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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Interview with Sisch

Short Fuze caught up with Sisch, the creator of Saving Grace, our current featured movie. Sisch is based in Bonn, Germany, and has been making machinima since December 2005 when she was given The Movies as a Christmas present. 

Read the full interview on the Web site.

Warning: this interview contains spoilers!

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

New contest - build a Moviestorm set

New year, new competition! For this contest, we want you to design a set and present it as a short movie. The movie shouldn’t be any longer than 2 minutes and should give us a good idea of all the important elements of the set. For an example of a set walkthrough movie, take a look at tree’s Japanese set. Action, choreography, dialogue or music are optional and you can use any content packs you like.  Closing date is noon (GMT) on Tuesday, 10 February, 2009.

There are three categories with a winner selected in each: see full rules on the web site.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Law and Order competition winners

We asked you to create a demo trailer for a hypothetical Cop Show using Moviestorm and our new Law and Order content pack. We were really impressed by the quality and imagination of the entries. Some of them weren’t quite what we were expecting, and all the better for it! Thanks again to everyone who entered and without further ado, the winners:

Runners up:

  * Castaneda Cops by bongoman.
  * Law and Order: Code Enforcement by MalcolmMcEasy.

1st Place Winner:

  * MSPD Crackdown by drudges.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Moviestorm - now available in Linux flavour!

We released a version of Moviestorm for Mac OSX some time ago, and it’s proven very popular. It’s great to be able to support more than one operating system, and we’ve been delighted to welcome Mac users from all over the world. We’ve even been on the cover of MacFormat magazine.

Thus far, though, Linux users haven’t had an invitation to the party. We’d love to be able to write a Linux-native version of Moviestorm, but we just don’t have the resources to spare to make it happen. Some of the Linux fans in the Moviestorm community have managed - with a lot of hacking, cursing and geekery - to make the Windows version of Moviestorm run under a compatibility layer, but that was only a solution for an experienced Linux user (and it didn’t always work even then).

That’s not the case any more. Moviestormer rhys132 has discovered that Moviestorm runs brilliantly under the Crossover compatibility layer. This is great news for anybody wanting to run Moviestorm on a Linux PC. With Crossover, installing Windows applications on a Linux PC couldn’t be simpler.

Crossover is a commercial piece of software, built on top of the open-source WINE project. WINE isn’t an emulator for Windows - in fact, the name WINE stands for WINE Is Not an Emulator in typically-hilarious programmer fashion - but a compatibility layer. The distinction is subtle, but important. It means that the instructions Moviestorm sends to what it believes is a Windows operating system get translated into the appropriate equivalent instructions for Linux. That makes it as close to a native Linux implementation of Moviestorm as we’re likely to see, at least in the near future.

Fancy giving it a go? rhys132’s excellent tutorial will step you through it.

Moviestorm running on Ubuntu Linux with Crossover

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by johnnie

An interview with Sisch

Short Fuze caught up with Sisch, the creator of Saving Grace, our current featured movie.  Sisch is based in Bonn, Germany, and has been making machinima since December 2005 when she was given The Movies as a Christmas present.

Warning: this interview contains spoilers!

Short Fuze: Let’s kick off by saying Saving Grace was a great movie – one of the best we’ve ever seen in Moviestorm!
Sisch: Thank you!
Short Fuze: How long did it take you to make it?
Sisch: About three months, I think, including script-writing and getting everything together. That’s about how long I normally spend on a “serious” movie, mostly because all my stories are quite long.
Short Fuze: How long have you been using Moviestorm?
Sisch: Since the end of September ‘08.
Short Fuze: So it didn’t take you long to get to grips with it!
Sisch: No – I think it’s very intuitive. I just started playing around one afternoon – learning by doing.
Short Fuze: How does it compare to the Movies, and why did you choose to use Moviestorm for Saving Grace?
Sisch: I just love that I can influence every little gesture myself, change the mood, build my own sets. The Movies is much harder to work with, because you only have so many scenes, and have to constantly hunt for the right facial expressions and movements.
Short Fuze: Do you intend to continue using a mixture of engines in your films?  I think you used three different ones in Saving Grace, is that right?
Sisch: Yes, Moviestorm, The Movies and X3 Terran Conflict – the space footage was filmed in X3. My next project will be done in MS mainly, with some The Movies for background footage and maybe one or two characters.
Short Fuze: So what is your next project, or can’t you tell us?
Sisch:  It’s a remake of a movie a friend of mine made before the release of The Movies Stunts & Effects. A wonderful story, it’s called The Afflicted. The original can still be seen on TMU.
Short Fuze: Is there much of a local machinima community in Bonn, or do you mainly work with people you’ve found online?
Sisch: I only work with people online.  I have no idea if there’s anyone else making machinima in Bonn. Even the Germans I know about are all over the country. Plus I work almost exclusively within the English speaking community.
Short Fuze: did you have any film training or are you self-taught?
Sisch: All self-taught. I do everything by instinct, and get inspired by ‘real world’ movies.

Short Fuze: Is machinima just a hobby for you?
Sisch: Yes! – but it’s much more than that. Because of it, I started taking acting lessons, I started writing again, I started singing… I think my friends regret it to this day, because I spend so much time movie-making now!
Short Fuze: Do you have ambitions to make films professionally?
Sisch: Oh, I don’t know. I love doing this, and I would love to be able to do something related as a full time job, but I’m not actively searching for an opportunity to make movies professionally.
Short Fuze: What made you want to make films in the first place?
Sisch: I want to tell stories. I wrote stories when I was a kid, but forgot all about it. As soon as I got my hands on The Movies and saw the possibilities, I was addicted. I love every aspect of movie making – the visuals, acting, sound design – and I’m a perfectionist. I just love to touch people’s feelings with my movies.
Short Fuze: That passion certainly comes across in Saving Grace. What was the inspiration for that story?
Sisch: It was made for a competition a member of the TMU community made. He had made a film – Distance – for his girlfriend who lives in Australia; he lived in England at the time – and the theme for the competition was Distance.
Short Fuze: What films and stories influenced you in Saving Grace?
Sisch: I like to think I’m not influenced – although I’m aware that is an illusion. I’m interested in how humans react to certain situations – most of my movies deal with difficulties and predicaments, and decisions.
Short Fuze: Did you start with the story and then look for a way to tell it, or did you start by looking at Moviestorm and seeing the possibilities?
Sisch: I always start with one scene I see in my mind’s eye. In the case of Grace, I was seeing a lonely woman in space, with only the A.I. for company.  Then I start thinking about how the person got there.  I never think of limitations when I write my stories.
Short Fuze: Then you have the challenge of how to build what you see in your mind!
Sisch: Yes! I like that challenge.
Short Fuze: Did you have to make any big compromises to film the story?
Sisch: No, not at all.
Short Fuze: Which parts were hardest to film?  What were the big challenges?
Sisch: To get all the gestures right – I spent hours on the scene where she’s having the discussion with AICO in her bedroom, adding layers and layers of gestures, to make her facial expressions just right.
Short Fuze: And are you pleased with the results?
Sisch: Yes. I wouldn’t have released it otherwise. I’m not arrogant – I’m sure there are some things that could be done even better, but I like the movie as it is.

Warning – Spoilers from here on in!

Short Fuze: One bit of the story that particularly made it for me was that the AI would have aborted the mission if Grace had wanted, which is the opposite of the usual convention that the mission overrides all (I’m thinking of HAL in 2001 here). Was that an intentional reverse?
Sisch: Yes. I wanted to show the A.I. learning, and getting more “human” in the process – and realising that with a profoundly unhappy Grace, the mission would be, if not impossible, much harder to accomplish. AnotherNewDawn, the voice actor who played AICO, did a wonderful job – he even sounds a bit more human in the end. One viewer told me he didn’t really get why the A.I. did that – I feel it did it because it had empathy routines, and could understand why Grace was so unhappy.
Short Fuze: That was the impression I got, and it seemed to me that gave comfort to Grace as well and gave her the strength to continue.
Sisch: Yes, that was what I wanted to show.
Short Fuze: To wrap up, what would you like to see Moviestorm do next?
Sisch: I would love to see more gestures – it would be great if we had the possibility to make the characters’ eyes close when we want it, a ‘breathe’ gesture would be nice – adjustable – and a sexy walk feature – real hip-swinging! I’m very much looking forward to the buildings, too. And to get characters to drive cars would be really nice.
Short Fuze: At least you’re not asking for gorillas in ballet dresses on trapezes with light sabres!
Sisch: Now you’re giving me ideas!
Short Fuze: Thank you, Sisch, and thanks again for making Saving Grace.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by johnnie

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Machinima - an increasingly silent medium?

Over on Machinima for Dummies, Hugh Hancock posted a review of 2008 and some predictions for 2009.  One of the things he says is that “2008 has really been the year where Machinima stopped doing dialogue.”  If Hugh’s right - and I don’t think he is, I think his assertion says more about the movies he’s seen than machinima as a whole - we have to ask why people aren’t doing dialogue in machinima films.  Or, more to the point, why they’re apparently doing less dialogue now than they have done in previous years.

Obviously there’s the hardware factor.  No mic = no dialogue.

And then there’s the embarrassment factor.  I know it took me quite a while before I was comfortable doing voice acting in my room at home, particularly if the kids could hear me.  I’d have to wait until everyone was out.

And there’s the convenience factor.  Trying to record without picking up traffic noise, kids whooping, toilets flushing, etc was a real pain.  I normally work late at night, and recording dialogue - especially arguments - tends to annoy the rest of the household.

Plus, of course, there’s the “is this script any good” factor.  It’s much safer to tell a story through narration and music than to try and write good dialogue. 

And lastly, there’s the collaboration factor.  You need at least two people to do dialogue, which means either getting together with another person or collaborating via the Net.  If you work on your own, as many machinimators do, it’s easier to create films that don’t rely on other people.

But is any of this really any harder now than it used to be?  Almost every laptop has a mic. There are free text to speech tools.  Collaborating on voice recording via skype is free and easy.  Sticking a duvet over your head to make an improvised sound booth is no harder now than it was five years ago.  If anything, I’ve seen more dialogue in machinima this year than in previous years.  We’re seeing loads of short sketches and simple comedies, and we’re seeing some great short dramas.  I’ve actually been surprised at how few music videos I saw in 2008.

But maybe that’s just Moviestorm.  The tools make it easy to record dialogue straight into your movie or to import audio files, and you get lipsync automatically.  So is this a creative issue or a tools issue?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

(19) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, January 12, 2009

Moviestorm on German TV

Thanks to Claus-Dieter Schulz for alerting me to this one:

The guys who made Nico Bellic - A portrait, a GTA4 machinima which was nominated this year at the Machinima Film Festival in New York, got invited by a German TV programme to present their work and talk a bit about their movie and Machinima. To showcase how Machinima is created, they used Moviestorm to create a demo movie live in the studio.

There’s a recording of the show on Vimeo: the part about Moviestorm starts at 9:30. 

Machinima-checker bei SWR from fiebel daunknecht on Vimeo.

(4) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Friday, January 09, 2009

Moviestorm goes abroad

Most Moviestorm users are British or American, and sometimes it’s easy to get locked into thinking of the English-speaking world as all there is.  But it’s great to see how many users we’re picking up from around the world, and what they’re doing with Moviestorm.

In France, Alain and the rest of the team who did the French site for The Movies,,  have opened their community to Moviestorm users as well as The Movies users.  We’re also seeing a number of movies on the site from Francophone film-makers such as Melopee (who I think is actually Belgian).

We’re seeing a growing contingent of film-makers from Germany.  There’s a prototype German version of Moviestorm which we’re testing out with some schools and youth centres in Austria.  Supporting multiple languages is quite a challenge for a small team, especially for something as text-heavy and specialist as Moviestorm, so it’s been an interesting learning exercise for us.

In the last week, we’ve seen a huge influx of Arab-speaking users.  Many of them seem to have come from Arabsgate, where one of the users has done a superb job of creating Moviestorm video tutorials in Arabic. If you’re interested, here’s the first one, and the link to the rest of them is here.  I don’t know who to credit with this, but these are fantastic work, and thank you for stimulating such interest.

And last, but by no means least, here’s a novel use for Moviestorm from Portugal.  A Bola, the largest sports newspaper, is using Moviestorm to create sports reports for their Web site. As a print organisation, they don’t have TV presenters on the staff, so virtual presenters make an alternative way to go. It also enables them to create content fast, cheaply and quickly.  Great work by Jose Guedes and his team.

It’s really heartening to see that Moviestorm has such international appeal, and we’re truly grateful to those of you who have put in the effort to help bring it to people who don’t speak English.  We’d like to extend our warmest welcome to you all, wherever you come from. 

If there are any other non-English-language Moviestorm communities out there, please let us know - we’d love to say hello! 

I would close this post off with welcome in many different languages, but my Arabic is almost non-existent, so I won’t.

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Three great Moviestorm movies

In case you missed them, here are the three movies we liked best over Christmas and the New Year.  BA’s superb drama Daddy is Home has been described as “exceptional” and “ingenious”, and, like his Marillion video, Whatever Is Wrong With You, pushes Moviestorm to a whole new level on the visual side. The next episode in Geiiga’s Luke and Joe series, What Is Love? is the funniest yet. We also offer our congratulations to Geiiga, who won a prize in the 48 Hour Film Project with the previous episode, Medieval Dating.  We round off our selection with the latest episode from another great comedy series, The Clarks: Reminisce from act3scene24.  This one’s not suitable for the kids, but hey, we’re grownups, and it made us laugh!

Every couple of weeks we post our favourites of your movies in the Movies section of the Web site, so keep checking back!

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Jeff Zie - Moviestorm’s new CEO

Please join us in welcoming Jeff Zie to the Moviestorm team as our new CEO. Jeff’s previously worked with Electronic Arts, PlayJam, Pogo, OpenTV, BSkyB, Microsoft and EMAP, and has great taste in classic motorcycles.

“This is a great team, with a great product,” says Jeff. “We’re only just beginning to see how important and powerful this is. We’re opening up whole new worlds of self-expression. What we’re building here can, and will, change people’s lives.”

David Bailey, who’s steered us through the last three years, isn’t leaving us. He’s staying with us and focusing full-time on business development. We’d all like to give him our thanks for getting us where we are today.  “I’m very proud of what we’ve achieved so far,” says David.  “When Dave and Matt asked me to join the company in 2004, I could see the immense potential in what they were setting out to do.  Turning their vision into a reality has been an exciting and rewarding challenge.  I’m delighted to welcome Jeff on board, and his media background will be a huge asset to the company.”

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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