Two months ago I posted on the fantastic Codex Series, a machinima movie made on Halo 2 (which subsequently won a bunch of awards). It was my kids' favorite movie for a while, and after the director, Alexander Winn, kindly sent us a CD of the soundtrack, that became their favorite album, too. But the great thing about machinima is that the act of watching it is an inspiration to make some yourself.
So my eight-year-old and I got set up to recreate one of the scenes from the Codex. I was stunned by how intuitively he got the somewhat complicated mechanics of machinima. For instance, for a scene with N actors, you need N+1 players, because one has to be the camera (the six-year-old came in handy; when she got bored, she was replaced by my foot). Also, you need to choreograph the scene carefully--it's so easy to move quickly in Halo 2 that if you don't practice all the moves and camera placement one or more of the actors will find themselves bouncing off-screen.
The trickiest part, however, was turning off the targeting reticle, that circle at the center of the screen where your gun is aiming. Proper machinima shouldn't look exactly like a videogame, and turning off the heads-up-display elements is a big part of achieving that. We Googled a bit and couldn't find the answer, so we asked the master, Alexander Winn himself, for advice.
Here's what he told us. (Note: the following is for hardcore machinimists only, and I'm actually just posting it so the next people who Google with the same question will find it.):
Ah yes, the reticle. Here's the explanation, but keep in mind that it sounds a lot harder than it is...
Set the starting weapons to whatever you want them to be, but make sure that the "Weapons on map" settings include Plasma Pistols and that the gametype is either Assault, Oddball or Capture the Flag. With the cameraman, drop one gun for a Plasma Pistol, and then dual wield with the other slot. (So, for example, you have a plasma pistol in one slot and in the other you're dual wielding two SMGs).
Walk over another plasma pistol and hold X, (NOT Y, X!!!), and you'll switch the plasma pistol to your right hand. Drop the gun in your left, and you'll have a plasma pistol in each hand. Once you've done that, walk over to the special object, (bomb, ball or flag), and charge up the plasma pistol. While it's charged, try to pick up the object. You should drop both, leaving you with only one plasma pistol. Do the same thing again, and you'll be weaponless.
NOTE: Being weaponless in the Halo 2 engine is "unnatural", meaning that you'll pick up a gun if you walk over one and you'll have to do the whole process again. So be careful where you step!
So there you have it. As it happens, my son and I didn't get much further in our Halo 2 movie anyway, because we found an even easier way to do machinima. But that will be the subject of the next post...