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Monday, February 28, 2011

Trichophagia

Trichophagia is the latest movie from Iain Friar. He’s not as prolific as some Moviestormers, but everything he turns out is an absolute gem. Iain’s an incredibly versatile director: his previous movies have included steampunk (Cloud Angels), comedy (Cut and Shut), post-apocalyptic (Embers), Victorian mystery (Ruth), and bleak political science fiction (Clockwork). This one’s a horror film of sorts.

A man with amnesia wakes cold and confused in what seems to be a prison cell. His fellow captives appear unwilling to explain his predicament, preferring to let him discover the truth for himself. Gradually, the full horror of the situation becomes clear.

What makes this film truly remarkable is the visual style. In Clockwork, Iain started experimenting with how he could get a unique look to his movies, and he employed a variety of post-production visual filters to create something that was quite unlike anything else. In Trichophagia, he goes a step further, adding on comic book styled speech bubbles and entire comic book sections. It’s a little strange at first, but it works much better than you might expect. As usual, his command of the gestures is magnificent, and combined with the first-rate voice acting and convincing script, the characters are some of the most convincing we’ve seen yet.

One thing that makes a refreshing change is the closing credits. He’s added in plenty of imagery to make them more interesting, and as a result you don’t feel the need to skip through to the end. That’s something a lot of people could learn from.

Anyway, here it is. For best results, click through to Vimeo and watch it full-screen in HD.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Friday, February 25, 2011

Moviestorm - launching television careers in surprising places

image

Towards the end of last week, John Herd (primaveranz) posted this pic on Facebook. It’s two of the young people at Wan Smolbag Theatre in Vanuatu, one of the poorest countries in the world, working on a movie called “Gel blong mi i mas skul”. My Bislama‘s not exactly fluent, but I think it means something about my girlfriend has to go to school, and is probably a piece designed to promote women’s education. On the left, Rebecca’s working on the opening scene, and on the right, Robin’s building the set for scene 2.

We’re really proud to be associated with these guys. It’s amazing to see what they do, and the way they’ve really thrown themselves into technology like Moviestorm, despite being in such a remote location - or perhaps because of it.

image

And here’s another inspiring shot from John: Francis Wai in his new job as trainee cameraman and video editor. He got his break after joining the Moviestorm club and displaying a talent for animation and post-production editing. He was then picked to help out with the “Logging” on local show Love Patrol 4

It is the first ever locally-produced television series in Vanuatu. Produced by Wan Smolbag Theatre with financial assistance from AusAID, NZAID and the Asian Development Bank, it is a soap opera with a serious message, intended primarily to educate viewers on the topic of AIDS. It also tackles “youth unemployment, police brutality and the hypocrisy of keeping youth uninformed about sex”. UNAIDS reported that it explores “the growing issues of high rates of STIs among young people, high teenage pregnancy, lack of discourse on sex and risk taking behaviours in [...] Pacific communities”. It has been described as an “edutainment” series.

A review in the Fiji Times explained that the series “centres on the life of a detective who works in a police station in an urban centre somewhere in the Pacific. The detective, named Mark, desperately wants his wife to have a child but gets caught up with Rita, a singer in a bar. The series also involves a gang of boys who steal from a minister’s house and the search for the boys exposes the other side of paradise. The mini-series aims to look at the causes for the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic in the region.”

Source: Wikipedia

Stories like this really bring a smile to my face. We always said that we wanted Moviestorm to be a way that people could get their break into industry by allowing them to develop skills and show what they could do. And people like Francis are the proof that it really can be so, even on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. We wish him all the best in his new career.

In closing, here’s an ad they made for the Youth Centre. It was shown on television over there, and we hear that it’s been motivating people to go along. It’s nice to think that in some small way, what we’re doing is helping to make a difference to people on the other side of the world, and it’s truly heartening to see what people like this can do, given the tools, the talent, and the determination, regardless of their circumstances.

John’s shortly leaving Vanuatu, but we hope his legacy will continue long after his departure.

Thanks to John for the photos in this article.

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Using Moviestorm for animated storyboards

One of the things we regularly get asked is whether Moviestorm includes any specific storyboarding tools. It doesn’t but I’ve found that it works fairly well as a storyboarding tool in its own right, whether you’re creating stills or animatics. I’ve worked with various people on film productions, mostly amateurs and students, and what’s tended to happen is that we’ve often ended up ditching the traditional storyboarding approach altogether and going straight into Moviestorm to create an instant rough cut.

If you just use stock characters and minimalist sets, you can put together a storyboard extremely quickly. You just put the characters into position, and set up the camera angles plus any necessary props. You don’t need much of a set - just walls, necessary doors and windows, and key bits of furniture. If you want, you can use imported images on flat screens as placeholders for props or set backdrops. Don’t bother with too much choreography, sound, lighting, and so on - just the absolute minimum. It literally takes just a few minutes to block a simple scene. It’s much faster than drawing out each image for a storyboard, even if, like me, you’re only capable of drawing stick men.

You can then use screen captures to grab the stills and build those into an traditional storyboard if you want. One big advantage to this is that you get a proper visualisation of your scene in 3D space, not just as a series of isolated 2D images. This means you avoid the sort of problems you get when the storyboard looks great but doesn’t tally with what’s physically possible or consistent.

But that’s not the way to get the best from Moviestorm. A traditional storyboard, in a sort of comic format, doesn’t gives you as much information as you really need. You get much better results if you also add in placeholder dialog and put in some basic choreography and camera moves. You’ve then got an extremely rough cut of the scene. This is usually called an animatic. You’ll get a good idea of how long it’s going to be, whether the planned edit will work as intended, and whether you have any issues such as line-crossing. One major advantage of this is that everyone - cast and crew - can then watch the animatic and get an idea of what the director is trying to achieve.

The sort of thing we’ve found this useful for is that when we’ve played back the animatic, we’ve realised that shots which looked great in the storyboard don’t work well in the final edit - they’re jarring, or they take too long and have to be cut for storytelling reasons.

Here’s an example: I was looking at a sequence where one character is explaining a chunk of back story to four others. It was a longish speech.  The director wanted to break up the shot by showing how each the four people were reacting differently. His storyboard called for close reaction shots on each of them, cutting back and forth to the speaker. When we came to block it in Moviestorm, we realised the speech wasn’t actually long enough to get all those shots in without feeling rushed.

If we’d shot it as per the storyboard, the editor would have been left with these four options:

1. Cut it as per the storyboard, and accept that the sequence is going to be rushed.
2. Skip the cuts back to the speaker, and just go with the reactions. We tried blocking that, and it felt awkward.
3. Try to do something fancy with the audio, introducing pauses to make the speech longer.
4. Ask for a reshoot - an absolute last resort

What we did in Moviestorm was to spend a couple of minutes trying out three other blocking options:

1. A single reaction shot that moved across all four faces in closeup - this didn’t work well, and we decided to stick with static shots
2. A single reaction shot that had all four people in it - this didn’t work either, as we couldn’t get the facial detail we were after
3. Physically grouping the listeners so we could get two in each shot and just doing two cutaways.  This worked much better, but meant we had to adjust the placement of those characters earlier in the scene so that they were less spread out and the grouping was consistent. Originally they were arranged with A next to B, C off to one side, and D seated, but the new version called for B and C in the same shot, and A standing right behind D’s chair. The original grouping made for a nice shot, but we sacrificed it for a better edit later in the scene.

There are two important things happening here. First, we identified the potential problem in pre-production, before even dressing the set, let alone shooting anything, and were able to find a solution within a few minutes - less time that it would have taken to redraw the original storyboard! Since the new cut involved rechoreographing an earlier part of the scene, we were able to consider options that wouldn’t have been possible if we’d found the problem on set once filming had started. And second, we were thinking about editing at a very early stage. We weren’t just concerned with getting great shots: we were extremely conscious of how they’d look once there was motion and audio in there, and how they’d work together in the final cut. That’s the kind of thing that makes editors very happy and makes post-production go much more smoothly.

If you’re making your final film in Moviestorm, you can then either start again from scratch, using the animatic as a guide, or carry on developing the animatic into the finished movie. Personally, I’ve found that while it’s tempting to keep polishing the rough version, it’s often quicker to start over, but not always.

 

(2) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Simply Radio - interview with Matt Kelland


A podcast I recorded with scriptwriter Mike Cornetto and others for SimplyScripts Radio – The Luddite edition – interview with Matt Kelland of Moviestorm.

Panel members were drawn from all over the place: host Mike was in Melbourne, Australia. Jon Barton joined us from just outside London, England. Don Boose was in Virginia, and there was me, calling in from Central Florida. It was a wide-ranging discussion which started off talking about Moviestorm and how it could be useful to writers, then gradually branched out to cover digital media in general, the future of machinima, movie adaptations of films and comic books, and American adaptations of European and Asian films and TV shows.

We ran rather over the usual 30-minute time, but that’s the beauty of podcasts - you don’t have to stick to an exact format. The final edit ended up at 45 mins long - listen online or download at your convenience.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, February 21, 2011

Nowhere

Every so often, a Moviestorm piece turns up that simply takes our breath away. Sometimes we’re amazed by the sheer quality of the work, and the amount of effort someone’s put in to create a really professional movie. Sometimes, it’s just a damn good story that keeps us riveted to the screen, whether it’s two minutes or twenty. And sometimes, perhaps the rarest of all, is a movie that just takes our expectations of what Moviestorm can do and literally turns all that on its head.

Kibishipaul’s Nowhere is one of the latter. 
It’s an artistic and imaginative tour de force. While almost everyone else has been thinking about ways to create realistic environments, this one’s pure fantasy.

Experienced Moviestormers will see at once how he’s created this look from a technical perspective: a cunning mixture of nav meshes, the gizmo, and hidden objects, plus some well-chosen mods. But looking at Nowhere from a technical point of view completely misses the point. What kibishipaul’s done is to remind us that the key ingredient in any creative endeavour isn’t the tools. It’s the artist’s imagination. Nowhere literally breaks through the self-imposed barriers that most of us have seen when using Moviestorm, and shows us that so much more is possible if we just think differently.

It’s an inspiring, and beautiful film, and well worth one minute of your time.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Moviestorm - taking away pain I didn’t know I had

I seem to be spending more and more of my time involved with live action filming these days, and the more I do it, the more I appreciate the flexibility and speed of making movies with Moviestorm.

Last night I shot a short demo/tutorial to explain the key features of Moviestorm. Instead of doing it like the Moviestorm Made Easy tutorials and video blogs I’ve done so far, where it’s either all screen captures or an animated presenter, they wanted to see the real me talking about it.

It’s not finished yet, but so far, making it has been a very different experience to what I’ve been used to.

Pre-production

The biggest difference is that the three stages of making live action are so rigidly defined. All the pre-production had to be finished on time, before the film crew arrived. Every bit of video that would be shown on-screen had to be prepared in advance. The script had to be written, and I had to rehearse my timings over and over again to match up what I was saying with what I was demonstrating. We had to make sure we’d thought of every bit of kit we were going to need, from tripods and booms to cables, light filters, and spare bulbs.  We had to arrange a location - we originally had an excellent place lined up, at a very reasonable price, but in the event, we couldn’t find a suitable time in the next three weeks when it was available and the crew were free, so we ended up shooting in my office at home instead.

The afternoon of the shoot, I was busily printing out scripts, and rearranging my room to create a better set - taking down pictures that wouldn’t be appropriate to a schools audience, moving the desk light so it wouldn’t get in the way, and even taking some of the furniture out so there was enough room for all the equipment.  There’s no option to do any of this stuff later. If the shoot’s at 5pm, that’s the deadline. The crew had a very limited window, and I couldn’t afford to have them standing around waiting for me to tidy up.

Filming

Setting up for a shoot is one of those painstaking processes that takes as long as it takes. We didn’t have much kit to assemble, so that actually went relatively quickly. The long bit was setting up the cameras and lights for each shot. We’d pick the angle we wanted, then I just had to sit in position while they lit everything, trying to ensure that there were no shadows where we didn’t want them, that the computer screen was visible and not showing unwanted reflections or glare, and that we could get sufficient depth of field for everything to be in focus. Then we’d test, play it back, tweak, and repeat until the director was happy.

I’ll freely admit that I hate being filmed. I enjoy live presentations, but I’m no actor, and I really don’t like seeing my face on screen. Doing voice-overs is fine, and those bits went quite smoothly. The filmed segments, especially the pieces straight to camera, were much harder for me. I get hugely self-conscious, and can’t relax. Even when I got my lines right without ums, errs, or mangling my words, I kept moving my head and going out of focus or out of frame, or moving in front of the computer screen. Or else I’d find myself looking away at one of the crew, or glancing down at my script and we’d have to retake it. Or I’d accidentally knock my chair against the table, and the audio guy would call “cut”. Often, the take looked good on the small monitor, and it was only when we transferred it to computer and watched it on a larger screen that we could see the mistakes, and we’d have to do a retake.

Post-production: the director’s remorse

The footage and audio went off to the editor last night. And of course, I woke up this morning realising what other shots we should have taken, and how I could have done things better, but it’s too late. Production is over, and we’re into post-production. Reshoots will be expensive, and the crew aren’t available for the next two weeks anyway, so what we’ve got is what we’ve got.

What makes Moviestorm different?

Working in Moviestorm, I’ve got used to an incredible amount of freedom. Pre-production, production and post-production all roll into one. I can shoot and edit the opening of a piece before I’ve even written the end of it. Even after I’ve got my “final” edit, I can go back and change the set or change my shirt, or even recast any of the actors.  I can reshoot as much as I like, and never need to worry whether I got coverage and whether I planned everything right before I started filming. And if I edit as I go, starting with a rough cut, I’m not wasting nearly as much time taking and retaking shots that never end up in the finished piece. It’s like moving to a word processor instead of having to use a typewriter.

Filming’s so much easier too. Once I’ve said a line right once, I’ll never get it wrong again. I can get rid of unwanted shadows with one click, and I can change the lighting in just a few seconds. I never have to worry about focus if I don’t want to. I don’t have to think about continuity between takes.

And, perhaps most importantly, I can work whenever it’s convenient for me. I don’t have to coordinate several people and all their kit, and get everyone to the right place at the right time.  I can do literally ten minutes here and there if I want, and it’s not going to take me half an hour to get set up. I can even take Moviestorm with me on a laptop and work wherever I want.

What this experience has really brought into perspective for me is just how fast and efficient Moviestorm can be. I’ve found myself cursing when it’s taken me half an hour to get one shot just the way I want it, or when I’ve been fiddling with lights for five minutes trying to get just the effect I want. Last night, it was taking us typically half an hour to get each shot, and that was a fast, easy shoot. If we could have done the lighting setups in a mere five minutes, that would have been amazing - and certainly a lot less hot!  I’ve found myself looking back at pieces I’ve done, and grumbling, “it took me two whole hours just for that.” Then I’ve showed those same pieces to the film guys, and their reaction is an amazed, “wow, you did that in just two hours?”

So yes, I’ll still get frustrated when I can’t do things as quickly as I’d like. But in the back of my mind now, I’ll always have that little voice reminding me how much more frustrating and time-consuming it would have been to do it any other way.

Anyway, now I have to go and spend the next half-hour putting my office back how it was - after taking enough photos so that if we do need to reshoot anything, we can match what we filmed before… Save|Load is so much easier!

(2) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Credits

Over on the forums, there’s recently been a discussion of credits in movies. It originally started off as a discussion about mods and commercial projects, but gradually drifted into the issue of whether everybody who’s contributed on a movie should get a credit.  This is something I’ve talked about several times - I remember discussing it on-air with Phil Barton on a machinima podcast many years ago, and writing a guest post for machinima.com back when it was still owned by Hugh Hancock.

The short answer, in my opinion, is no.

The slightly longer answer is that while it’s good practice to credit and/or thank people who’ve made a contribution to your movie, it’s not absolutely essential to do so, and it’s certainly not necessary to name everyone in the on-screen credits of the movie itself.

Before I explain any further, let me start by dispelling one persistent myth about movie credits. As one forum poster put it, “In real cinema productions, even the boy who makes the tea gets a credit.”  That’s simply not true.  Movies don’t credit everyone.

Blockbuster films often have extremely long credits (which few people actually watch). Even so, they don’t credit most suppliers of props or costumes, unless there’s a specific product placement agreement for which the supplier actually pays, such as a car manufacturer in a Bond film. They mostly only credit people who worked on the movie directly. They certainly don’t credit, say, the fabric manufacturer who supplied the material for the bridesmaids’ dresses in the background of the wedding scene, or the paint supplier.  And while the catering company may get a credit, the people who actually serve the meals sure as hell don’t. It’s also extremely rare for all the extras to get credited. When George Lucas gave a credit to all the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi, this was highly unusual - and you’ll notice he doesn’t credit all the stormtroopers. So even being on screen doesn’t guarantee you a credit.

Lower budget films generally have fewer credits, usually focusing only on the heads of department or the most significant people in the cast and crew. TV shows generally have even fewer credits. Short films have the credits stripped to the minimum, often reduced to just a few people.  So let’s dispense with the idea that you have to have enormously long credits if you’re doing it properly.

You should keep the length of your credits in proportion to your movie. I’ve seen one-minute movies with ten minutes of credits. Frankly, who wants to watch that? Nobody is going to sit through that, let alone remember who did what. As a rule of thumb, I’d suggest making your credits sequence no more than 10% of the total duration of your movie. If you’re making a 2-minute movie, that’s just 12 seconds. That’s not long at all. You may want to spend the next two minutes listing everyone who worked on the movie, and all the software you used, but here’s the catch. Your viewer will already have moved onto the next movie. And, importantly, they’re less likely to comment or give you feedback if they move on before the movie has completely finished.  (And don’t try putting an extended credits sequence at the start. That just turns people off before your movie’s even begun. Apply the same 10% rule to your title sequence too.)

Obviously, if you’re going to compress your credits that much, you have to be really ruthless about who gets a credit, and not everyone’s going to make it. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t thank them. You just do it somewhere other than the actual movie: list them on the Web site or YouTube page, for example. This often works much better, as you can put links in so people can get the actual mod, or whatever. Then put a general thanks to everyone who helped out, and refer people to your Web site. You can name people

Thanks to all the modders, especially FrankenStone for the churchyard, and everyone else who helped out.
See http://www.mysite/movie/castcrew.htm for details of mods, software, etc

Oh, and in passing, resist the temptation to credit people many different times in different roles. It just looks silly. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen credits like:

A Mongoose Movie
Story by Mongoose
Based on an idea by Mongoose
Script by Mongoose
Directed by Mongoose
Produced by Mongoose
Set Design by Mongoose
Set Dressing by Mongoose
Mods by Mongoose
Sound recording by Mongoose
Sound editing by Mongoose

It’s far more effective to put something like:

Written, directed and produced by Mongoose

That gives the viewer the exact same information in much less time, and actually looks more impressive.

 

 

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, February 07, 2011

The £100 movie recipe

This is a guest post by Kate Fosk, known in the Moviestorm community as kkffoo. Kate is from Northern England, and works with a wide variety of machinima engines. Her main collaborator is Mike Joyce, a thirty-year Hollywood veteran, and former head of global production at Fox. Living half a planet apart, they use webcams, virtual reality and conventional internet resources to communicate and work with each other.

This post came about as a result of a conversation about how you don’t really need expensive tools to make a decent movie. Kate said she could assemble everything she needed for under £100 (about $150), and we challenged her to do it. Of course, she did. Here’s Kate’s recipe for the ultra-low budget movie studio practically anyone can afford.

Your Movie - Part 1

1)The first ingredient may be a cheat, we assume you already have, or can borrow a computer which is capable of video editing and running Moviestorm. (As most cookery books neglect to give instructions for building your kitchen, or smelting the iron for your aga we think it’s a valid starting point.)

2) Make some friends. (Movie making friends with nice microphones are best, but if these are out of season then your brother or next door neighbour will suffice.) Put these aside in a warm place and pour brandy* over at intervals.
(*we say brandy, but for those without a store of unwanted Christmas gifts, we suggest a rummage through granny’s souvenir cabinet will usually turn up a bottle of green stuff she bought in Greece on her Saga winter-cation)

3) Don thinking cap.

4) Download Celtx.

Celtx: Fully featured script writing tool, including power tools for organising and editing your work.
Price: Free
Download here: http://celtx.com/index.html
Pros: Very flexible, can be used as straight script writer /editor, or to create story boards or combination of both.
Cons: Keyboard shortcuts can be non intuitive at times
Easy to use: Yes

5) Write masterpiece.

6) Pick crystallised green stuff out of teeth.

7) Panic.

8) Take out previously soused friends and ask for advice.

9) Rewrite masterpiece leaving out the exploding elephants, speedboat chase through desert and voice over by Rutger Hauer.

10) Look up Rutger Hauer on http://www.deadoraliveinfo.com/ and decide to reinstate voice over.

11) After sleepless night, rewrite elephant scene and email Granny to see if she can do ‘dutch accent’.

12) Download Audacity.

Audacity: Fully featured audio editing tool.
Price: Free
Download here http://audacity.sourceforge.net/download/
Pros: Simple intuitive interface. Many 3rd party free plugins & effects available, eg mp3 exporter
Cons: No midi
Easy to use: Yes

13) Listen to own recorded voice.

14) Go mad and spend half budget on USB condenser microphone.

USB Condenser Microphone: plugs into USB socket and captures much better sound quality than built in microphones. Add a useful wind or pop screen for a little extra or make one yourself
Price varies: see below
This reviewer recommends Samson C01U - USB Studio Condenser Microphone which comes with stand and audio software, and has a purpose built windscreen available separately.
Pros: Huge leap in quality compared to built in microphones, for much cheaper price than studio gear. Plug in and use.
Cons: Bulky
Easy to use: Yes

15) Panic.

16) Decide elephant scene is core of movie. Rewrite script, cut down from four hours to ten minutes.

17) Download Sketchup.

Sketchup: 3d modelling tool
Price: Free
Download here: http://sketchup.google.com/
Pros: Simple and powerful tool, huge cache of free models in Google Warehouse to download and study.
Cons: Static models only, no bones or animation.
Easy to use: Yes

18) With much assistance, import homemade elephant into Moviestorm Modder’s Workshop. Cry.

19) Watch several Hitchcock films, and decide to place incendiary elephant out of shot, and focus on character reactions.

20) Build set, design characters.

21) Find free picture of elephant on Flickr creative commons search, and nice free explosion sound on Freesound.

22) Send script to any friends willing to record voice parts. Wait for these to return. Worry.

23) Redesign set, so character who sounds like he is talking from airing cupboard is actually in airing cupboard. Sorted.

24) Film scene, and show to selected friends for critique. Cry.

25) Write long emotional email to Rutger Hauer, save in email drafts folder.

26) Show film to Granny.

27) Stomp around, cry, then buy Sony Vegas from Ebay. Put to one side.

Sony Vegas: Video Editing Suite
Price Variable, see below: Try Sony Movie Studio HD 10 Platinum Suite 
Pros: Ease of use, flexibility, useful effects and plugins, hidden depths!
Cons: Each editor has their own quirks with codecs which don’t load properly, Vegas is no different. Some have had issues with Moviestorm audio, but there are workarounds.
Easy to use: Yes

28) Load Moviestorm, substitute car for elephant, re-render. Say ‘******’ it, and upload to video share sites.

29) Decide to give up movie making and take up embroidery.

30) Read comment from curlygirl347 that ‘choice of wallpaper is quite good, and actor in cupboard with towels was emotional moment’. Decide am natural filmmaker, fantasise about accepting Oscar.

Repeat at will.


Total costs:

Samson C01U Condenser Microphone£42.15
(£37.16 + £4.99 postage Ebay UK Auction)
Sony Movie Studio HD 10 Platinum Suite£37.50
(from Ebay UK top rated seller including free shipping)
Moviestorm Rental£14.00
(For 3 months including extra content pack)
Total£93.65

So there you go. You’ve even got change. Of course, you could do it even cheaper with just one month rental of Moviestorm, but realistically, you should allow yourself enough time for everything to go wrong. And for writing all those emails to Rutger Hauer.

Read more from Kate & Mike at their blog, Pineapple Chunks.

(2) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Friday, February 04, 2011

Smoochy time - new Valentine’s pack

It’s that time of year, when it’s socially acceptable for men to be romantic, and women find out who their secret admirers are.

So in keeping with the occasion, we’ve released a new Valentine’s Day pack, featuring everything you need for that magic moment. It’s an expanded version of the old Greetingstorm Valentine’s pack, including new animations and props. Start with that perfect meal in a restaurant, and decorate the table with heart candlesticks, then finish with a box of chocolates. Give a gift of flowers, or, if you feel ready to take the plunge, get down on one knee and propose. There’s a choice of rings, with animations for presenting and admiring them.

image

For more intimate moments in the bedroom, there’s a choice of underwear for the men and lingerie for the ladies. And, for a complete change of scene, there’s even a fantasy tower with a balcony and a moonlit backdrop perfect for garden or park settings.

Of course, it’s not just for Valentine’s Day - you’ll find uses for this pack in romantic movies, drama, comedies, and even music videos.

At the moment it’s only available in the Moviestorm Marketplace for 500MSP. From Monday you’ll also be able to get it by clicking the Get More Content button when you start Moviestorm. As with all official Moviestorm packs, you can try it free for a week.

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Fiat Lux - the art of Lucy Georges

Lucy Georges, or LuxAeternam as she’s known to Moviestormers, lives in an historic town called Saint-Nicolas-de-Port near Nancy, where she works as a lecturer in English at the Science University. Originally from Stockport, in Northern England, she moved to France in 1992 to get married, and now has four children, aged 3 to 17.

She’s entirely self taught. She started off making a few home movies with a camcorder, which she describes as “about as good as family snapshots, and a lot more bother to edit.”  Then in 2007 she and her husband, Pascal, gave up smoking to invest in photographic equipment, a hobby they had both enjoyed in their teens. After about a year, she started thinking about how to take what she was learning in photography and transferring it to moving images.

Her initial foray into digital movies was using The Movies, which she bought when it came out.  She enjoyed it, but found it limiting after a while. “I thought it was a fantastic idea, but the gameplay got in the way of the creativity, and it was just a lot of effort for a set of ready-made scenes put end to end.  It really is a shame that the Microsoft buyout effectively killed off what could have been an excellent product had they ever made version 2.”

After a while, she switched to Moviestorm, because it seemed simple and affordable.  “I was looking for a replacement for The Movies, by which I mean dedicated movie-making software without the game element.  Antics 3D was no longer available, and so I was left with a choice between Moviestorm and iClone.  After watching a couple of ‘how to’ videos on Youtube I decided that it looked straightforward enough to use, and the structure mimicking the movie making process made it very intuitive, too. I have yet to find anything better that doesn’t have a steep learning curve or require great expense, and despite its quirks and limitations, there is a workaround for most needs.”

Her first Moviestorm films were a series of comedy sketches, Northern Lasses. She was inspired by one of the stock characters and her memories of schooldays in England.  “It had to be the pink tracksuit that did it… It conjured up images of girls I’d known at school who were unashamedly vulgar, so I created hapless Shelley and her naughty friend Kelly and put them in various situations.  They made me laugh when I was writing the sketches, and even now when I watch them again and I can see all the flaws, they still make me snigger!”

Northern Lasses, Episode 1

After that, she took a break for about a year, until she entered a contest for French language directors last year. “Writing comedy was what came naturally, but it doesn’t really go deep, and I wanted to explore other avenues.  However, the muse was on vacation, and child number four was at the ‘running around causing havoc’ stage.  So I didn’t just stop making comedies, I stopped making films, for a year. During the break I played Sims 3, and had a look at its movie-making potential, but Moviestorm was still the best tool for me, so when I got a message about the French language competition, I thought, ‘why not?’. Making a film in French was a first for me, and it was a challenge to write something other than comedy, so I went for something intimate, a ‘huis clos’, and once I had the opening scene it was a question of more or less seeing where it led me. Somewhere over the summer holidays I managed to find a way to tap into my creativity and developed an approach that meant I was not half way through a film thinking ‘how is this going to end?’  Since then I’ve not once been short of an idea.”

L’Intrus (warning, contains nudity)

Lucy is now one of the most prolific members of the Moviestorm community, turning out a movie every couple of months. “A lot of my free time is spent in related activities, reading, trying various tools out, and thinking ideas through.  Fortunately regular holidays allow for bursts of activity in terms of actual film making.  It very much depends on the nature of the film.  There’s a period of ‘mulling’ during which I will work through some of the aspects of a story, usually in a half-awake state, then I’ll fire up XMind and CeltX and after about a month I find I can write.  A 20 page script takes about half a day at this stage.  Casting can take time, but I find that most people are happy to join in the fun.  I like to give voice actors a month for their lines, during which I can work on sets and see if there are any parts which require me to learn new things.  A two to three minute scene usually takes about a day to produce in Moviestorm.  After that comes the editing and sound, and this phase can vary in length.  Betrayals, which is my longest film (so far) took approximately 4 months from start to finish.”

One hallmark of Lucy’s recent movies is that they’re considerably longer and more complex than most machinima films. Anything under 10 minutes is a rarity. A Change of Art clocks in at 18 minutes, and Betrayals is nearly half an hour. She allows plenty of time to develop both plot and character, and she explores her themes in an unhurried, thoughtful way. Her dialogue is always sharp and emotional, and her cinematography is, as you would expect from a photographer, excellent.

Like most machinimators, she likes getting involved in every part of the process. “I’m a bit of an all-rounder so there’s nothing I really dislike.  I get as much of a buzz from the initial spark as I do from finishing the first draft, and equal pleasure once all the scenes are ready to be edited together.  I don’t dislike so much as fear the initial reactions to a project I’ve put a lot of time and effort into.  I still find my sound editing knowlege is too superficial, and it is the one thing that is hardest to find help on which is specifically related to the machinima movie making experience.”

She’s also a proficient modder. “Now that I’ve nailed normal maps I’m able to make almost anything I require that isn’t provided in one of the official packs, except animated or hand-held props.  I’m hoping to learn how to do both, especially given the fact that Blender is finally beginning to look usable.”

However, despite the fact she can seemingly turn her hand to anything, Lucy doesn’t work alone. She’s full of praise for her many collaborators.  “The people I’ve been working with recently, either on my own films or their productions are too numerous to list.  There are so many people who are great to work with, and the Moviestorm user base is a good place to start looking.  I was, like most people, a little shy at first, and therefore self-sufficient.  I found, however, that most people are happy to chip in, in the same way that if I can be of any use I’m quite happy to do a voice or help out in some other way.  On the Moviestorm forums there are some great modders, many of whom are happy to help out if something specific is needed.  For the opening scene of Betrayals I wanted a weathervane that swung from east to west and back again, and Primaveranz built a beauty for me.” 

Betrayals

Lucy has several things planned for 2011 already. “I have eclectic tastes, so I’ll try any genre, except perhaps horror.  I think the broad scope of topics reflects the many facets of my personality and interests.  AlterEgoTrip and Scripter both said ‘yes’ when I asked them if they would consider co-starring in a sequel to Betrayals, so production of part two of the Rodina trilogy is underway.  The film is called Taboos, and I’ve got a teaser featuring a specially built prop. The synopsis for part three, Origins, is written and I have some ideas on casting, so once Taboos is in post-production I’ll be writing the script and contacting actors. I aim to have Taboos ready for Easter and Origins for the beginning of the summer.  Of course, this is assuming no other projects get in the way between now and then!”

If Betrayals is anything to go by, Taboos and Origins should be well worth watching.

Read more:
Lucy Georges: Moviestorm | Facebook | Vimeo

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