Dr. Of Machinima

A blog By Dr. Nemesis following the progress of Binary Picture Show's work, as well as other Machinima.

Finally, some action!

December15

Well, I managed to get a new computer a few weeks ago and I’m finally just about up to speed and ready to start rolling again. I just couldn’t let the Christmas break go to waste! What I realised once my old computer broke was that it was hopelessly out of date. I’m surprised I used it to make my living only 6 months ago!

The new computer means everything is running as fast as it should! That specifically means Iclone 3 is running properly now. I didn’t get much of a chance to use it when it first came out, due to my relocation and then computer death, but I’m gonna get to know this beauty real well over the next few weeks. If you take your time with version 3 you can really make some pretty stuff. The example scenes that come with the program are great.

So finally, I can soon start including screenies and videos in these posts again. It’s been ages, and although the process will be slow it’ll be a fun journey none the less!

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Broke, but not dead!

November18

Well, it’s been a while since the last update (starting to become the norm for me) and theres been some good news and bad. The Good is, as some of you know Beast won an award at the recent Machinima Expo held in Second Life. I’m pleased about that, but I couldn’t attend, which leads me on to the bad news.

My computer is at the end of it’s journey, its broke and I need a whole new one.  Considering all the things I’ve had to spend money on moving to a new contry, I won’t be doing that for a little while.

It’s not all bad though. The harddrive is intact so all my hard work is just in stasis, AND I’ve managed to install my Motionbuilder on the 2 and a half month old netbook thats been keeping me sane so far, and it runs!!

Yeah, it works on my Eee 1000H

Yeah, it works on my Eee 1000H

I obviously can’t rock the same polycount on here than I could on the PC, and if it was the latest version of the tool it might not run as well, but atleast I can do bits. I just need to get Milkshape 3D on here and I can get some content in there. Sets, props characters, etc. I can’t actually make Digital Memory on here. I can either do the simpler parts (design the Robot’s somewhat intricate HUD for example) or I can start on something new until the new comp works it’s way into existance. If I take that route, the film prolly wouldn’t be pretty, but maybe that would be an added chance to focus on creativity, who knows.

Small Scale

September25

Well, my move to Canada has gone pretty smoothly although my main computer is not only still broken, but is also somewhere out at sea on it’s way here, waiting to be taken back into my arms so I can get it fixed. In the mean time I bought a lovely little Eee PC 1000H (£50 cheaper here than in the UK)!! I’ve had my eyes on an eee ever since they released the 701. I always thought my main computer was way too overkill for surfing, email and blogging. It needs to be preserved for Machinima!!
I’m pretty sure all my script writing will be done on this little beauty now.  Unfortunately that’s all I can do till I get my computer, other than maybe make some vanilla Quake 2 movies (and I doubt that’s gonna happen).
Now that I’ve got my hands on a little bit more money I’m hoping I can get all the 3D models I wanted for Digital Memory from turbosquid. I got some great 2D images for the robot’s operating system from Renderosity before I left the UK but I won’t have a chance to play with them till the rest of my stuff arrives, and of course those preview pics of the main character are no closer to being released at the moment.

Atleast I’ve been nicely distracted at work, it’s just the after hours I’m trying to fill now.  I’m a little bit worried that if I start writing other stuff I’ll switch my attention from Digital Memory and never return, which would be unfortunate considering how big a step up it is from BEAST, but we’ll see what happens.

posted under Animation, Machinima | Comments Off on Small Scale

Progriss Riport

August3

Well, it’s been a busy time since I found out I got a new job, and although it’s going to get a lot busier in the coming weeks as I have to start packing, I might actually have an opportunity to do a fat chunk of work on Digital Memory before I go!

Even if I’m really busy once I start the job I’ll hopefully still be able to do it on weekends, and Kane has said he’s still willing to do 3d work even though he’s gotten pretty involved in a few coding projects.

Right now I’m preparing the main character, Avatar One, (I’ll hopefully release some pictures before I go) and I’m stilling pinning down the final technique I’ll use for the other characters. One problem I ran into was the fact that even though I can reduce Daz models to a nice smaller polycount, I don’t like their faces when the head gets below 4000 polys, and considering what I’m trying to go for, thats a bit too much for a head. This means I’ll most likely have to use heads from elsewhere but this becomes a bit of a problem if the character isnt wearing a buttoned up shirt, cause you can then see where their neck was cut. But I’m working on it.

Also I have had a VERY quick tinker with Iclone 3, and am VERY pleased. As with Beast, Digital Memory needs to be made in 2 different environments. Motionbuilder was the first, but for the other I was looking at Iclone, Sims 2, Antics, Or Second Life.
Because of the abundance of assets I really wanted The Sims 2, but having used that briefly before, it’s not my favorite Machinima environment. Second Life would have been good for all the readily available outdoor locations, but I’m not very good at working with Second Life and my computer really isn’t tough enough to record smoothly in there anyway.

So it’s between Antics 4 and Iclone 3. Both tools have made some great improvements lately. Antics has a new lighting system now so it looks way less pre-vissy and more Machinima-ee and I’ll be installing that on my computer later this week. Iclone 3 has a mad torrent of new updates, and since it has a bigger range of 3D assets, it really looks like I’ll be using that. BOTH tools have Google Sketchup import abilities and that’s essential in this project. More details as I get more comfy with both tools.
Right now I’m really impressed with the new things that Iclone 3 has added. Of big use to me will be the improved camera system and more integrated animation system (now with IK, WOOT!)

Before I leave I have to get some voice recording for Digital Memory done. Will be much harder to find Brits over in Canada and I definitely want some home flavor in the film. Unfortunately that means I’ll have to finalize some areas of the script slightly earlier than I’m ready, but it’s worth it. Just need to multitask.
Cross your fingers for those screenies of Avatar One. He’s being reduced (and re-done in places), and then his rigging might be a slightly complex process cause of his wires and hydraulics (yes, he’s a robot!). Lets hope I can get it right :-s

posted under Machinima | 6 Comments »

Add one more to Bioware

July15
Yes, earlier today, I received a phone call confirming that.

I’ve had a lucky time with my Machinima recently. About 7 months ago I was sure that if I couldn’t make a reasonable living from Machinima this year I would stop pursuing the possibility.
Not that the situation was looking that grim. Thanks to BEAST I actually managed to become a freelance Machinima artist, and have managed to stay fed on that so far.

However around 2 months ago, paid work took a back seat while I focused on making a cinematic showreel, and then learning the Unreal Tournament 3 engine. The reason for this is, in case you haven’t worked it out by now, I had applied for a job at Bioware. One evening at a Machiniplex premiere in Second Life, Michelle had asked me how I’d feel about a job as a cinematic designer. I thought that even taking the time out to try such a thing could be costly if it didn’t pay off. I don’t think myself much of a risk taker, but I had already gambled 2.5 years of my life for the chance that I’d get a job in Machinima somehow, and I had achieved that at least to some degree. All I needed to do here was stop taking contracts long enough to give this the best whack I possibly could.

At the Beginning of July Lady Mainframe and I got on a plane to Edmonton, Canada. I felt like I had been asked to join the Justice League, or The Avengers, and the Bioware Edmonton office made for a pretty damn cool super hero headquarters. I got to meet a few Machinima community well-knowns like Ken Thain, Paul Marino, who I had met once before, MuNansen, and of course Michelle who I kept in touch with most of the time. If I thought I wanted the job before, by the end of my time at the office I was pretty sure I’d be willing to work there for free!

Anyway the Lady and I had a great time, and we got back to the UK early last week.
And that’s why I’ve been so quiet. I haven’t had much time to work on Digital Memory (although I have made some progress on it, which I might blog about later) and as much as this has all been on the tip of my tongue, I made sure to only tell close friends. But it was all a success, and while being a freelancer has had it’s moments I’m definitely glad to be joining a team and kicking some ass on the outer reaches of Machinima.

Will I still have time for personal Machinima? Honestly it’s impossible to say. I haven’t released any personal Machinima since I started freelancing, I doubt it’s about to get easier. Whatever happens I do at least hope to remain an active member of the community. Not that I’m that active anyway, but to continue to observe and blog much as I do now. A small part of me does worry that Digital Memory and especially Bouncers, will never be completed now, but we’ll see.

Right now I’m still jazzed about the fact that I’ll be working on Mass Effect 2.

posted under Machinima | 15 Comments »

Machinima vs Anymation: What’s in a name?

June9

“My opinion in reading them was that not a single one of the people writing these articles really had any understanding of second life or the whole concept of that type of community…. That being said, some of the viewers aren’t going to get it too, so it’s not necessarily a bad barometer for measuring that, because not everyone out there that would watch TV is gonna know Second Life.”

That’s a quote from Phil Rice, in issue #30 of The Overcast. Phil is talking about Molotov Alva’s series: Molotov Alva and His Search for the Creator: A Second Life Odyssey, which was recently given some less than favorable reviews by a few industry regulars in the US.

A few weeks ago the debate between Anymation and Machinima was quite interesting, and now that it’s calmed down somewhat I feel I can look at it from a slightly different perspective than we’ve already seen.
I bring this up now because I think the above quote perfectly exemplifies why we are seeing this new separation in Machinima. The art/technique has grown to the point where in reality, it’s often not even Machinima any more and we look for new ways (Anymation) to help us understand how this huge art is changing in front of us. That might not make much sense to you right now, but keep reading. As usual I call on the old times to help explain the “why”s.

In the simple beginnings, we had what I often like to call “pure Machinima”, Filmed in a real-time environment, edited in a real-time environment, and then later rendered and watched in that same real-time environment (game). there were never really any issues of classification. Now it’s the 21st century and we have such a great abundance of different production techniques. Many games weren’t conducive to pure Machinima, yet they offered a great wealth of artistic assets that made those environments attractive for filming non the less. A great example of this is the Sims 2. Techniques here involve filming in a real-time environment but not editing or watching it so.

This is because it and many other games rely very heavily on the video editor for their Machinima creation, and I believe it’s here that the deviation from pure Machinima really took off. So as far as the whole real-time aspect went, it was much less so than say, Quake 1 and 2 or Unreal but it was so beneficial to Machinima that this really wasn’t seen as a problem. Generally if it was at least filmed in a real-time environment, so that the images we looked at in the rendered video were essentially from a game, it’s considered Machinima.

The problem that started to appear, even if this may not have been registering in many conscious minds is that the more work you do in video editing, the further you move away from the benefits you were originally given by real-time. Add chroma keying, compositing and various video effects as is common in Machinima, and you soon see that in reality you’ve left the land of real-time way behind. So if you see 3D and Real-time as the two cornerstones in the definition of Machinima, your video editing environment has neither (or at the very least you aren’t using what little 3d capability your editor might have). Now if there was such a thing as a Machinima purist, these would all be bad things for such a person. But the truth is simple.

People don’t care. They just want to do what ever is required to get the job done, and it’s partly this spirit that has given the rise to adoption of the term Anymation. A term which some have embraced, and others don’t really seem to like so much.

But if this is true – people don’t care – why make a distinction at all? If people really don’t care why don’t we just make the Machinima umbrella that little bit bigger so that we don’t need any new terms. For that matter, why do we even bother with the term Anymation? Isn’t it in some ways re-inventing the wheel? As has been mentioned before, isn’t Anymation just plain good old regular ANIMATION?

This is where the criticisms of Molotov Alva’s latest work really become relevant. The key is context. Phil Rice believed that many of the critics really didn’t understand were the show was coming from. This confusion can regularly be seen in people who don’t know what Machinima is. If you put a work of Machinima next to some conventional pre-rendered CGI, average people will generally prefer the CGI. And thats not so surprising. It usually looks better, usually has higher production values and indeed, the very site or mention of Machinima often confuses people who are new to it. “But it looks like a game” “Wait… is it a game?” “Oh so you didn’t make the stuff we’re looking at, it was made by a game company?” In truth, the limitations that Machinima imposes upon us means that it’s often unfair to compare a piece of Machinima to CGI. So you see, actually knowing that a piece is Machinima (of course you must then know what the word means) immediately places it in context. People then understand some of the circumstances under which the film has come to exist. Otherwise there would for example, be little more than the differing budgets to stop someone from smashing something like Bloodspell to bits when compared to say… Robert Zemeckis’ Beowulf.

Does this mean that the term is in some ways used as a crutch? People may not like that, but I think maybe it does. Granted, most games, at times even crazy looking stuff like Unreal Tournament 3 aren’t quite ready to be compared to CGI. If a CGI film was entered to a Machinima film festival and won, wouldn’t the Machinima artists who entered feel robbed?
Anymation by definition can include any process, but the fact that is was created by a Machinima artist (Tom Jantol) and that it’s often used to describe pieces we would most likely have otherwise called “Machinima” shows a need to keep these creations in context still, so that they can be understood and judged aptly by the viewers. While some Anymation films may indeed be able to stand up against general animation, I believe on the whole we’re not quite ready to have our films judged like this ALL the time.

Now Machinima more and more often goes too far outside it’s traditional definition, but we aren’t quite ready to leave that term behind and simply call it “Animation”. For that may very well incur the full weighted, unfettered, no holds barred criticism of our audience.

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