Dr. of Machinima

A blog By Dr. Nemesis following the progress of Binary Picture Show's work, as well as other Machinima.

Apr 14, 2008 at 4/14/2008 06:55:00 PM | 7 Comments
I miss the simple times when everything was easier.

When Machinima first started, things were simpler because the games were simpler. Modding was easier and the audience generally understood that a lot of imagination was required from them for the film to make any kind of sense. If a gun looked more like a baguette, or if a tree looked more like a brown trident with green safety tips, it didn't matter. You got a pass. Granted, the technical side of Machinima was shaky ground and for almost all of us there was a big learning curve in that respect, but creatively we got away with murder.

Custom animations were so rare even after a while, that bobbing characters' bodies backwards and forwards was an acceptable substitute for emoting. If the camera was on a character while you heard a voice, your imagination did the lip sync.

The reason I'm taking you back in time is because of my own feelings of distance from the naive 18 year old boy I was when Machinima began changing me. Back then the sky truly was the limit. There was no such thing as "start small" dammit, if I could imagine the film I could create it - such is Machinima's power - all hail the new king!! To me there was no difference between what we were doing and what the guys at Pixar were doing (yeah, I know). What they did was CGI, and as far as I was concerned we had the same. I didn't take into account any of the many things we ignored as game players. Foot sliding, frame skipping, bad quality sound, cuboid heads, awkward poses (really, removing the gun from the character's hand and leaving him in that weird pose made him look even weirder) were all absorbed by our blind spot, and since only players of the games would watch the stuff, the majority of us were ignorant to this whole galaxy of omissions and short cuts.

Computer games went from 1 man projects to multi million dollar ventures, and since it's birth Machinima too has moved on in great leaps. Not only technically, but creatively. In order for the larger world to accept out creations we had to construct our films using a more universal (often cinematic) language, not just the visual colloquialisms of Quake, Half-life, or Unreal tournament (or any of the many other games engines for that matter).

As a result we now have a much better ability to tell those stories. BEAST, for example, could simply not have been told in Quake 1 or 2 with the original conventions of Machinima (so much so that it just wouldnt be the same film). What really frightens me now is the idea that this increased ability to visually present ideas might be vastly greater than my ability to actually TELL a richer and more complex story. When I wrote short shorts, it was so simple. I would have an aim, come up with a scenario, and present the ideas and thoughts that proceeded, all in one scene. That's the hook. Simple ideas, one (or at least only few) scenes. There were no grand arcs to consider, no deliberations over scene order, much less worry about pace and lasting cohesion, the list goes on.

Last night I finished writing the story for Digital Memory, the Science Fiction film we will hopefully begin producing soon. I looked at the page and thought "Man, this is gonna be one hard film to make". I suddenly felt much like I did all those years ago, just after realising for the first time that simply having an idea and lots of enthusiasm just isn't enough. It was when an old friend and I wanted to make our first Machinima film, which unsurprisingly turned into a feature length story. Young dumb and full of cum, we somehow thought we could magically get through production of all the scenes and still have time in our young lives to get girlfriends. "All hail the new king" right? WRONG!!!

Along with imaginative ideas we need tenacity, self confidence, a work ethic, time (lots of it), money (a better computer can let you have the number of characters you need!), and a nice little bag of skills. I hate how the lovely song this siren sings often makes me forget some of the hard learned lessons from my (simpler) early days. Or is it that I CAN'T forget the short comings I had back then, and they live on strong and vibrant in the form of my current insecurities?

Back in the simpler times these kind of thoughts couldn't slow me down because they didn't exist. And I can't even be angry about it. The ambition to make the next film better than the last is how we improve.

By comparison, formulating new plans for the technical execution of this film has been much easier than creating the story. I could choose to make a different, simpler film, or I can choose to stay with the harder story that constantly swims in my mind and refuses to be left untold. Let's hope it all works out.

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posted by Dr. Nemesis