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FFmpeg cinematics: the only format


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I have reviewed all FMs with non-ROQ video files.
Among ~10 instances, all of them use the same format: mp4 + h264 + aac.

I must admit it is rather expected.
All the other supported formats (avi, mpeg4, mp3) are simply older/worse incarnations of this "most used trinity": there is no sane reason to use them.
The only purpose which comes to my mind is troubleshooting, but I think after several years and with 10 FMs released without serious complaints, I think there is no trouble with the main format trinity.

So I'm going to further restrict supported set of formats to mp4 + h264 + aac and roq in 2.10.

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Pipe dream \ Rant:


I have to say that I wish we had something like a "Darkmod Movie Maker" which would allow authors to create GUI animations

that have all the same effects as most of the FMV's: pictures zoomed in and out, fading in \ out, etc.

99.9% of what we see in these intro movies can be accomplished via GUI scripting but doing so is very arduous. If we had something

that looked like a video editor but allowed mappers to manipulate GUI data instead of video, then it would save huge amounts of storage.

There would (of course) still need to be a video format to cover things like the Thief silhouette animations in these FMV's.

And just because I am cursed, some FM author will probably create a movie quality CGI FMV for their mission to contradict me and continue

the religion of 400+ MB missions with 300+ MB FMV's.


I guess Crazy Edide's GUI system has a nicer GUI editor but I don't think it's as easy as a movie maker interface.

Might be a motivator to consider migrating \ adding though.

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People do make old-style briefings.

As for video briefings, they have some new effects.
For instance, in "The Hare in the Snare" there are several things which cannot be made with mere fading and transforms, although the video looks very much like typical GUI briefing...

I don't think people get to 300 MB yet (luckily).

The largest video is in my opinion in Volta 2, which has size ~= 120 MB for 1:45 duration (1080p), i.e. 9 Mbps bitrate.
While this is a bit above recommended bitrate by youtube, I think our briefings should be much better compressible (most frames have no changes), and this is probably overkill. Variable bitrate encoding is very important: while 80% of time video is black of shows lazy transform over picture, some of the rest 20% need high bitrate for good quality.
Volta 1 has 132 MB video of 1.5 minutes duration --- 11.5 Mbps.

Looking at "The Hare in the Snare", there are 66 MB for 3 minutes, which is 3 Mbps.
I think it pretty good balance. Although video still takes 50% of the FM size 😁

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The Hare in the Snare's videos are both 1080p with VBR (2 pass) encoding, at 30fps. I set the target bitrate to 3 Mbps (max 5) for both. Getting their total size down to 66Mb for 3 mins worth of video at 1080p illustrates the merits of sticking to the traditional (old) visual style. 

You're right that the intro we created could not have been done via GUI animations and it was actually heavily dumbed down and filtered in post to give it an almost monochrome "Thief" feel, but in hindsight the outro (debrief) video we did with static screenshots was the better of the two. It took 1/10th the amount of time to create. The trouble with trying to do that via GUI animation, however, is the creation of unique and artistic imagery. Even though our outro is static, much of the imagery required manually setting the scenes with inactive AI's and introducing cinematic camera angles, then cleaning up in post. I am sure it could be done with a GUI-based "movie maker", but boy are you going to spend forever creating a pool of reusable GUI assets that will soon become "same old".

For what it's worth, my suggestion would be to first improve the implementation of in-game videos by making it more reliable. For the Hare in the Snare debrief we ended up filing two bug reports (though we have not yet had the time to provide @stgatilov with a test case) and we actually ended up creating our own unique scripts and GUI files to make it work properly.

We also need to allow audio files to be played directly from the .mp4 (only the intro currently does this) to prevent the audio going out of sync when the Uncapped FPS setting is off. 

Finally, there needs to be a tutorial to show mappers how to do it with cinematic screenshots compiled into a dynamic video sequence. We would see more video work if people had a basic understanding of how to create them with all the free compositing and editing software available today, in combination with stylized screenshots. I personally think that would be a gentler learning curve than a GUI animation system.

Video size, however, is really not an issue if you understand how to manage bitrate. There is no need for an 11Mbps bitrate on any TDM video. Not even Blu-ray requires that much. For stylized and dynamic screenshot sequences in .mp4 format, I don't see why anyone would need more than 5Mbps at 1080p, unless they were going for full colour with rapidly changing frames. But in the case of Hare in the Snare, variable framerates or drastic compression were not required at all. Those videos were longer and more detailed than 99% of FM's, yet were also a much smaller size than most. 

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