Sunday 21 March 2010

MACHINIMA at Phoenix Square, Leicester on Thurs 18 March 2010

Dr Tracy Harwood Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Creative Technologies (real life) – Twitter @tgharwood | Email
Ms Chantal Harvey (aka Mamachinima) Independent Film Producer, Amsterdam, NL (live from Second Life) – Twitter @mamachinima | Web

The evening showcased a range of films that sought to explain and expand upon the traditional definition of Machinima as the ‘creation of original films using 3D computer games engines’, combining artistic skills of storytelling, scenes and scripts with deep knowledge of computer games engines. Harwood explained an evolution that expands in-game modding to mashups and anymation (illustrating with Blackshark’s The 1K Project 2, Lagspike Films’ World of Workcraft and Tom Jantol’s Cirque du Machinima: Cuckoo Clock).

Whilst some Machinima is recognizable as fan fiction and even in-game ‘promotionals’ aimed at other gamers within the same engine, the Machinimas presented also highlighted how it is used as a video response to targeted third parties and for artistic expression (illustrated with Oxhorn’s Behind the Scenes, Pengin’s Jabberwocky and Lainy Voom’s Push).

Sources of inspiration considered the role of mashups, user-generated content and impact of legal constraints upon creative works. Dissemination was also highlighted as a particular focused strategy for some Machinimators (films illustrating these points were Phaylen Fairchild’s DiVAS and Tom Jantol’s The REMAKE – a world premiere for the big screen in Leicester).

Finally, tools and techniques were discussed with emphasis on how Machinimators may take greater control over their creative vision by using tools such as Moviestorm and iClone (IceAxe Productions’ Clockwork illustrated the medium). Chantal Harvey (aka MaMachinima), talking live from her film studio in Second Life, discussed her creative use of Second Life and presented a director’s view of a selection of her films shot on various locations: I Don’t Like the Dark (Liverpool), A Woman’s Trial (Paris) and Joy of Music.

It was especially good to see a number of machinimators in the audience, including Iain Fryer (aka IceAxe Productions) and Roger Strange-Burlong, the presenter of TMUnderground’s Friday Night Rock [Machinima] Show, both whom had traveled for more than 3 hours to get over to Leicester.

More about the films showcased

The 1K Project 2 by Blackshark -

The 1K Project II from BlackShark on Vimeo.

An early machinima made using the in-game shadow tool. Blackshark was a French machinimator who has long since moved on to different things and is no longer part of the community. This piece has, however, been the inspiration for many other films using a similar approach. The film is a visual extravaganza of cars that appear to flow like a waterfall over the race track and uses Moby’s Flower to maintain the tempo.

World of Workcraft by Lagspike Films
World of Warcraft
Learn more at the WoW Wiki

A collaboration by some well-known WOW film makers, including Oxhorn. The film brings the guild warfare concept to the office with some clever in-jokes for both World of Warcraft and office life in general – how can we achieve 30% more boss satisfaction… lets nerf accountants!

“The writing was done by myself and a long time friend who had played a lot of WoW and knew the game well. The idea started with my observation of the WoW player base. I found watching people play to be more entertaining than the game itself. Many of them had a very strict routine for how they would spend their time. They would log on at a set time, proceed to do a number of tasks, and then repeat everything the following day. The parallels to real employment seemed to grow as people spent more and more of their time on the game. From there I made a big list of office stereotypes and WoW stereotypes and ways to combine them. The best ideas were formed into a short script showing a group of characters going about their typical day. From start to finish it took right around two weeks to make.” Stephen Mullane, Director.

2008 Machinima FIlmfest best writing and best short film

Cirque du Machinima: Cuckoo Clock by Tom Jantol

The Cuckoo Clock - Click here for more amazing videos

Cirque du Machinima: Cuckoo Clock is a unique twist on a classic love-conquers-time story: the main characters are presented as falling through multiple dimensions of time to be together.

2009 Animatu Festival Machinima category
2008 Dragon*Con Machinima section finalist
2007 Machinima Europe Best Experimental Film

Behind the Scenes by Oxhorn Productions
World of Warcraft

A short sketch produced for the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences’ annual Machinima Filmfest 2008 awards ceremony. Oxhorn is at his best here, poking fun at the US election process. The film was released the evening before the election result was announced.

Jabberwocky by Pengin
Second Life

Machinima tale using the classic Louis Carroll poem. The film was created by Stephen Bentham. A digital animation student, Bentham was assigned a poem adaptation for his film editing class: "What you see here was conceptualized and shot in about six hours, with almost literally no planning, and for under L$1500."
His partner Caliah Lyon helped assemble costumes and locations, and also helped prepare several WindLight presets for different locations. Footage was shot with a SpaceNavigator 3D mouse in the sims of REZ, Templum Ex Obscurum, Quaddryl, Chakryn Forest and Barad Caristar (locations in Second Life). "No post-processing was used and editing was kept to simple timing and fades." The hero was based on a freebie avatar from Boxed Heroes. The great audio reading was taken from Project Gutenberg ( The Jabberwocky and the other fantastical creatures were all brought to life with avatars from Grendel's Children (SL location). After completing "Jabberwocky", Bentham exited SL indefinitely. Excerpt from blog posting by James Wagner Au, SL Reporter (
Push by Lainy Voom
Second Life

“This film is a little bit of an experiment - what would happen if I gave myself 1 week to film, $50 and made the very first thing that popped into my head, no matter how ridiculous the idea, trying to go with the flow, being productive rather than procrastinating, and not over thinking anything (having previously felt constrained through creating a poem in a very strict style, this was a way of trying to clear out the cobwebs). The result is difficult to explain and quite stream of consciousness like. It loosely represents how humans are tied to the mechanics of time. We can relive the past through memories, or imagine the future, but our physical bodies cannot stop being a part of the process of time, evolutionary time.”
Lainy Voom

Festivals and awards
FILE - Electronic Language Festival, Sesi Art Gallery, Sau Paulo, Brazil (future) 2010
MMIF, PlanetArt, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2010
Atopic Media Festival, Paris, France, 2009
Miami Mini Animation Festival, Miami, USA, 2009
Media Art Institute, Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2009
Cambridge Film Festival 2009, Cambridge, UK, 2009
Time, Transcendence, Performance Conference, Monash University, Australia, 2009
Jury award winner at Machinexpo 2009

DiVAS Series 2 Episode 1 by Phaylen Fairchild
World of Warcraft and Second Life

Phaylen Fairchild is the quintessential DiVA. At least in her own mind. And we let her think that. We simply don’t have time or the energy to argue with her. Granted she’s incredibly wealthy, but any woman with more ex-husbands than hair follicles would be. Most of it she blew on face lifts and botox but we love this daffy broad anyway. Phaylen is the brainchild of DiVAS, which has been in development for more than three years and appeared, albeit roughly, in several incarnations prior to this. After teaching herself the technical aspects of filming, editing and storytelling in a virtual medium, she became a powerhouse behind the scenes. Atop her big pastel colored beehive, she wears many hats including producing, writing, directing, editing, score sequencing and starring in each episode.
She is one of the original pioneers of Second life, arriving at the end of its Alpha Phase of development. She was one of the first virtual fashion designers, the first to host an immersive role playing event, she was a house member in the first ever virtual Big Brother from CBS and Endemol entertainment and hosted the Annual Metaverse Awards show which honored excellence in virtual content creation. In this film, DiVA continues her search for a guild that will let her join in the fun. It is filmed in World of Warcraft and SL.
Showcased at Museum of Natural History in Florence Italy

The REMAKE by Tom Jantol
Motionbuilder and The Kid

“My sympathy for Machinima is shrinking over the years. Especially for games based Machinima. There is one ultimate monster called Copyrights. The movie "Remake" is experiment designed to offer a new engine for authors to game with: public domain movies. This ‘engine’ has endless potential. (Nothing new, I know, but I very rarely saw public domain materials, movies, or sound, or anything, used as it can or should or could be used.) In this movie I used Chaplin's movie "The Kid". A lot. Some other author need medieval battle? Somebody made that. Car chase? Of course. With some cheap or free software available today, it is not big deal to alter a face of actor, color of armor or change the license plate. That is, in many cases, all that authors do when altering a game engine. Of course, there are many drawbacks [with the new ‘engine] as films are already made, but there are many drawbacks in game engines as well. A smart author can overcame anything, with priceless award in form of having Chaplin or Cary Grant as a main actor without problems of copyrights or overused game characters, plus sounds, costumes, scenery, everything. Not to mention the learning and good feelings of knowing that you make alive something or somebody that has already been forgotten in some video archive. I am sure that old Charlie will be happy knowing that he is main role in short movie of some grateful thief on the other side of space and time.” Tom Jantol

World Premiere at Phoenix Square Film & Digital Media Centre

Clockwork by IceAxe Pictures

Clockwork was inspired by A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (filmed by Stanley Kubrick), but is not intended to be a retelling of that story. Rather, some of the ideas from ACO have been used to construct a new story.

The footage was originally shot using Moviestorm software, then edited using Sony Vegas Studio – which is an easy-to-use video editor. While shooting in Moviestorm, a lot of customised props were imported from Google 3Dwarehouse. These included the gramophone, the old IBM computers, and some of the buildings. Other props, such as the propoganda posters were created in Adobe Photoshop and imported directly into Moviestorm. Lighting was key. In many scenes, only a strong directional light was used, which was ideal for casting shadows on walls. A number of invisible light sources helped fill in some foreground detail when needed. It was in Vegas that the cel-shading effect was applied to try and give the movie a graphic novel feel. The effect was added to each scene individually then all the scenes were brought together to make the final movie. The most complex scene was with the gang walking by the canal. This was constructed in a number of layers which were combined using “greenscreening” or “chromakeying” to make the different layers appear as one. The water effect was created using another piece of software called Squirlz.

For realism, IceAxe wanted all the actors to have native British accents (as the movie is set in the Republik of Britain) - he asked friends if they would be prepared to act and fortunately no one declined. All the voices were recorded into a standalone condenser mike which records onto an SD card (same type as a digital camera). The files are then easily transferred to PC for manipulation. The only exception was the voice of the narrator who was working remotely and used his own PC to record the audio. Effects were added using Audacity sound editor. Finally, the music was sourced from which is a website that unsigned artists can upload their music to. IceAxe found some dark industrial music by a French artist called A.n.K.h who was delighted to see how he fitted the music to the movie.

Grand Prize at Machinexpo 2009
Audience Award at the Atopic Festival 2009
Finalist at BitFilm 2009
Winner Ollie awards for Best Short and Best Art House 2009
Runner-up Moviestorm Surprise Ending competition 2009
Shown at Cambridge Film Festival and Mamachinima 2010

By Chantal Harvey aka MaMachinima

I Don’t Like the Dark

A Woman’s Trial

Joy of Music

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