‘9’ Director Is Deeply Dippy About The Source Engine


If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that Valve doesn’t yet have enough money. I have it on good authority that at least three members of their staff still have some of their original teeth, and not solid diamond replacements like their colleagues. Hopefully licensing out the Source engine and associated tools to director Shane Acker, the chap behind the pretty but blathering computer-animated movie 9, will help bring those poor devs the priceless nashers they deserve. Deep is Acker’s next project, and it’s being animated by Irish outfit Brown Bag Films who reckon that using Source as opposed to traditional rendering entails “high-quality production value at a fraction of the time and cost.”

‘Underwater Western’ Deep chronicles a near-future wherein the majority of humanity has moved underwater to avoid some manner of surface danger, and it looks a little something like this.

As for Source’s involvement, here’s the skinny: “Valve has provided the “DEEP” team with new tools and technologies based on the developer’s Source game engine. The tools enable flexible cinematography and editing, a simplified character animation process and economical lighting, sound and visual effects. Render time is cut to nearly nil, enabling rapid revisions to animation, which brings dramatic savings in time and money over traditional production.”

Question is whether it looks as nice’n’sharp as traditional, super-slow rendering. Whaddaya think? Here’s another trailer to mull over.

You can find a little more detail about Deep’s story, staff and production over here.

This isn’t Valve’s first foray into the moving pictures industry, of course. Why, as of today they’re also distributing Indie Game: The Movie via Steam. Next month they’ll be announcing that Half-Life 3 is actually Star Wars VII, you mark my words.


  1. Enzo says:

    Looks bad.

    • Lemming says:

      I’m assuming this is early days. The TF2 ‘Meet the..’s were rendered in Source, so we know it can look better than this.

      That said, he would have been better off sticking to rendered stills until it’s more complete before doing trailers.

    • Schwerpunk says:

      Well, I like it.

      Conversely, I didn’t really like 9 as a movie, but I did enjoy it as a visual treat.

  2. Drake Sigar says:

    I’m prepping my throat in anticipation.

  3. Undermind_Mike says:

    The Archimandrite Luseferous works for Valve: discuss?

    • Xerophyte says:

      I guess threatening to mount Bob Kotick’s detached-but-alive head on a wall in the Valve rec room for use as a punching bag until Episode 3 was released would explain how they were allowed to continue making Dota 2 without a lawsuit.

      • Phantoon says:

        There WAS a lawsuit, though!

        • Xerophyte says:

          Yes, but Actizzard dropped it or settled or somesuch. This seems out of character, but could well be explained by Valve threatening to obliterate Santa Monica with an indiscriminate meteor strike.

    • The Dark One says:

      Nah, he’s got to be working for the Indie Royale bundle people- completely misinterpreting the psychology of the lethargic gas bags he’s targeting, attempting to hold them ‘hostage’ on his terms and completely floundering when it fails to work.

  4. sonofsanta says:

    Congratulations! You have made a PS2 cut scene.

    Admittedly, this sort of thing will force animators to rely more on a visual style than just “look at the pretties” but still, it’s going to be hard to shake the feeling of just… watching a game.

    (insert topical CoD/Uncharted/etc. joke here)

    • nearly says:

      I rewatch my Metal Gear Solid 3 theater disc from time to time. while I understand condensing it down to 3 hours requires sacrifices, sometimes I think it would be better without all the exposition edited in. in either case, I don’t think it’s bad.

  5. maf54 says:

    No, it doesn’t look near as good as traditionally rendered computer animation, but it looks passable and shows that Source and other game engines are potentially good cheap and fast tools for film making. As with video games, the graphics don’t have to be the best if the product has enough to offer in other ways.

    • Skabooga says:

      True that. It’s not the size of the graphics that counts but how you use them.

  6. Dr I am a Doctor says:


  7. DarkFarmer says:

    ewwwww. Maybe using Source for Previs is ok, but for an entire film? Gross.

    • Xerian says:

      … Cant tell if serious… Have you ever watched the various “Meet the …” videos? They’re more gorgeous than alot of animated films. What about the cinematic trailers for Dota 2? Or perhaps portal 2? Of left for dead 1 and two’s intros?
      Excuse me, sir, are you blind?

  8. Theory says:

    These are obviously not final quality. God knows why they’re showing them.

    Unless they are actually using the game assets in the film? That’s just bad.

    • MichaelPalin says:

      Is that link supposed to be in favor of Source? Because it still looks awful.

    • MordeaniisChaos says:

      All I have to say is that I’d happily watch a Left 4 Dead film that looks as good as the L4D2 intro, which both looks awesome and contains three awesome characters.

  9. Eclipse says:

    remember guys, Team Fortress 2 “meet the” videos where all made with source engine, and they still look very good to me.

  10. PikaBot says:

    ‘Blathery’ doesn’t even begin to cover how awful 9’s script was. So much talking, so little being said, and it managed to accomplish the exceptional feat of having the point both be obvious and belabored, and confused and pretentious.

    The movie looked great, the designs were really chilling and the world they inhabited looked good, but as a storytelling exercise it was an unmitigated disaster.

  11. misterT0AST says:

    if people are willing to watch animation the quality of South Park, they will have no problem with this. It certainly isn’t very pretty, but I can understand what’s going on on…

  12. RealoFoxtrot says:

    I am someone who has been working hard on trying to get true animated films created inside game engines…

    I can say from personal experience that using the Source Engine is….. ehh…. well, shit.

    It’s a six year old engine, and it shows when you want to make films. Personally, i like the Cryengine 3, but that’s because the developers have made proper toolsets for Cinematic work

    • Lemming says:

      I’ve got to know, what is the advantage of doing these things in a game engine? Why not just do a 3dsmax/blender/maya scene?

      • Sweedums says:

        Render speed. A game engine, as we all well know, can render many frames per second, in real time. Rendering from software such as Maya, if you have nice lighting, shadows and effects etc, can take hours, maybe even days… per frame.

        Big visual effects and animation companies often have their own render farms too, which is essentially an enormous bank of CPU’s all connected, designed to share the load… and it STILL takes a long time to render.

        EDIT: having said that, in Maya you can “playblast” which basically renders out the active viewport, really quick, without any lighting, so what he says about being able to quickly revise animation is not really a feature exclusive to game engines…

    • ChromeBallz says:

      Source itself is roughly 10 years old now, though the latest revision was with Portal 2.

      I’m somewhat expecting Valve to have realized this, hence they are making HL3 in a new engine.

      • Mr. Mister says:

        I’d say that currently the (non-internal) most powerful adaptation of the Source engine is what’s achieved in Cinematic Mod. Design tastes aside, lightning and shaders the graphics are way ahead of official games.

    • Marcem says:

      Have you worked with Source Filmmaker at all? From what I understand, that’s a lot better for this stuff.

    • Xerian says:

      Actual animations are by far alot easier to do in source – And if you *LICENSE* the damn thing, its quite easy to use with the tools you’re given, and the explanations you’ll be getting. Its one of the easier engines out there, and one of the most gorgeous ones too. Now I myself havent tried CryEnginewhatsitsface, so I wouldnt know if thats easier, specifically for character-animation, but damn, its so damn simple using source. And source has indeed been given film-making tools, I dont remember when though. Oh, and Source isnt 6 years old – Its 10. So I’d say its holding up pretty well… Although, they’re doing revisions with every damn game, so in reality *this* “version” of source is as old as Portal 2, and the graphics are gorgeous once you get the hang of it. But I do agree that it isnt the easiest, but I dont doubt that its one of the cheapest to license when looking at bang for your buck.

  13. Fazer says:

    Characters in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 from 5 years ago looked better than this :-/

  14. Moni says:

    Doesn’t Cryengine have a bunch of tools for cinema animation? I think this guy got ripped off.

    • Shooop says:

      He’s probably purposely going for that PS2 cinematics level of quality, chalking it up to “artistic intent” seeing as he is a “visionary director”.

      And everybody knows, visionary today is just a synonym for “pretentious”.

      • dmoe says:

        Looks like the jumping to conclusions pad already went on sale.

        • mondomau says:

          Right? Looks like he picked up the judgmental know-it-all accessory too.

  15. Rusty says:

    “Priceless gnashers,” surely?

  16. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:


  17. Trent Hawkins says:

    I know what will get your minds off of the terrible 1990s graphics. Just swap out the audio for something a bit more appropriate:

  18. Lev Astov says:

    I don’t know what you’re all talking about. It’s an animated film and I thought it looked great. It’s worlds better than the knock-off animated films churned out by lower tier production companies for budget kid’s films these days, and sounds like it’s a fraction of the cost, too.

    Also, if the Source engine works out well for this, I could see Valve developing it into a more full-fledged animating suite with more effects and such. Imagine garage indie animators getting their hands on this for better quality machinimas. We’ll get a lot of trash, sure, but we’ll also likely get a few gems out of the process.

    • ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

      Totally agree. Plenty of daft skyward-nosed, high-and-mighty moaning going on here.

      As can be seen from the multitudes of utterly bollocks blockbuster films using top-tier CGI, a great end result has way more to do with how well the technology is used, how well the story is written, and whether a studio bothers with voice acting talent that’s above the level of Stephen Hawking’s vocoding pal.

      Also shows we’re reaching an interesting point of diminishing returns in regards to rendering horsepower versus the audience’s perceptual differences in ‘quality’.

  19. WebFusion says:

    I’m actually more interested in seeing the “associated tools”. Surely, they aren’t talking about the current version of the Hammer Editor, which is an antiquated piece of shit.

    Valve has been talking about the “new tools” they’ve been working on for a couple of years now, and the are sorely needed for TF2/L4D. If anyone has seen the new UE4 toolset coming out, Valve has some work to do.

    • Lemming says:

      I think he’s referring to the source movie tools which they are planning on releasing soon, as I understand it.

  20. buzzmong says:

    Well, for the people saying Source doesn’t look pretty, the shaders and lighting engines used can easily be modified to rather drastically up the visual quality as Portal 2’s version of the engine has shown vs previous engine iterations, but I concede it will never look as good as a proper rendered scene from the proper software. Well, not until that vapourware ray-tracing hardware actually gets into production.

    That all said, in the videos I really only noticed the lack of detail when the scenes were static or slow moving. If you keep a decent pace of movement then it gets quite hard to notice the lack of definition in the details.

    I’d say being able to create and render stuff in game engines, when aware of the limitations, should yield some pretty decent quality shorts or budget films.

  21. Stochastic says:

    This looks rather atrocious at the moment. I imagine the final version will be improved, but still, this is not promising footage. The average Vimeo featured animation looks lightyears better than this. I will withhold further judgement until the film is complete.

    As others have pointed out though, we know that the Source engine is very capable from Valve’s TF2 videos (or perhaps their quality is simply a testament to the talent of Valve’s artists and animators). I have no doubt that the next generation of game engines will be capable enough for full length animated films.

  22. gwathdring says:

    Huh. Don’t know about the whole Source thing … I’m not sure it looks especially interesting as a game so far. “Underwater Western.” Huh.

    Well, “Space Cowboys” sounded campy and silly but then Firefly happened. Not sure this is going to be Firefly levels of pleasant surprise, but I’ll wait a bit longer to see.

    • Acorino says:

      My first association with “Space Cowboys” was Cowboy Bebop. I guess I need to watch Firefly someday…

  23. roryok says:

    Ok, it’s not as polished as it could be, but I think it’l improve a lot. Compare those TF2 meet the team videos to Pixar stuff, there’s not much of a discernible difference.

  24. Leaufai says:

    Ever since I played Portal 2, I’ve become convinced that Valve should shelve the Source engine and come up with something new. It’s levels are based on .BSP technology, tech that hasn’t been radically changed since Quake 1. I see all these other great engines pass Source left and right and its a shame, because Valve could do so much more with an up-to-date engine. They have to limit themselves to multiplayer games with small levels, singleplayer puzzlers in confined spaces or games with stylized graphics. They need an engine that allows on-the-fly adaption. Source is slow to work with. No wonder every indie dev works with Unreal instead of Source.

    Hopefully they’re working on it behind the scenes and rolling it out with HL3. Only real explanation for the delay.

    • Stochastic says:

      Everyone’s going to be massively disappointed if that isn’t the case.

    • Lemming says:

      See I don’t get this. OK, it’s old. But why is that a problem? What actual problems did you ‘realise’ with the engine while playing Portal 2? The engine’s age isn’t a problem. The fact that the map format is bsp isn’t a problem.

      I’m not having a go, I just don’t get what anyone thinks a new engine would possibly bring to the table, using Portal 2 as an example.

      • marcusfell says:

        I cried the first time I walked up to a door texture. It hurt that badly.

      • GreatGreyBeast says:

        Dunno about door textures, which shouldn’t have anything to do with the engine, but its biggest drawback right now is level size. I thought Portal 2 looked perfectly pretty, but I did get tired of being slammed in the face with a loading screen every 5-10 minutes. That wasn’t a problem 10 years ago, but as graphical complexity has gone up, the amount of game you can squash in per loading screen has gone down, and as of P2 its gone just as far as I can take.

        Also the editor is getting old and crotchety, especially compared to sexy new software like in that Unreal 4 demo. Pretty graphics take time as well as technology, and the software may be becoming a roadblock on that point.

        • Acorino says:

          I wasn’t bothered with the loading screens in Portal 2, though I remember being bothered with them in Half Life 2. I think back then I hoped that every game would adapt the dynamic loading method that Dungeon Siege introduced and was disappointed when that didn’t happen. Actually I’m still disappointed that it happens so rarely.

  25. Suva says:

    24fps, for god sake. If you have the technology, for at least you could up the frame rate. But people are used to seeing choppy video and actually consider it to be good.

    • frightlever says:

      In a FPS game framerates and latency matter, meanwhile in the film world people are complaining that using 60fps makes everything on digital video look like a soap opera. People, huh?

      I enjoyed 9. What I’ve seen of this looks tolerable (edit: actually I watched the first trailer again in 720P – looks fine. I’d be happy to watch that.) I’m not really fussy on video quality though, and particularly for a film would happily sacrifice visuals for a decent story.

  26. I Am Thermite says:

    I wonder how all those Source machinima-makers from the years past feel about this.

  27. PPOY52 says:

    Awesome. Next: movies in CryEngine!

  28. Bassem says:

    Looks pretty bad. And I’m not blaming Source, since I’ve seen the Dota 2 trailer, the Meet the TF2 videos, and heck I even played HL2 and they all were better modeled, lit and animated than these videos above.

    Small world: In my previous workplace, we had a framed poster of Brown Bag Films’ Give Up Yer Aul Sins. And this is in Beirut, Lebanon.