And Now For Something Completely Machinima

CM Interview with Scott Tanner

April 03, 2021 Ricky Grove and Phil Rice Season 3
And Now For Something Completely Machinima
CM Interview with Scott Tanner
Chapters
And Now For Something Completely Machinima
CM Interview with Scott Tanner
Apr 03, 2021 Season 3
Ricky Grove and Phil Rice

CM Interview with Scott Tanner Show Notes

Scott Tanner is, along with Chris Stapleton, the creator of Cine Guru, a cut-scene creation tool that is associated with Game Guru. We were all intrigued by this new application which looks quite smart. Tracy spent some time talking about Cine Guru and its future developments.

Links

  • Cine Guru on Game Creator Store

https://www.tgcstore.net/product/35318

  • Just Cause Top Gear Ep 1 – Top Gear machinima parody made in Just Cause 2

 https://www.youtube.com/ sFBi_h282p8

  • Game Guru and Game Guru Max

https://www.game-guru.com/

  • Perlin noise filter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perlin_noise

Games

  • Just Cause 2 

https://store.steampowered.com/agecheck/app/8190/

  • Just Cause 3

https://store.steampowered.com/agecheck/app/225540/

  • Empire Earth

https://www.gog.com/game/empire_earth_gold_edition

  • Age of Empires

https://www.ageofempires.com/

  • FPS Creator

https://www.thegamecreators.com/product/fps-creator-classic-open-source






Show Notes Transcript

CM Interview with Scott Tanner Show Notes

Scott Tanner is, along with Chris Stapleton, the creator of Cine Guru, a cut-scene creation tool that is associated with Game Guru. We were all intrigued by this new application which looks quite smart. Tracy spent some time talking about Cine Guru and its future developments.

Links

  • Cine Guru on Game Creator Store

https://www.tgcstore.net/product/35318

  • Just Cause Top Gear Ep 1 – Top Gear machinima parody made in Just Cause 2

 https://www.youtube.com/ sFBi_h282p8

  • Game Guru and Game Guru Max

https://www.game-guru.com/

  • Perlin noise filter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perlin_noise

Games

  • Just Cause 2 

https://store.steampowered.com/agecheck/app/8190/

  • Just Cause 3

https://store.steampowered.com/agecheck/app/225540/

  • Empire Earth

https://www.gog.com/game/empire_earth_gold_edition

  • Age of Empires

https://www.ageofempires.com/

  • FPS Creator

https://www.thegamecreators.com/product/fps-creator-classic-open-source






Tracy Harwood  0:03  
A couple of weeks back we saw a release of a new toolset called Cine Guru which seemed to be perfect for creating machinima.  Well, its description talks about it as helpful for making in-game cinematics.  It's been released into the Game Creator Store where you'll find a detailed list of what you get with the pack and all for an impressively low $19.50.  

Cine Guru is a collaboration between Scott Tanner who's a videographer and an amateur game developer and Chris Stapleton who is a freelance programmer in the aviation industry.  Now, Scott has some experience of making machinima and once had a video go viral based on a spoof of Top Gear Episode One which he produced inside the game Just Cause 2.  It's a machinima you have to see and I wasn't at all surprised to learn it received international media coverage including from the game's developer themselves, it's absolutely hilarious. 

This evening it's great to welcome you to the show Scott, thanks for taking the time out to talk to us today. We've got a few questions for you so let's start with you telling us a little bit about Cine Guru the toolset and the inspiration for it and how you've collaborated with Chris on its development.

Scott Tanner  1:27  
Sure absolutely, well firstly hi Tracy thanks for having me on. Cine Guru is a set of tools designed to run in Game Guru.  Game Guru is an easy to use 3D game-making engine developed by British software company The Game Creators.  Game Guru, because it's so easy to use, attracts a lot of first-time developers or people like me who are sort of more artists who have no skill in coding whatsoever.  It does have a coding language, lewis script, which is relatively straightforward to understand but crucially it has a really kind of loyal and helpful community so there are loads of these projects going on where we kind of you know collaborate different tools and different assets to the wider community. 

I'm a videographer by trade I've got over 15 years of experience creating everything, commercials, documentaries, short films, animations and as you said in your intro even some machinima and game development really is a bit of a hobby of mine it's just something I kind of do in my spare time but i'm always kind of looking for ways to combine the two since I enjoy both so much.  

Game Guru doesn't have any sort of provision for making in-game cutscenes so I wondered if it was possible to try and create something that would allow me to kind of bring my skills as a videographer to bear on the games I make in Game Guru and you know would that be useful for other people in the community.  So as you said, I teamed up with another member of the community Chris. So I brought my kind of filmmaking skills and some 3d modeling skills and he bought 40 years of coding experience and a really deep understanding of maths which was crucial to making these tools work and we kind of went about it in a very it was a very iterative process I would say.  You know we started with really simple questions, you know: can we code a camera to look at another entity; and then it was: okay, well now can we make that camera move; and pretty soon it was: okay well how do we trigger the camera to start shaking once this explosion goes off on the other side of the level or something in the middle of the shot, and so before long we came up with you know as you mentioned in your intro quite an extensive list of different things that you could accomplish with these tools both for cameras and also for kind of triggering other events and making your actors move. 

It was kind of really important for me from the outset to make usability really really key. As I said because Game Guru attracts a lot of amateur developers, first time developers, it was really important for me to create a system that didn't require you to touch any code or very little code anyway and so the majority of the system runs off how you name the entities.  So if you drop a camera into your level that way you name that camera establishes what it will do you know, will it zoom in, will it you know how long will the shot last, what will it point towards, and so, yeah, there's also an extensive instruction manual included as well which took ages to write but again I think that's really important to kind of demonstrate everything with examples and in fact the pack even contains some example levels as well that show off some of these functionalities just so people can open them up within Game Guru and see okay right so this is how you set up cameras, you know fly across the level, or punch in for a close up or whatever.

Tracy Harwood  4:53  
And how long have you been working on it? It sounds like you've been working on it for years!

Scott Tanner  4:57  
Well it actually started In December of last year, so really not that long. Chris is amazingly quick at coding this stuff and the stuff he's able to pull together in such a quick time span. I mean, it boggles my mind. I mean, he even went as far as researching how to create some sort of, I mean, I'm probably doing a disservice by describing it this way, but a Perlin noise filter to control our camera shake. I mean, I've heard of Perlin noise from my sort of After Effects, you know, doing visual effects and things and motion graphics. But to me, that creates a visual, there's obviously math behind it and he understood that I understood how to utilize that. And now we have a realistic camera shake. So you can create what looks like handheld camera moves inside the engine, which I mean is awesome, really.

Tracy Harwood  5:52  
Sounds amazing, actually. I mean, I was looking at some of your work on your YouTube channel. And you did a Game Guru piece a couple of years back that looked at doing cutscenes and you did like a tutorial on it.  I was wondering, was that some of the inspiration for actually developing the toolset that's now Cine Guru?

Scott Tanner  6:15  
Yeah, definitely. Yeah. So that that particular video, or rather, that particular game, was one of my first forays into using Game Guru. And, of course, I wanted to create a little intro cinematic for it. It was really difficult. As I said, Game Guru doesn't have any tools in-built to do this kind of stuff so I ended up using a bit of a combination of recording footage in-game, doing fully 3D rendered shots for some of the more complicated moves, and also doing a little bit of compositing as well. So kind of shooting plate shots inside Game Guru and then adding CG elements to those.  It was a really laborious process. And also, just from a kind of a game development point of view, it's also quite memory intensive as well, uses up a lot of resources. So I figured there had to be a way that we could engineer something where you could do at least most of that in-game and use a lot less memory. And actually, yeah, just do it all in the editor. 

Tracy Harwood  7:14  
So it's a really perfect tool for somebody just starting out with doing machinima and also out of game stuff, too.

Scott Tanner  7:22  
Yeah, absolutely. And the Game Guru engine comes preloaded with 1000s of assets. And the store that it's on has 1000s of community-created assets. So you could pretty much create, you know, anything you wanted, of any genre. I mean, in order to demonstrate Cine Guru, I created a short piece that was like, an introduction to, I guess you'd say, like, a sort of a spy game with a guy sneaking into a military compound. And I mean, it was primarily developed for us to test out every function of Cine Guru but I think, you know, someone could look at that and say, Okay, well, that's great. I reckon I can use that portion of it; I can use, you know, cameras that move and, yeah,

Tracy Harwood  8:07  
Yeah. How do you envisage developing the toolset there now?

Scott Tanner  8:12  
Well, okay, so Game Guru itself is undergoing a pretty major upgrade at the moment. The version that we all use is kind of reached the end of its development lifecycle and the developers are working on the next version of Game Guru - Game Guru Max - which is going to have enhanced graphics, better performance and it's also going to have some new features as well like lip-synching characters. And so we're quite keen to have Cine Guru work in that as well. So we've already tested a lot of the tools and things like cameras already work in Game Guru Max, there's sort of like weekly builds that are released to the community for us to test out. But the characters don't quite work yet. So I guess our plan really is to try and I guess we'll do like a second launch really. It'll be the same toolset, but it will work for Game Guru Max as well. Hopefully, we'll be able to get lip-synching characters to kind of talk on command and I think that would be a really good goal for us.

Tracy Harwood  9:08  
What text and speech type thing? 

Scott Tanner  9:10  
Yeah. Game Guru Max does feature a text-to-speech engine. But I think you can also import your own sound files, and it will auto lip-sync the characters.  It's a feature that's still in development those so we, yeah, we haven't really got our hands on it yet to be able to test out how far we can push it.

Tracy Harwood  9:29  
And how is it being used at the moment; how's the toolset being used? Is it just by game developers or are you also seeing folks create machinima stuff with it?

Scott Tanner  9:38  
Yeah, so far, it is just game developers.  It's early days. It's not been out that long.

Tracy Harwood  9:43  
Less than a month at this point. Yeah,

Scott Tanner  9:45  
Exactly. Yeah, yeah. But we've already seen some cool kind of level intro videos being created with it. And because of the broad scope of Game Guru itself, we've seen everything from kind of horror games to fantasy games. I was watching one the other day where this massive monster comes up over a wall and it's all fully voiced cutscene and, you know, as someone who was worried that maybe the tools might be a little bit difficult to use it's great to see other people kind of actually you know getting to grips with them and creating some really interesting things.  We have a Discord as well where they're able to share their creations and that allows them to chat to us and feedback on the development process you know; are there any things we missed, any bugs that we didn't spot, so yeah it's a nice little mini community that we're developing for Cine Guru

Tracy Harwood  10:28  
Yeah, i can see that.  Now tell me a little bit about some of the machinima that you've made yourself so I'm sure our listeners will be quite interested in that.  What excites you about machinima at the moment?

Scott Tanner  10:45  
That's probably two separate questions really so I'll say about how I got into machinima in the first place really. I kind of have been a bit of a gamer you know since I was a kid and I would always mess around with you know was there a level editor or was there a campaign editor.  Probably my first experience of machinima was creating little intro videos for campaigns I would make an Empire Earth which is a sort of real-time strategy game similar to Age of Empires, along that sort of lines, and almost as old. I mean I was doing that you know well before I even got into filmmaking and that was really just kind of for fun.  No one ever saw those and sadly they've been lost in the annals of time on broken hard drives and things and then when I started you know going developing a little bit more seriously in my teens, I started creating machinima cutscenes within the precursor to Game Guru which was FPS Creator and again it was mostly just for my enjoyment really. 

Then you mentioned Just Cause Top Gear which was kind of yeah I mean that was a bit of a out of the blue experience. I had picked up Just Cause 2 in the Steam sale for a few quid and just gave it whirl. I really enjoyed it. It's a sandbox game where you can kind of drive different vehicles and the whole point is to cause chaos basically and mayhem and blow things up so very good for wiling away hours after work.  I liked it and I thought yeah there's definitely some potential here to be able to create a funny video out of this. A member of their community had created a kind of a camera tool so you could kind of create cinematic-looking shots.  It was a little bit limited but it was you know you could work with it and I was thinking okay you can drive so many different vehicles in this game maybe I can make a kind of a Top Gear spoof.  

As I was having the idea about okay maybe I can try and create a mini-episode, it was around the same time that Jeremy Clarkson was fired from Top Gear for punching that producer.  So because it was extremely topical, I was like okay I've got to make this now so yeah I just yeah worked through the night making this video.  Took a couple of weeks to make.  Was surprisingly short really for one of my productions.  Then it came out and like I say the developers caught wind of it and they Tweeted about it they were developing Just Cause 3 at the moment so they were kind of you know, in the media agenda at that point, and yeah I mean 400,000 views later and however many 1000 subscribers... yeah, I mean it absolutely took off.  Yeah, that was a really crazy experience and that made me really sit up and pay attention to machinima as a format really, that it could do that much really and so...

Tracy Harwood  13:39  
I was gonna say, you may load more of them!

Scott Tanner  13:41  
That's right yeah, yeah.  Obviously with the success of the first one I then tried to make a second one. As anyone who has ever created something that sort of unexpectedly successful knows, following that up is a massive undertaking and it took months to create the next version.  I created like, you know... the first episode took two weeks, the second one - I did like a little series of four episodes - and it just took so much longer to create because I was really concentrating on every little detail when trying to get you know multiple characters in the same shot which is quite difficult to do in that particular game.  So yeah it took ages but yeah I wouldn't say that one's been quite successful but for me personally it was just a nice achievement to finish that and I think there's there's as much humor to be found in the later ones that I did not just the one that went viral.

Tracy Harwood  14:36  
I agree, I mean you clearly have a talent for making some great machinima are you working on any at the moment are you just wholly focused on Cine Guru?

Scott Tanner  14:44  
Well, the moment it's literally just Cine Guru you know.  As I say, the product has just come out and we're really listening to our users and gathering feedback on how they're using it and what they could do with as we look to develop it for Game Guru Max in the future.  But it's definitely, it's definitely an art form I'd like to come back to in some way.

Tracy Harwood  15:04  
Yeah, I was gonna ask you what sort of things will you consider making?

Scott Tanner  15:10  
Well, I did hint at possibly doing another Just Cause Top Gear but in a later game, a more recent game with better graphics but I think that there's, there's a lot more potential beyond that. I'm actually really interested to one day sit down with Unreal Engine and start toying around with that. For me at the moment, what really excites me about machinima, or rather virtual production, I suppose there's like a blurring of the lines at the moment between what you can do in a game engine and as someone who is really interested in visual effects, but has literally wasted years of their life rotoscoping round elements of visual effects shot to get a perfect key, having to do away with green screens and stuff like that, and just being able to get it all in camera like they have done on well, the Mandalorian is the obvious example. Seeing stuff like that is, you know, is really interesting to me and I really want to explore that further. 

I suppose at the other end of the scale, I'm really interested to keep an eye on, you know, I'm really excited by the democratization of machinima tools at the moment. So it used to be incredibly difficult to create this kind of stuff. But now, I mean, Unreal is free. You've got Source Filmmaker, and even the stuff that we're doing with Cine Guru, you know, it's just opening up these possibilities for people who are interested in creating machinima. I mean, I started making films when I was 13 years old. And, you know, I didn't want to make, you know, little films, I wanted to make Indiana Jones, Star Wars The Matrix and of course I had no tools to be able to do something of that scale. So I used to make videos out of Lego. That's how I started. I mean, it was a great learning experience, but extremely primitive. But if I'd had the kind of tools that you know, kids have gotten nowadays, with these machinima filmmaking tools, I mean, who knows what I'd have been able to create. I just think it's a really exciting time to be getting started and seeing that synergy between games and films.

Tracy Harwood  17:01  
Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. Well, on that note, I think we'll sign off and say thank you very much and best of luck. With the ongoing development of Cine Guru. Thank you very much for talking to us.

Scott Tanner  17:15  
Thank you. Cheers.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai