Valve's Source Filmmaker (SFM) just turned four, and the meme-fuelled furore has died down now we've all managed to Meet The Heavy. So is there still a reason to attempt a movie masterpiece in the confines of the Source game engine?
The short answer is yes, but with a few important points to bear in mind.
For anyone looking to get started with a story – whether they intend to play it out on the big screen, keep it on the small screen, or even turn it into a game – here is an easy starting point: SFM works by allowing us to use the 3D environments and models from Team Fortress 2 to tell a story. The WYSIWYG approach means you can choose an environment, pick characters, place a camera and start animating. In short, if you can make a Source game mod, you can make a movie in SFM – and if you can build your own assets, you can bring those in too.
It's just as accessible from a technical standpoint; the recommended hardware requirements only call for a GeForce 200-series card or better. Plug in something serious like the ROG Strix GTX 1080 can massively cut render times.
SFM has something the filmmaking field as a whole doesn't have: the gaming community. Unlike the cliques and pretensions of the movie world, SFM users — which include Valve employees — are keen to share tips and ideas. It's a bit like our own ROG forum, but far more tailored to wannabe movie makers.
Valve itself is keen to encourage creators with a range of tutorials and even the annual Saxxy Awards to recognise the best SFM creations, so it looks like an excellent environment to experiment in.
Gaming may already pull in more revenue than movies, but there's still a reason to start with animation before choosing your specialty – money being one of them. In SFM alone there are already cases of users landing their dream job as a production animator, video producer or even 'independent digital artist' – whatever that means. The principles being used in SFM represent the basics of any animation studio, so if you hone your skills there's no reason you can't follow suit.
If you're more interested in a sideline than a career, there's plenty of advice out there on how to make it work. First off, if you can produce your own assets (rather than using Valve's) you're free to use the videos on YouTube or in any other way you choose. You can also try to make money from ads, Patreon and the like.
Secondly, you can move into the modding and accessories market. Shwheelz's How to Make Profit in Team Fortress 2 guide has some excellent tips on that front – although if you fancy escaping the niche, quickly pave a path to indie success by developing some neat ideas and learning to put them into practice. After all, that's how The Stanley Parable came about.
Head over to the ROG forum if you want to chat about making money from SFM.
Image credits: top and middle screen shots from Meet the Doctor and Mann vs Machine, both made with SFM. Bottom: image from the Stanley Parable.
By Michael Edwards