In a Machinima World

by Jon on November 16th, 2007

Disclaimer: the majority of the links contained in this post are direct-links to actual videos. Some of them might not be entirely SFW or bandwidth-friendly so proceed with caution.

Machinima – a film production technique that uses real-time interactive game-engines to create a film or movie.

Now it’s arguable that machinima as a technique probably existed prior to 1996, I would have to give the Pioneer Award to the Rangers (a Quake clan) with their 100-sec short Diary of a Camper. Diary was “shot” using the original Quake’s demo engine and may appear primitive when compared with today’s standards, but it still stands as probably the first widely viewed piece of machinima. This one movie was the catalyst that established the Quake Movie scene, inspiring others to take a swing at this new form of digital puppetry, spawning distribution and review sites, and even creating a market for specialized Quake-movie editing software.

If the Rangers were the pioneers of the technique, Hugh Hancock can be credited for fathering the name Machinima. With the founding of Strange Company and the launch of Machinima.com in 2000, Hugh moved to expand the genre to other game-engines (besides Quake) and expose Machinima works to a wider audience. Strange Company, themselves a group of machinima creators (machinimators? machinimists?), have developed a number of works including the first feature-length machinima Bloodspell and the adaptation of the sonnet Ozymandias that was actually praised by known video-game-disser Roger Ebert.

In time, machinima has been created from a plethora of games that include Halo, the Sims, Second Life, Half-Life and even GTA.

World of Warcraft is no stranger to Machinima either. The immense amount of work out there runs the full gamut from hilarious music-video parodies to amazing action films. Blizzard has even taken to releasing their own machinima shorts to accompany major patch releases. You also have epic pieces from the likes of Baron Soosdon and Dopefish that really push the envelope and have amazing production values.

Machinima has received increasing popularity as of late and has started to pierce the mainstream. As it becomes more viable as not only an art form, but as an effective story-telling method, how long will it be before we start seeing Primetime Machinima on cable TV? Production of Machinima tends to be not-only cheaper but also less-time consuming than typical CGI (computer-generated imagery) animation. With the recent Writer’s Strike and an Actor’s Strike rumored to follow, will the door be opened to machinima-scabs? You still need talent (writers, directors, voice actors and even animators) but I think that we’ve established that such a thing exists.

Or maybe we aren’t ready for the Machinima Movement yet? Graphics still have plenty of room for growth (just steer clear of the valley) and the licensing/royalties/fair use issue is an entirely separate can of worms. Will average (non-gamer) Joe embrace Machinima with open arms or dismiss it as an inferior medium? Despite the hurdles, I personally think that it’s an inevitable direction even if it doesn’t happen soon.

It’s not like the next episode of CSI is going to focus on finding Mankrik’s wife.

Oh wait.

1 Comment
  1. Matt S permalink

    Oh my god, so many words.

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