Besides working on the Global Citizenship stuff, I'm also slowly getting back to my master thesis. That research will concern itself with machinima. After having to explain several times to a lot of people what it is, how it's done and why people do it, I thought I might as well post a bit about it here, so you all know what I'm doing.
Machinima is linguistically made of the words: "MACHINe" and "anIMAtion" (some also think that cINema should be part of it) and machinima are basically films which are made inside video games. So not films ABOUT games, like Tomb Raider, Street Fighter, Doom, Mortal Kombat or other really bad B-films, but films made WITH games, or better: game engines. What machinima makers do, comes down to 2 options:
1. The maker rescripts the game to make it do what they want, they give actions to the in-game characters in a timed fashion, they make or use modified game levels and characters to give the whole a look that want and they can be the directors of their own movie all on their own. (several games which are used for this: Half Life 2, The Sims 2, Unreal Tournament)
2. A bunch of people go online in a certain game, they meet each other and play out a script just like one would with a real life film. One or more of the people in the game will function as cameraman. Their point of view of the game will be recorded by a piece of external software and that will render out actual video footage. (several games which are used for this: Halo, World of Warcraft, Battlefield)
Half Life 2 machinima shot.
After this stage of shooting, the process of editing, sound and after effects begins just like any other movie.
Machinima touch upon several interesting things about gaming, game culture, film and do-it-yourself culture. They use the original game to make something new out of it. In a sense they cut the 'game' part out of the game. They use the video and audiomaterial from inside the game, but loose the "play". Also, machinima makers can only use what is inside the game to make their movies. For instance: if you take a game like Battlefield with all its tanks, explosions, desert regions, planes, guns and soldiers, you will be making a war-movie. If you want to make a romantic comedy set in a city, Battlefield won't supply you with the possibilities to make it. That's because the video and audio inside a game are tailored to suit the 'play' part of the game. Only those things that are necessary for the play of the game are put into the video and audio engines.
So for different kinds of movies, machinima makers turn to different games and the visual styles of these games determine the look and feel of the resulting movie.
Bloodspell, made with Neverwinter Nights
Of course a lot of the machinima movies are made by geeks and nerds who think their favourite game rocks and think they are the bomb by making a movie with it. The resulting movies are of course extremely boring, but occassionaly precious little gems surface and they show real potential. Interesting plots and characters, good sets and camera work, generally enjoyable. I am very interested in where all this is going. With new games coming out every week, with every week more sophisticated graphics, better physics and better character moves, the possibilities for making convincing and interesting machinima will also increase. Also a lot of games are coming out with game-editing possibilities already build in to provide machinima makers and other people who would like to re-work the game with easier access and possibilities to do what they want to do!
So take a look at some of the movies I've listed down here to hopefully see what I find interesting about them!
The Days After - Mankind has been swept away by a deadly virus, the last survivors live the final days of their lives on the rooftops and mesmerize what has happened to the world around them. Made with Grand Theft Auto (moody music by Bloc Party)
The Internet is for Porn - A great classic, bit tacky, still funny though. Made with World of Warcraft
The Fixer - One of my favourites. Made inside the Sims 2, but nothing is 'suburbia' or 'domestic' about it. It's an action packed series with a pretty cold hearted lead role.
The Adventures of Bill and John: Danger Attacks at Dawn - The big winner at the 2006 Machinima Awards. ALMOST funny comedy about 2 air force lieutenants messing up big time in the high rising skies. Good cinematography, effects and voice-acting though (be it in French, English subs)
June - A story of love in shattered times made with Half-Life 2. No words, just beautiful music and emotional cinematography.