With the recent 15-minute TF2 short finally released, Source Filmmaker has been on the forefront of many SPUFers’ minds. SPUF’s preeminent videomaker, Nethero has been a longtime mainstay in the SFM community. He has a popular Youtube channel showcasing his high-quality Source Filmmaker videos, and as we learned in this interview, he’s got a lot more happening in his life than that.
1. How did you first get into video game film-making?
Not gonna lie, it was when I saw Practical Problems by James McVee. That video made animating looks so easy, simply for the fact that it looked just like a Meet the Team video but was made by some random guy no one knew anything about (at the time). I remember watching that video and thinking “I’m gonna make a TF2 Saving Private Ryan scene recreation! How hard can it be?” and feeling like I was on a mission. Even better, the program was free! However, I then spent two whole days going through all the tutorials for how to use that program and ended up with 7 seconds of animation and realized that idea was never going to happen.
But I guess the reason I still stuck with it is because I’ve had a lot of past experiences with making videos already. I took the only two classes there were for Video Production in my high school and I remember having a lot of fun with it. Just the art of creating an entire motion picture to fit a story floating around your head and having the ability to make every single frame look exactly the way you want it to. Then expanding on that and finding a stylistic comfort zone, which not only feels the most enjoyable to you but expresses your own unique creativity as a single entertainer among many. That kind of thing gets me high.
I really do have to give James McVee a lot of credit for getting me into it though. I think there are a lot of reasons I believe I would’ve never been interested if it weren’t for Practical Problems. A huge majority of GMod related videos looked very uninteresting to me, and way too many animators just don’t seem to take their craft seriously. So making videos using characters that I associated with the stupid turds I would see all too often on YouTube was a pretty big deterrent for a while. The SFM community really needed to have McVee come along and show everyone just what you could really do with TF2 videos that no one really had it in them to accomplish. People may not think about it, but Practical Problems was practically ground-breaking!
2. What’s your favorite part of the video-making process?
You know it’s interesting you ask that. Since my last video, Every TF2 Animation You’ve Ever Seen, I was contemplating on what I wanted to make standout in my videos from now on, that way I had a special ability that I could do like no one else. What I decided on was cinematography. I just find that to be the most interesting part of animation, partly because that was the main thing we were taught in the Video Production classes I took. But not just that, it’s just really cool that unlike with live-action, an animated camera can do really impossible things. The control you have over perfecting a camera angle is so much higher in animation, and I figured why wouldn’t I want to take advantage of that?
Camera work is my forte, I guess. Still, I enjoy plenty of other things with animating too; even the scripting, composing, and pictures which I make outside of the program itself. But there’s one thing that’s really not fun for me, and that’s conversations. Making characters move around in conversation is incredibly tiresome for me because every movement counts when you want your characters to look like humans. The motions are, of course, not as dynamic and all over the place like action sequences are, but they can never be just as simple as just breathing and lip-syncing. So those kind of scenes are in this uncomfortable middle ground between intense movement and very simple for me. That’s why the poker scene in Meet the Ap-Sap took me so long to make, haha.
3. Do you have any funny anecdotes from a project you were involved in?
Oh God, I do have one! It was when I brought a friend over to my house because she wanted guitar lessons from me. I decided to show her some of my videos when we were finished for the day. The first one I showed her was Meet the Soldier directed by David Lynch, which was my first and only creepy video at the time. She does alright with horror movies in general, but she was a little freaked out by how it started off pretty simple at first and then immediately plunged into the bizarre stuff without warning (which is how I do all my weird videos).
At first she was kind of uncomfortable, but then she started making up for it by ad-libbing everything that was on the screen. And it was the funniest thing! “Oh ♥♥♥♥ dawg, am I trippin’ on some thizz right now? There be freaky ♥♥♥ weirdos down there, mayn! Aw hell naw, why they be lookin’ at me- Oh ♥♥♥♥! Oh ♥♥♥♥ they comin’ out of thin air now! There’s too ♥♥♥♥ many of ‘em! Hey, who’s this ♥♥♥♥♥ right here? What the ♥♥♥♥ dawg, wasn’t you just a bunch a body parts? Oh hell naw, we got Slender Man all over this ♥♥♥♥♥ now, I’m so ♥♥♥♥ed! Hey! He got mah head! He go- aw ♥♥♥♥ he done chopped mah head off! Look at me, I’m so dead right now ♥♥♥♥♥!”
Everything that came out of her mouth cracked me up so much that I decided to do a take where I recorded her riffs on the video. She did one for that video as well as Medic on Drugs, and then I put them over the raw video files and watched them again. Both of us were rolling at that point. I still have those video files, but I’m hesitant to release them. Mostly because I can’t take them seriously at all and I don’t have a second YouTube channel. But who knows? Maybe someday.
4. What’s your favorite SFM video that you’ve made?
That’s a pretty difficult decision to make, you know. While I’m not too impressed with my first two videos anymore, which showcase how bad I used to be at animating, I can’t really say any of them really holds a place in my heart that’s higher than the others. I don’t know why, but I’m always so invested in whatever project I’m currently working on that I feel like the answer to that always changes. The time it takes me to make a video can always be grueling while I’m still not finished with it, but when I finally upload it and it’s off my hands, I no longer care about all the time it took to make it. On the first day, I’m always really eager to tell people how long it took me to complete the whole thing. But as time goes by, I don’t feel like sharing that info anymore and just want to get onto my next project.
Although, for the sake of the interview, I guess I’ll have to say Meet the Ap-Sap. I know it’s my Saxxy entry video, and I know it’s my most viewed video so far, and I know it’s the one I spent the most time making. All things considered though, that’s the only video I’ve made so far that actually had a comprehensive plot and the only one where I really cared about the characters and their personalities in the video. It’s also one of only two videos (Every TF2 Animation You’ve Ever Seen being the other one) I made so far that actually had a storyboard written for it. The others were made off the top of my head and I pretty much made things up as I went along.
Coincidentally, both Meet the Ap-Sap and Every TF2 Animation You’ve Ever Seen are both of my most favored videos. Although, while I knew Meet the Ap-Sap had a lot of worth put into it and it was intentionally meant to be entertaining, the buzz around the other video came as a big surprise to me. I was expecting it to be largely ignored and not even well received by those who saw it, much like my first eerie video. But as it turns out, there was something I did correctly with the bait-and-switch formula this time around that failed on my first attempt. I’m even seeing gifs of the no name pyro on Tumblr, which is really new to me. Maybe there’s something to this storyboarding thing I don’t know about.
5. Are there any other projects do you work on besides SFM videos?
It’s actually a little bit insane how many things I try to juggle at once. The biggest thing I’ve got going on for me is I have a metal band called Gürschach. Music has been my calling in life since I was 14, so that takes priority over my SFM projects even. However, it’s occurred to me that my animated videos seem to get more attention than my band does (based on equal amounts of effort), so I have been thinking about somehow including my band’s music into one of my future videos to see if that bring any attraction to my band at all. It’s worth a try at least.
I also do a bunch of tiny projects every now and then. Sometimes I like to tab famous songs for ultimate-guitar.com, sometimes I listen to a lot of new music and transcribe the lyrics of entire albums, and sometimes I just do random one off things. I’ve also had two threads on SPUF that were like mini-projects to me as well.
The first one was a comic thread where I would make a two image strip that I made using SFM. Since I’m not very funny with captioning things, I decided to let the rest of SPUF decide that for me. Originally, it was intended to be just a one-time thing, but people liked it so much and wanted to see a ranking system, so I turned it into a full blown forum game. In hindsight, I’m very glad I went through with that, because I gained a lot of experience with SFM through that thread and learned some of the most valuable information I needed by doing those comics; all without having to release a bunch of bad videos on YouTube first.
The other thread was TF2 Mad Libs. That one was really just a game for me. It was pretty fun to do, but I often felt like it was demanding too much of my time because it was the most active thread I ever made. There were times when I would have to make new mad libs two times in one day, and that never happened in the comic thread. Eventually I just made a really long queue, and was able to leave that thread on auto-pilot. Unfortunately, then I got pinknamed and was unable to update the thread for a while, and when I came back I was too engrossed in my last video to come back to SPUF even after it was lifted. Unlike the comic thread, that one burned out in a flash.
6. Anything else you’d like to mention before we wrap this up?
Uh… … … yeah, just one thing. I honestly didn’t think I’d be worth interviewing all that much when you first asked me, but I think I can understand why. Even though I’m not the most prolific animator of the TF2 community, I guess I’m unique in that I’m actually an active SPUFer and have a couple of somewhat popular SFM videos. Most of the really famous ones just seem to swing by SPUF when they want to promote their Saxxy entry, but I was on SPUF before I was animating. So yeah, that sounds like it could be a way to put the SPUF community under a good light for outsiders. Hmm, maybe I could be promoting SPUF in my videos.
Also, while I’m used to being interviewed for my band, this is the first interview I’ve done for my videos, so this was a pretty cool chance for me. Thanks for bringing me!