Completely Machinima 8.1 Machinima News, September 2021
In this episode, Ricky, Tracy and Damien discuss latest news items relevant to machinima creators, including Reallusion’s lip sync and other machinima relevant film contests, Leadhead’s fascinating Youtube video backstories of classic games, Max Payne’s 20th birthday, Quake’s re-release celebrating its 25th birthday, Cascadeur software, Ricky’s Nightmare Puppeteer series, YouTube Shorts and Valve’s impending release of Steamdeck.
machinima, game, videos, interesting, iclone, film, puppeteer, play, creator, prizes, create, animation, lip sync contest, contest, darth vader, damien, called, phil, talking, youtube
Damien Valentine, Tracy Harwood, ANFSCM, Ricky Grove, Phil Rice
And Now For Something Completely Machinima
Ricky Grove 00:08
Hey everybody, this is Ricky Grove. I'm here with the And Now For Something Completely Machinima podcast. By God, we're still here. We're still charging ahead and we're still doing it. Right guys?
Tracy Harwood 00:22
Ricky Grove 00:24
That's great. Why don't you introduce yourselves and let us know who's here today. And
Tracy Harwood 00:31
I'm Tracy Harwood. I'm a professor of digital culture at an Institute of Creative Technologies and also director of an Art AI Festival in Leicester.
Ricky Grove 00:43
And an awesome person too
Tracy Harwood 00:45
Thank you. Yes!
Damien Valentine 00:47
I'm Damien Valentine, longtime machinima creator, currently working on Star Wars fan series called Heir to the Empire and I'm a cosplayer as well. So I'm currently working on the goat costumes that we're going to be wearing.
Ricky Grove 01:05
harping on that, I got to see them. And I'm Ricky Grove, I am a retired bookseller, and machinima vet. I've been involved in lots of machinima films, both as an actor and as doing sound. I've also was deeply involved in the community for a long, long time, ran a big festival of machinima, virtual festival and second life. And I'm happy to be back here discussing machinima with my two favorite people. Now, in terms of favorite people, we're missing Phil Rice again, this week, I'm sorry to inform you. He's just unable to appear for other commitments and things that are going on with him. We miss you Phil. And we'll hopefully we'll get to see you again really soon.
Damien Valentine 01:56
We always miss him.
Ricky Grove 01:58
All right, we're gonna go right into our news segment. I'll kick it off. I'd like to mention that Reallusion has a lip sync contest in collaboration with Replica Studios. Using Character Creator and Audio2Face is another option as well. Now, this contest goes through September 20th. It's a really great contest with some fantastic prizes. Now, Damien, I know you've already entered yours. Or at least, you've been sharing some of the work you've been doing. What's it been like?
Damien Valentine 02:32
Um, yeah, I finished it. And I submitted it in it was interesting project because I was recreating a scene... Of course, it's me so it has to be a Star Wars scene. So when is the scene when Darth Vader reveals to Luke Skywalker and says, 'Luke, I'm your father'. And I thought it's one of the most famous moments in cinema history. So that's the one I was going to go for. And I know that I'm cheating a little bit because Darth Vader doesn't have a face. Yeah. Which made his lip sync, very easy to do. But Luke's got the when Luke reacts, he's got a very distinctive reaction to his face is kind of lopsided, I'm not going to try and do it for you guys to see but it's kind of lopsided its obviously very miserable and starts shouting, no, that's not true. That's impossible. And there's lots of means about it. So I thought I have to get this just right. Because that is the real test of glory, iClone's ability. So that's what I did. And I thought, wow, Archie, I know I feel uncomfortable just having Darth Vader and no, nothing there. So I recreated James Earl Jones in icons, character creator, I use the headshot plugin to get his face. So he looks like himself and his little box, as if he's in the recording studio doing the voiceover separately. So you can see up beside Darth Vader in the scene.
Ricky Grove 03:57
Yeah, well, that's very smart. You know, I think that's a really great of Reallusion and smarter them to do a lip sync contest, especially after they've upgraded their iClone with new lip sync capabilities, which are really, really good, they'd be 100% better than it was before. And I think one of the things they wanted to do is create situation just as you described. So people are, are, are put in a situation where they have to become creative. And it's great to see that you're doing that. That's cool.
Damien Valentine 04:30
Thank you very much.
Ricky Grove 04:32
They have broken it up into several different categories: comedy, singing, movie music, video, storytelling, improvisation, talk show, rap, and they're going to offer prizes for each one of those and the prizes are very significant. So congratulations to Reallusion. And if you're looking to enter in a contest, machinima filmmakers, this is the one to do it in. So And definitely check it out.
Damien Valentine 05:02
You can submit up to three videos. [Oh, thank you. Yeah, I'd forgotten that.] Yeah, so good... I thought was just gonna be one. So I did this one style was wonderful. I found out I could do two more if I want to do and I haven't done it yet, because I'm not sure what to do. But if anyone's listening to this and want to do it, you can give yourself three chances to win.
Ricky Grove 05:21
Excellent. And the deadline is September 20. So you got plenty of time.
Ricky Grove 05:27
Um, a couple other things I wanted to talk about briefly. One is is I in it's interesting, YouTube has become my sort of television now. And I end up watching the news and just, you know, fiddling around looking for interesting things. And I came across a YouTube channel by a man named Leadhead. And he specializes in talking about the backstories of a variety of games. And he did an excellent one on Half Life, called Half Life: A Larger Puzzle that has over 200,000 views. It's his musings and ideas and thoughts on the whole backstory behind half life that leads into half life too. And it's very funny. It's a there's a little bit of irony in it. It's it's a kind of Let's Play video that I call explanatory Let's play video where it becomes a kind of personal essay on the on the game. He's done several other games like Prey, Deus Ex, Far Cry 3 and a couple others. It's entertaining, but it also gets you to thinking about the game. And I think that's really cool. My only complaint was that I wish he would do it with a few more contemporary games. He tends to do games that are older than about 10 years. But I'd love to see him jump in on some some of the newer stuff. Anyway, Leadhead is excellent.
Ricky Grove 06:56
And speaking of games, I have noticed that indie games have, obviously the market for indie games with Unreal and Unity is huge. I mean, there are hundreds of 1000s of indie games that are created every year, but just like fiction, or film, 90% of them are just not very good at all. And some of them are just absolutely insane. And one of the insane indie games that I came across recently was called Heal Hitler. Aside from being a very bad joke, it puts you in a kind of conundrum. If you could travel backward in time, would you kill baby Hitler before you ever did anything wrong? In this case, you get to psychoanalyze Hitler and convince him not to do all the terrible things that he ended up doing. Now, aside from the fact that it's a subject, because of his connection with the Holocaust, and the deaths of millions of millions of people, that just simply is not a game worthy subject. I mean, certainly, you can do it, because there's no holds barred for anybody who wants to create anything. But I mean, if you want to be a successful game creator, I can't think of a worse subject to take on. I mean, it reminds me of a bizarre game that came out about 15 years ago. That puts you in the situation of Lee Harvey Oswald in the Texas Book Depository with a gun shooting the president. That's the game, you get to shoot the president. And then if you do hit him, it cuts to a close up of his brain exploding in the car turning around. Well, obviously, this game didn't last more than two days before people were just outrages and it's become abandonware. But again, it's the kind of thing where if you want to make a game, and you want to do something that's going to be successful, why choose a subject like that, I mean, it's just, it's just nuts. But if you're crazy and you want to Heal Hitler, Heal Hitler's a good game to jump in on.
Ricky Grove 09:18
Also, I wanted to mention that max... Speaking of good games, Max Payne was released on July 23 2001, 20 years ago. I want to wish a big Happy Birthday to Max Payne. Sam Lake and James McCaffrey, who both played Max Payne because went into three series have an anniversary mastery message in a short YouTube film that we will link to, which talks about the background of this great game. I remember very distinctly playing Max Payne Did either of you by Max Payne at all when..?
Damien Valentine 09:57
I played the first one and I really enjoyed it.
Ricky Grove 09:59
Me too. But the interesting thing is, I think memory is really an indicator of whether of the quality of something, and my memory is less on bullet time, which was a big thing where when you start to shoot, it went in slow motion, which they borrowed from Hong Kong cinema, by the way. I think less of that technic, technical innovation, and the incredible background work that they did at the City of New York. I still have memories of wandering in this wintry New York City, where the snow is not all white, but it's gray and mushy. And your footsteps have that sort of wet sound that you have when you're walking through wet snow. And the sound effects in the background. I remember the landscape of the place more than the actual game. But here's to you, Max Payne, a lot of people made some interesting machinima in it. And I prefer the first one, as opposed to the later ones. But congratulations, you guys did a terrific, terrific, terrific job.
Ricky Grove 11:13
And I'd also like to mention that I am happily playing Diablo 2: Resurrected beta, which started on August 20. The full release of the reworking of this classic role playing game is out on September 23. It has updated cutscenes, which are absolutely fantastic. Also, the improved graphics, they they use a modern graphics engine, so you have this sense of three dimensionality to it. There's all sorts of interesting effects. The gameplay is better. I'm just I'm loving it. I'm really happy to be there. Plus, I think Diablo 2 was an outstanding game. Very smart, a really great background. And one of the things I'd like to recommend any machinima filmmakers listening is that if you press the F key, if you're on a PC, it brings you into sort of medium shot or wherever you are. And I've done that several times in there some... It looks great for one thing, but it's its prime material for some sort of machinima film. Because you can't control any of it. But it's so interesting, you can move the camera around, and you can move your character around. But I think you could come up with some happy accidents and, and do some really interesting things. I think it would be a lot of fun.
Ricky Grove 12:34
And then lastly, I'd like to mention that I am doing a series of articles for three months called 12 Weeks with Nightmare Puppeteer for the company that I worked for Renderositymagazine.com. I am in my fourth episode, which every Tuesday and they go live. And what I do is I take the reader through the process of learning Nightmare Puppeteer both the positive and negative aspects of it in creating machinima. And last week, we did a thing on character creation, including the new USB import for Nightmare Puppeteer. I'm having an interesting time doing it because Nightmare Puppeteer is designed to do essentially non realistic machinima - primarily music videos, that's what it's really scoped to do. But I am actually trying to do a sort of realistic take on it. And I really like that. It's harder. But in a way it I learned a lesson when I was in college, when in the theatre department when I started out, there was a great designer who was very, very gifted, Douglas-Scott Goheen. And he was used to working in theaters that had fly spaces. That's that big space above the theater stage where you can drop in things. Well, the theater that we had at the school I went to didn't have a flight space at all, which severely limits your ability to be able to do theatrical changes and set pieces and backdrops. And I remember talking to the designer of the theater designer, Doug, and I asked him Oh god, how can you How can you cope with this and he says, you know, limitations can help you become more creative. You, you learn by coping with problems. And in a way, that's how Nightmare Puppeteer is for me, simply because there's not a lot of realistic animation that you can choose. And the transitions between the animations are not really good. It's meant for a more crude style. It's really brought up our problem solving approach a mentality of creating new things that I'm exploring in, in my articles. So if you want to follow me with 12 weeks with Nightmare Puppeteer at Renderosity Magazine, just follow it through, I'm going to take it all the way through the creation of a scene at the end. And I'm really enjoying it. So that's my little news contribution. Who's next?
Damien Valentine 15:22
Okay, next. So I'm gonna start with something that Phil found. It's a piece of software called Cascadeur. And it's a way of animating characters using keyframes. So you can have your character standing still, and then you go forward and no 50 frames and have them jumping in the air, and then it'll automatically generate all the motion in between. and you can adjust it as you need to. So if it doesn't jump the way you want to, you can, you can fix that. And then you can go for another 50 frames and have them land. Or if you want to do some kind of elaborate stunt scene or maybe just sitting down or walking, you can do that. And it's, I've had a bit of a tinker around with it. And I can see this is going to be a very powerful piece of software, it's not finished yet, there's an open beta that you can sign up for, which is free to, to try. Once you've got your Character Animator, you can export in FBX format. And I think there's some other options, which I haven't had a chance to fully explore yet, which you can then import into Unreal, or iClone or unity or whatever engine you're using. So if you're using any of those platforms, and you're kind of struggling with animating the characters for your your project, I would look at the software Cascadeur because it might solve the problem you've got. I'm hoping to play around with it and maybe try a light saber duel, just to see if you can have two characters fighting each other and see how well that will import into iClone.
Ricky Grove 17:03
Do just work with the characters that they have. In Cascadeur can you import characters?
Damien Valentine 17:08
It's basically just a skeleton in Cascadeur. So you animate the bones, and then when you import that into iClone or whatever, it It should take those animations and apply it to the character models in that other software.
Ricky Grove 17:23
Right. So it gives you a rig, and then you import the rig to the care. Whatever care I get it. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, that sounds interesting.
Damien Valentine 17:29
Yeah, but I haven't had too much time to play around with it. So my knowledge of it so far is still quite limited. But I'm looking forward to giving more of a try. And I think it'd be very useful for machinima or people who need more animation choices for their characters. Right.
Damien Valentine 17:48
Ricky, you mentioned a couple of games just been released. And a few days ago, as a surprise announcement. Quake was released with enhanced visuals. Oh, it's still the same. It's still the same catalog. And I haven't bought it or tried it out yet. But they've got it running on PC obviously and the modern consoles, even on the handheld Nintendo Switch. And like all these new mission packs, all the all the old expansion packs included in it, and they've done a new one that just for this release. And of course, Quake is a huge part of the machinima community, because oh, yeah, very early platforms. I don't know, if you can load those running your web, you were making quick videos before they were just save the recording. I think Phil talked about this before, they'd see the little recording file just tiny, because as easy to share, and then you can load it into the game. And it would play back exactly what was recorded. So I see no reason why that still wouldn't work. So you could if there's all if you can, and you got the old recordings, you could load it into the new when you see it with a new enhanced visuals, but it'll still be exactly the same. It's not something I've explored yet, because I got a copy of the game yet. But...
Tracy Harwood 19:01
That sounds amazing. We were talking some time ago, when we have out how do we restore some of the old machinimas from from those very early days. So
Ricky Grove 19:12
Could you explore that? Damian let us know whether that works or not in the future?
Damien Valentine 19:17
Yeah. So he came out just a few days before recording, but yeah, I'll give it a try. And then hopefully in time for next month, I can come back and say look, this is what it can do. I know they've got full mod supports, everything he could do before so I see no reason why this recording method shouldn't work hard to get my hands on some of those recordings to see if it can.
Tracy Harwood 19:36
Well, the one to talk to is Ben. Okay, then then may well have some of those old files. He has. He has a gold mine of stuff from from very early machinima days.
Damien Valentine 19:50
I will send him a message and see what we can come up with.
Ricky Grove 19:53
Right? That's Ben Grussi everyone who she's referring to, our historian of mahinima, a great guy. He collaborated with Tracy on their recent book.
Tracy Harwood 20:04
Yes. Like I said, an absolute gold mine of the person to work with on anything historical to do with the cinema.
Ricky Grove 20:12
That's exciting about quick. I wonder whether it'll have a little mini renaissance of machinima in Quake for that?
Damien Valentine 20:20
I'd like Yeah, well, my understanding is it's $10 for the whole thing. You can find it on Steam. [That's outrageous!] It's the 25th anniversary, so he wants to do something special for it.
Ricky Grove 20:35
Thanks for that tip. Now, I have some news on film festivals, right?
Damien Valentine 20:39
Yeah. So there's Cinematic Captures. We've covered one of his videos when we did the Star Wars mats back in May. He did the one without the clone troopers. He is launched a Star Wars fan film contest. There are $18,000 worth of prizes, which includes software such as faceware, HitFilm Pro and there's some other things. A graphics card and RTX 3080, which is obviously a huge price. There's a mug Yeah, mocap suits. And there's some other stuff like a lightsaber for the some of the live action films and the little Lego figures of his clones from his film, which he's got made to be prizes and all kinds of other stuff. So there's couple of rules for it. Obviously, it's a Star Wars fan film contest. So it has to be a Star Wars film. It has to be made specifically for the contest. So you can't take an old project and say this is what I've made has to be done for this, so its new. It's gonna be three minutes or less. And that includes the credits. But that that helps because you can do something very quickly. There are seven categories for prizes. There's best editing, Best Visual Effects, choreography, sound, cinematography, live action, and what applies mostly to us is animated. Because it does include machinima, because he uses Unreal. And he's got some resources in the contest video where he's talking about it, specifically for Unreal and 3d animation people. So it definitely machinimas submissions are welcome. The deadline? Yeah, the deadline for it is September 18, which gives you a couple of weeks. But since he's asking for three minutes or less, there's still plenty of time to put something together and to submit. I'm going to be putting stuff together for it as well, which is playing around with that, and its definitely worth entering. Especially with all these prizes. [Yeah, that's great. Yeah, yeah.] Yeah. And then there's some film festivals coming up. There's the Milan Machinima Film Festival, which we've talked about before. That was taking place in December. They're still looking for submissions. It has to be game machinima. So you can't use icon which doesn't specifically say you can't use iClone but the way they set up the rules. It makes it very clear that they want game based machinima.
Ricky Grove 23:15
Yeah, I've never seen a video, machinima created inside of Unity or Unreal, or iClone as part of the repertory. So most likely directly out of the game.
Damien Valentine 23:27
Yeah. And though, we're talking about contemporary themes being played out in video games, so read through the rules, and it'll give you an idea of what they're looking for. So that's one to keep an eye on. There's the New Media Film Festival, which we worked with before when we were doing the Machinima Expo. So that they're looking for entries, and they've got a whole animation section. So that's worth a look. There's the Sci Fi and Fantasy Genre Lab. Again, they have they're looking for animation. And then last one I found was the Indie, Suspense, Horror, Sci Fi Film Festival. Sort of a mouthful of a title. But again, they're looking for it seems like they're aiming more for so horror and sci fi horror. So anything along the lines of alien and that kind of stuff is I think that's what they're looking for. So I'm going to put all the links for the for film festivals and the contests will be in the show notes. So if you're interested, you can check that out there for more details.
Ricky Grove 24:34
Okay. Thank you very much, Damian. Tracy, what do you
Tracy Harwood 24:37
Well, I've got a couple of little items actually, I'm not sure. One is probably more, more appealing to the sort of the Let's Players among the audience here. This was a report about YouTube launching a new channel function. In app function, I think they've call it call it Shorts. And it's basically YouTube's answer to Tiktok, which lets users create videos of up to 60 seconds using their phone camera. But, you know, obviously, you can use phone based apps as well. And you can string multiple clips together and sample soundtracks and what have you, from various other shorts. And you can swipe these things just like you can on Tiktok, and then you can stand a chance to receive payments of between $100 and $10,000 for the 10,000. Yeah, well, they're not directly linked to ads, which I think is quite an interesting advancement really, which is obviously the metric that YouTube tends to use for a monetize or, you know, creators use for monetizing regular videos. So I think it's an interesting alternative option for for creators. However, I would say it's very much from what I can see about at the moment is actually a work in progress. There's a podcast on which this this guy is talking about the developments and which we'll put a link to in the show notes. So you can have a listen and see what you think about it. And I think it's got challenges. As I said, YouTube says, it's only going to really appeal to those creators whose shorts reach 1000s. And, and what they mean actually is 100, a minimum minimum of 100,000 viewers, boy, so it's not necessarily going to appeal to the regular machinima creator, but it might do people like JT Music, who use machinima, that kind of thing. It's unclear exactly when the fund is going to start or what exactly the metrics are going to be, that YouTube's going to use on it. And as I understand it, they're still looking for feedback from potential users. And that 100,000 figure is across a 30 day period. So you know, you've got a pretty, you know, it's not a total channel view sort of thing. Right. So I think that's quite an interesting development. I think it's, it's, you know, how it manages to push creators will be interesting, and hopefully it won't, you know, won't do what Machinima.com did, which was push the quality down the low as low as it could, for high numbers of viewers. But nonetheless, an interesting development.
Ricky Grove 27:54
I'm surprised they didn't do it sooner. I mean, that would be a kind of an obvious direction for them.
Tracy Harwood 28:00
It is, but I imagine they're looking at how much they're going to be shelling out as a consequence. I mean, I think, yeah, early figures suggest 100 million behind us. Wow. Which is not an insignificant amount of money. Is it really when you when you think about it, not that I suppose they care too much at this point in time? Yeah. You still got to be turning it over.
Ricky Grove 28:22
Well, I'll check that up. And we'll put some links in our show notes ror anybody who's interested in that.
Tracy Harwood 28:28
Absolutely. And the second item I've got is to do with Valve releasing Steamdeck, which will be available I think, in early December in the US and earlier next year in Europe. As I understand it, it's fully compatible with PCs. And in fact, they're badging it as just another handheld PC, which makes it a potentially very interesting addition, to the creative toolset for machinima makers. I'm a little unclear on on screen rez, if I'm honest, because obviously you're dealing with a very much smaller screen a seven inch screen. Not that, you know not not, not that that's necessarily how the video would rez out as such, but maybe that has implications for you know, how you how you create content. But it's being badged as a competitor to Nintendo Switch. The online device display seems to represent one of several ways you can play games with machine and and I think what's interesting here is that it's not necessarily one that's using cloud based technology. So it's one way you can download your games and take them anywhere, which I think is one of the big problems with cloud based stuff. You can't, you can't go on the train, so to speak, or you can't, you know, can't do on a plane, or those kinds of issues seem to crop up with these handheld devices. I think the other thing too, that I did pick up on is that it's partnered or is using chip technology from AMD, which is merged with Nvidia. And what implications there might be from the Nvidia hook up will be interesting because of course, we all know that we're still in the midst of a chip shortage, at the moment, and we've car production being cut here, because of the chip. Chip shortage means I can't, you know, generate the right sort of tech for the cars, let alone the games. So, you know, quite what the implications of that will be. I don't, I don't know. But that's something to watch and take note of, I think, but an interesting development,
Damien Valentine 31:02
If you try to preorder it now, it will say after Q2 next year, yes. So
Tracy Harwood 31:08
they have got an interesting thing that you need to do so so you can only order it if you are confirmed Steam user, and by that then, you know, they won't just let you register on Steam and say that's good enough, you've got to have a purchase history on Steam before they will allow you to put an order in. And not only that, they're also saying you can only buy one and they're they're trying to prevent this sort of reseller market, black market, black market, which I think is also very interesting development.
Damien Valentine 31:47
I think that's necessary given the the Nvidia cards are still so hard to find just because as soon as they're available the bots snap them up. Yeah. And I think Valve a very sensible coming up with this solution to put a stop to that. Yeah,
Ricky Grove 32:02
I think so too. Well, I've always been impressed with the high quality of Valve's hardware, their stuff is just impeccably designed, they've got that Apple mentality in terms of how they put their stuff together. So I have no doubt that the quality of this small game playing machine will be very high. So I'm really kind of interested in seeing how it works in the fact that it's, I didn't realize that you could download your games into it. I think that's, that's excellent. I think that's a real interesting idea. And that's actually something I would consider buying whereas the other ones
Tracy Harwood 32:45
Well, when you when you look at all the videos of it, it's you know, people are running screens from it. So it's basically a computer Yeah, kind of high end computer that you can hook up any peripherals to so
Ricky Grove 32:58
I'd like a plan when I'm in the the commuting zone on the freeway and when I'm going 120 miles an hour you can you can put it right on your your car wheel and and play it straight as you're as you're driving.
Damien Valentine 33:14
You can play Grand Theft Auto as you're driving!
Ricky Grove 33:21
Touche, touche, Damien! That's our news today. I thank you guys for being here. Phil. We'll see you next time. As always, you can contact us through 116 different ways but it will make any difference because nobody's contacting us. It's completely machinima.com
Tracy Harwood 33:45
we have messages we have been contacted on our Discord from Galaxy Girl who created now what was the film that you did last month? Damien?
Damien Valentine 33:58
Oh, I can't I can't.
Tracy Harwood 34:01
Galaxy Girl, it was it was the Nancy Sinatra song. Oh, yeah. Anyway, yeah, that's it. He Shot Me Down. It well, whoever's, she she contacted to say thank you for reviewing her film.
Ricky Grove 34:21
So we are, we do get content. Thank you for that correction. I'm being a little cynical. But go to Completelymachinima.com you find a dozen ways. I also like to remind everybody that the end of August, we put out a bunch of Let's Play videos. In fact, we're recording it here in the middle of August, and they're coming out for us but by the time this gets up, you'll be able to see a Let's Play video from myself, from Damian, from Tracy and from Phil. That's something we're going to continue to do in the future. So make sure you check the Completelymachinima.com website to learn Learn more about that. Maybe watch some of those. Alright, well thanks everybody for being here. Our next week we will be coming back with our Films section of Completely Machinima. Bye bye.