Introduction: How to Make a Sci-fi Film, the Easy Way

Picture of How to Make a Sci-fi Film, the Easy Way

PLEASE NOTE: this tutorial is old, i cannot be sure how much even still works with the latest versions of all the programs listed. https://www.instructables.com/id/Sketchup-3D-modelling-file-conversion-and-advice-/ provides information on 3d modelling and animation with other packages which results in far more advanced video output. That newer tutorial is more likely to be helpful to you than this old one

In this instructable i will show you how to use google sketchup 3d modelling software and wax 2.0 video editing software to add spacecraft and explosions into videos and also how to use wax 2.0 for greenscreen effects. for a glimpse of the effects that can be achieved see the image.

download wax at http://www.debugmode.com/wax/

Step 1: Models

Picture of Models

I will start with this first although it does not need to be done in this order, you can construct models in goolge sketchup or other software, these can be moved around in your scene in wax but their parts cannot move. If i had a model of a fighter landing and the landing gear extending i would have to make one model for the fighter and one for each element of the landing gear, although in sketchup this can be one model with a few groups or components to use it in wax the gear and fighter must be separate models otherwise they will be unable to move relative to each other. sketchup models can be found at the google 3d warehouse http://sketchup.google.com/3dwarehouse/cldetails?mid=7e7ef910316459a3b281964dca26f211&prevstart=0 this is a good scifi collection.
or across the internet searching for what you want followed by the word "mesh"  example: starship mesh  , space fighter mesh  .these meshes will be of a variety of formats but wax 2.0 can only take those in "3DS, Quake MD2 & MilkShape MS3d" . so when you have a model you like you must convert it.
IMPORTANT: when making a film/animation one of the first things people will see is your models, a bad or boring mesh/model will ruin a video.

Now we must convert the models to .3ds  .

Step 2: Conversion

Unless you were lucky enough to find a 3ds model you wanted or have software to make 3ds files this is what you must do.

The old method here hasn't worked for years, but there is a newer one https://www.instructables.com/id/Sketchup-3D-model...

step 16 and onwards in that tutorial. I am also informed that the method given there does not always work, this is because the site where su2kt can be downloaded often appears to be down. This method may also fail with newer versions of sketchup, those after trimble took it over. that is because the newer versions don't always support plugins/scripts like version 8 did. There is also potential for jkt2obj to fial even if you have java installed, if this happens try using the .net version, available from the same download page.

Step 3: Background Video

Picture of Background Video

In wax we will want to animate our models infront of a background, this could be a still image or a video. IF it is a video AVOID camera shake as this will look awful unless you can make the 3d model wobble in exactly the same way to compensate for it(very very hard). in my film here i used this image as a still, it was a screenshot from sketchup .

Step 4: Models Into Wax 2.0

Picture of Models Into Wax 2.0

The next stage is opening the models in wax 2.0, this is how. choose the add media files icon above thew mediapool in wax. select a picture file .jpg/.bmp/.png in the pop up box, what picture this is does not matter as it will not be visible in the final video. Drag and drop this still into the timeline at the top track, stretch it until it lasts as long as you want
Then switch from media pool to video plugins. select the model loader plugin and drag and drop this onto the image track, click on the model loader plugin which appears and select the 3ds file you created earlier. wax will then prompt you to find all the textures, this is easy and almost automatic( just keep clicking ok) if they are in the same folder as the model. when all textures are found the model will appear in the viewer /preview screen.
After this bring in your background clip in the mediapool  and drop it into a track below your model loaded track. the image/video will appear in the background in the preview area.

Step 5: Keyframes

Picture of Keyframes

Now we have the model but as time passes in the video it just stays still, HOW BORING! we can make it move though.
open up the transform 3d plugin that automatically drops in with the model loader and notice that there are a range of fields describing the position, rotation and size of the model. all are currently set to default. to make the object move set the position you want at the start of the motion by typing in the data,  then click the little clock icon on all the quantities you want to change during the motion. then move the time slider along to the time at which you want the motion to stop, type the new values for position, rotation and scale into the transform 3d list and click the clock icon for each one again. then play the video and watch as the object moves between the positions/rotations/scales as time passes. AWESOME! also note that the positon of the camera in 3d space can be set and keyframed using the camera section under global settings, this will move the camera relative to the models but picture/video backgrounds will remain unchanged.
If you add more tracks then remember that the ones at the top obscure the ones below them.

Step 6: Saving

Picture of Saving

once you are satisfied with how your video runs in the preview( audio might not work correctly at this point) click the project settings button at the top and set the details( see image) then click the button to the right of this to render ( can take up to 10 minutes to render). there are many problems that can occur, PM me with an exact description of what you did, what went wrong and what wax said and i will try to tell you how to correct this( it is a while since i used wax i have moved on to other programs now but wax is the easiest to learn). 

When each scene of your film is created in wax use software such as windows movie maker to put them in order and add titles between them before saving as your film.

Step 7: Greenscreen

So, you say, i want to put myself into a computer generated scene/ have the model behind me in the video. there is a way to do this first film yourself against a green background(blue can work as well), import this video into wax and place it  your video as the top track. then drop a green image( just plain green) into the track below. use the chroma key plugin to cut out the green in the video of you and let the green of the image in the track below replace it. render the video. repeat this until all the background has been replaced with pure green by removing one shade of the real( in your original video) background at a time and then placing the render as the top track in a new wax project and cutting out the next shade until all the background has been replaced with the green image. finally import the render containing the perfect green background into wax and use chroma key to cut out this background , place the video you want to superimpose yourself onto in the track below.

Step 8: Explosions

Picture of Explosions

wax also contains the particles plugin which can be used for smoke or explosions, simply drag an image into the tracks and stretch it to start at the point you want then drop in the particles plugin. this is set to a fire effect but by changing the particles settings it can be used in many other ways. the following set ups will produce:
explosion in zero gravity:                                         

use media NO
select media NONE
blend YES
time 0.0
linear colours NO
CREATION
max particles 14000
particles/sec 3000
variance 0.0
min colour RED
min colour alpha 0.70
max colour ORANGE
max colour alpha 1.0
min size 5.0
max size 10.0
DESTROY
min age 2.5
max age 2.5
min colour YELLOW
min colour alpha 0.0
max colour ORANGEY RED
max colour alpha 0.0
min size 0.06
max size 0.12
EMITTER
pos x 0.0
pos y 0.0
pos z 0.0
rad x 0.0
rad y 0.0
rad z 0.0
dir x 0.0
dir y 0.0
dir z 0.0
dir variance x 0.38
dir variance y 0.38
dir variance z 0.38
min velocity 0.2
max velocity 1.3
acceleration x 0.0
acceleration y 0.0
acceleration z 0.0
min rotate 0.0
max rotate 2.0

Explosion with gravity

use media NO
select media NONE
blend YES
time 0.0
linear colours NO
CREATION
max particles 14000
particles/sec 3000
variance 0.0
min colour RED
min colour alpha 0.70
max colour ORANGE
max colour alpha 1.0
min size 5.0
max size 10.0
DESTROY
min age 2.5
max age 2.5
min colour YELLOW
min colour alpha 0.0
max colour ORANGEY RED
max colour alpha 0.0
min size 0.06
max size 0.12
EMITTER
pos x 0.0
pos y 0.0
pos z 0.0
rad x 0.0
rad y 0.0
rad z 0.0
dir x 0.0
dir y 6.0
dir z 0.0
dir variance x 1.88
dir variance y 0.38
dir variance z 0.38
min velocity 0.2
max velocity 1.3
acceleration x 0.0
acceleration y -1.0
acceleration z 0.0
min rotate 0.0
max rotate 2.0

smoke trail:

use media NO
select media NONE
blend NO
time 0.0
linear colours YES
CREATION
max particles 14000
particles/sec 3000
variance 0.0
min colour DARK GREY
min colour alpha 0.70
max colour LIGHT GREY
max colour alpha 1.0
min size 5.0
max size 10.0
DESTROY
min age 2.5
max age 2.5
min colour GREY
min colour alpha 0.0
max colour LIGHTER GREY
max colour alpha 0.0
min size 0.06
max size 0.12
EMITTER
pos x 0.0
pos y 0.0
pos z 0.0
rad x 0.0
rad y 0.0
rad z 0.0
dir x 0.0
dir y 0.0
dir z 0.5
dir variance x 0.38
dir variance y 0.38
dir variance z 1.38
min velocity 0.2
max velocity 1.3
acceleration x 0.0
acceleration y 0.0
acceleration z 1.0
min rotate 0.0
max rotate 2.0

Comments

i wish instructables let users edit their own posts so i wouldn't have had to make two posts here... this is the second

my most recent instructable(it's a bit old though, i haven't had time to make any tutorials lately) is a full tut on a still workable (for older skp versions, i use sketchup version 8, later ones might be incompatible with the kerkythea plugin) method of making models in sketchup then animations in blender, at the time of my earliest youtube videos the contents of my sketchup,blender,animation and 3d printing tutorial were the grand total of my cgi knowledge. with that much knowledge i could go about making my earlier(including space dogfight2.avi) youtube videos it's just a matter of repeating some steps to build more and more complex(hence photorealistic(ish)) models and then using loads of key frames and some material tricks(most of them outlined in the tut) in blender to animate. if you look at my most recent youtube videos i am still using the same method, my latest model is still originally made in sketchup using the techniques i describe in that tut. the key things i have learnt since writing that tutorial are constraints in blender, basic rigging of a human model, basic use of procedural textures to enhance a model's appearance and i am working on how to use blender for greenscreen type shots. if anyone wants some advice on specific details of how oimade the youtube vids then i am happy to explain particular details to them.

these days i do use blender but this was before i discovered blender. infact this method might not even be workable anymore, the converter site became a "pay for" service a few years back so i now use another conversion method to make skp models. wax was a "good place" to learn the first principles of keyframing, which before my use of the software i had never done and is simpler to learn than blender. but blender is much better, my newer videos on youtube all use blender not wax, infact i don't think any of my youtube stuff dates back far enough to me being purely a wax user.

flyingpuppy (author)2013-04-17

I just watched your video on YT. You have some serious time on your hands! How long did it take to make those models in sketchup?

thought i ought to mention that the video on youtube was actually done with blender(much harder to use and despite having downloaded it in august i am still an absolute beginner). it took me a fair while to make some of those sketchup models and some are available on the 3d warehouse. sorry about not doing a video tutorial but sometimes it is easier to use a text and pictures tutorial as you can go through it at your own pace, also my internet connection is cr*p so sometimes i am unable to watch video online. if you want more advice i can probably help. note: i do not know(yet) how to do greenscreen with blender.

flyingpuppy (author)2013-04-17

Hey, Resistance, how about using screen capture software to show us on-screen what you're doing? You've got a LOT of info here, and it would be nice to have a better visual. Thanks for the tutorial!

amandaghassaei (author)2012-11-26

this sounds really interesting, can you post a video of the final animation?

i could try uploading one of my videos produced with this method to youtube but as the file is raw .avi it is huge ( over 50 mb for 10 sec) although my longest individual wax clip is about a minute. i used movie maker to string these clips together. i might not upload any of my wax clips for a while BUT in the meantime you can see some similar stuff i did with blender at this address http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wztlgUyrwK8

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