Thursday, November 29, 2012

Moviestorm Releases 1.5.4 Update

     Some of you may remember that in the not-too-distant past Moviestorm was in open beta, and free to download and use, with extra content you could buy and use.

     Then Moviestorm went to a full release and access went to a subscription model. There was some outcry over that, from the people who never want to pay for software to those like myself who were concerned with how that might affect the future of the program. Don't get me wrong, I was and still am all for software developers getting paid, just as much as I'm for software developers going open-source. They were a business and wanted to get paid, which is kind of necessary when you have professionals that are working for you on promise of a salary.

     I had the thought that Moviestorm could offer the base program for free and sell content to make their money, and allow third parties to sell content through the Moviestorm site, taking a cut from those sales as well, much like DAZ does.

     With the new business model the situation was created where people who had already spent money on content for the program were now required to spend more money to use it. I was worried that people might find it wrong and Moviestorm would lose traction in a rapidly growing market (at least in terms of other developers working on their own versions of dedicated machinima software).

     Eventually I was proven wrong as the company has continued to grow. Adding the lifetime subscription offer, which was essentially the same as buying the software outright, eliminated the perceived stigma of the word subscription, and everything was right in the world again.

      With the new update to Moviestorm, there is a return to "free". According to the release notes:

"Moviestorm is now usable for Moviestorm users whose account does not have an active subscription. Such users may not use the modders workshop, mods, or non-free content packs they do not own, and will have a watermark on any renders they do."
     So, if I understand this correctly, if your Moviestorm subscription lapses you can continue to use the program and official content you have purchased for free, but you cannot create your own mods or use third-party content, and you're renders have a fairly discreet watermark on them.

     Sounds fair to me!
     I'm still standing by a suggestion I made a long time ago, which was to offer the program and all official content for one subscription fee and/or sell the program and content separately, just in case any of those MS peeps are reading this ;)

     Regardless, I think this is a great move by Moviestorm and a wonderful boon for loyal users.

    There are some bug fixes too. You can read the complete release notes here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Machinima Expo 2012 Is On! Prizes Announced!

     Screener reels are rolling at the 2012 Machinima Expo. The virtual doors are open! Go check out some awesome movies!

     You can visit the Expo in Midnight Manhattan Reverie in Second Life or on Livestream at the Machinima Expo site.

     Also, the Expo recently announced the prizes for award-winning films. Thanks to the sponsors, there are some great prizes to be given away...fitting for the quality of the films that are up for nomination. View the list of prizes here.

     The screening reels will play 24/7 until the Expo officially starts on Friday, running through Sunday. Hope to see you there!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thoughts On The Future Of Star Wars

     As I've mentioned in the past, anyone who knows me knows that when it comes to Star Wars I get pretty geeked out.
     And unless you've been living in a cave the last few days, I'm sure you've heard about the announcement on Tuesday that Disney has acquired Lucasfilm for a tidy sum and are planning to make Episodes VII, VIII, and IX.
     I've spent the last couple of days trying to wrap my head around it, and frankly I'm still stunned. I had already accepted that there would be no more new Star Wars films. But the saga is to continue, and that means new films, and that's good!
     My first reaction was dread; Star Wars becoming even more commercial then it already was (The 6-movie saga does, after all, constitute the most successful group of independent films ever made, and now they are property of a true corporate studio), diluting the universe to Hannah Montana standards, etc.
     After some research I learned how Disney buys studios and then lets them do their own thing, and have been largely successful. They bought Marvel and then produced The Avengers, arguably the best superhero film ever made. Pixar never missed a beat when Disney bought them.
     That's not to mention that Kathleen Kennedy, who will now head Disney's Lucasfilm division (how weird it sounds to say that!) has been involved with Lucasfilm for several years, knows the mindset behind the saga, and has a pretty impressive resume.
     So that should set my mind at ease, and in a large way it did. But there is still some doubt, and it involves the idea of continuing the saga by making Ep. VII-IX.
     I'd be more then happy and content if Lucasfilm just started making one-off films set in the Star Wars universe or even started an entirely new trilogy. The SW universe has the potential for infinite stories, some of which could be even more epic then the original saga (The Sith Wars, anyone?), so they could make cool, awesome films for all eternity, and I would happily and enthusiastically be trying to figure out how to become immortal so I could watch them all on opening night.
     But continuing the original saga? What could be said there that hasn't already? It was, after all, the story of Anakin Skywalker, his fall and eventual redemption. It perfectly portrayed the joys and pitfalls of humanity in a way accessible to people of all ages and origins, and used mythological archetypes to really drive it's concepts home. It was complete.
     OK, right here is where I usually start to hear people talk about the last three movies, how awful they were, and how only the original trilogy is worthy of consideration. Some even suggest Disney redo the entirety of the prequels so that they provide a "true" beginning for the originals.
     I have to admit, when I left the theaters after seeing The Phantom Menace I was pretty disappointed. Some of the stuff was completely unnecessary, like Jar-Jar Binks. like the whole midichlorians thing. Did how people connect with The Force really need explaining, and if it did, did it really need to be done so clumsily? It was something that could remain a mystery. I remember George Lucas once saying he would never reveal what species Yoda was or where he came from because some mysteries are better off left as such. I wish he had listened to his own advice.
     But the more I watched the movie, the more it grew on me. It's still the worst of the six, mainly because of Jar-Jar Binks, it is exposition rather then action from the start. Remember the first Star Wars movie started in media res, starting and ending with a bang. Episode I was setting up the premise of the entire saga, a very large task, and one ripe for disappointment.
     Attack of the Clones came out and I was starting to get enthused. People most often complain about wooden acting and stilted dialogue. I liked it because it foreshadowed everything that was going to happen in the entire saga, and finally we could see what this Clone Wars thing was all about. It was cool, and it made Episode I better. Where people saw poor writing, I saw Lucas masterfully, if a bit clumsily, weaving the entire tapestry of the saga.
     Prior to Episode III, my favorite was Empire Strikes Back, but Revenge of the Sith took it's place. Dark, brooding, it neatly wraps the prequels and creates a whole new context for the original movies...not to mention it was a fun movie. It is the keystone that completes and supports the entire saga.
     They aren't perfect. Lucas will never win an Oscar for writing or directing, but no movie is perfect, and you have to admit Lucas performed a Herculean task. Give them an honest watch again and if you don't love them as part of the whole, if not individually, then your issue is not the movies, but nostalgia.
     That nostalgia thing is more powerful then the dark side. It's hard to fight against the expectations bred by years of enjoying the original films and imagining what happened before. That really was the the whole reason why I hated The Phantom Menace so was not one of the original movies I had grown up with and watched a few hundred times. It wasn't what I expected. It's not a coincidence that once I realized this and got more comfortable with the idea of new Star Wars movies I started appreciating Episode I.
      In the end, the saga was complete. 
      And that brings us back to the present. What would be the point of continuing that story when there is just as many other possible stories as there are stars in the sky? Why continue with a new Luke, Leia, and Han? Can you imagine the firestorm that will create? Nostalgia will have a field day!
     I'm finally getting to a place where this news is becoming exciting and I'm looking forward to it. I may get nervous, but in the end I think Disney will do wonderful things with the franchise and I will love all of it.

Things I don't want to see Disney do:
  • Plush toys of Disney characters dressed as Star Wars characters;
  • Elton John (or anyone else who is not John Williams) doing music for Star Wars films;
  • A Star Wars TV show on the Disney Channel starring the next generation of Miley Cyruses, Selena Gomezes etc. 
  • Any kind of Disney character/Star Wars crossover cartoons.
     As long as we can avoid these things, I should be fine. Maybe.
     So what do you think about the future of Star Wars?

Machinima Expo 2012 Programming Schedule Now Available

The 2012 Machinima Expo will take place Nov. 16-18 at the Manhattan Reverie sim in Second Life and on Livestream through the Expo's site. Screening reels will start playing on Nov. 12 and will play 24/7 until the Expo starts, and will start playing again after the Expo end until midnight Nov. 26.

There are lots of great topics that will be covered and other great events within the event, not to mention lots of great movies. You can download the PDF of the complete schedule here.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Machinima Expo Submission Deadline Extended

For those of you who haven't yet found out Ricky and Kate over at the Machinima Expo have decided to extend the deadline for submissions to this year's expo by one week.

That means that now you can submit your film at any time up to October 7 at midnight. This gives you plenty of time to put some extra polish or finish up that film that you want to show the world.

If you hadn't previously thought about submitting a film to the expo, this extension means it's not too late to submit a recent work. The more the merrier!

To recap: October 7 at midnight. As Larry the Cable Guy likes to say, "Git 'er Dun!"

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

New Moviestorm Update Greatly Improves Product

     Usually the folks at Moviestorm reserve major updates for the the 1.x versions, and the version 1.x.y versions are just the bug fixes and various code changes for future upgrades.
     However, the latest version, 1.5.3, which was released today is a doozy that could be considered version 1.6 in spirit. It's a big update with multiple feature upgrades, memory fixes and a ton of little upgrades to the interface and how the program works. Individually each upgrade don't pack any particular "wow" factor, but combined they all make this program exponentially better.
     If you want to see everything you can read the release notes here. Some of note include:

  • Added Eye Motion animations (originally from Moddingstorm) which has 27 new animations, including being able to have the eyes look in multiple directions, dramatic blinks, various saccades, rolling eyes, moving eyes from side to side, cross and boss eyes, and widening and narrowing the eyes. Obviously this allows for much more expression in characters.
  • Look At now has a customizer which allows you to change the duration of the look at blend, where on the target the character is looking, and to do the look at with just the head, just the eyes, or both the head and eyes. This has often been requested by users and to see it finally implemented is great. This also allows much more creative freedom in directing your characters and creating mood. Combined with the new eye animations, these are in themselves quite a major upgrade.
  • In the Camera View or Cutting Room View, there is an aspect ratio option on the Camera View large button triangle menu. This lets you see the camera framing with a different aspect ratio. Rendering is still 16x9, however. It's unfortunate that you can't render in different ratios, but at least with this you can properly frame your shots before cropping to the ratio you want in an external editor.
  • Improvement of the Flirty Look Over Shoulders animations and improved skinning on multiple costumes.
     I could go on and on, but there are literally so many updates, especially under the hood, that this post would require it's own server just to stay on the net.
     Ok, maybe not that big, but this is a huge update, and a big win for anyone who uses the program.
     Kudos to the MS staff, and to Chris Ollis of Moddingstorm for allowing them to put his eye animations into the core product.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Welcome to the new Dark Lord Productions

Once I had a site called Dark Lord Productions. One say I woke up and realized that I could do the same thing without paying what amounts to a new guitar every year for hosting. Don't get me wrong, the host for the site was great, but new guitars!
So then I stopped that and I didn't have a site. But with updates to the site I blog on, totally awesome customization, and telling my domain name where it really wants to go (because it knew it wanted to), I have a site again.
So welcome to the new Dark Lord Productions web packaging, same great taste!

How about a tour? On the left you see the "pages" menu that takes you to other oddities of the site. To the right are the ramblings of some madman and links to other places where we can connect. I heartily recommend clicking every link you see.

Totally Semi-related News: I, Zombie is in back in full production. Recently redid and rerendered a scene and am composing and recording the main score. Release is set for Spring of 2013. This is turning out to be pretty something, and I'm getting excited about sharing it with you. More details as they develop.