the chasm between Hollywood and the gaming industry has been shrinking. Games have become more cinematic, with all-star voice talent and blockbuster launches. Motion capture and 3D animation have become runaway successes in Hollywood. Even Steven Spielberg traversed an all digital world with The Adventures of Tintin last year, the centerpiece of which was a videogame-like long take impossible to accomplish with terrestrial cameras.
The tools to create films in a 3D animated environment have been out of reach for most, until now. Raitt puts it in simple terms in his video: "For a while now, it's clear that gamers like to do more than just play games. We all like to watch movies, and we like to participate in the worlds that we spend so much time in. You can think of these videogame worlds as massive backlots for creative exploration."
Framing a shot in real time.
It feels like there has forever been speculation that gaming and cinema would eventually collide to the point that we won't recognize either one after the shift. Most ideas of what this future will look like seem pie-in-the-sky now, but the Source Filmmaker is the biggest effort we've seen to combine the two art forms into one. As the project ramps up in its first year, hopefully a community of filmmakers will sprout up around it. In the gaming world, the possibilities are endless. Adding a camera and fine-tuned animation tools into that environment could allow for some astounding stories to be told.
As stated, the Source Filmmaker is in invite-only beta right now, and you can sign up for a spot at the project's website (requires a Steam account). Check out some of its features below.
Manipulating lighting angles.
Altering character movements.
Props, props, and more props.
Multiple “directors” watching the shot.