ASCII by Jason Scott

Jason Scott's Weblog

Halo Renderings —

I suspect I should really go back and do a “Halo” tag for these entries, there’s just too many of them. But I hope the things I’m talking about have a more general usefulness beyond this specific game.

So Bungie (makers of Halo) have a new beta feature in place. Here’s a lovely video showing it off:

Yes, that’s right, that feature is cold blooded murder. It’s also the ability to take a game, record portions of it, and then render it out to a WMV format, which you can then place anywhere, like on youtube. In the movie above, I’m the guy in the white armor, who couldn’t believe his luck in how a player moseyed up to my platform without even noticing I was there (again, in pure white armor) and began wistfully shooting away. I did the only right thing.

The thing is, there are filmmaking tools here. And they’re not really all that crude, either – you can sweep your camera around, choose to go Point-of-View, head fast and slow, and change the speed of everyone as you go. There’s tons of capacity to render out shots and then edit them later in other software, now that we have the ability to turn them into WMV files and drop into an editor. In the case of my clip above, I went for maximum humor, starting things a number of seconds before the action: why is this guy running? Where is he running from? What is he up to? You watch it and then only at the last possible moment do you realize he’s a victim. Depending on your sense of humor, it’s funny to be side-swiped like that, with an unexpected arrival of a second character.

Along that way, here’s another film of mine I put together:

Wherever you aim your sniper rifle, any other weapons you switch out will precisely mimic the exact point you last aimed with the sniper. So the Rocket, which is normally a pretty crude aiming tool, can utilize the scope-magnification of the sniper rifle and then be switched in for the big hit. In default mode, the movie above’s a little hard to see, but in HQ mode, it’s pretty clear what happens when the rocket hits the guy hiding up in the rafters. Notice, too the sound, which has a stereo, environmental feel to it.

The choices I made with the camera angle, moving back and forth, and so on, are all cinematic, done with my filmmaker’s eye. And as I indicated, there is very little gap between what I want to accomplish and what Halo’s controls have provided for me.

One last one, just because I think the sound is very interesting. I’m the guy in the floating vehicle (called the “Ghost”):

It’s quite amazing how the whole thing sounds – according to press reports of the time, Halo 3 is capable of 100-channel sound, but it’s the recording of the stereo separation that gets me. Machinima has gotten to be a pretentious word, so let’s just say that there’s a little movie studio buried in this first person shooter, and that’s fine with me.

Categorised as: documentary | jason his own self

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  1. Peter says:

    As someone who has never played Halo 3, is all this camera work done after the game is over? It seems to me like it would be hard to play the game while messing around with the camera.

    • Jason Scott says:

      Every game you play is saved in your XBOX as a small (3-5mb) game file. It keeps the last 20 or so games you’ve played. Each game is about 5-15 minutes and there’s in-between time, so 20 slots is easily more than a full day’s gameplay.

      You load the games into a “theater”, where you can replay the entire game from the point of view of any player or from a third-person perspective, and you can switch between them freely. You can halt the progress of the game, move around (everything is frozen, even the debris) and speed up or reverse what you’re looking at to find what you’re looking for. For example, I will go back if I was playing a game and people “disappear”; it usually means they’ve found some relatively obscure place to hide and I learn all of them this way. Or, I’ll throw a grenade into the air and 15-20 seconds later, I get told I got a “kill” – using this theater mode allows me to see exactly where it bounced and who it got.

      So basically, you use this theater like a TiVO, coming back at your own pace and stepping through each game to see what you want. Everything is non-real-time and done after the fact.

  2. Peter says:

    That sounds very cool! Thanks for the detailed explanation.

  3. Bruno says:

    Wow, that’s an embarrassingly small memory footprint! I wonder what datatype they came up with to describe a game…

    • Jason Scott says:

      It does it by only saving the motions of the bodies and the projectiles, and extrapolating from that. I’ve seen this before – I remember a buddy of mine who did a football video game in 3D said he got each frame of movement down to 32 bytes.

  4. l.m.orchard says:

    Splatterspree FTW. Did they seriously let you do that in that last video, and did they really sound like that? Joy!

  5. l.m.orchard says:

    But seriously, that’s one of the things I thought was genius about Halo 3 – “TiVo”-ing your whole game so you can catch those WTF and Holy Shit moments after the fact. And edit the crap out of them from whatever detached POV you like.

    I always wondered why you couldn’t get them in popular video formats short of hooking up a video capture box or something. Nice to see that’s arrived! (I should play more)

  6. Martin says:

    This is better than the video recording in GTA IV (PC version).