Ego Central to Machinima Filmmaker Ken Thain

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is not the Subject line

I just listened to EP6 of the Overcast. I actually find my self sitting back and listening to the episodes to give them my full attention so I don't miss anything. They are always a cool mix of shtuff. Two things I related to this episode. One is Overman's discussion on the Half Life 2 Source engine. I'm just into the last part of my script for my next machinima film (writing is such a love/hate relationship) which I'll be doing in the Source engine. I've been poking around in the engine to help guide my story limitations (which I know I've blown way over... Oh god this is going to be a painful film to make...) and I'm not quite yet feeling the machinima lovin' for the engine. Garry's Mod is a hair away from being the ultimate machinima tool, but a fat hair, and the documents I've read on the engine does not seem to show a straight forward camera control tool ala Unreal Matinee, but as I get more involved I'll get it figured out. I'm partially hoping by the time I'm in production someone will either release a very useful Half-Life 2 machinima tool or some of the new functionality to be coming in Episode 2 will do the trick.

...and oh yeah, the second point on the overcast is having a shaved head. Since I've shaved my head, getting ready in the morning has reached a new state of ease I never thought possible. Gel-b-gone.

I also listened to a podcast over at the Second Life blog site Machinimoo by Community Manager for Alt-Zoom Studios, moo Money. Although I am not an active participant, I'm always an arm's length from Second Life news and clips. Both in machinima and 'virtual reality' this world is like watching a new form of life develop. ...And beside, a virtual world with a real economy for virtual items, will always have opportunity for filmmakers.

Finally, over at Paul Marino's blog, who did some machinima evanglisation in Second Life recently (compare his RL and SL visual identities here), did an blog entry on "The Dave's Shit Tip". I left a comment on this and as I typed it, it almost like I had fallen to the dark side. I was siding, for the first time publicly, with the developer. It felt so odd because here I am now working for a game developer and I'm saying machinima artists have no rights to the content they make with the engine. But the truth is, I came to that realization long ago during a discussion on the machinima.com forums (which I really kind of miss). Another user argued with me over my machinima rant that the developer shouldn't have control of our ingame made content, but the user ('chip' or something) argued the points enough for me to see it from another perspective. So after leaving the comment over at Paul's blog I figured I'm in a position where I can ask from the inside about the perceived rights of the machinima filmmaker using a game engine, but after some thought I came to realize that I do not understand what the question is. What is the issue? Should someone who makes a machinima film have full rights to that film if created with game assets. Obviously not. Should a filmmaker who creates a machinima film with pure custom content have full rights to that film? Quite possibly, but if full ownership is a sticky point, then you have to resolve this from the beginning, in pre-production. I did not do my 'Rebel vs. Thug' video in the Unreal Engine because Epic couldn't say if they would give the time or resources to provide those rights, so I wrote it off as a possibility right there and it became another reason for me to use the open sourced Quake2 Engine. So what would the question be that needs answering? What's the issue? I think from the perspective of Paul who runs a film festival based on such 'legally touchy' content, having proper rights for public performance may be more the question... and that's probably not a whole lot to ask from a publisher/developer.

Then again, based on the last comment on the thread reference above, there may be a new solution on the horizon, "That's why we have an agreement with Garage Games for the toolsets we're creating in Torque." HHmmm. Toolset... Sounds yummy. ;)

Finally, looks like the Bloodspell project has been placed into permenant Gaia memory.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Clipping, Cockbytes and Facials, among other things

Aite, so Bloodspell EP3 is out. Another exciting chapter in the wrist slitting, punk rock, magical fantasy adventure. The story is deepening and some major conflict happens in this episode.

While enjoying the episode one thing really stood out. It was a 'kill' in the third act (protecting from spoiler) that knocked the guy right through some stairs, with his feet sticking out at the bottom. I'm really surprised they let this take through, that knocked me right out of the story. But overall, I'm enjoying the series more and more. Its great to have this ongoing series.

Also, the CockByte boys have released the Season 4 DVD of Red Vs Blue. The big news about this is you can pick it up at your local Gamestop/EB Games. This is actually quite huge news. This is the first machinima production to get distributed to such a degree. Once they hit Walmart... well. WOW.

If its still Thursday and your reading this, you have a chance to hang out with Paul Marino of Machinima Book Authorship and Academy fame, over in Second Life. He'll be there with Pierce Portocarrero, who is one of the more (most?) prominent Second Life Machinima filmmakers to date. His site is worth the visit. I may drop by SL to say 'hi' if home on time (Sirius Newmann).

The third annual Nicktoons Network Animation Festival is accepting admissions until May 31st. If you have something to enter your work may be judged by Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Seth MacFarlane, and Bill Plympton. It would be very cool to get your work in front of them, among other Nicktoon executives.

Finally, if you want to brush up on your facial animation skills, I highly recommend checking out this site. It's an interactive online application that lets you learn about the various facial muscles and the kind of emotions they portray.

As a side note, to all those Buffy fan's out there, you'll have a chance at a Season 8 of the series, although you'll be seeing it in comic format. ;)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Understanding of How The Consumer’s Brain Works

Not much machinima happenings around the wired world (or unwired for that matter). There is an an interview with Chris Burke the writer, producer and director of This Spartan Life over at katundu.com. Its a quick read.

Also, AlienThink.com has released a “CG Character Design” Instructional Film via Google .
“'CG Character Design' is for Mastering how to draw state-of-the-art characters for Next-Generation Video Games using High Level Thinking and Design. This new way of Thinking gives CG Artists a deep understanding of how the consumer’s Brain works, allowing them to draw original character designs that connect.
Ya, that 'gives CG Artists a deep understanding of how the consumer’s Brain works' is apparently in there, in Zen format. If I had that info I wouldn't be using it to sell CG Character Design. At 2hrs and 20 minutes, the video can be found here.

Finally, off topic, I came across this image for Appleseed 2. The CG film titled as "Appleseed Saga Ex Machina" will be directed by Shinji Aramaki and produced by John Woo. I'm looking forward to what they pull off with this sequel.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Machinima @ Austin Game Conference

Today is a holiday in Canada. Nice to have a three day weekend. Came across this bit'o news over at Chron.com about the Austin Game Conference in September.
Austin Game Conference 2006 Highlights include:..

-- Machinima Theater - In partnership the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences the theater showcases the convergence of filmmaking, animation and game development. The theater is sponsored by BioWare.
The AMAS is always great in getting a Machinima Theater at the Austin Game Conference. Also, notice who it's sponsored by this year? ...Muuhahahahaaa. ;)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Elephant's Dreams and Uncanny Valley's

Wazzup, wazzup, wazzup.

Well, machinima.com put out a press release about their new Halo Channel. My mentioning it is not so much about the message as it is about the medium.

Also, I enjoyed the article over at Joystiq "Heavy Rain in the "Uncanny Valley". Heavy Rain is the follow up to Indigo Prophecy. I'm actually playing Indigo right now as it is a very unique game. Its more of a playable 'Law and Order' episode, sortof. But the uncanny valley is something to be very aware of when animating your actors.

Also, even though you'd never afford to buy it personally (unless you have $20K sitting around, in which case, CALL ME!), there is a public beta of Houdini 8.1. Something to check out if your looking to spread your traditional 3D skills across different applications.

Finally, check out Elephant's Dream. An internet release of the first 3D ‘Open Movie’.
(Blender Foundation, Amsterdam, the Netherlands) - The 3D animated short ‘Elephants Dream’ will today be released as a free and public download. This is the final stage of a successfully completed Open Movie project which has been community-financed, using only Open Source tools, and opening up the movie itself as well as the entire studio database for everyone to re-use and learn from. The movie and production files are licensed as “Creative Commons Attribution 2.5″, which only requires a proper crediting for public screening, re-using and distribution.
So if anything, its worth checking out the short to see if there are any assets you may want to reuse for your production under the Creative Commons. ;)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Machinima Mashup

I noticed over at Machinima Premiere that Spartan Life has released the interview with Malcolm McLaren. Known mostly for his creation of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm is more revolutionary than that. The episode is a very engaging 'monologue', less interactive than other interviews, but hey, its McLaren. I actually went though it twice, the second time without even watching the screen and just listening to audio, although the visual side of the interview is amazingly subtle but relevant to what is spoken. I found monologue amazingly prophetic.
(the online world is) a world that seemingly can have more integrity, than supposedly the physical world, which we've now decided is horrific. Simply karaoke, artificial, and a world that we feel is bereft of any real passion. A world that is simply there to sell you things...

...This is the real true story of rock and roll. It was not about anything other than how to live your life, as a gangster, in sartorial splendor, and turning the world into a place where normality would never return again.
Think of the melting pot of Machinima being a 'mash-up' (word of the month) of video game technologies, Hugh Hancock's relation of punk rock and machinima, and the 'Internet generation' which is taking hold of these revolutionary aspects and 'turning the world into a place where normality would never return again'. We're not in Kansas anymore.

A couple other things, Overman has posted a review of the Script writing tool Celtix. I'll be trying this tool out very shortly.

The Blender Foundation today released the “Blender Texture Disc”, a collection of high quality textures, into the Public Domain. (bookmark now, because you know you'll come back to it later)

CGchar-animation has an interview With Tim Johnson, Director on "Over The Hedge"

Mass Effect won best game for the Xbox360 at E3! That's huge. Should be a hi res trailer coming out from BioWare soon so you'll get a better idea of the hype.

And if your looking for music for your next film, check out Beatpick.com. "we provide filmmakers with selected indie music". I'm going through their catalog right now!

Final note, if anyone who visits this site has some 'leet webdesign skillz' and a few evenings of time I wouldn't mind some help giving 3DFilmMaker a facelift. Its looking a little old. Lemme know!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Deviating Machinima

The Overcast episode 5 has been released. I was able to give it a listen yesterday and found it very funny. This EP is a step away from the regular machinima focus with a kind of 'field trip to E3 with Overman'. How he got Schwarzenegger involved I'll never know. Great stuff Overman!

Since I'm all googoo over Blur Studio's right now I checked out this short article over at XSI Base with Sze Jones, Character Modeling Supervisor at Blur. She gives some personal background and thoughts on modeling girl characters. The images in this article are worth the visit alone.

Finally, I think the most popular machinima film right now is Deviation. Mainly because it was screened at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. The question has been raised if any other machinima film has been screened at such a major festival. Nothing rings a bell with me right now... They also push the 'virtually produced, no physical contact needed' aspect as well. I wasn't overly wow'ed by the film but then again, I may not have given it my full attention. That Counter Strike look is so yesterday. It's pretty much owned by Gworx in my eyes. ;)

Friday, May 12, 2006


As I wrap up for the weekend; MachinimaLIVE has released episode 8 of their podcast. Its a good listen as the format of the show has changed from being about machinima more towards making machinima. I think this is a good change as I imagine the core audience of listeners are machinima producers. I really, really enjoyed Ninety Nine's clip about writing. Maybe its because I'm in the writing stage right now that it really spoke to me. The best line was, "Don't be afraid to let your life find its way into your work." I find this so true. Its funny how when you are in that creative conception stage that so much around you seems to speak out to you. Its almost like your being lead in your story conception. Maybe thats how the unseen deep mythic overtones get into popular culture. Those thoughts you are having are not your own, they are directions, or maybe I'm just going crazy.. which is ok too, you get better stories that way.

Also watched Episode 7 of TrashTalk (or Tras5hTa1k 1|\| |_337). I'm surprised this show isn't hyped a bit more as its a good watch. I've enjoyed all the releases so far. It has a very professional edge (I think ILL Will's voice realy drives it home). This episode has a cool "THE MOVIES" machinima music video to a Creative Commons released song Code Monkey. Nice work ILL CLAN!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Mass Effect YouTubed

Just after posting below I checked my email and saw that a portion of the Mass Effect demo at E3 was posted on YouTube. The cool thing is it starts with the part I did... cinematically designed anyways! :) Its quality is supercrappy and dark and the handycam cuts the frame down but its still cool that it happens to include the small piece I was involved in. Hopefully we will release a better version soon.

hehe heee heee hee ehehee. Now try to imagine this footage with the quality of ingame screengrabs like this (click to enlarge):

and this:
I shit you not, this is not prerendered CG, it's the consistant quality that is real-time rendered. UE3rocks!! :)

Do you have Character?

When I posted the news about BloodSpell episode 2 yesterday I hadn't watched it yet. Now that I have I must say I really enjoyed it. Now we have all that first impression and critical eye stuff put aside I quickly found comfort in this episode having already known the characters and story so far. This kind of made me reflect on the importance and power of character development. Some times we take it for granted, there's characters in our films so there you go. But if you really want to pull people in for the long hall. Lock them in emotionally. We search for ourselves in the reflection of others. This is the importance of good characters.
I'm finally watching the TV series, Battlestar Galactica (Nathan Moller's rant on the show was my final straw). I got the first season DVD which is very cool. I've never watched a TV series this way and its really opened my eyes. No commercials, watch anytime, instant gratification! I think bypassing a whole season of commercials and not having to wait for episodes or suffer repeats is worth $20! I'd love to do that with LOST too but a) don't know if I can miss a whole season so I can wait to watch it all later, and b) I'd hate to come across online/offline chatter that spoils anything for me. Anyways, point to my rant, when I began to watch EP2 of Bloodspell, I fell into that place of starting another episode of Battlestar Galactica. "Lets see where they will take us now..." Nicely done Strange Company. PS - a quick 15 - 30 sec 'the story so far' would help the audience quickly get into 'Bloodspell' mode for that episode.

If you want to fill your Bloodspell gauntlet a little more there is a podcast over at MachinimaLIVE of the fmx/06 fesitvals' Bloodspell presentation. Its not Hugh Hancock but David Maas summarized the main points and filled in for Hugh.

Finally 2 more CG trailers that left my jaw on the floor. Another game trailer, HellGate: London, from Blur Studios (did I mention these guys rock?) and another that I'm not sure who produced but I love the cinematic style and storytelling method, Assassins Creed. These films/shorts are inspiration where I'd personally like to take my machinima work.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Machinima Luvin'

Forgive me father for I have not posted in 5 days. These are my sins.

Where to start..where to start. I usually keep an ongoing list of links via firefox tabs and such for posting and they had been building up for a few days. Then I came in today and my machine was rebooted so I have to go from my pale memory.

I've been fairly busy outside of work writing and doing pre-production on my next short machinima film (target release of Sept.) and defending my ubergeek highscore status at Machinima Premiere.

But speaking of work, this has been an interesting week with having reached a milestone with Mass Effect. For those not aware there is a major gaming conference this week, E3, where all the game companies put their hype machines into overdrive on their coming wares, both hard and soft. Ours is a demo of Mass Effect. Unfortunately the show is only open to journalistic types so they can spread the word so I haven't seen anything we worked on released publicly, yet, although I will post once there is because it is tres cool stuff. Some quotes we're hearing are,
“In each area shown, from sprawling scenes on the ship Citadel to the dusty plains of worlds below, Mass Effect is clearly one of the best looking games for the Xbox 360.”
“…We only got a 10 minute presentation, but I had goose bumps for at least 5 minutes of the presentation. Mass Effect looks amazing and the game-play is fantastic …”
Looking forward to sharing visuals with everyone.

I could list a ton of cool footage released from the show. Including Halo3 (how cool is it to work at a company that announces on the overhead speakers to the whole company - to those of us left here who are not at E3 or post milestone vacation that is - that the Halo3 trailer is playing in our in-house theatre. Very cool. :), Alan Wake, Final Fantasy XIII and the list could go on. All these games/engines visually look amazing and may have great machinima potential. You'll also notice at the beginning of any of the Gametrailers video's is announcement of a movie making contest. The grand prize is an xbox360 and you have a week to submit.

Also Blur Studios (an amazing CG company) did a new trailer for WarHammer Online. This is state of the art 3D CG. I'd love to see a whole movie like this.

For machinima viewing, EP2 of BloodSpell has been released. And Spartan Life has this cool little vblog on Net Neutrality. The Return, Returns announcing a sequel with a well produced, exciting teaser trailer. And 'Sonic_Jihad12' has managed to get the American government interested in machinima, in a risk to homeland safety kind of way. After watching portions of this film I would think some subliminal message must be involved because it makes no sense otherwise, strange flick.

Once your eyes have bugged out of your head from all the watching. Give your ears a working with a podcast interview with Paul Marino

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting but I'll post anything else I remember.

Update: I found this article on the Mass Effect showing at E3. The parts in the article describing when the player enters the bar, talks to the bartendar and goes upstairs to talk to the alien woman were all done by us (cinematic designers).

Update 2: Theres a cool little montage of game footage from E3 including about 4 seconds of Mass Effect. 1.5 seconds is from actual cutscenes.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How'd They Do That?

A couple of neat things today. First off, big congrats to David Riedel of Germany who won this years Machinima category at the fmx/06 film festival. His film, done in 'The Movies' is Am Ende der Distanz (At The End of Distance). Both a compelling and distrubing account of a relationship that is set heavily in a psychological style of filmming and storytelling.

I also enjoyed a three part podcast featuring an interview with Andrew Staton, an Oscar winning writer and director over at Pixar. The questions can not be heard and the audio is way low but Staton's responses are very informative to the inside workings of animated filmmaking at Pixar.
stanton_interview_part1.m4a (5MB)
AndrewStanton_part2.m4a (11MB)
AndrewStanton_part3.m4a (8.5MB)

If your more the visual type then I have have some Pixar lovin' for you too. Ralph Eggleston, an Oscar winning Production Designer at Pixar has a great set of video interviews up at RedStudio's 'behind the scenes'. The UI for navigation is a little funky but each section is really good.

Finally if your into the above media (which as a 3D filmmaker I found really good) then you can also listen to a podcast with Ralph Eggleston here too (23MB).

Wednesday, May 03, 2006


Waazz up. Not a whole lot around today. If you are interested in the fmx/06 Real Time Film Festival in Stuttgart, Germany, Machinima LIVE! has a news anchor on the scene giving day by day accounts. He mentions the success of the Machinima/BloodSpell presentation by Strange Company.
The main highlight of the day was the session talks on Strange Company's, "Bloodspell". Since Hugh Hancock was not present, David Maas from the Institute of Animation, gave a session on this highly anticipated Machinima film and presented the first three episodes of "Bloodspell" on the big screen! I was impressed by the new episodes! The story evolves well, getting better and better.
Make sure to keep your eye on LIVE for all the ongoing details.

And if your in the mood for a good machinima film, make sure to check out Episode 2 of the Fixer by Burnt Coffee Productions (no website found).
It is very modern and stylized in its storytelling technique, transcending its gaming roots. Done in the Sims2 engine this film brings the production out of the game. Its rare that I'll watch a film twice in a row but I did with 'The Fixer II'.

And finally, I came across something really amazing that will change making machinima forever. This is tool, although a bit awkward and overbearing, will revolutionize the process of getting movies from your brain onto the computer scene. Behold, the Machinimizer.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Review: IClone 1.0 by Reallusion

iClone is the newer tool on the block for machinima creation. Over at mprem.com Gtoon has posted a thorough and well written review of the product. Well worth the read if you are looking for your next machinima production environment.
In December of 2005, Reallusion released IClone 1.0 which builds upon the face animating capabilities of Crazy Talk by adding the ability to turn the your animated faces into fully 3d characters and animate them in a real-time 3d environment.
There is even a special machinima treat created by Gtoon and company using the tool. Checker'oot.

Hodge Podge of Machinima Stodge

Ya that title makes no sense but either will this post. Well it will, but it won't.

First off, I checked out this video of the new Metal Gear Solid (4) engine in action. Real-time glory...on crappy video, so you can't really see detailed goodness but its implied... in Japanese, but there is subtitles, sort of. Its a good watch if you want to see some next-gen engine features in action, after all, this is the machinima of the future.

Speaking of machinima, this film is getting a lot of attention. More and more the virtualization of everything is allowing us to re-create events of the past, and baseball. Too bad its not really machinima. Which raises the question, with the previous machinima hooked article about Spike Lee having custom video game footage in his film and this 2D video game footage, is it possible for the media to actually change the meaning of machinima from 'filming inside a real-time 3D virtual environment' to 'video game footage'. I think we're already starting to see the answer.

On the flip side, machinima doesn't necessarily mean 'storytelling' either, which is why I love non-traditional things like This Spartan Life and other unique recordings inside 3D environments.

The important thing and meaning of it all, as Rooster Teeth has taught us. If your going to do something, do it well, or you will be hearing about it for weeks after you did it.

That is all.

Monday, May 01, 2006

More Overcast

I just listened to EP4 of 'The Overcast'. As heard so far Overman gives us a thorough audio blogging with interesting 3d filmmaking tidbits and machinima news and reviews.
Welcome back! This week’s show spends some time discussing music, MIDI, and virtual instruments, as well as coverage of some general happenings and new tools. Three recent machinima films are reviewed, each of which is part of a series.
The second viewer email cracked me up pretty good too. Giver' a listen!

USC Machinima

Paul Marino has posted over at his site about his participation this weekend in USC's Networked Publics and DIY Media Festival. I came across this vblog from one of the students that attended the festival and chose to focus on the machinima aspect.
For my video blog on the Networked Publics Conference, I chose to focus my coverage on machinima: animated films created using game engines. This video contains clips from various machinima shorts, interviews, and other enriching material.
Worth checking out for a voyeur perspective of Paul's evangelization in action with interesting supporting interviews.