Interview PC Power Play
Q: What is Machinima
Machinima is animation in a game engine. A feature of some shooter games is the ability to record the combat. The movie file is not digital video it’s a record of every event that took place during the game. Like a piano roll the movie simply puts the puppets in the game through the sequence of events as they were recorded.
These files are tiny so people in the game community would post them on the web so any one with the same game engine could see what a great game they played. Soon people worked out animated films could be made this way.
Q: Why have you chosen to work with the medium?
It’s a very inexpensive way to make a film. It also allows me to work with a very small cast and crew. Killer Robot was done completely solo. I even used synthetic voices for the characters.
2) What advantages does Machinima have over conventional animation or short film making?
One advantage is that in its executable (game engine) form a full screen, feature length film can exist as a much smaller file than video. In the game engine form Killer Robot at 70min running time is only 30MB as full screen video it would be 1GB. The main advantage is rendering time. With conventional animation a ten-second scene can easily take ten hours to render only to have some part of it that needs to be fixed. With Machinima there is no rendering time. The game engine renders on the fly.
3) What engine/scripting tool do you prefer to work with and why?
I work in GameStudio. It’s a professional game-authoring package I have adapted for the purpose.
Game engines like Quake and Unreal are open to modifications but I work with GameStudio because it’s more like a blank slate.
I animate in a conventional animation package called TrueSpace. This program spits out the piano roll of coordinates and I use GameStudio to instantly play back the results.
4) How do you go about devising, scripting and “shooting” a film?
The script is written like any film script. I keep throwing ideas around until I think of something I like. A plot list usually follows. Often fully formed scenes present themselves. The right place for the scenes have to be found in the plot. A treatment stage allows me to get an overview of the story. Once I’m satisfied the framework is there I create the dialogue.
The shoot is done in sequence. I re-read the appropriate section of script. I think about what the characters are trying to do in the scene and block out the movement. I animate the characters according to the blocking using a wide camera to get a general idea. I then do the camera coverage to bring the scene to life. I look at the scene in GameStudio to refine movement and camera.
5) What do you see as the future of Machinima as both an artistic movement and as a community
It’s hard to say. It may be that as machinima quality gets better and as conventional animation gets faster they may merge. But that might be quite a ways off.
In the immediate future it seems to be a great opportunity for people to genuinely experiment with filmmaking in a way that would be too expensive conventionally.
6) What advice do you have for people interested in getting into Machinima?
Keep it simple. Tell a story. Begin it.