Ego Central to Machinima Filmmaker Ken Thain

Monday, August 29, 2005

Project Offset Interview

You may remember my ranting about the graphic quality of the Project Offset video released not too long ago. We'll here's a short interview with the head geek Sam McGrath who talks up the gaming side a bit. It provides a little insight into some of the engine features.
Sam McGrath - We have a totally unified approach to shadowing and lighting that makes the Offset Engine behave much more like a traditional offline renderer like Renderman or Mental Ray. Additionally, we apply motion blur uniformly to everything that gets rendered, which in my opinion is just as important to achieve a feeling of realism as shadows are. I'm happy to say that we're finally at a point where the gap between prerendered and real time graphics is pretty darn small.

This Spartan Life 'Publish' ed

Picked off the Machinima.com forums, Publish has an article up with the creator of This Spartan Life (as seen to your extreme right). Its an excellent read which brings us behind the scenes with Chris Burke, the shows creator. (I was wondering if he was Damian!)
But "This Spartan Life" is one of the few examples of in-game content production that may demonstrate the long-term viability of exporting virtual entertainment into the real world.

To learn more about the show, its creators, and the future of in-game content production, Publish.com visited the Manhattan studios of "This Spartan Life."

Chris Burke, 46, is the real-life person behind the host of the talk show, Damian Lacedaemion.

Burke refers to what he does with Halo as machinima, or cinema filmed inside a game engine.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Hancock on CNN

So it looks like Hugh of Machinima.com was on CNN TV. I didn't catch it (is it a different broadcast in the UK? Dunno.) But I'll keep my eye on CNN.com for hopefully a posting soon of the video.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Gamers the NextGen of Music Video Directors?

Interesting article over at MTV.com looking at how people are recreating popular music videos using machinima (mainly focuses on Sims2).
Making machinima — movies created with and staged within the digital environments of video games — is nothing new: It's even got its own "Video Mods" show on MTV2, now in its second season. Movies can be found on numerous sites, most prominently, Machinima.com.

But with recent games, such as "The Sims 2," including official in-game recording options and robust tool-sets that actively encourage game-players to become movie directors, do-it-yourself music videos have proven to be among the most popular kinds of homemade machinima. Music videos — including Flemons' series — represent more than a third of the nearly 1,300 machinima movies on Sims99.com.
I was just thinking about this the other day, how probably the closest equal to a machinima filmmaker is a music video director. The reason for saying so is the music video is a short form production where you can totally break all the rules and explore the visual expression of the music. Camera rules, continuity, story, physics, logic, everything. And where music videos allow you the freedom to be as structured in the rules of filmmaking or creatively aesthetic as you wish, I think a lot of machinima makers are exploring the same path within the bounds of game engines and virtual environments. Which is why I guess it makes sense why music video's are a popular form of machinima production.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Machinima at Independent Games Conference

From GamesIndustry.biz:
GarageGames has announced the session highlights and speakers for the fourth annual Independent Games Conference. IndieGamesCon '05 (IGC) runs October 7-9, 2005. This year's conference is a fun, informal and informative gathering of independent game developers featuring a keynote address, "The State of the Revolution", by Mark Frohnmayer.

IGC provides connections and content for programmers, artists and indie entrepreneurs. Speakers include ...Ill Clan on machinima..
And the speaker session details from the IndieGamesCon 2005 site:
Keynote: "Machinima and the Indie"
Paul Marino (Ill Clan)
The hardest thing for most indie developers to polish when they are finishing their games is cut scenes and the ability to give their game a certain feel. Enjoy listening to Paul Marino as he shares about the art form of machinima and what machinima can add to a game or as a stand alone project. Hear about his Emmy and the current machinima project he has with Torque.
..."and the current machinima project he has with Torque." Hmmmmm. That dude has more thumbs and pies than I can imagine. Ahh the life of a high rolling machinima pro. ;)

Finally, don't miss this session farther down either:
Machinima and Torque
Paul Marino and Frank Dellario (Ill Clan)
From full length movies to commercials for Audi to hysterical parodies on life, machinima is carving its art form into the view of the public. Learn from Frank Dellario about techniques and skills that he has taken from his film career and applied to the machinima art form.
Frank? Whose Frank? ;P

Storytelling Across Genres: BioWare's Perspective

The Game Developer's Conference media site (GDCTV) has a new clip up. For this session, they showcase BioWare joint CEO and co-executive producer Dr. Greg Zeschuk speaking on "Storytelling Across Genres: BioWare's Perspective".
"BioWare is well known for crafting great stories which form the core of its roleplaying games. Our perspective is that practically any game can be considered a roleplaying game if it contains a strong story and character interaction. Of course, RPGs and other kinds of games also often include other common elements such as world exploration, meaningful player rewards and character progression, but increasingly story seems to really drive the impact of many different kinds of games, not just RPGs.

As BioWare broadens its perspective and fuses new gameplay into its story-driven games, merging genres in games like the martial arts action-RPG Jade Empire, a new challenge appears - that of delivering great stories effectively across disparate genres.

This talk will discuss some of the fundamental issues BioWare has encountered when working with story in video games for PC and console. BioWare's approach to presentation of story and the different techniques we use to acquire and retain our players' attention will be discussed. The importance of strong characters and character interaction will be examined, as well as some of the prerequisites found in memorable character personalities. The different options that exist in telling a story, such as questions of linearity and player choice will also be explored."

Very cool stuff. If you have not watched it already the much talked about Will Wright presentation on SPORE is further down on the list. Its a must see as well.

GDCTV Special Feature Showcases

Monday, August 22, 2005

Cantina Crawling

The Guardian Unlimited has another machinima related article up covering Daniel Foucher and his MMO machinima projects. I don't believe I've watched any of these yet, but I will now!
I interviewed Daniel Foucher for this week's Online section, in an article about machinima. Machinima is the art of making films from computer game engines, and Daniel's tour de force is using players in online games to create truly engaging and captivating pieces of public performance-as-cinema. His alter ego is Javier, the mastermind behind the Cantina Crawl series in Star Wars Galaxies in which up to 160 people perform choreographed dance moves. Daniel records the footage and cuts it together, putting it to musical soundtracks. The results are fantastic.
This stuff is just popping up all over the place. I remember being barely able to cover one machinima story a week, if that, on 3dfilmmaker a few years back. Now I can hardly keep up!

Guardian Unlimited

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Quake 3 Game Engine Source GPL'ed

The Quake3 Arena source code has been offically released! We should be seeing some cool stuff in the coming months ahead, on all fronts.


Friday, August 19, 2005

Marino, Spartan Life and Slapdash.

So my news picks for today comes in three.

Paul Marino, who needs no introduction around here, has a pretty cool interview over at machinima.en.francais (kindly provided in both english and french. Scroll down, way down). Its a good read on Pauls history, thoughts and experiences on machinima.

Secondly (and note to self, getting on boingboing has almost an equal effect as getting on slashdot) boingboing has brought word of the new machinima hit This Spartan Life to the masses. David Letterman, look out. You've just been machinimized. Just when you thought you were done with Halo machinima, all is new again. Very funny guys! Kudos to gtoon over at machinima.com for bringing first light to this one.

Finally, checked out the first Slapdash machinima movie by phwcomics which I noted the Slapdash2 trailer a while back. Thats some funny shite my friends. Its like a low budget Thunderbirds meets Matrix or Team America gone bad...good funny bad. If puppeteering is the wave of acting in the future of machinima...then this is the cutting edge. Seriously. Look outside the box.

UPDATE: I was having issues with some of the WMV formatted "This Spartan Life" episodes and just watched Module 3 in quicktime. That was fantastic! I haven't been that overwhelmed with thought provoking (real life) discussion intertwined with hilarity in some time. I think that is one of the most unique pieces of machinima ever. I'm an official Spartan fan!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The making of machinima

Good read over at The Guardian by way of news from Machinima.com.
A new form of film-making mashes traditional storytelling with video game animation. Now it has hit Hollywood

...Machinima's rise has its precedents in other modern methods of independent digital storytelling: blockbuster surprises such as The Blair Witch Project. The success of films like this led to the release of thousands of low-budget, home-made flicks via internet distribution systems, and out of that emerged a new aesthetic of realistic, self-expressive film-making. Machinima is exactly this kind of garage culture, but from the point of view of animation.
Looks like the paper scooped some time with Hugh and Paul after the Edinburgh festival.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Rein: "We've been working on UNREAL ENGINE 4 for two years"

From way of Bluesnews, we have a zingy from Computer and Video Games thats pretty much a recruitment teaser for Epic Games. The UnreaEngine 4 (yes, not the NextGen version 3 you will begin seeing soon...FOUR) has been in development for 2 years already.
Not content with ruling the next gen with its all conquering Unreal 3 engine - which has been licensed by Microsoft for the 360, Sony for the PS3 and just about every serious next gen PC developer worth their salt - Epic Games has already begun the march to global hegemony in the next next generation, with work on the previously unheard of Unreal Engine 4, now revealed to have begun over two years ago.

"Unreal Engine 4 will be totally groundbreaking and the way games will be done in the future," Rein continued. I don't expect it to be staffed up as a full team for several years.
I think I know this engine. This is the one that will trans-digitize you out of existence and insert you into Master Computer. Can't wait!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Machinima round-up

I have been checking out a few things over the last days.

First off, I watched the collaborated efforts of the Ill Clan and Rooster Teeth over at the Independent Film Channel site. Those are some of the most entertaining machinima shorts I've seen in a while. They were just fun because they played on the Hollywood bigwig stereotypes and kind of brought the point home of the independently free reign of expression we have with this medium. You don't want a multi-million dollar budget, trust me.

Speaking of Hollywood bigwig stereotypes, I read a good article over at The Escapist on Warren Spector (long time game design guru) on working with Hollywood (or moreso the media conglomerates who own Hollywood) who are focused on getting a piece of the gaming pie and using their many creative property licenses with the same 'safety in numbers' content and brand weathervane. More reason for the machinima maker to stay punk, eh Hugh?

And finally, speaking of Hugh. Make sure to drop by the Loaded Inc. site to grab your MP3 of Paul Marino and Hugh Hancock presenting Machinima at the Edinburgh Interactive Entertainment Festival. If you have not seen/heard a presentation by Paul or Hugh on Machinima here's your chance to imagine what it would be like, with bootleg audio! The quality sucks and the dude with the heavy breathing through the first 5 minutes or so drove me nuts (wake up dude!) but overall it was a good listen.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Quake 3 Source Code to be Released

A lot of interesting things coming from QuakeCon 2005 this year. A long with previews of Quake IV the most notable surprise so far from John Carmack's Keynote Speech; as said at PlanetQuake
Hot off the presses folks, just announced moments ago, we've got awesome news out of camp QuakeCon where Pappy-R has just left the QuakeCon Keynote with John Carmack. The Quake III Arena source code will be released as soon as they can put it all together!
Cool! I believe that will make Machinimation 1 a machinima development solution that will now not have costly engine licensing terms attached if you want to go commercial (based on complete custom created art assets)!

PlanetQuake - Quake 3 Source Release Coming!
Slashdot - Quake 3 Source Code to be Released
ShackNews - Quake III Source GPL'ed Within a Week

Friday, August 12, 2005

CNN: One word for you Hollywood -> Machinima

Over at CNN Money is a nice rounded article looking at machinima as a potential 'Hollywood' filmmaking form. With it being on CNN Money, at the very least, will get the machinima word into the face of some big execs. Damn, its soo cool to be involved in a medium that throws surprises at you like today!
Imagine filming a real-time animated movie for a fraction of the cost of a big-budget Hollywood film. All it takes is some creativity, a little bit of computer savvy and a video game.

A burgeoning film making art form called machinima – think machine and cinema – is slowly entering Hollywood's radar.
CNN Money

Project Offset? Project 'Holy Crap!'

Yanked directly from Slashdot
Doom 3 engine? Was nice knowing you. UT? Old news. Source? Over there. We'll call you if we need you. You can all stand back, though. There's a new king on the way to town. Project Offset is a new first person shooter, and the developer is showing off what their new graphics engine can do. The movies are not pre-rendered. The developer says they're all real time...
And from the Project Offset site:
Effects such as motion blur, depth of field, and specular bloom are all possible with the engine's post processing architecture.

The Offset Engine is the first engine to utilize true cinematic quality motion blur on all objects. Rather than being something that is applied as a simple special effect, the motion blur works uniformly on everything that gets rendered, including moving and deforming objects and particles. This, combined with unified lighting, shading, and shadowing, bridges the gap in quality between real time and prerendered graphics.
Keep your eye on this one folks!

UPDATE: Finally got the Sneak Peak #2 video downloaded. Oh my .... oh my...

Project Offset -> videos

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Character Development Techniques in Games

With machinima riding the line of game development and filmmaking, I found the following article interesting.
As games continue to mature and become more sophisticated, the expectations for production values become higher. These production values include graphics, music, and story. Story is the result of character development: what happens to the characters as events transpire around them.

Character development in and of itself isn't going to make your gameplay any better, but it will create a more satisfying experience because you're furnishing a more well-developed context, a more immersive world for the player to explore.

(further on..) So these well-developed characters will engage the audience and immerse the player in a well-developed fantasy world. I'm not just talking about heroic fantasy, either. These techniques are applicable to a wide variety of games. In all cases, we are creating a fantasy world that the player can discover and explore. That illusion can be shattered by uninspired writing and character development.
I think this is important because machinima gets pulled into the 'game' frame of mind by the audience/viewer. Other than a few key machinima films, you can clearly see the gaming roots in machinima, and therefore, are more easily taken out of the story. Finding and expressing your depth of story, environment and character emotion/conflict keeps the viewer on track with your vision, and gives you far more mileage and forgiveness on working within the limitations of your resources or game engine.


Monday, August 08, 2005

Slapdash 2 trailer

I tell you. Machinima is such an continuously evolving cool thing that I wish I could just freely explore and play with it full-time. I am pretty dedicated to the Unreal engine right now because I have devoted a lot of learning time into it, which for an 'older engine' I hope will pay off again once UnrealEngine3 comes around. But if I was to try out a different engine it would have to be the Source engine (Half Life 2). Athough the DOOM3 engine is a major visually kick-ass cinematics engine, and I can't imagine how cool production would be with it and Machinimation2, HL2 Source with Garry 's Mod just looks to be so much damn fun! And with the addition of the new 'Real-Time Character Manipulation Capture'-ish feature the fun has really just begun.

As example, check out the Slapdash 2 (10.5MB) trailer by PHWComics. Its production methods within the Garry's Mod features gives it its own neo-cinematic presentation. This trailer inspires great possibility of a different kind of stylized machinima production. I can't imagine the twisted and crazy stuff this is opening the floodgates to beyond the single image creations we've seen so far from this amazing tool. But I'm front and center. ;)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

The Xbox Auteurs

As seen across the other news sources the mighty New York Times has once again dipped into the machinima primordial soup and pulled out a seven page article. A lot of coverage.

Video-game aficionados have been creating ''machinima'' -- an ungainly term mixing ''machine'' and ''cinema'' and pronounced ma-SHEEN-i-ma -- since the late 90's. ''Red vs. Blue'' is the first to break out of the underground, and now corporations like Volvo are hiring machinima artists to make short promotional films, while MTV, Spike TV and the Independent Film Channel are running comedy shorts and music videos produced inside games. By last spring, Burns and his friends were making so much money from ''Red vs. Blue'' that they left their jobs and founded Rooster Teeth Productions. Now they produce machinima full time.
New York Times
(reg req'd.)

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Videogame TV Calls For Animation Shorts

The weight of post vacation blues is comming on. Had a great time. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming.

G4 – Videogame TV is on the hunt for edgy, offbeat and hilarious animation shorts to include in an all-new series set to debut this August. The series gives talented and up-and-coming animators a place to present their work and will showcase the world’s funniest, strangest and most irreverent short animation, targeted to the 18-34 male. Top picks will be licensed for broadcast on G4.

Gettem' in.