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Monday, May 16, 2011

Assignment: The Life Of ...

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: The Life Of ...
Create a short film about a historical person. Tell the story of their life, and explain why they are historically significant.

image

Suggested techniques
Reconstruct significant moments from of their life in dramatic form. You can do it in modern dress and setting if period dress and sets aren’t available.

Include some modern sequences with people explaining how that person has affected them, if appropriate (for example, a modern black American talking about what it means today that Lincoln freed the slaves, or modern people talking about the way Gandhi inspired them).

You can do this using an on-screen presenter, or completely with voice-over, or even have the person narrate their own life.

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 events from someone’s life 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.

Suitability

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

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Friday, May 13, 2011

A note to commenters on this blog

We welcome comments on this blog.  Please note, however, that all comments are moderated. Comments that are merely adverts for commercial services will not be approved, so stop wasting your time and ours.

In addition, we reserve the right to edit comments and remove irrelevant links if it’s obvious that the sole purpose of the comment is to place the link on our site.

Please keep your comments relevant.  Thanks.

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Assignment: Public Service Announcement

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: Public Service Announcement
Create a short public service announcement about a topic of your choice. This could be set in a historic period (e.g. about rationing in WW2 Britain), or modern (the importance of voter registration or sexual health awareness). The aim is to persuade people to act in a specific way.

image

Suggested techniques

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. Construct scenes that illustrate the topic under discussion.

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

  • Students have to understand not just the issue being tackled and the proposed solution, but why that course of action was proposed.
  • This helps students understand propaganda and how people are persuaded into taking that action – emotionally, rationally, or legalistically.
  • 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.

Suitability

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

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Move it! Latest animation mods

A couple of months ago, we released the data for the Moviestorm skeletons to the mod community, along with some tutorials on how they work. This has given people everything they need to start creating animations. So far nearly 100 new animations have been released by modders, most of them free. For this mod round-up, we’ve collected together as many of the new animation packs as we can find.

Some of them are quite similar to some existing Moviestorm animations. That means you get more variety: instead of all your actors doing exactly the same thing, they can each have different ways of acting. That gives your movies a more natural, less mechanical look.

This is only a small selection of what’s been released recently: searching the movies for mod demo will give you a lot more, and also keep an eye on the modding forum

If you want to create your own mods, our modders’ page has everything you need, as well as video tutorials.

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

KV’s Gestures (v2)

Creator: KV (Si Stanisauskis)
Cost: Free
Contents:  29 male & 29 female gestures
Get it from: Machinimods

This is the largest animation pack released so far. It has a wide selection of gestures from simple eyebrow wiggles and facial movements to more expressive hand gestures. It’s also got a few rude gestures in, ranging from the comedic to more edgy ones. Our favourites in this pack are the “talk to the hand” gesture and the Star Trek Vulcan greeting.

Nahtimations

Creator: Nahton
Cost: Free
Contents:  male & female gestures
Get it from: Machinimods

Nahton’s first animation pack includes a few useful hand gestures. There’s a 1-2-3 count, and a “push button” animation that will come in handy in all sorts of places. There’s also a nice foot movement perfect for crushing a cigarette butt or a bug.

Male comedy animations

Creator: SquirrelyGirl
Cost: $5
Contents:  22 male gestures
Get it from: Mods’n'more

Although these are billed as comedy animations, they can be used in many different ways. The “broke” animation, for example, has a guy checking his pockets and then shrugging, while the “don’t shoot” animation is a nice alternative to the existing “hands up” gesture, and the “double take” could fit perfectly well in a horror movie or thriller. There are also three nice pointing gestures that could be used pretty much anywhere.

Military movements

Creator: SquirrelyGirl
Cost: Free
Contents: Attention, salute, at ease
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

A small pack of military movements for both male and female characters. Unfortunately the character’s feet slide, rather than being picked up and put down, but if you’re careful with your camera angles, this won’t matter.

Drama gestures

Creator: SquirrelyGirl
Cost: Free
Contents: Four male & female two-handed gestures
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

These are simple gestures that add a little expression to dialog sequences. For both characters, there’s a “what” and a “whatever”. Females have a hand clasp, and males have a gesture that’s called “worried”, but could be used for “ashamed”.

My first animations

Creator: SquirrelyGirl
Cost: Free
Contents: Two male & female gestures
Get it from: Moviestorm forums

A tiny pack containing a stomp and a flinch for both male and female.

Two animations

Creator: Yarmond
Cost: Free
Contents: Two male & female gestures
Get it from: Megaupload - whisper and air pistol

Another tiny pack containing a whisper and a “flirty air pistol” - basically pretending to use your fingers as a gun.

Congratulations to all the modders who’ve mastered the animations - we’re looking forward to seeing more from you soon.

By way of a preview, here’s something KV is working on - the first mutual (two-person) animation. One person approaches another from behind and strangles them. This is likely to be available very soon.

(1) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Assignment: book report

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: book report
Create a short film about a book. Explain what it’s about, and review it critically. If it’s a classic book, explain why it’s significant in literature.

image

Suggested techniques
Put extracts from the book as text on screen, or have them read aloud.

Do an interview with the author, or have the author talk about the book.

Do a group chat session with people talking about the book and why they liked it.

Add in pictures of the author, and reconstructed scenes from the book.

If the book has illustrations, use those on-screen.

Use music and a good title sequence to set the mood.

For teachers: benefits to students

  • 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 12+
  • Suitable for groups or solo
  • Literature

Click the link to download a Moviestorm movie template.

cloud.moviestorm.co.uk/Lesson_Plans/Book%20Report.zip

 

Installation instructions:

Download the file and extract the zip folder to this location:

 

Vista, Windows 7, Macs: [Username]/Moviestorm/Movies

 

Windows XP: C:/Documents and Settings/[Username]/Moviestorm/Movies

 

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Machinima DVDs

On the shelf in my office, I’ve got a small, but steadily growing stack of machinima DVDs. From the early days of machinima, back when Dave and I first wrote our book about it, there are three classics: Red vs Blue, Season 1, by Rooster Teeth, Killer Robot by the late Peter Rasmussen of Nanoflix, and Anachronox, by Jake Hughes and ION Storm.  I picked up all of those when Dave and I were writing our book about machinima in 2004. At that time, we were expecting to see a lot more machinima on DVD, as it was clearly the easiest way for the top machinimators to get paid for their work.

It simply didn’t happen that way, though. There’s nothing new on the shelf until we get to Strange Company’s Bloodspell, which came out in 2008.

And then… nothing. Even though machinima.com became one of the most popular channels on YouTube, and more people are watching machinima than ever before, the machinima DVD simply hasn’t emerged as a format for the medium.

Now, however, the pace of new releases has suddenly picked up. Just before Christmas, I got a pre-release copy of Jack and Holly’s Christmas Countdown, which uses a mixture of Moviestorm, live action and regular animation. And so far this year, I’ve had two more machinima DVDs land in my letterbox. First there was Wonder Boy, by Lucinda McNary. Wonder Boy was made with iClone, and is based on characters from a classic Sega video game (used with permission). It’s an epic fantasy adventure: “a forever young teenager and an immortal warlord both seek The Salamander Cross; the one thing that will allow one to destroy the other for good.”

Next, a few weeks ago, I got the remastered version of E. Hughes’s Moviestorm sci-fi epic 2020AD. We first talked to Elizabeth Hughes about 2020AD last year. This new version has extra scenes, and some scenes appear to have been reshot using new animations from Moddingstorm, which have beefed up the action scenes substantially. You can’t really call it a director’s cut, since the first edition was originally a director’s cut, but this feels like it’s much closer to her original vision for the movie.

More or less at the same time, I also got a sneak preview of Damien Valentine’s feature-length cut of his new Web series, Chronicles of Humanity, another Moviestorm sci-fi piece. He tells me he’s thinking of making that available on DVD once the series has finishing airing online, so that will doubtless get added to the bookshelf shortly.

It’s now easier than ever to make commercial DVDs: there’s affordable mastering software, and there are plenty of companies who offer print on demand, and will offer reasonable quality boxed DVDs, including inserts and wrappers, for only a couple of bucks. This is a godsend to amateur and short run DVD creators. You don’t have to pay for hundreds of copies, cluttering up your spare room and your garage, and hope you sell enough to cover your upfront manufacturing costs. It’s the way we do it with Moviestorm: we don’t want to risk having loads of disks of obsolete software lying around, so we simply get them manufactured as we need them and update the master disk image every time we release an update. It’s a little more expensive for each disk, but it works out more cost-effective that way.

Looking at these, I began to ponder whether there’s a role for DVDs in the future, now that most people have high quality streaming available. In the case of something like Red vs Blue, where all the episodes are already available online free, why would you ever want to buy a disc? If you want to charge people to watch your movies, it’s easy enough to set up a paywall so they have to give you a couple of dollars before they can see the whole thing. You’d probably make nearly as much money per sale charging $5 for online access as you would selling the DVD for $11, by the time you allow for the cost of sales and production, and surely more people would pay if it was only half the price, right?

As always, the answer is a resounding maybe.

From the customer’s point of view, DVDs are still a nice thing to have for a variety of reasons.

They allow you to support the creator, but you actually get something physical in return. Donating $5 to see a movie doesn’t really feel satisfying. Donating $10 or $15 and getting a disc in return feels like it was worth it - that’s one reason why almost every Kickstarter movie campaign offers a DVD as the base level reward. There’s a safety element to a physical purchase too. You’re not getting your credit card out for access to some site that you’ve never heard of; you’re just making a regular Amazon purchase. DVDs also make for great gifts. Admittedly, not many people want to give machinima DVDs as gifts, but it’s still one major advantage of the medium over online payments.

DVDs offer a different type of security too. Once you’ve bought a DVD, you’ve got it for good. Since the untimely death of Peter Rasmussen in 2008, Killer Robot no longer seems to be available online, but I know I can still watch my copy any time I want. There are no DRM issues with a DVD. There may be copy protection, but I can do what I want with the one copy I’ve legally acquired.  I can lend you my copy of Wonder Boy, and you can watch it in your own home. You don’t have to wait till I’m over there and let me punch in my access details so we can watch it together (or persuade me to hand over my password).  I can watch my DVD whenever and wherever I like, assuming there’s no region coding on it, and I’m not restricted to a certain number of “authorized devices” or a limited viewing window.

There’s also something fundamentally different about the DVD watching experience for many people, although this is beginning to change as devices like the iPad gain popularity. I’ll watch online content wherever I am, usually on my laptop. It’s then competing for my attention with Skype, email, and all the other things my laptop is capable of doing. Often, the movie’s only in a small window to one side, and I’m writing or reading something else at the same time. When I have a DVD to watch, though, I put it on the big screen in the living room, sit back with snacks, and settle down for an hour or more’s uninterrupted viewing. It’s not just an online thing. It becomes a “proper movie”.

And lastly, of course, there’s the quality issue, though I suspect that’s less important these days. The early machinima DVDs offered a much higher quality than what was available on YouTube. It was impractical for most people to download 7Gb of video, and most video sites restricted uploads to 100Mb, or 10 minutes. As a result, most feature length machinima movies were chopped into small parts rendered at fairly low resolution and then compressed as far as possible. The result was blocky, choppy, and not at all like watching a movie. DVDs allow these movies to be watched in their full glory. Now, however, sites like Vimeo allow you to upload fairly high resolution video. Although the DVD is probably better quality, the difference is less significant.

From the creator’s point of view, it’s just nice to have a DVD. It feels “real” in a way that online publishing doesn’t. It’s the same with book publishing too: e-books are a perfectly viable medium, but every author would love to have a printed copy of their book on their shelf. DVDs are great to give to your friends, family, cast, and crew.

It’s commercially sensible too. You can send review copies to journalists and bloggers, and they’ll take you more seriously than if you just send them a link. I know I’m guilty of that - a newly arrived Moviestorm DVD gets my attention much faster than a link to a new release, especially if it’s going to demand more than an hour of my time.
I’m guessing that the DVD is here to stay, at least for a while longer. I’m now wondering what will be the first machinima movie released on Blu-Ray.

Get machinima DVDs:

One closing thought. The first thing that struck me when compiling this list is that they’re all science fiction or fantasy movies. Is that a coincidence, or is there a reason why? Your thoughts are welcome!

(6) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Monday, May 09, 2011

Assignment: The Great Scientists

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: The Great Scientists
Create a short film about a famous scientist. Explain the key elements of his or her work, and show why they are significant.

image

Suggested techniques

Enhance the story if appropriate with biographical sequences. Reconstruct significant moments from of their life in dramatic form. You can do it in modern dress and setting if period dress and sets aren’t available.

Include sequences with people explaining how that person’s work has affected their everyday lives to show the impact of what they did (for example, patients talking about how penicillin saved their lives).

You can do this lecture-style, using an on-screen presenter, or present it as a documentary with voice-over. Present it autobiographically, and have the person talk about their own work.

Intersperse the presentation with still images and video if appropriate.

Add extra content on-screen by using text to complement what you’re saying. This may be necessary if you’re explaining something complex or theoretical which can’t be shown easily on screen (such as relativity or chemical reactions).

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

For teachers: benefits to students

  • This helps the student both understand the scientific discoveries being present, and the context in which they were discovered.
  • 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.

Suitability

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

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Assignment: The News

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: The News
Create a news show focusing on current events.

image

Suggested techniques

You can pick a single story and cover it in depth, or a series of shorter news reports to make up a news show.

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 cut away to reporters in the field, interviews, and video segments.

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

For teachers: benefits to students

  • The student is required to demonstrate an understanding of topical events.
  • The student will develop a understanding of news media and how they present a topic.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • Modern history, current events

Downloadable resources

Click the link to download a Moviestorm movie template.

cloud.moviestorm.co.uk/Lesson_Plans/News%20Program.zip

 

Installation instructions:

Download the file and extract the zip folder to this location:

 

Vista, Windows 7, Macs: [Username]/Moviestorm/Movies

 

Windows XP: C:/Documents and Settings/[Username]/Moviestorm/Movies

 

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Assignment: Art gallery

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 gallery
Create a portfolio of artwork and present it in an interesting environment. This could be the student’s own work, the work of an artist being studied, or a theme.

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

This method can be used in other subjects to as a documentary style approach: for example, a gallery of images from the Blitz in World War Two would be a powerful way to present that historical period.

image

Suggested techniques
Have a presenter walk around and talk about the artwork.

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 artists, commentaries from art experts, etc.

For teachers: benefits to students

  • This provides an interesting and engaging approach, and requires the student to think about context and placement of groups of art, not just individual pieces in isolation.
  • Creating themes requires the student to research, compare and contrast different items.
  • 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

Downloadable resources

Click the link to download a Moviestorm movie template.

cloud.moviestorm.co.uk/Lesson_Plans/Art%20Gallery.zip

cloud.moviestorm.co.uk/Lesson_Plans/Art%20Gallery%202.zip

 

Installation instructions:

Download the file and extract the zip folder to this location:

 

Vista, Windows 7, Macs: [Username]/Moviestorm/Movies

 

Windows XP: C:/Documents and Settings/[Username]/Moviestorm/Movies

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Moviestorm case studies - the professionals

When we first came up with the idea of Moviestorm, we had a grand plan that someday it would be good enough for professional use. We envisaged three uses for it: as a previs tool, as a way to create ultra-cheap animated content for kids, and as a tool to help writers see how their scripts could translate to the screen. Some people thought we were joking, others thought we were delusional. After all, what role could there be for Moviestorm in a world where you have tools like Maya, where the quality of 3D animation is defined by Pixar and Dreamworks, and where you could already get tools like Blender or Antics3D? 

Now, we’re really pleased to see that we weren’t crazy, and people are using Moviestorm in the ways we hoped for.


Jack and Holly

Blockhouse TV - Jack & Holly


Blockhouse are an independent TV production studio, based in Norwich, UK.

Husband and wife Jezz and Julianne Wright have 15 years experience of TV production at senior level, but have recently had to step back in order to care for their own young children.  They founded their own studio, but needed something that they could do on a limited budget with minimal staff. 

Their first production, Jack and Holly, is a DVD series for pre-school children. The first one is Jack and Holly’s Christmas Countdown, which includes ten short episodes and some extras. 

“Moviestorm gave us the ability to create professional animations at a fraction of the costs.’” says Blockhouse lead animator Graham Jones.


Dean Wells

Dean Wells - Scriptwriter & effects artist


Dean is a scriptwriter and effects artist, who uses Moviestorm to help pitch films and create showreels.  Dean Wells (aka scripter) is a scriptwriter living in London, who writes both short and feature length films for the British and American markets. He also runs a Web site, The Screenwriters Cove, which allows scriptwriters and producers to work together effectively.

“Moviestorm, in my opinion, is without doubt the best for price. To have a programme to learn from which contains many, many, addons, is absolutely superb! It can be used for short films, features, learning tools, ads, music videos, trailers, the list goes on.” 


D.L. Watson

D.L.Watson

D.L. Watson, from Eugene, Oregon, is one of those real “characters” who epitomise the independent artist and who form the backbone of every community.
“It’s all about finding the right tools for the job,” he says. “Moviestorm is great for storyboards, even if you don’t use it in the film.”  He used Moviestorm to previs his short film, The Letter, which allowed him to plan the shots in detail, work with the music and sound at an early stage, and save time in both production and post-production.

We’re very proud to look at what these guys are doing with Moviestorm, and how it’s been used in all the different ways we predicted. They’ve shown us that there is a role for Moviestorm in a variety of professional contexts, and that it is both cost-effective and useful. Read more about them on the Web site.

 

(0) Comments | Permalink | Posted by Matt Kelland

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