In this episode, Ricky, Phil, Tracy and Damien discuss five very different recently released film selections, highlighting the importance of story making in machinima. Alongside this, the team discuss some observations on the future scope of creativity, reflecting on comments made by Keanu Reeves on the release of the Matrix Awakens Experience made in Unreal 5.
Editor/Producer: Ricky Grove
Co-hosts: Ricky Grove, Phil Rice, Tracy Harwood, Damien Valentine
Music: Back to the Future by Ofshane
Completely Machinima: January 2022, Machinima Films
In this episode, Ricky, Phil, Tracy and Damien discuss five very different recently released film selections, highlighting the importance of story making in machinima. Alongside this, the team discuss some observations on the future scope of creativity, reflecting on comments made by Keanu Reeves on the release of the Matrix Awakens Experience made in Unreal 5.
film, machinima, game, bit, story, character, play, filmmaker, thought, minecraft, visuals, life, watch, people, comment, threads, minutes, interesting, scene, unreal
Damien Valentine, Tracy Harwood, Ricky Grove, Phil Rice
Ricky Grove 00:05
Hi, everyone. Welcome to the completely machinima podcast and video. This is January 2022 films section. We're really happy to be back for our second season with our we've learned a lot from the first season we really enjoy it. This year we're going to make a few small changes we're going to be adding work obviously, we're going to be doing video, because we have a YouTube video channel. And we're recording this one. We combined news and discussion in our previous podcast, and we're also going to be putting a little bit of folk more focus on some of the practical aspects of machinima. I want to do one on sound and writing story. And we asked you if you were interested in things for us to cover, please contact us at Completely machinima.com You'll see various ways to connect with us for suggestions for things to cover. So with that out of the way, we're doing my favorite part of our podcasts, which is the film section. We always find most interesting films, and I'm always happy to watch and talk about them with my fellow podcasters which include Damian, who is an excellent podcaster has been a good friend for many years. Damien, hello, and Phil Rice, one of the giants of machinima although he's really not that tall.
Phil Rice 01:39
A lot of weight in the last few years I'll have you know
Ricky Grove 01:42
he has welcome Phil and Tracy Harwood, the author of a books on machinima and one of the historians of the Machinima movement and a fascinating conversationalist. Hi, Tracy, hello. Alright, let's get right to it. I chose two films this month: Gorak's Guide to World of Warcraft Classic - A 3 Year Anniversary. Gorak has had a long series of machinima to create and World of Warcraft. I happen to pick up this 3 year anniversary, and I thought it was just marvelous. It shows how smart writing, smart editing and careful cinematography can come together to create a very funny episode. I usually don't care for World of Warcraft machinima. I'm not sure why it's just a personal preference. But boy sure, like this one. What did you guys think?
Phil Rice 02:48
I thought that this was the least World of Warcraft, World of Warcraft machinima I've ever seen. By that, I mean, it didn't matter that I don't have like a heartfelt connection to WoW, and that I didn't play it. This was just a really good cartoon. You know what I'm saying? Like yeah, and I don't mean cartoon in the in the dismissive or derogatory way. I mean, that this was about, you know, this, this character and these very wonderfully timed animations. Oh, my favorite segment of the whole thing is the opening where he the character is there reading this paper, and something's going on around him and just the timing. And that they just carefully crafted little movements and you know, jerky at times. But playing it for humor is just wonderful. Like, I didn't care what it was made with. I was like, in any engine that has some real craft and skill being shown there. And yeah, it was extremely effective. Loved it.
Tracy Harwood 03:58
Well, I mean, it was it's clearly an in game celebration, like Like so many others on the end of a kind of the era of WoW Classic and the beginning of this new version of the game Burning Crusade. So so so it's kind of a commentary on that as well. And an homage really to classic WoW, and the values and, and I suppose really, the character is reflecting on what is an orc going to do next. Taking a holiday seems to be far more interesting than then battling the Hoarde I saw that was very well done. So yeah. Enjoyed it.
Damien Valentine 04:42
Yeah, Damien. I can't wait two thoughts on this one was how do they actually make it because it looks like something that obviously it's got the the orc character and it looks like World of Warcraft, the actual visuals to it, but I don't know how they actually animated the character to do this.
Phil Rice 04:58
I wondered the same thing. I mean, yeah, it does it looks it because it's so detailed. That's not something you typically see in a WoW machinima No, not. Because they're limited to what they can get those characters to do so. Yeah, I'm curious about that.
Damien Valentine 05:14
Yeah. And the other thing, which I really enjoyed was, it's kind of a nostalgic thing with it, because it's the way it's the kind of machinima that you'd expect to be made about 10 years ago. But like the Star Wars one I chose last month, the Christmas one, it's kind of got that same sort of feel to it. Yeah, not the Christmas theme or Star Wars theme, but just the style of the way it's made and the hero of it. And I really enjoyed that too, because you don't see too many of those. At least I don't come across too many films like that anymore.
Ricky Grove 05:43
Yeah, I chose it well, because it's entertaining. But also it fits a theme that I'm going to be looking at through 2022, which is the combination of content and form, the production and the story, this story of this thing perfectly fit the production values and the editing. In fact, that was the spine of the whole thing. And it made it even funnier, because the dialogue was just so witty. So much of comedy, not just in machinima, but in general culture, in general, is tends to be towards the sophomoric, and it plays to the sort of, I don't know younger age where a fart joke is still funny. You know? I suppose as you get older, fart jokes still can be funny, but generally, they're not the you know, you want something that's a little bit more sophisticated here. Yeah, exactly. More sophisticated. More. More. Disagree, right. I know. I know. That that big fart joke and Obit was really crazy when they're when they're at the funeral. And there's this long, slow exhalation Yeah, I got just was hilarious. But But that's my problem with comedy in general, it's just that it just goes to the sophomoric and the lowest common denominator. Now, some people, that's fine, but I have a trouble with it. And so I was delighted to come across such an interesting short film that was funny and witty, it used language. It had great expressive animation. And I'm curious, maybe we can, I'll do a little effort to see if I can find out more about how they actually did the animation on that, because I was curious to okay, my second film is a full length film shot in Grand Theft Auto. It's a horror film. And it's called Confined. And I chose it, not necessarily because it was a great film, because it's not. But because it I wanted to talk use it to talk about something that I think has been a problem in machinima since the early days. And that's the over-emphasis on the visuals, the production side of it. And the little regard paid to the story side of it. Confined is a perfect example of that in which there's these vast and occasionally quite beautiful, poetic scenes shot in Grand Theft Auto. And it's it's it's more of a country scenario, country landscape than a city urban landscape. And the filmmaker, obviously, is a very skilled and talented filmmaker, in terms of how to use the camera, how to create shots, how to transition from one shot to the other, but the story is just so anemic. It's so derivative, and it takes so long to get the pacing is so slow to get to the next shot. It's the kind of thing where the filmmaker was really into their shot. They just really liked that shot. So they wanted to hold on to it. And because they didn't have feel any obligation to get that story down, right. They just kept it running, and going and going. So although I found parts of it, quite beautiful and quite interesting. Once you get past about the 10 minute mark, it's skip time to the end. But I wanted to share this film with you to get your reactions about some of my comments and also the film in general. What did you guys think?
Damien Valentine 09:27
I thought it was a visually very stunning film to look at, especially this only shot when they're on the top of the hill in the sun and you just see the silhouettes and stuff like that which is very impressive work. One of the things I actually enjoyed was, is Grand Theft Auto is obviously a game about car chases, and crime and all that kind of stuff. So you taking a game that's about that and then telling a horror story. It's got nothing to do with the crime or car chases. Those are very interesting choices. works got the real modern setting. But you're telling a story that the game isn't really designed for. But that is I find it interesting because you're taking something that's it's not designed for and turning it turning around to do something completely different with it. And I enjoy seeing films like that. But yeah, the story is slow.
Tracy Harwood 10:23
Yeah, slow. To be honest, the, to me the beginning part of it was just a series of stills vignettes is that the right sort of description of them. And they were kind of like three threads being told simultaneously, with almost no connection between them for me that there was this verbal thread being spoken between the two main characters, then this car chase and shooting, which seemed to bear no connection to the the characters other than I think the roles that they were playing, you know, the character types that they were playing, there was no connection between the visuals and what they were saying. And then this other thread was to do with the the music and the dustiness that you saw, which also didn't seem to connect with any of the other two things. So I, I struggled a little bit to see where it was going at the beginning. And then at around eight minutes, 16 seconds, you finally got a credit, which was the title, which was a bit really. And then this, then it sort of slips into this psychiatric consultation process, which didn't bear any resemblance to any of those three threads, which was a little bit odd. And then I had to keep watching it because I was thinking, well, it must make a point somewhere. Because, you know, the whole thing was about setting a tone for something evil. And it never really got there for me, never really, never really, it didn't do anything, it just, you know, there was never any latching on to anything evil. So we never really find out what that was, or how it happened or why it happened. So I never really got much of an understanding of it. And then there was some vague references to the pandemic. But I think the images that you saw of rats running, were maybe linking that to the bubonic plague perhaps. And then there was dead bodies everywhere and a bit of warring. So there was a whole kind of metaphoric thing about being confined and what might happen as a consequence of a pandemic. But there wasn't really a story. So there were no characters that you could really latch on to, you know, the the ages, not religious, it just didn't go anywhere. The image, you know, the the images were, in the end dull. And the music haunting, but never really revealed anything for me. So yes, I get your point about, what's the story? I don't know. Yeah.
Phil Rice 13:14
I got the impression watching this, that, that the director has seen a lot of this stuff, as seen in a lot of the movies and TV shows that we have, where we see some of these techniques executed, to varying degrees of success, but you know, generally on a professional level, more often than not, they're they're doing it right, if you know what I mean, by right, I simply mean that it's effective. So we've seen movies and TV shows where there's multi threads. That and but there's a certain way of executing that to where, okay, at first, maybe the viewers a little confused, but then you resolve that, and you realize how they're connected. Some movies, they wait till late in the movie to do it, and some do it within, you know, a 10 or 15 minute span or whatever, but we've seen that and we've seen it done, you know, we've seen it done well. And we've seen people really push that idea you know, Tenet, Christopher Nolan's film and and prior to that Inception, that's like taking it to the extreme degrees or some of the stuff that Tarantino did in his movies, where time is distorted there's different threads going on. You don't see how they all connect and stuff like that. Those are masters of that I think whatever you think of them individually as people but they're good at that, you know, that's that's taking it you know, that's that's like the ultimate jazz musician version of Yeah, messing around with multi threads, but we've we've seen that and It's like, I got the feeling that the that the filmmaker has seen the surface of that the the end result of that and wanted to try to imitate that but didn't really understand the very, very complex underpinnings that have to be done for that to work for the viewer, you know, so the end result is it's it's kind of a form that we recognize. But it's confusing instead of enlightening, instead of intriguing or enlightening, right? Yeah, yeah. So that's, that's, that's the the impression that I got a few different times in this movie was that this was this was a reaching towards imitation of that, but not fully understanding. Exactly. All the work that goes into something like that. Yeah, we talked to one of you mentioned at some point that there was, I think, Tracy, where you mentioned that there's a point where some of the the dialogue was vaguely referencing something right, but not really being clear. You know, you vaguely referenced the pandemic, I think, or whatever. Yeah. And people underestimate the challenge of doing ambiguity in a way that doesn't just tick off the viewer. Yep. ambiguity can be very powerful. And you can get away with not answering all the questions. But it it's a skill. It's not just, there's a there's a fine line between artful ambiguity and just being a bad communicator. Yeah. And that's not just true in films. That's true in talking to a person, you know, there's something. Have you ever talked someone who just doesn't seem to really know how to use words, right? It's not about whether they know the language or whatever, they just haven't really, there's thoughtful communication, where you're thinking about the fact that there's different ways to interpret different words. And I have to account for that in my speech, if I'm going to be understood, or I have to be prepared for some back and forth to clarify that and all that. And so once again, the idea of let's just vaguely, let's just ambiguously refer to these things, but when that's done right, it's with skill there's there's there's there's a lot of work that you do to make the viewer okay with that ambiguity because ambiguity is very uncomfortable. You know, we don't like being told only, you ever see... Do any of you know someone on Facebook? Who is that person who will come on and post and say, Well, my day really sucks. Like, please ask me why somebody it's kind of that's like the metaphor of it is we're we're being ambiguous without without artfulness. Yeah, without skill. And I'm not saying the producer doesn't have skill doesn't have artfulness. I'm just saying that the execution in this just there's some homework underneath those. Yeah, those techniques doesn't work that make them work. Right. And and I feel like if that wasn't there, and maybe it's just a young filmmaker, young to filmmaking. You know that that's completely understandable. Well, I wasn't looking at why didn't this connect, as well as it should have? That's probably why. Yeah, there's, it's this is not easy stuff. Yeah. Well put, well, telling stories is not easy.
Ricky Grove 18:29
I wanted to say that I didn't, I didn't choose this film, for us to bash it. Right. That was not my point. I wanted to choose the film because it shows where somebody has a lot of talent. And also because you know, making the machinima making any kind of product is hard. And a lot of effort went into making this this film, and especially a feature length film, you don't mess around when you've got an hour and a half's worth of content there. A lot of work went into this, but I wanted us to talk about so much work went into making it visually attractive. But it seemed like not a lot of work into making the story clear. And getting the story elements set up so that ambiguity could be resolved at some point. So you're left with Tracy's reaction, which is the strands that never really come together. I would encourage machinima filmmakers to put as much work in fact, even more work into your story. The issue I think becomes, well machinima filmmakers are more interested in making the visuals. Because the hard real hard part is getting the story because they don't have that much experience. We are all how many? Even somebody in their mid 20s has seen literally hundreds of hours of media, television, movies, films, and they know the language. The language of filmmaking hasn't yet canes that much. So you know what a wide shot is? You know what? Over the Shoulder coverage, all of that stuff can be duplicated without having to go through film school, you know that. But the harder stuff is the writing? Yes. Because so much of the great writing is transparent. It, it doesn't reveal itself, but through what you watch it, you know, so you have to work at it. And I hope in future episodes, we'll be able to help folks with being able to concentrate on that a bit more. But thank you very much for your comments. And I applaud that filmmaker for doing their excellent, enjoyable film. I just hope they'll in the future, they'll put more effort into making their story interesting.
Damien Valentine 20:46
All right. Much like to see their next project when they release that. Me to me. Yeah.
Ricky Grove 20:51
Yeah, Damien, we're looking at a really interesting film, you chose Fallen Angels: a Star Wars short, tell us.
Damien Valentine 20:59
So a couple months ago, we talked about a Star Wars fan film contest. And we encourage people to create films in submit to that. And this is the film that won. So we talked about it in our podcast, then I felt like this is something we should all talk about, and review as part of our film section. So I've chosen this one again, it's made with Unreal. And it as part of the contest has to be three minutes or less. So it's a very short film. And it basically follows Darth Vader as he goes to Padme's. tomb where she's buried, and he's obviously having this. There's no context of why he's there. But he's obviously missing her. And he's come to remember her, and he gets ambushed by some rebels who basically, they see at high value Imperial targets, they want to try and take him out, because he's Darth Vader. So that's not gonna end well for them. And I was just so impressed by all of the the visuals of it, because it looks stunning. But not just the fact that it is graphically impressive, but the facial animation that Darth Vader takes his helmet off, and you can see his face. And he's, he doesn't say a word, but you can see the feelings that he's experiencing very, just by the way, it's Yeah, and a lot of time has been spent just getting that just right. And the same with the rebel troopers, they, they come in looking a little bit nervous, but they feel like they're going to be confident and that quickly changes to terror, as he turns around, starts fighting them. And that's all totally entirely through facial animation. There's no dialogue in the film at all. And that's it that's a challenge to do as well. So that's one of the reasons I wanted to bring it up because it's just I thought it's really well done. So what do you guys think of it?
Tracy Harwood 22:49
There's a lot of heavy breathing in it. So you know who it is. Boy Yeah. I mean, I thought it was really you know, considering it is so short. I thought it was you know, it demonstrated all the goodies in Unreal that you would expect the lighting and the you know the the shadows and all all the way that the light plays out over the you know, the ray tracing and what have you very, very well done. And I think really what I liked about it most there was this you know, it actually conveyed a story in such a short amount of time. I did I did when I first started watching it though, I didn't know who the character was because it was you know, you saw the face so I didn't immediately get that it was the man himself and neither did I realize that he was at at a tomb so so that whole beginning part really was a little bit lost on the until the breathing kicked in. And then the bit that impressed me the most was this impending fight between the characters and you know the the the facial animation on the on the character you know, the other characters not the not the Vader character was incredibly detailed. Really, really well done. Yeah. And so but it was only when when it panned out at the end that you saw the the tomb that I suddenly realized that oh, there's a bigger story here than I'd actually picked up on so then I had to watch it again. But no, I didn't immediately get story was it was more than one play through for me. I didn't mean the end. I thought it was a really nice fan movie. well made and concise and the conciseness conciseness of it was kind of what I liked about it was a nice snippet that you could imagine being a complete sort of sub story from within a larger film about the soldier characters.
Phil Rice 24:52
I thought it was absolutely brilliant. That the first I watched it twice as well Tracy but that's because the the first time that I watched it, I assumed that it was that someone had just edited together game cinematics from Star Wars games, like the pre rendered type of footage, you know, higher quality than the game itself. And so I was watching it just in kind of just how Okay, well, that's good editing. That's neat. I wonder which games this was pulled from because I haven't played any the modern Star Wars game. It was so good that I just assumed, okay, so this is professional footage, someone's edited together. And then I started watching the credits. I said, Wait, what? And then I read your comment on the board of what this was. And I thought, Oh, holy. Watch it again. I mean, it's just really, yeah. What a what a well deserved win. Yeah, for this person. Just beautiful. I don't know if he had to, if he had to whittle this down to make the length requirement or not, but I felt like the length was perfect. Honestly, you and the thing is, is a story like this, you could have drawn it out just a bit more for emotion, and it still would have worked. But, you know, whatever the original length of this was, if he had to trim it down for three minutes, he trimmed just right. I mean it. Yeah, it's it's perfect. It's I don't know what else to say. It's wonderful.
Ricky Grove 26:31
Yep. You know it. The Unreal Engine and the Unity engine are just perfect tools for machinima filmmakers, but not a lot of machinima filmmakers have moved to those engines. I have some suspicions as to why but that's not what this particular podcast is about. But this, this film shows you what can be done in machinima with skill, with being able to correctly this film had all of the visuals that Confined had and yet the story was just as good. With a without dialogue, to the point that you believe it. You don't move in and out of your belief of the story you're watching. And you start imagining things inside, for example, when Darth Vader realizes that he's being that these people are here to kill him, and they're interrupting his moment, his silent moment, grieving or whatever it is. He's... I in my imagination. He was annoyed when he turned around. Yeah. Now, if you if you watch it 100 times, and you ask a filmmaker, I'll bet you they didn't animate annoyance in there, you know what I mean? Yeah, I read into it, because that film drew me into it. You know, and the early part, when he sets that down in in any takes off, it's pretty clear that when he takes off his helmet, he's making himself more vulnerable. And it's a private moment, which you never see in Star Wars. Well, not never, but you hardly ever see rare in race. It's rare. So what the film did is it suggested stories beyond the story that it was telling. Yeah. You know what I mean? So when that happens, you know, somebody has got their story elements down, right. So this is an example of what you can do with a, a great game engine, like Unreal with thinking carefully through the story and then doing great visuals, especially in the fight sequence. I mean, there was just so good. You could see him just toying with those people. You know, that sadism that comes comes out in that character when it comes out. It was magnificent, it really great choice. No wonder they won the award. Yeah.
Damien Valentine 29:08
It makes you really want to step up my game with Heir to the Empire
Phil Rice 29:11
gonna say, Damien. That's inspiring. It is.
Damien Valentine 29:16
Ricky Grove 29:18
It makes you want to work in the unreal. So now from the sublime to the ridiculous. We come to Phil's next film, Beating Minecraft the Way Mojang Intended It. Now that's a mouthful, Phil. Tell us all about that.
Phil Rice 29:37
It was this was just me having fun this time. I couldn't find a serious story pic or, you know, a true machinima film that I wanted to feature this month but so this is kind of a it's kind of a Let's Play. It's kind of a almost documentary I guess. I don't know. But it's basically the premise is that you know, Minecraft, we've we've mentioned many times, it's been around a long time, it's evolved over the years, it's a sandbox game, there are certain things that you can do to achieve certain things in the game. But ultimately it's it's as open world as things get, you know. And this very experienced Minecraft player decided to pick up one of those game guides, the books, that are published for four games that are properly like this, if you know how to how to play and how to beat this game, you know how to win. And so, the premise is that he sets off to well, the premise is, is that what that book recommends, is not at all what experienced players end up doing the game so often these days, so he found it an interesting challenge to try and follow along with that. And that's that in itself is for someone who plays Minecraft is probably is is entertaining, but what really impressed me about this was the the, the comedic style he brought to his editing, in particular, to the the delivery of the the narration, vocal, these kind of very frenetic changes in emotion as different things happen. And when it's something that he has to slog through and do a bunch of stuff, it's just these real quick edits of you know, he's gonna He's gonna harvest some sheep to collect some wool and it's just cute. And I just I found myself really chuckling at it and and enjoying it and I play the game when I can and love it. So it's particularly entertaining for me because there's some references there that might not make a whole lot of sense if you've never played Minecraft. But overall it's it's it's a it's just a fun jaunt through you know, several kind of core aspects of of the game that someone playing it does encounter so I don't know how it translates to someone who's never played Minecraft. It's probably a lot that's confusing there. But for someone who has played quite a bit, yeah, I I found that I was able to follow what he was, you know, referring to or being sarcastic about and all that. So I'm curious. I don't think any of you play Minecraft as much as I do or at at all. So
Ricky Grove 32:43
no, I've never played Minecraft and I enjoyed the film very much with some reservations, of course, but I agree with you. He's very witty. He he has a really nice editing style that let's play quality makes you interested in the game. And it's like, oh, I didn't know you could do that. That's pretty cool. I mean, obviously the he's gearing towards a younger audience, because he uses the flatulence jokes and in bits and stuff here and there. But, you know, that's so what that's that's fine. You know, I'd found myself laughing and smiling my way through it and wanting to see more stuff by this person. I'm so fascinated with the Let's Play phenomenon general it's such an interesting aspect of machinima. I think it's pretty cool. Thanks for choosing it. Yeah, you bet.
Tracy Harwood 33:36
I think I realize, stupid as this sounds. I kind of realize why it's called Minecraft for the first time. Can you believe it? I actually felt a bit stupid watching it because I've never actually tweaked it because everybody was build stuff in it. I'd never connected with the fact that it is actually about mining. Who would have guessed anyway so quite. That said, you know, I've never really been a massive fan of Let's Plays and but what came over with this particular video is this guy is clearly having a lot of fun. And in actual fact, it's more of like an instructional would you call it a tutorial instructional video? Yeah, yeah.
Ricky Grove 34:29
Tracy Harwood 34:30
almost that isn't it almost except you know, he's basically saying don't buy these stupid books because they may no resemblance actually playing the game, which
Ricky Grove 34:38
is no cones build snow cones his weapon. That's pretty I mean,
Tracy Harwood 34:43
it's it's, but the other thing it kind of reminded me of except it almost wasn't that either. It's more of a speed run without any notion of what a speed run is. And I think the thing that I must sort of comment on on though is the fact that the really You know, the most fascinating thing about this for me also was the speed at which this guy has gathered his community on YouTube - 627,000 followers. Wow. In under well under a year and a year. Wow. And he's also been on Twitch and he's also been on TikTok. And he's got nowhere near that number of followers. So you know, this guy's got something that clearly the Minecraft is really tapped into. So and I'm not really massively sure about what it is because his other very similar to this one. Yes. It's kind of instructional let's play speed runny type things. So yeah, interesting. Very interesting.
Damien Valentine 35:50
Yeah, I haven't played Minecraft for a long time but so the game has obviously evolved a lot between when I last played it and when this video was made, but I think like all of you I did, I really enjoyed it. I had a good laugh, watching it through his timing with his comedy was perfectly something we talked about quite a lot when we were discussing comedy videos. Getting it right is just so difficult. And he's got it perfectly the way fast cuts because it'd be so easy to get it wrong and make a very boring video
Ricky Grove 36:23
Damien Valentine 36:25
and he did it right because he he kind of skips over the parts that wouldn't be interesting to watch but are essential to the show but only very briefly like the collecting the resources and building things that is fun to play, but not necessarily fun to watch. But yeah, he didn't really well, and I can see why it would appeal to Minecraft players and I have a lot more people enjoy it.
Ricky Grove 36:50
I love that when he died. He died like three times during the video. And it was almost as girlish little which I thought was very funny.
Tracy Harwood 37:04
reminded me when Phil did his let's play. Yeah.
Ricky Grove 37:11
That's right. That's right. Well, it was a really nice choice. I really liked that Phil Good. Good one. You made up for the last December choice. Good job. Tracy. Now you had a short comment you wanted to make about the Matrix machinima and then we'll go into Second Life Stomol by Huckleberry Hux machinima.
Tracy Harwood 37:35
Yeah, well, I mean, I really enjoyed the the Matrix Awakens video Well, I think it was a machinima basically that released at the same time as the Game Awards announcement of the Unity No, the Unreal 5 experience. So basically that that is a machinima that has been captured I think, using PlayStation 5, I think is what they said in the in the actual video. So it's based on machinima that they've edited together. The comment that I wanted to make really was with regard to an interview that Keanu Reeves did with Carrie Anne Moss, at the same time that that machinima film was was released. And it's a really interesting interview, where we're Reeves basically saying that it's probably the first time ever, that science fact has been ahead of science fiction. And he raises this kind of fascinating point, that because the the Unreal experience is so realistic, it's now almost impossible to tell, what's the difference between real and virtual? And, and he sort of makes the point not in as many words, but he gets to this sort of point of sort of saying, Are We Now at the limits of creativity with motion capture and virtuality tools? I think it's a really kind of fascinating thing to reflect on. And I would guess, given, you know, we've commented on this a lot in the recent films that we've reviewed over the last few months really, where motion captured, is being used with facial animation and the quality of the animation and the detail on the skin of the the characters that are being used is, is so detailed and so lifelike, that possibly a skin level, that kind of comment about, you know, are we at the limits of creativity is possibly quite, you know, it's probably quite accurate. But maybe what we've got is more detail to come and maybe the micro or the macro levels. So maybe that's where the where the hole is, but I don't know what do you guys think before I talk about Stomol?
Ricky Grove 40:04
Oh, well, I think whenever somebody says we're we've reached the limit, especially when it comes to art or creativity. I'm always dubious of those sorts of comments because somebody can imagine something next week that is completely different. Yes, human imagination, always trumps philosophy. But I think you're right, there is something interesting in that we might be at a crux of technology and art that is going to put us in new directions. So I think you're right. I think there's something very interesting about that comment. Yeah,
Tracy Harwood 40:40
I was it kind of fascinating stated kind of fascinated me and it's sort of something I've been thinking on a little bit in my work as well as to where the where this is next going. And we'll have to sort of see as
Ricky Grove 40:53
well. Phil would comment that you know, the adult industry is going to be taking the notion of virtual reality to areas that are unimaginable.
Tracy Harwood 41:08
It's funny that Keanu Reese did exactly the same in that interview, we'll sit we'll include the show link, but it's a fascinating interview. Okay, where basically he is talking about that very same thing. Who just thought you'd have been on the same page?
Ricky Grove 41:22
Hey, money motivates people. Whoa.
Tracy Harwood 41:29
Ricky Grove 41:31
Onto your choice at Second Life machinima Stomol by Huckleberry Hux, what do you think?
Tracy Harwood 41:40
Okay, well. This is a very long form machinima, and we've talked about long form machinima before this study on this, to me has got some really interesting concepts in it, playing with notions of what is real and what is virtual, using Second Life. So harks back a little bit to that previous comment that I just made. It's it's very cyberpunk aesthetic. Set in around 2100. From what I can tell, but its presentation is more sort of in a, in a sort of detective noir kind of style in in its narrative form. So Stomol is a detective recruited to find a last character who's one of the very few folks that can code and access old media files from the 1990s. Which, which to me, just immediately caught my attention with that kind of interesting idea. Yeah. However, the film then goes on and on and on a little bit. So it drags every scene out, to, you know, to find the various kind of antagonists that there are littered through the hour and 17 minutes of it. It does have an original soundtrack. And there's really quite an interestingly choreographed, fight around 37 minutes in which I think is quite intriguingly done. Like I said, overall, I thought there was some great concepts, it had really good potential. It's just that I think, I think this this, the context alone wasn't really enough to carry it. And it just lingered a little bit too long for me, really. So I wanted to pick it because I really wanted your thoughts again, on you know, long form storytelling and whether you thought there was enough enough story being told through here to carry something like this off. But But bearing in mind also that the other aspect of this which, which is also what we see, in a lot of machinima we don't often think about this in in Second Life is that it is, it is a world in which a certain type of simulated action takes place and the and the folks that are in that virtual environment, much as we think it's like a simulated real world is still acting out that virtual world and this very much plays into that Second Life, story, story world basically. And the premiere of this was made inworld for folks that knew the sim on which it was filmed, which was called Drune. So it was very much a celebration of that Drune world, which is partly why I think the director played a lot of the content to do with that. That sort of that sim basically, yeah,
Ricky Grove 44:51
I agree with all of your points. Very well made it now I understand why you chose the film. I think we haven't covered Second Life enough on our podcast, I'd like to do more of that. For some reasons, there's not a lot of Second Life videos on YouTube, they tend to be more on Vimeo and also in various individual sites. So I'm going to spend time looking through to find out more Second Life coverage, because I think it is a very interesting place to make films and has a very unique quality to it. That said, I think Stomol suffers from several problems, which you've already encountered. But I'd like to add it, the the actual rendering in Second Life is often really hard to, it's really hard to get the rendering quality high in Second Life. So you can occasionally we'll get this muddy look. And unfortunately, the whether it's their original render, or whether they re rendered it to create the film, it tended to be somewhat muddy. And because there's no real ability to create, there is but it's very hard, and most people don't do it to create original lighting in scenes, you have this sort of generalized lighting all the way through it. For example, if we look back at Fallen Angel, the Star Wars short lighting was used to high success, to emphasize that personal moment at the beginning and other areas. In this Second Life video, light, the only lighting that was used was the lighting that was in that set. And that hurts it as well, because that makes all of the scenes the same unless there's some very varied lighting in a particular set. So if you choose a long form story, you have to have enough variety to keep people interested all the way through it. Just on the lighting alone, you're you're going to be at a disadvantage. I think this could have worked in a shorter episodic. That way, you didn't have to worry about it so much. I think the the filmmaker should have put more effort into finding variety, and solving some of those clunky animation problems that Second Life has, which is gliding, when you walk. For one thing, that's a problem. The sort of almost stop motion animation, and the overand the ease in which you can drop in a dance thing, a dance, or a quick animation without adjusting it. And the transitions between the two that can be clunky. Which is why I think the most effective Second Life machinima tend to be experimental, where the those things aren't as big a deal. Because you're moving the scene fast. And you're creating unusual content, extreme close ups, lots of color, or documentary shots where they're doing a dance. Somebody's doing a dance routine in their documentary, documenting this. So I think there were real problems I lasted about 18 minutes into it and then went on and skipped all the way through it. But what I saw, parts of it I enjoyed very much, it was unfortunate that they chose a pretty well beaten path of the noir detective, a la Blade Runner, and then didn't really do a lot with it in terms of the story, they sort of stuck through it. But you pointed all of that out. What the big thing I'm interested in and I want to know what you guys think is that, again, how much of the story came out of the location, the set and what or and how much was pre planned and then applied to the set. I always find that a fascinating connection and I'm kind of interested whether anybody else felt the same way.
Tracy Harwood 49:01
Hmm yeah, I hadn't really thought about that. I don't know is the answer. Would you guys think
Damien Valentine 49:10
um, I didn't make it all the way to the film simply because I kind of ran out of time to watch it because is such a long film. I was really intrigued by the concept of it. So I do want to watch the rest of it. And it's just it was the last film of the ones I've the way I've watched through them and so I ran out of time for that which is I'm sad to say but the concept of it didn't treat me enough to want to watch the rest of it. I do feel like did drag out a little bit slower paced of it did hurt a bit. I think it's been cut. The editing have been tight. You could have watered down and made it flow better from what I saw. I don't really have much else to say about it other than that, because I need to watch the rest of it before I go fairly judge it.
Phil Rice 50:01
Yeah, I think a lot of the, you know, the technical aspects of it. A lot of which Ricky already, you know, pointed out the lighting issues and animation stuff. I mean, I don't know if I just, I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about that. It's not that it didn't bug me, but I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about it, because it's, it's 15 years ago, those were the exactly the same problems in Second Life, it hasn't changed, which is a little disappointing. Not for the filmmaker, but for the with with Second Life. Those, those oddities are still there. But you know, it is what it is. I know that Linden and all that went through some pretty tumultuous changes over the years. So yeah, the thing that that I guess I couldn't get past was that the lingering?
Tracy Harwood 51:03
Yeah. I do know what you mean.
Phil Rice 51:05
it was ponderous. It really was, it was it was like wading through very heavy water, you know, to get through it. And it is one of those things where my feelings on that do change a little bit when, you know, Tracy reminded me of the fact that this is an actual, you know, beloved location in Second Life. And so part of it is, you know, that the desire to show that off and showcase that, and I get that. But most, I reckon most feature length films, not machinima, but just generally, from what I understand, most of the time, they have more story than what they end up being able to put into the final film. There's stuff that ends, you know, there's, that's why every DVD release has deleted scenes and things like that, where it's, these were, these were maybe in the director's cut of the film. But ultimately, someone went in with an editor's eye and said, We need to optimize this a bit more. So we got to take this scene out. And this scene later only makes sense, because of that scene. So we got to move that to, you know, sometimes, sometimes entire, you know, big part actors end up none of their stuffs used, because they were all in those auxilary scenes, you know, those are the kinds of problems that feature films tend to have, which is, you know, boy, I'd love to tell even more story here. But we've got to optimize this down. And this, this film felt like it had the opposite problem. That sounds mean, and I don't mean it as, as mean as it sounds, but it's like there wasn't enough story to fill a feature length film here. And so there's this stretchiness that happens to the scene. And I don't know if the motivation was, you know, that it's part visual documentary of a virtual world location. Or if it was just, someone thought, well, a feature length film is about, you know, about 90 to 120 minutes, so we'd better make sure it's, I hope it's not the latter. You know, I hope it was just that. They didn't have anybody that's a merciless editor on their team, which, frankly, everybody needs. Yeah, everybody needs it. But often not the same person who made the film sometimes it is, but it's often somebody else stepping in and saying, man, this is just too you got to kind of got this back.
Ricky Grove 53:48
It had the same problem that Confined had, yeah, that the the filmmaker was so in love with the shot, or the scene, that they just wanted to linger on it.
Phil Rice 53:58
Yeah, I felt like this was this is a very, this could be very interesting, if a little bit derivative. You're right, Ricky that didn't do our thing. was just a little noir slash Blade Runner, like you said was just a little bit too familiar. But this, this would have been a very decent 40 minute story.
Tracy Harwood 54:18
Yeah. The problem interesting,
Ricky Grove 54:20
our 17 Or yeah, oh, that's
Phil Rice 54:23
just it's just too much stretch, I think.
Tracy Harwood 54:27
Yeah, it's interesting that we're both we're all picking up on this sort of fight between, you know, wanting to represent the sim and then telling the story, which which I actually think a lot of Second Life, machinima does you know, so there's that kind of struggle between telling a story and showing off what's in the, in the environment that folks have built. Yeah,
Phil Rice 54:53
yeah. You know, what I would like to the reminder that I would like to send to future films. makers' with that objective in mind is that YouTube has a pause button. And it has a rewind button. And if people want to see it again, they can go back and see it again. Or they can. You don't have to show that for three and a half minutes, you know, just a good shot of it.
Ricky Grove 55:22
I agree with you.
Phil Rice 55:25
Its flippant. But I'm kind of serious, too. You know, I know
Ricky Grove 55:29
what you're saying. But I think sometimes Second Life can be a kind of a closed community, in that the filmmaker knows that the people who coming to see it are people who really liked that sim, or who work in that sim. So they won't may not mind that extra length in shots, because it shows off the sim and they're happy with it.
Phil Rice 55:55
I think it's very probable. Yeah.
Ricky Grove 55:57
So there's a feedback loop with the audience happening there. But I think if you step back from it and look at it as a film, I mean, if you're gonna put it out on YouTube, and call it a film, then you better be ready for people to look at it as a film or may not have any investment in the sim at all. But I think I'm just trying to figure out why some of those things would be padded like that. And I think that's one of the reasons.
Tracy Harwood 56:26
Yeah, exactly. Thank you.
Ricky Grove 56:29
Sure. Well, thanks for picking that I once again, I'm just so impressed with the variety and interest of films we had this month. It's one of the things that I just love about doing this podcast with you guys, because you have all have such different interests and, and points to make about your films. I'm happy to start the year off with a strong showing of films and I hope everybody watching and listening to this, enjoy them as well. We will have transcripts to all of our podcasts so you can get every one of Phil's bon mots. And we'll have links to all of the films, and we're going to, you know, let the filmmakers know and if they want to come and tell us about it, or we'll set up an interview, we'll do that as well. You can contact us at Completelymachinima.com many different ways. We'll have comments open on our YouTube until we don't - we'll see how that goes. So thank you very much. We hope you have a happy New Year. Thanks for watching. Happy New Year and we'll see you next next month. Bye bye