Article – Shooting Videos in United (Part 2)

The past two weeks we’ve learned about making movies. This week this series of articles is concluded with some final words about how it’s done. You are adviced to first read some theory of movie making as well as the first actual part of the guide on how to make videos in United. 😀

Written by Alcator.

Corrections and additions to last week’s article

There is one thing I omitted in the first part of the article that those who don’t have any other movie edting software available will need to think about. Here it is:

The in-game replay editor is limited in terms of total length of the video; the editor selects one of the loaded replays as the “main replay”, and its length determines the total length of the composed replay clip/video. In other words, if the replays you’ll load into the editor are 1 minute 30 seconds long, you’ll only be able to do a 1 minute 30 seconds long video. Even if some of the replays are longer (much longer), it is possible that the game will select the shortest replay and you’ll still be limited by its short length.

A way to prolong the video – and it’s the reason why I should have told you this the last week – is this: The current finish gate of the track will be silently turned into a “fake finish gate” by placing enough “empty room” after it and then some hidden checkpoint and finish gate; when recording the replays, you’ll rush towards the fake finish gate as if it was the real one, and after passing through it, you “hide” somewhere (behind a hill, building or decorative tile for instance), wait for the needed amount of time, and then quickly go through the last CP and finish gate. Those cars that you want to show in the later phases of the video will similarly have to either wait on start for extended amounts of time, or perhaps hide somewhere near start, then start racing at the needed moment, pass through the fake finish gate, eventually wait extra time behind it, and then go to finish.

This way, you’ll have let’s say 5 minutes long replays on a seemingly 1 minute 30 seconds long track (the average racing time from start to the fake finish gate), with some of them starting immediately (you’ll cut between these early birds in the first 90 seconds of the replay), some of them starting after let’s say 90 seconds (you’ll show these afterwards), and some starting after 3 minutes of waiting (these will conclude the video).

As mentioned in the first article, this may require plenty of planning, precise scripts and lot of patience, because you’ll undoubtedly fail during some recording attempts, and as you might have guessed – there’s only 1 thing more annoying then having to press forward for 3 minutes to see if your PF track works – and that is to wait for 3 minutes on the start and then try to make your track work 🙂

So now, let’s continue where last weeks guide took off…

I got the replays, now WHAT?

OK, let’s say you have the replays: you have 1 main replay of the escaping car that passes the “proper” path, and 7 hunter replays that you intend to switch between to create the chase illusion.
Time has come to fire up the Replay editor. Go to Editor -> Replay, click on all the replays you want included in the movie (in United, their lines will turn green when you select them, in Nations, a green dot appears next to them instead) and click OK. A menu with all the possible actions appears. Choose Edit.

When the editor appears, it looks very much like the Outro or Intro editor; it looks like the Outro editor, because the cars’ movements are already recorded and you can watch them and target individual moving cars, but it is like the Intro editor, because there’s only one total Clip. You can’t edit triggering cubes or anything like that. Also, there are some new Tracks in the track list. These three types of tracks are new to some of you:

  • Time: This is the time track; it can be used to slow down or speed up the passage of time to create slow motion or fast motion moments.
  • Events: This unmodifiable track expresses the limits of recorded/displayable stuff. Once the replay reaches the end of Events bar, the replay is over. The game chooses one of the replays as the main replay and its length determines the length of the Events bar.
  • Replay (XXX): These tracks represent individual replays. You can’t edit them, but you can remove them if you don’t want some particular replay in the big replay after all.

One word of caution: Save your work and save it often! There’s no UNDO in this replay editor, and it is easily possible to screw your work to a point from which it’s almost impossible to recover – such as deleting some replay by mistake, shifting the time etc. Since usually, the replays are quite long, the track list’s keys may be very close and fine manipulation with them may be very difficult, if not impossible.

Now that you have the replays loaded in the Replay editor, it is time to start adding camera shots, color effects, fades, sounds etc. If you’re editing a composed replay of a track that had an Outro, there will already be some camera tracks and other things here; sometimes it’s easiest to just remove them all and start from scratch. If you do have some movie editing software, you may of course use that one instead to create cuts, but if not, you’ll have to make the camera cuts in the editor. The most useful tool to achieve that is the ability of multi-block tracks, so I’ll take this chance to explain how to do that (= how to do that in standard Replay clip with no camera tracks so far):

  • Insert a simple camera track (such as Camera-Custom). This track goes from time T1 to time T2, by default T2 = T1 + 3 seconds, but you can edit that.
  • When this camera track is set exactly as you want it, set the time on the bottom-right time display to “T2”+0.01 second (i.e., right after the end of this camera track); or drag the red time-line marker slightly to the right from the already existing block.
  • Make sure the track is selected; this can be ensured by clicking in between some keys of the existing block (but not on a key!).
  • Click on “Add block” button (not Add track!).
  • Select any of the sibling track types (for camera-custom, siblings are camera-custom, camera-path and camera-race). It appears to the right of the first block.
  • GRAB this newly added block and drag it to the left as much as possible (it will stop moving when its start KEY is at the same position as the end KEY of the previous block). Or, if you don’t like dragging, edit the start and end times so that the start time of this block is the same as the end time of the first block.
  • Set the new block exactly as you want it; it’s not part of the previous block, so there’s an immediate camera cut when the first block ends and the second starts, and the interpolation method and position coordinates of it have no influence on the behavior of the other block.
  • Eventually add a fade-spike right to the point of the cut to enhance the cut, especially if the difference between the two views is not large, because otherwise it looks more like a camera-jerk than a cut. A fade-spike is a “Transition fade” block that is about 0.6 to 0.8 second long, is white or of some similar bright color (aqua, yellow…), has the start and end key with 0 opacity (no fade at all) and in the middle – which is where the cut takes place – has about 75% opacity. Due to the imperfectness of human eyes, people won’t realize the image changed until the sudden brightness fades a bit.

Most of the editting is about cameras – you want to display the action from different angles, with perfectly synchronized cuts. Be very careful when using texts – texts should only be used at the beginning and at the end of the movie as title/credits – adding some explanatory texts along the way turns a movie into an advertisement, which, although not completely bad, kills the thrill.

Once again – SAVE YOUR WORK OFTEN (and under different names).

OK, let’s say you have a cool replay with multitude of wild camera cuts that shows the complete chase from start to finish.

If you have a movie editing software, you’ll probably want to enhance the replay with music and perhaps some cuts (like split-screen view etc.) in it, otherwise you’ll just export the replay into a movie clip and you’re done. In both cases, exporting the replay into a movie is needed.

Shot in the head

Even if you intend on making a high-resolution full-blown graphics version, I advise to first make a lower quality video – it’s much faster and you’ll be able to review how it looks before you take that 7 day vacation so that you may watch your old PC rendering 1 frame in 4 seconds.

Once again, enter the “Editor – Replay” area of the game and this time, choose the final replay (Saved under “MyBigReplay version 53” 🙂 ). When you click OK, in the menu, choose “Shoot video” (it may be a good idea to switch to a windowed-mode by hitting Alt+Enter).

The “Shoot video” option asks you for the quality settings of the movie. If this is the low-res version, choose 512×384 or 640×480 – that’s good enough to be able to detect any serious bugs, and it’s also “small enough” for virtually any PC to be able to play it (while movies that are 1024×768 are very demanding). DON’T tick the sound option – it does not refer to the in-game sounds or music! I can’t comprehend why Nadeo does not allow in-game sounds and music to be recorded, but they don’t. Also, the low-res version should not be created with HQ ticked – this HQ option refers to additional Antialiasing (smoothing of edges).

When everything is set, click OK. You’ll need to be in a windowed mode in order for the video to be produced. You’ll then be asked to choose which CODEC (coder/decoder program) to use to compress the movie. Your best option is the DivX or XviD format, if you have them in your PC. Microsoft formats may be an option if you intend to edit the video some more.

When the movie is saved, you’ll get a VideoXY.xxx file in the TrackMania’s main folder. View it and note any eventual errors that appear (although the video SHOULD be identical to what it looked like in the game, the compression may cause some places to look distorted and some changes may be needed).

After fixing any errors, you can proceed to creating the high-def version. You should boost the graphics settings in the Configuration – Advanced options; if your graphics card is capable of PC3 shaders and things like Water geometry, Dynamic colors etc., go for it – it helps a lot. I’m not entirely sure if „Motion Blur“ is a good thing to use, as it kills details of the scenery.

If you do have movie editing software for „post-production“, you might make several multi-car replay videos and then cut between them; this would even allow you to accomplish seemingly impossible things like realistic sunset: You start with Day and slowly darken the image either with Transition fade going from 0% opacity to 50% opacity, or with FX Colors with slowly decreasing brightness. Then, you make a Sunset version of the track and record replays on it, so that you have the lights switched on (a carefully planned cut may be required here though – such as after entering a tunnel?).

Two weeks ago, I explained some theoretical aspects of movie making, such as how to cut and how to zoom. These come in handy when you are cutting the video. Make sure the audience has good idea of the whole situation, knows the good guys and the bad guys, or at least can pick one of the competitors as their favourite in case this is a race video. Make sure during cutting that people know the general direction of the race and that the cars don’t appear to be driving in opposite directions suddenly.

If you want to see the video of the coastal track that I showed the plans for last week, here it is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R–OKrhkc5k. If you want to play on it, here’s the track: http://united.tm-exchange.com/main.aspx?action=trackshow&id=272705#auto.

And with that, I’m concluding this guide. Thank you for your patience and feel free to provide feedback in the discussion below 🙂

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8 Responses to Article – Shooting Videos in United (Part 2)

  1. MikoZ says:

    nice tutorial alcator 🙂

  2. Dutchman says:

    Great work again!
    One small fault: TM DOES allow recording the ingame souns – but it is easy:
    You have to open the wav-channel of your sound card for recording and adjust the volume level carefully – another good reason why you should shoot lowres for the first attempts 🙂

    But there are some other problems when using ingame sound: For my video “the recruitment” i had a replay with 80 cars. Most of them idling (standing and watching the race) while only 10-15 cars actually race. The idling sounds of these cars overwhelmed the enging sounds of the racing cars ….

    A word on Motion blur: It is a good effect to enhance the impression speed and transfer it to the viewer. Use it wisely to prevent the whole image from getting blurry:
    – Use a cam that is not (or slowly) moving & turning to keep the background sharp while the cars are just blurry shades wooshing across the image.
    – use an anchored cam targeting a car. with the cam not (or slowly moving) in relation to the car, the foreground (the car) will be sharp and the background will be blurred just as if you’re sitting in a fast drving car and look out through a window.

  3. Dutchman says:

    oops – one more 😉

    If you use a video editing software, it is a good idea to make a replay for every single shot, shoot the them and create a bunch of video files. You can easily adjust camera of effects for a single scene or use motion blur in one scene but not in all the others.

  4. MikoZ says:

    ehm just thinking what type of packing i should use?

  5. Alcator says:

    MikoZ: Packing? You mean the codec? XviD / DivX is your best option, but sometimes the game doesn’t offer it (I remember I had to install some specific version of the codec downloaded from divx.com or something). NEVER use “uncompressed”. Microsoft AVI’s tend to be very large.

  6. MikoZ says:

    yeah meaned packing…
    so if i dont use divx or VxiD
    what i should use?

  7. Alcator says:

    It depends on where you want to upload the video or what you plan on doing with it. If you want to put it on YouTube, you need MPG or DivX.

    I really recommend going to divx.com and downloading the codec from there.

  8. […] the camera leaves the point (it will be a multi-block track of the clip). Read the article “Shoting Videos In United Part 2” about shooting videos if you don’t know how to make multi-block camera tracks in clips, […]

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