Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Madness of Sims 2 Video-making

In a few days, I have to take my MacBook Pro in for repair* (see footnote). I'm thinking it will need a new EVERYTHING, so, good thing it's under warranty! I'm seriously having withdrawals from my Sims games, and was about to start on the first of two video projects when my MBP decided it had had enough abuse. So after messaging with a friend over on YouTube about the challenges while filming, I decided to put up an entry dedicated to the subject, using some pictures and video footage I have on hand of 2 of my videos. My apologies to my friend, because some of the stuff I sent her will be copied and pasted into this blog entry!

I realize that much of this will read like gibberish to a non-simmer, but if you can get past the game jargon, you'll get the gist of the quirks of Sims 2 video-making.

I'll start off slow. Back in March 2007 I did a video to Eminem's collab with 50 cent, Lloyd Banks, and Ca$his' "You Don't Know". To this day I have not seen the actual eminem video, so this is completely my interpretation. And, just to reiterate, for those YouTubers that can't seem to grasp this concept, these are the Bogus players (my Sims characters) and NOT Sims of Eminem, 50 cent, Lloyd Banks, etc.

Here is the finished video (now back on YouTube!):

I had a huge cast of playables, and each had to be controlled, individually.

A few video clips were ruined because the girls at the pool table in some of the scenes would finish their game, and then just stand there looking stupid, because free will is off, so I had to stop filming and get them back in the game. Have to keep the background action going! Other than that, I mostly had people dancing or sitting at tables/bars, where they chatted happily about goldfish and politics. Of course, motives are all cheated to remain in the green.

Back then, there weren't nearly as many hacks available as there were at the end of the Sims 2 era, so I still ran into a few "issues".

Like the "bouncer" expressing his disgust with Nina Caliente. Not cool, dude.

But the *best* part had to have been when it rained inside the club. At that time, you couldn't build a stage inside of a building, so I couldn't put a roof above the club because I couldn't add a fourth wall (only in the Sims world does that make sense...). There was a sudden downpour right as I had the camera going, (of course! Wouldn't have it any other way!), and I had no mod to stop it, so I had Scott pull out the big ugly Weather Machine object right there on the dance floor to kick some Mother Nature ass. This is one of my all-time favorite outtake pictures. Priceless.

"You Don't Know" was made back in my pre-Mac days, and I believe it's the last video I did on a PC. That video pretty much killed that computer.

Now we're gonna get trickier. Enter the MacBook Pro.

Hands down, my most challenging video to date is the video for Mr. Shy's "Super Star", which was filmed over the summer of 2008. I was using a live actor, Mr. Shy, himself, and greenscreening him into my Sims footage. Using a live actor in a Sims 2 video had never been done before, and I took on the challenge!

Here's the finished video. Be sure to watch this one in HQ. Mr. Shy did the flash animations on Sim Shy's lip-synch shots, as well as the shot of Real Shy wearing the snorkle and mask. I don't work with flash; luckily, he does!

Mr. Shy shot his scenes in front of a green screen in NYC, while I worked on the storyline and Sims 2 shots in Atlanta.

I pretty much winged this one, as I do most of my videos. I would come up with an insane idea, then figure out how to implement it. Started off with a few modest sets, and a greenscreen. Yes, sims need greenscreening, too! If you look closely at this first picture, you can see the sims were in front of a greenscreen posing for the pre-release promo shot for this video. It was also used as one of the post-release promo shots. The final product of the one shown here can be seen on this page. The lower right hand side of that set, with the diagonal brick wall, shows the remains of the mock Create-a-Sim set I built for the "creation" scenes of Sim Shy.

More sets were added as more insane ideas came to me. I was working on the "fishtank/lake scenes", here.

Somebody stop me!

My editing timeline was a fluorescent green mess.

And because of the limit on the number of layers for Vegas, I had to do more editing in Adobe Premiere Pro, render out those clips, and pull them into the Vegas timeline (I was using that as my primary editor).

Many people ask what hacks I use. Here you go.

You figure out what's what, because I don't wanna. I'll just say that without Decorgal, Jaydee, Inge Jones and Insim, among others, this video would have been *that* much harder to pull off. Oh, yeah, and that's Shep keeping himself entertained off set with the little handheld puzzle thingamajig.

The opening Create-a-Sim scene was the most difficult to pull off. It was a set built to look like the CAS set, and then overlays were used from screenshots modified in Gimp.

Here are the original overlays for the CAS scene, which I ended up redoing, because the green outline was the same color as the green walls, and made that part of the CAS panel see-through when I chromakeyed it. So all these shots were redone in different bright, unnatural colors; I had to make sure whatever color I replaced it with was not in any of the outfits in the display. Pain in the ass to do, BIG TIME. I don't have the redone files with me, so just picture all the following in bright pink, or orange, or yellow, or blue.

And here are a few random shots taken along the way.

Trees with a cartoon outline effect applied.

The "flower" shot, before the real Mr. Shy was put in:

The primary backdrop I used for the outdoor shots. I wanted something "TeleTubby-esque".

Here's a shot from around 2:45 in the video. It took me forever to catch this expression, because in the animation, it's a very quick glance. I had to slow it down and add this still to the timeline to draw it out a bit:

I wanted Scott to surprise Val with a rose in a scene toward the end of the video. That is the "smooth talk" animation, introduced with the FreeTime Expansion Pack. As Simmers know, not all animations from the FreeTime EP are available for all "aspirations" (which are the sim personality-types), and only "Romance" sims have the "smooth talk" animation. Scott is a "Pleasure" sim, so was not able to do that. But Shep, his twin brother, is a Romance sim. I took Shep's white cap off, gave him Scott's hairstyle, and so that is actually Shep playing the role of Scott pulling out the rose. If you look closely in that scene, you'll see there is a ring on his left ring finger. Scott wears the ring on his left middle finger (which is the finger Sims wear their wedding bands on. Scott is Val's husband. Shep is Val's boyfriend, so Shep wears a custom ring on his left ring finger. Yes, there's an interesting dynamic, there...but I digress) Screenshots from the Shep-as-Scott scene:

Now for the fun stuff. The stuff that didn't go as planned. These first couple pics were posted in a previous entry about Super Star, so I'll just copy and paste from that entry. (I'm shameless, I know.) Shep was moved via the "moveObjects_on" cheat to a place just inside the window, and got "stuck" there. Oh, the indignity of it.

Shep is a very unhappy camper. And this was all for naught, because I realized I had him in the wrong outfit (all the indoor scenes have them in "everyday" clothes), and had to change him and redo the shot:


A disgruntled sim-actor has the strength of a thousand. No exterior siding can withstand the power of Shep's fist!


I also had to build a set directly across from that to mirror it, purely for greenscreening purposes, because of the way the light was casting a shadow across the original set's greenscreen. This was before I thought to turn off the shadows in game. *facepalm*

This is one of the test files, when we were first testing out Shy's set-up in NYC. He is unshaven, unkempt, the lighting was off, so he's washed-out, and, as you'll see toward the end, the camera was actually set too low, and he had been squatting throughout the entire thing. Oh, and this is a .wmv re-render I did of a .mov file he'd sent me, because the .mov file was not importing into my editor correctly, and the aspect ratio problem had not been resolved, yet, so Shy looks chubby. He's actually a tall, skinny guy.

Back in Atlanta, while taking a break from filming, I put free will back on, and these three went birdwatching indoors. If I had remembered to build a roof, this would not have been an issue. I have issues with roofing, it seems.

For the inside shots, I forgot to set all the options on Inge's PY2 plant, a hack that lets you set all the motives: hunger, hygiene, energy, comfort, social, fun static, at either low levels, if you want miserable sims, or high - green - levels, if you want sims to not whine and complain at you. I set it on all green, lot-wide, so I didn't have to worry about any of them (have to also raise aspiration levels when bringing in many extra sims, or you'll get random outbursts by those who are "unfulfilled"). I do this with every video. Hygiene was accidentally left unchecked. I was filming clips with the other sims, and suddenly I heard "Ewwwww" from one of the sets. Jory's hygiene drains much quicker than everyone else's for some reason. Scott was completely grossed-out by his cousin's stench, even though he was emitting fumes, himself. Free will was off, so Scott couldn't autonomously "primp" himself clean, like he usually will.

Jory was stuck in a loop animation (from decorgal's model posing box), here, and I had forgotten to snap him out of it.

I snapped him out of it.

The shots on the stage came out looking pretty nicely, if I do say so, myself. Here's a screengrab from the video.

But getting there wasn't easy.

Originally, I had planned to use a simple backdrop, and greenscreen the sims into it.

I didn't like the looks of the backdrop, though, once in the video, because I wanted to vary the camera angles, and greenscreening on a flat backdrop wouldn't allow for that, so I built a stage set. I took the image from the above picture, made it as a hangable painting in the game, put it on the back wall of the stage. I added stage lights and shiny floors, and was much happier with how it looked. I could now film from many different angles, rather than just straight-on.

The Super Star stage set. And somebody's not's because of the pink ensemble I had them wear. Shep doesn't *do* pink formalwear.

"Kob frobbat" (For non-simmers: that is simlish for "@#&^$!!!!")

Edit April 25, 2011 For the following clips, as well as the Shy Test Shot: my actual clips are all somewhere on my external drive, so I had to download these direct from my Google video account, because Google Video will soon be unsupported. I have uploaded the files to my YouTube account. Google flash video quality is horrible, thus the artifacts. which are not in my original files.

My sims had some trouble with their sync in those early shots. First Scott loses his focus :

And Shep loses his balance:

Just to add a bit more background, I've been doing machinima for almost 4 years. I started off relying on effects in whatever editing programs I used at the time (I've used several, but have never used Windows Movie Maker!). Many new videomakers choose flash over substance. Now, I prefer to use a little more creativity, because adding layers of preset effects is pretty easy to do. You've gotta start thinking outside the box to get out of that rut. I still use them, check out my video for NIN's Only, which was my first Film of the Month winner at 99, but I didn't use most of the effects "out of the box". Much of it was done using mirrors, clones, and various other outside programs, like Crazy Talk, to get the lip sync close-ups, or Fraps for different screen-capture video shots. I'm getting better. I've come a long way since my first Sims 2 video "Hella Good" (it's Hella Bad. See my YouTube channel), but am still not *there*, yet. But that's the main advice I give to anyone starting off with Sims 2 (or 3) machinima. Don't ever assume you're *there*. Try to take it to the next level with each video. Think you can't do it? Do it, anyway. Give it a shot. Don't rely on stock animations, don't rely on flashy preset effects, just for the sake of using effects, start learning how to use camera techniques effectively, vary up the angles, adjust clip velocity, reverse clips. Learn from others' constructive criticism, and put it to use.

Man, I am REALLY wanting to do some video work right now... as soon as this laptop comes back, I'm going to work.

Well, that's about all I'm willing to put up for now. Just wanted to kill some time with a blog entry, and I'm about blogged out. But it was a fun walk down memory lane, eh, Shep?

Okay, Shep, point taken. Still not happy about the pink jacket. And I need to get cracking on the Of Angst and Shepitude blog, I've been meaning to transfer over for over a month, now.

I won't even touch the topic of Sims 3 machinima, yet. The only Sims 3 videowork I've done was with the mashup tool when I was out at EA last January. Ohhhhhhh, man. I have got a project lined up for Sims 3 that will be harder than anything I've done, so far. Hoping I can pull it off, but definitely not ever gonna say I didn't try.

Raising the bar, taking the challenge.


*edit to update: mere hours after this entry was posted, my MBP went 'splodie! and I made an early appointment at the Genius bar, where the guy reseated my memory, sent me home with a pat on the head, and now my MBP is a psychedellic trip with vividly colored patterns on the screen in Windows, and OS X won't even boot up! It just tells me to restart the computer in 4 different languages! Woohoo! So tomorrow I'm off to another Genius Bar WAY ACROSS TOWN. I am typing this update from this laptop, which is now literally duct-taped together. BUT STILL WORKS.


Annita said...

Nice things but unfortunetely i can't put the hacks.It doesn't appear in my hobbies/misc.That's a pitty!!!

The Quintessential Glamrod said...

Is custom content enabled? The hacks will show up in the game catalog under hobbies/all, decorative/all, and misc/all, depending on the hack. If you're a Windows user, your hacks are put into:
My Documents\EA GAMES\The Sims 2\Downloads. "Downloads" must be a capital D or the game won't recognize it.

Good luck!

Annita said...

Yes it's enabled.I have a "Downloads" file and i've put it in there.I'll check it again and tell u..Thank you!!Good job in youtube!!

The Quintessential Glamrod said...

Thanks, Annita! What hack are you trying to use?

13TDK13 said...

Hi Val!

Finnaly I get who did you make that fantastic clip ... Maybe I will try if a get the program ... Thanks Val


The Quintessential Glamrod said...

Hey there! It was a few programs, with Mr. Shy doing the flash work and flash editing up in NYC and me doing the Sims 2 work and Vegas, Adobe Premiere Pro and Gimp (Photoshop). And of course you need a camera, lighting and greenscreen. Not sure what effects you were looking for, but good luck and have fun! :-)

Annita said...

Hi again!
Unfortunetely i did nothing..The hacks i use are from this site
and i put them in my "Downloads" folder but i can't find them.If i delete some other objects that are in this folder,will maybe i find them?I'll try it..nothing to loose!!!

The Quintessential Glamrod said...

Hey Annita!

I have a 7 GB Downloads folder (a LOT of stuff!) and all my simtacular hacks are in "hobbies". Click the "all" button and they should all be listed right there at the beginning. Otherwise, they're in "hobbies/misc" in your game catalog.

Annita said...

Ok..I click on buy mode>hobbies>all(it's like sth 8 but horizontal,right?)and nothing appears.:(
And some other stuff i have in there doesn't appear(objects,rugs etc)and others appear.Thank you so much for your help!!I'll try to delete others and keep only hacks and see..Bb!!

The Quintessential Glamrod said...

Yes, it's like a sideways "8" under hobbies. How strange that it's not showing up. Yeah, try taking out everything else and leaving in just your hacks and see if you can find it, then.

Filipecar_13 said...


I finally get Sony VEGAS 8.0, but I use The Sims 3, I make a green wall and i make a movie on it. I put on Vegas the clip and the foto that i want to put on the green wall and not working can you help me?


The Quintessential Glamrod said...

The quick way to explain it: put your non-greenscreen footage on the video timeline. Put your greenscreen footage an the "overlay" timeline, directly above. Go to the crop/pan, rightclick (do this for all clips) and select "match output aspect". This gets rid of the borders. Go to your greenscreen clip, and make sure you see it in the preview so you can make adjustments. Click "event fx" and it will pull up all the effects. Chose "chromakeyer". With the eyedropper tool, select the green color from the overlay. I usually choose a rectangular section to catch any variations of the color, because of lighting. Now you'll be able to see your other footage through it. Adjust your highs and lows, and go back to pan/crop to get the placement correct, as necessary.