This month of Halloween, Ricky, Phil, Tracy and Damien discuss horror machinima – and is the genre of horror dead in machinima? The team also reflect on feedback from last month’s discussion on long vs short-form machinima. Finally, the team discuss the thought process for choosing a creative platform for making a new machinima. As ever, feedback on our discussion topics is very welcome!
Music credit: Dark Organ by ShortRecord from freesound.org
Completely Machinima 9.4 October 2021 Discussion
This month of Halloween, Ricky, Phil, Tracy and Damien discuss horror machinima – and is the genre of horror dead in machinima? The team also reflect on feedback from last month’s discussion on long vs short-form machinima. Finally, the team discuss the thought process for choosing a creative platform for making a new machinima. As ever, feedback on our discussion topics is very welcome!
machinima, iclone, horror, game, sims, character, film, story, tool, create, people, puppeteer, phil, feature length, point, written, unreal, called, platform, project
Damien Valentine, Tracy Harwood, Ricky Grove, Phil Rice
Ricky Grove 00:12
Welcome to Completelymachinima.com podcast of horror. Happy Halloween everyone. I'm here with my pals for this Halloween episode of the Complete Machinima podcast. I'm here with Damian Valentine Hi, Damien.
Ricky Grove 00:33
Hello, Happy Halloween.
Ricky Grove 00:34
Happy Halloween. Tracy Harwood.
Ricky Grove 00:37
Tracy Harwood 00:39
Hello, Happy Halloween.
Ricky Grove 00:41
And Phil Rice who's back? It's good to see you fell.
Phil Rice 00:45
Good to be here. Happy Halloween, everybody.
Ricky Grove 00:47
Yes, a big Happy Halloween to you. We'd also like to thank folks who have been contacting us recently. I think back to those days when Phil was so desperate he was actually reading the spam emails to give us some sense of being contacted. So now we're getting the contact from the community. Thank you very much. Phil, you have somebody who contacted us recently. What's that about?
Phil Rice 01:14
Yes, we heard from a filmmaker named Chris talking about the discussion of long form machinima, which was in a previous episode. And he has actually created a feature length machinima film. Not the first. But you know, one of significance. He started it in 2011 released it in 2018. Made we think with Muvizu. Is that right? Tracy? Yeah, yeah. Okay. And, to me, the interesting point that he brought up is, is is a valid one, in trying to account for why isn't there more long for machinima out there. And the point that he raised, which is I think we all agree on is that well, part of it is just that making feature length content with either a very small team or solo is just really, really hard, you know, requires a great deal of time. And a different sort of craft is used for to have a narrative hold together for feature length work than it is for a short work. Not that short work doesn't require craft. Of course it does. But you know, there are different aspects to that. So that was that was his main element. He actually in the email said, I was kind of screaming at you in the podcast until till near the end, because to him that that point was really the main one. And I tend to agree, I think there are other I can think of one, almost solo project, Peter Rasmussen's Stolen Life. He did have other people involved certainly voice talent, he had a producer and stuff, but it's very small team. Hugh Hancock and strange company with Bloodspell, we were a very small team that was actually released episodically at first and then always with the intent of releasing that as a feature length film. Funny story. I was hired while not hired, I was brought on as the sound designer and incidental music composer for bits here and there for Bloodspell, as an episodic release, and so we did 12, 13 episodes and it was it was a nightmare of work it was a lot of work. And then we get done and a couple weeks pass and I get an email from Hugh saying all right well we're ready to move on to the to the feature cut now. The what? As I had been, you know, popping the champagne virtually and not Oh, my God, I get a life back. That was the plan all along. Didn't I mention? No, No, Hugh you didn't. But the plus is it had been the plan all along. So all some of the elements that Damien talked about with the challenges of taking his episodic work and trying to adapt it to feature length, well, Hugh, just unbeknownst to me, had planned it that way. He knew right where they were going to seam together. And so actually, the sound required very little adjustments to accommodate those new seams. So anyway, so that was another feature like. There's one that Ben greasy will not forgive me if I don't mention, but there was one made in Quake years prior to either those called the Seal of Nohara oh yeah. It's like four hours long. Crazy. And again, a small team that just just labored on it and got it done. But those are rare, you know, features like ones are rare and and good ones even rarer. But what Chris was pointing out was, well, that's not that much different from film. You know, the good ones are rare. Yeah. And that ones crafted by very small teams are rare in and just a glance at the credits of a Hollywood feature film. You know, the hundreds of people. And now sometimes there's just a page that's just lists of babies born to the production team. It's like a city full of people. So
Ricky Grove 05:47
now what was the title of Chris's film?
Phil Rice 05:50
It was called, Beware the Eye of Amun Ra.
Ricky Grove 05:55
Yes. Beware the Eye of Amun Ra.
Phil Rice 05:58
And actually, it's he's got it hosted on Amazon Prime right now. So we'll include links to that, for the US and the UK versions. It is on YouTube as well.
Ricky Grove 06:10
Thank you, Chris, for your thoughtful response to us. And thanks, everyone, for contacting us. It really means a lot to us. You know, we put a lot of effort try to put our podcast together and people respond to what we're doing. It just makes us feel great.
Phil Rice 06:26
Ricky Grove 06:28
Now I wanted to ask you quickly, Phil, do you have any other thoughts about that topic that we discussed last week about the short form versus long form machinima and why there isn't that much? Or is machinima really designed to be a short form? storytelling platform?
Phil Rice 06:49
I don't know I, there are enough short form pieces that I've seen, that are so impressive that I think, okay, I could, I could see, I could see myself sitting and watching a feature length of that. But it does have to be a certain level of quality, I think. Doesn't even necessarily have to be visual graphics quality. But the story's got to be there, you know, the the, the the, the narrative has got to be there. The visuals have to be there, too. I mean, really, all the elements have to come together to avoid I think what what Ricky, you had talked about in that episode, which was, you you, you get a disconnect, that suspension of disbelief is just harder to maintain. So I don't know, I think I think it's viable except for the reasons that were brought up. And a lot of them highlighted by Chris here that it's just really, really hard and to I think part of what's challenging about it is to be slaving away in a cave, working on a movie for potentially years. Before anyone really gets to see it, you even get to know are people gonna think this is good. That takes a really special level of commitment. Yeah, that there's a there's a gratification that can come from either releasing something episodically or just doing a short and you finish it, and it's out there. And then you get to, to hear your audience respond to it.
Ricky Grove 08:20
So didn/t Chris say that it took him seven years to do the Yes, the full feature length... That's a long commitment.
Phil Rice 08:29
Yes, very. So I think that's, that's the biggest challenge. Apart from the fact that, you know, in the same sense that, that writing a novel is not some easy task. I mean, getting the words on the paper isn't hard, but getting it, it's something that someone's going to want to read. That's actually a quality piece of literature. That's very hard. And I think that I think novel writing is much harder than a feature length screenplay, in many ways, but, but it's up there, you know? So yeah, that's, that's, that's the challenge.
Ricky Grove 09:05
Yep. Well, thank you, Phil. Okay, let's talk about an question that came up in our our talk last week from Tracy. We were featuring our theme for the film's last week was horror center as being Halloween month. And sort of out of the blue you came up with this question is the horror genre dead in machinima? And I was curious where did that question come from? What made you think about that while we were talking you recall Tracy?
Tracy Harwood 09:44
Um, yeah, I think really because I don't I know a lot of the the games that machinima has made on made in are, you know, post a copper copper. post apocalyptic. Even in the horrible worlds post apocalyptic worlds, but very often what we see isn't isn't a representation of that world but a translation of that world and it's not, you know, the machinima number itself isn't necessarily horror, it's more humor or, you know, the every day, but using that kind of game environment and I, I just wondered what you guys thought really I mean, I in the end, I had to sort of look at what what I meant by horror because after having said it as one does, you kind of think well, what actually is horror in the end? And I also, you know, Wikipedia great, great resource as ever, speculative fiction that is intended to frighten, scare or disgust, leading to a feeling of repulsion or loathing something that is airy, frightening, supernatural, psychological or about actual menace. It's about ghosts, demons, vampires, werewolves, ghouls, the devil, witches, monsters, dystopian things, serial killers, cannibalism, psychopaths, cults, dark magic, Satanism, the macarbe, Gore, torture, and God knows what else.
Phil Rice 11:22
So now you're just reading a list of stuff and Ricky's front yard? Yeah,
Tracy Harwood 11:26
I know. I know.
Ricky Grove 11:28
I got all that stuff up there.
Tracy Harwood 11:29
I saw and it looks pretty amazing. But what is it that makes it horror. And, you know, in the end, I kind of I wasn't really too sure about this one. Because as I said, all the games routinely encompass quite a lot of these menacing features. And all these sort of horror tropes. But machinima is doing something else. It's it's more about fun. It's putting those things out of character, and doing something other than playing with the game's horrific kind of context. And then there's also machinima that plays with that context, taking the tropes of the game and making it kind of more intense, perhaps more human, and putting some kind of extended characterization in that game using movie tropes. But we very rarely see machinima take those characters and portray them as things worse than they are in the game. And I don't really know why that is. Occasionally we do see things taken out of context and portrayed in a surreal way. And and I think if we, if we think about some of the films that we've shown on this podcast, you know, in Episode One, we had Leo Lucien Bays Beast, which was a psychological thriller, basically. I can't remember who brought Evil Imp to the table, the Animal Crossing movie, which was a sort of an alien serial killer, which was quite horrific, I thought, quite unexpectedly horrific. Then there was Spooktergeist by Ghost Bois, which was a kind of a weird alien ghost story that I think you brought to Episode Three rookie. And then then we had if you remember this one that Cassini Logs stunning, Unreal Engine, which was Yeah, sense, you know, sort of race against time on this alien world, which we talked about in Episode Two. And then I think Damon, you brought, was it the Hamilton Incident? Yeah. Elite Dangerous, that was really spooky. So it was a kind of a threat in an alien environment. So I kind of as I was, I was thinking about this a little bit more I was thinking it's not just about the game. It's more about how, you know, because if you think about it, a game is an immersive experience. And that that horror is revealed through that level of immersion and experience interactive experience, but machinima is doing something else. It's, it's turning into a performative or narrative form. And so, you know, whereas suspense might have been achieved through the play environment. Once it's harnessed, it's then up to the editor to kind of sort of splice the footage into a story form, irrespective of whether that kind of content represents horror, from what the player is able to do, or, you know, how it's how they're presented with those possibilities in the game. But it strikes me all these things really come down to the story and the quality of the story and its presentation as a story. So it's the ability to tell the story, set the scene, provide the build up, and a plot with a with a kind of a revealing ending, using soundscapes using music and voice acting, all of all of that to tell the story. That's the key to it. And I guess it comes down to the point we were just making a little earlier which is good quality machinima that tells a good story is actually quite rare, isn't it? I mean, we've, we've picked some good ones out over the, over the months, but there's an awful lot of stuff that doesn't even attempt to do that. It's,
Ricky Grove 15:21
well, I would call it fan. I would call it fan fiction, you know, and there's nothing wrong with fan fiction. I mean, I love it. I've read some of it myself. I like to I there's many machinima films that I wouldn't say is a great story or good literature, but it's nevertheless quite entertaining. So we're not really being elitist here in a sense that hey, this is so much better. But just making an observation that really quality storytelling doesn't happen that often in machinima.
Tracy Harwood 15:53
So, the question I got for you than Ricky's because I know you've, you know, your head is in books a lot of the time because you love books. Yes, I was. What I was gonna ask you is how is horror literature translated for or adapted for the screen?
Ricky Grove 16:13
Not very, very good. In fact, I one of the points I was gonna make about horror adaptations. And I guess your question isn't that horror is dead. It's really more of a question is how, how have machinima filmmakers adapted their immersive experience into a narrative form? Yeah, and I think one of the problems is is that the massive popularity of filmed horror is so big is that it influences the way people think about horror. And literary horror or fictional horror is a good 10 years ahead of film horror. Because film horror relies on similar tropes, much like a department store sells items that are selling really well. So they make other items that are like that, in order to sell them... the same way with as soon as the Saw series of torture porn came up, and it was very successful they had to come up with another series like that. And I think quite often machinima filmmakers, who tend to be young and tend to be male, gravitate towards the film horror, rather than their experiences in the game, and they see using game elements to be able to retell the film horror. So it's a long way to answer your question, but literary horror and I live with a award winning horror writer Lisa Morton, who writes really, really good stuff, and introduces me to new authors all the time. Literary horror is about that unique true horror experience. I mean, you could trace horror all the way back to the Odyssey where Ulysses summons up his dead mother to get knowledge from her. They go back to what really makes you uncomfortable, not disturbs you. It's not a visual disturbing thing, although that does occur in literary horror, but real horror has a creep factor, and it comes out of the real sense of Freud called it unheimlich. That sense of unease and unreality that we experienced all the time, like, what the, what the hell is that? And that's what they tried to deal with. I recently read. And I won't spend a lot of time on this, but I wanted to mention it. The British Library has put together a series of reprints of fantastic horror literature. And one of them is a collection of EF Benson stories. Now EF Benson was a Edwardian gentleman, who wrote mostly social mannerist humorous satirical stories in the vein of Jane Austen. But he also wrote horror stories, and they collected several of his best, and those things are domestic situations in which suddenly, is injected this note of either the supernatural, or something so strange and unusual that it can't be figured out. You know what I mean? And the, the emphasis is on character, trying to cope with this strange, weird experience. They're not trying to make jokes out of it. There's no decapitations that occur in it, there's no flying ghosts with bangs. It's just real people experiencing something that's unreal. And that and this was written in 1920s 1930s. So that kind of horror doesn't often show up in machinima. And that's too bad because there's so many stores like many of EF Benson's stories are in the public domain, and they would make wonderful machinima. In fact, many of the authors of William hope Hodson, Mr. James Oliver Runyon's many of the authors are in the public domain. And if you're a machinima filmmaker, and you're looking for a source, and you can't write, these are public domain, just go to Guttenberg.org and pull up the text and you'll see what I mean. So that's basically my answer. I hope. I hope I've answered the question. I'm not sure I did. But I hope I did. Tracy.
Tracy Harwood 20:45
No, thank you very much. I appreciate your your input into that. It's just that the machinima to me doesn't seem to reflect does the game or the literature.
Ricky Grove 20:57
If you go to YouTube and type in machinima, horror or horror machinima and pick today you'll get 50, 60, 100 films, many in different languages, Russian, Spanish, and they're all essentially the same generic tropes, the same things. Monster chasing girls, a romance with a vampire, you know, or big monster, or guys out on a camping trip and a whole bunch of monsters show up. It's the same thing over and over. You rarely find anything as interesting as some of the films that we picked that you mentioned earlier. Yeah. So I hope people will consider that check out the British Library. If you go to their website, they've got a whole list of some of their reprints and they're marvelous. They're beautiful trade paperbacks, with great reading potential, and they're cheap. So check out the EF Benson.
Phil Rice 22:00
I don't know alright, it's worth mentioning. It was occurring to me that I'm kind of going through a list in my head of numerous horror themed shorts, machinima shorts that I've seen over the years. And I can't think of one of them that was made in a horror themed game. I was thinking about dead or fear or I mean there's there's tons of games that have built on, you know, the Walking Dead or, or, you know, TV or movie themed horror stuff. And that's not where I've seen the most interesting horror themed stuff. It's been something surprising made in The Sims or in The Movies, Lionheads, The Movies game, somebody did an adaptation of Poe's TellTale Heart that was just gripping, even with this primitive as the movies was, it was just really well done. I actually saw one at one point, someone tried to adapt the Pit and the Pendulum which is very, very challenging to do with machinima. And they made a they made a decent go of it. I've seen some in The Sims, which is a game that has no inbuilt horror elements to it. I mean, it's all cartoonish at best and, and yet an endeavor at least to make something you know, truly horror, the ones that are the most memorable to me, are the ones that at least attempt to adapt classic horror literature, stuff based on Lovecraft. Yeah. Or the Poe one that I mentioned. Things like that. So yeah, that that underlying story being rooted in at least the tradition of real horror, you know, literary horror, that that puts it on the right, that starts it off on the right foot, for sure. I think, you know, we're trying to base it off of Saw or right. I don't know I don't even watch that stuff. So I
Ricky Grove 24:03
neither do I,
Ricky Grove 24:04
I couldn't. I think you're right.
Ricky Grove 24:07
So perhaps what we're saying is that, if you want to create a horror machinima, maybe the best way to start out is to adapt something, find something that you think is interesting, do an adaptation and then find the engine that would most effectively do that. And that leads us directly into our next topic, which is that then Phil, you you propose this and I just think it's great. It's the thought process of choosing a platform for a new machinima project. Yes, tell us where that came from. Where did that idea come from?
Phil Rice 24:45
Well, it's it's because I'm at a bit of a crossroads. I've just finished and 12 months ago was not planned to do Red Dead Redemption 2 short, that was kind of a diversion. So I'm looking to get back on track with projects that have been on the on the burner a bit longer. And I have a screenplay written for a 12, 13 part cereal, not television length cereal, but you know, shorts, seven to eight minute. And it's it's this point where, you know I spent a giant portion of my most recent productivity period with machinima working with Moviestorm movie storms, effectively defunct. It's it's, it's it's all but abandonware, the look of it doesn't really compete well with I'm not sure how well it competed when it was in its prime to be honest, but it certainly doesn't now. Wo there are a couple more shorts that I'm almost done with in Moviestorm that I'm going to go ahead and finish there I think. But for this new project, this is the first brand new project of significance that I've approached in a long time and Okay, so moving storms out of the question. Now it's a matter of how, you know, I, I own iClone, I picked up iClone seven last year on that crazy special that they ran last November, haven't fired it up, I used a much, much earlier version of iClone. Back when I was learning Moviestorm and went with Moviestorm. So I've got no real working knowledge of making something with iClone, then of course, there's Unity, there's Unreal Engine, you know, there's these different platforms that as far as I'm concerned, they're all equal in one regard, I don't know how to use them yet. So there's gonna be a big investment of time. And I don't want to learn them all. Or all spend you know, the rest of my machinima days just learning tools, you know, I mean every. So I need to pick a platform that's going to be not just for this, but maybe for future stuff as well. Now the the stickler is, is that this series seems really well suited to do with The Sims. So The Sims 4 is out, which I have and a bunch of expansion packs. But now they've just announced The Sims 5 is coming very soon. So apart from the fact that there's this divide between okay, potential games to use, there's all the issues related to that with intellectual property and copyright and the fact that okay, I just finished OBIT in Red Dead Redemption 2, and I can find one Festival on all of, of Film Freeway that will accept it, because of how it was made one out of the hundreds of festivals on there. So do I want to get you know, even though it might, there might be some benefit of ease in some regard, because the the film doesn't have a lot of speaking, but it has a large cast. In The Sims, that's an afternoon of sitting down and making characters and you're done in any of those other engines, oh my, you know, even though the tools are wonderful to develop all these unique looking characters. So that's that's kind of where I'm in this tug of war between you know, first of all, the game world versus the, you know, independent machinima production tool world. And then if I choose the independent production tool world, then well, which which platform to go with and everybody that uses one of those has an opinion that that's the one that should be used, you know? So someone who's been using iClone for years, you could Oh, icon hands down, definitely, you know, and someone who's been using unity if I asked M Dot Strange he's gonna use unity, of course, I mean it. But gotta understand I'm starting at zero, not complete zero. Because I've learned tools like this before, I know generally how animation works and how textures work. And, you know, I know how to do those things. I just don't know how to do them with one of these new tool sets, and I'm really struggling with making that decision, because I don't want to, I don't want to waste any time, you know, so so whatever platform I choose, I need to learn it. And then of course, make the film,
Ricky Grove 29:48
Right. So how are you basing? Because we were talking about the thought process? How are you basing your decisions? What what are you using to decide what to do? What are your criteria?
Phil Rice 30:03
Well, I mean, I'm very early in that in that process. So some of it is I'm still formulating. I think ultimately what this comes down to is I'm going to have to decide, what are my priorities with regard to this is, is the priority going to be you know, at the end of it, I own it and can do whatever I want with it. Or is, you know, because there's this part of me that, okay, I'm about to turn 50 years old, I know that I'm not going to, you know, I'm not going to feed my wife and kids with this. This really is a hobby, it's something I do, because I love. So there's this nagging voice, then it's like, well, then what what difference does it make if you can own it? Or make money on it? You know? So, yeah, I don't know, I can't believe that I have having done this 20 years. I'm still struggling with this. But I'm at that point, I think that, that Hugh Hancock was close to 20 years ago, when he had made submission of both games. And then they decided we're going to make our own machinima tool, because at that time, there was nothing. There was no iClone, there was no, there was nothing. So they made a deal with Lithtech. Which Monolith I think was the company behind that. But basically, the Lithtech engine was out. And they made a licensing agreement with them to develop the Lithtech film, let's tech film tool, let's take film production tool, that that tool, the early beta of that tool is what he made Ozymandias with. And their idea was we're going to build this tool that we can do anything we want to with real time, and then make our films in that. But they ultimately he hit that same decision wall of okay, do I want to spend the rest of my career as a developer of software? Or do I want to make films? Yeah, you know, it's the same decision really, that pushed him toward? Do I want to spend the rest of my life as a webmaster for Machinima.com or do I want to make movies, that's what that's what motivated the sale 100. Yeah, was simply, this is way more work, doing stuff that's not resulting in me making films that I want to spend my life doing. So I'm fortunate enough to have a, you know, there's quite a menu out there of tools that are well documented, that have immense content stores. And there's lots of content creators engaged, unknowingly, in some cases in, in the production of sets and characters and props for people to use in these engines. And then you see stuff like Omniverse happening where there's starting to be these and what M Dot Strange is doing with nightmare puppeteer, the trend now is we want to use the assets made with this thing over in this tool, too. So Blender and Unreal. And all those eventually those content stores, it's going to not be very difficult to treverse. Okay, I'll buy these Unity assets, I'll bring them into Unreal Engine and do that with him here.
Tracy Harwood 33:15
It's the workflow, isn't it? Yeah, yeah,
Phil Rice 33:17
Evan Ryan and I are working on a project now that I won't reveal much about but I did all the sound on it. And he's doing the visuals. And he's, he's straddling different platforms to get this done. He's using Character Creator here, and then bringing it over here, to render this with this type of lighting and stuff. And it's so easy compared to the way it used to be to do that now, so. But on the other hand, just to put a little bit of an argument in the column of games, because everything so far seems to be that way. You need to go with one of these indie platforms then, right, but the plus of using The Sims, for example, for a story that's really well suited for that style. is a lot of that works already done. Yeah, you know, yeah. So there's a trade off there, I can do it with all this work is already done, and then end up having something that there's going to constantly be this limiter on the gas pedal for what I can do with it, how I can get it shown, where I can see it.
Ricky Grove 34:17
I think your comment about priorities is very important, because, for example, if you decide to go into The Sims community, that the viewership is high for that, yeah, you already have a reputation for having done excellent Sims work. So you already have a built in audience plus a new audience to introduce to your work, and Sims 4 has a massive mod community, which means if there's something you want to do, that's you can't do in the original game, somebody has already modded it to do that. Whereas if you go for Sims 5, there's probably going to be some breaks here. It's going to take some time for them to build the mod community. So you Have that all built in. Damian, I wanted to ask you a question: you've switched, you switched from a one original game to a new platform. What were those again, tell me.
Ricky Grove 35:13
So I make first season a Chronicles of Humanity with The Sims funnily enough, because I was drawn to it because of all the modding. And I wanted to create my own sort of world and I wanted control of how the characters would look. And of course, this you can do that with Sims that I can create the uniforms of the characters and build the spaceship sets by bringing in textures and so on. But I found that the, I was using the Sims 2 for this, and I found the animation style of the game didn't work for the setting I was going to I was creating. So then I switched to Moviestorm, because it has a lot of the same features in The Sims, you can build your environment using controls very similar to the Sims, and you get a character designer, it wasn't as powerful as The Sims to start with, I mean that they did add more to it as I was using it, which is very helpful. But had that seemed to have modding potential, which meant I could create the world I wanted to do. But like Phil said, it is now, it's abandonware. And they weren't updating it. There's no new content being created. So it was very hard to kind of get used to point where I felt like I've done everything I could with Moviestorm. So it was time to look for something else. And it was when we were doing the Machinima Expo, I think it might be the last year we ran it. iClone 6 was had just been revealed. And we included that in the in the show. And I was really impressed by how everything looked. And they'd redesigned the interface from the previous version. So it made it much easier to learn. Because I've looked at some of the older versions if iClone, and it's kind of like sitting down in front of a jet engine jet cockpit. Yes. And you just
Phil Rice 37:05
Yeah, I just sat there looking at that panel, just with a line of drool. It was worse than Blender. And Blender was bad.
Ricky Grove 37:17
But luckily with 6, they redesigned it and it made everything made much more sense. So I can there were lots of good tutorials, they released alongside it, which explains everything. And these are about 15 minutes long. So you can spend a couple of hours watching this tutorial. And then you know how to use the software which I think that's worth less time worth taking. Because, you know, it teaches you everything you need to know. And so that's why I switched to iClone. I still using iCloud now has gone on to iClone 7. And one of the things I liked is, obviously you got all the enhanced features from the seven. But you can still load up your project from six. Even go back even further. That is my understanding. I don't have any older projects than 6. But you can load your iClone project into the latest version. And it will say you're about to update it to this latest version. So you can't load it back in you're in the older one. Do you want to do this? You say yes. And then it's all there. You may have to tweak a few things, but you still want your project there. So if you wanted to, you could. If I wanted to load up one of my iClone 6 projects, I'm just rendering again using the new visuals. I can do that by just following up, tweak the settings and then it's there.
Ricky Grove 38:26
That's very thoughtful that they added that's nice capability.
Ricky Grove 38:30
Yeah, and I assume that when iClone eight is eventually announced and released that will again have the same compatibility.
Ricky Grove 38:38
One of the downsides I think to that sort of as Phil calls that that indie approach to machinima making. I mean, let's be clear, game based machinima is where the core of machinima began. This sort of indie machinima which is being developed by tools that are specifically designed for machinima is a little different. It's still machinima, technically, but it has a different element. You don't say the same community in it. The approach the specific way that people work on projects are different. It tends to be more towards the traditional 3d side of remaking projects. But there's something to be said for that approach. Because I remember back when Paul Marino was talking about the ultimate machinima tool and he made an article and he had like seven different things. I'll see if I can't find that article for the show notes. The machinima tool has to have these things in it. Well, I think if you took that list and you applied it to Unity or iClone or Unreal, you'd not only have those seven, but you'd have seven more things. You added to it as well. So the advantage of that approach to it is that a you own it for one thing, there is a very large community behind making it because it's game based to begin with. If you want to go deeper and learn scripting, you can do that, like M Dot did for Nightmare Puppeteer, it's got a marketplace, it's got mods, the workflow is well established, you can pretty much do anything you want. The problem with it, is that it's designed for you to continue to buy things.
Phil Rice 40:28
Ricky Grove 40:32
It's bad, what's what they call the razor blade approach to selling. They'll give you the razor for free but you have to keep buying blades in order to use the razor. So if you buy iClone, in order to really continue, you have to keep buying updates to get more functionality for it. Like for example, animations, if you want to have a lot of animations, you have to buy an animation pack. And that's $75. If you want to get more characters, you have to buy a character pack and that's $75. So by the time you get your production all set up, you paid $200 for iClone and you've paid $500 for your production. You know what I mean? Yeah, so it's, that's the way they built it, hey, I don't fault them for doing that. I don't, that's the way they make their money. And yeah, keep the lights on. Yeah, they got to keep the lights on. And I that's cool. And the quality of a lot of their updates are great. But that's the problem with that. If you go into a game based machinima, like The Sims, you pay one time, well, for the content, mostly,
Phil Rice 41:48
The content packs, you add them all up, it's, it's quite expensive to keep all that but you don't need all of those two, you don't need all of those base games can do it.
Ricky Grove 41:58
Right, you're basically going to use mods, you know, right, that people make for free. So my point is, is that just financially it's going to be an easier thing to go with game based, true game based machinima than it would be with an indie based machinima, despite all the benefits you get from it and I'm not advocating that I'm just sort of putting that out. Right
Tracy Harwood 42:26
Yeah, no, I mean, I think you've probably already made the point but I'll sort of say I mean it's not it's not only obviously can you can you use the the environment that you're creating in or what's the learning curve in using it but it's also about the timeframe that you want to give to that so it's you know, how long is it going how's the learning process going to gonna take you to sort of get to where you want to go but the other side of it for me is also about who's going to see it and how does that platform creating help you get your story into the wider world and maybe to that extent, it's a it's it's a function of the of the content but you know, people that tend to be quite good at getting stuff out there seem to be tapping into a market force that's kind of related to a game so it's the buzz around the game and their content taps into it. And that seems to how they kind of maximize their audience viewing and I guess I guess then you have to think about what the tipping point is at which point that no longer matters because obviously for some it doesn't matter it's it's maybe about you know the the quality of the story and how folks get get get feedback but having said that, I think its audience also decision around audience from that familiarity with the game and to what extent that game made them block you getting feedback to your film if it's not extending that game world which you know, machinima doesn't always do and then the other side of that is you know, does it does the fact that then you're tipping into into a particular game we'll say The Sims world then dictate what kind of feedback you'll get back when you want much more wider critical kinds of feedback so I think those are things to to weigh up but I you know, I'm kind of mindful of the fact that environments like Unreal are and iClone and Nvidia platforms, you know, those sorts of platforms and more about connectivity, and enabling people to transfer across the different platforms, from stuff that's created in a variety of environments. I think if you are I think if you learn one of those workflows you're probably setting yourself up for, for the future with a good set of skills, because I do think that is where this stuff's going. Yeah, I think I genuinely think that's the future is I think it wouldn't be time lost. It's just that it's a steep learning curve. Yeah, but all of that aside, there's 1000s of tutorials, all free all on YouTube, all made by folks at various points in that workflow. And they're, you know, in terms of their experience, and what have you. And plus, into that, I think I'd be, I think I'd been mindful of what, you know, when, when Ben and I were writing the book, we were, we were lucky enough to interview Kim libreria, who's the Creative Technology Officer for Epic Games, and Unreal being one of their products. He was also the founder of the Industrial Light and Magic Special Effects Studio. And he made what I thought was actually a really important point, he said, You've got to, you know, you're not just gonna be able to create, but you've also got to be able to watch and share your work. And, and if you, if you don't do all three of those things, you'll end up in a vacuum, and nobody will see your work. So he said, learn how to use the tool. And remember that it's really important that when you are creating a story, you're making it for an audience. He said, so find the audience and learn from their reactions. Create a lot, watch a lot of movies play a lot of video games, because the game aesthetic, and linked to the movie aesthetic is really interesting and share what you're making. And I think the audience is key here in terms of what what we're discussing, but I thought that was a really important point.
Ricky Grove 46:52
Yes, absolutely. We'll make sure we include that as written the statements in our show notes. So if you miss that, you'll be able to go back and check it out. I'd like to add something as well. And it's based on my experience, I'm doing a series of articles at renderosity magazine.com on a called 12 weeks with Nightmare Puppeteer. And I'm in a section where I'm shooting scenes from a series that I've been working on. And as you were talking, I realized that the story that I've created for the overall series is based on the characters and the scenes that I discovered in Nightmare Puppeteer. They weren't outside of the game. I didn't come up with a story and say, hey, I want to tell this story that I've created in Nightmare Puppeteer, I drew the stories and ideas from Nightmare Puppeteer. And so already, the story is predisposed to exist in that world. It's already set up to do that, right? So all I have to do is figure out the best way to tell that story. I think you don't get that in the indie productions, you starting sui generis, you're starting with a blank slate. You're not pulling anything from it. You're and you're not responding to the game, because the game is simply a tool itself. That's the tool. So I think those two different ways of creating and getting inspiration for ideas for stories. And we've already mentioned how important stories are, probably the most important in creating machinima. But I think if you're a filmmaker, if you're an established filmmaker, like Phil, or if you're a filmmaker listening, and you want to start out, it's important to consider those two differences in what you want to create.
Phil Rice 48:50
Tracy Harwood 48:52
So question then, how do you cast a character when you've got when you've got a story?
Ricky Grove 49:02
Well, fortunately, Nightmare Puppeteer has a really great way to create characters where you can, there are three ways you can create a character you go into the sort of character creation room, which is an eerie little place to begin with, you can choose to do a completely random head and body. You can choose to do a random body, you can choose to do a random head, and or any combination of those. So what happens is, is that I'll do random bodies. I have an idea about the character that I think the way it looks. I'll go and do random character, random head and body until I find something that intrigues me. Say, for example, the body and I like that body. So I'm going to go with that body. So I do random heads until I come up with the head that I want. And then I can go in and adjust the qualities of that head. To more fit the like the hair, whether it has glasses, whether it has a cigarette, whatever, until I finally come up with a character that I like and then I'll save that character so I can come back and use it again. Now what's happened is is that all once I get that character over a period of a week, I may think about it or dream about it or mull it over and I go you know, I think I'm going to go with a younger look on the head. So I'll go back and I'll redo the head until I get something that I want but he makes it so easy that I can come up with a whole cast of characters in an hour
Damien Valentine 50:40
You know, I can say I wish I cloned out that random head feature in this case because it's great if you want to make your main cast but if you just want people in the background you don't want to spend hours creating individual looking people across the random Yeah,
Tracy Harwood 50:56
Damien Valentine 50:58
Tracy Harwood 50:59
So how do you do it Phil how do you create a car can't cast a character?
Phil Rice 51:06
Well, I mean if thinking back to when I did stuff in The Sims very similar similar process to what Ricky described I mean, it's not quite as random. You can't you know, you can't hit the randomize button in The Sims and have someone have a toilet for a head or something but you know, you can you can hit random and it will change the shape of the face and the size of the eyes and the color of the eyes and the ethnicity and how much weight they have on especially in The Sims 4 it's very diverse, quite I know when I made when I made Male Restroom Etiquette there was the one character that was very large and that was a mod that the game itself didn't let you make someone that looked like that so it's basically a clothing mod that basically the guy was like wearing a fat suit basically Yeah, well in the new in the latest Sims you've got quite a bit more control over that over the the physique and you know morphing different parts of the body or the face or whatever so you can get some someone with skill can really you know, use a face reference and get really close to you know, a face that they're trying to design specifically and if you're wanting to do at random you know there are tools for that. In in Moviestorm you're a lot more limited you kind of have to start off with a certain head and then there's minor changes you can make but you know, it's it's really that same process of having I always have the person in mind the character in mind pretty I've thought about it extensively before I ever pull up a tool and try to to create them so in that regard, it's it's very similar to, to Ricky's approach. I haven't done any character creation in any of the indie tools, the other indie tools yet the ones that are alive, so I don't know what that process will be like, exactly, but that'll be where I'll begin for sure. If I go that route is is with creating the actual character.
Damien Valentine 53:23
With iClone the character creation software is very much like The Sims. So you get your character you can drag clothes and dress them and put different hairstyles on them. And then the slider bars to adjust their physiques more
Ricky Grove 53:36
morph their faces. Yeah, right. Yeah.
Damien Valentine 53:40
But if it goes down to this sort of, level of detail, and that eyelashes and you can pick different eyelashes and even change that how what
Ricky Grove 53:48
can change the angle of it, the bridge of the nose and everything? Yeah, so many things in Character Creator, which I think is great. And one of the cool things about character creator, it's directly exportable into Unity, and, and to Unreal, the same way with free character creator, which is Mixamo. If Adobe bought Mixamo, but they still have the website available, they've got maybe 30 characters there, that you can adjust and change and put clothing on and import that directly into Unreal, or Blender if you want to, to further change the way it looks. So the character creation process can go from free to, you know, you one time perpetual license for character creators like $150, 200 bucks, and you have that characterization tool for the rest of your life, you know. So I think I think that's a good workflow. But to me, the most important thing if story is the most important thing, and you're not a real good storyteller, or you're a beginning storyteller, or you're trying to get better. Perhaps a game based machinima process would work better, because you've got the feedback directly from the story that your game you're playing, like, I've been playing Diablo 2 Resurrected all week it opened, it came out on September 23. And I've just been marveling at how beautiful the design is of it. And how much more appropriate is to tell stories, even though they're the only animations you have are game based animations. And they're usually run, shoot, fight. There's no gestures or anything like that. But even then there's still places where you can create character dialogue. You know what I mean? Silly character dialogue. like they've got chickens in it that get all pissed off, if you run past them. They're a flat and flat and flat. And I could just see some warrior and get out of the way of God damn chickens, here I am trying to kill the demons and these chickens are in my way, you know, he just, it brings up storytelling ideas. So obviously, you got to come up with priorities with with priorities about what you want to do with your film. Tracy makes a great point of having an audience, make sure you keep your audience in mind, when you're telling it. Tools. You don't want to spend weeks or even months to learn a tool. You know, when you really just want to get to making films. Money is an issue, do you want to spend $1,000 to put together a production, you don't have that $1,000 you've got 50, or no money at all then that has to come into the but the good news is unlike 10 years ago, all of those approaches are possible today, yes. You can do all of those things. As long as you come up with priorities. And you keep the idea that story has to be the center of what you're working on. A good story tells itself in many ways. Yes.
Ricky Grove 56:50
Well, thank you very much, guys. I think we'll close now. Follow that I really enjoyed talking to you about this topic. We had another thing we were going to talk about live action in machinima. I think we'll hold off on that for now because I think I had a good discussion about this. Now, if you have ideas about how to choose a machine and the platform, or you want to share your thoughts on why you chose a particular platform, Chris, maybe you could tell us a little bit about why you chose Muvizu to do to spend seven years of your life in you know, share that with us. Send us an email or a voice message. We'd love to play your message on our podcast here. Phil, what's the method for making a recording that you could send to us?
Phil Rice 57:39
It's using a service called reverb dot chat. And there's a link to that on the homepage of our website.
Ricky Grove 57:46
Great. Please send us a message. We'd love to play it. We'd love to ridicule your ideas and your personality. Live. So please send it to us. And thank you so much for listening. We've got some fun announcements to make for next year's podcasts that are coming. We'll talk about that next when we get together. So look for us on the Thursday of each month. We have new episodes coming out and thanks for listening. Thanks, guys.
Phil Rice 58:16
Ricky Grove 58:16
Bye bye. Happy Halloweeeeen
Damien Valentine 58:19
Music credit: Dark Organ by ShortRecord from freesound.org