Michael Lessing Presents
Source Filmmaker (SFM)
A Visual How-To
We have now applied an IK rig for our model, meaning animation and generally posing will be made a lot easier. That said, however, animation can still be a difficult and time-consuming process, especially for those that are new to it. Fear not, though. This tutorial will help you through the very basics of animation to get you started.
The process of animation in SFM is largely dependent on how you go about it. You will recall in the posing lesson that I breifly went over two different editors that you can find on the timeline: the motion editor, and the graph editor. These editors, while both capable of animation, both have their own unique animation processes.
It is for this reason that I'm going to split this lesson into two sections, each will explain the process of one of the two editors and how you animate with them. This way you can choose which editor will be the simplest for you when animating.
To start the motion editor, click the middle button on the editor select, on the left just above the timeline.
You may have noticed when posing your model in the motion editor that whenever you move a bone, the green region will then have turned orange. This signifies that the animation changes are in an "unsaved" state. In this state, you can do one of two things: 1. Press enter to apply the changes and have them baked onto the timeline. Or 2. Press Escape (Esc) to cancel the changes in the event that you make a mistake. These two options can only be done while the region is orange.
Now that we know the basics of how the Motion Editor works, time to get into the advanced stuff. Look to the very left or right of the timeline. You'll see small arrows that point in that direction.
These arrows indicate that the region is going continuously in one direction, depending on which side has the arrows. If you hover the mouse over that region, you can grab the edge and drag it wherever we want. This is how we start preparing for motion-editor animation. Now that you know how to edit the size of the region, change it and place it anywhere on your timeline, preferably within the first 5 seconds of the clip.
Now that we have our sized region in place, place your playerhead over that region so that you can see your changes at all times. Now take your TF2 model that you posed in lesson 1 and give it a brand new pose in this zone of time.
With your new pose made, time to make it animate! For my example, I had my character start a wave position, but any pose that you made will work.
Mark the edges of your time selection by right clicking and selecting "mark time selection edges." Now drag your region over one of the marks as shown below
Now drag your mouse over the region, hold shift, and scroll up.
You will now see new parts on the region. These are the transition regions, and will be used to smoothly go from one pose to another. To do this, we need to refer to this window, next to the viewport
All of these sliders have different effects, but all can apply transitions between poses. However, we only need to use the "Round" slider at the bottom. Now that we have the region ready with the transition ramps (as I like to call them), slide the Round slider all the way to the right.
You will now notice that the arm in my example smoothly rolls up into its waving position, without a static teleport. Though you may also see that the arm moves rather slowly.
We can fix this very easily. notice how I didn't make the region green after using the round preset. This is because while the region is orange, we can freely adjust the curve without damaging all of the animation. Just drag any of the edges on the region to change the speed of that chunk of time.
After all that, and after repeating the process with the second marker, this should be your final result:
Now, it does look rough, but no up and coming animator should expect to be of Pixar quality right away. Like anything else, animation takes a lot of time and patience to be really good at it, as well as a lot of personal experimentation; don't be afraid to play around with everything, see what they do, and try to use those in your animations.
That about does it for animation with the motion editor. Scroll down to see the tutorial for the Graph Editor, or click here to move on to rendering
The process of using the graph editor is not as complicated as the motion editor, making it a good starting point for newer animators
First, open the graph editor using the button above the timeline.
After that, select your model in the animation set editor to select all bones, then go to the timeline, go to the first frame of the clip, and hit M
This saves the current pose of the model into the marker. Now that we have the pose saved, move a few seconds forward and hit M again. This is where the motion will start.
Now that you have a starting point, move the playhead anywhere in front of the motion-start marker (Preferably at least one second ahead to see how the motion looks) and give your model a new pose. Doesn't matter what it is.
You may have noticed as you were posing your model that a new marker would be placed every time you moved a bone. This means that the position for the bone is being saved on the point in time. Once you finish posing your model, playback the sequence to see what you get.
And that's it! No extra steps are required for using the graph editor, as it does the pose-to-pose transitions for you. Click here to move on to the last step: rendering.
Source Filmmaker Tutorial: How To Use Source Filmmaker
Filmmaking is one of the biggest creative industries to date. It’s grown dramatically over the past years and earns billions in revenue. There are millions of people who are employed in the industry and millions more who pursue it as a hobby. With this in mind, it’s no surprise that there are tons of filmmaking software out there, and it can get a little daunting deciding where to start. In this article, we’ll be touching on how to use Source Filmmaker, how to install it and some other tips and tricks.
What is Source Filmmaker?
Source Filmmaker allows users to record and edit motion from real-time game-play. In essence, SFM is a movie-making platform built and utilized by Valve Corporation. Mainly used to create short animated films within the Source Game engine.
It’s clear that computer animations have come a long way since the days of post-hand-drawn animation. The majority of animation starts from scratch. If you’re an independent animator looking for a starting point to build from a pre-existing template to expand on your creative vision, SFM is for you.
At its core, Source Filmmaker is a creative piece of software that lets you record, capture and animate in-game footage. This is the same method in which they make their animation movies. Due to the fact that Source Filmmaker utilizes the same elements as a Source engine game, the components in the game can be used in the movie and vice versa. By utilizing the modern gaming PC, SFM allows creators to work within the pre-existing template. Therefore they can create an entire movie by reusing components and events from the video game world within the platform. As a result, it also presents in context, what it feels from the point of view of the audience.
How Much Does Source FilmMaker Cost?
Valve’s Source Filmmaker is completely free! As long as you have a stable internet connection and a good enough computer, you’re all set. Keep in mind your computer will need to have the necessary specifications to run the software. SFM is available for download on Steam – a cloud-based gaming library that allows users to use any computer to play games. It also allows users to store a large collection of games without using too much memory. In order to access SFM, you’ll need a Steam Account and as mentioned before, a good internet connection. Unfortunately, SFM is currently not supported on Mac.
How to Use Source Filmmaker
You can think of Source Filmmaker as a master storyboard for a storyteller, where you can create a complete movie set on location within the video game space of Team Fortress. This platform is the ultimate virtual movie set consisting of light, camera, props and action. Included is an added and convenient feature of SFM is the ability to share or upload your movies to the web just as you would any normal movie file. The application also gives users access to a “work camera” that allows them to preview creation without affecting the scene cameras. Including this, there are three main user interfaces for creating films.
Another cool aspect of Source Filmmaker is the ability to get into the fundamentals of character rigging and keyframing. You will find numerous tools in the program for making automation as easy as possible. Capturing animation allows you to press the record button followed by running through an in-game draft using the WASD controls. Not the easiest process but this is something you can revisit and graduate to that level in time.
There is another tool that can automatically read WAV files and generate lip-sync animations for your character. Therefore you don’t have to reposition a single virtual cheek muscle. This is not the most accurate feature but this is still good enough and especially for a lower budget or free animation software program. Having experience in 3D animation definitely helps, but if you don’t, this definitely shouldn’t stop you from working your way around the program.
Source Filmmaker can also support a variety of cinematographic effects and techniques such as Tyndall effects and Motion blur. It also includes Dynamic Lighting and Depth Of Field. For the well-seasoned animators, it allows manual animation of facial features and bones, including allowing creators to design movements. It’s essential to remember that there’s much more to cinematography than just pretty effects. It’s an entire field in itself, and its probably to a good idea to read about it before you jump into the Source editor.
Source FilmMaker Workshop
If you are also looking for a community of artists and to learn more about SFM, there is a Source Filmmaker Workshop. This is a great workshop and space to share your models with other animators and filmmakers. Plus, you can even rate the work of others. You can also find more answers and solutions on creating Source FilmMaker models and sounds among countless other benefits.
Soundtracks & Adding Music to Your Project
Assuming you’ve created a cinematic masterpiece you’ll eventually need to add some sound or music to your project. If there’s a specific track or song you’d like to include, you need to ensure you go about it the correct way.
It’s important to understand that there are various ways to license music and it can be a tricky field to navigate if you’re inexperienced. We have some of the best people in the industry available to assist you with this, along with a huge variety of different tracks for you to pick from.
When working on soundtracks or just sound in general, it’s important to ensure you have the appropriate gear. A solid pair of headphones will make a huge difference to your project.
Extra Tips and Resources
They’re tons of resources available to help you in case you get stuck. Once you’ve finished reading this article, here are some other resources you can tap into:
If you’re after a detailed Source Filmmaker tutorial, you can check out some awesome in-depth ones on Valves’ video playlist.
There’s another great playlist by a YouTuber called Jimer Lins and you can check out his tips of the day The main component and one of the most asked questions in respect to animation in Steam Source Filmmaker and other animation communities is how and where to find models.
Source Filmmaker is relatively easy to navigate. If you find yourself struggling, a few video tutorials should definitely help further your understanding.
If you’re looking for a bit of information and don’t feel like watching a long meandering video, Valve’s got a pretty good wiki.
With filmmaking being such a lucrative career and popular hobby, it’s no surprise that there are boat-loads of information available to you to help you along on your filmmaking journey! Sometimes it can be hard to choose from such a large selection of resources, so we recommend taking the time to research before you buy your materials to ensure you’re getting the best materials available.
Source Filmmaker: Final Thoughts
After further exploration into SFM, it’s a fun application to use. The tools are quite powerful and easy to navigate. It also has a beautiful look to it. Its function meets form. There could be an issue. for serious creative types when it comes to creating within applications such as Maya or Blender because unlike Source Filmmaker, these other applications don’t need third-party hosting. But besides that one issue, SFM is an awesome piece of software that boasts loads of cool tools and it’s free! Therefore if you are an aspiring filmmaker or animator, Valve’s Source Filmmaker is the way to go. Just don’t forget to download via a free Steam account.
We all need to start somewhere and it seems like Source Filmmaker is the best path to take for those initial first steps. You can let your creativity run wild without committing to a subscription or payment.
It’s important to remember that all the great directors started somewhere. Perhaps before you begin playing around on SFM It’s worth having a read about what truly makes a great filmmaker. Who knows, this could be where your career in cinematography begins!
If you are interested in the crossover between music and film, check out our blog for more music licensing and filmmaking topics. With our concierge service, extensive music library and bespoke compositions, allow us to help you find music for your film.
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Think of this as a sort of crash course: what this button or mode does, how to do a specific thing, and so on. Please note that, due to size and research limits, this guide doesn't account for absolutely everything the program has to offer. While designed to get a beginner started and on their way, it does not exhaustively tackle either animation or poster making - but does contain some general advice on performing functions related to them.
Below is a reference of the default SFM layout, in the event that, throughout the guide, you get lost or confused. Click the image to expand to full size.
- The Viewport lets you see how your project will look like from various camera angles.
- The Animation Set Editor is from where you create, manage or delete entities like characters, objects, cameras, lights and particle systems.
- The Property Sliders allow you to modify an entity's settings by dragging the respective sliders to the left or right.
- The Timeline allows you to work on your project in several editing modes (namely Clip Editor, Motion Editor, and Graph Editor) - generally for animation, though still remains useful in poster making.
- The Camera mode buttons allow you to create, manage and switch between the main project camera(s) and a temporary "work camera", used purely for editing.
Framerate shouldn't be worried about unless you plan to animate your scene. This setting can be modified later on, should the need arise.
Select create to get started!
Next up, you'll want to load a map. You can either use one from the Steam Workshop, or choose from the many already installed and available in SFM.
To load a map, right click the Viewport (the big black window with nothing on it) and at the bottom of the drop-down menu, click Load Map... From there, another window will pop up.
For now, we want the stage map. Type "stage" in the Filter Box at the bottom of the window and select the first thing that is already highlighted. Click Open. For reference, consult the image to the side.
Inside the Animation Set Editor window, right click to bring up a drop-down menu. This menu is used for selecting what it is you want spawned in your scene: cameras, lights, models and even particles! For now, we want to select Create Animation Set for New Model.
An alternate method is to select the Cross up the top of the Animation Set Editor window and choose the option to create a model from there:
A new Window will appear. Here is where all your models are stored and ready for you to load into your scene at any time. This list will grow as you subscribe to more submissions on the workshop. We'll start out by loading TF2's Heavy into the scene, but the remaining process will be identical regardless of character. Type in Heavy and scroll down the list until you find player/heavy.mdl and then click Open at the bottom right hand corner of the window to load him into the scene.
If you have done everything correctly, you should be seeing your model successfully loaded right now.
Located in the bottom right hand corner, you can toggle camera modes by left clicking the box labelled Camera1 or WorkCamera. What do these mean though?
The work camera is a "temporary" camera. In this mode, you are free to move the camera however you wish, as it will not affect the settings of your main camera. As the name implies, it's used to adjust your scene elements freely. Creating a new scene camera (ie. camera1 if it hasn't been made yet) will spawn it either from the work camera's position, or near a spawned object.
This is the camera you'll be using to export your image or animation with. Wherever this camera is facing will be what you'll be looking at when the final render is complete. This is why you should use the Work Camera to navigate your scene. You can have as many of these as you would like, but only one scene camera can be active at a time. You can not edit its settings or move it while in Clip Editor mode - you'll be notified with a dialog box stating that.
To move, left click and hold the viewport. You can now drag the mouse to look around your surroundings, and hold down keys on your keyboard to move the camera itself. Keep in mind, you must have the left mouse button held down to move the viewport at any time. Here's a list of all the movement commands:
W, S, A, D = Allows you to move forward, back, left or right.
Z, X = Pans you up/down.
R = Modifier key that allows rolling the camera side to side, as you move the mouse left or right.
Mouse Wheel = Zoom in/out.
Ctrl, Shift = Slows down or speeds up the camera movement.
Alt + Left Mouse = Orbits around wherever the viewport is facing.
Alt + Middle Mouse = Pans the viewport.
Alt + Right Mouse = Dolly in/out.
Click the video below (go to 2:08) for a visual demonstration of the viewport navigation!
The Timeline is almost the same as how you would use it from any video editing program. It has multiple modes for editing your basic scene elements, clips, etc. The Graph Editor is heavily used for animation and unlocks most of the tools you'll need for such a task. For single frame sequence artworks, you'll mostly be utilising Clip and Motion editor modes.
Located to the left side of the Timeline are these 3 buttons. They are used for entering the different Timeline modes and allow control for different editing purposes. By default, you are in Clip Editor mode when starting a new project or loading into an existing one.
- Clip Editor
Previews your render by applying depth of field and motion blur samples, and for animation it allows you to insert sounds, splice clips depending on your additional cameras, and more.
Hotkey = F2
- Motion Editor
Allows you to change the actual scene elements. You can move bones, spawn models, lights, particles and move and manipulate them however you wish. For animation, it is used to apply additional effects to a given range of animation, such as smoothing or jitter. One of the two modes where you can move a scene camera.
Hotkey = F3
- Graph Editor
Advanced keyframe-based editor mode, specifically for animation. Allows intricate adjustment of an entity's base properties via a coordinate/value system, and applies basic movement between two separate keyframes. The second mode that allows moving a scene camera
Hotkey = F4
Did you know that you can have both Camera1 and WorkCamera turned on at the same time so you can see how your render will appear as you're editing it?
Go to: Windows on the ribbon bar > Layouts > Motion Editing. You can also enter this layout by simply pressing Ctrl+F3.
Now you should have 2 Viewports, allowing you to see your changes in real time, without fiddling back and forth between cameras. How you set up these two viewports is up to personal preference.
For more info on the subject, visit the Customising UI Layout section of this guide.
Right beside the button labelled Work Camera (or Camera1) in the bottom right corner of the Viewport is a small arrow; click it to open a drop down menu. Select Change Scene Camera and then select New Camera. If there is already one, select that one instead.
Any cameras already created here can be selected to be chosen as the Active Camera. Only 1 camera can be active at a time.
Return to the drop down menu once your viewport is in camera1 mode and Select Animation Set to have it show up in the Animation Set Editor.
In the Animation Set Editor, click on the cross button and select Create Animation Set for New Camera. Keep in mind, spawning a camera this way does not give it an animation set, which you need to do so as mentioned in Method 1.
You’ll notice a blue camera has spawned in the Animation Set Editor. This is where all the magic happens. Having a camera is a must-have for any artwork being created.
Left Click camera1 and you’ll see some parameters appear next to the Animation Set Editor. These are the camera settings, and they're sliders, meaning you click and drag the setting you wish to be changed. For beginners, we'll only be focusing on the first 5, starting with fieldOfView (FoV).
SSAO settings will be covered in a future Guide
Otherwise known as zoom level. Drag the slider to the right and you get a wider Field of view, drag it to the left and the view gets narrower. FoV is important to set up correctly: generally speaking, scenes showing a landscape use a wider FoV, while those where the focus is on either a small number of characters, expressions or actions do best with a narrower FoV.
This example has a wide FoV, and it reveals too much empty space. The camera is also rather close to Scout, which can lead to distortion around the view's edges. This is a common beginner's mistake.
Here we bring the camera farther from the Scout, and drag the FoV slider to the left to reduce how much empty space there will be. The scene now looks much nicer, with the character in focus having good proportions, and there's less empty, useless space.
Practice using a lower FoV than you'd think at first. Don't be afraid to experiment with not just the slider itself, but with the position of the camera: closer, farther, higher, lower, and so on. You can also try to recall scenes from other movies, shows, games and so on, and apply ideas for camera angles here without much risk. Extremely wide FoV is generally reserved for things that intentionally look alien or weird.
This is the first part of creating a depth of field effect, followed by the Aperture slider discussed below. SFM simulates the mechanism of a real life camera rather well, and focalDistance represents, well, the distance at which an object is in focus - meaning it looks clear while the rest of the scene blurs out the farther one goes from the focalDistance plane.
When you adjust it, a pink plane shows up on Camera1. This shows where the focal point is, thus what will be in focus when you decide to render the piece. It's usually easier to hop into Workcamera mode to get a better idea on its location - it is represented by a pink rectangle. To get an object in focus, drag the slider until the purple plane clips into it.
-------------------Camera1 View------------------------------Workcamera view-------------------
But what if the slider can't reach the object you want in focus?
You can, via remapping the slider range. Most sliders have a minimum value (represented by the leftmost part of the slider), a maximum value (same as minimum, but for the rightmost part), and a default (where the slider starts and where the lighter grey tends to when you adjust it). First, right click on the slider itself and from a drop down menu, click on Remap Slider Range where a new window will pop up.
The only box you may need to change here is Max: as this controls how far the slider is allowed to go. Setting this to a higher value will change the slider's parameters such that the focal plane can reach out farther.
Again, you can do this with basically any setting. Go and experiment with a variety of sliders!
The second part of the depth of field simulation. This controls how much the camera blurs things that are not clipping into the focal plane.
You need to use the focalDistance slider to have any effect here. If you have nothing in focus, adjusting this setting won't be useful.
The main focal point here is the blossom tree. When Aperture is applied, the background and foreground is blurred to give a sense of depth.
Some neat trivia:
Basically a general exposure slider: dragging this to the left will make the scene look darker, while dragging it to the right makes it brighter.
Sounds useful, right?
The truth is, it both is and isn't. This darkens and brightens everything the camera sees, including stuff that's harder to adjust the light levels for, like the sky or particles. Be mindful of changing this setting, as it can denature your scene if mishandled; however, once you gather experience, you're free to use it in conjunction with different scene elements to adjust the brightness and mood of your project.
Bloom is a post processing effect that adds a soft haze around bright objects, similar to many games since 2005. SFM's bloom is... not very good. It looks blocky and barely soft at all. Our recommendation to beginners is to either slide it all the way to the left, or leave it veeeery slightly above the minimum - to do this easier, remember you can remap the slider's range and reduce the maximum value to something closer to the default.
While In Motion Editor mode, and with the Transform tool selected (hotkey W), move your cursor over the viewport and then hold down CTRL.
You'll see your model's bone structure. Down the bottom should be a bone labeled rootTransform. Click it!
To speed up this process, in case you want to move the entire model at once, clicking its name in the Animation Set Editor does the same job.
Your XYZ axis icon should now appear, and you can freely move your character by left click holding one of the coloured arrows. Combined axis are represented by the coloured circles, so moving horizontally without changing the model's height is done through dragging by the red-green circle. Dragging by the cyan square will move the model relative to your active camera's perspective, and holding shift while dragging the cyan square will snap the bone to the surface of the surface you dragged your mouse in front of - handy for bringing a character in contact with the ground.
But why stop there? Lookie here, there are more buttons to mess around with in the bottom left corner of your viewport!
- The select tool is for selecting things. It's a thing.
Hotkey = Q
- The move tool is for moving the selected entity or bone along the XYZ axis.
Hotkey = W
- The rotate tool brings up a different control interface, allowing you to rotate your selection on specific axis. The cyan axis is a view-dependent combination of the three axis. Dragging imbetween the axis will allow combined axis rotation up to the edges of the circle.
Hotkey = E
- The screen tool's function is the same as the rotate button, but you're no longer bound by the edges of the circle, and you can drag it by the knob to the side to change the orbit point of the model, if you need to.
Hotkey = R
Just as a reminder, you can not do any of this in Clip Editor mode. You must be in either the Motion Editor or Graph Editor mode to make any changes to the scene. Refer to Using the Viewport & Timeline if you forgot how to change between the different modes.
Once more for clarity:
While having a bone selected, click the rotate button on the bottom left corner of the viewport or Press E. You can individually rotate a bone on each axis by clicking and dragging on the lines, or rotate in a combination of all axis by clicking and dragging within the circle as it glows yellow. It's advisable to rotate, instead of move (translate) bones, lest it results in distortion - if you made a mistake, you can always undo with CTRL + Z.
This method takes longer to pose, especially for users unfamiliar with the workflow; however, it can potentially reap great benefits as it allows complete control over your character's posing, regardless of physical limitations like joints.
In this sub-menu, you'll find the options to either apply or disable a Rig-Biped to your model. As you use SFM, you're likely to increase your library of available rigs to use, and some of them won't even necessarily be for posing humans, but for now, use rig_biped_simple.
After applying this, you'll see in the Animation Set Editor that the bone structure has changed. Now when you move the feet and hands, the joints connected will now follow along and update as you move them. As a demonstration, when I move the hand, the elbow moves as well.
Great, now you know how to move your character's bones... Now start posing!
That being said, sequence posing will not be elaborated on in this guide.
A jigglebone will not make itself known straight away as these can be hidden by default, even when you go to hold down Control with the mouse over the viewport. To gain access to these, right click the character/object from the Animation Set Editor and navigate to Utilities -> Bake Procedural Bones. Now when you hold down Control there should be a lot more bones to pick from!
Be mindful that, in doing so, you remove the jigglebone's... jiggle properties, meaning it won't move on its own. Among other things, this puts extra work load for manual animation, and should preferably be used for extra control when making an artwork.
Well, if you go over to your Animation Set Editor window, you'll want to click on the little plus icon next to Heavy1 or whatever character you have loaded. This expands the hierarchy of bones and controls within the model. We want to open the option labelled Face, as it contains the controls we need.
Eyes are pretty useful for looking at things. Citation needed Most models don't spawn with eyes looking right: either they're closed, cross-eyed, or otherwise all over the place.
It's common to start out using the sliders for this, but using the ViewTarget is even better. This is a separate bone you can find and select by holding down CTRL, and you can move it to have your character's eyes look into its direction, even taking into account distance (so you can make them derpy and cross-eyed if you so wish). The actual eye sliders are still useful for fine tuning the eyes, if deemed necessary.
Now we can look at what kind of Facial Expressions he will have. Heavy has pre-made flexes ready for us to use, so all it takes is to move the slider of that preset and see how much impact that has on his face. It should be noted, it's easier to see changes while you are close to the face with the Work Camera to get a proper view of whats going on. You can change his facial flex expressions via Full Face, Upper Face and Lower Face.
Here are Prof. Purble's settings.
Can't find the settings?
There we go! Having an actual facial expression makes a huge difference. With Heavy, the look on his face matches the rest of his body - he looks like he is ready and eager to administer a can of whoop-butt to a hapless victim.
This is used for when you want your character to have a different colour scheme.
To access this option, right click the character you would like to change in the Animation Set Editor, navigate down to Set Skins and you should see multiple options. These are the different colour options, with 0 being the default look. Some characters have a lot of options, others do not. Skydomes (large dome props with a sky texture painted on them) particularly take advantage of this to show many different sky textures packed into a single loaded model.
Note that changing the skin of a character does not change the skin of any item you had loaded separately into the scene: here, Link's Sword and Shield look like they don't belong. You can right click those items (again, via the Animation Set Editor) and change their skins individually through the same method.
This is used for turning various components of the model on/off.
If you were observant before, you may have noticed that, under Set Skins, there is the option: Set Body Groups. Not every model has this option so it's not always guaranteed that this will be present. Here, the Hyrule Warriors Link model is being used as an example. You can tell by looking at him, compared to the left, that his clothing items have been disabled via the Body Group Menu. If you want the items back then go back into the menu and choose the appropriately named options to have them appear again.
Not every character has the ability to change skins or bodygroups, but for those that do allow for that little bit of extra customisation, this gives you the option to have some visual variance here and there. Go and experiment with the TF2 characters!
Scaling also, more importantly, allows you to change the size of a model's bones. This might include resizing the hands of a character, or subtly adjusting the size of the head. You shouldn't feel restricted just because a character's body part is getting in the way, though excess can also detract from the final product.
To access Scaling for an object, right click the model or bone in the Animation Set Editor, and select Utilities -> Add Scale Control for Models. Once you have done so, a new controller will appear for that object within its slider controls: rootTransfrom_Scale. Sliding left will make the object smaller, right is larger. You can even right click the slider and edit the Max value, allowing you to make really disproportionate eldrich creations.
But I wanted to resize a part of the character, not the whole thing!
The process is largely the same as scaling the whole model. Either click on the bone in the Viewport or locate it manually within Animation Set Editor. After you have found the exact bone, right click it in Animation Set Editor and look for Add Scale Control To Transforms, which will generate a new controller specific to that bone. Click it once and the Scaling slider should appear:
First, have your character set up within your scene. Spawn the object you want them to hold onto. The tedious part is manually dragging the object to wherever you want it locked; let's say, they're holding it in their hand. Once you're happy with the object's placement, we can move on.
Next, we look towards the Animation Set Editor. Locate your character's hand bone. Next, open your objects bone tree. Every object has bones, even if it's just a single rootTransform.
Drag the hand bone over to the root bone of that object. If you were successful, a lock icon will appear next to the locked object. Wherever you move the hand, it should now follow along with it.
The order in which you do this does matter! If you drag the object onto the hand, for instance, moving the hand won't affect the object, but moving the object will drag the hand with it.
To do this, you'll need to have the weapon/cosmetic in question already locked to the character model. See above for how to do just that! Next, divert your attention to the Procedural tab within the same window as the Animation Set Editor. You'll see a setting that says "Zero." Everything else around it is irrelevant for now. Refer to the picture below if you get lost:
Despite the lack of no indicated slider, you can still left click hold and drag this like any other slider setting. Once your object has been locked, you need to highlight it within the Animation Set and then drag the Zero slider as far to the right as possible! If done correctly, your cosmetic or weapon should have homed in on the characters model position and will stay in place as you animate/pose them.
Note: Zero Locking can not be undone except with Ctrl+Z
Once it loads, you'll see that it's quite dark. If a map called black_void weren't a black void, I'd ask for my money back as well. This is a map that is nearly* entirely black, allowing you to apply lights as you desire.
Why do such a thing in the first place?
Can't see what's happening?
We can't really see much at the moment, so let's spawn a light here by right clicking the Animation Set Editor and selecting Create Animation Set for New Light, or clicking the cross and spawning one - it's the same process as to how we spawned a Model and a Camera into our scene. Only difference here is we don't get a pop-up window for a Light.
Psst, extra spicy hot tip for you: drag the newly created light from your Animation Set Editor straight onto the viewport. Now you can control the light with the W, A, S, D keys, just like it were a camera! Use this to easily position lights, instead of having to rely on the Move and Rotate tools.
Each light has a ton of sliders, and most of them do something neat. Let's look at the settings marked in red and see what they do. The rest you can ignore for now.
This slider controls the brightness of your light. If your character looks too bright, slide this to the left. Too dark? Go right. Also, try bringing your light further back if the slider isn't doing much. It does matter how close a light source is to an object, funny enough! The closer it is, the brighter things become.
You may think that adjusting these sliders will make the light more oval, but you'd be wrong and a bag of chips. In practice, the light takes the FOV value of the highest of these sliders; if verticalFOV is higher than horizontalFOV, horizontalFOV is largely ignored. The only time they're not is when controlling the light through the viewport, so our advice is to set them to roughly the same value.
Same deal as for cameras, otherwise: drag to the right to widen the light's FOV. Experiment with wider light FOV than you may think is needed.
Default light properties in SFM lead to sharp shadows, regardless of distance, which is not believable. In real life, on a sunny day for example, shadows from low hanging objects are sharp, while shadows from tall tree leaves are softer and fuzzier. Radius applies a more realistic softening of the light, to simulate a higher surface area of the light casting object; in other words, it means that shadows farther from where they get cast are softer.
Ah, the RGB sliders. These are the most fun, but also a little confusing if you're not familiar with mixing them to get a desired color. How can you go from a pure white light to a red light?
You don't touch the red slider; you instead reduce the green and blue sliders. To make orange, you bring red and green close to each other, and reduce blue. So on and so forth. Color theory!
Our advice is to keep at least one color slider maxed out, and work with the remainder. If the light is too bright or too dim, refer to Intensity. Don't make the RGB sliders do the work of Intensity, this will complicate your workflow.
Having dynamic lighting can significantly improve your work, and you should definitely practice! Dark maps help quite a bit with the learning process. and can make a huge impact on the quality of your work by using your own lights, using different techniques and remembering that all spawned lights have their own slider settings, which should be used no matter how insignificant that light may be to you, because it could very well change the outcome of your final render to be 10 times better.
Experiment and Practice!
Just a bit further, you're doing great!
To access the Export menus, go to the Ribbon Bar at the top: File > Export.
This is not a normal exporting function. This just takes a snapshot of your Primary Viewport's contents at this moment in time. Would be useful for sharing work in progress pictures...
if not for the Windows Snipping tool. (it's on mostly every Windows device by default: Win + Shift + S)
You may think this is what you should select to export still pictures, but you'd be double wrong and a can of soda. The image quality will be overall poor. Avoid.
This seems like a better alternative than Image Export, and it is - better quality exports, and you can set your custom resolution. However, exporting takes absolute ages (regardless of system performance... believe us, we tried), the resulting file will be massive for no good reason, some visual effects can bug out, and there's a chance of the end result being corrupted anyway. Exercise caution.
Because from the Movie Export window, you can change the dropdown from Movie to Image Sequence, and then export the desired single frame.
Ah yes, this is the stuff. It's the most advanced way to export, but it's the most rewarding. It doesn't take long, it has the maximum image quality, it allows you to export in more file types, and can go up to 4K UHD resolution (3840 x 2160) with launch commands.
Recommended settings for single frame exports, except for resolution:
Notice how options past 720p are not available for you, yet. That is because, by default, you are not ready SFM's maximum export resolution is 720p, which is coincidentally the viewport's resolution. To enable higher resolutions, you need to use Launch Commands.
Keep in mind, resolutions past 4K do not work for Movie Exports and must be rendered as a Poster, buuuut we really don't recommend doing so. Even without the rather small 8MB file size limit for the Steam Community, 16K posters aren't as hot as they sound. We tried, take our word for it.
To use these, you will first need to exit SFM (so make sure to Save), navigate to the program in your Steam Library, right click and select Properties. A new window should pop up with a box at the bottom labelled, 'Launch Options'. Copy and paste only one of these commands into the box and exit the window. They will automatically be saved and applied on the next restart.
You can now re-launch SFM, navigate back to Export > Movie and the option to render up to that resolution should now be available! However, you generally only want these on when you are ready to render the finished project. You do not want them on, especially the 4K resolution option, when still editing your project, as this will have a significant impact on performance and will cause SFM to run at low framerates.
To disable them, go back to Properties and delete the commands. Restart SFM.
One of the first things your artwork will come under fire for is whether you have removed the ugly black grain in your render. Here's an example of what we mean.
To the Left, Link has a severe case of it, but on the right, he's gone to rehab and is perfectly clean. This grain is Ambient Occlusion on low sample rates, and the culprit is the Depth of Field Sampling, the little b--
To get rid of this, there is this nifty menu called Progressive Refinement, which can be accessed by right clicking the Viewport. It should be the top option from the drop down menu.
You want to click on Render Settings to access this menu. Don't click on the second option, as this toggles the use of your settings on/off.
Here, you can change your sampling rate to override the default. Depth of Field is the main one you want to adjust, but if you have a moving object moving within your scene, you may want to also adjust Motion Blur sampling to be increased as well. All of these changes can only be seen while in the Clip Editor, and only while your Viewport is set to a scene camera.
8 - 16 Samples
Unless your computer is really struggling at running SFM, you don't need to use these at all. 8 samples are the default from the Use Camera Settings option, and 16 is barely an improvement.
32 - 128 Samples
Good for previewing your scene while in the Clip Editor mode, but still has a lot of grain.
A fair compromise for exporting an animation without waiting too much. Grain is low enough that animation isn't too negatively affected - picture exports still deserve better.
Decent for single frame exports that are not animations. Grain is much less visible in most conditions.
Takes the longest rendering time but grants the best yields: almost zero grain.
But what about Use Camera Settings?
We recommend leaving Ambient Occlusion enabled, so don't untick the option for now.
Make sure to fully preview your scene before exporting: check the counter at the bottom right corner. While SFM is constructing the preview, the counter increases, and the image itself may shift and shimmer. It is complete when it shows as "1 of 64" (or 8, 16, 32, 128, etc...) and both it and the image remain static.
If you did as follows, you hopefully now should be rid of the pesky grain curse! Remember to do this for every time you want to render because whether you like it or not, you will be critiqued for it! So try to get used to it... If there is still some grain, either you didn't quite follow the instructions correctly or you need to make adjustments to your Camera's SSAO Settings, which are not covered in this guide...
- The uploader decided to keep his/her workshop upload set to private, so only they can use it.
- The model is not available on the SFM Workshop.
In the case of the 2nd option, this means that you can visit other websites to download models for SFM without the Workshop being your only option. As long as the model has been converted to work with Source, it'll work. This is super handy for those who wish to share and contribute their work, but uploading to the Workshop might prove to be a bit difficult, either due to size restrictions, or because certain... features of the model are not appropriate for Steam.
First, download your model from wherever. It'll probably come in a Zipped folder. Inside, you'll see two folders labelled "Models" and "Materials" that you need to extract. Our preference is for 7-Zip[www.7-zip.org] but anything that opens .rar and .zip files and extracts them will work.
Access your game folder here:
Note: The Steam UI for Game Properties has since updated, but the process is still the same.
Create a new folder and name it something (that isn't already there) and give it the following sub-folders inside that:
Next, open the SDK and check off your new folder:
Get your "model" and "materials" folders of the model you wish to add and place them inside that new folder! Do not place them in any of the created sub-folders as your model will sort itself out.
Congrats, you can now use the model(s) inside SFM! You might need to restart if the program is already running, and make sure you save a backup because if you reinstall SFM, they will be deleted as well.
Searching for your custom assets in SFM
Remember how, back in Loading your first Model, we mentioned that having "All Mods" set as the filter is important? That's because this shows ALL your models, not just the ones you subscribed to from the Workshop! This lets you type the name of any model you have downloaded or installed, and it will show up. Alternatively, you can change the filter to whatever name you called your custom asset folders to, if you know the model you're looking for.
To enter the game world (or exit it), simply press F11.
Congratulations, you're in! You can shoot, run, bonk or do anything that you can otherwise do in early TF2. If you want a different map to run around in, you have to exit the game world and load a new .BSP file from the viewport. But what do you do from here?
Game Mode is intended to record actions and movement of one or multiple characters at once, in order to create believable TF2 "gameplay" with advanced camera, light, particle etc. systems from within SFM.
Switching views with Alt + Tab does not give you mouse control in Movie Mode, you're still technically in Game Mode and thus need to exit via F11 to properly regain control of Movie Mode.
Finally, let's get down to how you can actually record Gameplay!
To get properly set up, position your character in Game mode, then exit back to movie mode. With your camera set up, hit the record button.
In the filter settings, select the things you don't want to capture because once you make a recording. This captures EVERYTHING happening on screen and can be an issue when SFM's memory usage starts getting full.
Four beeps will start after confirming and you'll be in Game Mode. On the final beep, you are free to move about however you wish within the shot. Once done, press Esc to finish the recording and you'll automatically return back to Movie mode.
You can now edit the recording however you wish, though do note that once you are done recording, any characters or entities that were used in Game mode can not be adjusted in Movie mode.
If you had already set up a camera in Movie mode, you can go back to it through the camera options menu, here:
You're done! To preview the animation, simply hit the play button!
For further reading:
Up in the ribbon bar, select Windows -> Layouts and you'll see some options to pick from.
Return to Default Layout resets you to the Default Layout.
Save Layout enables you to save the current layout.
Next section is a list of pre-made layouts and slots for custom layouts that all serve their own purpose.
Rename Layout allows you to rename the current layout you are currently using.
Reset Layouts deletes all the current custom layouts and resets them back to how they were from the beginning.
Import Layout lets you load .INI files and set's SFM to use the Custom Layout from that file.
Export Layout saves your current layout as a .INI file you can store for backup.
Once you start getting comfortable with SFM, you'll want to be working within a workspace where you can reach everything you use. This will depend on what you use SFM for, whether it be purely animation, still images, or a mix.
Prof. Purble's custom layout:
"My preference revolves around suiting my needs as an artist. I use the Element Viewer almost as often as the Animation Set and wanted both windows open simultaneously. There is also a second Viewport window in the top right hand corner, although it's set up in a way that still keeps the main viewport a priority. I have also moved the Console tab down to sit next door to the Timeline Tab for easier access."
What do tabs look like and where are they?
To move a tab, left click and hold onto that tab. When you drag it away, you'll be given squares that look like this around every section of SFM. Drag and drop the tab on one of these squares to snap the tab to that location. Let's say we want to move the Animation Set Editor to the right side of the Viewport window: drag over to that window and simply plop it over the right square.
Also, if you release the left mouse button without dropping over any squares, that tab will become its own window. If this wasn't desired, don't worry - you can easily snap it back to where it was. Simply drag and drop it onto one of the available squares on the main window.
But wait, I lost a tab. How do I get it back?
From the ribbon bar, select Windows and click on any of the options that are missing currently from your layout. This will open it as a separate window which you can then clip into the main window through the same process as before: drag and drop into the white squares.
If you somehow messed things up so much that you can't figure out where anything is, go to the ribbon bar and click Windows -> Layouts -> Return to Default Layout.
Feel free to experiment and make an SFM layout you're comfortable with. Once you're satisfied, try and save an .INI file of it, then load it up. If it showed up exactly as how you saved it, then it was successful!
In the Export window, we're going to select Image Sequence. The other options take way too much time to render, look like a washed out soap opera when finished, and have absurd file sizes. Furthermore, one option requires you to install QuickTime, which is deprecated and poses a security hazard.
Image Sequence allows you to render the film frame by frame at high quality with your preferred image format. This method renders a lot faster and there is a much lower chance of corruption, as you're rendering multiple images instead of a single larger file. Make sure you set a folder destination for all the exported images and not your desktop, unless you're fine with clogging it with images. We won't judge...
When you're done, hit Export Movie. This will take a while, but take our word for it, it's a lot faster than the other options. Make sure the option for Separate WAV file is enabled if you want audio to also be exported. Once done, we shall move to the next exciting step!
Now we know some of you might feel like you probably won't be able to progress beyond this point because "Blender, aaaaaaaaaa!! Nothing makes sense in this program!" which is why Prof. Purble has taken the liberty of taking as many screen shots as possible to help guide you through the process. Shall we begin?
Note: The following screenshots were taken in version 2.8, however this method still applies in 2.9
- If you haven't already, go and download Blender. It's free! Like free beer! Start the program and you'll be greeted with this splash screen. Click on the Video Editing option.
- Once you're in Video Editing mode, go down to the Timeline options and click Add -> Image Sequence. Navigate to your image sequence export location, Ctrl + A to select all the images and then Import. You may want to also add the Sound file as well from the same drop down menu if your export came with a .WAV file.
- Over to the far right, change the Output File Format to FFmpeg Video. You may also want to set a destination folder where you want the final MP4 export to go.
- Change the Encoding "Container" to MPEG-4.
- Make sure your render settings are set to the correct frame rate and resolution, as well as the total amount of Frames. If you forgot how many frames there was in your render, the image sequence in your timeline will have a number at the very end of its name showing the amount of frames loaded.
Additionally, every SFM export comes with a .txt telling how many images were exported.
- Finally, let's have a look at your Video codec settings. This usually falls down to personal preference, but here is what I like to set it as. You can change it up however you wish. If you have Audio loaded, go down to the Audio tab and pick out the audio codec.
- With that out of the way, go to the top ribbon bar and select Render -> Render Animation, and I kid you not, this will take literally around 2 minutes* to render the whole thing.
Note: It took 2 minutes to render for Prof. Purble, your rendering times may vary depending on your hardware.
Now you can do this with all your future animations and not have to worry about absurd file sizes. And the best part about it is that you don't need a $300 video editing program to do this. (But it's still nice to have, let's be honest.)
Turns out, Source Filmmaker has a built in list of all the available Hotkey shortcuts you can use. Help on ribbon bar > Keyboard Shortcuts, or you can try to remember the 4 hotkey combination sequence to open it...
This allows you to sort your stuff into groups. Comes in handy, especially when you are working with a lot of props, lights, cameras and particles. The cog icon will have this option.
Renaming Dags allows you to sort and categorize the many different things you have loaded into your scene. Highlight a set of props you want grouped into a sub-folder, right click and then Group Selected Dags. After that, right click the created Group1 folder and then Rename Dag.
Different from the slider range remapping, when you double click a slider, you can type in a number between 0 and 1 to take it to a precise percentage of the slider. For instance, 0.1 corresponds to 10% on the slider; 0.65 corresponds to 65% on the slider, and so on. Useful for quickly setting up a desired value on multiple elements, such as lights.
SFM by default only allows up to eight lights with dynamic shadows to exist in the scene. You can right click and select Disable shadows for a selected light, and you can then continue placing lights at the expense of losing out on shadows.
This little window right here may save you a lot of headaches if you have a slow computer.
If you've previously set your Depth of Field sample rate to a high amount, changing it down to 64 or less will allow you to render previews faster. Remember to set this back to a much higher, or even maximum amount, before rendering.
If you're using a fairly large amount of lights with shadows enabled, disabling shadows on the lights that don't see a significant benefit can bring you back some frames per second as well.
Ambient Occlusion can also be disabled if your PC is having significant difficulties running the program.
While a lot of things seem like very basic stuff in this guide, our knowledge of SFM goes beyond what's shared here. There's a great deal more to reveal about the program, but decided to cover just the fundamentals. We still don't know everything there is to know about the program, nor what's useful for beginners. This guide's also been through multiple iterations and revisions, leading us to the next point: You should seek help and advice beyond what this guide can provide. While it gives an introduction to the program, you can learn a great deal more from other sources!
A nice place you can go. Many users will do tutorials and such on how to do different technical things, and can give more knowledge and "how-to" advice for the more advanced stuff. Valve even released their own tutorial series, albeit outdated, but still useful!
Recently, Valve released their new improved course on teaching the Fundamentals that effectively replaces the old series. It goes far more in depth than what this guide provides and we highly recommend visiting it for a better understanding from the actual developers themselves!
- The Forums
The heart and soul of the SFM community, a great deal of users who use the program can be found here! There is even a Pinned discussion thread to get you started on the more advanced stuff.
- Steam Guides
Go to "Top Rated All Time" and have a look at the first and second pages. There are some super duper helpful stuff that have been published.
Additionally, there is a Helpful Guides Spotlight part in this here guide, showcasing the guides we personally found really useful and may also be helpful to a beginner artist!
- Your Friends
Oh yeah, didn't expect that one, did ya? If you have fellow friends that also use SFM and share a passion for it, then getting someone you know and trust to help out can help tremendously.
- Discord Servers
Let's start off by saying: There is no Official SFM Discord server. However, there are many community fan created ones, namely the r/SFM one gets brought up quite a lot, mostly because it's been hosted by a lot of well respected artist found within the community, whom of which you can learn a great deal from!
For all the years I've studied in this field and have now ventured onward to new horizons, this guide, which has become the embodiment of all those years of combined experience and support is not just a "thank you" to the SFM Community, but to all my friends and those who stuck by me, through it all! Thank you, for allowing me to show my creativity in a form that I could only dream of as a kid and may this guide help you on your quest to great success, as well. Godspeed with you!!"
At the time of writing this, Fundamentals just turned 1 year old. During this time, it's received praise and popularity we could never have imagined. As for the Future of this guide, it's not yet known what lies ahead. "A Tomato" has contributed greatly since joining the author team, and while there is always room for improvement, we hope this guide will continue to aid any aspiring filmmakers - animators and otherwise. This iteration of SFM may be all but abandoned by Valve, but we intend to keep its legacy going.
Far from it! You have just taken the first steps into something truly wonderful. Source Filmmaker, in spite of its age and limitations, is an excellent program. We only hope you'll stick around and develop a liking for it, as we have.
- Everyone has their Humble Beginnings.
- Don't be afraid to receive feedback!
- Make whatever you want!
Co-writer - A Tomato
Hunter in the Green Vest
Source Filmmaker is developed and owned by Valve.
I'd like to take a few seconds to thank "A Tomato". It was him who put the effort into proof reading and editing these guides, making them fun to read and even rewrote a fair chunk of the guide itself to better explain a lot of things, as well as some additional content was included by him. He added a lot of cheek and tongue in places, giving the guide a bit of flair and even integrated he's own personality into it.
There is no reason why he should not be receiving the credits he deserves for all his hard work! It should go without saying: without his assistance, these guides may not of received the amount of reception that it had gained over the past year or so and I was truly grateful for that, during this time.
He was the big up most reason I began working in SFM to begin with since the very beginning of my career in 2016.
Thank you, mate. I couldn't of done this without you.
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