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How to Make a Machinima Movie

written by: Kumara Velu•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 4/28/2010

Making a machinima movie is a good way of honing your moviemaking skills, especially in the storytelling department before you move on to bigger projects. Here are tips and tricks that simplify the process of making a machinima movie and the software you'll need to make a machinima.

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    What is a Machinima Movie?

    Have you heard of a machinima movie, but don’t exactly know what it is? Machinima means machine cinema, which is essentially a movie made out of clips from a game.

    By using the actions and backgrounds of a game, someone with a passion for creative storytelling can manipulate them and create a unique movie.

    Let’s look at the tools you would need to get started with your machinima movie.

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    Story Idea

    Instead of having a story idea first and then looking for a game which suits your story, you should let a game suggest an alternative story based on its situations and theme. If a particular game inspires a story, write it down, complete with the dialogues or any voiceover you would want to include in the machinima movie. This would make it easier for you to record them later. You may even want to do a simple storyboard.

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    Machinima Software

    Once you’ve worked out a story to match your game and decided which portions of the visuals you would be using, your next step would be capturing the visuals.

    You may have already heard of the versatility of Camtasia Studio, but it will not do for capturing games. If you’re looking forward to a smooth and problem-free capture, you should try using Fraps, Game Cam or PlayClaw.

    Game Cam, available for download at, offers a free version but there will be a watermark on the output video. To remove it you'll need to register the program for $29.95.

    Fraps is available from and works with Windows 2000, XP, 2003, Vista and Windows 7. It can capture video up to a resolution of 2560 x 1600 and 120 frames per second. It’s offered for $37.

    PlayClaw ( is another program also for the Windows platform offered at $29.95.

    Make sure you have enough hard disk space when using these machinima programs. You may want to defrag your hard disk before starting capture to ensure everything proceeds without a hitch.

    You should also refrain from running other applications in the background while running these machinima software programs as they are resource-intensive. You don’t want the program crashing in the middle of a capture.

    If you’re feeling a little worried about your ability to learn any of the programs, head to YouTube where you’ll find training videos to help you out.

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    Voiceovers and Sound Effects

    Use a good USB microphone for quality voice recording. Be warned though the cost is more than your usual microphone.

    Royalty-free sound effects to spice your machinima movie can be purchased over the Internet or downloaded for free.

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    Video Editing

    If you don’t already own a video editing program, not to worry. If you’re starting out, you can use Windows Movie Maker for Windows or iMovie for Mac.

    To speed up the video editing process, you should undertake game video capture with editing in mind. However, you don’t have to plan everything to the last detail. You can always go back and grab more shots if you so require without leaving your computer.

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    Copyright Issues

    If you’re uploading your creation to the Internet and sharing it with the rest of the world, do make sure you aren’t infringing any of the rights of the game developer. Most developers would not mind a little reproduction for the extra publicity generated especially over sites like YouTube. However, if there’s a strongly-worded prohibition against using their content, it would not be worth taking the risk.