And Now For Something Completely Machinima

Completely Machinima 4.1 Machinima News May 2021

May 06, 2021 Ricky Grove and Phil Rice Season 4 Episode 1
And Now For Something Completely Machinima
Completely Machinima 4.1 Machinima News May 2021
Memories of the first Star Wars Film
Ricky on New Wave Science Fiction
Damien on why he makes Star Wars machinima
Ricky on updates to CC3 and iClone
Tracy on text to speech with emotion
Tracy on VR Storytellers Contest
Phils news on VR course and more
Mass Effect Remastered
Milan Machinima Festival 2022
And Now For Something Completely Machinima
Completely Machinima 4.1 Machinima News May 2021
May 06, 2021 Season 4 Episode 1
Ricky Grove and Phil Rice

And Now For Something Completely Machinima is a podcast devoted to machinima (movies made in game engines). This month (May 2021) we are splitting our 4th podcast into four sections which will post once a week: Machinima News (May 6), Machinima Films (May 13), Machinima Discussion (May 20) along with several interviews which we will publish separately throughout the month. 

Episode 4 was produced by Damien Valentine who is joined by hosts Ricky Grove, Phil Rice, and Tracy Harwood. Contact and Feedback for this show:

Damien and the gang share Star Wars memories, Ricky shares iClone 7.9 update includes Acculips, ExPlus, and Advanced MoCap. Tracy talks about the winners announced for the first virtual storytellers challenge. Phil shares a new year-long VR course. In addition, we cover Mass Effect remastered launches this month, Star Trek adopting the same virtual set technology as the Mandalorian and the Milan Film Festival now accepting submissions


-FIRST PLACE - untitled short by Ben Coello –
-SECOND PLACE - Birds of a Feather by Emanuele Lomello –
-THIRD PLACE - Ghost Town by Ryan Paterson -
-360° VR Filmmaking Masterclass
-Star Citizen

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

And Now For Something Completely Machinima is a podcast devoted to machinima (movies made in game engines). This month (May 2021) we are splitting our 4th podcast into four sections which will post once a week: Machinima News (May 6), Machinima Films (May 13), Machinima Discussion (May 20) along with several interviews which we will publish separately throughout the month. 

Episode 4 was produced by Damien Valentine who is joined by hosts Ricky Grove, Phil Rice, and Tracy Harwood. Contact and Feedback for this show:

Damien and the gang share Star Wars memories, Ricky shares iClone 7.9 update includes Acculips, ExPlus, and Advanced MoCap. Tracy talks about the winners announced for the first virtual storytellers challenge. Phil shares a new year-long VR course. In addition, we cover Mass Effect remastered launches this month, Star Trek adopting the same virtual set technology as the Mandalorian and the Milan Film Festival now accepting submissions


-FIRST PLACE - untitled short by Ben Coello –
-SECOND PLACE - Birds of a Feather by Emanuele Lomello –
-THIRD PLACE - Ghost Town by Ryan Paterson -
-360° VR Filmmaking Masterclass
-Star Citizen

Computer Voice  0:00  
And now for something completely machinima

Damien  0:06  
space, the final frontier and also our theme for this month. And now for something completely machinima May the fourth is a celebration of all things Star Wars and the 25th is the anniversary of the very first film in the series. So we'll be talking about that as the show goes on. Joining me in this voyage across the stars, Tracy Howard. Hello, Phil Bryce. Hey there. And of course, no machinima show is complete without Ricky Grove.

Ricky Grove  0:34  

Damien  0:37  
So, as usual, we'll be covering the latest machinima news. We've got some exciting interviews coming up with Ashley rule. He's she's a cinematic director at Bioware. And she works on Star Wars The Old Republic. And of course, Mark bear, who's the star with the Mass Effect? video games, he first used Commander Shepard and along with many alien characters, so we'll be talking to him later on in the show, because we've got some exciting films to talk about. And we'll be discussing some Machina topics and how sci fi is hotter that

Ricky Grove  1:14  
Star Wars anniversary? Wow.

Damien  1:17  
Yeah. comes up all the time? Well, I guess. But here again, got me the fourth, which is the big day for Star Wars. It's not the actual anniversary, but it became a fan. For event, whether we're doing just to celebrate their love of Star Wars, and of course, Lucasfilm picked up on that and started making it the big event so that any new products or shows or films, announcements, bastard way to do it. So hopefully we get some good stuff for this year. Looking forward to seeing those announcements. Right. And it's hard to believe that Star Wars has been around for so long, I was talking to someone yesterday, and we were discussing how he went to see it. His dad took him to see the original film in the cinema. And then he grew up and took his kids to see the next series. When that came out. And then the whole family have gone to see the more recent films, they will go through the whole group. And it's a whole generational thing that has happened. And I think it's a big part of Star Wars is it appeals to so many different people. Yeah,

Ricky Grove  2:25  
yeah. 1977 was the first Star Wars. And I remember seeing it in Manhattan with a very good friend of mine who loves science fiction and science fiction movies as well. And we were just blown away by the sound and the imagery, we came out all wide eyed, like, wow, I was quite an adventure. It's hard to believe that that film, said universe that was created is still going today, you know, with all of the cultural shifts and changes. And I think that the film had a major impact on on culture, our culture, world culture. And not just because of the fun nature of the film, which Lucas said was trying to do space opera. In fact, I think he was trying to get the rights to Buck Rogers series before he decided he couldn't get the rights. So we decided to make his own Buck Rogers. So it has that connection to pass pulp science fiction, which is really great. That's part of the reason why I think it's had such wide appeal. But the other huge impact at the film and on was the marketing no film has marketed itself better than Star Wars. And not only that, but the all of the items that are associated with it the toys, the plastic, the games, the video games, it just became a phenomenon a world unto itself that you could just safely go into and enjoy and and be thrilled by that's a reason why it's still bringing people to watch the stories today.

I remember it coming out too. But I also remember was it I think it was at the time competing with Greece in the cinema. Hear it here in the UK. And you know as a as a as a teenage whippersnapper. Back in those days, I was given the choice Greece or, and I'm afraid it was Greece because I couldn't persuade my mum to come with me to anything else. About I never actually saw Star Wars in the cinema back in the days.

Phil  4:36  
When I didn't either I the first one that I saw in the series was returned the Jedi. Because that was the first time that my parents ever let me go to a movie theater ever. So I got to see that in our little town in Illinois to single screen theater and went with a friend of mine who had to beg and plead them to let me go so I actually saw the original and airstrikes back, when they were released on HBO, in the early 80s. Shortly around the time that returned the jet, I came to the theater. So I actually saw them in reverse order. And I experienced most of what I knew about the original Star Wars up till that point was through the the commercials for the toys, I would piece together the story. So they would show the commercial for the Death Star playset. And there's Luke swinging across on this plastic rope. And somehow the, the action figure of layers hanging onto him was like, well, that must have happened at some point. I don't know. Then they fall into the trash compactor full of foam and this green plastic monster. And yeah, I was like, really surprised at some of what really happened to the movie by the time I saw it, because I actually was thinking, Well, no, that's not how that went. I saw the commercial and the jawwad play set commercial showed clearly that insane, insane. My grandmother got to go see Star Wars in the theater. And she fell asleep.

We talked about that for decades. Yeah. When she went with her brother, my great uncle, and saw the original Star Wars in the theater and was asleep within 20 minutes. Like just just totally just slept right through it. He was just like, it was the most boring thing ever. 

Damien  6:27  
No matter how popular something is, it's not for everyone. There's always going to be some people's right to parent choice. Right?

Ricky Grove  6:33  
Well, you have to ask those really, you know, my my parents would have been brought up on tour stoppers. No, not space up. Yeah, yeah. So it would be something quite different to them. There was this, you know, I remember as a child really struggling to be allowed to sort of stay up late on a Tuesday night to watch Star Trek. Yeah, that was that was one of the things that we used to love it. And there's no way that we're gonna let me go to see that. No, yeah.

Yeah. I think also the Star Wars was a very effective at its time, because it was so positive. It was so full of fun. Most of the other science fiction movies of the period like to check THX 1138, and Logan's Run and the other they were all dystopian and dark and grim. And I think the sort of just the sheer fun of, of the adventurous nature of the of the story, just appeal to the culture at a time that really needed that they really wanted that.

Damien  7:41  
Yeah, makes a lot of sense. And I think it's one of the reasons why Star Wars is still very popular right now is foreseen, not living in the best of times, and you get shows like the Mandalorian, which is very, it's gonna call that very adventure, positive feel to it. It's got some dramatic moments, because it has to the storytime, please. It's fun. And it's got the excitement and adventure. And I think a lot of people still need that right now. And that's one of the reasons why the show is so popular. Why Star Wars continues to still be so popular.

Ricky Grove  8:12  
Right? Well, you know, it's interesting, Lucas, when he created the that world, he already had looked way ahead and thinking about thinking about his, the other worlds other stories, you know, he had already imagined, I think it was a nine part series, in which was really remarkable people. You just didn't do that, you know, it's almost literary in a way now people in fantasy in particular will, an author will when they do a novel, they will conceive of it as a trilogy, or five, five novels in a group. But you don't often see that in film. course after Star Wars. You saw it all the time in the marketplace. As soon as an open marketplace as soon as something becomes very successful there. Everybody tries to imitate it. But But this movie was more than just being successful. It shifted the culture. Because at the time, science fiction was moving towards written science fiction was moving towards something called new way of science fiction. Headed by authors like Michael Moorcock, and Brian Aldous some jG Ballard. And they were rejecting the old notions of science fiction, they call that old man fiction, and it was from the pulps in which the hero your genders were all prescribed. That was a hero. The hero fought against the villain melodrama Rama in some respects and they rejected all of that and they brought in talking about sexuality. They talked about gender. They talked about politics, which was unheard of in science fiction. And all of that was pushing to the fore. Right when Star Wars came in and said Nope, we're not gonna go down that road, we're gonna go right back to where we were before. So in as much as I love Star Wars, and I still enjoy it very much. It was retro. It was looking backwards instead of forwards in terms of Science and Technology. I mean, you never got, I mean, look at a science fiction series that's out today called the expanse. If you've seen that at all, that's pure politics. That's pure race, that's pure gender. None of that is really dealt with in Star Wars, because that's not what it's about. It's about adventure. It's about bad guys and good guys. And it's about the satisfaction of seeing those bad guys getting taken down, which can it's like, one of those things that you can never get enough of, you know, but it did have a chilling effect on written science fiction and other forms of science fiction that I don't think is acknowledged as much today.

Damien  11:01  
Well, you mentioned the expanse and when the other parts of that is, is also this very heavily on the politics, but the science behind it is all very real as well, the ships, or the physics behind the ship movements and the battles I mean, just have exciting battles in it like Star Wars does, but Star Wars uses all the ships move like world war two planes and fighters and but the, the expanse, when that has battles, they're all done very realistically. So using all the behind the scenes, Miss like they can use in the understanding of space science and astrophysics now, so there's no shields. If bullets fly to the hull of the ship, you get a hole and the oxygen is coming out, which means all the characters on the ships will have flight suits as base suits on when they know they're going to go into fight because they know that it's really dangerous, and I hiji turns can cause injuries and heart attacks. And that's not something that Star Wars ever touches. And it would probably make sense that they didn't because it would ruin the adventure. The adventurous spirit the Star Wars has, but it works for the expense

Phil  12:12  
my son, my son and I, we've over the past year, thanks to COVID been have been working our way a bit at a time through Star Wars, Clone Wars, the animated series, and then now we're now we're on rebels. And he continues to just point out at every opportunity, when like a star destroyer gets hit, that it starts to fall down. He's like, why is it sinking? Where's it going to? You know, it just can't get over that. I try to explain to him, you know, well, George Lucas, his influence was, you know, World War Two dogfights and, you know, naval battles and things like that. And he just took that into space. He's like, it's still stupid. But yeah, we love it.

Damien  12:59  
When Yeah, George was pitching the first film. He was taking old video footage from World War two planes, and putting little laser effects on them to try and illustrate this is how the battle secret is going to look. Right. He's trying to pitch it to various studios. Yeah,

Ricky Grove  13:14  
yeah. Definitely a baby boomer imaginary imagination.

Damien  13:21  
But it certainly changed the world. And I don't think I've know any of you guys who was for Star Wars because it was because of Star Wars going to animation and machinima. So I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for it. Yeah.

Ricky Grove  13:35  
Now you've got a great series chronicles of humanity that you've been consistently adding to. I know Star Wars inspired it what what is it about the Star Wars universe that is so piqued your interest and kept you kept you wanting to create stories that take place in that world?

Damien  13:54  
So I, I can't actually remember the first time I watched there was both parents taped it. And I just watched to take the first one. I've watched it so many times that the actual tape was getting really static and worn out. But I've been that all the way through as long as I can remember, it's always been something I just loved. And as I got older and started becoming aware that this possible is tell stories. I thought well, it'd be interesting to try and tell some stories in Star Wars because I love this film. And I read all the books and played on the video games, and I enjoyed all those other extra stories add. They're not necessarily connected to the films, but they're in the same world. I thought it'd be fun to tell stories in that world. And I was doing a lot of online role playing and started writing stories about my characters and the people I was playing with. They would create stories about their characters and read, so collaborate and do crossover adventures and all that kind of stuff. So then when I discovered animation and filmmaking, I thought This is a perfect opportunity to take my love of storytelling and Star Wars, and see what I can do in a sort of video format. And that's kind of really how I got started with it. And I can't really put it down to one specific thing about Star Wars I love so much. It's just something. It's always been there for me. And I think it will be there for quite some time.

Phil  15:22  
Now the one you're working on now Damon is not chronicles of humanity that that one was a different series that it was still sci fi in nature, but the one you're working on now is an actual its heir to the Empire, I believe it's called an it's an actual adaptation of one of those Star Wars novels like with with some very recognizable characters in there. Is that right?

Damien  15:45  
Yeah, that's right. So going back to Calculus, right, just briefly is, I did a lot of Star Wars fan films. And that taught me a lot about filmmaking. But then I got to a point where you're asked to create my own thing. So then, I knew that I love sci fi, and the space battles and all that kind of drama that goes along with that. But I wanted to tell my own story. So I did that. Then there's kind of this revival of Star Wars in the last few years, which is draw me back into Star Wars, filmmaking. So I finished all the critical smarty stories I had to tell. And I was thinking about my next project. And I wanted to do something short that I could experiment with and try and improve by craft my understanding of I clone and produce better results. So I was looking at my bookshelf, and there was the book heir to the Empire on the shelf. And I've read this book many times. And I've got several copies of it, because the first one is really tatty. Now. So, look, I thought the first chapter of this is a space battle, and the short conversation between to different characters as the battle is happening around them, and they're just kind of talking about it, I thought this would be an ideal test platform for the short project idea I wanted to do. So I took it off the shelf, and I read it again. Yep, this is exactly what I can do. There's a first part of it doesn't really work as a video, because it's the captain of the Star Destroyer. And he's kind of despairing at the state of the Empire. And I thought, is not going to talk to himself on the bridge of the ship. Because that's going to completely discouraged, is men who are there doing their duty. And he's got this whole internal monologue and doesn't really fit the style or style. So I kind of cut that bit out and went straight to the space battle. I made it and it was a fun little project. And I put it out on YouTube thinking, Well, some people might enjoy this. And then the response was a lot bigger than I thought. And I saw you get lots of comments about, are you going to make more of this? And I think, well, I wasn't planning to. Yeah, I could go on telling how that all happened. But yeah, that's basically how that started. And I've continued making more, as we call this, I've raised up to chapter 12. Right?

Ricky Grove  18:07  
Oh, that's so great. I'm so glad you're finally getting some recognition for all of your hard work. Now, over the years, you've changed your platforms for creating the films, right, what are you using? Currently,

Damien  18:18  
I'm using purely icon for my projects at the moment. I prefer that the power that it gives me over video games, because you get a lot more control of the characters. And you can bring in your own content a lot more easily than you can with games, especially more modern games, where the developers are more reluctant to allow modding because they want to produce a sequel and sequels by itself. So whether people are still playing the previous one. But yeah, that's all I got to say about the moment. I've used moviestorm as well as a platform I stuck with for a long time.

Ricky Grove  18:59  
How many more episodes have you got lined up?

Damien  19:04  
There's 32 chapters in the book. So there's about 20 to go.

Phil  19:08  
So we've got one chapter.

Damien  19:11  
Yeah. And there's two more books in the trilogy.

Phil  19:14  

Damien  19:18  
I'll try not to think how long it's gonna take me to get to that last chapter, the last book.

Ricky Grove  19:23  
You'll be in an old age home when you're working on that last episode.

Damien  19:29  
Yeah, and then I got lots of people saying, are you going to do this other book? Because there's so many Star Wars books. Again, lots of requests for all these other books. And one of the most popular ones is a series of 19 books. Oh, Mike. I know, I'm not gonna do that. Yeah. Yeah, it's a little bit too much, I think.

Tracy Harwood  19:49  
But he'll ever get fed up with stolz. Um,

Damien  19:53  
there are times when I feel like I'm a bit Star Wars doubt. So I'll get away from it. And then Come back to it, you know, a year or so later, as one of the reasons I moved away from it and did my own series Chronicles matches, because I've done four part Star Wars fan film series over a number of years and then wasn't really enjoying the new content that's coming out. And so I'm just gonna set this aside and then do my own thing. And I think that was really good. That good to have to break. But then of course, I came back to Star Wars. So I don't know if we'll ever get to a point where I never want to see Star Wars, anything again. But there might come a point where I'm a Flipside for why and then come back to it later on.

Ricky Grove  20:36  
Yeah, I feel the same way.

Damien  20:40  
So it's not just about me in Star Wars. We've got some other news to talk about as well. Right. Ricky, I believe there's an update to I claim that you would like to talk about,

Ricky Grove  20:51  
oh, yeah, I cloned 7.9 update. In addition to fixing bugs and adding more flexibility to the overall program, they included three aspects that are just leaps and bounds ahead of anything they had before, which is unusual, because you usually get a major update. And when there's a number change, not when there's a sub number change. So 7.9, you'd expect to be have major updates in version eight. But for some reason, I think because the nature of the business now there's a subscription model. I think they've they're just putting everything when it comes. But enough of that the three main additions are Accu lips, which is an entirely new algorithm for lip sync. x plus facial animation, which is another way that they always had good facial puppeteering and facial animation. But this just kicks it up another level of control. And then the using Apple's arc program to do live facial capture using an iPhone or an iPad. Now have those three the most the I've experimented with all of them, except for the last one because I don't own an iPad. I mean an iPhone, although the videos there's incredible videos about how to set it up. But the thing that I was most impressed was the Accu lips, lips, lips sank. You can do record a voice include the voice, text to speech. And the process the workflow for it is that you for most machinima filmmakers, they want to bring in their own recordings. So you bring in a segment of your recording, you pull up the app, there's a whole new goi interface for it. You input it on the selected character, and you can only do it with the more recent characters. And it gives you the WAV file and then you can it will automatically take the spoken word and convert it to text. And then on that text, it puts the text the vising. The little malformations connected with each word is centered right on the on the timeline. So you can easily see what Vaizey is associated with the text. And they're easily manipulated right on the timeline, you can shorten it, you can adjust it, you can click it, change it to another vising. And the thing that I was most impressed with is the level of detail. They included something called talking styles, which I think is really smart. Now when I say talking styles, they have tried to get the quality of lip movement from different kinds of speakers, like somebody who's impatient, or somebody who mumbles or somebody who's whispering, or somebody who's yelling, they have 14 of these talking styles. And each vising can be adjusted individually in terms of its intensity. So as you go through the the waveform and you see the lip movements, you can adjust them individually. Now in my experiments, it was about 80 to 90% successful and it was very easy to do. I had a good working lip sync in 15 minutes. And I mean this these lip syncs are lightyears ahead of the previous ones especially on jaw movement. Because a lot of times when you see older lip sing, the jaws open too wide. You know what I mean? And it suddenly gives you takes you out of the lip sing So I was very impressed with that cue lips, it's part of the 7.9 update, I am not going to go into detail on the facial animation, but you can puppet, the facial animation in layers. So for example, if you just want to do the eyes, for the animation, you I would, I would suggest doing lip sync first, and then do facial animation afterwards. And you can do the eyes, you can do eyebrows, cheeks, you can do the overall expression, and do layers of four or five different layers to get the quality of the animation you want. 

And then also they also have faces, or our or emotional attitudes that you can choose. So if someone is an angry speaker, you can use the perhaps the yelling, lip sync plus an angry looking face. So they already set it up really nicely for you and they're easy to use. I like them a lot. And then, interestingly, at the same time, roughly that this is released real illusion, who has supported machinima Forever Young, reals epic, released meta human, which is their new version of lip sync and facial animation. Now the distinction I think between the two is that real illusion is is for people who are making films and they don't, it's not their full time job. So they don't have all day to spend on one speech. They just want to get the job done. They want to look good machinima, filmmakers, amateur filmmakers, the meta human technologies for professional filmmakers. Although I'm sure somebody with enough work could learn it. It has got an entirely pro workflow. The learning curve is fairly steep to get to learn it, there's tons and tons of YouTube videos on how to do it. And they're there. They're actually a step above real illusions work. So if you want to use the Unreal Engine for machinima, and you want it to be absolutely realistic, the meta human is the way to go because it it is directly connected to the Unreal Engine. But but the distinction is is that the real illusion actually lips, and the epics meta human one is for the general filmmaker. And the other one is for the pro filmmaker, but I, I like them a lot. Very, very much, Ricky the end the last. The last thing I wanted to say was that I just came away from an Nvidia press conference, because they have the graphics technology conferences next week. And I want to let everybody know that the Nvidia omniverse beta is definitely going to happen within the next two months. It'll be an open beta. They've been working on the application, it's all set to go. Okay.

Damien  28:01  
I'm looking forward to giving that a try. And I think we'll be covering that when it's available. Indeed, Phil,

Ricky Grove  28:07  
you had a question? I'm sorry to interrupt you there.

Phil  28:09  
Yeah, the the the update the the components of icon that you were talking about AQI lips and x plus and etc? Am I understanding it right that those are included in an update to the main program? Or are those new add ons that have to be purchased?

Ricky Grove  28:27  
included with the updates to the main program, part of the iPhone 7.9. Update, great. And of course, they have interoperability with character creator. So you can create a character and character creator bring it over an icon and of course, automatically, the Accu lips and the x plus facial animation works perfectly. I'm working on an experiment now to try to I've been using a 2d character from Adobe Character Animator, as my narrator for my weekly news videos for renderosity. And I'm working on moving over to I cologne with 3d character. And I'll let you know how that turns out. So far, it's it's working really well.

Damien  29:11  
I've given the AccuLyps I've been experimenting with it as well. And lip sync in icon is, is a powerful, it was fairly powerful before but it's a process I really did not enjoy because to get the best results, what I would do is just delete the entire generated lipstick and then go back and do it all from scratch. And it's a process that would take hours for a scene. And of course, yeah, it became a point where characters are wearing helmets or had no robot characters or, you know, stormtroopers or whatever. They would be my favorite characters to animate.

Ricky Grove  29:48  
Yeah, well, I thought we'll be very happy with the results of the new accurate lips because yeah, my experiments was 80 to 90%. So I don't think you're gonna have to wipe out the entire lip sync. You'll just pull Those obvious by XIM mistakes that the algorithm made.

Damien  30:05  
And one of the things I liked was it creates this a, there's a dictionary of words that it can pick up on. And if you've got some dialogue that's not in the dictionary, you can program that in. That's a process that takes just a couple of seconds to put in the, the family members for that word, and you can save it. So the next time that word comes up in your project, it will know exactly what to do.

Ricky Grove  30:27  
Yeah, that's one thing I wish they would have included, which is a profile. For example, to give you all of these generic profiles, it would be great if you could save a profile of combinations of them, that you've customized, and say, This is the, you know, john, profile that has mumbling and this and that. And I think it would be easier for you that way, you don't have to create a new one every time you start.

Damien  30:59  
It makes it a good use tool.

Ricky Grove  31:01  
I was gonna ask you, I was reading something. I did a talk a couple of weeks ago, where I where I was talking about this as speech to text, and then the text into animation, where emotion through AI was being inferred from the words Is that the kind of tech that's embedded in the tools that you're talking about here,

you have much more detail on being able to record and gesture on that lip sync. This time, it makes it much easier. So it's not a general that that sort of general AI and the AI and decides what the emotion is, is a much larger Canvas than this one. This is much more detail. Better for filmmakers, I think

Damien  31:51  
you I think having given the director the control of the emotion is makes it more powerful, because that is now picking up on it. It'll be an impressive piece of AR technology, but it may pick up the wrong emotion from the scene that the director might want. So yeah, sounds like a very impressive update for iCloud. And I think it's going to change the way people use iCloud and make it a lot easier, especially getting the lip sync because as I said, it's a very long and tedious process. At least it used to be. And I can see why that it may put some people off, go into that much trouble. I did play around a little bit and something that took half an hour to do before I did in minutes. And I can see that Yeah. I think it's gonna definitely helped me a lot in in my projects, and I can't wait to

Ricky Grove  32:45  
real illusion has always been very supportive of the machinima community in the 2006 documentary I did in of the machinima festival. That was I should pull this up for our blog. But there are pictures of john Martin and his brother James for the first time showing I clone the first version of it. They were right there. They

Damien  33:09  
sponsored the the, you know, the cutting windows demo discs. You know, the demo just getting away of I claim one. I still got my copy of that somewhere. Yeah.

Ricky Grove  33:24  
And they've been very innovative in their over the years they've expanded. They've, their technology is really good. That just got better and better. Yeah.

Damien  33:34  
Next, because the release of updating, I can't get better than this. And they announced what the next thing is. Oh, that's gonna be really exciting. So to keep an eye on what will they do next? So Tracy, there's some. Yes, so the contest?

Ricky Grove  33:51  
Yeah. This is a little bit of an insider contest, I think actually. So. So this is the the winners of a virtual production for storytellers challenge, which has recently been announced now is, it's a result of an invitation only course which was hosted by unreal and artstation. And the aim of it really was to test an idea of could or could a group of pros without any unreal experience, start creating cinema quality scenes in five weeks, with a little bit of input from industry experts. And these guys, they were given two themes on which to base their story developments. One was something they called environment, the discovery and the other was a vehicle or about a race or the race. And there were 68 teams entered and 41 who completed the challenge and of the ones that were top listed all had selected. from as far as I could tell, the environment and discovery thing, which I think is quite interesting, but perhaps not surprising, really, given the the types of assets that are being used in Unreal with these kinds of challenges at the moment. Now the participants themselves, I would say are clearly more clearly pro their special effects people, visual effects producers, rather than machinima folks, which, you know, when you see the work that's actually produced, you kind of you kind of think, well wonder what machinima folks would have actually done with this, as I suspect, they probably would have done a little bit more. But I do think what you're seeing here is a continuing quite interesting developments and something that we've talked several times about on the show now, which is to do with an unreal, fairly significant and commitment to in to investing in a community of, of creators. or be it, you know, clearly what they're doing here is targeting the pros, not the Indies. Now, the three films that that were in the top three that won the challenge, it's worth having a little look at these just to see what you think about why they may have won it. The first one, the one that the one actually won, it was by a guy called Ben Coelho. And it's just a minute long, short of a soldier on this kind of strange planet. And, to me what it looks like it's it's clearly about lighting and textures, which are the key to this, there's not a lot going on, it's just, you know, a really good kind of strong visual quality, typical special effects type thing. The second one was by Emanuel lamella, for little short, that he called birds of a feather, and it's about a robot on an abandoned world, which does have quite a bit more of a story to it. And I think that's quite an interesting example of what you can do with these with these tools. And the third one, interesting, but not not particularly well done. I didn't think really, this the third one was by a guy called Ryan Patterson, and it was called ghost town. And it's sort of a surrealist style short set in a partially immersed world, no dialogue, not a very clear story, but you can kind of see the beginnings, you can see the beginnings in all three, I think, the second one for me would have been the first one, if I'd have been one of the judges. Now, it was a it was a privately hosted event, if you like. And there is going to be another one later on this year, which, you know, I would encourage people to have a look at more seriously. But in addition to that, there is this virtual production primer, which gives newbies to unreal, a taster tutorial. Again, I think we've mentioned this in the past, we'll put it in the, in the show notes, in terms of the tutorial introduction to the creative pipeline, that they're, you know, that they're promoting. And as I said, it's, it's clearly raising the bar here for both indies and pros, clearly aimed at pros, not Indies. And I think that by by sort of doing that, then missing a trick, really, which is the greatness of the stories that come out of that indie world. It's clear that the skills are there in terms of the special effects, but they're lacking stories in, you know, in something which has been badged as a storytelling,

competition or a contest. So there you go. There's my little update on winners announced for the first virtual production, the storytellers challenge.

I watched them all. They have the the first three winners, plus they have special mentions, And then you can click through and watch all the rest of them. And they're, they're really, really good. We'll make sure we put a link to all of those. Now, contrary to Tracy, I enjoyed number three, the ryan Patterson goes down, mostly because of its strangeness. But then again, we've talked about my love of originality. I really like I really liked number two, though, and if I was a judge, I would have picked that one the small. You have this interesting little almost baby robot going around this sort of odd, almost apocalyptic world, or a world where there aren't any people in it. And it explores interacting with other machines by repeating their sounds back to them. It's just a really sort of touching thing that's going on.

Yeah, I thought that was the most The most clever of the three Yeah.

And the number one that one add to it had to have won it on technical grounds because it was very beautiful, but there was just nothing to it. But the second one, I had some beautiful visuals in it, it's hard to believe that it was only made in five weeks, you know. And epic has released the virtual production, primer two. So there's a number one and there's a number two. And it's not just a book, it's a whole course that you can take. So if you want to learn about virtual production, which is essentially machinima production, possibly at a higher professional level, but it's machinima production, you can take the course and go right through it, the whole thing, probably take you a week or so to get through it. But it's just really well laid out. I loved all these phones, I thought they were great. I just wish more people would be creating things in Unreal. space, space, machinima would be really well done in Unreal. In fact, one of the things I did while we were prepping for this episode is I went to the marketplace. And I was just doing science fiction or space, there are so many great things you can do. And a lot of them are free, that if you wanted to create a space story, you'd have everything you needed, right there, were at that very low cost or for free, I'd say for 100 bucks, you can have all the materials you need to make excellent and interesting space story straight out of unreal, including the effects.

Damien  41:33  
Yeah, I haven't had a chance to sit down and watch all of those things in the challenge. But once I have seen it, I've been very impressed by what unreal can do and what the people using it been able to achieve. So I look forward to having a sit down and being able to enjoy more of those films. Right. So Phil, I believe you also had some use he wants to share.

Phil  41:56  
Yeah, I've just got a couple quick items. There's a company called True bones, it's been around for quite a while they they make or they sell mocap animations, which can be there in the you know, common format like BVH that type of format that can be brought into Unity or Unreal Engine or I clone, even das or even higher end platforms like Maya or cinema 4d, this there is a standard for for mo cat files. And this company has been providing those for quite a few years. Most of them very low cost. And they've got a special going right now. Where everything in their catalog that is normally priced for just two bucks, is free. And there's a there's a specific code that you use at checkout, they've already got a number of items in there that are priced as free. And then on top of that anything in the $2 bracket is also free for a limited time. So we will be sure to include a link to the page on their site, which shows the code to use at checkout right there. I thought that was pretty neat. One of the harder pieces of content to create yourself when you're doing a solo mission when production is the mo cap. Even if you've got the gear for it. There's as Damian will attest because he's, I think the only one of us for with direct experience trying to do some of that is, you know, a lot of times the motion capture data is what they call dirty, you know, needs some cleanup before it's usable. So it's not jiggy and whatnot. So and yeah, so an effective way to do that sometimes for certain purposes is to purchase mo cat files from there that have hopefully already been cleaned up and are in usable shape. And it's it's, it's just a nice solution. So yeah, they've got that special going on right now at true bones. And then the other thing I wanted to mention was in Episode Two of our podcast, the the long one we talked about Ricky primarily talked about the prospect of making 360 degree videos or you know, filmmaking in VR or 360. And it just so happens that I found this week, there is a company is called creator up. And they've got a whole bunch of different types of courses and classes related to generally related to filmmaking. Not so much machinima per se, but they do have one class in particular that is the title of the class is 360 degree VR filmmaking masterclass. And the instructors on the class, it basically unfolds over a period of about it looks like about a year and there are different modules, five of which are ready now and then they've got a schedule for how the rest of them will be released over the coming year. And It's some pretty seasoned pros who are involved in being instructors for the course, the price is 299. Which which, which is enough to make make quite a few volks Blanche, I'm sure, however, my thinking and even mentioning it because normally we try to focus on low cost stuff or no cost stuff. You know, because quite frankly, most of us are hobbyists, we're not making income from this. So we need, we need things to be as affordable as possible. But my thinking on this in mentioning it was anybody who is serious about doing 360 degree filmmaking or VR filmmaking, they've already invested a significant amount in the gear to make that happen. So maybe to them to folks who are invested in that in that way, you know, spend 300 bucks for a masterclass on it might not be the worst idea in the world, you know, it might actually be a good way to make the most of what you've already spent on the equipment. So that's, that's why I thought I'd mention it. We've got a post on our blog that details it. And I'll we'll be sure that that's linked in the notes for the show as well.

Damien  46:08  
Thank you, Phyllis. Yeah, thank you. So some excellent news pieces. Now I'm definitely gonna check out the true bones theme, because, as you said, I do like to have my own unique motion capture. But the cleanup process can be very tricky. And if I just need some more basic emotions, having an extra selection available to me will be really good. So I'll be checking that out. And we'll include all the links to that in the show notes. Some other news I'm going to cover briefly this month on the 14th Mass Effect, remastered launches. And normally we don't cover video game used like this. But this is a special series for the machinima community because a lot of our members did actually go to work for Bioware on the those games and later on Dragon Age as well. So this is a great way to check out their work and see what they did. And it's got Gordian hearts defects and about gameplay updates to make it work on a little bit more user friendly, like the makers, easier to drive and things like that. So that's definitely worth checking out. And of course, we have Mark Mir joining us later for for an interview. Yeah, so that's definitely worth having a look at. Moving on Star Trek. There's a big lot of Star Trek announcements recently. And they said that they will be adopting the same virtual sets, unreal technology that the Mandalorian uses for all of their upcoming shows.

Phil  47:45  
Makes perfect sense. It's a great fit.

Damien  47:48  
Yeah. And they actually had a trailer for Star Trek discovery. And because of this virtual set technology, they are actually able to release a new season this year, even though the most recent one has only just finished about a month or two ago, because this unreal technology has really improved their production time. Because previously, discovery had a year over a year long gap between each season. And now they've cut it down to a very specific date, but it's definitely happening this year. And the trailer, so some really fantastic results. And they had someone working on that behind the scenes thing, doing a little talk. And they said, because they're using this technology, it means that they can now use the colors green and blue in their designs to be on screen without having to worry that having a green alien is gonna appear headless, because the green screen behind them has made them transparent. So they're looking forward to bring more colorful designs for the costumes and aliens and other props and whatever else they're planning to do. And I think that'll be exciting to see what they do with that.

Ricky Grove  48:55  
Yeah, I think the actors are going to be very happy about it too, because they're going to get a more of a sense of what the world that they're in the situation that they're in. It'll help their imaginations, I oftentimes Think back to many of the actor studio actors who came to Hollywood and worked on the original outer limits. If you remember, Martin Landau was one of the actors who was in it. And imagine them trying to work perfectly with that acting technique, because it's all about visualizing and imagining things. But why wouldn't have been great to be actually see it so you could have a reaction to what it is as opposed to working on something from your imagination, you know, that slippery, it might work. It might not, but I love those early. Who was it? Gosh. Anyway, there were quite a few really important actors in those Outer Limits series. And I'm always marveled at ability to be able to cope with the science fiction elements of it. One very famous actor, his name just escapes me, did a two parter and the first part, they were their their normal cells. And then the second part, they were in this incredible alien, fallen latex makeup. And I and and they were even better as the alien and I kept wondering, having gone through that experience myself, it's really hard to act with all of that stuff on your face. You You have to over emote in order to make them the foam latex. be expressive? Do you know what I mean? How did they do that in those days? Well, anyway, that's a little aside, but I'm sure they're going to be really happy with the new production virtual production technique, it's going to make their imaginations much better.

Damien  50:53  
Yeah, they were talking about that. And it's going great because they can react to, like you said, they can react to things. And though all the actors will know exactly where to look at, because sometimes you'll be watching something and they've got the CGI background and the CGI monster or whatever. And they're looking in the general direction, but they're not necessarily looking exactly the same place, because their imaginations were obviously all different. But this way, they can all look exactly the right place and know exactly, exactly the time was gonna be perfect for them, because it will be happening for all of them. And I'm excited to see the results of that the trailer look fantastic, and interesting to see what else they do with it. And I believe it's going to be used in all of the upcoming Star Trek shows, which is discovery because and strange new worlds. Excellent. And the other virtues of that is, it's very safe for the actors, which is something that is a lot of them must be quite worried about at the moment with COVID is that you don't need so many people on set there because it's a small, is it. But the room is fairly large. You don't need a lot of film crew in there. So it's safer for everyone in there as well, which is nice to see that as well.

Phil  52:06  
Plus the Plus they don't need to send the the actors into space anymore, 

Ricky Grove  52:13  
which has resulted in some fatalities, you know.

Damien  52:18  
I did see on that note, the Tom Cruise wanted to make a space film and actually take the crew up into space to do it. And I believe they're in talks on how to figure that out. Well, I

Ricky Grove  52:29  
thought they were ready. I thought they'd already signed a deal with with musk. Oh, maybe he was gonna not with him and everything. I thought I read that I

Phil  52:36  
thought I was.

Tracy Harwood  52:37  
I can't wait to see that

Damien  52:39  
dream, but I would I want to see it too. Yeah, I do too.

Ricky Grove  52:42  
Yeah, I think I you know, I would love to see a war film in which they actually have war. You know, they actually kill people in it and shoot and blow real bombs. I want to see that level of real by the way. Robert Duvall was the actor I was thinking of in Outer Limits and he did a two parter call the inheritors. And in the second part, he was just extraordinary.

Damien  53:07  
The final piece of news, we talked about it last month is the Milan Film Festival, which happened recently is already accepting submissions for the next festival. We'll include that. If you'd like the sound of it last month. Well, now you can submit your films to it. We will include the notes in the show notes for the link so you can go check it out.

Phil  53:28  
Damien Do you do or Tracy or whoever Do you remember for the Milan machinima film festival? Am I am I remembering right that they they did specify that it should be made with video games. And so would that mean that that something created just with a clone or you know, a non game tool like that? Probably wouldn't wouldn't qualify? Well, I

Ricky Grove  53:51  
I think that might well be the case. But probably check that out. Because I also remember reading I think that even second count, which is an interesting that is an interesting development

and has to account because they featured a second life filmmaker. Yes. As one of their filmmakers. Yeah,

Phil  54:10  
well, anyway, uh, yeah, all kidding aside, I actually, if I could manage to find the time to to finish a film this year. I do. I do plan to enter because I've got I've got a short plan that is that would be using a video game that might work well there. So anyway, we'll see. Yeah.

Computer Voice  54:33  
And now for something completely machinima.

Damien  54:37  
So that's the news coverage for this month. Hope you found it interesting. If you want to read any more about these stories, be sure to check out the show notes. You'll find all the relevant links in there with more details and more things and then we could possibly cover ourselves. Thank you very much for listening and may the force be with you.

Transcribed by

Memories of the first Star Wars Film
Ricky on New Wave Science Fiction
Damien on why he makes Star Wars machinima
Ricky on updates to CC3 and iClone
Tracy on text to speech with emotion
Tracy on VR Storytellers Contest
Phils news on VR course and more
Mass Effect Remastered
Milan Machinima Festival 2022