Ego Central to Machinima Filmmaker Ken Thain

Friday, July 14, 2006

Rooster Teeth/EA Machinima TV Campaign

Ok, here's an interesting one, and I haven't found any details of it anywhere but here, but anyways it looks like Rooster Teeth has been involved in doing a TV campaign for an EA game using machinima. Its for the football game NCAA'07 and the clip can be found here.

It pretty much makes sense, doing a machinima campaign for a game would be cheaper than using CGI or live action, and EA has already worked with Rooster Teeth on Strangerhood. So it all pretty much matches up. Rooster Teeth is in a key position to continue producing machinima on larger and higher profile projects since their track record is continuously growing.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Who wants to make $100mil?

Ok, so I've been thinking lately somewhat about what I want to do next after this HL2 machinima film I'm working on. It's kind of ridiculous to think that far out because somewhere in and past there I have to release a game or two... but anyways, its just thinking, but based on what I've done in the past, what I am currently doing, and what I see possible mixed with what I believe I'd be capable of and I gotta wonder. It may almost be time to go for the big gusto. Make that full length feature film. In some ways its a crazy thought. Like I mean, just after making a few short ~5 minute machinima films I'm pretty much knocked on my ass for 6 months not even wanting to think of going back at it. And that's a 5 minute film. How could I consider ~70 minutes+ ? But I've had a few ideas here and there that make it somewhat feasible. Also, in considering the Bloodspell thing, it's not impossible. Quick? Hell no, but not impossible. Your only real cost there is time.

So to save on a few other related 'coincidences' of thought and information I've come across. I came across this article today. The meat of it is part way down starting from the header, "THE 411". It's an article about Nolan Bushnell, the great founding proprietor of Atari among other great achievements, talking about the video game industry and digital entertainment. And in reference to machinima (within the context of the article anyways) was the following quote:
"I believe that in the next five years, there will be a movie that will make over $100 million that will be made by three people."
I was like 'WOW' what a statement. I just sat there reading it over a few times and thinking. I share his sentiments very much. Like I mean, many talk about the 'Blair Witch' machinima that will crack this chasm wide open. When and by whom is anyone's guess. It could very well be in production right now. But this statement really got me thinking. It actually gave measurable bounds of success to his vision (challenge?). 3 people, $100 million dollars.

Now the first thing that hit me was, why did he have to say 3 people. Even 5 would have been sooo much better. But alas, 3 people.... they would have to be very multi-talented but what would be the scope of those three roles. So heres what I would think:

Role 1 - Writer, Producer, Director, Cinematographer, Production-ist, Editor. This role would be the primary individual which would write the script, manage the production and implement it in the game engine (I don't know what this implementer role would be called, so I use 'productionist' for lack of a better word off the top of my head).

Role 2 - Concept Artist, Art Designer, Character Artist, Modeler, Texture Artist, Level Designer and Level Builder. This role would have to be an artist superperson. Being able to take an artistic vision from spark, right through to high quality finished ingame product. Along with this, having superpowers in the creation of static objects, possibly vehicles, characters and architecture would be very difficult to find, but necessary.

Role 3 - Now here's the tough one. The other third should be sound. A killer foley, musician, composer, audiophile would have to be there, but this role would only be involved for half the production work. The other thought was an expert animator. Be it the action of any machinima film is highly placed in the animated sequences within the camera's eye. But also notice, I don't mention any type of programmer. You'd have to work within the strick limitation of the game engine. So this is where I'm stuck. To find an expert animator audiophile I imagine would be extremely rare, rarer than a artist in role #2 with animation skills, but thats a lot on one plate, or maybe even someone in role #1 with audio or animation skills? I don't know.

So there's the thing. Would these three people have a magical blend of talent with a freakish coincidence of knowing/finding each other, or could the production of such a film be easily broken up into three roles where it would just be a matter of finding someone with extreme talent in each of their specialties (I'm not even mentioning the determination and endurance characteristics needed to see such a project through to completion). I also take the 'made by three people' as license to use other resources, such as voice actors or recording mocap. As long as the 'made' is referring to the bulk of the work...but it would be nice to stay as close to this mark as possible. Imagine those three people doing the voice work and recording mocap ped movement? Plus I know there are other key things I'm overlooking.

But still.

I think the $100 million dollar goal would have to mean theatre distribution. I don't think one could raise enough marketing hype on a DVD only release to hit that marker. You'd have to come out of the gates with a bang so even if you make a few million in the theatre, the DVD market will be there in larger numbers. Ambitious, yes, impossible, fuck no.

I would love to hear anybody's feedback on how such a film could be made with three people.. or along any other aspect of such a challenge.

Mass Effect Video Up

Just in relation to my last post, the Mass Effect E3 video is up over at IGN (and other places but they seem to only be partial videos). The parts with dialog was done by my group.

**Update: You can also get HD versions directly from the Mass Effect BioWare site.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Machinima PreHack Generation

Continuing along with the Bloodspell PR freight train, Episode 6 was released today. This was a great episode for me. Two things I have come to realize. One is I think Bloodspell has the best looking women in machinima film so far. Not specifically on body makeup but mainly the face and hair of the female characters. Secondly, I often see these great shots that almost give a glimpse of a whole 'nother visual style to the movie. Almost like a 2d cell shaded look within a 3d environment. Specifically the crane down at 00:35 and the medium shot at 4:32. I think it has to do with the simplicity of the foreground against the detailed resolution of the background. Also, with the episode its worth mentioning the great audio cameo by the director... which I didn't realize until afterwards in reading the credits and had to go back and give a few more listens. It looks like we have the whole Rice family in the series too. ;)

This episode also brought some interesting conversation within the Cinematic Design team here at BioWare as some of the senior guys explained the technical challenges behind this type of 'filmmaking' compared to newer guys that can't even conceive of not having a camera system. There is differently a 'generation gap' already between old skool and new school ingame cinematics development (maybe there is a definition of a new machinima generation - posthack and prehack). This is something some will never fully understand about Bloodspell (and its not the point, the storytelling is) but this type of machinima is really getting your bacon from gutting the pig...so to speak.

And to enhance the curiosity of any boarder line visitors on whether to watch this episode or not, as another co-worker catching the episode over my shoulder said, "Is that ass crack in Neverwinter I see?"

Also, I mentioned the intriguing article written by Hugh yesterday on the PR of Bloodspell. The article is worth a revisit for the comment discussion continuing after.

Finally, as a side note, some of the footage of Mass Effect that was shown to the media at E3 this year has just been released on Xbox Marketplace. I'm sure an Internet download is not too far behind. Unfortunately any of the work I did was cut, but hey, thems the edits. I'll post direct links once I come across them. This is at least a glimpse into the visual quality we're working with.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Izzy My Vizzy Machinima style, Lizzy

Izzy Video is a collection of video podcasts that are tutorials on different aspects of doing Digital Video. In release number 37 he talks about machinima through example of using Second Life. A good chunk of it is in music video style but I think it gives a good example of the type of quality and graphic detail you could expect from using SL (or the newer hipper '2L' moniker) for machinima.
Izzy Video 37 is a quick introduction to machinima. If you don’t know what machinima is, don’t worry. You’re not alone. It’s pretty cutting-edge stuff right now. For film-makers it offers the chance to have a moving story-board. Or you can create your whole film there.
I think it's cool he also speaks to the opportunity for its use as a 'moving story-board' as that continues to be a strong potential for machinima that I think will steadily gain ground in more traditional filmmaking.

Frack Hollywood?

I just read a great write up over at the Bloodspell Development Blog by Hugh Hancock. He speaks to his PR style of getting the word out on Bloodspell with a bit of analysis of the whole 'Hollywood' thing in relation to making Machinima. Its pretty strongly worded which is great. No need to pussyfoot around on such topics.

And for something completely different, check out this N64 Legend of Zelda machinima film over at kotaku. This I really do stress its not for the easily offended as its pretty crude at parts, but if that's your thing then its pretty damn funny!
Aeropause points out this Zelda machinima portraying Link as a hard-partying drunkard who's lost his keys and his dignity more times than he cares to recount. Video is worksafe, audio is not. Put your headphones on, you disgusting troll.
PS. Hugh... Ottawa, OTTAWA!!! ;P

Monday, July 10, 2006

Machinima spew

Wow, had to dig in hard there for a while. We had a deadline for today to get our (proposed) blocked cutscenes done for ME so it was a bit of crunch time. Then outside of work I've been (trying) to work on my HL2 film but I've been procrastinating like mad. Not sure why but I'm thinking it may be because I'm not totally sold on the story. So I've taken steps to re-write the script. Make it a little tighter.

I'm really finding a pace to filmmaking, or creative development for that matter, right now. Best described in the metaphor 'layers of a cake'. As example, when I do a cutscene, we will think it out as a group then one of us will do the scene pretty much as discussed, but with enough creative room to explore it a little. Once done, we will all gather and critique it. Then we'll go back and revise. Then critique again, then revise. After a little while you have a cool little tight scene. Now the cool thing is if you do a few more scenes then go back to an older one, you see further areas for making it tighter. Eventually your original vision is a deep rooted part of this whole other scene, but there is pride in knowing what was done and the journey taken to get this fine diamond of a scene.

So when I wrote my script for my personal HL2 project, it took a few revisions, each a little detailed and bigger than the last until I had the final story. But once it was done I felt like I wasn't doing it justice by saying its 'done' on the first writing, even though I got good feedback. This is why I feel it necessary (and may be why I'm procrastinating on storyboarding) to go back and re-write it (as much as I DO NOT WANT TO nor feel I have THE TIME FOR, but I really believe the final story will be better for it). The few changes I've already noted to do I think will make a big difference to the narrative of the story.

Related to methods of neofilmmaking, there was an interesting blog post over at USS Quad Damage discussing this topic. I've left my own comments there but this is definitely an area worth discussing. I wish there was more introspect within machinima enthusiasts which could challenge and question some of these very basic notions but to an audience beyond the everyday travellers of machinima. Its easy to write a blog post to our peers but when was the last time there was a published (on or offline, not machinima site related) article that had to do with machinima that wasn't a 'how to' or 'what is'. There is a fundamental paradigm shift happening here, but most are sitting back and watching or taking side notes. There is very little challenging our methods, and this basically means there is no one is taking us seriously (or there would be a lot more serious questions as publicly). Then again, we are filmmakers and not necessarily writers, so I'm guessing many are waiting for this to come out in our films, but we can all pat each other on our backs, or question each other, but until this comes from people who know nothing about machinima, its quite subjective. This is one reason why I so highly support extracurricular medias such as machinimag and machinimaLIVE in taking the topic and context beyond personal thought and making it tangible for a larger audience. Getting it out there is another thing.

Speaking of getting it out there (aka public relations), if I ever get to a point where I do an underground film with any kind of budget, I'll be hitting up Hugh Hancock as my chief guerrilla marketing publicist mastermind. Regardless of any level of success Bloodspell gets, his demonstration of getting the word to the people has been the biggest and most aggressive in machinima production history - even if his machinima film being the same is arguable. ;) This is one of the key things Hugh did well with Machinima.com, especially in the earlier days. Giving other filmmakers a place to store their stuff, a place to run their websites, a place to read about other filmmakers techniques, their challenges in doing their films, or just getting to know them better.

On the topic of machinima.com. Coyote Republic has been furiously collecting data to help bring community back into the focus of the site. She has a new survey up and I encourage anyone who wants to help support our community resources to give the survey a quick going over. This one is different from the one I've posted previously.

What else, what else.... Ahhh, yeah, Overman has posted the blog article '10 Reasons The Sims 2 Rocks for Machinima'. If your just considering delving into machinima filmmaking then this is worth the read (along with learning some of the reasons why it has such a strong user/film base).

Along the lines of making real-time 3d films without the game engine, Media Machines has decided to put the Flux 3D platform under an open source license. The details are in the press release here.

Ahh crap, there are a couple other things I was thinking of writing about here but this is long enough - all these words could have been part of my script re-write! ;P But I feel desperately behind in spewing the riches of this machinimacal world that is ever so more engrossing day by day. More to come as per usual.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Gaming Setting Watching

As I've been kicking back enjoying our Canada Day weekend, going from one bbq to the next, I came across this short blurb over at GameSetWatch which focuses on Paul Marino's recent writeup (mentioned earlier) on some recent machinima successes. 3DF got some great front page linkage as well from being referenced in the blog entry. Very cool!