Various people may be interested to know how we keep up with the latest in Machinima. There are, basically, three tools that Johnnie and I use: Of course we visit Machinima Premiere daily - indeed, pretty much hourly - as by far the best Machinima news and information source out there right now. Hint - if you’re on MPrem, check both the “latest comments” and “latest forum posts” on the right hand side.
And today I’ve been figuring out Blender and Sims 2 importing, in preparation for the tutorials in our modeling chapter. Blender is just amazing - a free, fully-featured 3D package that can indeed compete with $1000+ software like Softimage and 3D Studio Max. But, it must be said, all the complaints I’ve heard over the years about its interface are bang on the money - it’s just insane. Keyboard shortcuts to bring up invisible menus, customisability to the point of insanity, and a total disregard for standard UI - I’ve been beating my head off my desk.
We just finished the chapter of the book entitled “Engines, Engines Everywhere”, in which we go through 16 of the top Machinima engines today and talk about their strengths and weaknesses for movie production. It’s 41 pages in total in its current form. Ouch. We might need to trim a bit… (For the curious - the engines we’re covering are Sims 2, The Movies, Half-Life 2, Halo 2, Unreal Tournament 2004, Neverwinter Nights, Neverwinter Nights 2, Medieval Total War 2, Doom 3, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, MovieStorm, IClone, Second Life, World of Warcraft, Battlefield 2
A nice obscure title, there. It was all going well. We’d handed in Milestone 3, we were raring to go on the final four weeks, we were organising trips to Brighton and investigating engines like, er, engine-investigation machines… And then I got ill. Well, more or less dropped on the spot, actually. You could tell I was really sick and feeble because playing World of Warcraft was too much for me.
Well, we’re closing on the third of our four milestones this month - and, particularly with the FairGame project on the go too, this month has been quite a tough one. One thing we’re really noticing here is the ratio of stuff we want to put into the book compared to the amount of space we’ve got. 400 pages sounds like an intimidating amount to fill, but at this point we’re having to cut ruthlessly not to overshoot that by a country mile.
And so we come to the most intimidating part of writing MfD so far - I’ve got to write a chapter on filmmaking. Shots, framing, editing, the lot. So that would be me attempting to compete with people like Chris Jones, Robert Rodriguez, Per Holmes… Gulp I’m a little indimidated. And to cap it all off, I’ve only got 5,000 words to do it in. My current potential subject list for this single chapter is a little over 40 items…
I just heard something astonishingly cool about some Machinima stuff coming up in the latter part of this year. Can’t go into details, but let’s just say that Machinima for Dummies might be a really complete one-stop shop for Machinima…
We’ve just handed in half the book, weighing in at a not-too-shabby 204 pages. That’s tutorials for WoW and The Sims 2, information on organising a virtual shoot, legal info on Machinima, how to read an EULA, how to encode your film to all the various formats, how to set up a recording studio in your bedroom, our top 10 Machinima films and Machinima sites, making sets in various engines, colour theory, use of space, use of lighting, character design, and lots, lots more.
I’m not talking about phrases in the book here. I’m talking about phrases we used around it… “That’s not a euphemism” Far too many things sound like euphemisms. That’s just an observation there. “I think we might have gone a little over our page-count here.” Inaugurated in the very first draft of the first Sims 2 chapter, which at 17,000 words was maybe a little bit over our 5,000 word budget.
Hugh and I spent some time yesterday using Blizzard’s World of Warcraft to create a short film. I’ve not really experimented with WoW’s machinima capabilities up until now, so I was pleasantly surprised at the ease with which we managed to achieve what we were looking for. We started storyboarding our basic idea at about noon. By five we were running off the first test render from our editing package. When you take into account the fact that a good hour of that time was dedicated to me tweaking a single tricky frame in Photoshop, that’s really impressive speed.