The software at the core of most 3D video games, commonly referred to as its “engine,” has been slowly improving the sophistication and realism of the environments they render. Some of the upcoming engines are coming close to rendering graphics on par with what would traditionally require hours of math-intensive ray-tracing normally used in commercial films. Toss in some surprisingly good physics and particle animation systems and you have a virtual movie studio driving your game.
This is resulting in the rise of a new form of film-making called “Machinima” where folks make use of an existing 3D video game engine to create a virtual film. One such project is the very popular Red vs. Blue series of short films being produced using the video game Halo as not only its virtual film studio, but also its subject matter.
An even more impressive example is the short-film Anna by Katherine Anna Kang that will surprise you with what can be accomplished using a variation on the venerable Quake III engine. Weighing in at 55 megabytes, this is not a download to undertake if you don’t have broadband, but if you do it’s a fascinating look at what can be done with little more than a video game and some spare time. The film isn’t perfect, but it’s impressive none-the-less when you consider it was rendered in real-time.