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Sundance 2005 Machinima Panel

Alec Hart @ Sundance on MACHINIMA

Today, I discovered I have an animation studio in my house and so do a lot of other high school students. I have a Game Console (animation rendering engine) with several games. I have a computer that can import composite video from an X-Box, Playstation, etc. I have digital video editing software (Final Cut Pro), compositing software (AfterEffects) and audio editing software. I am looking forward to trying to make a MACHINIMA film.
A picture named redvsblue.jpgRed Vs. Blue

Cyndi Greening @ Sundance on MACHINIMA

Fountainhead's Matthew Ross, Spectrum Mediaworks' Jim Banister, Rooster Teeth's Bernie Berns and Paul Marino (director of the Machinima Academy of Arts & Sciences) participated on an innovative, leading-edge panel on Machinima (defined as a combination of animated filmmaking in a 3D virtual environment in real time). This is exactly the type of panel that is ideal for Sundance. The reason I've been attending Sundance since 1996 is because it is a clear indicator of where the film industry and filmed entertainment markets are heading. Today, we saw the future and it was exciting.

MACHINIMA is a brilliant use of digital tools. Bernie Berns (I may be misspelling his name, this is the ONLY panel I've been to that did NOT have name cards) and his crew of three actually demonstrated the nitty-gritty of how to make a MACHINIMA film. I see applications for future animated filmmaking AND a terrific pre-visualization tool. (Matthew Ross said the Steven Spielberg had used MACHINIMA to plot camera moves on a recent film.)

Jim Banister compared MACHINIMA for animation to FLASH for the web. As a Flash (and Maya, Shake and Final Cut Pro) teacher, I could clearly see where he was leading the audience. The reason Flash files on the web are so small and load so quickly is that they send instructions to the computer to DRAW the content on the user's computer. By harnessing the computer's graphic processor, Flash's instructions stay extremely small but the graphics can utilize the full rendering power of the whole screen. This is the same principle as MACHINIMA.

Here's what you need to be a Machinimist:

  • At least two X-Boxes (or other game engine)
  • Halo II (or similar) games for each console
  • Computer to capture video output from the game engine
  • Microphone and audio capture software

Basically, you're harnessing the game's characters, environments and animation engine to render an animated film in real time. For the example today, they used Halo II. Here's the process:

  1. Hook the two X-Boxes together. The lead X-Box is the View of the Camera Man. The second X-Box is where the four characters are "acting" (you can actually add two more X-Boxes and have up to 12 characters). For an example of how this works, go to Red vs. Blue is the brainchild of Bernie Berns. His episodic tale is viewed online by a million viewers daily.
  2. Instead of sending the video output to the television, send it to the computer video capture input.
  3. Record the dialogue.
  4. Location scout the environments in the game.
  5. Rehearse your digital characters.
  6. Record the video output
  7. Edit and composite as desired.

In addition to making original animated films in real-time, you can use MACHINIMA to make animatics for pre-visualization. Paul Marino has a book out on the subject called The Art of Machinima which includes a fairly detailed "how-to". Jim Banister also has a book on the topic called Word of Mouse. I predict that very soon there will be a game engine that accepts Maya characters and Photoshop texture maps and renders animated films for filmmakers with ease. I can hardly wait to see it! The model is already out there.

Addendum (27 Feb 2005):
Ross Ingle's First Machinima Movie
Makes a Perfect Day for Me

A picture named perfectday.jpgRoss Ingle Creates
Perfect WARCRAFT Day
One of the GREAT things about going to Sundance is being able to come back and share what I discover with other folks who love independent film production! This year, there was an awesome panel on MACHINIMA. Basically, it's using a video game device as a real-time virtual production studio with animated actors. I'm betting they'll find a way to incorporate Maya models and Photoshop backgrounds soon. While I was at Sundance, I blogged about the process to create your own Machinima movie. Then, when I got back to teaching at MCC, I shared the process with students and other faculty.

Not surprisingly, Ross Ingle took in the information and immediately made a very clever MACHININMA MUSIC VIDEO He used WARCRAFT to cover Duran Duran's Perfect Day. As usual, the production quality on Ross's film quite high with an amusing twist at the end!! (Since Ross will be getting married next month, it's amusing to see the romantic vs. married dynamic between the animated characters.)

© Copyright 2006 Cyndi Greening.
Last update: 3/12/06; 8:14:25 AM.

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