July 1, 2012

Source Filmmaker is a Powerful Animation Tool Valve is Releasing for Free

Computer animation has come a long way in the past 20 years -- to the point where hand-drawn animation is almost non-existent. Even most cartoons are digitally drawn and made to look like old fashioned paper drawings (how ironic -- or maybe nostalgic?). Most animation starts from scratch, with new models and textures needed for every animation. But what if you didn't have to start from scratch? What if you were an independent animator, and you could build off a world that has already been created for you? That's the idea behind Valve's Source Filmmaker. The tools they use to make cut-scenes and videos is being released completely free, along with the textures and models from Team Fortress 2. Here's a look at what's being released:

While the beta isn't open, there's a good chance you can get in on the action for free right now by signing up (you'll need to have Steam installed as well as Team Fortress 2). Here's a selection of the tutorials they've created to get you started and give you a taste of what's possible. You can head on over to the Source Filmmaker website from the link below to see the rest of the tutorials.

0. Basics:

1. Recording:

2. Editing:

3. Sound:

9. Lipsync:

11. Lighting:

You aren't just limited to what's available in the game, however, since Valve also openly supports a healthy community of modders and modding tools. Valve does not permit the use of their textures if you're going to potentially sell the videos, but you could theoretically make your own models within one of the modding tools and not use anything they've created. Either way, it's great to see Valve supporting the community and releasing the tools that they worked hard to build so that we can play around with them.

Hopefully at some point Source Filmmaker will be released in full with all of their games completely free. This could truly make for an explosion in indie animation, where modders could begin creating their own animations and videos without having to start from scratch. The tools seem easy enough to use (I haven't tried it myself), but the fact that the options are virtually limitless once you introduce modding could mean that someone with limited or no experience in animation can realize their vision and make terrific movies.

It's not going to replace a traditional education in animation (since these aren't the tools you'll find in real animation studios), but it's going to be interesting to see what kinds of videos people come up with and how far they can push the tool. Valve is making a smart move (even smarter if they release it for free for all of their games). While they can certainly give some Hollywood-like results with their tool, there's no telling where a community of enthusiastic animators could take it.

Link: Source Filmmaker

Your Comment


What a big suprise, alway's loved Valve and made me start making the filmmaker i'm today. Love to see the share this much. Would be a great upportuinity for 3D modeling artist right?

July 1, 2012 at 8:24AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Koert van der Ploeg

Not quite. This is an app that seems to be all based on pre-sets.

Ever play Age of Empires and make your own map?.. Or minecraft? Kind of the same thing. Not even sure if you can customize your rigs with this app, although I didn't read too much into it so correct me if I'm wrong.

July 1, 2012 at 12:12PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


While SFM probably doesn't support the actual creation of assets, you can probably create anything you like in the regular Source SDK and import to SFM.

July 1, 2012 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Based on what some of the tutorials said, it seems that you'd be right. If you have their other programs to create custom maps, then you could integrate them into SF, as well as importing custom characters that you texture in the Maya or 3DS Max.

July 4, 2012 at 2:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Actually people already did short film with cryengine or udk. This is nothing new.


good example of what you can do with the cryengine. Way better looking. But anyway more tool are always welcome.

July 1, 2012 at 12:27PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Could this system potentially work as an alternate to storyboarding/animatic conceptual programs like Frameforge and Storyboard Quick?

July 1, 2012 at 9:08AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Probably not in its current form, but when they make it work with all of their games it will be much more powerful for that purpose.

July 1, 2012 at 9:50AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Joe Marine
Camera Department

That's what I am waiting for — an easy-to-use 3D storyboarding program.

July 6, 2012 at 9:59AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Me too. Dying for an easy 3D storyboard program.

July 7, 2012 at 5:33PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Really looking forward to getting my hands on this.

July 1, 2012 at 9:24AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


As usual, Valve makes other companies look like crap by making something awesome and then giving it away. Now if only they'd do that with Half Life 3.

July 1, 2012 at 9:46AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I think you should give open source a chance in NFS. I'm a Linux user but not an extremist fan boy. Please check out Blender 3d and the amazing Mango project.

July 1, 2012 at 9:46AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I think it's fair to say that this is not really aimed at the same market as Blender, and other "serious" tools. But I'm a devoted Blender user by the way, so I certainly agree with wanting to spread the Blender love!

July 1, 2012 at 5:53PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm on the process of learning Blender, mainly as a compositing tool and I have to say that following the mango project has been a great experience so far, both to learn Blender and also to see details on how the shooting workflow goes. I think that it would be great if NFS would mention them on one of their articles as they did with other projects before.

Blender is awesome.

July 2, 2012 at 7:12PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


There are so many 3d animation programs out there. What's easy to learn (if that's even possible) and use that is widely adopted by a great number of professionals?

July 1, 2012 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Some of the software that is used commonly in the industry today is Autodesk Mudbox (modeling), Pixologic Z-brush (modeling), Autodesk Maya / Max (everything else including modelling). There's also in-house software that is used by other shops like PIXAR which uses various outfits such as Marrionette for animation, Renderman for rendering, but it's all basically the same stuff industry wide as far as workflow and technique.

If you want to learn REAL animation and you're just starting out frsh, a fantastic free resource is called Blender. You can do everything from modelling to final frame output... and it's completely free.

Autodesk also offers free "student" versions of most of their software on their website, which give you all the same features that the "non-student" version has. So you could check that out as well.

Check out Lynda tutorials, YouTube, blogs, and forums for tutorials and tips.

July 1, 2012 at 12:17PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


This tool could be great for creating previsualizatons (animated storyboards). Does anybody know if you could create your own places too or you can only use locations that was created for the game?

July 1, 2012 at 10:50AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Yes you can create your own locations, characters and everything, just not in the beta. Its like any video game modding tool, you can import your own anything really and just use the guts of the source engine for all the lighting and so forth, the main advantage I see with this system is the availability of outsourcing stuff to the modding communities (which are HUGE and seem to have limitless time to do projects they care about). Because there are no render farms needed for this your options are multiplied by 1000, even more if you train and hire teams of artists overseas.

I am already thinking of a children's series I could produce with this, hire the maps/sets put together by a great modder, the character models as well, and then just use my new puppets to create a whole interesting set of shorts. Imagine how cool it would be to be able to reshoot the same "performance" in as many ways as you need or want. Looking at the thousands of dollars of equipment that keep coming out and leaving my films in the dust, this is a really appealing prospect! Now to learn how to make the models!

July 1, 2012 at 1:24PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Maghoxfr, I agree, Blender 3D is a powerfull tool, complete for:
2.animation (from simple pre-viz to high-res pro animation)
3.visual FX
and not in the traditional way, it can do via it´s nodes with amaizng quality:
1.chroma keying
2.color correction
plus you can do editing of your animation scenes in its internal editor.

also it has a solid game engine for prototyping and in future for publising (there is a android blender player in development).

and even better, it´s open source and runs on GNU/linux, osX and Windows. :)

mango project is a short movie shot with F65 in 4K and made to show blender post-production capabilities:
(all post done inside blender, rotoscopy, masks, camera tracking and compositing)

YO FRANKIE! is a game developed to show blender game engine tools:

also check this reel from a brazilian guy who uses blender for post-production for advertising agencies (he works with colaborators from over the web and has his small renderfarm in his office):

Also there is an amazing comunity around it to learn from plus lots of cool books and video tutorials too.

I consider blender today a mini-Houdini.

July 1, 2012 at 12:32PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

guto novo

Everything about this is amazing, but the actual UI is pretty bad. As you might have been able to see, it can be quite hard to move a light or object around because you don't have specific axis to look from.

Besides that, I have played with it (the version that they didn't mean to release a few years ago) and I made a few videos in it.

The way you handle the lip movement is really good, and yes, you can actually use this for story boarding. It is SOURCE filmmaker and that means that every single Valve product running the Source engine will be able to be imported (if not yet, they will make sure) so that means you can make your own map in the Hammer Editor (another tool to learn how to use) and then import it, find some other Source ragdolls, then there you go.

July 1, 2012 at 3:18PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I would enjoy using this to pre-visualize possible camera moves. As an indie "physical world" filmmaker there are a lot of advantages in seeing the effect of a camera move and then to weigh it's value in terms of time and expense on the set.

If I may indulge myself here with a little speculation: within 5 years it will be possible to plan all of your camera moves in a program like this and download the data to a motion controlled quad-copter. The next upgrade after that would allow the group of quad-copters to be choreographed by the program. An advancement in Photoshop's motion editor would allow for easy content aware fill to remove cameras/crew from a multi cam shot.
Something like this would be really interesting for action and battle scenes. Also putting those within the reach of indie filmmakers like myself.

In fact you could still do a scene like it presently with manually controlled quad copters and manual removal of unwanted objects. (Although precise control of the copters will no doubt advance). This is a great new app. I'm sure it and similar programs will open up a host of new options. Thanks for finding and sharing it.

July 2, 2012 at 2:41PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


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Eitherr way, great website and Ilook forward to seeing it improve
over time.

April 25, 2014 at 7:24PM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM