Sunday, August 8, 2010

Lightworks editing software is going open-source

EditShare, the company behind Academy and Emmy award-winning video editing software Lightworks announced plans to release its product under an open source license. Lightworks was most recently used to edit movies like Shutter Island and Centurion, but is also credited with helping create otehr films like Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Mission Impossible.

This is very exciting, since it could be an incredible boon for machinima directors who are on a small budget.

For more information about the software and how to get your hands on it, click here.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Now on Facebook...

I've resisted doing this because it seemed like everyone else was, but realized that I was missing out on an opportunity to network further with people who create machinima, enjoy my machinima, or even introduce people to machinima who may not otherwise know about it.

So, I created a facebook page. If you like my movies, now you can "Like" Dark Lord Productions!

Find it here.

Thanks in advance for hitting the button!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Mach3di...a new machinima site!

If you haven't seen it announced on various forums, tweets, and facebook accounts, there is a new machinima site called Mach3di. Here is how they describe themselves:

We are a machinima rating and review site similar to the old Sims99 web site. You link to your machinima movie and receive honest straightforward reviews.

You do not upload movies, but rather link to where the movie exists, either by providing a direct link to a file or to the movie on another uploading site, such as Vimeo, Koinup, or Youtube.

Other members will be able to rate and review your movies, and unlike Sims99 you can comment back on the reviews. You can also rate your reviews (much like Youtube) with a thumbs-up or down if you found them helpful or annoying. If you don't want people to rate and review, you can choose to have none of those options, or either option, when you submit a movie.

Profiles contain an interesting feature. You can put in your Twitter name and your latest tweets will appear on your profile page. There is also a link for people to follow you as well.

Just about everything on the site can be subscribed to as an RSS feed.

And...there is a forum.

Unlike 99, there are areas for other specific machinima platforms, such as Moviestorm and SecondLife. An iClone section may come soon, but in the meantime there is an "other" area to catch anything not specified.

The site is in beta, so expect some bugs to be ironed out. And the community is new, but growing. If this site ends up like 99 was, this will be the best place to showcase machinima.

What the site needs now is directors and fans who are willing to show/watch movies there and help the community grow. Are you such a person?

Check the site out and see what you think.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Just not feeling it....

Not long ago I posted that, after working out some issues, I was finally able to resume production on "I, Zombie".

After working on it again I realized, unfortunately, that I'm not into the idea anymore. I still want to make the movie, but I'm just not feeling the inspiration. My muse is just looking at me and saying "fuggit"!

I don't know....maybe it's because of the frustration with things that have happened that made this movie such a pain. Maybe it's having other ideas that I really wanted to do but insisted on waiting until this one was done. Those ideas built and built, and now, trying to jump back into the zombie movie....not happening.

So, it's on hold indefinitely.

I've been working on some custom content for another idea that I had in mind, and once done I will work on that movie. It's tentatively titled "Why?" and it will be my first attempt at an "action movie". I've always been excited over the concept, and since making this decision I'm very eager to get rolling on it.

Once it's done, I'll try picking up the zombie movie again. Right now, experimenting with the anti-hero character archetype sounds like just what the doctor ordered.....

....or maybe the muse did. Whatever. Stay tuned!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Fixes and other words, Houston, we have a go!

A lot of things happened at once that conspired to delays in continuing to make "I, Zombie", and ultimately release that and move on to bigger and better things.

First was a glitch that I couldn't figure out that was causing my copy of After Effects to crash every time I opened it. I couldn't do much without AE. I had already started a lot of post-production work for the movie, and was at the point of no return with it. A note about my workflow...I tend to do production and post-production at the same time. It may sound weird, but somehow filming and editing simultaneously works for me. So, even though I'm doing post work, I still have production to complete.

Then came the Moviestorm holiday movie contest where I made "'Tis Better to Give". I also had to do some upgrades to my site.

In December I quit the band I was in and formed a new one, which meant for the past 4 months I've been doing a lot with that...learning 50 new songs, both singing and guitar, web site design, sound and light system design and purchase, all that fun stuff. This really put a crimp on my ability to fix the other problems. I think a law should be passed to give us more time in a day!

Well, the band has shaped up pretty good. We are starting to look for bookings, and the web site is getting there. Although we'll always be adding songs and rehearsing, it won't be as hardcore as it was the last few months. This all means that I found myself having time to address the other issues.

First, the AE problem. It was actually two problems. First, AE didn't like a font I had downloaded for titling. Removing that font caused the program to start, and I could work with it...until I tried to render a preview. Then it would crash again. Somewhere along the way AE decided that it no longer liked the driver for my graphics card. No idea why, it had always worked before with no problems. The only thing I can figure is sometime during the night they had a lovers spat and decided to go their separate ways. Anyway, updating the drivers fixed the problem.

I just completed the updates to my site today. Some simple fixes, like adding a couple pages for the last movie I made, fixing a javascript bug that kept causing the page to jump when the link was clicked, changing the copyright dates on the bottom of the pages.

Bottom line is, other then some voice work I'm committed to, I suddenly find myself with time to actually finish that damn movie! lol

So off I go. Look for a silly zombie flick...coming soonish....


Friday, March 26, 2010

After Dark- The new Moviestorm Pack

Seems there is quite a stink over the newest content pack released by Moviestorm called "After Dark".

The pack is the first content of "adult material" officially released by the company. It contains nude characters, with morphable breast size for the ladies and an erection morph for the dudes. As you might have guessed from the erection bit, this pack also contains some sexual animations.

A lot of the fuss I've seen so far is from those who have a moral objection to this. That's perfectly fine. If you don't like the content, you certainly don't have to buy it or view any movies using it. That's entirely your choice.

Iain Friar recently blogged about it, and his take on it wasn't about moral issues. He has no problem with the content itself (nor do I for the record, but is concerned about where the Moviestorm team's priorities stand, especially in context of recent discussion about releasing skeleton information for creating custom characters and animations.

When I read his blog, I come to the same general feeling about it as he seemed to have, which is WTF!?

Okay, it wasn't that, but we did question it. Now, there are two sides to this director, the reactive side and the intro/retrospective side. I generally like expressing my opinion if it is appropriate to do so, and is welcome. Unfortunately, sometimes my first go at expression is of the reactive sort. It's only over time that I process everything and come to a full understanding of how I feel about it.

So, despite my reservations about it that I expressed on Iain's blog, here is my non-reactive, thought-out take of it.

I think the pack has a lot of potential, and in some ways is a boon to directors. I'm sure many directors have wished they could have a nude skin for their MS characters. For example, a shower scene. Now you can do that. You can now include full frontal nudity for any character (well, the non-alien/monster ones anyway) in whatever artistic or gratuitous way you desire.

Many films have sex scenes in them. If you wish to do the same, you can. Again, you can be as artistic or gratuitous as you want. Just remember that if you actually show male or female genitalia, you have entered the land of Porn.

And what of porn? I've certainly seen plenty of directors take a stab at porn with The Sims 2 and Second Life. In fact, I do believe there is a site dedicated to machinima porn. Pornography is a major market, and with the Moviestorm License it opens up a possibility for any director that wishes to do so.

But again, if you have no interest in doing any of this, you don't have to.

There are shortcomings. There aren't enough animations in the form of positions or variety in the existing positions. There aren't any oral options for pleasing the lady. These particular shortcomings really limits it's potential for pornographic films.

But despite the shortcomings, there is a lot of potential with this, whether it is something utilitarian like taking a shower with the clothes off, or something a bit more carnal.

I do have reservations about this. In the matter of priorities, it bothers me that now our characters can have sex, but they still can't use the computer in the core program. Nor can the eat that nice pudding pie in the holiday pack. Getting in and out of car, even driving a car, would be nice.

I know that some of these things, like the eating and getting in and out of cars, is in development. The computer thing, no one really knows why that is still an issue. Maybe that too is in the works.

I would have rather seen these things get done before the sex stuff started coming. They can have sex but can't use the computer to watch it on the internet? What's up with that?! ;)

Anyway, I do hope that this isn't an indication of any misplaced priorities, but it does help to see that there is creative potential in the latest content offering.

Now, turn down the lights, put on some Barry White, and make a movie dammit!

....or not.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Day We All Turned Into Aliens Hour 1

Recently I had the pleasure of providing my voice-acting mistalent (I just made that word up) for Dulci's newest project, "The Day We Turned Into Aliens". From the looks of things, this is going to be a fun time.
The whole thing is deliberately campy , with voice actors assigned to roles where they were to intentionally underact or overact. I signed up to be a part of this, and asked to be an overactor (the english language is my playground), because, let's face it, overacting is the only acting I know ;)

So, if you are in the mood for something ridiculously fun and campy, check out Hour may find yourself giggling uncontrollably (legal disclaimer: this blogger is not responsible for any fits of uncontrollable giggling or any side effects of such action, including but not limited to hiccups, coughing, coca cola up the nose, or the persistent annoyance of the people around you).

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sharing Moviestorm Points option opens new and interesting doors

Recently, Moviestorm announced that they have implemented the long-requested feature to gift or share MS points with other members.
This feature was originally requested as a way to say thank you to modders who created exceptional mods or other members who have made a significant contribution to the MS community. Since it's been put into place though, it's interesting to see how it is being used, and consider other ways it could be used.

For example, recently Davidwww, a prominent modder and Pioneer member of the Moviestorm site, was in need of content from the MS marketplace but didn't have enough points to purchase it. He humbly and begrudgingly asked if anyone would be willing to loan him the points to get it, and in a wonderful show of community spirit, fellow member Squirrelygirl helped him out in his time of need.

Speaking of Squirrelygirl, she recently posted a request for Voice Acting talent, wherein she would pay them 1000 MS Points per line. This translated to payment of about $10.00 per line. It's an interesting approach, and it could a director attract voice talent. This approach could also be used as a way of "thanking" a voice actor who has done very well for you, or someone who has been particularly helpful in your production.

Recently another member had asked the MS team if they could run their own contests and use points as prizes, and the people at MS gave their enthused blessing. I'm eager to see what contest ideas people will come up with.

Just thinking of it, I can imagine many other ways points can be used with this feature. For example:
  • Let's say you want to make a movie but can't come up with an idea. Offer points for a story idea or a script. Or on the opposite end, you could offer points to a director to make your story idea or script.
  • Using points to commission a mod, scoring, or some other form of aid.
  • Giving points to the director you feel made the best movie of the week/month/year/ever.
  • Giving points to someone who gave you a particularly helpful review of one of your movies. 
Now, I'm sure some people may not feel this is too big of a deal, and maybe in the scheme of things it isn't. I guess it all depends on your perspective.
Some people may think that this wouldn't be much use to them. What if you already have all the content and don't have a use for points? What if you support the MS community in some fashion but don't use the software? Points aren't of any use. Right?
Not necessarily. See, you could always gift them to someone else for some reason or another, and I imagine there may even come a time when people will sell excess points for a discount to other MS users, so if it suited you you could take, say, 1000 points someone payed or gifted you and sell it to someone for $5.00, so even if you don't have need or use for the points, they could still end up having value for you.

I'm not recommending anyone do any of the things I've mentioned, but it will be interesting how the community uses this feature. It has the potential to hopefully create greater enthusiasm and diversity in the MS community, and it's adds even more appeal to the Moviestorm subscription plan.

What do you think?

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Great Machinima Debate

Lately there have been numerous blogs that are attempting to find an acceptable definition of what machinima is. This attempt is nothing new, as it has been occurring ever since "machinima" has expanded beyond the use of game engines.

It's a daunting task, to be sure, and I am not going to try to devise this definition. In fact, I have to wonder if, by current standards, an acceptable definition is possible.

See, it was a lot simpler in the past. Machinima was simply video capture of game footage, often directed and edited in a manner which results in the telling of a story. The key component was the fact that it used footage from video games.

Things obviously have changed since then, with several apps that allow the creation of movies in a 3d environment. This certainly falls under a recent attempt by Michel Nitsche to define machinima, which states:

"Machinima is digital performance that controls procedurally animated moving images in real time."

Although I think how he concluded this was very intelligent and well thought out, it's not really correct, is it?

Those of you who are familiar with how the battle scenes in the Lord of the Rings (or any other movie with very large crowds of people or creatures made over the last 10 here to see some familiar movies) were made should also be familiar with the software that was created to do it. The software is called "Massive" .

This software takes several different motion capture files and uses it to generate large groups that respond in a desired way. Here are some quotes from the software's web site to help get across what I am trying to say:

"The intuitive node-based interface of Massive Prime™ allows artists to interactively create AI-enabled agents. The Brain Editor AI toolset gives artists the freedom to build custom responses for the specific behavior they want to simulate, without any programming."    

"Massive's digital stunts are controlled by dynamics that pull from real motion capture data. Filmmakers can direct the motions and reactions they want with real stunt actors and then import these actions into a Massive agent to give direction and character to the agent's performance."
Now I am well aware that there are some differences in the approach of this software in comparison to the tools used to create machinima, but to the layman, Massive, in effect, is "digital performance that controls procedurally animated moving images in real time", and no one is ever going to honestly suggest that what Massive produces is machinima, at least not in the context we understand it., and not because it's "professionally" produced. It is because of the visual divide between what we see in these movies and what we see in machinima. Machinima as we know it does not have the visual polish, realism, or control that something made with Massive does.

I do understand that the intent of Micheal's definition was more about control of a character acting on an individual level, something that Massive does not do or is intended for, but as-is the definition allows Massive to fit in rather neatly.

So, unfortunately, Micheal's definition does not provide an adequate and unambiguous definition of machinima. Any definition that is eventually settled on has to be able to not only satisfy machinimators, but ultimately the public at large. The definition needs to be able to clearly explain to the layman what machinima is. It is for them, not machinimators, that this definition needs to exist. After all, we already understand, at least on a fundamental level, what machinima is.

Don't we?

I wouldn't be too sure. I remember when I first started making machinima, purists always said that machinima was "making movies with video games". Imagine my surprise when I started making machinima with The Sims, which is beyond any doubt a video game, and having these same people writing sims2machinima off, saying it wasn't machinima! These are generally the same people who refuse to count Moviestorm or iClone as machinima, and generally will only accept as machinima movies made with Half-Life, Quake, Halo, etc.

I know that doesn't reflect the general machinima population, but it does illustrate how daunting the task is of defining machinima. If machinimators can't universally agree on at least a basic definition of what machinima was, how can you ever expect to agree on what it is now?

A recent term to crop up is "Anymation", which is meant to be a catch-all to include machinima made with non-traditional methods (such as Moviestorm and the like). But this term isn't entirely adequate, is it? After all, the term Anymation would include anything Pixar makes, flash animation, clay animation, stop-motion animation, traditional drawn animation, etc.

None of these are what we are thinking about when we talk about machinima.

I think one of the ultimate problem starts at the source of this whole debate....machinima itself. See, machinima was never a proper term for what was being done.

Machinima is derived from machine cinema, and no one can doubt it is clever. But even on it's own terms it can't reconcile itself. Cinema made by machines covers just about any 3D animated movie ever made by Pixar, Dreamworks, and the like. 

So even since the very beginning, saying machinima was making movies with video games was not entirely true, and even if it were, in the current environment the term machinima is at best antiquated.

So that is where we stand. We have a general unconscious consensus of what machinima is and what it is not, even if we aren't sure how to say it. But how do we hope to find the true definition? 
Hell if I know. But what I do know is that the first thing we need to do is toss old conventions and terminology aside so that we can focus solely and what we are truly trying to communicate.

We're not re-inventing the wheel, but essentially, we are. At least, we're re-inventing how we look at it. We have to. At least that way we can hope to understand it enough to define it.