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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

'DEFINE INVENTION: What is Machinima?' by Claire

Machinima (muh-sheen-eh-mah) can be loosely translated to mean Machine Cinema or Machine Animation.

It is, moreover, film making in virtual reality. This revolution in 3D animation allows film making to occur in a real time virtual environment using 3D video game technology. Spawned from the once unpopular game replay videos, Machinima is now a legitimate art form and method of creating animation films with a wide cult following.

Using tools published by game developers designed to extend the playability of games (eg. to import new characters and create additional levels) Machinima uses these tools to turn off-the-shelf games into small Machinima studios.

Machinima developers have combined pre-existing game software with principles of film-making, animation and game development to hatch a formula allowing animations to be created whereby characters are controlled by humans, scripts and artificial intelligence within high profile computer game engines. The animation is recorded live, thus speeding up the production process.

One of the latest Machinima animations to be created is The Strangerhood, an ongoing series developed with the game software of The Sims 2 . Created by the Rooster Teeth Productions crew, famous for the highly regarded RedVsBlue Machinima, the team has developed their own production process and technique for creating the drama series. Using the multi player game technology, 3D characters are created and their basic movement animation, props and sets are designed.

In production, the dialogue is recorded, edited and then played back, acting as the script. The game ‘puppeteers’ match the action of the characters to this story as they play the game and record it live.

In post-production non linear editing software is employed to edit select takes and refine the character movement, position and camera angles.

This method is a rapid departure from the traditional key-frame animation process. Now animation directors can direct puppeteers as they manipulate the character models in real-time. This eliminates the need for the time intensive process of software rendering, amounting to a much more time effective and cost efficient way of making films.

To put this into perspective, the 3D Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) animation, pioneered in the 80’s and utilized in such films as Pixar’s Toy Story and Monsters Inc. is very labour and equipment intensive. CGI requires each frame to be rendered individually, meaning that each background is created separately, and the individually animated characters are added later to complete the shot. Due to the large amount of 3D model, lighting and animation information in each frame it requires a very fast bank of computers hours if not days to render each shot. Some frames in Monsters Inc. took over 90 hours to process using upward of 400 computers banked together. Hence the entire feature took 4 years to complete.

The real time aspect of Machinima eliminates the rendering process and allows total control over the representation and movement of characters. It provides an interactive environment where real world physics can be reproduced. Best of all, it can take place in individual homes. The recordings take place at data level negating the need to capture several gigabytes of video footage. In addition, hardware driven playback is independent of resolution and can playback within the game engine itself.

While the animation itself is not yet of highest quality, the continued development of this technology will mean that as more powerful hardware rendering becomes available, PC users will be able to receive Machinima films at the data level via the internet. The cost element of Machinima means that it can be used for complicated effects and historical recreation.

It is yet another way in which people can create visual stories and communicate digitally.

http://www.machinima.org/ Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences, Inc. webmaster@machinima.org, accessed19-03-2006
http://www.illclan.com/contact.htm accessed 19-03-2006
http://sh.roosterteeth.com/faq/ Rooster Teeth Productions, accessed 19-03-2006
http://rvb.roosterteeth.com/info/ Rooster Teeth Productions, accessed 19-03-2006
http://m3.typepad.com/photos/uncategorized/strangerhood2.gif m3.typepad.com,accessed 19-03-2006
http://bwplanet.idnes.cz/.../tsvidea/strangerhood.html, accessed 19-03-2006


  • This was great! I'm not really interested in the mechanics of things, but this was easy and interesting to read. Clare wrote it in a straightforward manner I could understand, I liked the references to the movies Toy Story and Monsters Inc to give me an idea of the time and effort involved.

    By Blogger Leisl, at 3:18 pm  

  • Interesting stuff. Have you checked out the exhibition at ACMI? I work there and it's getting an interesting response. There's also a Popcorn Taxi session tomorrow night which is linked focussing more on anime.

    By Blogger Nick Verso, at 6:58 pm  

  • This is an interesting alternative form of filmmaking. My personal experience of machinima has not gone further than the replays u can tinker with off games like DRIVER, where in ur replay u're able to choose a soundtrack and position the camera for each shot – tilt, pan and zoom according to ur remote-controlled directions – before then playing back the finished result. This was fun, i spent hours working it. I'm assuming this would be a lesser level/form of actual machinima (?)

    By Blogger Callum, at 5:25 pm  

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