How to Make Good Sims Machinima / Movies / Videos

From the Director of [StrangeTown Monty]:
A very basic, almost point-form guide to help you get started with
Sims 2 Machinima Series, Music Videos, or to improve your existing work :)
Some tips in this tutorial also apply if you’re filming with Sims 3.

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STORY IDEAS

MUSIC VIDEO: Do you plan to tell a story without words? Or are you going for something more abstract? Both may work. Just be careful about Copyright.

SERIES: What’s your genre?
[Most common] Drama, Comedy, Romance, Teenage Tales
[Less common] Action, Mystery, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction, Abstract
Or a mixture of genres, if you can carry it off.

Be patient. Think through the details of your story & characters. Write out your storyboard clearly. You are more likely to retain your viewers if your story is well-written & engaging. Otherwise you risk running out of ideas halfway & end up cancelling the series.

It’s ok to be inspired by a TV show / movie / someone else’s machinima, but it’s NOT ok to be a rip-off. Think of your own ideas. No story, no series.

Plan out your storyline carefully. You wouldn’t want your later episodes to conflict with your earlier ones. Your scriptwriting / story plans should be several episodes ahead of the ones you are currently editing / uploading.

You’re probably excited, but never rush to complete a video. Take your time to review your story. Film and edit carefully before releasing it.

Download some talk & animation hacks from modthesims.info or other sims custom content sites.

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SET / CHARACTER DESIGN

- Use appropriate custom content to give your sets/characters the intended look & feel.

- Don’t furnish the whole house if you’re only filming in a few rooms. Just decorate those rooms, as well as the exterior of the house. Everything loads faster this way.

- If you’re going for outdoor shots, make sure your neighborhood is appropriately decorated. Use the “Neighborhood Fade” setting to your advantage.

- For certain angles in indoor shots, make sure the sky doesn’t show through where the ceiling should be. If you don’t have Apartment Life, download some ceiling tiles from modthesims.info.

- Don’t hesitate to knock down a wall temporarily to get the exact angle you want.

- Create your characters in BodyShop (Start / Programs / EA Games / Your Latest Expansion), so you can clone them indefinitely.

- Use the “Sim Modder” (“baby statue” available by “boolprop/spawn” cheat) to keep your sim actors’ motives up throughout the filming.

- Make sure your characters are dressed appropriately, especially if they fulfill a specific role (eg. teacher, cop, etc)

- Have some diversity in your character design. It’s hard to follow shows where it’s not easy to differentiate one character from another.

- Keep your number of characters manageable (8-10), and focus on developing closely at least 2-3 of them.

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CAMERA SETTINGS

To get a clear picture that reproduces well on YouTube,

Video Capture Size: LARGE
Video Quality: HIGH (“uncompressed” is not necessary)
Sound: DISABLED

- Vary your camera angles, so your viewers don’t get bored.
- Use “Tab” to enter “Cameraman mode”.

More Camera Tips available on [AST Wikia Archive].

plumbbobtoggle off - Removes the plumbbob (colored mood diamond) above your sim’s head. [Sims 2]

showheadlines off - Removes the speech bubbles, relationship score markers etc from above all sims’ heads. [Sims 2]

You need at least Nightlife / Open For Business Expansion Packs for the above two cheats to work.

For [Sims 3], hideHeadlineEffects on gets rid of everything on top of your sims’ heads, including plumbbobs. (Works in Base Game)

- Always keep “WALLS UP” during filming (press “Home” on your keyboard.
The “End” button sets it to “Walls Cutaway”, which is good when playing the game, but bad when you’re shooting a movie.)

- Turn OFF “Free Will” to prevent your sims from doing things you don’t want them to do.

- Your freshly-recorded gameplay footage is saved in:
“My Documents \ EA Games \ The Sims 2 \ Movies”

“My Documents \ Electronic Arts \ The Sims 3 \ Recorded Videos”

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EDITING SOFTWARE

Windows Movie Maker (free) is good for beginners, but as you improve, you might want to move on to a more advanced (paid) editing software like Sony Vegas or Corel VideoStudio.

Don’t overuse the fancy effects. Sometimes, less is better.

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INTRODUCTION SEQUENCE / ACCOMPANYING BLOG OR WEBSITE

This should clearly inform the viewer of the title of your series/episode/music video. Use relevant visuals to help set the mood for your audience.

Try to make the introduction sequence proportional to the length of your video.

For example, if your actual episode is only 3 minutes long, DON’T make us sit through a one-minute (re)intro to all your characters, that is repeated in all your episodes anyway.

If your show contains many characters, or background information that your audience should familiarize themselves with, it’s a good idea to put such information in a blog / website, for viewers to refer to at their own pace. Place the URL on your YT channel so that they know your site exists.

Be sure put enough solid content on it, be it character biographies and/or interesting production updates; otherwise it’ll give off the “empty blog” vibe which discourages visitors from returning.

All my videos’ FAQ are on this wordpress site. I always refer my viewers back here for information.

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AUDIO / OTHER LANGUAGES

Consistent Volume: Keep the music & voiceovers (if any) around the same volume, so you don’t suddenly deafen your audience & turn them off.

- Music (not too loud)
- Voiceovers:
- It’s a good idea to have subtitles even if you have clear English voiceovers. This will benefit viewers who aren’t so good at listening to English.
- If your machinima is voiced-over in a language other than English, having English subtitles will allow your film to be enjoyed by even more people.
- Or if it has subtitles which are not in English, do consider having second set of subtitles which are in English.

I understand if English is not your native language. If your machinima is good, the better fans out there would more likely *appreciate* your translation effort, instead of making fun of your English.
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SUBTITLES

ALWAYS check your grammar & spelling.
This really affects your audience’s impression of your film.

[Common Grammar/Spelling Errors - How to Avoid Them]

SIZE: Not too small till your viewers squint to read them.
Not too large till it covers half or more of your screen.

FONT: Clear, readable typeface. Bold, with black outline.

It’s OK to occasionally vary the color, size & font type, for different speakers & different moods. When used in excess, it can distract the viewer.

PACING:
- Don’t put out too many words at once.
- Make sure there is enough time for the words to be read.

Give your viewers time to digest the information. Pretend you are not familiar with your script, and try reading through the words yourself.

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PROOFREADING

After rendering your film, don’t upload it immediately.

Watch the whole thing through at least once. Look out for awkwardness in timing, transitions, and SPELLING/GRAMMAR. Edit those out right away, re-render, and re-watch. Only upload the video when you’re at least 90% satisfied.

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YOUTUBE CHANNEL DESIGN

[March 2013 One Channel] Put in effort to stand out in a sea of sterile white:

1. Banner Image: Make it look nice, & reflect the overall vibe of your videos. You need a graphics editor like Photoshop to make use of the template provided by YouTube.

[Free OneChannel Banners of Default Sims Neighborhoods]

2. Channel Trailer (auto-plays for non-subscribers): This should be a short summary video (1:30 or less) that introduces the type of videos that you make, some info about your video-making style, and/or other stuff your viewers should know. Don’t annoy them by repeatedly telling them to subscribe, but convince them that your videos are worth watching.

Technically, your trailer can be as long as you like, but it’s better to keep it short and simple to increase the chances of it being watched in full.

Don’t just use any “episode” video of your existing work, because that is too out-of-the-blue for visitors who are unfamiliar with your channel. Take time to make the first impression count, as it is likely to pay off in the long run.

[My YouTube Channel: Banner Image & Channel Trailer in action]
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BE OPEN TO FEEDBACK

While you’re in the beginner stage, you’re bound to make mistakes, so don’t get offended when others give you constructive criticism.

Learn to differentiate such useful feedback from the outright mean comments from trolls (which you should just delete & ignore).

Examples:
“Your videos suck” (Troll)
“Please make the subtitles slower next time.” (Constructive Criticism)
“Great video!” (Encouraging Casual Viewer)

“I like how you brought out the mood of the scene by making the characters do this.”
or   “The character’s expression seemed slightly wrong at 4:46.” (Serious Critic)

[NEXT Article] Writing Good Machinima Scripts
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I hope you find my pointers of some help. You could watch some of my machinima films, especially [StrangeTown Monty], to see these guidelines in action.
–  AldoHyde [First Written: June 11 2011]

StrangeTown Monty is living proof that a Sims Machinima Series does NOT need teenage pregnancies, sex scandals, lots of gore / violence, or even excessive amounts of custom content to be successful. What’s REALLY required is…
[Find Out More]