WoW Machinima: The basics

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M. Money|08.28.08

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WoW Machinima: The basics

(Dell is holding a machinima contest, which we'll discuss shortly. They asked me to write a tutorial to help new machinimators get their start.)

Every day, I feature a video by some brave soul that dived in head first into the world of machinima. For those that aren't familiar with the term, it stands for machine and cinema. The literal definition is movies made in a 3D gaming platform. Using this basic guide, as well as the other tutorials and resources available to you, you'll be creating your first project in no time!

Here is what you'll need if you want to make a machinima for free:
[Thanks for originally suggesting this, Bryan!]

Read on for optional and advanced tools, plus additional resources ...

Here are some free optional tools that will enhance your machinima:
If you want to go all out on your project, you'll need some of these. Be warned, they all cost money.
  • Fraps - The standard for PC video capturing
  • Snapz Pro - Even though WoW has a built-in option for recording on the Mac, this is the paid alternative to Fraps
  • Sony Vegas (PC) or Adobe Premiere (PC/Mac) - These programs contain advanced editing functions, such as chroma keying the Model Viewed characters
  • Adobe After Effects - A PC/Mac special effects program that complements Adobe Premiere
  • Particle Illusion - A particle program for the PC and Mac that is good for fire, explosions, and a variety of other things
  • CrazyTalk - A third party lip-syncing that animates images
  • Final Cut Pro - The professional Mac video editing program that makes PC owners everywhere jealous

If you're just starting out in machinima, I strongly suggest that you experiment with the basic tools and dabble lightly in the optional ones. The advanced ones, with the exception of Fraps and Snapz Pro, may cause unnecessary confusion early on. Some great written and video tutorials have already been created to help you along the way!

While there are plenty of tips out there for actually creating WoW machinima, everyone has a preference as to what editing program they use. Because of this, it would be impossible to show you editing guides. I would advise reading up on your chosen program, using their help section, and googling for tutorials.

Here are some links to help you get started:

You may have questions while you're creating your machinima. I would suggest visiting the following for help:

So you've studied the tutorials, asked for help, and completed your project. You're going to need some places to upload it, but some are not as friendly as others towards machinima:
  • Youtube - While the quality isn't the greatest, this will be the site where you'll get most of your viewers from.
  • Filefront - This site has decent quality and appeals to gamers, but you'll get an email periodically giving you only a few days to take your video out of a deletion queue.
  • - The site has a nice following, but if your video is good, they'll likely upload it on their own YouTube account for views.
  • Warcraftmovies - This site hosts a variety of WoW videos, ranging from gameplay to storyline. They let you upload the video, describe it, receive comments, and list mirrors of your video from other sites.
  • Vimeo - This site offers probably the best quality embed, but they recently changed their policy on machinima to disallow gameplay and exploration videos.
  • - This site has pretty high quality embeds, but they also allow you to upload multiple versions of your video, as well as the audio from it. When asked to clarify their machinima policy, they also stated that they do not support gameplay videos. Storyline and music video machinima are fine.

Now that you're armed with tutorials, you can participate in the variety of contests that happen regularly. Some of the prizes for these contests range from a small amount of money, computers, all the way up to a brand new car! While these lists are in no way complete, they'll let you get your feet wet, and then you can find more sites as you go along.

On a final note, I have to stress the importance of being familiar with Blizzard's Fair Use Guide. Blizzard has outlined some rules on how you can and cannot produce your videos. Among them, you can't profit off of them commercially without licensing from them. In addition, you cannot sell your work or charge a fee to view it. Beyond that, they go into detail on educational uses and sponsor logos.

Machinima can be an extremely rewarding hobby. There's already a large community out there that not only creates, but enjoys viewing, this emerging medium. What are you waiting for? Go forth and make me proud!
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