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Thursday, April 28, 2011

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


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.”


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.”


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!


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.


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?


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.


Cost: Free
Get it from: Machinimods


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

church website design on 10/12 at 09:06 PM

this post is amazing & its lovely !! its wonderful

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