AskDefine | Define cinematic

Dictionary Definition

cinematic adj : of or pertaining to or characteristic of the cinema

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. Of or relating to the cinema.

Extensive Definition

A cut scene is a sequence in a video game over which the player has little or no control, often breaking up the gameplay and used to advance the plot, present character development, and provide background information, atmosphere, dialogue and clues. Cut scenes can either be animated or use live action footage.
The earliest video games known to make use of cut scenes as an extensive and integral part of the game were Enix's Portpia Renzoku Satsujin Jiken, released in 1985, and Lucasfilm Games' Maniac Mansion, created by Ron Gilbert and released in 1987, which was also renowned for several other innovations as well. Since then, cut scenes have been part of many video games, especially in the RPG genre.
Cut scenes are sometimes also referred to by other terms such as cinematics or in game movies. Cut scenes that are streamed from a video file are sometimes also referred to as full motion video or FMV.

Live-action cut scenes

Live-action cut scenes have many similarities to films. For example, the cut scenes in Wing Commander IV utilised both fully constructed sets, and "name" actors such as Mark Hamill and Malcolm McDowell for the portrayal of characters.
Recently, some movie tie-in games, such as Electronic Arts' The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars games, have also extensively used film footage and other assets from the film production in their cut scenes. Another movie tie-in, Enter the Matrix, used film footage shot concurrently with The Matrix Reloaded that was also directed by the film's directors the Wachowski brothers.
However, many gamers enjoy live-action cut scenes for their often poor production values and sub-standard acting. The cut scenes in the Command & Conquer series of real-time strategy games are particularly noted for often hammy acting performances.
Live action cut scenes were popular in the early to mid 1990s with the onset of the CD-ROM and subsequent extra storage space available. This also led to the development of the so-called interactive movie, which featured hours of live-action footage while sacrificing interactivity and complex gameplay.
Increasing graphics quality, cost, critical backlash and artistic need to integrate cut scenes better with gameplay graphics soon led to the increased popularity in animated cut scenes in the late 1990s. However, for cinematic effect, some games still utilise live-action cut scenes - an example of this is Black, which features interviews between Jack Kellar and his interrogator filmed with real actors.

Animated cut scenes

There are two primary techniques for animating cut scenes. In-game cut scenes are rendered on-the-fly using the same game engine as the graphics in the game proper. These are frequently used in the RPG genre, as well as Metal Gear Solid, Grand Theft Auto, Spider-Man (2000 video game), and The Legend of Zelda games, among many others. Pre-rendered cut scenes are animated and rendered by the game's developers, able to take advantage of the full array of techniques of CGI, cel animation or graphic novel-style panel art. The Final Fantasy series of video games, developed by Square, are noted for their prerendered cut scenes, which were first introduced in Final Fantasy VII.
Blizzard Entertainment is also a notable player in the field. The company has a department created especially for making cinema-quality pre-rendered cut scenes, for games such as Diablo II and Warcraft III. In 1996 Dreamworks created The Neverhood, the first and only game to ever feature all-plasticine, stopmotion animated cut scene sequences.
Pre-rendered cut scenes are generally of higher visual quality than in-game cut scenes, but have two disadvantages: the difference in quality can sometimes create difficulties of recognizing the high-quality images from the cut scene when the player has been used to the lower-quality images from the game; also, the pre-rendered cut scene cannot adapt to the state of the game: for example, by showing different items of clothing worn by a character. This is seen in the PlayStation 2 version of Resident Evil 4, where Leon is seen always in his default costume because of processor restraints that were not seen in the GameCube version.
In newer games, which can take advantage of sophisticated programming techniques and more powerful processors, in-game cut scenes are rendered on the fly and can be closely integrated with the gameplay. Scripted scenes are also used that provide the benefits of cut scenes without taking away the interactivity from the gameplay. Some games, for instance, give the player some control over camera movement during cut scenes, for example Dungeon Siege ,Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty and Kane & Lynch: Dead Men. Others require button inputs in the midst of cut scenes in order to successfully continue, as in Sword of the Berserk: Guts Rage, Resident Evil 4 or Shenmue 2.
The "interactive movie" is also making a comeback as is seen in Quantic Dream's Fahrenheit (known as Indigo Prophecy in the US and Canada), where the entire game involves real-time cut scenes which are played out depending on the player's actions. Decisions are integral to the game's story, and players are constantly involved in the cut-scenes in some way.

Interactive cut scenes

New games including God of War II, Tomb Raider: Legend, and Spider-Man 3 have employed interactive cut scenes where buttons appear onscreen and the player is required to press them in order to succeed, similar to the "Quick Time Events" from Shenmue. Games with these include Sword of the Berserk: Guts' Rage, Resident Evil 4, God of War, and Fahrenheit. The dubbed "cineractives" in Spider-Man 3 were sometimes criticised due to having no warning when they were about to happen, often leaving the player having to re-do the event.

No cut scenes

A recent trend in video games is to avoid cut scenes completely. It was popularized in Valve's 1998 video game, Half-Life, and has since been used by games such as Bioshock and all of Valve's other games. Instead of viewing cut scenes, the player retains control of the character at all times, and the player's face is never seen. This is meant to immerse the player more in the game, although it requires more effort on the part of the developer to make sure the player cannot interrupt the scripted actions that occur instead of cut scenes. The Nintendo 64 version of Spider-Man does not have cut scenes, unlike the Playstation version, which does.


cinematic in German: Zwischensequenz
cinematic in French: Cinématique (jeu vidéo)
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