The Skyrim Documentarian – Weekly Update 12/18/13

I have started another pet project.  This time, it’s a documentary series set in virtual worlds.  The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has one of the richest virtual environments to date, and will be the first world that I explore in this manner.

My goal with this is to show how virtual environments come to life through clever artistic design and programming.  I’m shooting material within Skyrim (with a virtual camera, if that makes sense), in a variety of different ways: time-lapse, slow motion, and even normal motion, in order to showcase the handcrafted beauty of this world.  I encourage you to check out the teaser trailer that I’ve embedded below.

But in the meantime, I’d like to share some of the technical aspects of this project.  Feel free to skip this if technical nerdery is not your cup of tea.  As of now, I have two computers that I’m using to make this happen.  One is a Windows PC that runs the game, and the other is my Retina MacBook Pro, which I use for processing and editing the video.  On the PC, I have a screen capture program, which allows me to record whatever is on the screen.  I set up a shot in the game, fire the recorder up, and let it run for a really long time, until I think I’ve gotten enough footage.  I shoot the footage at 40 frames per second.  Then, I transfer the files to my laptop and drag them into After Effects.  AE has a great plugin that uses data from multiple frames within the normal-speed, 40 fps video, in order to create accurate motion blur.  When I process the footage this way, it looks like everything that moves is a blur, but it doesn’t move fast yet.  Then, I timestretch the video so that it plays at the sped up rate.  This essentially throws away frames until the video looks like it was shot with a real camera, using long exposures, to capture the time-lapse.  This is a process that I came up with, in response to other video game time lapses that I’ve seen, in which the footage is merely sped up, resulting in choppy, staccato motion.  But I wanted to make the motion look natural, so I’ve employed this more complicated approach.

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