Valve's Machinima Platform is Now Available for Free -- And You Can Make Money from the Movies You Make With It
Source Filmmaker, the machinima platform Valve Software recently started giving away for free (if you apply for an invite), lets you create cool videos using the company's Team Fortress 2 assets, but even better, you can also make entirely new machinima, and maintain the rights over it. To my knowledge, this is the most liberal license offered by any major, full-fledged machinima platform. Second Life has a similar policy, but rights management and permissions are much more complicated, and has some serious shortcomings as a machinima tool, like a lack of lip sync animations. Here's the key clause from the Filmmaker FAQ:
Q. Can I make money with this tool?
Yes, but not if you’re using Valve’s assets in your movie. The tool is free for non-commercial use. You can use Valve’s game assets (things like characters, props, particles, textures, and sounds) to create movies and images to share with the game community, as long as what you create is free. We’re not giving you a license to commercialize our assets. However, if you do not include any of Valve’s assets in the movies and images that you make, then there are no restrictions on what you do with your content and you can make money with it.
Emphasis mine, because this is big: Running on the Source engine, Team Fortress 2 has some of the best 3D graphics in the industry, and now Valve is letting machinimators and filmmakers use it as a tool for their own projects. What's more, because it's from Valve, any machinima made from Filmmaker will come with a large built-in audience of gamers.
Unsurprisingly, some top Second Life machinima makers are now getting into Filmmaker. Check out Rik Riel's interview with Frank Dellario of Ill Clan, which made a lot of great Second Life machinima (like this one, for the Hollywood movie Role Models), and is now working with Source Filmmaker: