So what Machinima films did your humble authors love this year?

We’ve seen some great Machinima in 2007. So yr hmbl crrspndnts decided to assemble a short list. If you ain’t seen these, you ought to. If you made ‘em, nice one. And if you’re looking for Machinima inspiration, these are, in our almost entirely far from humble opinions, your first stop.

Johnnie

Among Fables and Men

I love machinima like this - I just love it. Unashamedly stylised, beautifully composed and painstakingly constructed. I can confidently predict that this short but rather wonderful piece will be imitated many times over the next couple of years. The Warcraft movie community is undergoing a quiet revolution at the moment, and Tobias “Dopefish” Lundmark is one the idealistic young students waving a red flag in the streets.

Naughty Little Boys

Moviestorm has been making me bounce up and down with excitement ever since I first got my hands on one of the early Beta releases. I’ve been waiting since then for the first Moviestorm movie that really makes me sit up and take notice. When I saw Zuckerman’s “very, very rough and nowhere near finished” movie, I knew I’d found it. The piece deserves kudos just for the effort involved in its creation (Zuckerman has managed to lip-sync an entire a cappella choir in four-part harmony), but beyond that it’s a genuinely effective narrative piece. Moviestorm gets better every day, and so do the movies that are being produced with it. If we write a “best of the year” section like this one in a year’s time, you can expect some truly astonishing Moviestorm content to be featured.

Watch the World

So, that’s why people are so gushingly enthusiastic about Second Life! I’ll be the first to admit that Second Life has never really got its claws into me, but this video made me want to brush up on my LSL, beg my SL friends for some Lindens and make something cool. Robbie Dingo has hit two major accomplishments here. The first is the creation of this incredible set in the first place. The second is the Watch The Worlds video, which acts as both a documentary of the project’s creation, and a permanent archive of its existence (everything in the video was built on a temporary sim, and has long-since been destroyed). Amazing and inspiring.

Summer in City 17

Ooh, so pretty! Lit Fuse were definitely the team to watch in 2007. This is my personal favourite of their films. It has a good, but not great, narrative, but where the film really succeeds is in its cinematography. It’s beautifully constructed, and an excellent example of how good camerawork can enhance the emotive quality of a piece. Look closely, and you’ll see The Ballad Of Black Mesa playing on the TV in the background.

Beast

Dr Nemesis is (and has been for some time) one of the most committed, talented and creative machinimators currently working. Beast is the best thing he’s ever done by a country mile. An awesomely powerful and deeply disturbing short, which (in the traditions of the best machinima) makes the limitations of the medium into the strengths of the movie. Harsh, angular lines and stark lighting complement a great script full of intelligent and uncompromising storytelling. If Binary Picture Show don’t go home with handfuls of awards at the forthcoming Online Machinima Film Festival, there’s something wrong with the world.

Hugh

For me, this year has been quite exciting for new Machinima, with artists like Baron Soosden and Lit Fuze/Mighty Crane appearing out of the blue. Here are some of my favourites from the year:

Unlimited Escapism Volume 0: SYS by Baron Soosdon.

Along with half the WoW world, I’m a big fan of the Baron, who appeared this year and rapidly made his name with technically incredible, plotless pieces of compositing and video-editing genius like this one. Oddly, his work’s arguably Outside-In, at least in that you don’t have to be a WoW player to appreciate it, but he’s definitely a part of the WoW community rather than any overall Machinima group. Regardless, he’s the king of the “how the (&($$!!! did he do that?” techno Machinima music video.

What I Love About XMas by Phil “Overman” Rice.

Possibly the blackest humour he’s produced, this is a great, innovative Moviestorm vid by the king of mixed-media Machinima comedy. Like Zero Punctuation? Or Henry Rollins? Or just funny, angry rants? Then you’ll love this.

Hard Like Heroic by Nhym.

This is the epitome of inside-out Machinima - most of the jokes won’t make that much sense if you’re not a WoW player, although Hard Like Heroic is probably his most accessible piece - and Nhym’s the epitome of the inside-out Machinima creator, turning out video after video of amusing parodies of popular hip-hop about World of Warcraft. He’s got a huge following, despite the sometimes-dubious rapping, proving that you still don’t need to be slick to be popular - or great - on the Web. This one’s moderately funny if you don’t like WoW, and, well, prepare the ROFLcopter for takeoff if you do.

Summer in City 17 by Mighty Crane.

Lit Fuze/Mighty Crane have been making Half-Life 2 videos since 2006, but they only came to my attention in 2007 with this great, chilled-out, semi-abstract music video. Some wonderful imagery and great camerawork combine to make this one of my favourite Machinima music videos ever.

Watch the World by Robbie Dingo.

Yes, it’s a Second Life piece. Try not to die of shock, please, SL people. This is a brilliant use of Second Life to show the development of a 3D version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night. I’d never expected a view of a 3D development environment to be quite this touching. As a Second Life piece, it shows the advantages (content creation) of the platform to superb effect, whilst avoiding most of the problems of SL Machinima. Very much worth a watch.

Combine Nation by Lit Fuze.

Hot damn, but that looks good. Like, really good. Like, better-than-TV-quality good. This is the single best advert for the Source engine as a Machinima platform so far - yes, even better than “Breen” in that regard (although that’s still amazing too). It doesn’t hurt that it’s also very sharp, funny, fast-moving comedy that manages to pull itself out of the gamer ghetto - you don’t need to play or even to have heard of Half-Life to get this.

Stolen Life by Nanoflix

Not a lot of people have seen this one, but if you’re a serious Machinima creator and haven’t bought a copy yet, stop reading right now and go buy one. From the absolute master of Machinima writing, the plot’s brilliant, the acting is superb, the animation (the entire thing, if you didn’t know, is about robots) and visual design are unique, and I mean that in a good way. And the dialogue - there is no-one in Machinima, and I include myself in this, who can touch Peter Rasmussen on his dialogue writing. The first ten minutes or so are a bit slow, but despite that it’s an absolute gem, and in my opinion probably the best Machinima film right now to show to a non-Machinima person to explain what it is you do and why.

Other honourable mentions should go to Frame of Mind (the astonishing winner of the Machinima.com Ataris contest) and Morning Run Amok (a great comedy short in Moviestorm by Fling Films).

Nice work, everyone. It’s been a fine year to be a Machinima viewer.

What were your favourites in 2007?