Valve, creators of the Source game engine, recently released their machinima filmmaking tool Source Filmmaker (SFM). Mainstream releases of movies made with game engines is near.
If you’ve caught Valve’s animated short films then you’ve already seen SFM at work. According to Valve, they believe SFM can distinguish itself from the the previously used machinima tools by incorporating elements from several of them:
Most tools only create a fraction of a movie: a renderer, a 2D video clip editor, a keyframer, a motion capture editor, a sound editor, etc. The SFM is a hybrid of all these workflows merged into a single system, where you can create an entire movie by reusing assets and events from the video game world.
The video at the top, a remade version of this scene from The Matrix was created entirely in SFM using Source game-engine assets. Thanks to series like Red vs Blue, machinima has already seen fervent online fan appeal and shown an audience that games can empower them to create their own content. According to Reuters, the 2011 global video game market was valued at US$65 billion. With such high audience buy-in of the technology, experience releasing game creation tools and being the owners of a dominant distribution platform Valve is keenly aware of the possibilities of providing content creation tools to their users.
We are not far from a time when fans may release full-length animated films on accepted feature film platforms like movie theaters, Netflix, and iTunes. One can suppose Valve’s Steam could be positioned as a distribution platform for fan-made animated films created in SFM. Valve understands the power of the toolset they’ve released and describes part of their use policy as such:
…if you do not include any of Valve’s assets in the movies and images that you make, then there are no restrictions on what you do with your content and you can make money with it.
One can see from the machinima released in the past year that we are close to photorealistic game-engine visuals while stylized animated films can already be made. According to Valve’s statement above, nothing would limit a SFM user from using their own lifelike 3D actor models in a feature-length animation. The possibility of completely digital movie stars have captured the imagination of a generation that grew up with Pixar, Digital Domain, and Industrial Light & Magic movies. While we assumed the digital star would be created by professional studios it may be gamers who influence the future of film.
*UPDATE* Shortly after writing this piece I ran across this MarketWatch article on Director Shane Acker’s underwater adventure “Deep“. Looks like Valve is already making the deals it needs to position Steam the way this blog post describes.
Posted by Dennis Bonilla