Valve has gained a reputation over the years not just for consistently putting out great games, but also for the slick trailers and promo videos that go along with them. But now the developer is turning the tables and handing over its own video-making tools to fans free of charge. With the Source Filmmaker, gamers will be able to direct, animate, and record their own videos as if they were shooting on location inside a video game.

The new tool will allow gamers to make their own movies using the acclaimed Source game engine directly. This means that users will have almost any element from a recent Valve game at their disposal, including characters, locations, props, particles, textures, and sounds. New assets can even be created from scratch using the Source SDK and imported into a video project. People will then be able to position objects and choose their shots as if it were a real-world location - even lighting and visual effects can be adjusted on the fly.

Where the Source Filmmaker differs from most animation tools is that it acts as an all-in-one package for rendering, video editing, sound editing, motion capture, etc. So rather than rendering a 3D animation using one program and then editing the video in another, for example, an entire animated video can be constructed with just the Source Filmmaker. Don't be fooled by the apparent simplicity the program offers though; it's still a very complex tool with a steep learning curve.

Valve marked the announcement of the Source Filmmaker with the release of "Meet a Pyro," the final video in a series of humorous introductions to the characters in Team Fortress 2. Since this is the same tool the company used to make about 50 promotional movies for their games, it definitely seems like they're issuing a challenge to gamers to make even better videos.

The developer is currently handing out beta keys for the Source Filmmaker through the official website, with a full release planned for later this year. The initial release will include only objects and effects from Team Fortress 2, but Valve plans to include further elements in later releases.

Check out the video below to see Valve designer and filmmaker, Bay Raitt, demonstrate the Source Filmmaker software.

Source: Valve