Ego Central to Machinima Filmmaker Ken Thain

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sunday Night Machinima

Caught a few 'must see' machinima films tonight. Started off with number 7 of uber-series Gaming News by the Binary Picture Show crew. Now sponsored, I'm happy to see there hard work starting to pay off. I'd be interested to know if those 'EA' breaks were actually commercial or just time fillers (although I would have expected announcements toward this as well if they were commercial). This production is getting more and more pro all the time. Lady Mainframe still needs some polish in lipping words and natural movement, but at the end of the episode I found myself thinking that Lady Mainframe will be taking on real celebratory status in both the machinima and gaming circles as BPS continues to crank this stuff out and get more eyes.

The second film(s) I caught up on was episodes 12 and 13 of Bloodspell. The continuing sega of blood and magic. I was noticing, within myself, how the episodes are no longer about the look or engine used, its almost stylized now in its consistency and really about the story. Episode 13 was my favourite so far, the 'showdown' scene with music and action was extremely powerful (if you've followed the build-up for the last 12 episodes). It had such a hopeless efforts amongst overwhelming power.. feel to it, and again, the music really helped bring it home. Well done Strange Co.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Machinima Collective

I've been under some heavy deadlines at work so a lot of interesting news tidbits have been passing by. I think most are aware of Gamasutra's and Renderosity's Machinima Filmfest coverage. Thank you to 'on the scene' news reported Ricky Grove for the pic and link on the Renderosity story.

The LA Times.com has posted a pretty good story on machinima related to the festival and pays particular attention to Phil Rice's story on his success with Male Restroom Etiquette and the
dilemma of not being able to take full advantage of its success because of copyright issues.

It's interesting how all these news outlets are reporting about the 'Oscar's like opening' with Ill Will's TrashTalk travels amongst the set of the nominee's. The funny thing is, that happened at the end of the festival. A good reminder of how the press isn't always as factual as we'd like to think.

Also in case anyone hasn't had the chance, make sure to drop by and read Machinima.com's article on WoW SouthPark episode. I think this is one of the best substance articles to come out of that site in a while! We rarely see good machinima based literature these days, and unfortunately we may be seeing even less.

Machinima film wise, the train is still rolling hard with Bloodspell 13 (one more to go!) and Gaming News #6. Also, if you haven't yet, check out 'The Snow Witch' by Britannica Dreams. This is one top quality Sims2 production. This is the heart of machinima, tell the story first.

Finally, we've released more Mass Effect footage if your curious how we're coming along. This is really worth the download. All the cinematics (such as the first 7 seconds or so) and the dialog shots were done by our group. Along those lines, I'm going to be revisiting the Cinematic Design job posting thats up since the scope of our positions is evolving. If you think your a top dog machinima creator that's ready to go pro, don't hesitate to send me a line. As you can see, we gots some kickass work on the go. And if Canada scares you, there's our sister company in LA.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Festive Machine Cinema's Top 5

I wanted to post a really good overview of the 2006 Machinima Festival and started writing as soon as I got home. I wrote 2 pages and wasn't even past the first presentation. I then tried a second time and wrote another 2 pages and found it turning into a biography and tribute to each of the individual people I had the pleasure of meeting. Now its a solid week past and some pictures and footage is surfacing so I figure I'll just throw out my top 5 highlights with a mashup of the media that's out there now.

#5. Who makes this Stuff? Its Yummy! Even though I actively look forward to the Machinima festival each year, this was the first year I was able to actually attend. I did not waste a minute, catching every presentation (well, except the first 2 on the Sunday... ummm... yeah... It was a late night) to the point where it was bitter sweet because I had even less time to talk to all the friends I was finally meeting outside the presentation schedule. Each presentation was just so amazingly interesting it was almost fantasy like to be at something that was so focused on just machinima! Just seeing all the hands raised whenever someone asked, 'How many here have made machinima' was surreal (unless it was the machinima intellectual properties roundtable and the question is, 'How many here are from a game company.' and your the only hand being raised, then having Hugh Hancock lean over and say, 'Your very brave.' LOLOLOL). All of this was so well put together and came across so professional that I think the organizers can never be fully thanked. Having a full sized Mal show up was so hilariously funny, it was a great example of Frank Dellario's and the Ill Clan's genius, not to mention their live TrashTalk episode that wrapped it all up with its Oscar like mashup. Fantastic. And all this topped off with it being live in Second Life! (6.5MB wmv) When I came back to work a few people mentioned seeing my presentation live and Jonathan Perry shared his experiences of being at the festival fully through Second Life and experiencing it with other machinima filmmakers there. What an amazing thing. Revolutionary really.

#4. It's made of people! The festival is really the sum of its parts, and these parts come from the people that attend. Meeting so many people that I have such great artistic and intellectual respect for is almost overwhelming. Most people I spoke to I wished for straight one to one time just to get a deep dialog going but its too hard with so many great talents in one place. Even just going to get food was always with a roaming mob of 10 - 15 people because we all wanted to hang out together. Some real highlights was meeting Jason Choi(left), Ben Grussi (second from left), Ingrid Moon (second from right) and her Shiny husband Mark, Chris Burke, my buddy Friedrich, Todd Stallkamp (left), Nathan Moller (waldo), Frank Dellario (eyes up dude), Richard Gras, Brian Mayberry (second from left), Matt Dominianni (Ill Will - second from right) and of course Paul and Hugh. Also Richard Grove and Phil Rice which I don't think I really got to get across my fanboy like appreciation to them. Richard, who I think got thanked more than the G-man himself at the festival (and I'm not speaking Half-Life), has such amazing industry experience and knowledge to share I don't think I even got to scratch the surface of how much of a fan of his I was. And Phil (middle), who may be one of the biggest contributors to enabling me in making Rebel vs Thug this century simply because of his support of the machinima community before it was barely a community, and to come back and do it again, twice as hard is mindblowingly amazing. I hope everyone makes it back next year with a few extra days to mingle!!

#3. Hear ye, hear ye! When Paul Marino asked me to do a presentation for the Machinima tech panel I was totally stoked. I love all the things machinima represents and the future it beholds and I really do feel I get an amazing insight of some of it through the upcoming technologies that I work on at BioWare. So being able to share some of that, with BioWare's full support was very cool. It was a little challenging with having so much still under wraps on the project that I couldn't show too much, but atleast through the presentation I was able to share a little of the passion I feel about machinima and what we're doing with it.

#2. Its Machinema! On the flight out I managed to catch up on Bloodspell from EP7 through to 11 (EP12 out now! Downloading as I write!). And ofcourse this was a great buildup to meeting the man, the legend himself Mr. Hancock. Meeting Hugh after knowing him virtually via the interweb for 6 years was amazingly casual. We went into conversation as if we were just catching up since the last night at the pub. :) Bloodspell's not winning best technical achievement was my greatest disappointment at the awards. Like Relic? Come on. If they checked off the submission box for this category well fuck, their building a game! And they didn't even show up for their awards. Ok, I kid. I kid. Sorta. The tough thing is, which I discussed with Paul Marino and Frank Dellario after the awards was how Technical Achievement is hard to judge via viewing alone. There's no way of knowing Strange Company hacked the Neverwinter Nights EXE with a hex editor to modify the FOV settings. Now thats Technical Achievement! Frank and Paul mentioned a few great ideas that may address recognizing technical achievement in the future that sounded great. Anyways, Hugh summed it up best when I broached the subject and he asked me how many awards Buffy won.. Yes, Buffy, arguably one of the best produced series ever, never to get proper recognition, at all, but had great success because of its fan base which is what really mattered. I took comfort that Hugh fully embraced this.

#1. And the Winner is. So possibly the biggest highlight for me was being a presenter at the Award Ceremony. I was so unbelievably honoured to participate and announce some of the winners. Just standing up on stage, announcing the category, opening the envelope and having this few seconds of being the first to know who just won was a real blast. This highlight was catapulted even higher when opening the envelope to one of the categories I presented, Best Off the Self machinima, and seeing Nathan Mollers name there for 'Just a Game'. Having just picked him up to come out to BioWare and then have him win a Mackie was so tres cool. I was just as honoured that Nathan thanked me in his acceptance speech. After the ceremony we joked how now when he starts at BioWare, any camera shot I try to get him to change he'll just tell me to speak to Mackie and point to the glass award beside his desk. LOL!

So that's it. Mackies 2006 is a wrap. Put it in the can! I'm putting my festival schedule in with the rest of my machinima collection and looking at a bright future. I think Richard Grove has summed up the event amazing well with his short video. If anything the festival revitalizes the machinima drive in all of us to achieve better films, reach higher quality productions and make stronger community connections. And it was so great being part of it. Thanks Paul!