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Friday, May 22, 2009

Ten Days At Moviestorm Towers

Well, it’s been a surprisingly busy ten days since the new Web site went up.  (Is it really only ten days?  It feels like a month at least!)  We’ve been fixing all sorts of little problems with it, and getting new features working.  Some of them you’ll never see: for example, we can now make a movie into a featured movie with just a click of a button, not some complicated bit of HTML & database updating.  That means we’ll be updating the featured movies much more often - every few days instead of every few weeks.

One of the new features we’ve been playing around with is the playlists.  There’s still an annoying bug that means they don’t work right when you embed them on another Web site, but they work just fine on the Moviestorm site.  We’ll be using those more and more, for example to pull together competition winners, or themes.  So far, we have playlists for the very best of Moviestorm, old favourites, featured movies, and best music videos.  Feel free to suggest more playlists, or additions to the existing ones - the best way to do it is to send a message to Moviestorm and we’ll follow it up.

Best videos

We’ve had some amazing new movies recently.  If you haven’t seen them, have a look at the winners of the Keep It Snappy competition - ten films of 30 seconds or less.  And here are four superb pieces from the last few days.

Education for Leisure, based on the controversial poem by newly appointed Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, was made by a team of six film-makers from North-West England.  The voice acting and sound in this powerful piece is first-rate.

Cafe Insomniac is the start of a new series, described as “The Sopranos meets the Twilight Zone”.  If you’ve seen any of his previous work, such as Control Point, you’ll know that his filming and editing style is masterful.  This promises to develop into something really quite intriguing.

There’s been quite a rash of science fiction appearing recently. Awaken is the trailer for an offbeat new series about a “change of consciousness of 2012: a battle against the fear and darkness to remember who we are in truth”.  This is so well made that it’s hard to believe it’s the director’s first work with Moviestorm.

And, for a complete change of tone, here’s If Trains Were Planes, a mock safety broadcast.

What we’ve been up to

Meanwhile, if you’ve been keeping an eye on the developers’ blog, you’ll be aware that we’ve been continuing to work on the hairstyles pack, and Julian’s still bashing away improving performance.

Having new people in the office has also brought a welcome change of atmosphere.  New programmer Paul Sumpner is settling in well, and we’ve had my son Rhys here doing work experience.  Earlier this week we sent him out with Johnnie on a field trip to Ipswich, where the students on the computer games design course are taking a machinima module and using Moviestorm.  We learned as much from them as they did from us!


Keep talking!

And finally, those of you who use Skype may be interested in an experimental open Moviestorm chat session being run by Lucinda McNary.  If you want to join in, contact Lucinda via Moviestorm or via skype (user ID lucindamc123) and ask to be added.  It can get quite noisy at times, but that’s part of the fun!  (This is not an official Moviestorm chat, but some of us do pop in from time to time.)

Now we’re all off to enjoy a traditional wet holiday weekend here in England.  We’ll be back on Tuesday. 

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Education for Leisure

The range of things Moviestorm is being used for never cease to amaze us.  This morning, as we arrived for work, this piece arrived on the Moviestorm site.  It’s a Moviestorm interpretation of a poem by the recently appointed Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy. The poem caused controversy and was withdrawn from the GCSE curriculum for its alleged glorification of knife crime.

Here’s what the team had to say about it:

Today six North West film-makers have debuted online a short film using cutting-edge animation technology.  “Education for Leisure” is an animation interpretation of a poem by the recently appointed Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy.  The poem caused controversy and was withdrawn from the GCSE curriculum for its alleged glorification of knife crime.  The film is produced using Moviestorm, a new software still in early release, which enables film-makers to produce ‘machinima’ - computer games technology to make animated films. 

The film uses Duffy’s poem to tell the story of the interweaving lives of two disenchantment characters: Michelle, a teenage girl who dreams of ‘X Factor’ stardom, and Mike, an Afro Caribbean man augmenting his dole money by working as a cleaner. Duffy said of her original poem and its subsequent media scandal:  “It’s a pro-education, anti-violence poem written in the mid-1980s when Thatcher was in power and there were rising social problems and crime. It was written as a plea for education. How, 20 years later, it had been turned on itself and presented to mean the opposite I don’t know. You can’t say that it celebrates knife crime. What it does is the opposite.” 

The film-makers are six gifted and experienced TV and film professionals with experiences as Directors, Editors and Producers whose production credits include Equinox and The One Show.  Machinima has previously been a medium dominated by games enthusiasts.  The group brings a unique Director’s visual approach to the emerging medium.  North West actors speak the characters’ voices and Manchester musician David Fox composed an original grime inspired electronic soundtrack. 

The group are joined by consultant Hugh Hancock, author of “Machinima For Dummies” and leading producer of machinima.  Machinima took off in the late ‘90s when 3D computer games were released and fans worked out ways to produce video from the game play.  Until now, machinima has remained a largely underground genre due to copyright issues in using games developer’s characters and sets.  Moviestorm was launched as a free download in 2008 to legitimise machinima so producers can own copyright on their films.  The software allows for new forms of character’s expressions and movements difficult to achieve using just computer games. 

The film came about as a result of an innovative media skills programme.  DMEX is a pilot project, funded by Northwest Vision and Media and delivered by Manchester consultancy The White Room, which up-skills media freelancers to work in digital production environments.  To date the programme has offered 20 freelancers paid placements in digital agencies and production companies in the North West, mentoring, an online social network and master-classes on subjects including social networking for business and interactive drama production.

“The ‘Education for Leisure’ project really encapsulates what we wanted to achieve from the DMEX project”, said The White Room’s Director Andy Lovatt, “The film represents a coming together of talent, traditional media sensibilities and exciting new digital technologies, and this is exactly the kind of collaboration needed to drive growth and excellence in the region’s creative and digital economy.”

The film was established as a collaborative project for producers to learn about digital production techniques and how to work in digital environments.  Unlike the typical location, set or office production environment, the group produced the film with just two workshops sessions and all other documentation and production was done with online team meetings using Skype and Huddle – a new project management web service.  With the support of Hugh Hancock, the group went from novice to pros in months, learning many new skills in the process.  Participant filmmaker Lee Emery said:
“I think everyone in the team felt a degree of trepidation about stepping out of their comfort zone and into an unknown field and wondered how well our skills would cross over into this world.  But by sharing experiences, and with a fair amount of trial and error, we managed to use our newly acquired skills and our collective experience of good old-fashioned story-telling to work around these limitations”. 

The film is released under a Creative Commons license and is available on,, and Vimeo for anyone to embed in their website, download or re-use non-commercially.

You can find out more from Phil Birchenall, The White Room Tel:  0161 446 2991 email: (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Make an ad in 24 hours - Cannes Lions comp

Do you reckon you can create an advert this weekend?

If so, give this a shot.  Cannes Lions are challenging people to create an advert in 48 hours, starting May 15.  You can make the ad how you like - use a mobile phone, HD camera, animation - up to you. However the video will need to be submitted within 48 hours of the release of the brief.  You need to be 18-28 years old (born between 27 June 1980 and 21 June 1991), and the winners get to go to Cannes in June.

Visit their YouTube page for more info but hurry - it starts tomorrow!

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

MOFILM User Generated Movie competition

If you fancy putting your Moviestorm skills to the test, MOFILM are running a number of competitions for amateur movie-makers, based around well-known brands such as Nokia., Doritos, Kodak and Vodafone. 

Get Creative, Get Noticed.

The idea is simple. Choose as many brands as you like from the MOFILM List. For each you’ll find a brief, a brand toolkit and some guidelines. Take these, several cups of coffee and let your imagination roll.

When you’re done, upload your videos to the site, show your friends, win prizes and see what our brand experts think.

The Nokia challenge, for example, is to create a 3-minute movie on the theme of “Connecting People”.  The winners get their movies preloaded onto Nokia handsets in the UK.  A cheap way to get consumers to make their adverts, perhaps, but it’s also a great opportunity to get noticed and earn serious bragging rights.

Give it a go, and have fun!


(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Keep It Snappy - the winners!

In what is possibly the fastest judging ever of a Moviestorm competition, we actually managed to sneak the list of winners out on Tuesday, in the midst of the Web site upgrade.  But, just for the hell of it, I did it as a Playlist. 

So, if you want to watch the winners, you can find them here.  You can also see them on our Facebook and YouTube sites.

The quality of the movies was amazing - it seems you guys really like this ultra-short format. So we picked ten, yes, count ‘em, TEN winners.  And, of course, since they’re so short, you can watch all ten in just five minutes.

Here’s the complete list, in no particular order. Congratulations to all nine winners!  (No, that’s not a mistake.  Overman snagged himself two winning spots!)

- Darbet gazaa (hythammm)
- Doomiestorm (Overman)
- Easy Crack 3000 Commercial (saument)
- Thieves (Robear)
- Parking (Overman)
- Gone in 30 seconds (Poulet Noir)
- No Survivors (kibishipaul)
- Space Shenanigans! (Fulkster)
- The door…the end 3 (Walvince)
- The Clarks: Looks Like (Promo) (act3scene24)

The above is an experiment to test embedded playlists.  It may work for you.  Or it may not.  We’re trying it out on different browsers and operating systems to see what happens.

On a personal note, I’d just like to say how much fun it was to judge this competition.  The experience of watching 37 movies in 25 minutes is really quite astonishing.  These are some of the best films that have ever been made with Moviestorm, and it’s a real testament to your skill and inventiveness that you’ve managed to create such superb work.  Thank you, everyone.

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, May 11, 2009

Moviestorm Miscellany

It’s a slightly manic day here at Moviestorm, as we gear up for rolling out our shiny new Web site tomorrow.

  • From 9am GMT tomorrow (that’s 10am UK time), the Web site, store and forums will all be offline for several hours.
  • During this time, you may well not be able to download or upgrade Moviestorm or any content packs.
  • If you have twitter, you can follow our progress by following MoviestormWeb.

When the site comes back up, the Moviestorm Points promotional scheme will be effectively closed.  No new points will be given out, and we will stop accepting them in the store from June 1 onwards.

Meanwhile, today we released Moviestorm patch  This fixes a problem which was preventing some movies created in 1.1.4 from loading in 1.1.5; specifically, movies which featured a sound file attached to a loudspeaker set object. These movies will now load correctly.  Just start Moviestorm as normal and hit Update to get the patch automatically.

We also closed the 30-second movie competition, and will be announcing the winners later this week.  We had a spectacular 37 entries, some of which were absolutely brilliant.  This has been the hardest competition to judge.  (It’s also quite an experience watching 37 movies in just 25 minutes!)

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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