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Cutscene Creation Tutorial


You requested it, so here it is!

NOTE: I'll be writing this as I get time (and mental ability to think through more of the steps!)

In this tutorial, I'll be going over the basics of creating a cutscene for FSO. I must clarify that I will not be talking about in-mission cutscenes in this tutorial. I will seek to give you the tools and knowledge to take your video and turn it into a file that FSO can play. This took a good amount of research and I'm happy to pass it on.

Here's what we'll cover.

* FSO, Video, and You
* Tools
* The Meat of the Cutscene
* Creation of .AVI
* Creation of .OGG
FSO, Video, and You

Time for some background information! First thing you need to know is that FSO is awfully picky when it comes to video playback. Large video files often cause lag. FSO can only play a very limited set of video file types. Retail FS2 played cutscenes in  :v:'s MVE format. This format is totally and completely useless to us these days for many reasons, but most it's code was removed from the FS2 source code initially. This means you can consider it a closed format. FSO has used a couple different replacement types over the years and today it has settled on OGG. OGG is also known as Theora. It is an open source video format competitor to the popular H264 codec which is known for its use in Blu-ray. OGG is a pretty great format that is becoming increasingly popular on the web for it's high quality look and relatively low file size as well as it's open source licensing.


There are several tools you will need to create anims. This will be a simple list.

* A 3D App. You'll need this if you want to create anything using FS models. It's also handy from a graphics standpoint. (Think Logos) I would recommend Blender as it is useful for both modelling and animation.
* A Post-processing App. I recommend After Effects, but it's expensive. This isn't required, but it is incredibly useful. Try CineFX.
* A simple Video Editor. I use Sony Vegas for this. Doesn't really matter and there are tons out there. Google Search!
* Ffmpeg2theora. This is a simple converter to convert .AVI videos to .OGG. This is included in the download link below.
Mixael's ANI Creation Kit (Takes you to a new thread. Open in a new window.)

When you install this kit, I recommend keeping a folder somewhere near your FS Install that keeps all your FS related tools. I keep mine in E:\DMTOOLS. Set up of these tools is pretty straightforward. READ THE README. I will not offer support to someone who has not followed the setup instructions in the ReadMe!

Watch this tutorial on the toolkit to see how it all works.

Video Tutorial using MixaelANITools Part 1
Video Tutorial using MixaelANITools Part 2

The Meat of the Cutscene

I'm not going to put much here because you can do literally anything you want. It's basically video production at this point. Animate some ships flying around, creation a techy looking motion interface.. whatever. This is where the bulk of your work will be in the 3D App and/or Post-processing App. Things to keep in mind... your frame size. Your final frame size must be divisible by 16! I recommend sticking with 1920x1088 or a a mathematical equivalent (1280x720 or 848x480 for lower resolutions). That's what I use because it is pretty standard. Your Frames-Per-Second (FPS) is another thing to consider. I stick to 30 FPS (29.976 for you film experts) because it's also a standard for high definition video.

When you are ready for the final render of your scene from project to video, I highly recommend that you render an image sequence! I usually render a PNG or JPG sequence as my final scene render. I'll then use that to create my .AVI file. The reason for this is that image sequences won't really ever become corrupt files, you can stop and restart the render wherever you need to, and it guarantees frame by frame quality.

Creation of .AVI

This part is probably the most important step of the whole process. However, I really cant be very specific about most of the options here. So I'll explain what needs to happen and why it is important.

This step is where most of your compression is going to occur. This may surprise you, but in all my experience getting cutscenes into FSO, this has been the easiest option by far. It eliminates problems in the next step and it can be more accurately controlled. When we are talking compression, we are basically talking quality to file-size ratio. Uncompressed AVI has a horrid ratio. The file-size can be incredibly huge! I've rendered uncompressed AVIs upwards of 30 GB. The are also prone to file corruption. That's why I recommended an image sequence in the previous step. File-size is also a problem for ffmpeg2theora and FSO. Neither of them can really handle videos that are 1GB or larger.

What you want to do is render an AVI out of your image sequence (or sequences) using a basic/standard HD capable codec. Some good options are DivX or Xvid. If you need to get those codecs, try the K-Lite Codec Pack. Most codec options can look pretty confusing and you really shouldn't need to worry about most of them. The defaults should work pretty good. Make sure that you are rendering a frame divisible by 16 and using your source FPS because image sequences won't tell your video editor what FPS to use.

Since the issues in this step can vary so greatly, I won't address them all here. Simply ask and I'll help how I can.

Creation of .OGG

This is the final step and probably the easiest as I built a script to do most of the work for you. In MixaelANITools/Extras there is a script called MakeOGG.cmd, grab that and place it in a new folder called 'Cutscenes' or whatever you wish. Copy your new AVI file into 'Cutscenes/AVI' and run the script. Answer the questions and the rest is easy peesy!

Drop the OGG file into data/movies and it should work. If you want to test it, the easiest way is to rename it to intro.ogg and start FSO. It should play in place of the regular Freespace Intro!


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