The Sims 3 Tutorial

Welcome fellow machinima artist, you’ve stumbled upon Peter Medina’s (aka TheSidDog) Machinima Tips and Tricks page.  The information below is a compiled list that creators may find useful recording their own videos using The Sims 3!

About “TheSidDog”

Peter S. Medina is a graphic design student living in southern California. His online handle is TheSidDog, a tribute to a dog he used to own. Peter has been playing The Sims series since 2000, and began making machinima using The Sims 2 in 2004. He took part in the “Sims Played By” marketing campaign for EA Games in 2005 / 2006, and was invited to “The Sims 3 Creators Camp” in 2009 — over two dozen top content creators from around the world spent a week giving feedback on The Sims 3 and creating content, including machinima, with it.

I enjoy machinima for the creative freedom it gives me. My primary craft is web and graphic design, not cinema, but machinima gives me the ability to tell an animated story cheaply and effectivly. It’s also brought me amazing opportunities and friendships — the Sims machinima community is a creative and energetic group I’m proud to be part of.

TheSidDog.com | TheSidDog on Twitter | TheSidDog on YouTube | TheSidDog on The Sims 3

Here are some tips and tricks I learned from the production of Black Widow Flower Garden, my first independent Sims 3 machinima. This isn’t an in depth guide to making machinima using The Sims 3; it’s just a collection of lessons I learned from my own production. I assume the following about you:

  • You know how to play The Sims, including The Sims 3. You know how to keep Sims alive, and how to kill them.
  • You know how to activate the cheat console (Crtl+Shift+C).
  • You’re familiar with your operating system. You can find, copy, paste, move, delete, and overwrite files and folders. This was written from the perspective of a Windows user (Windows 7), so Mac users will have to adapt the file locations to match their system.
  • You’re at least somewhat familiar with Sims based machinima. You understand how to enter movie mode (tab) and how to setup camera positions (pressing Crtl plus any number from 5 to 9 saves the camera in the current position; return to it by pressing its assigned number.). You also know how to start a recording (v).
  • You understand aspect ratios as they relate to video. High Definition video is displayed in a 16:9 ratio; Standard Definition video is displayed in a 4:3 ratio. I will explain how to capture 1280×720 (16:9 HD) video in this guide.

This guide will explain the following:

  • How to Record 1280×720 HD Video
  • How to Change the Camera Speed
  • How to Get Facial Animations From Your Sims and Other Animations
  • How to Keep Your Sims Happy During Production (Or Not)
  • How to Break a TV and Trigger the Electrocution Animation

How to Record 1280×720 HD Video

The Sims 3 features three size options for video recording: small, medium and large. This section will explain how to modify the default size of large video so that it records at a resolution of 1280×720. Keep in mind that larger resolutions increase file size.

You need to access a special configuration file in order to modify the camera resolution. The file is called “Sims3.ini” and is located here:

Program Files/Electronic Arts/The Sims 3/Game/Bin/Sims3.ini

There are a lot of parameters in this file. We’re only concerned with the top set, titled “[VideoRecording]” — that’s where we set the camera resolution. The complete set of video parameters looks like this:

[VideoRecording]

LowQuality = video:vp6, audio:adpcm, fps:10.0, bitrate:1000

MediumQuality = video:vp6, audio:adpcm, fps:15.0, bitrate:2000

HighQuality = video:vp6, audio:adpcm, fps:30.0, bitrate:4000

MaxQuality = video:rgb24, audio:pcm, fps:30.0, bitrate:0

Small = 320, 0

Medium = 640, 0

Large = 1024, 0

VideoFolder = Recorded Videos

SnapshotsFolder = Screenshots

We’re going to change the value for Large. Note where it says “1024” — that was the default on my system and may be different on yours. Change the Large value from “X, 0” to “1280, 720”. At this point you can save and close the file.

Note on Saving: If you encounter an error saving: Save the modified file to your desktop, then move it back to the original folder and overwrite the original configuration file.

Note on Aspect Ratio: My monitor has a resolution of 1680×1050, a 16:10 ratio. Forcing my recordings to 1280×720 (16:9) caused the image to stretch. There are two ways around this. First, set your monitor to a 16:9 resolution if it supports it. You can find an aspect ratio calculator here; second, set the recording to a 16:10 ratio and crop out the extra space. I suggest a resolution of 1280×800 for 16:10 monitors; you’ll only need to crop out a total of 80 pixels (40 from the top and 40 from the bottom) in post production. Unfortunately for me I didn’t realize my video was stretched until I shot half the machinima.

Final Note: Make sure you back up this file before making any changes. Also remember that 1280×720 video will take up more space on your hard drive, and it may slow your computer down while it records.

How to Change the Camera Speed

You can change the camera speed by modifying the camera configuration file. It’s located here:

Program Files/Electronic Arts/The Sims 3/GameDate/Shared/NonPackaged/Ini/VideoCamera.ini

The entire file looks like this:

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;; Video camera settings

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;; Speed

[Speed]

Move = 1.0 ;; controls translation in the horizontal plane

MaxMoveSpeed = 200.0 ;; horizontal speed at maxHeight

MoveVertical = 1.0 ;; controls vertical translation

MaxVerticalMoveSpeed = 200.0 ;; vertical speed at maxHeight

Zoom = 30.0

Pitch = 0.003

Yaw = 0.003

Roll = 0.6

MinSpeedHeight = 5 ;; at this or lower height (above ground), speeds are at their minimum

MaxSpeedHeight = 300.0 ;; at this height or higher, speeds are at their maximum

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;; Deceleration

;;

;; Various settings that control how camera motion stops

[Deceleration]

Move = 0.02 ;; fraction of speed left after 1 second of deceleration

Zoom = 0.01 ;; fraction of speed left after 1 second of deceleration

ZoomStopDistance = 10.0 ;; controls how far from the zoom limit does zoom speed start to decelerate

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;; Limits

;;

;; Various settings to limit the camera’s range of motion

[Limits]

MinPitch = -85.0 ;; degrees

MaxPitch = 85.0 ;; degrees

MinRoll = -360.0 ;; degrees

MaxRoll = 360.0 ;; degrees

MinPosHeight = 1.0 ;; meters above terrain

MaxPosHeight = 800.0 ;; meters above terrain

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;; View

[View]

FOV = 45.0 ;; degrees

NearClipDistance = 0.25 ;; warning: decreasing this may result in increased z-fighting

FarClipDistance = 3000.0 ;; warning: increasing this may result in increased z-fighting

;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

;; Miscellaneous

[Misc]

LerpDuration = 2.0 ;; seconds

For this guide we will focus on the parameters Move, MoveVertical and LerpDuration. Move and MoveVertical are at the top; LerpDuration is at the bottom. Here’s what they control:

  • Move: Move controls the camera speed when moving horizontally. Lowering the default value from 1.0 to 0.1 will cause the camera to move 90% slower than the default; raising it from 1.0 to 1.9 will increase the camera speed by 90%. Play around with these values until you find a speed that works well for your scene. Slower speeds will give you better control over composition, as your camera movements will be more precise.
  • MoveVertical: MoveVertical is the same as Move, except that it controls camera speed when moving vertically.
  • LerpDuration: LerpDuration determines the time in seconds it takes the camera to move from Point A to Point B when using the camera preset keys (Crtl plus any number from 5 to 9) in movie mode (tab). 2.0 is the default value, meaning it will take two seconds to move from Point A to Point B.

The other parameters in the VideoCamera.ini file control things like camera height, motion, pitch, etcetera; they were not explored during the production of Black Widow Flower Garden and are beyond the scope of this guide.

Final Note: The VideoCamera.ini file can be modified while the game is running, just alt-tab out and change the camera settings as needed.

How to Get Facial Animations From Your Sims and Other Animations

Facial expressions in The Sims 3 are based on traits. Sims with the “evil” trait tend to frown and look angry all the time; Sims with the “good” trait smile more. You can change traits mid-production by inputting the “TestingCheatsEnabled True” cheat. Here’s how:

  1. Enter “TestingCheatsEnabled True” into the cheat console while playing with the active household.
  2. Shift-click the Sim whose traits you want to modify.
  3. Select “Modify Traits” from the pie menu.
  4. Choose your new traits.

You can do this as many times as you want during your video production. I changed the Black Widow’s traits from “evil” to “flirty” depending on the expressions and other animations I wanted. I also set her to “technophobe” so she would sabotage the TV set (more on that later).

Final Note: Mood plays a role in expressions too. Read below to learn how to quickly change your Sim’s mood.

How to Keep Your Sims Happy During Production (Or Not)

This tip is fairly strait forward. Follow these steps to keep your Sims happy during production.

  1. Enter “TestingCheatsEnabled True” into the cheat console while playing with the active household.
  2. Shift-click the mail box.
  3. Select “Make All Happy”.
  4. Select “Make Motives Static”.

Making Motives Static

Making motives static will keep them from decaying during production, so your Sims are constantly alert and obeying your commands. Don’t select “Make Motives Static” if you want your Sim’s mood to sour. Here’s how to quickly lower the mood of your Sims:

  1. Enter “TestingCheatsEnabled True” into the cheat console while playing with the active household.
  2. Make sure the game is unpaused (you don’t see the effects immediately if the game is pauses).
  3. Click the area of your Sims motive bar that you want to bring it to. Example: select the very start of Hunger to make your Sim starve.

Final Note: “Make All Happy” and “Make Motives Static” affects every Sim in the household; modifying mood bars only affects the individual Sim, and will not work if motives are static.

How to Break a TV and Trigger the Electrocution Animation

I’m going to explain how to break a TV and electrocute a Sim because it gave me such frustration during the production of Black Widow Flower Garden — I just couldn’t figure out how to do it. The Black Widow survived every TV repair attempt despite have NO handiness skill. Here’s how to break the TV and electrocute Sims who repair it:

Breaking the TV

  1. Set one of your Sim’s traits to Technophobe.
  2. Have them sabotage the TV set. Make sure they’re in a good mood.
  3. If successful the TV will break.

Electrocuting Your Sim

  1. Buy the sprinkler object and turn it on. You want to create a puddle.
  2. Move the broken TV over the puddle.
  3. Have a Sim with NO handiness skill attempt to fix it.
  4. They will almost always get a fatal shock from the broken TV. A bad mood may help.
  5. Pause the game the second the electrocution sequence starts. You’ll know it’s happening when your Sim is suddenly deselected. Then use the “MoveObjects On” cheat to move the TV and Sim to your filming location.

Final Note: Sometimes the TV will go up in flames while shocking the Sim; it looks and sounds hilarious.

Final Words:

Hopefully this guide provides you with a basic understanding of Sims 3 machinima. Let me know via YouTube if this guide helped you; I want to see what you made using these tips. And remember to ALWAYS back up the files you’re about to change. Have fun.

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