Machinima is becoming more and more popular every day. Halo can be used to create new forms of entertainment in fun and exciting ways. Because of this, making machinima has become a popular hobby and passion for many of us, but it isn't easy. The process of making machinima can be complicated and can lead to many questions. "How do I record the video?" "How do I record dialog?" "How do I add music?" The list of questions goes on and on. But don't worry, I'm here to help with my complete guide to making machinima!
To help with this guide, I'll be using my own machinima series, Playtime, to illustrate each step of the process. We're going to go over the making of Playtime Season 2, step by step. To help keep things organized, I've broken this guide into five sections:
1. Planning and voice acting.
2. Storyboards and animatics.
4. Video editing.
5. Audio editing and final mastering.
Let's get started!
Part 1: Planning and Voice Acting
When making a machinima, the three most important words to remember are planning, planning, and planning. Having a clear and organized plan will make every single step of production easier, and improve the final product. The very first thing you are going to need is a script.
When writing your script, there are a few different issues you should focus on. Besides the obvious things (like making your script good), you'll want to ask yourself the following questions:
1. How many different characters are in my machinima?
2. How many different locations will I be using?
3. What 'sets' do I need to build?
Making machinima presents a unique set of challenges and circumstances that you need to account for before you begin filming. For example, you need to think about what the game itself will allow you to do. If your script features a character using a vehicle, you'd better make sure that the vehicle is available on the map you are filming on. You need to think about the various weapons and Armor Abilities that are included in your script. You may need to create custom game types and forge maps designed specifically for your machinima. Luckily, Halo: Reach makes all these things possible.
For Playtime Season 2, my script needed to cover four episodes, each episode roughly five minutes in length. I also knew that all four episodes were going to tell one continuous story. This meant I needed to be particularly organized. While writing the script, I would constantly take notes about how many characters would appear in each scene, and how I would logistically go about filming it. For Playtime, I made the decision to film the show by myself. This limits me to only being able to control four characters at a time. If I write a scene that includes more than four characters, I'd better have a plan for how to film and edit things together. Some machinima makers will choose to film over Xbox Live. This has benefits such as being able to have up to 16 "body actors" in a single scene. But it also has drawbacks; playing online prevents the body actors from lowering their weapons. Whatever decisions you make, just make sure you have a plan for filming every scene contained in your script.
With the script complete, I then move on to the next major element of production: voice acting. Playtime Season 2 features far more characters than the first season. This meant that I needed to expand my range as a voice actor. I record all the dialogue using a table-top digital voice recorder. I record the voices one character at a time. This means I sit down and read through all of Warren's dialogue for the entire season, then do all of Cobra's dialogue, etc. I do this rather than bouncing back and forth between characters because it helps keep each character sounding consistent from one scene to the next.
Once the dialogue is recorded, I import the files to my computer and run them through a couple audio programs.
First, I use a program called Audacity to apply some basic compression and EQ passes on all the voice recordings. I also use Audacity for pitch-shifting effects, to make certain characters' voices sound lower or higher than I can do naturally. I apply different levels of processing to each character's voice to create distinct tones.
After all the voice work has been run through Audacity, I then import all the files into a multi-track audio program called Sonar. I use Sonar to add another layer of effects to the voices. For example, I add a slight distortion effect to Cobra and Warren's voices to mimic the sound of their helmet speaker projecting their speech. Later, I will also use Sonar for all panning and spacial effects, such as echos and reverbs. However, that step does not come until after filming has taken place.
Here are some samples of my voice work before and after the audio processing.
1st up: Warren. Warren's voice is basically my natural speaking voice. Here's an un-edited clip:
Now here's that same clip after I've added a distortion effect to simulate his helmet speaker:
Next, let's listen to a clip of Cobra's dialogue before any processing:
In addition to some distortion, I also raise the pitch of my voice for Cobra's lines:
Finally, let's check out one of the new characters introduced in Season 2. The Commander:
For the Commander's voice, I lowered the pitch, added some distortion, as well as a slight flanger effect for a sound not unlike Darth Vader.
After adding the effects to each character's voice, I edit all the dialog together into a single audio file. This allows me to listen to the dialogue from the entire season in one continuous piece of audio. I then cut scenes and move them around until I'm happy with the flow and continuity of the entire season.
That's all for today! Come back next week for a look at the next phase of production: storyboarding.