The Making of Friendship and War - A World of Warcraft Machinima 2007

Pre-Production

This phase involved planning the short film so that at the end of I would have a clear idea of what it would look like and what it would take to make it.

The Story

Friendship and War started with the selection of the story, I had some more action based stories that I was considering but after reading some of the great Warcraft stories about "Equinox: Defender of the Horde" I was inspired to do something with a little more human interest. I then I caught a rendition of the old poem and song 'Two Little Boys' by Edward Madden and Theodore F. Morse. I thought it would make a great story for Warcraft characters so I reworked the poem into a Warcraft setting and this formed the basis of the story.


Friendship and WarBased upon "Two Little Boys" by Edward Madden (1903)
The story opens on Mulgores peaceful grassy summer plains where two unusual friends a young Tauren and a young Dwarf stand holding onto a their wooden horses."Two little boys""Had two little toys,""Each had a wooden horse;"
The Dwarf runs ahead of his Tauren friend over the bridge to thunder bluff."In Friendship they played""Each summer's day - ""Alliance and horde of course."...

Technology

I had to make sure that I could get the technology together to produce the short film, these tests gave me confidence that I could achieve my vision with reasonable confidence and also let me identify all of the tools I would need in the production.

This step involved creating and animating 3D objects, recording animated World of Warcraft models, chroma-keying (green screening) captured Warcraft models and placing them onto new backgrounds, creating a soundtrack and assembling the camera shots into an animation.

Format

Next I had to decide on the format of the animation, this is important as it will effect the way you set up your story and even how you screenplay it. I decided on shooting in widescreen 16:9 format preferring the cinematic view even though (at the time) many distribution points such as YouTube were storing and delivering their video in 4:3 format.

Today ultra wide-screen formats and 4K or 8K resolutions would be the concern, as these would undoubtedly effect the required model and texture quality.

Storyboard

Once the screenplay was complete I used the tools I had collected to generate some rough storyboard images this gave me an idea of what the animation would actually look like, while doing this I worked back and forth between the storyboard and the screenplay changing some shots, adding and deleting others until I was happy with the look.

When the storyboard was complete I cut the images together and overlaid the rough sound track to give an impression of how the story would run.

Some people decide not to use storyboards as they can be quite time consuming and of less benefit to them, I like to use them when possible as it is better to spot problems and experiment here rather than during production.

Production

This phase involved creating all of the individual camera shots that could be assembled into the final film. Each shot was taken and completed one at a time and in order. A time limit was placed onto the development of each shot as I find it very easy to get sucked into to tinkering with a shot for a long time to improve it and ending up placing a personal project in danger of failing.

On Location

This stage involved riding around Kalimdor on a Kodo looking for movie locations!

Kalimdor is one of the in-game landscapes and as I progressed through each shot I moved into and out of Kalimdor to take screenshots of appropriate backgrounds.

Warcraft allows the player to remove all interface components and to remove the names from above the characters. This cleans up the display so that it can be neatly captured. Once captured the screen shot is manipulated in an image processing package (in my case 'The GIMP') to resize it into an appropriate format and to select areas of the picture to be blurred for the depth of field effect in the background.

Adding in the Actors

The Actors were recorded using the program WOW-Model-Viewer. This allows models from Warcraft data files to be displayed and controlled against a solid colour background. These animations were then recorded using a screen video capture program, in my case I used Fraps instead of the popular alternative GameCam.

These raw video files were then ready to have their backgrounds removed and to be layered on top of the captured background in a later stage.

Adding in the Props

Normal Warcraft props like swords and shields held by the characters could be attached to the characters in the WOW-Model-Viewer and recorded along with the characters.

But new props and props that did 'unusual' things would need to be created in a 3D package, my package of choice for this was Realsoft 3D.

The wooden horses in particular were created and animated in 3D, a background video clip of the characters was displayed in the 3D package and the objects animated alongside them.

Special Actors

Some of the shots required the actors to do things that a character in Warcraft simply could not do. For these special shots complete Warcraft actors were created and animated in 3D. This was a very time consuming process although once created animating the characters was straightforward and in the end it adds real individualism to the animation

Compositing the Shot

All of the shots were composited in the Blender 2.43 Video Editor

The chromakey plugin was used to remove the green-screen backgrounds from the character recordings and then each element was layered on top of one another to build up the complete picture and then finally a glow effect was added to give the image a painted appearance.

Today I would have used the blender compositor for the work.

Creating the Soundtrack

The sound track was based on a midi track of the original song, this track was then imported into the music package FruityLoops. The music was modified and rescaled, before old tracks we removed and new ones added with appropriate public domain flute and string samples applied to them.

There are many open source DAWs available these days that can do the job one of which is LMMS.

Recording the Vocals

My own singing was recorded (with little confidence I must add) but it did give the soundtrack a quirky charm.

A simple sample recording package (bundled with you Soundblaster 32 audio card) was used to record and trim the audio, then this sample was assigned to a channel in Fruityloops for the final audio recording.

Post Production

This phase involved assembling and editing the completed animation and adding in the sound track.

Assembling the Final Cut

Blender again was used to assemble all of the video clips into a single video stream at this point the sound track was also added into the animation. The lengths of the shots were tweaked to align each of the shots to natural breaks and beats in the music.

Adding Sound Effects

The sound track did not cover the entire production and something was needed to cover the introduction and and credits sequence, sound clips of background sounds within the Warcraft game were sourced and added into the assembly of the final cut.

Rendering the Master

Virtual Dub was used to assemble the final master video track and soundtrack into a single file. This was then recorded into a series of 16:9 masters at various quality settings, it was also rendered out in a series of 4:3 masters with black borders top and bottom (this format was recorded for distribution on video clip sites of the time most of which re-compressed into this format).

... oh and as for the story, it all turned out well in the end.