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Full motion video


Full motion video

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Screenshot of an FMV from Final Fantasy VIII. Screenshot of an FMV from Final Fantasy VIII.

Full motion video, usually abbreviated as FMV, is a popular term for pre-recorded TV-quality movie or animation in a video game. The first use of FMV was in 1983 with Dragon's Lair, a laserdisc video game by Cinematronics. Another early instance of FMV was Hasbro's unreleased video game system named NEMO. The NEMO home system created games with VHS tapes rather than ROM cartridges or 3.5 disks. In the early 1990s when PCs and consoles moved to creating games on a CD, they became technically capable of utilizing more than a few minutes' worth of movies in a game. This gave rise to a slew of FMV and computer games such as Night Trap (1992), Dracula Unleashed (1993), and Voyeur (1994). These FMV games used B-list movie and TV actors and promised to create the experience of playing an interactive movie. However, the FMV quality in these early games was low, and the game play did not live up to the hype, becoming well-known failures in video gaming. At this time consoles like 3DO, CD-i, and Sega CD borrowed this concept for a slew of interactive games. Nonetheless, two major things kept up the interest in FMV.

The first thing was that the rise of the Internet increased the popularity of FMV as consumers wanted to download various music and video files online. As the technology improved, so did the FMV quality. Popular platforms for FMV include QuickTime, MPEG, Smacker, and Bink.

The second thing was the rise of Sony as a major player in the video game industry with their release of the 32-bit PlayStation. The PlayStation was probably the first console to popularize FMVs (as opposed to earlier usage of FMV which was seen as a passing fad). The FMVs in Final Fantasy VIII, for example, are considered movie-quality. FMVs are still being used, mostly by the PlayStation 2. Square Enix (creators of Final Fantasy, Chrono Trigger, and Kingdom Hearts) has a tradition of designing games with an abundance of FMVs.

FMV differs from real-time cutscenes in that real-time cutscenes render the surrounding environment as it appears in the actual game, whereas FMV is simply a playback of something that was previously recorded, usually rendered by a much more powerful machine. Thus, FMV was traditionally much higher quality than real-time cutscenes, and the two can usually be differentiated by this. With computer games running on more modern hardware, however, the use of FMV for cutscenes has been drastically reduced as similar quality graphics can be produced in the game engine with much less disc space required for the source data. With modern computer hardware, games are rendered at much higher resolutions than typical FMVs, resulting in FMVs being easily spottable as "lower quality" than the game itself. In this case, while a pre-rendered FMV may use more advanced effects than possible in-game, it is considered lower quality due to being seen at a lower resolution. Contrasting examples of this include the Half-Life series, which leaves the player in control during in-game cutscenes, and the Splinter Cell series on PC, which utilizes FMV that is lower resolution than the actual game, yet uses advanced rendering techniques beyond those of a single PC.


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This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.