Thursday, June 15, 2006

What the Hell is Machinima...and Why Should Aspiring Filmmaker's Care?

Simply put, it's the latest hypest in filmmaking. I honestly, don't know much about it, but my friend, Skye, sent me a link to a machinima contest sponsored by Intel and I've been hearing some buzz about it for the past few months.

In short, it's a new form of filmmaking using video game technology to create worlds, control actors and camera angles and moves. The new Activision game entitled "The Movies" employs this technology to allow you to choose actors, settings, props, add dialogue, music and then control and record the action in real time. It's like directing a blockbuster without ever leaving your laptop. And as they say in Hollywood, "this baby has legs!" (Unfortunately, it's currently P.C. only, so us evolved Mac users can't check it out. However, there are other machinima tools and software out there.)

Machinima technology has been used for awhile now to do animated storyboards for complex action scenes in big budget movies, but somewhere along the line someone must've realized that if they spruce up the graphics and added some more features that the animated storyboards could actually be the movie, although obviously not a Hollywood blockbuster. Nevertheless, several machinima films have actually competed in film festivals.

The good folks over at machinima.org have a great short Flash introduction to machinima at www.machinima.org/whatis.html. And the site machinima.com has a huge array of info, tutorials and streaming and downloadable machinima movies.


Here's a machinima film by Byrche Wroot entitled "Lover, You Should've Come Over" that was created using Activision's "The Movies" game. It's an excellent example of the storyboarding and storytelling possibilities that machinima has opened up for us digital guerrillas. I don't know about you but I'm impressed an intrigued.


Could this be the future of filmmaking? Was the poorly received Pacino film, "S1mOne", in which a producer slips a "virtual actress" into his film unbeknownst to an adoring public, actually onto something?

I don't have a clue, but my guess is that as technology improves and video game technology becomes more and more life-like (See Xbox 360 or Playstation 3) the possibility is definitely there. I'm not saying that Angelina Jolie is going to be replaced by the "real" Lara Croft anytime soon, but come time for Tomb Raider - Part 5, Angelina might get a run for her money... by a computer-generated character that doesn't require a trailer or a $20 Million dollar paycheck.


Seriously though, I don't know that machinima will dramatically change the film game, but I do think it is an exciting new genre that's worth paying attention to. It's certainly intriguing and sounds like a great way to practice filmmaking and try out different shots and action sequences without all the real-life expense and hassle. No doubt some of tomorrow's great directors will have played out their entire masterworks on computer before a single frame is even committed to camera.

Please post a comment if you are down with machinima and let people know about your experience or other machinima filmmaking resources out there. Most interesting development... stay tuned.

-Ant.

In case you don't click on the comments below, here's some additional resources from Booklad and Tom Jantol both of Premiere Machinima:

More info:

Machinima Premiere

Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences

Wikipedia entry on Machinima

And a few favorite films:

The French Democracy

Person2184

Only the Strong Survive

Toybox

3 comments:

Booklad said...

Thanks for you positive comments about machinima. I've been a part of the machinima community for several years now and I agree that it's an interesting and growing art form. Some good films have been made, game companies are working with the machinima film community and more and more talented people are getting involved. It's still a young art form and their are growing pains. Most of the films are not very good, the copyright issue is looming over the community's head and with the exception of The Movies and Sims2, filmmaking is still very tech oriented and not at all simple to do. I'm reminded of the early community around DV when it firs came out.

Here are some links for more info:

Machinima Premiere

Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences

Wikipedia entry on Machinima

And a few favorite films:

The French Democracy

Person2184

Only the Strong Survive

Toybox


thanks again for an excellent post.

-gToon
(aka Booklad)

Tom Jantol said...

About your Machinima blog... For better understanding of Machinima art I think you should visit http://www.mprem.com/e107/news.php, Machinima Premiere site, where I think you can find all relevant information and probably the best Machinima movies out there. (I am not the owner, just user of both mayor sites - m.com and mprem - quite some time and I know the difference.)

Also, one of the authors on Machinima Premiere site (well, me - but this really isn't important right now) wrote article "Anymation of Toybox" with some basic outlining of possible future development of Machinima and animation in general. Maybe you can find something interesting there. (And we, not just me, are very interesting what you think about whole thing.)

Thanks for noticed Machinima and sorry for bad English - not my native language, I am from Croatia.

Best regards
Tom Jantol (Awaken)
animatom@gmail.com

Anthony Q. Artis said...

Thank you both Booklad and Tom for your insights and additional resources. Given that "the Movies" les than a year old and not yet available for Mac, it seems like Machinima is just about to build momentum.

I also wondered about the copyright issues. New digital technologies/communities seem to often ignore copyright issues at birth. And it usually takes the entertainment industry several years to even figure out what's going on and how they want to deal with it. However, lately it seems like they've gotten smarter, with podcasting for example, and are choosing to adopt and embrace new technologies rather than fight them.

I'm a visionary, so I imagine a world in the next decade or so where you'll be able to buy Machinima software for all of favorite blockbusters and act out, remix, or put yourself in your favorite movies and share with friends... for a price.

It could be a copyright holders worst nightmare or it could be one of the best things to ever happen to fandom, filmmaking and entertainment if Hollywood continues to kep on the lightbulb over their heads and figures out how to monetize and capitalize from Machinima which I think would be an incredible win-win-win situation for all involved.

Like I said, I'm intrigued by it all and will keep an eye on the community. Happy Machinima-making.

-Ant.