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!


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 What I realised once my old computer broke was that it was hopelessly out of date.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!


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


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

Cinema Inspiration in Machinima Technique


There are rare moments when I’m at the cinema and I’m so inspired by what I see, I try to think of ways I can incorporate such ideas in my Machinima.

In Blade 2 we saw the introduction of the L Cam. CGI shots of digital stunt men were seamlessly merged with live action shots, providing more fluid action scenes.

It’s a live action shot and Blade gets punched, sending him hurtling into the air. The action slows down and he comes so close to the camera (he’s now the CGI Blade) that we can see the sunshades on his head wobble a little. He smacks into the wall, and the live action Blade lands on the ground.

Traditionally this is done by cutting the CGI and live action shots together but the L Cam technique allowed it to be done in just one shot! Apparently the L stands for “liberated” and as far as Machinima goes we’ve almost ALWAYS had a liberated camera. The problem for me is that my mind wasn’t quite this liberated, and for good reason. When I first tried my hand at Machinima I really went to town with the disembodied camera idea. Almost every shot in my first film was a dolly, the camera was weaving through people’s legs, pipes, hovering in the sky, I was out of control! I had to learn to reign that camera in and in that, perhaps some of the freedoms afforded by a virtual camera were forgotten. Until I saw Blade 2. Bouncers, had I finished it, would have had some some great action sequences thanks in part to this film (I might still finish it!!).

Despite what people may think from my early films I’ve always been a bit of a facial animation enthusiast. Back in the Quake 2 days the technical process for facial animation made it so difficult to get a good performance that by the time I came up with the idea used to animate the faces in Beast (an idea which was and is still unique, to my knowledge) I was just happy I could have lips moving at all. The facial animation in Beast made the characters in Bouncers look like stroke victims, however it still wasn’t as good as it could have been.
My first gripe is that the characters in Beast don’t blink in the whole film. This wasn’t impossible in Crazy talk 4.5, it was just difficult to implement while keeping other facial expressions going.
My second gripe is that their eyeballs didn’t move much. Other than on one occasion they always faced forward. This is where the cinema inspiration slips in again.

When The Polar Express hit the box office one seemingly persistent criticism of the CGI was that the characters’ eyes seemed dead, giving them a very eerie feel. In Beowulf they combated this by using Electrooculography to actually capture the movement of the eyes exactly as the actors moved them, and the result was a much improved virtual performance.
Now, I have no access to this technique, but it made me think of what kind of things I could do to improve on Beast’s method, and luckily Crazy Talk 5 accommodated. One thing that makes eyes seem more alive is jitter. The eyeballs never rest perfectly still, a fact that makes control of a computer via eye movement a challenge for interface designers. Again, 4.5 could have done this, but not without difficulty. Due to the live puppeteering in CT5 I’ll be able to make the characters blink, roll their eyes around, AND attempt to simulate a small level of retinal jitter – all in one pass.

With my animation muscles nicely flexed the next thing that’s really given me a brain itch is sound. As old fans of Binary Picture Show will know, I struggled with sound quality for quite a while. Now that I understand it a bit better things have improved and I can now move on to spending every other waking moment thinking about the actual sound effects. This is even more important in Digital Memory because of the main character, who my faithful blog readers might remember, is a robot. “Should a robot really make some kind of noise every time it moves, or would that just be annoying?”, I often ask myself.
Well, Pixar’s latest gem, WALL-E tells me yes, yes they do make noise with every movement. However I get the troubling feeling that if this isn’t done very well it would indeed descend into an assault on the ears, annoying the same way someone persistently zipping and unzipping their trousers in your face would be annoying.
It’s not just the sound work that was inspiring though. I found this film even more visually appealing than Finding Nemo. As the two main characters don’t exactly have English as their first and commonly spoken language, their actions (or animations) did the bulk of the talking, and it was done so well, especially since they weren’t humanoid in their design.
Just as facial animation helps a character appear more life-like, the sound effects given to Wall-E’s every roll forward, or lifting of an arm, or twitch of his eyebrows, added to his presence.

If I can get anywhere near a similar result in Digital Memory I’ll be a very happy man. It’s not impossible. Phil Rice and Ricky Grove have kindly offered to help (and we all know how good they are), but the amount of sound work seems so staggering I doubt I could let them at it in good conscience. In Beast, most of the sound effects were already in place when it went to Phil. Ricky did some clean-up (there were some clipping problems in the dialogue files, which I now know occurs during the video capture process in Motionbuilder) and Phil added a few sounds and reverb effects, etc, to give it a more engrossing atmosphere. Hopefully I can do something similar for Digital Memory so that it doesn’t become a chore at any point in their helping. It’s a difficult thought since the sound in this is going to be so much more complex than in Beast. As always a cross my fingers for a good outcome.

Totally off topic I saw a film today, Twaddlers, made in Antics. The viewer comments on Youtube reminded me why I don’t like Youtube, and partly why I left Machinima.com. Infantile comments aside, it was fun, but really annoyed me because of it’s similarity to an idea I had in University and was really looking forward to producing some day. Twaddlers could have been made a little better, some polish here and there, but the random humor is very funny, I loved it. Give it a look if you can. from the comments, some people get it and some just don’t.

Progriss Riport


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

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Add one more to Bioware

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.

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