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Friday, April 29, 2011

Emerging Screenwriters - the winners

Last year, we proudly sponsored the 2010 Emerging Screenwriters competition.  After a long contest, the winners have now been announced.

Congratulations to Brian Kotowski for his Grand Prize winning screenplay, Behind the Blocks. Brian will be flown out to Los Angeles to meet 20 Hollywood producers, sponsored by ScreenwritingU.com.  Brian is a native of Wilmington, DE, but has lived and worked in Los Angeles since 2003.  He has edited numerous feature films, including the award-winning documentary Pirate for the Sea, which made its television debut in 2010.  Brian currently works as a Producer/Editor for PlayNetwork in Los Angeles, and is the Department Chair for the Editing Emphasis at Columbia College in Hollywood, CA. Brian wins a year’s subscription to Moviestorm.

In second place is an action/adventure screenplay, The 2nd Ark, by Lance Wayne, and third place was awarded to a script in the historical genre, Lions of Florence, by Ken White. Lance and Ken both win Moviestorm subscriptions and packs.

We wish all three writers the very best of success in the future.

To find out more, or to contact the writers about their screenplays, please visit www.EmergingScreenwriters.com or email (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Please also visit our co-sponsor the International Screenwriter’s Association, where you’ll find a variety of useful free resources.

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Academic articles on machinima

The current issue of The Journal of Visual Culture is focused on machinima, and includes essays by some of the most well-known names in the machinima scene.

Normally this journal costs a huge amount, but Henry Lowood has managed to negotiate a special deal with them. For the next month, all the machinima articles are available online free. Go and read them while you can!

Articles include:

Henry Lowood: A ‘Different Technical Approach’? Introduction to the Special Issue on Machinima

Tracy Harwood: Towards a Manifesto for Machinima

Michael Nitsche: A Look Back at Machinima’s Potential

Friedrich Kirschner: Machinima’s Promise

Kate Fosk: Machinima is Growing Up

Hugh Hancock: Machinima: Limited, Ghettoized, and Spectacularly Promising

Clint Hackleman: Where Were You the Day Onyxia Died?

Eddo Stern: Massively Multiplayer Machinima Mikusuto

Mizuko Ito: Machinima in a Fanvid Ecology

Joshua Diltz: Digital Voices

Robert Jones: Does Machinima Really Democratize?

Robert F. Nideffer: Eight Questions (and Answers) about Machinima

Marque Cornblatt: Censorship as Criticism: Performance Art and Fair Use in Virtual Territory

Mark Methenitis: Opportunity and Liability: The Two Sides of Machinima

Jun Falkenstein: Machinima as a Viable Commercial Medium

Frank R. Dellario: The Future of Machinima as a Professional Animation Resource and its Growth as Real-Time Animation in Virtual Worlds

Douglas Gayeton: Molotov Alva’s Further Adventures: A Conversation Which Could’ve Happened (But Never Did)

Kari Kraus: ‘A Counter-Friction to the Machine’: What Game Scholars, Librarians, and Archivists Can Learn from Machinima Makers about User Activism

Henry Lowood: Perfect Capture: Three Takes on Replay, Machinima and the History of Virtual Worlds

David Bradford and John Hull: Another Blinding Documentary on Channel 4?

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Cats and dogs: mods by writerly

Moviestorm user Craig Rintoul (known online as writerly) has suddenly exploded onto the mod scene with a flood of new releases. He’s been making mods for a while; his Thunderbirds sets in particular are stunning. His recent work, however, is going in a direction that no other modder is really taking just yet. So we’re devoting this entire post on latest mods to him.

Craig, 51, lives in Cambridge, Ontario. He’s a writer and broadcaster, with some TV work to his credit, and has spent most of the last 30 years working in radio.  He started making Moviestorm mods in 2009. This was his first foray into modding; he had made some machinima in Unreal Tournament 2004, which he found to be a “long and frustrating process.” Then he discovered Moviestorm and says he hasn’t looked back.

He got into modding purely because he needed to know how to make the things he needed. “My main motivation was simple. Camera tricks and re-purposing gestures etc can only work so long. There were specific animated tasks, especially in the vertical plane which were just too hard to fake. For my Thunderbirds Relaunch project I wanted an animation of the legs of Thunderbird Two rising up exposing the pod. Then the pod door would open and whatever International Rescue gizmo I needed could roll out.”

He also admits to the sheer pleasure of modding. “I get a kick out of seeing an in-animate object move. I know it is silly, but that’s just so cool to see happen. And to be honest, I get a kick out of people wanting to use my mods. It’s an ego boost, what can I say?  Static props are now easy as pie, which is why I am happy to knock one off for someone in under an hour, if I have the spare time. Although I am still smarting after learning that a Rabite is not a Rabbit. I just thought the request came from a poor typist!  If I have made something and think that others might be interested, I share it. If it is something weird that I can’t see anyone else interested in, I don’t bother. No one wants chunks of dead unicorn do they? No, I didn’t think so.” (Actually, Craig, you might be surprised there…! Ed.)
It’s not all fun and games, though. “Right now I’m still learning. I have described the animated prop learning curve as so steep it resembles a brick wall and just as much fun to run into over and over and over again. I am fairly patient, but when it doesn’t work on what seems like the 899th time, I get a bit testy. That’s when I turn to the Forums and grovel. Happily the Moviestorm community and the guys at Moviestorm itself are REALLY generous with lending a hand. A lot of the problems seem to stem from what is so obvious to anyone with experience, but for someone learning by rote it is a critical missing step.”

Craig uses a variety of tools to create his mods. “I decided I would use Milkshape as my 3d animation program, though I do my actual designs in Google SketchUp or just use something from the warehouse. Sometimes it is a little of the first on something from the second. I once turned the dome of an orthodox church model into a bud of garlic. Hey, it was the rough same shape! Having an object is one thing though, having a rigged object is quite a different matter. Rigging is a pain in the butt! Frustrated, I googled ‘Milkshape’ and ‘rigged’ and eventually stumbled on the excellent work done by a modeller named Psionic. The cat, dog, rat, beastie and ant models are all his work. I have just ported them into Moviestorm, but, in doing so I have been able to examine how he rigged and that has taught me tons.”

He comments wryly that modding can be time-consuming. “Does modding get in the way of making movies? LOL yes! And the rest of my life. My girl friend calls herself a Moviestorm widow. I’ll be getting back to “Thunderbirds Relaunch” soon…really….no, really!”

As always, please note that we don’t support mods. That’s entirely between you and the modder.

Grandfather clock

Cost: Free
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

image

This is a lovely little animated mod. The pendulum swings slowly, and with the addition of some ticking sounds would create a great atmosphere for an upper class study, or an eerie mood for a haunted house. It’s scalable and tintable, and you can put your own images on it.

The forum post about the clock shows how Craig’s mind works, and the level of ingenuity he uses when constructing unique models, even without resorting to modding. Here’s his suggestion for how to create a moving clock face: “You could always play a video of a clock face on a circular prim positioned over the clock you like.”  Cunning, eh?  He told us he’s keen to do a new version of this. “I think a moving clock might be useful for dramatic scenes and if the concept works, the hands can be made to show up on any blank clockface from a wrist watch to the Tower of London.”

Dog

Cost: Free
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

The dog was Craig’s first attempt at making an animal. As he points out, this involved many, many, many failures, but eventually he ended up with a walking dog. He can also run and stand around doing nothing which, as he says,  “I have noticed dogs are pretty good at.”

Cat

Cost: Free
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

This is another of Craig’s growing menagerie of animals.  It walks, it sits, it stands, it looks around in idle mode swishing its tail. There are multiple breeds to choose including DEMON KITTY! It can walk by being dragged or on a navmesh. He tells us that “if I were a bit better the eyes would glow, but maybe for V2.” We’re looking forward to that already!

R.O.U.S.

Cost: Free
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

If you’re a fan of The Princess Bride, then you’ll instantly know what this is. For the rest of you (if there is anyone out there who isn’t a fan), it’s a rat. A scalable, animated rat that you can easily make into a giant rat. Or, if you prefer, a Rodent Of Unusual Size.

Ant

Cost: Free
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

If you’re a fan of old movies, you may remember Them! It was a classic 50s sci-fi horror B-Movie about giant ants. Or if you’re a fan of really bad 70s sci-fi horror movies, there was Empire of the Ants, starring Joan Collins. Now you can make your own ant movie with this animated ant. It walks, attacks, gets injured, attacks, and - awesomely - explodes. Now who doesn’t want an exploding ant?

Seagull

Cost: Free
Get it from: Machinimods

Here’s something a little more gentle. Unless you’re planning on making your own version of The Birds, of course. Combine it with Lucinda’s dove and the raven from the Graveyard pack and you’ll soon have a whole aviary.

Monster

Cost: Free
Get it from: Machinimods

image

This is converted from a creature he found online, made by Psionic (and used by permission). This spider-like beastie is scalable (from Indiana Jones style bug on shoulder to terror of the city size), tints, takes an image. Craig notes that “apparently you can play a video on him, but frankly I haven’t tried that. Might give it a cool glow or electric effect I suppose.”  He’s also loaded with animations: walks, crawls, bites, stomps, crouches, head butts, jumps, attacks, takes damage, and dies. And all that for free.

Killer Robot

Cost: Demo only

Let’s end with this. A glorious killer robot with just one tiny problem… hopefully it’ll get fixed soon!

Craig’s closing words are inspiring. “I really encourage other people to try this animation stuff. I’m no computer, 3D or anything genius. I can barely draw a straight line…okay, I can’t draw a straight line, but Sketchup does that very neatly for me thank-you-very-much. Accept that it is tough to learn, but the tutorials are starting to roll out, there are lots of people who have made mistakes and are happy to help others avoid them and Moviestorm is fabulous and compared to all the other programs of this type, dirt cheap!”

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Moviestorm case studies - the educators

When we started work on Moviestorm, we were aware that there was a shift in the way people were using video. Not just for putting things on YouTube, but as a teaching tool. At a national level, governments are encouraging schools and teachers to incorporate video into their educational system. Video can be a powerful tool to convey information, and can engage learners in more ways than text. And, as students are growing up in a world dominated by video, learning to create video and use it effectively to communicate has become an essential life skill.
As these three examples show, Moviestorm can play a role in education, helping students in a wide range of courses, at every age level.

Paul Carr and pupils

Paul Carr - Languages


English Teacher, Sakuragaoka Junior and Senior High School, Japan  

Paul Carr (aka kibishipaul) is a full time teacher of English as a second language at a private junior and senior high school in Japan.  Students’ ages range from 11 to 18. 

He uses it as a way to help teach conversational English in an entertaining way, covering a range of subjects as diverse as trip reports and anatomy.

“I was looking for some way of creating simple animated movies for use as AV materials for my classes. Moviestorm was exactly what I needed. The students are motivated not only by the movie lessons themselves but how the animations are made.”


Long Road Sixth Form College - Media Studies



Long Road is a college in Cambridge (UK) teaching A Levels and Diplomas to ages 16-18.

Students at Long Road have currently been using Moviestorm as part of their Level 2 Diploma, Media National Certificate course. They are using Moviestorm as part of their moving image unit and short film project, and are currently creating a 2-3 minute film in Moviestorm. 

Teacher Steven Thorne explains the benefits: “They are not limited by college or real life constrictions. It allows them to explore camera shots without going out with cameras and tripods. It is quite self contained, students do not need to look for friends to be actors, would not have trouble uploading film, or filling out risk assessments. It saves a lot of time and it’s a good process that works well.”


John West - Music Technology



Music Technology and Creative Media Teacher, Faringdon Community College, Oxfordshire UK   Teaching music, media and film studies to pupils across KS3, KS4, BTEC and A-Level, John has been using Moviestorm to bring animation into his teaching for over a year. 

One of the ways in which Faringdon has been using Moviestorm is in its KS3 music classes for a topic on music in film. Pupils are asked to create a film using Moviestorm and then add music to their completed animation.

“The biggest challenge with using animation is the huge range of possibilities - there are literally hundreds of ways you can use something like Moviestorm in teaching, so it’s a matter of pinning down the best ones,” says John. 

He goes on to enthuse about the possibilities for other teachers: “I’m already using it in music and creative media classes as well as in Citizenship teaching. I’m now going around talking to other teachers and there are really clear applications in areas such as languages and science that we’re keen to explore as a school.”
                   


It’s great to see all these different uses for Moviestorm, in so many different types of school.  Read more about them on the Web site.

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Assignment: Career advice

This is part of a series suggesting different ways to use Moviestorm in schools or other educational environments. They also make useful exercises for film-makers wanting to develop and practice different film-making techniques. Many more lesson plans and ideas, with free downloadable resources, can be found on the Moviestorm Web site.

Assignment: Career advice
Create a promotional or informational video about working in a particular field of science.

Explain what the job role involves, what qualifications are necessary, explain the career path, what the rewards are, and encourage fellow students to investigate that as a career choice.

The same methodology can be used for almost any other potential career.

image

Suggested techniques

This can be presented as an informational documentary-style film or as a lecture-style presentation.

Add in interviews with people working in that profession, either in a studio context, or as an “in the field” reportage style interview.

Intersperse the presentation with still images and video if appropriate. Video can be sourced externally or created with Moviestorm.

For teachers: benefits to students

  • This encourages students to think of taking up a career in science, and gets them to think about the practical and commercial sides of science.
  • The student has to research the career in depth, and understand it sufficiently to be able to articulate why it is interesting and the pathway to it.
  • Adding multimedia content enables the student to approach the subject in a richer way than just using written text and still images.
  • Helps schools advise students on their career choices: these can combine into a useful resource for other students.

Suitability

  • Ages 16+
  • Suitable for solo work
  • Most subjects

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ma Machinima International Festival

Yesterday, we received this email from Chantal Harvey, better known to many of you as Ma Machinima.

Dear filmmakers, machinimatographers, press,

Mamachinima International Festival is back, for the 3rd year in a row.  MMIF has grown a lot since its first start in February 2009, and I am proud to announce that the festival is now spread out over 2 days, and a top venue in Amsterdam and in Second Life has been booked. The event will be streamed live, of course, too.

The festival will take place on June 17 and 18, 2011.
Amsterdam: http://nimk.nl/  - limited amount of (free) tickets available.
Second Life: Theater on quad sims, around 240 avatars can attend.
Stream: to be announced.

Submissions deadline is MAY 1st.
Submit your film here: http://MMIF.org

All platforms and game engines are invited to enter their work.
Entries do not have to recent work, but simply the best you have got ...
Filmmakers are invited on stage (SLand/ or Amsterdam) during the playing of their film, and will get the opportunity to talk about their creation with rl and virtual audience.
MMIF is not a contest, but a platform to show your best work and to share and meet with other machinimatographers.

Go to http://MMIF.org for information and details, we will start displaying entries and details in June.
http://mamachinima.blogspot.com/2011/04/mmif-update-httpmmiforg.html

Hope to see you there,

Chantal Harvey

for any questions email to (JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

MMIF is a great festival, which celebrates the very best in machinima from around the world. It will include work made with Second Life, iClone, Muvizu, and various game engines, and we’d love to see Moviestorm well represented in there. And, of course, if any of you decide to make the trip to Holland for the festival, send us your photos!

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Featured movies - April 2011 (part 2)

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a huge selection of fantastic movies.  We were only intending to feature our top five each month, but this month we had too many to choose from. So here’s our second selection of your movies from April. It hasn’t escaped our notice that several of them are episodes from series, so do go back and watch the earlier episodes if there are any.

Let’s start with The Raiden Saga - Episode One.  This has taken a long, long time to come out. The first teaser was posted nearly 18 months ago, and we’ve been wondering ever since whether it was actually going to happen. Well, it’s finally here, and it’s well worth watching. It’s an intriguing, well-made conspiracy thriller. The first episode is a little confusing, but don’t worry, you can go right on and watch episode two, which is also out.

You’ll need to set aside half an hour for our second pick: Ghost, Episode 2. It’s not a horror film or a ghost story. It’s a political and corporate thriller about international drug running and big money, with a powerful hip hop soundtrack. Like Raiden Saga, this has been in production for over a year If you head over to his Web site at http://www.spikeshillproduction.com or Vimeo site, he’s currently up to Episode 6.

The third of our picks is The Dark: One For The Road. This is part of an anthology of standalone horror films, written by a variety of people and filmed by Mike Cornetto. This one features some very unusual camerawork and great voice performances.

We’ve picked Third Day Rising as our favorite Easter movie this year. Director Corthew says: “This video kills 4 birds with one stone. I wanted to do a video on one of my favorite characters from the Christian Mythos. I wanted to do a music video for Squirrelygirl’s music video contest. I needed to have a base to pull an outro from for some larger projects I’m working on. I like to do videos relating to upcoming holidays sometimes.” It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but we loved this Christian rock opera about zombie Jesus. It’s freaky, it’s cool, and it has a great ending.

In closing, this one didn’t get marked as a featured movie on the site because of one use of language which makes it unsuitable for younger viewers. However, it’s a fantastic movie, so we figured we’d put it in here and let you use your own discretion. 5th Night is a strange, noirish piece, and it marks an excellent debut from newcomer jimmeez.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Assignment: Art sale

This is part of a series suggesting different ways to use Moviestorm in schools or other educational environments. They also make useful exercises for film-makers wanting to develop and practice different film-making techniques. Many more lesson plans and ideas, with free downloadable resources, can be found on the Moviestorm Web site.

Assignment: Art sale
Create a short video persuading the viewer to buy a piece of art. The video should talk informatively about the piece, its history, the techniques involved and the artist. It should also explain the valuation and make the viewer want to buy it.

Students can then vote on each others’ work and pick the most popular.

image
(Image courtesy of Maiya)

Suggested techniques
This could be presented in the style of, say, an auction house promotional video, a TV advert, or a segment on a shopping channel.

Intersperse the presentation with still images and video if appropriate. You could do this as a studio presentation or lecture, and display the images on a screen behind the presenter, or else you can make the images go full-screen.

Add extra content on-screen by using text to complement what you’re saying.

Add appropriate background music to create atmosphere, and ensure you have a striking title sequence.

Add in sections with people talking about the artwork and why they like it, interviews with the artist, commentaries from art experts, etc.

For teachers: benefits to students

  • The student has to go into a lot of detail on a single piece.
  • The student also has to be able to show passion for the piece of artwork, and this helps them get interested.
  • Covering both the historical and commercial angles as well as aesthetic and technical commentary requires an all-round understanding of the work.
  • This is a fun way to present artwork, and allows the students to get slightly tongue in cheek – for example a QVC-style sales pitch for the Mona Lisa, or Sotheby’s trying to sell a drawing by an up and coming young artist, the student themselves.
  • Adding multimedia content enables the student to approach the subject in a richer way than just using written text and still images.
  • Finding images and music to enhance the presentation requires detailed research.
  • Providing narration builds confidence in speaking without needing to do it in front of an audience or camera.
  • Creating a multimedia presentation helps develop presentational skills and requires the student to consider what information is best presented using the different media: spoken, written, or visual.

Suitability

  • Ages 14+
  • Suitable for groups or solo
  • Art

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Moviestorm case studies - the enthusiasts

Moviestorm was originally created with the amateur filmmaker in mind. It was designed for people who have stories to tell and a passion for film, but who don’t have film training, the budget for expensive kit or software, and whose imagination surpasses what you can do with just a cheap camera and some friends, Since we started developing Moviestorm, we have always kept in mind the vision of filmmakers using it to launch a career, get their movies shown on big screens, and turn their dream into more than just a hobby.

We’d like to present to you two Moviestorm users who epitomise this spirit.

Iain Friar

Iain Friar (aka IceAxe) is a machinima director from the UK, who works as a salesman for a large computer peripherals company. He started out making comedy sketches, and then moved on to more thought-provoking and visually interesting drama covering sci-fi, horror, mystery, and steampunk.

His most successful movie so far is Clockwork, which has been screened at film festivals around the world, and virtual festivals online. It has won many awards, including Ollies for Best Arthouse and Best Shortform movie, and in 2009 won the Machinima Expo Grand Prize.

Iain has loved the feeling of having his movies shown on a big screen and engaging with other filmmakers. “I started contacting some local film societies, who were very keen to have me go along, give a little introduction, talk a little bit about making movies using Moviestorm and show my movies. It’s been shown in Winchester, Andover etc. Andover showed it in their local cinema - they went to great lengths to get the right equipment to actually show my movie - I really appreciated that. Afterwards, the audience could ask questions, and the response was fantastic.”

Damien Valentine

Damien Valentine (aka Darth Angelus) is a long-term machinimator. He is currently making the Chronicles of Humanity series, working with Felicia Day (The Guild, Buffy, Dr Horrible). He got Felicia involved simply by writing to her and showing her the script. She loved the story and was impressed by Damien’s passion and commitment, and agreed to take part.

Damien told us that “Chronicles of Humanity” was originally made with The Sims and I was never truly happy with that version, so I thought about switching to Moviestorm for season two.  But I was so impressed by Moviestorm’s capabilities when seeing what I could do, I decided to go back and remake the whole thing.” 

The series launches online on April 26. On the same day, he is releasing a feature-length version, which will be screened at the Little Theatre in Bath.

We’re very proud of both these guys, and everything they’ve achieved. They’re an inspiration to all of us. They’ve shown us that given the right tools, talent and persistence will shine through. Read more about both of them on the Web site.

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, April 18, 2011

Assignment: Historical documentary

This is part of a series suggesting different ways to use Moviestorm in schools or other educational environments. They also make useful exercises for film-makers wanting to develop and practice different film-making techniques. Many more lesson plans and ideas, with free downloadable resources, can be found on the Moviestorm Web site.

Assignment: Historical documentary
Create a short film about a historical event.

image

Suggested techniques
Reconstruct the event in dramatic form. You can do it in modern dress and setting if period dress and sets aren’t available.

You can do this using an on-screen presenter, or completely with voice-over.

Intersperse the presentation with still images and video if appropriate. You could do this as a studio presentation or lecture, and display the images on a screen behind the presenter, or else you can make the images go full-screen.

Add extra content on-screen by using text to complement what you’re saying.

Add appropriate background music to create atmosphere, and ensure you have a striking title sequence.

For teachers: benefits to students

  • Reconstructing the event gives the student new insights into the different people involved as well as what happened.
  • Dramatic reconstruction makes for a good group project.
  • Adding multimedia content enables the student to approach the subject in a richer way than just using written text and still images.
  • Finding images and music to enhance the presentation requires detailed research.
  • Providing narration builds confidence in speaking without needing to do it in front of an audience or camera.
  • Creating a multimedia presentation helps develop presentational skills and requires the student to consider what information is best presented using the different media: spoken, written, or visual. It is particularly effective for historical material as the students can be encouraged to be aware of time as a key element, and it is easy to show change in ways that can be quickly visualized, such as before and after photographs.

Suitability

  • Ages 14+
  • Suitable for groups
  • History, politics, current affairs

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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