Video game developer Valve has announced it will be releasing a free tool called Source Filmmaker.

The company behind titles such as Half-Life, Left 4 Dead and Portal revealed the new program at the end of its Meet the Pyro video, a clip released to explain the psyche of the crazed pyromaniac in the first person shooter Team Fortress 2 (TF2).

At the moment, the tool is in closed beta, but anyone can apply to be included, and currently only supports TF2.

It is designed to allow avid filmmakers to create movies using the Source engine. Anything that exists in the game can, therefore, be utilised to help bring a film to life, allowing creative minds to generate their very own machinima (homemade cinematics using video game software).

"By utilizing the hardware rendering power of a modern gaming PC, the SFM allows storytellers to work in a what-you-see-is-what-you-get environment so they can iterate in the context of what it will feel like for the final audience," said a statement on the tool's website.

Prospective filmmakers can sign up for the beta and start shooting right away. Valve has created a selection of video tutorials to help beginners get to grips with the software. They include the basics, editing, sound, manipulating, time selection and puppeteering.

A range of nine characters, hundreds of locations and thousands of props, particles, textures and sounds can be used in the movies, and if that's not enough, intrepid directors can even choose to create their own in-game items.

Machinima first began to make a name for itself when a famous Quake gaming clan made a short film called the Diary of a Camper in 1996. This inspired many more Quake movies and it went onto expand to other titles.

One of the most notable examples of machinima is Red vs Blue, a comedy science fiction video series made using the Halo engine. It has been widely distributed throughout the internet and released on DVD.ADNFCR-1220-ID-801395966-ADNFCR
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