Cut scene

From Academic Kids

A cut scene or cutscene (sometimes also referred to as a cinematic) is a sequence in a video game over which the player has no control. Cut scenes are used to advance the plot, portray character, and provide background information, atmosphere, dialogue and clues.

The earliest video game known to make use of cutscenes as an extensive and integral part of the game was Lucas Arts' Maniac Mansion, created by Ron Gilbert, which was released in 1987 and renowned for several other innovations as well. Since then, cutscenes have been part of many video games, especially in the RPG genre.

Cut scenes can either be animated or use live action footage.

Live action cut scenes

Live action cut scenes have many similarities to films. For example, the cut scenes in Wing Commander IV utilised both fully constructed sets, and "name" actors such as Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell for the portrayal of characters.

Recently, some movie tie-in games, such as Electronic Arts' Lord of the Rings games, have also extensively used film footage and other assets from the film production in their cut scenes. For example, another movie tie-in, Enter the Matrix, used film footage shot concurrently with The Matrix Reloaded that was also directed by the film's directors the Wachowski brothers.

However, many gamers criticize live action cut scenes for their often poor production values and sub-standard acting. The Command and Conquer series of real-time strategy games is particularly noted for its often hammy acting performances.

Live action cut scenes were popular in the early to mid 1990s with the onset of the CD-ROM and subsequent extra storage space available. This also lead to the development of the so-called interactive movie, which featured hours of live action footage while sacrificing interactivity and complex gameplay.

Increasing graphics quality, cost, critical backlash and artistic need to better integrate cut scenes with gameplay graphics soon lead to the increased popularity in animated cutscenes in the late 1990s.

Animated cut scenes

There are two primary techniques for animating cut scenes. In-game cut scenes are rendered on-the-fly using the same game engine as the graphics in the game proper. Pre-rendered cut scenes are animated and rendered by the game's developers, able to take advantage of the full array of techniques of CGI, cel animation or graphic novel-style panel art. The Final Fantasy series of video games, developed by Square, are noted for their pre-rendered cut scenes, which were first introduced in Final Fantasy VII.

Pre-rendered cut scenes are generally of higher visual quality than in-game cut scenes, but have two disadvantages: the difference in quality can sometimes create difficulties of recognizing the high-quality images from the cut scene when the player has been used to the lower-quality images from the game; also, the pre-rendered cut scene cannot adapt to the state of the game: for example, by showing different items of clothing worn by a character.

In newer games, which can take advantage of sophisticated programming techniques and more powerful processors (like the PlayStation 2's), in-game cut scenes are rendered on the fly and can be closely integrated with the gameplay. Scripted scenes are also used that provide the benefits of cutscenes without taking away the interactivity from the gameplay. Some games, for instance, give the player some control over camera movement during cutscenes, for example Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.

Cut scenes that are streamed from a video file (which may be pre-rendered animation or actual video footage) are sometimes also referred to as full motion video or FMV.

See also

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