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Thursday, August 10, 2006


Siggraph06 is over and i'm back "home". As already stated in the previous post, the one thing siggraph did well was putting a perspective on what machinima competes with nowadays.
The role of machinima at siggraph was, to put it gently, minor. Though a lot of the sketches and paper presentations were dealing with realtime rendering and computation, there were only two really relevant happenings at the convention - namely Reallusions announcement of iClone's version 1.5 and LindenLab's implementation of a realtime IK Solver and Puppeteering controls for their virtual environment Second Life.

While the high quality world got to see new ways of motion capturing (and now, face capturing...) , a hdr screen and Some New Software, realtime animation seemed pretty uninteresting for the big guys.
The amount of data generated by today's motioncapture and 3D Scanning technologies sky-rockets (and one has to ask himself which poor Indian kid is going to clean up all that data?), and we see more and more Pixar lookalike 3D animated movies, and of course even more seamless blending between Film and CG.
At least to me, the style and artwork of most 3D Animations lack any development and i feel oversaturated by cute little 3D comic characters that resemble the good old Warner Brothers cartoons.

This is a first chance for machinima to establish itself as a new way of production.
By exploring new ways of visual representation and character creation - not making the mistake of following the big players into photorealism or WB comic styles - and using its realtime and code-based approach to filmmaking, machinima can establish a new visual form that could go uncontested and would turn the compromise of realtime computation into the freedom of non-photorealistic depiction of stories.

In Siggraph's electronic theater of course, there's the occasional highlight (see below) and some more experimental stuff going on.
But most of the actual 3D animation production looked pretty much the same.

In terms of "market", "interest" and "workflow" we are way behind the development that's taking place in the "real" 3D world.
It seems that the amount of work that people put into animated movie making still exceeds our wildest dreams - only that now we are getting more and more "mkay-ish" stories and productions.
The consolidation of graphical quality that slowly takes place in the high-end world makes way for the big question of content and the relation of the amount of work put in and the final outcome.

And that is where machinima definetly has another chance of scoring a couple of points. Though graphically still rough and dirty, the relation between work and outcome is completely different.

But first of all, machinima needs to find its way out of the dependence of Computer Game Development and predefined assets. With most machinima still relying on other people's art direction, there is no way this really ambitious approach on animated filmmaking will be taken seriously anytime soon.


At 6:01 PM, Mu Nansen said...

Some thoughts come to mind. I'll summarize:

- The reason we're behind in production is not even the best of us can get any $$$, not for lack of trying, as you know.

- To the Siggraph bigs that are analogous to Xbox/Playstation, perhaps we need to be the Wii. Instead of participating in the arms race of technology, we use what technology we can and go the rest of the distance on innovation.

- If anyone is acquainted with any rich old ladies/men whose days are numbered...start the flirting now! We need the money.

At 8:27 AM, Booklad said...

Some very astute observations. Moving away from Game Dev and pre-defined content will also help with fair use of the game. At least this will put the machinimaker on firmer legal ground.

Thanks for your report and your musings. Always interesting....


At 2:47 PM, ck said...

But isn't exactly the use of the existing game content in a new context one of the things which makes machinima?
Creating all content&animation from the scratch, just using abilities of the (game)engine would be more "realtime movie screening".
And i don't think that this would be a more legal ground for the maker.
The opposing will be the fact - as less content is used - as more the root to the game is cut - as more the original company wants that the machinima maker licences the engine.

At 8:28 PM, said...

In my mind, machinima will lead the entertainment world of the internet as more and more people seek entertainment content via the internet.
Why? Game development is a multi-billion $ business that will forever draw investors to the table. The level of entertainment value with the new game development increases each year, thus maintaining the existing client base who anticipate the new releases year after year.
Today when you look at a game like Battlefield 2, film producers can create fantastic films that over dose in entertainment capability when compared to real world film making, and at a far cheaper cost of production. Tomorrow we will see games that are simply mind blowing creativity, increasing the gap between real world capabilities and machinima.
What producers and directors need to embrace are some of the reasons why machinima will lead the way in entertaimnet.
1/ Most people do not play or even see inside alot of the game worlds, thus an interest level exists even before producers begin filming.
2/ The internet has a massive audience who are dying of thirst for new entertainment.
3/Production costs are significantly lower for producers, thus making way for more highly detailed productions(masterpieces) to be created. As a director once said, "most films are never finished."
4/Television views are in transition over to the internet, seeking entertainment.
5/As more cell phone users switch over to smart phones with video capability (flash compression), a massive audience will exist over the next 5 years. There are currently 10 times more cell phone users than are PC users. It is a fact that all cell phone users will have powerful smart phones within the next 5 years, seeing bancwidth costs decrease along the way.
6/Producers need to embrace the fact that bandwidth costs for the servers hosting productions over the internet have seen a steady decrease over the past 5 years and continues to decrease at a rate of about 15% a year. In 2006, $200US will get you a dual Xeon server with 1000MB ram and 1.5 Terabytes of data transfer PER MONTH. With an average 10 minute film episode at 50MB, this server can host 300,000 end users per month, with an advertising revenue stream of $5 per 1000 visitors paying $1500 per month. Then there is the end user fees that can be collected for users who want to purchase the DVD and end users who want a higher resolution download from a website.
Average end user fees are around $3 per month (ie CNN ), producers can expect to see member registrations of at least 5 -20 % of their client base. This is where insane amounts of money can be made for future film productions.

The only thing currently standing in the way of machinima taking it's foothold in the entertainment industry is the lack of enthusiasm from producers and directors who may not be aware or inclined to embrace the potential of the internet at it's current level, and the massive potential 5 years from now.

To all those film students out there who are interested and excited about machinima, as much as I am, I have only one thing to say. "Those of you who start building you fan base now will be the industry leaders 5 years from now, with client base audiences in the millions."
Personally I want to get into machinima film production and directing and acting, not so much for the money or the fame, but because when I wake up each day, I get butterflies about my day ahead before my feet even hit the floor. I love this creative process and the incredible amount of fun and laughter I have on a day to day bases. How many can say that about their job? ;)


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