Thursday, August 25, 2005

Week 7 Seminar: Machinima: From Game Platforms to Animation Studio

Hi everyone! This week we are looking at Machinima, a new and evolving form of filmmaking.

Machinima (Muh-sheen-eh-mah) artists take the raw materials provided within interactive games and manipulate them in new ways, creating a unique combination of game play, animation, and real world cinematic techniques. By filming within live game space, machinima side-steps the time consuming rendering of each keyframe which occurrs in traditional animation, and costs drastically less than real world filmmaking.

By using game characters as actors, manipulating their behaviours and reccording voiceovers, machinima artists can give their 3D worlds a depth and humanity beyond the usual shoot-em-up mentality of interactive gaming. A quick introduction to the concept of machinima can be found at Machinima.org's FAQ page: http://www.machinima.org/faq.html

The readings this week are:


The Xbox Auteurs -
http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/07/
magazine/07MACHINI.html?ex=1281067200&en
=a0b469a4346f3cbb&ei=5090&partner=
rssuserland&emc=rss

Machinima & the Filmmaker's Virtual Immersion -
http://www.luciferjones.org/machinima.htm

The Machinima Standard - (This reading is a tad long... but hang on, because it's quite specific and I hope it will give a bit of an insight into the technical challenges involved in creating machinima.)
http://www.machinima.com/article.php?article=423

One Word for you Hollywood: Machinima - (Nice and short...:)
http://money.cnn.com/2005/08/12/technology/
machinima_hollywood/

Some questions to consider:
  • Is this the beginning of the end for the traditional film industry? Or is machinima a fad which will fade after prolonged exposure? (Like reality TV, or Lycra bodysuits)
  • What relationship might we predict between game developers, machinima artists and the film industry in the future? Will they be partners or competitors?
  • If you were a machinima artist, what would you like to explore in terms of genre, different games and concepts? Would you go for hard hitting political drama or light entertainment? Why?
  • How might machinima operate on a deeper level, as self reflexive tool to explore human interactions and community within the game space?

For a great example of a very new machinima series begun just last month, go to: http://www.thisspartanlife.com/ They have taken the talk show format and put it in real time game space with hilarious results! (Makes you wonder where the future of Jerry Springer may be!)

Downloading a few clips from http://www.machinima.com/ could also be fun... although be warned downloading time can be veeeery slow at busy times.

9 Comments:

Blogger Hilary said...

like the colour scheme ;)

Thu. Aug. 25, 03:08:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Ahem... yes I thought a touch of rainforrest green with a little tree trunk brown might make us all a tad more relaxed for week 7... *sighs* you can just hear the wild beasts snorting... hang on, that's my brother eating his birthday cake :0

Fri. Aug. 26, 03:24:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Kaori said...

As for this week's discussions, I am still quite skeptical as to the extent to which this developing machinima technology will conquer the film industry...as far as I can see, the quality of the outcome is nowhere near the quality of the animation in the real film industry at present using the cutting-edge CGI(computer generated imagery). And oh yes, people are so used to good quality animation nowadays and their expectancy will continue to grow higher and higher...It would be interesting though...if anyone can produce films using this cost-effective tool...just like the blogs enabled the citizens to become journalists:)

Cheers.

Thu. Sep. 01, 05:42:00 am 2005  
Blogger Andrew said...

I on the other hand think machinima can be potentially powerful, even possibly be on par with animation in the film industry.

Firstly this is because machinima is still new, many are still exploring and experimenting on how to use it to its full capabilities.

Secondly machinima is solely dependent on gaming technology. Seeing how games have evolved (and still are) so rapidly, it is just a matter of time before they achieve high level of details and realism.

Additionally because of its 'ease of use' (compared to actual filming) and in conjunction with the booming game industry will attract even more machinima fans, hence encourages game developers to implement morefeatures into the game that will improve the animations.

Thu. Sep. 01, 06:17:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Ok SO yet another probably long but I will attempt to keep it short and sweet comment.
Firstly, well done Gwen on your seminar, I thoroughly enjoyed the topic of Machinima and especially liked the THIS SPARTAN LIFE example. Nice one! I wish we could have talked about this example a little more as I found it touched on some of our issues, in the actual context of a machinima piece 

Anyway, I found a particular issue that developed in discussion interesting and this relates back to our previous seminar on computer games. Computer games are obviously a constructed space that reflects cultural assumptions in our society, so therefore, it is interesting when games are used for purposes other than what they were constructed for.

This was highlighted in the Spartan Life when they interviewed a guest who had produced the Tomb Raider Machinima video. I talked about this in class so I wont rehash what I already said, but basically by creating Machinima it highlighted some of constructed elements of the game, such as Lara’s position as a sexual object to be viewed, her heaving bosom, and her heavy breathing (or should I say panting) that create a sort of sexual tension …especially in the Machinima clip. These elements when involved with gameplay probably would be overlooked, but when taking a step back and deconstructing in a sense the game engine, for different use it becomes quite obvious.

I think it is this element about using a game engine for something other than its specific intended use that creates a certain charm, and in fact, the main appeal of Machinima. I think it is this that makes it worthy of study and consideration, and not simply its cost efficiency, as a form of participatory culture. If a standard tool kit was introduced to enable machinima to be produced more easily in game engines, it might run the risk of removing the original element of what makes machinima worth watching. The idea that it is, say the gamers themselves, that decide to produce something different with their game, but which still makes a commentary to some degree on the original intentions of the game itself (whether implicit or explicit).

However this is not to say that the use of Machinima should be restricted in this sense, because it is certainly a technology worthy of consideration for the big film industry workers such as Lucas and others.

I might come back and say a bit more later, but so far these are my thoughts! 
Cheers Gwen

Sat. Sep. 03, 12:57:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

Hang on I second I think this sentence makes more sense when written like this:

"These elements when involved with gameplay would probably go unnoticed, but when deconstructing the game engine in a way that Machinima does, the elements become more obvious."

Thanks

Sat. Sep. 03, 04:12:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Gwyneth said...

Hey guys,

Ta for your fab participation in mah seminar... GO YOU!

Now, I may sound a little garbled as I've just spent two days wrestling with an essay on loneliness, so bear with me.

I take your point, Kaori, about mainstream movie goers having high standards regarding animation and film quality in general. It's definitely true that machinima will have to hold its own against tough competitors before it breaks into the mainstream film market. On the other hand, as Andrew said, machinima is so closely related to gaming that it is in a great position to catch every new development in technology as it happens.

Given the popularity of gaming, there is already an audience interested enough to support machinima in public forums such as the Machinima awards, which play to packed audiences. The most strength so far is still with the cult status machinima though, such as Red vs. Blue.

Personally I think the future looks bright for machinima, both as a grass roots creative form and a mainstream filmmaking tool. Anything which breaks down economic barriers for 'everyday' people and allows them to get involved in storytelling has to be a good thing.

Also, as Hilary pointed out, the potential for introspection and cultural commentary cannot be ignored. Like any other cultural product, the game world is a reflection of our society, and the way we move within it has significance beyond the virtual world.

Anyhow, I'll probably pop back later for relief from ye olde essay... cheerio;)

Sun. Sep. 04, 09:01:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Hilary said...

hope the essay goes well hun
sounds very depressing an essay on loneliness :P

Sun. Sep. 04, 11:21:00 pm 2005  
Blogger Liz said...

I give you my most sincere condolences gwyn, I have also felt the pain of being knee-deep in an essay this week. Mine was on Freud, the id, the Oedipus complex and Hamlet, just to help brighten my outlook on life.

Anyhoo, I really enjoyed your presentation as I had never thought anout machinima outside the George Lucas/Peter Jackson pre-visualisation context. I definitely think machinima is a great filmmaking tool. I think a tricky thing about compositing live stuff shot against a blue screen onto a completely CG environment is retaining a sense of where a)everything is mapped in relation to each other and b) what angles would these CG elements look the best from? If anyone has ever watched the DVD extras on Star Wars or Lord of the Rings, the directors ended up using these pre-viz techniques constantly in order to make safer gambles on what would work, or to come up with new ways of shooting something, often riskier ways that require a process of trial and error. Pre-viz goes beyond the limits of storyboards, because it can take the movement of the camera into account as well as timing etc.

I think machinima can go beyond the limits of being just a tool though and become, as the technology continues to develop, a new avenue for filmmaking that is not just reliant on the novelty value of crazy new things going on in gamespace. (Although I agree that at this point it is one of its main strengths/the core of its appeal.)

Mon. Sep. 05, 01:06:00 pm 2005  

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