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A scene from the popular machinima series Red vs Blue. A scene from the popular machinima series Red vs Blue.

Machinima (IPA: [mə.ˈʃiː.nə.mə] or [mə.ˈʃɪ.nə.mə]), a portmanteau of machine cinema or machine animation, is both a collection of associated production techniques and a film genre (film created by such production techniques). As a production technique, the term concerns the rendering of computer-generated imagery (CGI) using low-end 3D engines, as opposed to high-end and complex 3D engines used by professionals. Engines from first person shooter video games are typically used. Consequently, the rendering can be done in real-time using PCs (either using the computer of the creator or the viewer), rather than with complex 3D engines using huge render farms. As a film genre, the term refers to movies created by the techniques described above. Usually, machinimas are produced using the tools (demo recording, camera angle, level editor, script editor, etc.) and resources (backgrounds, levels, characters, skins, etc.) available in a game.

Machinima is an example of emergent gameplay, a process of putting game tools to unexpected ends, and of artistic computer game modification. The real-time nature of machinima means that established techniques from traditional film-making can be reapplied in a virtual environment. As a result, production tends to be cheaper and more rapid than in keyframed CGI animation.

Although most often used to produce recordings that are later edited as in conventional film, machinima techniques have also occasionally been used for theatre. A New York improvisational comedy group called the ILL Clan voice and puppet their characters before a virtual camera to produce machinima displayed on a screen to a live audience.

Contents

History

The earliest roots of machinima can be found in the demoscene, a computer subculture that became established in the 1980s. The demoscene demos are non-interactive software programs containing graphics, music and visual effects animated in real time. The technological basis for demos is similar to computer and video games, and early demos could even use elements, such as music and sprites, that were directly copied from games. Unlike machinima, however, demos are nearly always stand-alone programs that are preferably created from scratch.

In 1992, the game Stunt Island was released, which allowed users to create movies by placing props and cameras, flying stunts, and splicing together takes. Communities emerged on CompuServe and the Internet, where users of the software were able to trade props and movies with each other.

This relatively new artform has attracted some interest in the media {fact}, as a "sign of things to come". But the number of machinima artists is rather small, as of 2005, and they have not achieved widespread success. As the quality of game engines, tools and 3D hardware improves, however, the popularity of the new medium continues to grow.

When Doom was released in 1993, it included support for the recording and playback of gameplay demos. This resulted in the eventual creation of Doom speedruns, where players recorded rapid traversals of Doom levels. Machinima per se arrived with the advent of true 3D game worlds and controllable cameras, from late 1993 to 1996. The 1993 Star Wars game X-Wing featured a limited recording feature with a controllable camera system, but the camera was controllable only during playback of recordings, not during gameplay itself. While Quake is commonly credited as being the first to introduce these, that honor technically belongs to MechWarrior 2, which was published a year ahead of it and possessed most of the same capabilities. The first movies appeared in 1997, and the term was coined at the start of 1998. At this time, the term "Quake Movies" was used in most situations. Around about mid 2000, this Quake community died out somewhat, due to the movement of players to newer games.

Things picked up in the following two years or so, however. With the improvements in 3D game engine technology many developers added in-game cut scenes to their games. This led to improvements in animation capabilities and soon most game engines had the functionality (although often available to the developers only) necessary to produce machinima.

Quake II, Unreal and Battlefield 1942 are examples of video games which are currently used to create machinima. Use of the original Unreal Tournament was possible through the third-party tool Unreal Movie Studio (UMS) by UnFramed Productions, and later Real-Time Movie Studio (RTMS) by mod team reactor4. Understanding the future potential of machinima, Epic Games, the developers of Unreal Tournament 2003, included a tool called "Matinee" with the game, and sponsored a contest for US$50,000 to create a machinima film with the video game. The Unreal engine was used by director George Lucas for pre-visualisation of the later Star Wars movies and by some other directors.

The video game The Sims, which had a "photo album" feature, was used by players to stage elaborate "comic book" stories. For example, over several months in 2003, Nicole Service, a Sims player known online as "nsknight" staged a highly-rated photo album telling the story of three sisters whose mother is murdered. (Wired News) Other players have staged stories of abusive relationships, drug addiction, and interracial adoptions. The Sims 2 has a built-in movie making feature.

A scene from the DDay Sound Archive movie, created using The Movies editor. This scene is rendered at the "online" resolution for streaming from the company website. A scene from the DDay Sound Archive movie, created using The Movies editor. This scene is rendered at the "online" resolution for streaming from the company website.

The Movies is a game developed by Lionhead Studios that puts the player in the role of a movie director and allow them to create short feature films using the game engine. A similar technique is used on the MTV television show Video Mods that shows music videos, rendered using characters from popular video games and Demos, including The Sims 2, BloodRayne and Dawn. However, the creators of the show only re-use the models, which are manually animated using 3D-animation software, not the game engines.

Besides the first-person shooter (FPS) and simulation genres mentioned above, other genres of games, most notably the sports games (like EA Sports' FIFA, NFL, and NHL series), already had the features and tools required (such as instant replay, customizable camera angle, recording, playback, save, and load) to make machinima for a long time, though it appeared that no one had attempted to make machinima using those games.

Demoscene demos as machinima

During the 2000s, machinima communities have become increasingly aware of demos, another form of real-time non-interactive computer animation. Some demos have been featured and discussed on machinima-related web sites, where they are classified as machinima based on self-built or "other" 3D engines.

The demos that receive attention among machinima enthusiasts tend to be storydemos, or ones that focus on consistent narrative rather than pure "eye-candy". IX and Halla by Moppi Productions are notable demos in this category.

It should be noted, however, that machinima is still a rather unknown concept among the demoscene, and some demosceners dislike the idea of classifying demos as "machinima". [1]

In recent years, demo authoring tools have diminished the amount of specialized technical skill required for producing demo-like works. This has brought demoscene slightly closer to machinima by making some demoscene techniques available to people who are less willing to build everything from scratch.

Advantages and disadvantages

Advantages

  • Possible smaller distribution size: To distribute the movie, the producer only has to distribute the movie scripts (and any new resources used in the movie), which are much smaller than the entire rendered movie, though this requires both parties (producer and viewer) to have same rendering engine (same game, that is) and hardware capable rendering the movie. Further to this, if the engine and hardware allow it, the movie could be watched at extremely high resolutions, beyond what the average computer was capable of rendering smoothly at the time of release. The size of a rendered video of comparable resolution could put most viewers off, even those on very fast connections.
  • Lower cost and production time, because of lower hardware requirements (movie can be made and rendered on desktop computers), lower software costs (games cost much less than professional 3D animation software), and lower production time (because low-end 3D engines can render animation quickly, if-not real-time). Moreover, mistakes in the movie can sometimes be corrected quickly by simply editing the script and because of the lower rendering time.
  • Possible easier movie making: Because most games' interfaces are very simple and easy to use, it is easy to make simple movies, though it can be more frustrating to make complex ones because of the limited movie-making capability (see below).

Disadvantages

  • Limited capability: the possibilities (what can be done in a movie, that is) were limited by the genre of the game and the flexibility and (movie-making) capability of the game engine itself. Also, because game engines were primarily designed for game-playing, not for making movies, the movie-making capabilities of game engines (and, consequently, the quality of the produced movies) tend to be limited, when compared to 3D animation software used by professionals. It is important to note that, because of the technical limitations, most machinima uses sharp writing in order to make up for the lack of visual flair (even this depends on the game being used to make the machinima).
  • Possible high playback hardware requirements: Unless the entire rendered movie is distributed, in order to play a movie (run movie scripts), the viewer needs the same rendering engine as the one used by the producer, and a computer with capable hardware (to run the movie scripts to view the movie), depending on the complexity of the rendering engine (the game, that is) and movie. Consequently, this prohibits low-end machines and machines without rendering capability (e.g.: cell phones, PDA, low-end computers, Video CD players) to display the movie.

Notable examples

Machinima productions are usually categorized by game engine or by film genre (drama, comedy, action). The following examples are organized using the former method.

Quake machinima

It was with Quake that machinima truly took off, and it was for this game that the first true machinima film was made. Released in 1996 by a then well known Quake clan named The Rangers, Diary of a Camper was the first true piece of machinima. A short silent film, lasting less than two minutes, it told the story of The Rangers rooting out an embedded player (the camper) within DM6, a popular Quake deathmatch map. At this point in time, the term "machinima" had not been coined, and these films were being touted as "Quake Movies". The piece became very popular within the Quake community, and soon spawned other Quake Movies, such as Wendigo and Avatar's Blahbalicious and Clan Undead's Operation Bayshield.

One of the more famous Quake machinima groups is Quake done Quick, or QdQ. QdQ produced several speedruns for Quake, and reworked them into movies, using special tools to show speedrun in third person. Their most famous movies are Quake done Quicker and Scourge done Slick (which required the Scourge of Armagon expansion pack). As of 2005, the group is still active, making rare speedrun releases.

The ILL Clan is known for their series of shorts featuring Larry and Lenny Lumberjack. Their first movie (and one of the earliest notable machinima pieces) was Apartment Huntin', and was created using Quake. Their award-winning short, Hardly Workin, was created using Quake 2. They have also made three to four live performances in front of audiences in recent years.

Also one of the most notable Quake machinimas is The Seal of Nehahra, which details the story of the original game and expands considerably on the backstory. With a run time of 3:53:34, it's also one of the longest machinima feature movies.

Halo machinima

The most popular and well known Halo machinima is Red vs Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles, a comedic machinima series filmed within the Halo series of Xbox games. Created by Rooster Teeth Productions, and premiering online on April 1, 2003, the show has so far released four seasons on DVD. The series has also further inspired a fan tribute series called Sponsors vs Freeloaders, based in the forums of the Red vs Blue website.

Another popular Halo machinima group are Fire Team Charlie, who started production in Mid-2003. Fire Team Charlie has made a name by delving into the code of Halo and modifying it to increase their movie making posibilities. Their most notable change is removing all on screen displays, making each video seem less "in-game" and more like a movie. This makes for more unique videos from a console game, though these types of modifications are extremely common in computer based machinima.

Stryke Force, released in late 2004. UK based, the team at Stryke Force HQ also modify the game engine for machinima purposes but only to remove the on screen displays, preferring to film the series within the constraints of the game.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, released in October of 2004, is a 30 minute stand alone action comedy that tells the story of Private Chade, the best event coordinator in the army, and the desperate plan to rescue him from the hands of the Scottish.

The Codex, Episode 1 debuted on 9 February 2005. Unlike any previous Halo machinima series, The Codex is a drama, and is set within the universe of the Halo games. While previous Halo machinima series focus almost exclusively on comedy, The Codex has a definite story, and has often been described as a movie divided into episodes, rather than a series proper. It is also one of the few series to be set within the confines of the Halo universe, dealing with situations described in the games and happening concurrently with other well-known events.

The Heretic, being released in the late summer of 2006, is a prequel to The Codex. It shows how the Covenant discovered the Codex.

This Spartan Life also differs from other Halo machinima in that it is a talk show, similar in concept to The Late Show with David Letterman. Every episode of the show is divided into parts that are uploaded on the show's site in a sequential fashion. Every episode features an opening monologue, interviews with guests as well as two fixed features, the Solid Gold Elite Dancers, a group of Covenant Elite dancers, and Body Count, a debate segment featuring players killing each other as they debate their points. Some of the comedy in the show itself is derived from the fact that often, players not involved in the show's making are unaware that the show is being filmed at all, and thus fire upon show contestants as they try to act out their parts.

The Sims 2 machinima

The Sims machinima started with the photo album concept in the first Sims game. With the photo album a person could create full stories using all the game's resources. The Sims 2, which came out in the Fall of 2004, included a built in movie making utility for players to film what their Sims do. After the release of The Sims 2, Maxis, The Sims games creators, held contests hosted on their website for the best movie makers. The most notable examples of The Sims 2 machinima are listed below.

Rooster Teeth Productions, the authors of Red vs Blue, have also created a serial production, The Strangerhood, using The Sims 2. The initial installment of the series introduced eight occupants of a neighborhood, who wake up one morning with no memory of who they are, where they are, or how they arrived. The characters have diverse, quirky, and intense personalities. Owing to the limitations of the simulation engine it was necessary to create a number of clones of each character, each with a different expression (happy, sad, angry, etc.). The unused versions are herded into an out-of-viewpoint room and exchanged as necessary to obtain the various facial expressions.

A similar project surfaced online in the summer of 2005 in which Sims characters reenacted the music video for R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet song cycle.

In what is unofficially called things such as "semachinima," for "almost-but-not-quite machinima," many Sims 2 players with limited video distribution ability continue to make "shows," "movies," and "shorts" as storytelling albums, taking advantage of extensive game modding capabilities and editing software such as Photoshop to create their productions. Since these Sims 2 productions contain only stills, many use special effects that look great but are very cheap to produce, and produced in ways that would be very difficult to replicate in actual video. There are literally thousands of independent storytellers whose works fall into this category. While Maxis does encourage that these productions be uploaded to their Exchange, many producers prefer to use their own websites.

City of Heroes machinima

The Cryptic Studios game City of Heroes, with its rich visual environments & striking characters, has proven to be a popular source for machinima creation since the game's release in April 2004. The developers have sponsored an annual machinima contest every year since, rewarding filmmakers with prizes such as inclusion of their films on future DVD game releases. The winner of the first competition, and arguably the most acclaimed piece of City of Heroes machinima to date is "The Doom of Doctor Death", by filmmaker Mike D'Anna; a slickly-produced faux-film trailer in the style of a summer superhero blockbuster.

There machinima

There.com, the online game, has sprouted machinima as well. Parodies are popular, Austin Powers, Mission Impossible and The Wizard of Oz being notable ones. Currently, the most ambitious machinima to date in There is the recently released "Mission: Slightly Difficult", with a run length of about 90 minutes.

Groups have sprung up all over for creating There videos. There_Movies and Miracle Pictures being prime examples.

Simulator-based machinima

A new and emerging trend in machinima are films in which the plot is carried forward mostly by cars, airplanes etc. as well as selectively chosen ingame objects and scenery. Characters are introduced only by voice-over dialogue; the protagonists are therefore the (unseen) pilots of the presented vehicles. This is due to a restriction of the used game software which typically cannot render user controlled characters. These machinima movies are often created in flight simulators, car driving/racing games or similar software. Because events can be difficult to script in simulators, the final movie is typically created in video editing software, sometimes adding additional effects. A good example for a humorous simulator-machinima is the movie Bensky & Mutch (French dialogue, subtitle files are available). A further example is an intricately "filmed" war epic called "I Promise"

Anachronox machinima

In response to favourable input about the game's story, the developers of Anachronox independently combined the game's many cutscenes into a Machinima movie of 2 hours and 30 minutes length. The movie has since won several awards at the Machinima Film Festival 2002 (MFF2002), where it was first presented. Machinima.com had to say about the film: "Anachronox: The Movie is a tour-de-force, one of the finest Machinima films produced to date, and probably the most accomplished Machinima feature to date. Hell, it managed to hold two over-worked jury members in a room for two and a half hours before the MFF 2002 - what more can we say?". The film is available in downloadable MPG format at www.machinima.com, split into 13 parts. Machinima.com is planning on releasing the film as a high-res DVD version, with extra footage and artwork. Anachronox: The Movie is one of the most acclaimed Machinima films ever made.

World of Warcraft machinima

Blizzard's popular massively multiplayer online game World of Warcraft has also spawned many machinima productions. Notable amongst the plethora of fan-created machinima are films such as Illegal Danish Super Snacks, Not Just Another Love Story, Zinwrath: The Movie, Return and The Internet is for Porn. Parodies of Warcraft machinima, and films that poke fun at aspects of the game well known amongst avid players, are also wildly popular. For example, Further Proof That Shamans are Overpowered mocks the bombast and clichés of another Warcraft machinima called Proof That Shamans are Overpowered. Another machinima, The Most Horrific Act of Thief Looting Ever, shows the frustration of players who are robbed by a Thief looter in a humorous light. Most recently, Xfire sponsored a contest where many people made machinima films to compete in a variety of categories. Perhaps most famous is the Leeroy Jenkins film, featuring a character of the same name causing the downfall of his party. Recently announce, the team behind 'The Codex' and 'The Heretic', Edgeworks Entertainment, have started creating a WoW machinima, name 'Foresaken'.

Half Life series machinima

While there have not been many machinima made with Valve Software's first game (Half-Life), the power and versatility of the Source engine coupled with Valve Hammer Editor have made Half-Life 2 very useful for quality machinima. A notable example is A Few Good G-Men, a machinima produced from the famous courtroom scene from the Rob Reiner film A Few Good Men.

Second Life machinima

The virtual world of Second Life is also being used to make machinima. While no large-scale work has been released yet, Second Life is quickly becoming accepted by the community because its built in modeling, scripting, and avatar tools allow movie makers to create scenes quickly and collaboratively. To take advantage of this, "Alt-Zoom Studios" sponsored the Ed Wood Machinima Festival, which challenged machinima makers to create a short film within 72 hours. That led to a monthly film festival named Take 5. Other groups using Second Life for machinima include Bedazzle Studios and Natural Selection Studios.

F.E.A.R. machinima

Not many machinimas made with the First Encounter Assault Recon game engine have gained widespread popularity to date. But the most prominent one known is a mini-series called P.A.N.I.C.S., produced by Rooster Teeth Productions. PANICS spoofs both the FEAR game it's produced inside of as well as supernatural thriller/comedy movies like Ghostbusters.

Notable production teams

Strange Company - Founded and former operators of Machinima.com
Rooster Teeth Productions - Creators of Red vs Blue, the first commercially released machinima production, as well as The Strangerhood and PANICS.
The ILL Clan - Team well known for live performances and improvised dialogue.
Fire Team Charlie - Popular Halo-based machinima.
Edgeworks Entertainment - Creators of The Codex and its prequel The Heretic, as well as new series Forsaken.
Myndflame Electronic Music and Video Production - Creators of Zinwrath, and Illegal Danish: Super Snacks.
Mu Productions - Creator of Just a Game and Ours Again

External links


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Movies, v. 2.0, by MultiMedia

This guide is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia.


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