‘Machinimas’ build bridge between film and videogames

Activision Inc.s Call of Duty 4 Modern Warfare video game. Machinimas animation films that use characters pulled from video games are popping up all over the Internet highlighting the creativity of gamers and bringing together the worlds of film and  ...

Activision, Inc.’s “Call of Duty 4, Modern Warfare” video game. Machinimas, animation films that use characters pulled from video games, are popping up all over the Internet, highlighting the creativity of gamers and bringing together the worlds of film and video-games

Machinimas, animation films that use characters pulled from video games, are popping up all over the Internet, highlighting the creativity of gamers and bringing together the worlds of film and video-games.

Little known to the general public, what was once a niche phenommenon in the 1990s is catching on quickly, gaining visibility on online video sites such as Dailymotion or Youtube and winning new adepts.

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“The name machinima comes from machine plus cinema,” said Xavier Lardy, who founded French site machinima.fr in 2004. “It is both a product and a technique, a film made from a video-game. Game players become actors and cameramen.”

Machinimas are made by extracting the images and sound from a video game with the proper software and then giving them a new life in a film, and adding dialogues.

The first machinima comedy sketch was made in 1996, using elements from the first-person shooter game, Quake, by the ID software studio, Lardy explained. “At the time, this type of comic film was called a ‘Quake movie'”, he said.

While most of today’s machinimas are made with elements from one game, some put characters from rival video-games side-to-side. A machinima for example can pit famous bounty hunter Samus Aran, from Nintendo’s Metroid series, against the no less famous Master Chief from Microsoft’s shooter game, Halo.

While the Sims, the well-known character-based video game, is the game most drawn on for machinima sketches, the most favourite series on the web is “Red Vs Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles”, which has been well received by both the machinima community and film critics.

Started in 2003, “Red Vs Blue” grew into a saga of almost 100 episodes over five seasons, ending only recently.

The US machinima studio, Roosterteeth, creator of the series, has no less than 655,000 site subscribers, all of whom are free to subsidise the team’s creations.

And just as with any other genre, the world of machinimas has trends.

“At the moment you find lots of machineastes playing online games like World of Warcraft and Second Life, particularly on the game developer sites,” said Lardy.

The most common software application used to make machinima films is Australia’s “Fraps”, which allows users to capture images and sounds from ongoing games.

However, another software, a virtual studio management package called “The Movies”, developed by Lionhead studios, was used to produce European machinima success-story “French Democracy”, one of the first with political content.

It was made by Frenchman Alex Chan during the riots in the outlying Paris suburbs in 2005.

Another French machinima success, “The Adventures of Bill and John”, made by the BilletJohn studio, won several prizes, including Best Film, at the 2006 Machinima Festival in New York, for its second series, Danger attacks at Dawn, based on the game Lock On.

America is generally at the forefront of machinima developments, but it is spreading to other areas with the European Machinima Festival in Leicester, Britain, and another for Asia in Singapore.

Although the majority of machinima makers are people who work in or around the audiovisual industry, others are younger — more guerrilla like, said Lardy, for whom the technology is a shortcut to being a filmmaker, without the normally required qualifications or cash flow.

And machinimas are now coming full circle, with game editors occasionally adding functionalities from machinima creations.

While the financial return is not, as yet, immediately evident, the productions are bringing new life to the gaming community. “You get attached to a game, it makes you want to play it again,” explains Lardy.

It’s difficult to predict the future of machinimas, but Lardy is optimistic.

“The situation today makes me think of what it was like at the time of the first animated films, with five or ten people working together on a production.”

Have you created Machinima and posted it to Youtube?  Let me know and I’ll post it here also! (If it’s good. đŸ˜‰ )


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