A Guide To The Demo Tool Vol. 2: The Camera Path Editor

Not everybody who plays this game knows, but Neverwinter actually has a replay feature! It allows for capturing high quality screenshots or replaying the action of an entire dungeon boss fight. So how does it work?

Hollywood, here I come

While taking high-quality screenshots is already be awesome enough, the demotool can do so much more! Creating Neverwinter Machinima or dank-ass PVP montages is what it was originally intended to be used for (more the machinima though).

The devs actually use this very tool to create their own trailers that use game footage and all of the ingame cutscenes. Start your adventure by checking the “Camera Path Editor” box.

So many buttons

The moment you activated the editor a lot of HUD docks, buttons and a timeline at the bottom showed up. Here is what the important ones do:

  • “Add Path/Delete Path”: Add a path to the path list/delete currently selected path. Usually you do not need multiple paths. But you will always start by adding a new path. You may then minimize the “Path List” section (by clicking the “-” left to it)
  • “Add Point/Delete Point”: Adds what is currently visible on screen as a point to the camera path/deletes the currently selected point from the path. In “easy path” mode this will capture the camera position and its view to the point. Basically everytime you click “add point”, you create the screen your camera path will look like at that specific time point.
  • “Edit Mode”: I suggest using “translate” instead of “rotate”. If you select a point it will now show as 3 thin arrows (red, blue and green) on your screen, where it is located in the world. Those arrows stand for the 3 axes x,y,z and you can drag those arrows to move the point to another location. Where the camera is looking at does not change however.
  • “Camera Positions”: Here you will see a list of all points. “Camera Position” (blue/upper timeline) is connected to “Look At Position” (red/lower timeline). There you can see “Time” (how long it takes for your path to reach that point) and “Hold” (how long the camera will “rest” on that point, is defaulted and should stay at 0).

    Demo HUD, red arrows show the selected point
    The Camera Path Editor HUD, red arrows show the selected point

Once upon a Time

At the bottom of your screen you will see the timeline of your camera path. There are all of your path’s point sorted with the start to the left. After creating a point you may drag them around to increase or decrease the time it takes to reach them.

In your actual screen (in the world) you can reposition the points in terms of location on the map, in the timeline you can reposition the points in terms of travel time.

 I have the power

  • The demo has to be in “play” mode in order for the camera path to also start playing.
  • The path play and pause buttons (bottom left) are independent from your demo time control HUD (topleft corner). That means you can watch the demo and simultaniously edit your path.
  • If your path is playing, then you will see a thin red marker to indicate the camera path’s position in the timeline. You may hold and drag that marker around to skip or rewind to parts of your camera path.
  • You can’t create points “before” your first point in your timeline. Choose your start wisely or you might have to rebuild your path from scratch.
  • The timeline HUD can be dragged down slightly so you can see more of the actual screen.
  • Most of the times the programm already suggests good times for your points, but sometimes (on really short or really long travel distances) the time is just off.
  • Rewatch your paths multiple times to ensure that there are no unintended sudden increase or decreases in your camera speed.
  • In 99% of all cases you will want to use the “easy path” as path type.

Recording a video the “simple” method

The easiest way to record a video with a camera path is to drag down the timeline to minimal size, and just record your screnn with a screencap software like PBS or fraps. You will then later have to zoom in your video in an editing software so it no longer shows the demo HUD.

Zoom into the video with Sony Vegas using Panorama Cropping; dotted area marks the later visible part.
Zoom into the video with Sony Vegas using Panorama Cropping; dotted area (with F) marks the in the actual video visible part.

This causes some decent loss in quality though, you sort of lose “pixels” since you have to zoom in. There is a more professional way to do it, but for now here some tips for the regular way:

  • You should always max out your settings in game and in your recording software, even if it would stutter. There are ways around that.
  • Be sure to change the option “show camera path” so it no longer displays the thin lines marking the camera path. Also make sure you have no point selected since it will also show as the 3 arrows in your video.
  • Use the timestepscale command to slow down your game before capturing your path and then later increase the speed again by the reverse value (in your editing programm).
  • If you record in 30 FPS and would slow down the demo with “timestepscale 0.1”, you would then (after speeding it up in your editing software) simulate 300 FPS. How?
  • The editing software has 10 time more frames to choose from, you are basically comprimating 300 FPS into 30 FPS. This magically removes all stuttering and lets you record with way higher settings than usually. Of course your actual video project would stay in 30 FPS.
  • While the actual method is simple, you will have more work with making the game and your video look good.

Oh my, that was long. Next part will be about the “professional” way to record videos and more functionalities of the demo tool. Some of them will be useful for movie making, some go more into the direction of game design.

Cheers, Jay.


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