WoW: Basic Primer to WoW Machinima

Updated Fri, Jul 03, 2009 by Xerin

World of Warcraft has grown over the years and has become one of the biggest sources of Machinima on the virtual Internet. Wait a second, what's that big word "Machinima" you ask? Well, Machinima is a misspelled combination of Machine and Cinema. It's basically the art of taking real time rendering engines (like video games) and creating an animation with them. It's both a simplistic and advanced form of media making. It throws away a lot of the technical aspects of creating 3D virtual animation and replaces it by recording from something that's both real time and prerendered. Anytime you record something from World of Warcraft you are technically creating Machinima. There are even contests sponsored by Blizzard for Machinima artists. 

Machinima doesn't just have to be dramas and comedies either. While technically not accepted as art, raid recordings can fall in the the category of Machinima. They're not art, but they are incredibly useful, especially for showing off or for analyzing your guild's movements. There is a lot that can be done with recordings from inside of the game. Let's find out how. 

About Machinima

Machinima is often made using a rendering engine (World of Warcraft in our instance), some screencasting software, and some editing software. The first we already have or should have. You're probably also going to need some friends to help out as well, but those aren't included in this guide. You are going to need some friends if you're recording a raid, unless of course, you're a bad enough person to take on Kel'Thuzad by yourself. For screencasting (recording things on your monitor) you could just take a camcorder and point it at your monitor but that's not going to work really well. You are probably going to want to invest into Fraps which costs $39 dollars and comes with a free trial version. If you're on a budget you can look into Taksi which is an opensource alternative. Even better is if you are a Mac user. The Mac version of WoW comes with a built in video recording with more options than you can imagine. 

For editing software it's going to depend really on what you need to get done. If you just want to play around or just record your raid, then you'll want Windows Movie Maker (free with many versions of Windows) or VirtualDub (open source). If you've got the money then there is Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere, both very expensive programs. The software is needed because you'll want to add titles, transitions, and effects, and you will also want to cut down on the massive filesizes that programs like Fraps creates. For most of us out there who just want to record our raids, instances, or create short clips for friends then there isn't a lot of reason to go all out just yet. 

The following is a very basic primer to Machinima. There is A LOT to it, more so than this one guide goes into it, but I hope this guide points you in the right direction towards filming your WoW movie dreams.

Video Recording 

Recording the video is pretty easy. It's generally as easy as pressing one or two keys and the rest of it is all in game. Using a program like Fraps makes it even easier. Setup where you want the video saved, the hotkey, and choose half-size if you have a high resolution monitor and then get at recording it. Of course there are two ways to go about it once you're in game. 

Raiding Videos 

Recording your raiding runs is rather easy, but can be difficult if you're wanting to showcase them to the world in a professional manner. The problem with raiding is that there are a finite amount of spots in a raid and each spot counts. To make the best videos you're going to want a cameraman - someone who is dedicated at recording the video and showing off the various parts of the encounter. Their point of view is important because what they see on their screen is what the viewers will see. If you're just wanting to view your raid internally, it's not very important, if it’s going to be for external viewing, it is. 

The first big obstacle is the interface. The interface can get in the way, but at the same time it's needed by the player in order to actually play. So the best solution is to either have a cameraman be either a carry (in 25-mans this is easier) and do nothing but record or use the Mac client that can record with the interface off even if the interface is on. You can leave the interface in, but see about using Bartender and other U.I. mods to trim away the main viewing area. 

The second big obstacle is movement. Too much movement will ruin the video and make things confusing. But the player will need to play and get in important parts like movement paths and where to stand and where to go. It may take some trial and error, but you don't have to be super good at the arts to figure out how to make it pleasurable. 

Traditional Videos 

Making a video like the Illegal Danish or one of the many other awesome videos is a lot of work and requires a lot of software, patience, and knowhow. Animating walking around isn't difficult, but getting characters to sync, getting all of the shots, and moving things around is difficult. There are a few tips that I can provide for you to get you started. 

The first is that you'll want to research, research, research. Read the various resources out there (listed at the bottom) and read guides on editing, exporting, and recording movies in game. Techinque is also another big part of it and a lot of things that apply to films in real life apply to the game. 

You are going to want a cameraman -. someone who is dedicated to filming everything and who can get the best point of view for each shot. You'll want to record more video than you'll use and trim out what you don't need. If two characters are talking, then you'll want to get different shots of them. A popular techinque is the "Jump Cut" where there will be two shots at about the same angle, but cut and each one is slightly different apart. It's very popular in a lot of the YouTube VLogs out there. 

You'll want to have /talk macros for hand movements. /talk will play the talking animation without saying anything, but be careful of spam. 

Editing and Uploading 

There is a lot of software out there for editing videos. You should avoid looking at most commercial software out there when you're first starting out until you get a hang of things. Most modern Windows computers come with Windows Movie Maker which is very simplistic and doesn't have many features but can provide you the basic tools you need to get started without a lot of complexity. 


Don't be afraid to trim away any extra video, even from raids. The end video should be clean with no clutter and look professional. Even if it's a video of your guilds raid it should still look good. 

There are a lot of places to host videos with YouTube being the leader. When you export your video make sure it's a proper YouTube resolution (640x480 or higher) and be sure to look over it before you upload. 

Well I hope this guide has jumpstarted your efforts in creating videos from inside of game. Now the next time a Machinima contest pops up don't think you can't do it! Give it a try. 

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