101 Novel Uses For Machinima (exageration)


It is only about 10 uses, sorry, but in the saturated media age, I thought a little bit of artistic licence worth it to get you to read more about how digital animation will change the ways in which you can express yourself. By the end of the year, I dare say that we will be into the dozens of uses, and we might reach that 101 uses in a year or two. After all, who knew what a word-processor would eventually be used for or evolve into? What is delightful and surprising in equal measure is how quickly people – with no prior media experience – have taken to using digital animation to express themselves. Once in the hands of the media savvy youth of today, we can expect them to rapidly adopt and deploy the technology in novel ways. (Pew Internet Report)

Making Movies

The obvious use. Full length movies are being made in machinima and digital animation, and while Gone is made in Moviestorm, I would have to cite Bloodspell as the daddy in this space.  I look forward also to Nova Centuria being a full movie, as it has some real talent in it.

While it is zero budget movie making (well, maybe £2000 if you count a PC, monitor and copy of the game engine) it is certainly not zero time. Hugh, Ben, Johnnie and the team gave up large parts of their lives to make this, much of which was spent in wrassling with tools that were just plain not designed for movie making.

As tools evolve, and especially as they begin to integrate better with pre-production tools (i.e. Celtx integrating with Moviestorm thanks to a kindly modder) and with post production tools (where Adobe Premiere and Sony Vegas seem to rule) then we will see longer and longer productions coming out of the amateur digital animation space.

We also need one more set of tools: collaboration. The simple fact is that one person cannot make a whole movie to any reasonable quality now. It needs talent for voices, lights, sound / foley and for editing that the auteur scriptwriter director may not have. One place this is evolving is at Ymogen where some really clever collaborative tools for making video are emerging soon. I'm also moderately pleased with Clesh, which has come out of Steven Streeter's team at Forbidden Technologies. Moviestorm has some basic collaborative tools built in: chat, share, mod and the normal import / export functions, but the market drivers for a multi-user “pro” version are fairly powerful. The trick will be to drive down the difficulty of collaboration so anyone can do it.

Making Beautiful Short Movies

Animation lends itself well to short movies. Take a look at “a knock at the door and you can see how one can take a short script and turn it into something beautiful in a very short time. This, I suspect will be the dominant form for auteur directors in a very short space of time. It is simply so much easier and cheaper than getting four or five people, even passionate amateurs, to turn up on a shoot, and as the technology develops, this will become easier and higher quality.

And if you like poetry, check out this one which will reset your views of what digital animation is for.

All that really holds this area back is content: those darned creative people always want some special asset or animation without which their entire movie simply cannot be made. No one company can satisfy that demand for content, so we are going to be looking at the development of the modder ecosystem and suppliers to take some of the content creation strain. (ask me later about licenced IPR for content, I'll get around to it soon enough).

As ever though, I suspect “short” will quickly come to mean soap opera 🙂

Making Adverts

Simple digital signage that can be rapidly customised are supposed to be a “big thing coming”.

We've seen a couple of users try their hands at this:

I can see more people using digital animation to raise the profile of their SME or even larger corporates for specific projects. Its quick, free or nearly free and with green screen techniques and quick product placement through retexturing or model imports, I can see it catching on.

Making Political Statements

Step forward, Barack Obama. This piece speaks for itself. What is also relevant is the huge impact that the Internet has had on the election this time around, and that impact is building, and will get stronger.

As face modding, import of models and voice technologies like CereProc take off, then we will all be expressing our political views in video. And video has one huge advantage over blogging for political comment: it can be shown on TV. (that is CNN iReport for those who still write words).

Personal Blogs

Personal video blogging is dead simple, and avatars make it feel safer and get over the 'who? me?” issue. Go find your own video examples, as my link finger is tired right now. There are lots, my favourite was one by the Bishop of Lincoln for his climate change video blog, which was a straight import of a podcast to create a movie.

Telling Jokes

The sillier the better. That is what [Adult Swim], MTV Flux, Heavy.com and more are for, right. In digital animation that his going to take some technology steps to deliver the animations for pratfalls and custard pies, but we already have stand-up comics, and they may one day be funny….

Sketch comedy is also taking off, as, again, the writer/direct has the control and the freedom, as seen here in something by Tank Full of Diesel.

Advertising Your Band

Performance support from games engines like Guitar Hero and from tools like Garage band are well understood. As digital animation tools get better, we will see more and more bands advertising and developing their brands through video. Here are a couple:

Radiohead – body snatchers
Marillion – whatever is wrong with you
Christina Aguilera – beautiful
Richard Cheese and Lounge Against The Machine –Down With The Sickness” by Disturbed

The key fact is that digital animation enables the band and its fans to engage in performance (playing instruments) and in setting a narrative in context. As time goes by the tools will provide more support (sync to beat, light controls, faster editing and post production effects such as gels, overlays, faders, etc).

Blocking Scenes / Rapid Script Development

Probably does not need much explaining: as tools develop and get easier to use, they become more likely to be picked up by script writers, directors and producers who want an early take on a set or a scene without having to bring the DoP and talent into a sound stage to rehearse. Since a day of filming can cost $1m++ anything that can save time is going to be adopted, and the simpler the tool, the more likely that is. Tools that require 3 years of art school training to use and a full time operator merely add to the director's problems.

Making Comics

I'm still scratching my head about this one: a comic made in Moviestorm.  Write a script, film it, take stills, make it into a comic. I'm impressed, delighted and confused in equal measure.

So, as time goes by expect this list to grow. Fast. I'll buy myself a drink when it gets to 101.

1 Comment

  1. Hi David –
    Cheers for the link! Just thought I'd try and cure the confusion by explaining why I've been using MS to make comics.
    I've been tinkering with the script of Insomnia for ages – it was always written as a comic – panels and all. I just never found anyone who wanted to do the artwork.
    (I did try illustrating it myself. The results were – uh – interesting. And painfully slow).
    Then I saw MS – and just knew straight away it was the solution. It never really occured to me to try and turn the story into a movie. If I'd set out to write a film I'd have told the story differently from the start.
    Anyway – I can't say enough good things about MS – even if I'm not really using it for what it was designed for. Insomnia would probably never have seen the light of day without it. Thank you Short Fuze!


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