And Now For Something Completely Machinima

Completely Machinima 9.3 October 2021 Film Selections

October 21, 2021 Ricky Grove, Tracy Harwood, Damien Valentine, and Phil Rice
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9.3 October 2021 Film Selections

In this episode, Ricky, Phil, Tracy and Damien discuss horror and Halloween themed films, with some older and more contemporary content in games including Half Life 2, GTA4, Unreal Engine, Half Life Alyx, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead.


film, machinima, game, thought, character, life, mocap, people, movie, story, damien, witch, filmmakers, interesting, long, little bit, zachariah, point, talking, bit


Damien Valentine, Tracy Harwood, Excerpt, Ricky Grove, Phil Rice, ANFSCM


Excerpt  00:04

Let's go check it... nothing here man. I don't understand it, I know I saw something. Maybe its just light reflecting off a rock. Nah, it was something different I know that much. Better check the side tunnels so we can find out what that screaming was... but normally say to split up these tunnels or amaze plus or radio rage is probably pretty weak. You take point I'll be behind you.


Ricky Grove  00:36

And you were listening to a cut from Damien's pick this week. Civil Protection The Tunnel, which has a lot of fun, and we'll be talking about that in very soon. This is and now for something completely machinima podcast for October. Our theme is horror and Halloween. Each of us have chosen a film or films and we're going to talk about them here. It's my favorite part of our podcast because the films are usually so good I'm so happy we're going to start right out with Damian your pick which is the Civil Protection The Tunnel can you tell us about why you chose this film and who did it?


Damien Valentine  01:15

Yeah, so I get to tell a story about how I came across this film originally which was at DragonCon, it must have been at least 10 years ago that because they had the Mishima screenings part of the show and it was late at night in a very remote part of this hotel says there's no one around except for people who were watching it which I got to submit there weren't that many there because again it's late at night and people were partying or they really tired and whatever. So this film came up on as one of the films that are being screened and because of the time being tired and those hiding around it was so creepy and it started off as kind of fun and then it kind of took this darker creepier tone it just got worse and worse and more and more twisted as it went on. And I wasn't actually sure if I one point if I dozed off because I was tired myself and it gone to a different film. But no it was the same one it really did turn is very memorable. So when I thought well we're gonna be doing Halloween films this month I thought this is perfect because of just the way that film made me feel and I wanted to share it with you guys I don't know if you've seen it before but I just love the whole thing and the two guys that you know you don't expect them to encounter these monsters and all these other things going on under this in this tunnel and I just thought you're perfect for for the show. And I hope you guys enjoy it as well.


Ricky Grove  02:51

Oh yeah, very much so.


Phil Rice  02:54

Yeah, I remember this one from back when it came out. I can't remember the main filmmaker's name the voice is one of the characters in this. Is it Ross? Like Ross Scott. I may be completely confusing that I think


Ricky Grove  03:09

it is Ross Scott. Yeah.


Damien Valentine  03:11

Yes. By Accursed Farms on on the YouTube channel.


Phil Rice  03:17

I feel like one of the voices one of the characters is Ross Scott, who went on to do Freeman's Mind if you're right. Yes. So I think that's the same guy. Anyway, uh, yeah, I was I had seen this back when it came out. I followed Civil Protection. I mean, there were several movies, I believe in that with that brand on them. And this is when I was following him. And who else was Zacharias Scott was involved with Robert Stoneman, and they were making a lot of stuff in the Source Engine. I was what I was surprised about, was when I saw the title, you know, Damon's pick before I click through the link to watch it again. I thought man, that's an oldie. You know, they did which is similar to my pic, which is coming up in a minute. I was really surprised how well it held up asked me to, like the style of the filmmaking the the look of the graphics. Yeah, everything about it held up very nicely. I like the fact that while some of the some of the dialogue between them is a little bit on the nose, for those of us who know, the Half Life 2 worlds, you know, that way, one of them openly says at one point, I think, you know, you know if we're going to live under an alien, you know, totally totalitarian, whatever. And I just thought, well, that's not something for the Half Life 2 fanbase, but then I realized, well, they're trying to make it accessible. Yeah, and really somebody who doesn't know the story behind that game world wasn't as obsessed with it, like Ricky and I were, then then they could still get this you know, and and I thought it worked well. I admired maybe with some new eyes, the use of the head nod, in you know, in another Halo-like, there is no lip sync, you know, with these characters kind of situation. And it worked well, like it was puppeteered very well. So, yeah, I enjoyed it. And yeah, the twist of it turning very Halloween-ish was was nice.


Tracy Harwood  05:17

Well, it was a great film, I actually really enjoyed it, I've got kind of a little bit of a feel of Homer Simpson in double, and the spooks that was well, that was achieved really with sound and wandering around in the dark with this kind of weird ambient dark noise, which was incredibly well done, I thought, yes, great voice acting and storytelling across all these characters, which kind of seem to be balanced and well justified with the representation in the in the plot. I think by halfway through the film at about, I think this little little over 14 and a half minutes, the hairs on the back of my neck started stand up.


Damien Valentine  06:02

And I had that same type thing when


Tracy Harwood  06:05

Well, these, these kind of two hapless whits, we're about to become the victims of something really nasty. Yeah, just a really great build up, and I just didn't want to see it happen. So I almost sort of felt like screaming at the screen. Don't go in there. Don't split up. Don't do this. Don't do that. But actually, that bit then goes on for a bit too long. And I got off the boil a bit, really. So I thought there was a little bit of an overplaying of that it just couldn't sustain that level of suspense.


Ricky Grove  06:39

Yeah, that's a little bit too long while wandering in the tunnels. Yeah, the whole movie was a little long, they could have cut five minutes out of it, and moved along much faster and more effective.


Tracy Harwood  06:50

Absolutely. And then the reveal at the end was was well, I mean by it, because I'd gone off the boil by then actually, I thought it was a bit funny. But the very, very last shot after the credits, totally freaked me out. Totally freaked me out. So but but I just thought it was really, really very, very good. But what I thought was interesting here was their use of motion capture. Because I noticed that Michael Nikonov was one of the team. And he's iPisofts CEO. So that's the, you know, I'm guessing what they used is markerless mo cap for this. That's right, which I think is quite interesting. And then they sort of mentioned in the credits that they brought in assets from Counter Strike and Doom 3 and Zombie Panic and a bunch of other games. But I don't I didn't quite get what they created it in, I'm not really sure what they created in. Do you do you know what it was created in?


Damien Valentine  07:47

I believe it was just Half Life two. And then because of the Source Engine, they're able to import all this other content, because they're all Source Engine games. But yeah,


Phil Rice  07:56

Source Engine had the ability to do that kind of thing that importing but it wasn't, it wasn't ventured into by a lot of filmmakers, because there was a lot of it was technically very difficult at the time, the learning curve was quite high. Yeah. So some real skill went into bringing that those assets in, I think, yeah, okay, thank you.


Ricky Grove  08:15

I was very impressed with the ideas in the film. I mean, you take this, you take this game, this Half Life 2 game, which is a grim, resistance rebellion against totalitarian aliens, and then you put this sort of sitcom cops in the middle of it, as the as these terrible I mean, if you're in the game, and you meet these guys, they're terrible. But turning them into these sort of witless fellows who just can't they no matter what comes up, they're always complaining about something, you know what I mean? And then putting them into this situation, I think is very, very funny. And very smart, too, I thought, and then adding that weird layer of Lovecraft in the middle where it's suddenly the book, he starts reading from the diary, and it becomes creepier and creepier you know, I just thought it was a very witty production that I thought managed to do exactly what they wanted to do which was be funny and scary at the same time. And yet and yet it it read very well, as a movie it didn't have the typical flaws of a of a machinima film where you see jerky animation or, or something like that.


Phil Rice  09:33

Yeah, I think you're put into it, I think.


Ricky Grove  09:35

Yeah, I think of course this is an older film and it wasn't as easy to do it back then. But I think it could have benefited for from color work in the film. The modern, you can grab Davinci Resolve the modern DaVinci Resolve, bring in your footage and do all sorts of interesting color work with it. Where you make colors pop, make the dark look different add vignetting to it, but it's still even if you did that it would only make the visuals look nicer. At the core it's really a fun film and I enjoyed it very much great pic for for Halloween Damien.


Damien Valentine  10:12

I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Ricky Grove  10:14

All right, let's move on to Phil's interesting pic Burgeur Shotte. that's spelled B U R G E U R and second word S H O T T E by Zachariah Scott.  Phil tell us why you picked this film and all about it.


Phil Rice  10:31

Yeah, as I mentioned on the previous film, Zachariah Scott was one of the the filmmakers back in the day that I followed.  He had, exhibited great skill was very picky about the projects that he would work on. And just one day this this film just he just kind of just threw it out there not a lot of fanfare just boom, here's this and it's made in Grand Theft Auto 4. Yeah, it would have to be four. And yeah, it's it's it's very strange. I mean, I pick it for Halloween, not so much there's no jack o' lanterns or anything in this but it just has this disturbing vibe to it. The general story, if you will, is a guy walks into a fast food joint, is kind of overwhelmed. Oh, he's very heavyset, obese guy. Actually, Tracy remarked in our pre show notes he says is is that Michael Moore? I don't think so. But the resemblance is is a little uncanny. But yeah, he walks into this fast food joint is kind of overwhelmed by the propaganda and then at that point is that kind of does a little bit of Quentin Tarantino maneuvers with time where you're seeing him flee the scene at the end and then it ends with him pulling a gun and you're not really sure what happened but it seems like something good didn't happen. So just very interesting. I it doesn't, doesn't really fit the mould of anything else that Zach ever produced. It didn't get a whole lot of attention compared to some of his other stuff. But it's by far the favorite thing I've ever seen him make. Maybe just because it was so different. The inner splicing of that spider and bird you know, scenes in the middle of it to this predator prey metaphor that he was using to emphasize the message he was trying to get across about this, this guy who is you know, overweight and feels preyed upon by this industry that's designed to get him to consume more this garbage. Just really interesting messaging. More political, if you will, then again, anything that I ever saw him make. And to me, even though I never got to talk to him about the film it just, to me, it struck me as more personal because of that, that this was something he has feelings about. This isn't a tech demo, which not insulting Zach at all, a lot of his stuff, though, was really to show off what he can do inside the engine that's really special. This one wasn't doing anything like that really.  It was, this was a message it was a story. It was an expression of the feeling. And it surprised me at the time that I saw it and it's always hung with me when I think of him. That's the first film of his I think I've even noticed probably the last one that he's known for.  Zach went on by the way, he was one of the abductees from the machinima community who went on to work for I think at first it was Bioware and he's with some other game development company now. So his demo reel approach definitely worked. He got noticed and and has made a career out of it and I congratulate him for that. But I always go back to this simple little GTA film. That's that's creepy and disturbing and has a unmistakable message to it. I just really enjoyed it. What do you guys think?


Tracy Harwood  14:19

Public health message supremo, definitely, death by burger. Yeah. With an homage to Michael Moore in the way that its being told.  And I think that comes through actually in the politicizing of it. 


Phil Rice  14:36

That's true.  That's the other element not just a resemblance of the main character but the Yeah, that the type of message does pull in with more stuff. Absolutely.


Tracy Harwood  14:46

Yeah. Well done. Nice, man. Nice. Nice film, horrific in a different way.


Damien Valentine  14:52

Yeah. Yeah, I think so too. And you kind of you get the whole feel that how this guy is completely overwhelmed by everything.  He's obviously, you see he's hungry, and he goes in and everything's there just in his face, and he just can't stand it anymore. And you really get that feel for it. And the whole cutting between everything really emphasizes that a bit more as well, because it makes it more distorted. And he can tell he's not really in the best frame of mind if what you're seeing isn't the way that you'd normally see things.


Tracy Harwood  15:25

You know, I was gonna say, is Michael Moore a character in GTA?


Phil Rice  15:32

No, I don't think so. So how did he do that? That's just one of the NPCs in the game. So it does look like Michael Moore then. Yeah, well, it


Ricky Grove  15:41

could be when they were designing it, the person saw Michael Moore and I'll use his face when they were designing the piece.


Damien Valentine  15:48

Or just, yeah, inspired by,


Ricky Grove  15:51

Right, exactly. You know, I was so impressed with this film. And I had forgotten Zachariah Scotts, movies, and I slapped myself for doing that. Because he's one of our best he really is, yes, you go back over his work on this short horror film, packed so much, that in such a short space, to be able to, to, to create a world to create a character in a story in in such a short period of time, is really an achievement. And if you look at the massive amount of GTA films that are made, they're all the same, they're all tend to be the generic, bad guys on the run. They reflect the stories that are inside of the world. Being able to take it, take that game, and then create your own story that reflects the game is our creative act. And I thought that Zachariah was extremely creating a creative in this way he shot the angles, the interesting, as you said, the interesting flux of time, that sort of saturated color. Yes, and the thing that makes you sort of feel grimy and gritty, it connects to horror films, not only with its theme, but it's look to, it's got a horror film look. I would have wished it was just a tiny bit longer, perhaps. Maybe a little bit more of the central character's life before the before he goes into the restroom, or not, I mean, the restaurant, so we can have - I'm obsessed with restrooms - but more of a little bit of his life, like sitting alone in his apartment or something like that. So you have a little more empathy. But then again, I think the point is not to have empathy with him. But the political point is the point. So perhaps it would have been a different kind of film if he had done that. But anyway, I just thought it was an outstanding choice. I wished he would have made more films like this. And I wish more filmmakers would get inspired to do this in Grand Theft Auto because now you have the tools to be able to create some interesting things and I hope this is an inspiration. 


Ricky Grove  18:10

All right, let's move on to my pick. I had a whole bunch of movies that I chose, but I realized that I don't want to overwhelm the film section. So I went to the one that I thought was the best. And it's a modern film called Irradiation by Sava Zivkovic. It's a Russian film shot in Unreal Engine, captured in real time. I chose it because a) it's horrific, and it's very moody, and very well done. But also because it's from the Unreal Engine, and it shows you what you can do with Unreal Engine with a solo filmmaker. The performances are excellent in it. The whole look of the thing is beautiful. The story is build slowly to sort of Lovecraftian climax. I really liked it. And I'm curious to see what you guys think of it.


Damien Valentine  19:06

I like that you don't get any answers of any kind of what's going on. Like you don't know who these people are. You don't know why the world looks the way it does. You don't know what the object is. I say object because they don't really describe it. You can see it. But you'd have no idea why it's there, what it is what it's doing. It's just, this is kind of a snapshot of something that's happening but you don't get any answers at all. And I think that actually, the mystery behind that makes it scarier. So if they had actually explained any of these things, I think they've taken away a lot from the film and they will ruin the whole atmosphere of it. So the fact that you don't get any of that information is what makes it even scarier and darker. And like you said it looks stunning. You can almost because the faces and the characters are all covered up, you almost feel like this might actually be a live action video because you don't have any of the telltale signs that you usually get from any kind of, no matter how photorealistic faces are you can still tell that they're not real. But because you can't see their faces, it can almost be a live action shot because it looks so good.


Ricky Grove  20:20

That's a good point.


Tracy Harwood  20:23

Yeah, yeah, I


Phil Rice  20:23

mean, I think. Go ahead, Tracy.


Tracy Harwood  20:26

You got it first.


Phil Rice  20:28

I agree the ambiguity of context only enhances the unsettling nature of it, of the story, that I was absolutely blown away by the performances, which Ricky had called out that the voice work and, and, and the motion capture work just just stunning, really, really stunning. Yeah, it's just beautiful in a in a creepy way, you know, that, that whatever the object was, just extraordinarily, I could not take my eyes off the screen. And as I'm watching it, I'm thinking, this is real time? You know, I mean, it's, it's, it's really a... it's cutting edge, I think in terms of what what can be done with what I assume is a group of amateurs, you know, that's not a professional, you know, Hollywood funded company, this is amazing, amazing work. And I really liked I think my favorite aspect of the whole film was when they would take us inside, or very close to the helmet of the main, let's call them protagonist to really get us inside of his fear, his apprehension. You could really sense the, when he was having difficult kind of difficulty breathing, like he's not getting enough air, it was palpable. And to pull that off in a an animation is hard. Yes. You know, it's it's, it's easier. I think, if, if, if it is live action, it's easier to relate to and connect with my character and go oh, wow, yeah. But knowing all along, this is animated. I mean, I knew it was. And yet, yeah, it really, I found myself. I'm a very empathetic movie movie viewer, if somebody on the screen is about to cry, if I'm not paying attention to myself, my face will grimace up, and I'll kind of do the same thing. My mom is the same way. totally unconscious. And so for something like this, yeah, where this guy is anxious and breathing, I feel like a little bit of a heaviness in my chest. And that's, to me, that's a sign of, wow, they really did something extraordinary here, to evoke that. So. Yeah, I loved it. I mean, the first thing I wanted to do when it was done was watch it again. Yeah, just to see what I missed. Because there was so much happening. Yeah, so much happening. Yeah.


Ricky Grove  23:10

So Tracy, what are your thoughts? Well,


Tracy Harwood  23:13

yes, I think I agree with all of what you just said there, Phil. I think the mocap. And the animation is incredibly well done. I think the lighting and the camera angles are particularly interesting in this one, plus that use of third person and first person so you're in his helmet. And then you're looking at him and, and all the drama that's kind of unfolding. And it's clearly, you know, that psychological perspective of one of the characters is the kind of the main driving force for the whole build up with tension between that character, this kind of weird, anomalous thing. And these people, these other folks that seem to be kidnappers of that person, I don't know if that's what they actually are. But I would say that the story itself isn't terribly clear. And in the end, I'm not actually sure what happened to whom or why it happened. And I'm guessing there's possibly a bit of a backstory to it. But I don't know what that is. So I started to read some of the comments. And, you know, particularly about this sort of weird anomaly, which appeared to be this kind of, you know, from what I could detect from what other people were saying it was a disassembled nuclear reactor core. That's what they seem to be saying it was. But I wasn't the only one that didn't understand what that was. And clearly from the from the the kind of comments. There was one thing one hasn't summed up quite well, which was, what was it doing was it defending itself, granting a wish or did pass passing through the barrier break something? Which I thought was a kind of an interesting observation on this on this weird thing that they were interacting with, which was quite freaky. I have to say. Overall though, I think what it got is that definite Eastern European aesthetic of gray and dirt and struggle that we talked about before. Remember we reviewed The Ship in Episode Two podcast by Mednios who was a Latvian artists and this guy, I think was Serbian. released about the same sort of time. And super ironically, when I look back at that, it was also your pick Ricky and it was also shot in Unreal Tournament 2004.


Ricky Grove  25:33

Yeah, so there you are.  Its a good point. I like that gloomy stuff. Well, I have to say that one thing, the source for this, it does... the film does read a little bit like a demo reel, like a presentation in order to get on an entree into creating more things on a professional level. But it does borrow a source, which is a novel by the Strugatsky brothers called Roadside Picnic, Russian science fiction, which was made into a famous film by Andre Tarkovski called Stalker in which there's a zone that doesn't agree with the laws of physics. And strange things happen when you're around it. So it kind of assumes... it uses that it's as basis for the story. Which, you know, that's okay, that's fine, but it's a because it doesn't prep people who don't know that context. It leaves you in the lurch a bit. And like I said, it's a little showy, I think because of I think of it's a bit of a demo reel. But aside from those things, which are you know, they are important, I still think it has a great deal of impact. It's very moody, it shows you what contemporary machinima can be that can be done in Unreal Engine. If somebody wants to use the Unreal Engine which is free and has all kinds of free content, you can make interesting things and that's why I chose it primarily.


Phil Rice  27:08

I enjoyed the choice.


Ricky Grove  27:11

Alright, let's let's move on to Tracy's picks. You got two really good ones as time


Tracy Harwood  27:18

Go on, sorry.


Ricky Grove  27:19

The first one is the Half Life Alyx movie and then the second one is Scout Verses Witch tell us about the Half Life Alyx movie?


Tracy Harwood  27:27

Well I see if you don't mind I'm going to tell you about the other one first. Okay, the Scout Verses Witch, a tale of boy meets ghoul by a guy called Randall Glass released in 2012. Now, this was made in Source Filmmaker I don't know if you guys remember it coming out...


Ricky Grove  27:45

I do very much so.


Tracy Harwood  27:47

Okay, so what Randall has done was combined assets from Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead. And he used for that for the Witch he used I think Z-Brush, which she sculpted the face to make the character look like it could say its lines. But I have to say describe the whole process of making the film as an exercise in pain from which he never recovered. I think it was the last film he ever made as as a machinima creator. And it's this bizarre little tale of zombies, a witch, and a boy scout, which is apparently taken its inspiration from films such as 300, Army of Darkness, the Matrix, Blood Feast, Samurai, Showdown, and so on, and so on. So it's this kind of cult medley that he's put together, it's got this great action sequence in it, and there's blood and gore in it as well. And I recall at the time that this came out that it was one of the first to do what he did, which was combine the assets from these two different games, which is what led me to select it at the time from a public showcase, which I was doing, at around about same time that this this film came, came out, and I thought then, that it looked good. And I still think looking at it again now, at what, nine years later, I still think that choreography in the fight scene is the most impressive thing about it. Yeah. And the other thing, well, I was gonna say the other thing that I would I would say about it is that when we were looking at the films that we picked this this month, we're all picking things from pretty much the same time period. And a question I was gonna ask you is do you think that means that horror isn't machinima genre anymore? Or and that folks that folks haven't really sort of picked up horror in the same kind of way that it was in fashion back then. Or, you know, having have people moved on to more soft horror taken from films like Twilight and what have you?


Ricky Grove  30:01

Why don't we table that question and add it to our discussion for next week, because that's a long conversation. And we sort of want to get through the rest of our films.


Tracy Harwood  30:10

Sure anyway, those those were those kind of thoughts in mind, I then went looking for something that had a distinctly more contemporary style to it. And I thought, well, one of the more horror genre games is Half Life Alyx. Certainly, as it was positioned to me. So I thought, I'll see if I can find an example of machinima that had been made in Half Life Alyx. So that's why I said, and ended up on my second film, which, which actually is this cinematic retelling of the game, and it's basically a non interactive, interactive version of the game, which some, when I'm kind of looking at the comments have described it as quite pointless. But then it's not that much different to, you know, how the live action turned out for World of Warcraft movie a few years ago. And furthermore, there's been a lot of calls for a movie to be made by Valve, or at least that Valve should commission one using the Half Life, Alyx game. So it's interesting that the one to respond to that call, I think, is a fun movie maker, Half Peeps. So to be clear, I have not played the game. And I am I'm kind of taking the second film I've selected at face value. And one more thing to know, actually, is that the game when it's played is experienced fully in VR. So making a linear movie, out of out of this game is definitely going to provide you with a completely different experience. Right? The machinima creator traverses the game, but also how it's represented on the screen, rather than this cinematic thing, so to you want me to talk about this, this game, this measurement, as well. And then we'll talk about comments. Both of these are different. So the plot of the game is that this is the story of this impossible fight against against this vicious alien race known as The Combine. And it's set between the events of Half Life and Half Life 2. And in the game, you play the lead character, this character called Alyx Vance. And you are as this character humanity's only chance to survival. So now to this movie that's been made by Half Peeps. And it's interesting that it's been serialized. And it's still a very early stage project. So we're really only talking today about episode one. And it's 21 minutes long. So I'm not too sure how many episodes we're going to be looking at here, if indeed, it's going to be made in the style of a feature length film, when it's when it's finished, or whether there's a different plan for the serialization strategy. So now what I think happens here is this film immediately grabs you with this kind of vaguely World of Warcraft, I mean War of the Worlds and kind of cyberpunk Ready Player One esque kind of look and feel to it, which I think is really quite well done. And also, what's very clear, when you look at this is that is the absolutely stunning level of detail in the game from the you know, the, the way the skins of the buildings, you know, the detail in that to that to the orange peel effect on the skin of the characters, as well as the soundscaping the music. The detail in it is, is stunning, I think.  But I think in terms of a serialization, the episode starts off with the end point of the whole film. And then the story basically sets the scene for a part of that, but doesn't get to the end point again. So without the other parts of the series, you're kind of missing a little bit of what it's trying to achieve. So this this particular episode is more the build up to something horrific, rather than the actual showing of it other than through that end, end point. And what I want to say here also is that it's yet another example, which I think is very interesting of the use of Source Filmmaker and mocap most of the ones that we've talked about today using mocap in some way, and once again, if iPisoft markerless system that's clearly had a very big role in generating the movements and the characters. So you know, I think a few years ago, we never really thought mocap was going to have that much of an impact now we can see it on reflection, it's had a much bigger impact than we ever really reviewed of the at the time that it was unfolding, which I think is you know, an interesting observation on the on the growth of mo cap in itself. But overall, I thought it was a well made. It's interesting. It's using a lot of film tropes in its storytelling method. But it's pure game in its content. It's not, you know, it's not an independent story if you like. And I think possibly might be a good example of long form machinima, if it's all stitched together, but I think it's probably too early to say, that's what you'll get with it. Anyway, what did you guys think?


Phil Rice  35:30

I'll start. So the first I wanted to make a comment on the mocap thing, I think, I think possibly an element of that, that that influenced a lot of thinking that well, this isn't going to be a big part of things was if you remember, when mocap first emerged, there were a few who were dabbling with it like Hugh Hancock did on on his Warcraft short if you haven't seen that, it's it's stunning. But the, the cost was prohibitive for most amateur filmmakers at the time, that has changed in no small part due to valve making their line of equipment and it's driven those costs down. So now it is very, you know, you've got to connect and you've got other all these other options for VR and for motion capture that are considerably more affordable. So I think that's a big influence on why we're going to see more of that as well. And also the fact that I think it was harder to use back then, you know, 10 plus years ago, it was just harder to get good results. And that has all come along the way as well. So yeah, I'm excited to see what the role of that's going to be I mean, the fact that it's in Nightmare Puppeteer, which we talked about last last episode, very exciting development and the fact that Mike could get it in the game so quickly. I think that says a lot for how the overall infrastructure underlying all these measurement tools has become more welcoming to that technology. And so that's gonna be exciting to see. So I'll comment on these in reverse order the Half Life Alyx movie, I'm going to blame this on COVID before we started recording if you remember, I told you, you know, you're asking how I'm doing and I said, Well, I've got 100% of my energy back for about 60% of the day. And I watched this movie at about my 62% mark. So my brain was mush I've never played Half Life Alyx - I have played half life too. So I I came into it with a little bit of an advantage there and found stuff to admire but honestly I couldn't follow a thing that was going on but I don't blame the film for that. I blame my mushy brain for that. So I'm going to revisit Half Life Alyx later.  


Phil Rice  38:08

Scout Verses Witch I like I really enjoyed it from a technical perspective. I feel like maybe during that very well orchestrated fight sequence when it kind of shifted to almost a 2D scroller effect you know that maybe they lingered on that just a tad too long but I don't know i'm a big story guy. And it just didn't didn't do much for me in that realm. So while I did really like the visuals of it and I'm I've been involved with this long enough to remember what a major moment it was when he brought together those different game assets. It was it was it was a marker you know it was it was it was an amazing moment.  That obviously has a little bit less impact on me now you know so I don't know - I would love to see the same level of skill that was applied to the mechanics of that movie, be also applied to the what it was about, which I feel like kind of just that's it was it was an afterthought really and that's that's not necessarily criticism is just it's definitely a matter of preference, personal preference or some people who just who that action is enough. And if you're one of those people who like that for its own sake, you're going to love this. It is it is brutal. And it's it's the kind of graphic violence that really never made it to television until the Walking Dead made it to television. Yeah, it's extraordinarily graphic. And, and really well done. But yeah, story wise it just didn't didn't grip me and I, I don't know if it was a mood thing or if that's just who I am, but I just I, I kind of wanted a little bit more to that part of it and looked for it, but I just couldn't get it. 


Ricky Grove  40:12

You can probably make that criticism for a lot of machinima. Even the beginning to the day isn't it's often technically a kind of showcase for what they could do with it. You know, with a few yucks, thrown in a sophomore? yucks. I'm not saying this God versus which is sophomore. It's a very funny and black humor. But you're right. It has it again early in. Early in the podcast, I talked about so much of machinima being presentational, I just did present presenting this thing and they know they're doing it for a certain audience who we're all going to love the new innovation and everything but looking at them later. When that isn't present. It changes the way you see it.


Phil Rice  40:56

You think about so many of the video games were and and to some degrees are. You know, I mean, it's software who really paved the whole road that we're walking on for machinima, with with Doom and Quake at all that I mean, let's face it, folks, that nobody's winning Best Writer for any of that, you know, that was not their strength, and they knew it, and they'd laugh about it, you know, but people didn't care. You know, they enjoyed the game for what it was. The bar has been raised since then, I think, even in the games themselves. Yes. And so you've got something like, Red Dead, or Half Life 2, for that matter, that the story behind that world, even back to Half Life 1 extraordinary. So, but that was, it was exceptional at the time, that you have a first person shooter game, Half life, and there's this compelling, accessible narrative that runs through the whole series of games. So and I think that more games nowadays, do that put story out in front. And then and then also try to marvel you with the technology. So you figure that the guys who made this film had been raised on a diet of games that really didn't give a crap about that for a good decade, you know, so it's understandable.


Ricky Grove  42:14

That's my complaint about both films. Although I have to say I enjoyed watching them, I thought that they were fun. And I think the great majority of people will have no problem with them. And I think they'll find them fascinating and interesting, but I had a little trouble because they just lacked story in them, and I thought the Half Life Alyx thing was more style than substance. It was a very self-conscious film in which there were all these moving camera shots and cuts to emphasize the textures of the walls and everything to to sort of impress you with their filmmaking. So I like, I like, it's a personal preference, but I like films that are a little rougher around the edges, like, like, The Tunnel, Civil Protection The Tunnel. I'd like it when it's a little rough, you know. The showy ones, they tend to keep me at arm's length. I don't get involved with them as much. But I do have to say they were very beautiful. They were obviously made with great care. And both of them were fun to watch. So that's just a personal thing. personal preference.


Tracy Harwood  43:34

I am going to put your points to Half Peeps, when I taught him I've I'll be interviewing doing him for the podcast. I'm going to ask him what what where he's going with the story because I think I think he's got this kind of interesting approach, which was, what of the game can he used to tell, you know, a narrative, you know, how can you deliver a narrative in that game world to tell a story. And so it'll be interesting to see where he's taking that. I'll take those points to him.


Phil Rice  44:09

Be sure to include in that, that Ricky likes it rough!


Ricky Grove  44:13

I like it. I like it rough man. Gritty and rough. Why don't we close with Damien, your thoughts about it? You've been quiet this whole time.


Damien Valentine  44:24

Yeah, I'll start with Scout Versus Witch. I spent many hundreds of hours playing Left 4 Dead 2 with a group of online friends. And so the game is as gory as the film is, so I think they just took that gore straight from the game. So the way the scout meets the witch, and has this fight scene, is basically how players think they're going to handle the witch in the game when they first encounter her. And then Ah, because in the game, she's just kind of she's sobbing and you hear this crying sound in the distance, so you know that there's someone coming, I think she'd be fine. It's no problem to take her out. But as soon as you get close, she starts growling. And then she'll jump up and attack the closest person. And she's really fast. She pins on the ground so they can't move and she's just tearing them to pieces. And if you're not, if your teammates aren't quick to take her out, that person is dead, and then she'll jump on the next person and she can take out the team very quickly. So the way he imagines this slow motion, 300 style fight where he just kills everything. That's not how it goes.


Phil Rice  45:37

So he was actually riffing on a situation from the game. Yeah. Oh, that's interesting. That not playing it interesting.


Damien Valentine  45:47

Yeah, cuz the whole game kind of emphasizes the four person team and you have to work together. And if, if one person goes off and does their own thing, they're gonna die. Because you need to stay together. The game is is extremely tough. 


Phil Rice  46:00

So the way it ended was kind of a wink to that then too? Yeah, that that gives me something new to admire about because that's, that's a long-term tradition of machinima to yes to comment on the game world and I did not pick up on that.


Damien Valentine  46:16

Well, I guess it helps. Um, so moving on to the Half Life film. I never played I played the first Half Life game but no, I haven't played too and I haven't played Alyx Um, I don't have a VR helmet. So I'm never gonna play it. So it doesn't really grab me as a non fan, I think I do like is it gives fans of the series, you don't have VR helmets a chance to experience the storage were again, just really Yes, last year. Because even though the prices are going down, they're still fairly expensive. And how many people are going to want to buy the VR how it is to play one game and no matter how much they love Half Life 2 its still being expensive one game. So anyone who doesn't want to buy it can still experience the events of the game. So I hope that gives those parents a chance to do that. Yeah, and also talk a little bit about motion capture. Because I've been I've got my own motion capture setup, but I use the Perception Neuron, which I saved up very carefully for I got the V1 suit. And I started doing it for sort of fight scenes because I wanted to do some very specific things that I couldn't animate by hand. And then as I got learned to do it, I started experimenting with what other scenes can I do motion capture for so I did one video where I just did every single character motion even if they're just standing and talking and I watched it back this is so much better than having stock animations because each character is completely unique in what they're doing and if you can act out the scenes and you can give each one their own sort of mannerisms and they can react very specifically to the dialogue and you get something very unique and special which stock animations no matter how good they are just don't have so I feel like that that's a good thing for machinima people, the community to have available to them undergrad is much more affordable now than it was 10 years ago because no one can afford it really back then.


Phil Rice  48:32

Yeah. Is that what you're doing for Heir to the Empire Damien? Are you are you basically mo capping? And pretty


Damien Valentine  48:38

much everything in there? I don't do any. Any stunt work we see someone flying through the air or landing I don't do because I don't want to but I've learned how to walk like Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher.


Ricky Grove  48:53

Nice, nice.


Phil Rice  48:54

It's so good. Okay, yeah, that and the the the lip sync too.  I mean, the first episode is good but and so I saw some other people commenting on this on the some of the more recent episodes that it seems like it's, it's getting better and better. Every episode. You should be very proud of that. It's really really a joy to watch. I look forward to every episode you release. Like I I remember, I saw an announcement for one and it's like, oh, yes, I can't wait for this then I look Thursday.


Damien Valentine  49:29

I like to tease. Yeah. But yeah, I thought I should share my experience with motion capture since we were talking about it.


Ricky Grove  49:36

I was thinking that might be a good let's play video for the future. Damien is do a quick thing on how you do your mocap?


Damien Valentine  49:45

Okay. I never feel myself doing mocap before


Ricky Grove  49:49

Ah consider it it's a possibility. Okay,


Damien Valentine  49:52

I'll give some thought.


Ricky Grove  49:56

I had a memory as we were talking when iPisoft first came out, Michael Nikonov is the head of that, it's a Russian guy. And they were at SIGGRAPH the first year and I remember going up to their booth and talking to him introducing him and he knew me from the machinima community. That seems that all of the people at then iPisoft, were huge fans of machinima, especially of Half Life. And so their first release of their program could natively export mocap information directly into the source level editor, which was probably part of the reason why so many Source Filmmakers jumped on that. Because getting traditional motion capture data, you had to convert it to a format that the Source Filmmaker could accept and use. Whereas iPisoft you could go directly to it. And it was cheap, too. So I that was part of the reason why it was widespread.


Tracy Harwood  51:02

And iPisoft was released, our launched at one of the machinima film festivals. I don't know whether it was 2006. It wasn't it wasn't 2007. And I don't think it was 2008 - 2006 or 2005. You probably remember that better than I would. But I happened to interview Michael for the Pioneers book about mo cap and, and its growing use in machinima. And he's a big fan of machinima, which is evident in in the films that we've reviewed today,


Ricky Grove  51:43

You might consider interviewing him for a small piece for the podcast. Definitely. He's a very interesting person. And I always liked talking to him whenever I met him. And that's also a great, that's also an interesting future discussion topic that we could consider is the use of mocap. I think I'm going to do something let's play on the mocap, a longer version using Nightmare Puppeteer and Kinnect. Because there were some problems putting the Kinnect together that I think I could share to help people along if they wanted to use it. Cuz I mean, for 50 bucks. You got a perfect mole cap thing that's going to work really interesting. So nice. That sounds good. 


Ricky Grove  52:24

All right. That's the end of our film section. Thank you guys. As usual, I just love talking to you about machinima films. It's my favorite part of the whole series of podcasts that we do. As usual, you can contact us through Let us know what you think wherever you've made mistakes, and we really want to hear from you because it shapes our future content. Thanks, everybody for your selections this week, as usual, they're great. Next week, we'll be doing our machinima discussion. So thanks for watching, or listening. We'll see you next time. Bye bye.


ANFSCM  53:03

And Now For Something Completely Machinima

Civil Protection The Tunnel by Accursed Farms
Burgeur Shotte by Zachariah Scott
Irradiation by Sava Zivkovic
Scout vs Witch by Randall Glass
Half Life Alyx by Half Peeps