How to Make Your Own Simulation Movies

by Guest Writer Frank “BA_Dart” Giger

 

Introduction

We all enjoy the films made from various simulations, as they show them in the same way we see them. Some are historically correct, some are humorous, some are sweeping and moving.

Since I am probably one of the most prolific movie makers (though not the best — “gooder enough” is my motto), I thought I’d share the quick, cheap, and relatively easy way to make a movie based on the IL-2 series of flight simulation.

Tools

One can spend hundreds of dollars in software that will capture, edit, add effects and sound, compile, and produce simulation videos. Some of the very best examples are made with sophisticated techniques and commercial grade software, taking months of work in getting each frame and sound perfect.

We, however, are going to go the cheap route. Really cheap.

Capture Software

This is the tool that takes what you see on the screen and turns it into raw footage. The most widely used is FRAPS, which is available here as a trial version. For $29.95 USD one can buy the full version which doesn’t have the FRAPS web address on it and has some additional options. This is the largest investment, past hosting costs, of the whole movie making toolkit for the casual filmmaker.

Processing Software

This is used to crop frames to remove online text, change color saturation, the codex used for compressing the video, and editing clips. We’re going to use two programs, VirtualDub and Windows Movie Maker (included in Windows XP). Both are free, though if you make a lot of movies, I’d suggest a donation to the makers of Virtual Dub. Mr. Gates has been compensated through the purchase of the operating system, though I’m sure he’d accept your unsolicited cash.

Web Hosting

In order to share movies, one must find an Internet host for them. Finding a host can be problematic, though there are some that will do it for you. In my case, I wound up having to rent a dedicated server owing to the amount of resources and bandwidth movies can take up. And it can be overwhelming. A “common” server got me booted from two very nice hosting companies.

Planning

Taking a few minutes to figure out what you’re going to make your movie about and how you’re going to go about it before you start will save hours and even days. If it’s going to tell a story and be a mini-epic, you might consider doodling a storyboard. A storyboard is a series of sketches that show the sequence of events in the movie. You can indicate notes, lighting, narration and which music you want in your movie.

Today we’re going to put an online event into film, as it’s the easiest film to make. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end already built in. Since it happened online, there isn’t any mission building involved — we’re making a “sports reporting” movie. The prep time is greatly reduced and we can make this puppy in an evening (if we’re willing to stay up late).

The Scenario

A squad mate of mine was haunting my poor Hurricane IIb with his FW-190A5 the other night, and I gave him the devil’s own in trying to shoot me down. It was a 20 minute fight where he slashed and I ducked and we narrowly missed each other quite a bit, including one time where I barrel rolled around him as he zoomed in, literally encircling his aircraft. Another aircraft joined the fray, sticking on my six, and as he whittled away, the 190 swooped a bit too low, hitting the ground and blowing up directly under my aircraft. The shock and debris of the impact took the wing off my plane and I augured in, wondering what the heck happened! Fortunately, I made an online track of the event for replay.

This is funny to me, so we’re going to make a movie about the fight.

A twenty minute fight is a whole lot of “boring-to-anyone” watching. If you’ve seen a Folke-Wulf boom and zoom once, you’ve seen it a thousand times. We’re going to cut the whole thing down to about three minutes of video.

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