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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Part Two

Earlier this week, Moviefone had a great chat with three top movie critics, Anne Thompson, Leonard Maltin and Eric Kohn, about sequels. Sequels are nothing new in the movie world, but in recent years the studios seem to be churning out more and more of them. Almost every time a sequel is announced, audiences groan about lack of originality, and then they flock to see the movie anyway. It’s a winning formula for the studios, so they keep doing it. Perhaps surprisingly, the critics don’t simply rip into the concept of sequels.

Kohn: Sequels are nothing new, of course. What were Charlie Chaplin’s early Tramp shorts if not a string of popular sequels?
Thompson: I have no problem with sequels per se. ‘Toy Story 3’ was one of the best films of the year.
Maltin:  I tend to be suspicious of films that have a beginning, a middle, and most of all an end ... only to hear that after they make a bundle at the box office someone is going to “continue” the story in a sequel. That’s why I’m apprehensive of something like ‘The Hangover 2,’ the kind of sequel that inspires the director and writers to try and top what they did the first time around. Easier said than done.
Read more…

Sequels aren’t inherently a bad thing. Maltin makes an important point about the different types of sequel. There’s a huge difference between a series and making the same movie again. In a series, the story logically continues. The original movie was complete, but we now want to know what happens next. For example, Alien and Aliens are both complete, and you get the sense of a story that’s moving on, coherent, and connected. There are actually good reasons for making this kind of movie: the audience is already familiar with the world and the characters, so you can get right into the story.  That’s why successful TV series make such good franchises: they’re all about the story, and each episode includes just enough character exposition to keep it interesting.

To my mind, this isn’t quite the same as movies made in several parts, like Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, and so on. Those were deliberately made as multi-part movies, and the first movie was never intended to be the end of the story; we know when we go to see it that we’ll need to come back next year. I don’t even think of those as sequels: they’re one long story released in smaller parts. It’s like reading a comic in monthly issues, or releasing a book one chapter at a time.

Many sequels, however, are pure exploitation. Take a movie like The Hangover, one of the biggest box office successes of recent years, or American Pie, or Saw. The studio realises it’s got a money-spinner on its hands, so they make a movie as close as possible to the first one. It has the same jokes, very similar situations, the same characters, and so on. The audience know exactly what they’re getting, and they actually don’t want to see anything different. It’s a case of giving the audience more of what they know they want. It may not be great art, but it makes commercial sense.

The biggest advantage of sequels is that they’re easy to market. The studios make them because they’re safe and reliable. Audiences like them because they can immediately relate to characters and themes they already know and love. Quantum of Solace, for example, was a pretty average high-budget action movie. It probably would have been only moderately successful at best if it hadn’t been a James Bond movie, but that 007 tag added tens of millions of dollars to the box office value. The revitalised Miramax have just announced a whole slate full of sequels: Bad Santa, Rounders, Shakespeare in Love, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Copland, From Dusk Til Dawn, Swingers, Clerks, Shall We Dance and The Amityville Horror. They’re already working on Scream 4, Spy Kids 4 and Scary Movie 5.

There’s a useful take-away here for machinimators. It’s no accident that the most successful machinima of all time was Red vs Blue, a long-running series from Rooster Teeth. Hundreds of thousands of people eagerly waited for each episode. They knew the characters, they knew the set-up, and each episode was a few minutes of familiar quick-fire comedy.  It’s the same with serials like Reptor’s Spindrift; once you’ve hooked your audience with a good story, they’ll come back for the next part. You don’t have to worry about how you’re going to get them interested in your latest short movie.

Indie film-makers often feel that each film needs to stand alone, particularly when they’re making short films and learning their craft. But there’s no shame in developing and making maximum use of repeated characters or situations, and trying to get the most from a story you’ve already started telling. Many novelists start that way - take Terry Pratchett, for example. Or Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie, if you want more venerable examples. Even Shakespeare wrote sequels.

If you’re stuck for your next movie project, try going through your old ones and see if any of them have a story you could continue. Not every story is suitable, but some will be. You’ll face different challenges: how to integrate the backstory without being clumsy, and how to make something different while keeping it consistent. At the very least, you’ll get a new appreciation for what the creators of TV shows have to go through.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Modern Times

Before you read the rest of this post, spend four minutes watching this stunning little sci-fi short.

MODERN TIMES from BC2010 on Vimeo.


Right, now read on.

What’s really inspiring is their tagline. Made with no money, just a little time and a lot of passion.

This has been making the rounds for the last few days. It’s a wonderfully polished piece with some first-rate visual effects that are worthy of any big-budget movie. It’s reminiscent of Moon and 2001, and contains a beautiful homage to Chaplin, as well as conveying the magic of the movies eloquently and heartwarmingly. It’s also proof that you don’t need a big budget to make outstanding films. What you need, first and foremost, is passion. If you’re truly passionate about your art, you’ll find a way to make your visions into reality. It won’t be easy, and you’ll have to improvise, cajole, beg, and make sacrifices, but if you really want to make something happen, you can.

For example, the shooting stage/green screen were borrowed from an associate. As one of the comments points out, “it’s not hard to find a shooting space for free. It is just space. Surely anyone knows someone with a garage. A greenscreen is just a big flat or cloth. You can make your own greenscreen with cardboard and paint.”  They borrowed the cameras and other gear.  All the software used was “entry level and non expensive”. All the cast and crew were friends and colleagues, not professional actors. They’re probably just being modest when they say “a little work,” though. It may not be much compared to a Harry Potter type production, but it’s not something that they knocked up over a weekend.

To quote Ben, the director: “What I’m trying to say is just do it. Or try to do it, at the very least.” It’s simple advice, but really, that’s all there is to it. Just do it.

If you’re interested, here’s some behind the scenes footage.


Behind the Scenes from BC2010 on Vimeo.


(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shuttles, hangars, cities and Chevys: more Moviestorm mods

Another quick roundup of some of the latest free and commercial mods for Moviestorm. As always, please note that we don’t support mods. That’s entirely between you and the modder.

Victorian Rooms

Creator: Shirley Martin
Cost: $1.99
Contents: 3 Customizable Victorian Rooms with Bonus Base01 Retextures.
Get it from: Mods’n'More

Another fine addition to Shirley’s growing Victorian collection, this is one of the most versatile and useful. These Victorian style rooms can be used in modern movies as well to give a touch of opulence or luxury to a private home or hotel room. The textures all work with the base pack, so no extra packs are required. The pack includes wallpapers, floors, rugs, and furniture, all of which are customizable.

Victorian City Buildings

Creator: Shirley Martin
Cost: $2.99
Contents: 13 Victorian buildings
Get it from: Mods’n'More

As with the rooms set listed above, this can be used in many different contexts. Mix it with Moviestorm’s Town Buildings set to create really varied urban exteriors. While they’re clearly best suited for European towns and cities, you could also use them for older American cities such as Boston or Philadelphia, and the flat-roofed buildings could easily pass for sections of New York.

Leefilm Sci-Fi Buildings and Ships

Creator: DL Watson, based on models by 3DRT
Cost: FREE (non-commercial only)
Contents: 3 Fighters, 2 Shuttles, 3 Buildings, a Hovercar, and a space-station
Get it from: Turbosquid

This fantastic selection of models were converted from 3D models that were made freely available on a non-commercial basis, so you can’t use them in paid projects. DL added on extra lights so they look really good in low-light settings. Combined with his other sci-fi addons, and Shawn Gee’s sci-fi props that we showed you two weeks ago, as well as Moviestorm’s own sci-fi pack, you can now create some really interesting futuristic environments.

TMG Classic Cars

Creator: Lucinda McNary
Cost: FREE
Contents: 2009 Ferrari, 1957 Chevy Bel Air, 1956 Chevy Corvette, 1948 Ford Woody Station Wagon, 1937 Limo, 2 x 1930’s Model As, 1930’s Ford Paine, Late 1930’s Ford
Get it from: SugarSync

Add variety to your street scenes or driveways with these classic cars.  Apart from the Ferrari, they’re all American cars. They’re not the sort of thing you’d see on the average street, but they’re ideal for period pieces or for wealthy collectors. Some of the cars include interiors, and some have transparent glass.

Preview: Bumper cars

Creator: KV
Cost: n/a
Contents: n/a
Get it from: Not yet released

This fairground ride is a fun mod. True, it probably only has fairly limited use, but it does include the stage as well as the cars. The cars are tintable and accept user images, they have a navmesh allowing a puppet to stand in them, and more usefully, sit down in them. The stage has a full navmesh allowing puppets to walk on it including up and down the steps and on/off the platform.

Since we’re on the subject of cars, here’s a superb tutorial by scripter on getting into cars.  This isn’t something Moviestorm does automatically, so you have to do a bit of messing around to get the efect you want. However, once you’ve mastered the technique, it will really open up what you can put into your movies.

Preview: Barriers

Creator: Poulet Noir
Cost: n/a
Contents: n/a
Get it from: Not yet released

This one’s going to be really useful for so many things, but particularly for thrillers and crime stories. It’s unlikely ever to be a centrepiece prop, but adding in that short scene where the car drives into the compound is such a classic piece of movie vocabulary. We’re really looking forward to this one.


Creator: Lucinda McNary
Cost: FREE
Contents: Teddy Bear, Rabbit, Child’s Comb, Child’s Mirror, Toy Clock, Baby Gym, hi poly and lo poly Doll and boxes for the doll and baby gym
Get it from: SugarSync

Finally, here’s a nice set of kids’ toys from Lucinda. The video also shows several other free mods she’s made available, including some office props and backdrops (see them all listed here). The kids themselves are currently not animated, but she’s working on that.

And that’s not all…

You can find more mods by looking in the Moviestorm forums, and we’ve collected some of the main mod sites here.  There’s also a YouTube playlist showcasing some of the best mods.

(3) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hot Moves - The Science of Awesome

This is the third DVD camerawork course from expert Hollywood cameraman Per Holmes. The first, the Master Course, focuses on blocking and staging, the basics of camera technique. The second deals with special effects techniques. This set is all about getting those awesome shots you need for trailers or key moments. These aren’t what you fill your movie with. Most of the time you’ll need to film interior studio shots, and those are covered in the first course. These are the shots people will remember. The sort of thing he’s covering here are how to film cars, trains, and aircraft, and how to get incredible shots in dramatic environments such as on top of tall buildings, bridges, etc.

The Master Course was one of the original inspirations behind Moviestorm. The way it explained how you actually shoot a movie was what made us decide to create a virtual movie studio. No matter how many books you read, you can’t understand cameras until you see them move and understand the framing you’re getting at each part of the shot. Once you see it, it suddenly becomes crystal clear what you have to do. You can then go into your own studio and try it for yourself. The examples throughout are made with Maya, but you can use whatever animation tools you have, or even just practice with a cheap camera.

Although it’s very accessible, it’s not a lightweight course. It’s very technical, in the sense of going into great depth about explaining what the camera sees and how people interpret it.  He introduces a lot of theoretical concepts such as grid theory, parallax, and stacked moves. Once you have those mastered, he goes on to show how to chain moves together, and how to use what he calls “sling” to exaggerate the apparent motion. There’s even a whole section on height and making it look scary.

When you watch him build up a move, it quickly becomes clear how two apparently similar moves are quite different because of subtle changes. Once you realise how many degrees of freedom you have in a move, you start to realise just how complex the cameraman’s art is. You can move the camera in all sorts of interesting ways, and produce some interesting effects. However, it’s not just about going through the motions. The underlying theme of the course is to teach you how the camerawork affects the story.

For example, he goes into great detail about dutch tilt (i.e. when you roll the camera to one side), what it means, and when you should use it. Tilting when you push in towards a character gives a disturbing feeling, as if something is wrong, while tilting as you pull out suggests a dream sequence. He shows why tilting on objects is different to tilting on people: an object at an odd angle is simply a compositional choice, while a person at an odd angle is a statement. And finally, he explains When you need to add roll to other moves to help the flow, and how to add small moves to a roll to make the shot look better.

It may seem daunting, but it’s more straightforward than it appears. It’s just a matter of understanding the principles and knowing when to apply them. As Per points out, “What is fascinating is that the vast majority of truly awesome and trailer-worthy shots come from just a handful of techniques, which we explore in Hot Moves.”

One of the side-effects of the course is that it made me intensely aware of the freedom that comes from working in animation. Throughout, Per shows how to use cranes, dollies and so on to get the shots he’s demonstrating. For live action directors, he explains how to use green screen and how to blend live & 3D content. He shows you how to get shots that look dangerous, and warns you which ones are actually dangerous to achieve. This is one huge advantage of working in a virtual world, You can get high-value shots on a low budget without endangering your cast and crew!

This is a course you will want to watch again and again. Although it’s under two hours long, you can only watch a few chapters at a time as it’s so densely packed with useful information.

After each session, go and practice what you’ve learned. Once again, this is a great role for virtual movie studios. These shots are big, expensive numbers, and you can’t easily practice them in real life! The first chance you get to do them for real, you’d better get it right, especially if you’re using something like a helicopter, or you have a team of stunt drivers standing by. Animated cameras may not be as sophisticated, but the core principles are still the same whatever methods you use. “While it of course lends itself to very high-budget shooting, the majority of the techniques can be executed even on a very low budget, because it’s the understanding of motion that makes it a hot move, not the equipment you shoot it with.”

Hot Moves costs $69, which is incredible value for such a superb course. And, if you get it in the next few weeks, there’s 30% off throughout December. A very highly recommended addition to any film-maker’s shelf.

Available only from Hollywood Camerawork. Check out their site for trailers and sample clips.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dark

imageThe Dark is a six episode anthology series masterminded by writer and filmmaker Michael Cornetto and the February One Week Challenge on SimplyScripts. Writers were challenged to write an eight to 12 page horror, supernatural thriller, fantasy, or science fiction script on the theme of The Dark. The only guidance they were given was to create “a story that sheds light into the darkest reaches of the mind, into deepest shadows of the imagination and into the blackest void at the end of the universe”. To add to the pressure, they had just one week to do it.

Six of the scripts, by six different authors, were then selected to be made into machinima movies. 

(Note: these movies deal with mature themes and are not suitable for younger viewers.)

The first of the six, The Dark: Issues, was released in mid-November. Written by Pia Cook, directed by Michael Cornetto, and featuring the voice talents of Moviestorm regulars Jorge Campos (act3scene24) and Lucinda McNary, it looks at sexual addiction. In the author’s words, “longing for love can drive you to do bad things”. It’s shot in Moviestorm, and has an unusual visual style, combining black and white with flashes of red and a cel shader to evoke the feel of a Frank Miller comic. Michael notes that he didn’t use the red cutout filter from Moviestorm. “That gave me the idea and I really wanted to use it, but unfortunately I couldn’t get it to do what I needed. As a matter of fact, no red cutout filter could and I had to do a bit of niggling post production in order to get it to look that way.”

Full script for Issues on SimplyScripts (pdf)

The second in the series, The Dark – The Environmentalist, by James Williams was released in early December. A young girl alone in her parent’s plush ski retreat gets a visit from a malevolent stranger.  Again directed by Michael Cornetto, this has a noticeably different visual style, which is one of the things Michael specifically wanted to achieve with this anthology. Also shot in Moviestorm, it uses washed out, faded colours to create an eerie feeling. Although the opening is somewhat cliched, and an obvious homage to Scream, the story develops quite differently.

Full script for The Environmentalist on SimplyScripts (pdf)

Look out for more in the series in 2011: the next will be It Gazes Back, due for release in January, hopefully followed by One For The Road in February or March. You can find out more about The Dark anthology on Facebook or follow the production of all six movies on the discussion board, which includes stills, previews, music clips and more.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finish him! How to end your movie.

One of the hardest things to get right is the end of a movie. Your audience has had a great time, they’ve got into the characters and the plot, and now it’s time to wrap it all up. If you do it right, they walk away with a great emotional reaction and rush off to tell their friends about it. (Or, more likely these days, press the Like or Share on Facebook button.) However, if you don’t leave them satisfied, everything you’ve done so far will probably count for nothing. They may not actually bother clicking the dislike button, or commenting on how lame your ending was. They’ll probably just say nothing at all. In the space of a couple of minutes they’ve gone from enjoyment to disgruntlement.

Movies aren’t by any means unique in this. Novelists have the same problem. So do musicians and theatre actors. Anyone who puts on a show or tells a story will tell you that you have to have a great finale. That doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be a major spectacular set-piece. It does, however, mean you have to be very aware of not leaving your audience hanging. Even if you’re doing a series and going for a cliff-hanger ending, it has to be carefully crafted, not just stop in the middle.

imageHere at Moviestorm, we see a lot of movies from novices that all have the same ending. It’s so common that we simply refer to them as “and then he shot him” movies. Back in the 1930s, B-movies often ended this way: the detective would unmask the bad guy, shoot him, and THE END would come up on the screen as the grateful girl turned to him with relief in her eyes. When you watch those films these days, they seem absurdly abrupt. One moment, you’re deep in the story, then less than sixty seconds later, it’s all over. Of course, that’s not to say you should do a Peter Jackson and make a movie that never ends. The Return of the King just seemed to go on for ever, and the audience couldn’t wait to get out of the cinema and visit the rest room. The old TV series cliche of ending every story with a lame gag is another one best avoided, as is the modern cliche of ridiculously long credits.

Endings aren’t easy, for many reasons. Usually, you’re just not sure how to wrap up the story. Who lives? Who dies? Is it a happy ending? How does the hero get out of this? However, that’s just the start of your problems. When do you end it? How fast does it happen? Do you need to wrap up the loose ends and deal with the minor characters? What’s the feeling you’re trying to leave your audience with? Will they feel cheated if you pull a deus ex machina? (Hint: probably, yes.) Can your audience guess what happens afterwards?

Playwright Peter Sinn Nachtrieb has some excellent tips about endings at Script Frenzy. He lists some obvious cliches to avoid (”... and it was all a dream”) as well as ways to approach writing your ending if you get stuck.

The particular moment when I’ve had the revelation of where my play may be ending has varied from project to project. It usually emerges somewhere around 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through.
Helpful hints to your ending are all around you in your work. Go back and see what you’ve done. What clues have you left for yourself? Start by looking at your characters. What are they pushing towards? What are they clamoring for? What do they need to do before we’re done with watching them and they’re done existing? Do they need to find Love? Die? Kill? Eat? Mate? Is their quest a success or a failure?
Read more…

Over at Suite101, Candace Kearns Read sums up the essence of a good ending like this: great screenplay endings are unexpected and inevitable.

In order to create a great ending, a writer needs to play with audience expectation. This means giving the audience something different than what they thought they would get, through the manipulation of a turning point. Something new happens that shifts reality and forces the protagonist to improvise. He or she may or may not get what they want, but whatever happens, it’s not what anyone expects.
Read more…

That doesn’t mean just throwing something in at random at the last minute. It has to make sense, even if it’s a surprise ending. However, that’s no reason to limit your imagination. Here’s some wise advice from Gordy Hoffman at SimplyScripts.

Another way to a great ending is write out the most hysterical ending you can think of. Submerge yourself in the ridiculous. Shoot for the absurd. Chances are you have limited yourself and believe there are only a few places you can land. Bullshit. Your wondrous, mind-blowing ending is found in the impossible places in your mind. To really floor people, you have to go off the grid. Start with all the stupid stuff you can think of. Your ideas will flow from this crazy place, and you will find something, a seed, that will sign you off.
Read more…

To quote Candace Kearns Read once again, “In some respects, the ending is what the audience takes away when the film is over, and it can stay with them forever. This section of the screenplay is what gives the rest of the story meaning.” So don’t just stop your movie. Take the time to end it properly. Your audience will thank you. Or at least maybe they’ll press the Like button.


(5) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, December 13, 2010

BETT 2011 - educational technology showcase

BETT - held in London’s Olympia in January - is the largest education technology exhibition in the world. Aimed at teachers and everyone else involved in education, it’s the best place to see the latest thinking on how schools will develop, and how the classroom of tomorrow will change. Registration is free.

Following our visit to BETT Middle East in November in Abu Dhabi, we’ll be somewhat closer to home this time. If you’re interested in using Moviestorm as a teaching tool, come and find us at Stand W23, and we’ll see if we can help. Talk to us about educational discounts!  It can get pretty frenetic at the show, so go to our page on the BETT web site and book an appointment.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Do you subtitle your movies?

One recent piece of legislation that’s only just come to our notice is the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which was signed into American law in October. The key part of the law is that broadcasters, distributors and creators of video will shortly be required to include captions or subtitles for the hard of hearing. It’s not yet entirely clear how this will affect creators and distributors like us, but clearly this is aimed mostly at TV stations and cinemas. The Act also explicitly states that Internet distributors of captioned content are obliged to provide a captioning option. One of the key targets is Netflix, whose streaming service currently captions only 334 of their 30,000+ titles. (And some of those are silent movies, so although they’re listed as accessible, they use the original intertitles, not actual captions, so arguably they don’t count.)

Sites like YouTube already include features to allow people to subtitle any video. Google is also developing an experimental captioning for YouTube that tries to do voice recognition to turn it into captioning. As my partially deaf friend Ed Heffernan points out, “it really does not work very well, but most of the time it’s better than nothing.”

It doesn’t seem likely that the FCC will expect this legislation to machinima creators, and policing it would be next to impossible. It’s even less likely that they would be able to apply this law to content made outside the USA and hosted on non-US servers, even if it’s being viewed by people in the States. It’s also unclear whether there’s any requirement to caption in a specific language.

Regardless of any enforcement issues, though, this Act highlights the whole issue of captioning. I know that I’ve hardly ever thought about captions when making movies. But around 10% of people in America are hard of hearing and will use captions if they’re available. Even if you can’t be forced to add captions to your movie, it’s certainly something worth thinking about when you’re putting it together. It means more people can enjoy your movie, and it’s very little extra work. As Ed says, “Captioning, when it started showing up in the late 80’s & early 90’s really changed my life when it came to movies and TV. It’s a profound technology that is relatively simple to incorporate, and it’s sometimes surprising that large corporations would alienate a large chunk of their consumer base by not adopting it.”

As President Obama said when signing the bill,  “[This] will make it easier for people who are deaf, blind or live with a visual impairment to do what many of us take for granted—from navigating a TV or DVD menu to sending an email on a smart phone.  It sets new standards so that Americans with disabilities can take advantage of the technology our economy depends on ... These changes are about guaranteeing equal access, equal opportunity, and equal respect for every American.”

I’d be intrigued to find out how many of you have considered including captions on your movies. While it’s common for non-English speakers to include English subtitles so they can reach British and American audiences, it’s extremely rare for low-budget English movies to include captions for the hard of hearing. I can’t actually think of any machinima where this has been done.

(2) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Make money with Machinima

For about the last five years, we’ve been saying that within five years, machinima will find its role as a commercial form of animation. It still hasn’t happened on a large scale, but we are starting to see more and more people using machinima professionally.  There have been a handful of other machinima creators making money for years: Hugh Hancock’s Strange Company, for example, have been doing paid work since about 2000. In just the last few months, though, we’ve mentioned Blockhouse TV, who are using Moviestorm to make children’s DVDs, and Erica Hughes, who’s selling her sci-fi feature film 2020AD on Amazon.

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the I/ITSEC conference in Orlando, which is the world’s largest military training expo. Along with a load of high-tech (and highly classified) stuff which I wasn’t allowed to photograph, there were a surprising amount of training materials based in virtual worlds or using games, and a number of companies were showing training videos made in Second Life or Virtual Battlespace 2 (a realistic multi-person combat training simulator based on Bohemia Interactive’s Operation Flashpoint games). Clearly, then, machinima is perfectly good enough for the US Marines, and it’s something they’re keen on using more as they transition from classroom-based training to multimedia training.  (On a side note, when Dave and I were first getting into machinima about seven years ago, we were briefly contracted to make movies with Operation Flashpoint. It’s a small world.)

On a very different note, Pixel Valley Studios have recently made a training course for nurses using machinima. That’s now being distributed as a dvd with the December issue of Nurses Management magazine. As they say, they knew it was working when “35 nurses crowded around an iPad’s 10-inch screen, watched intently, laughed at the avatar interactions as similar to their real life colleagues. and exclaimed ‘such a great idea’.”

However, we’re not expecting the real growth area for machinima to be with the big guys. We’re expecting to see it taking off among people who have next to no budget. Lucinda McNary has been making videos for clients for the last few months. She started by responding to a post on the Moviestorm forums. A filmmaker from New York wanted a short clip showing the New York State Assembly voting. This clip was to be included in bonus footage for the movie Excuse me, Mr Speaker written, produced and directed by Justin Sullivan about the campaign in New York for the New York Legislature by Paul Newel. Sullivan couldn’t film inside the building, so he wanted a cheap animated alternative. Lucinda stepped forward and offered to do the job for $100.  She then responded to an ad from Total Training, based in Ireland. They asked for 8 to 10 short training videos, and needed them fairly rapidly on a low budget.

Lucinda charges $100 per finished minute, which is a lot cheaper than other production methods. It’s not big bucks, but it all adds up, and she’s satisfied with what she’s making. “Some I can do in a few hours. Others, because of the prop designs and sets, take me a lot longer. But that is fine. It is a good opportunity to get my work out there and will lead to more work. I’ve earned about $400 in the past couple of weeks. I could be making more than that if I went out and looked for work but I have two full length feature films to complete so I can’t get too involved in it right now!”

It doesn’t take a large outlay to get set up.  Lucinda mostly uses Moviestorm and occasionally iClone for filming, and makes props with Google Sketchup. She has Sony Vegas Pro for video editing, and the most expensive part of her tool chain is Adobe Audition for sound. She has a three year old PC with 4Gb of RAM, running Windows XP, which is a long way from being top of the range.

It’s easy to see how this kind of small business can expand. Wherever you’re based, there are a lot of people who would be happy to get $10/hr for building sketchup models, making videos, creating titles & credits, and so on, even if it’s just part-time work. You can pass a lot of the more mundane tasks on to a small army of assistant directors and production crew. Do a rough cut of a scene, then pass it on to someone else and get them put in all the gestures for the extras or let them tweak the lighting so it’s more like late evening. Or shoot the scene on a fairly empty set, and let them add props and decoration to it so it looks more interesting. Nothing too dramatic, just extra touches. Lucinda’s been thinking the same way. “If I get even more work, I will start asking people to assist,” she says.

(2) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Friday, December 10, 2010

Modding competition

Moviestorm user Jake Coffey (aka jakechief) and co-host of regular weekly podcast The Storm Hour is challenging you to make mods.

The rules are simple:
- When you make the mod, you need to use it in a test video, to show us it works!
- It can be anything you want (Prop, set, costume, etc)
- You can make as many mods as you like!
- It can not be imported from Google Sketchup warehouse. It has to be your own original idea.

Closing date is February 3rd, and the winner will be announced on The Storm Hour on February 5th.

The standard of modding has really improved over the last few months, so we’re really excited to see what comes up. Not only that, but we love seeing our users organising contests like this, and we’re happy to support them any way we can, so we’ve put up a prize of 10,000 Moviestorm points for the winner.

Find out more in the Moviestorm forums or sign up to the event on Facebook.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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