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"Clockwork" is streaming at Machiniplex: Premiere today at 4PM

Watching the Clockwork test through our "Love" spectacles.

After a bit of wrangling and thumb-twiddling while waiting for files to encode, transfer,etc., we've finally got our new Machinima Premiere film "Clockwork" up and running at Machiniplex. The flash video looks good, but I think the downloadable wmv version is better. Sorry the size of the download is so large (400mb), but if you have the patience, this is the version to watch.

As a reminder, we will be actually showing the film in Second Life at Hathead's Tower Lounge today (Saturday) at 4PM (Pacific Time). Hathead managed to re-encode the .mov version we sent him and it looks pretty good in-world. This will be the first time we've managed to do what we'd always wanted to do on a Premiere: show the film and then have the discussion afterwards.

Hathead's Tower Bar is here:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/HatHead/85/148/607

Or you can IM either Hathead Rickenbacker or gToon June when you arrive in Second Life. We will teleport you to the bar. We will show the film around 4:30PM (once everyone settles down) and then have a Q&A with Phil Rice (music/acting), myself (sound/acting) and the director, Nefarious Guy.

Nefarious has also created a nice post about "Clockwork" and what he was trying to say/do with the film. You can find the link here:

http://blob.xurst.com/viewtopic.php?t=336&highlight=

My thanks to Hathead for letting us use his island for the Premiere and for helping to get everything set up. Please feel free to donate to Hathead if you feel so inclined. You can right-click on the movie screen and donate any amount directly to Hathead. He's got the pay the rent, too.

See you there!

Machiniplex Premiere: "Clockwork", a crime drama. Sat. March 29th, 4PM (Pacific) @ Second Life



Machiniplex is very proud to present "Clockwork, a crime drama shot in Garry's Mod and directed by Nefarious Guy (Amorphous Blob Productions). Music is by Phil Rice. We will be premiering the film in Second Life at Hathead's famous Tower Lounge on Saturday, March 29th at 4PM (Pacific Time, or 11PM GMT). After the premiere (the film lasts about 12 minutes) we will meet the director and some of his crew for a question and answer session.

Of course, there will be drinks and dancing after the Q&A, so stay as long as you like!

We have decided to move our Premiere to Second Life after continuing frustrations with Skype. If you have never tried Second Life, but want to attend, now would be a good time to set up an account. It's free and pretty easy to set up. You might want to try out the Second Life orientation before the event, or just show up early and ask for help if you need it. Second Life uses a "slurl" to get from place to place (instant transport). The slurl for Hathead's Tower Lounge is:

http://slurl.com/secondlife/HatHead/85/148/607

We will be using voice chat, so be sure you microphone is working. If you don't have a mic, that's ok since there is a good text chat in Second Life and we will have one going at the event.

If you need a good time converter to figure out what 4PM Pacific Time would be in your timezone, try this link:

(http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/)

I will be posting the film at our Machiniplex site on Thursday night, so you can see it before the Premiere if you like, or wait to see it on Saturday.

My thanks to Hathead for letting us use his remarkable space and for his continued support. Please feel free to tip Hathead via the Second Life interface at any time you like. You can deposit Linden dollars (the Second Life currency) directly into his account.

Frank is about to do something he'll regret.

Clockwork

"Clockwork" is a crime drama about a hit-man who tries to change his life, but finds that the mob won't let him go. Frank is a killer who wakes up to his conscience too late to protect his family and friends. Nefarious Guy wrote the script and shot it in Garry's Mod. I came on as an actor (I play Frank) and as a sound designer back in October of 2007. Phil Rice joined at the same time to play Vinnie and create the superb music for the film. Production covered about 5-6 months.

Down these mean streets a man must walk.


The Don gives his blessing for Frank to join the "organization"


Vinnie likes his work a little too much.

And here's a trailer that Nefarious Guy put together early in the production. It doesn't feature Phil's music (it's a temp track) and the sound is wonky, but it's still a decent representation of what the film is like.



Disclosure/Recusal

Since I play a part as an actor in "Clockwork" and designed the sound, I recused (removed) myself from the usual process of deciding whether a film is premiered at Machiniplex. I gave no assurances to the director or indicated to anyone how I felt about "Clockwork" as a film. Nefarious Guy, the director, sent a copy of the finished film to Ingrid and Jason, who separately approved the film for a Premiere. I made no effort to persuade or convince them to do so.

Since Machiniplex chooses only films that the three of us consider to be of a high quality, I feel that this statement is necessary in order to prevent any appearance of favoritism.


-Ricky

On the Death of Peter Rasmussen

Peter Rasmussen in a screen cap from the doc "Artery: Machinima"

Peter is gone.

Out of the blue (or so it appears to me) a sad announcement at the Machinima for Dummies site that Peter Rasmussen has died; no cause of death, no details, no reason. It sickens me. It's perverse that a man as talented and as smart as Peter could be whisked away into oblivion just like that. A man who had just released one of the best Machinima films ever made (Stolen Life), won practically every award at the recent 2006 European Machinima Festival, had set up a monthly meeting (along with Phil Rice) of Machinima filmmakers and was starting research for his next film. A man who gave to a largely insular community his time, his care and his wisdom, in order to make Machinima better.

Not to mention whatever web of friendship and love he had in his own personal life. Though I was only a casual friend, I got a vibe from Peter that he was a decent, thoughtful man. I can only imagine how painful his death must be for those who knew and loved him. What a tragedy.

I had just responded to him a month ago answering a question about IClone. He was looking for a new engine to use for his next film. He wouldn't tell me anything about it, but his enthusiasm and excitement was obvious even in an email. Peter came to several of the Machiniplex Premieres and asked smart questions that kept the conversation with the director grounded and focused on practicalities. I was trying to figure out how to get Peter on Machiniplex, or at least feature an interview where I could learn more about his life. But...

Peter is gone.

One of things I hate about death is that aside from the fact that it's inevitable for all of us, it often creates regret in those are still alive. Perhaps this is mostly my own issue (my brother died when I was 6), but I regret not searching Peter out and learning about him. I feel like a selfish fool for not reading through his Nanoflix blog until after he has died. And for not seeking Peter out as a collaborator. Now it will never happen because Peter is gone.



Peter and Jackie Turnure interviewed by Australian Gamer

Since the announcement of Peter's death, several blogs and tributes have been been posted on the net. Phil Rice's tribute addresses Peter directly and is hard to read it is so sad. Of course, the Machinima for Dummies site has the notice along with some heart-felt comments by the Machinima community. Some other site with comments include Leo's Dr of Machinima, Shattered Keyboard (with a good list of blog posts), Sidney ACM Siggraph, Eyes Wired Open (with a clip from Stolen Life), Johnnie Ingrams' I Hate Sheep has a bittersweet post on Peter, AFTRS Lamp, and Frank's Flinging Thoughts blog is an honest expression of the loss that all of us feel.

Phil's Overcast podcast #17 has an interview with wonderful interview with Peter. It's hard to listen to, but stick with it because you'll find more info about him than any other source. The links for the show are all excellent and informative.

Peter's Nanoflix blog is a good place to learn more about his films (there's a nice high-res download of Killer Robot). The last entry was (typically) praise for Bloodspell. IGN Australia has an good interview with Peter about Stolen Life. Peter appears briefly in the Machinima documentary "Artery: Machinima" ( one wishes now that the film featured more of him). Just Adventure, in addition to reviewing Stolen Life has an excellent "Making of Stolen Life" article by Peter. This is the definitive commentary on how the film was developed and created. The Australian Gamer has a nice interview with Peter and Jackie along with photos (some of which are featured here). Jackie Turnure's journal "Rockpool" has insightful comments about machinima and the media in general. It hasn't been updated in a while, so there's no mention of Peter's death. I'm sure it must have hit her hard. My heart goes out to her. I hope she posts about it at some point.


A still from Peter's "Stolen Life"

Peter's main site, Nanoflix Productions, features his Machinima work (Stolen Life, Killer Robot, Rendezvous, Joy), a live-action short (The Picture Woman) , a science-fiction story (Mars by
Stealth) and a Machinina study for building living quarters on Mars using robots (Red Igloo).

Stolen Life won Best Picture, Best Visual Design and Best Direction at the European Machinima Festival in late 2007. Phillip Johnston's music for Stolen Life won the 2006 Machinima Film Festival. The film was nominated for 5 other categories including Best Picture, Best Visual Design, Best Voice Acting Performance, Best Virtual Performance and Best Technical Achievement. Peter's earlier film, Killer Robot, was an official selection of the 2005 Machinima Film Festival. And his film, Rendezvous, was nominated for Best Picture, Best Writing, Best Acting and Best Independent Film at the 2002 Machinima Film Festival.

You can download Stolen Life at ZipWorld ($9.49). I'm not sure if the DVD is still available, but it's well-produced. Killer Robot is available for free and on DVD via Machinima.com. His other Machinima works are free at the Nanoflix.net website.

The earliest credits I can find for Peter are as a writer for the live action films Mad Bomber in Love (1992), The Picture Woman (1998 - He also directed this film) and In the Winter Dark (1998). If anyone has additional information, please add it in the comments section.

The Stolen Life trailer is here. There is a wealth of interviews, commentary, etc, that can be accessed through the Nanofilx website.


A still from Peter's Killer Robot

I'd like to leave you with the full text of Peter's essay on Machinima titled "Why Machinima is Different". Something that sticks with me are the lines:

"It’s not just the speed of production. It’s very much about the attitude people making machinima bring to what they do. Machinima is propelled by the same sense of hands on discovery that drives the video game modding community."

Peter walked the walk. He did what he talked about. His attitude as an artist and as an increasingly important presence in the Machinima community made Machinima better. Now we will never see what remarkable works he would have created. And we will never know what insights and craft we could have learned from him.

It is a tragedy that Peter is gone. But we can learn from what he has left us; his films, his comments and interviews, his writings. Let us all take the time to think about what he has shown us Machinima can be. Let's think about what he sees as the future for our nascent art form. I think this is the way to honor his life and his achievements. Because even though he is gone in a literal sense, he will remain alive in our desire to learn from him.

Why Machinima is Different

Posted by Peter Rasmussen on April 29, 2007

"To understand the potential of machinima we need to understand what has gone before.

Ancient history:

Even at the “independent” end the film industry has systematically been reduced in it’s scope. Like a “mini me” of the studios it has become intensely corporate in its workings if not in the actual budgets. There was a time when there was more balance. Big budget films employed a lot of people and payed for the infrastructure of the industry while independents kept the fresh ideas coming. Even big studios would occasionally put out films that could draw some critical acclaim. Now it has become much more homogenous.

At the moment the making of films has become so strictly regimented. Everyone has gone to the same “how to make a movie” seminars to learn that you have to have two clips to hold the script together not three. There is no room for descent. The result being that they cost so much and that they’re all the same movie.

Maintaining and expanding a profile in the industry has become such an art that there is a sense of reward that comes from being good at that alone. This contributes to a kind of decadents. It has become more about working the room and less about making the film.

Hal Hartley once said
“If I’m serious about film making I have to get out of the industry.”

The emphasis has been on impressing the industry with your value to get its support to make your projects possible. Now there is the potential to get that support directly from the audience you are making the film for.

Now we have digital video. Anyone can afford cameras and editing software that is capable of producing a film that at least has image and sound quality acceptable for commercial release. Now we have the Internet. Anyone can self distribute. Anyone can show their film to anyone who can find it.

Machinima is not a branch of an earlier kind of film making like video from celluloid. Machinima is a completely independent eruption. It is not just a new image recording medium. What used to be a video game add on is now a new approach to story telling that has it’s own community and culture. It’s a movement that is currently free of most of the intrinsic encumbrances of conventional filmmaking.

The greater population of machinima makers come from outside conventional filmmaking. Machinima was born out of the chaos of the warfare of first person shooters and the anarchy of excited gamers and hackers who were not restricted by filmmaking conventions or industry etiquette.

A great deal of machinima so far was made in existing games with no regard to copyright. This may actually have contributed to its growth. Not having to make the locations and characters made the process much more quick and fun at that early stage. Without copyright clearance the only way this work could be seen was for free. So the popularity grew. And other sources of revenue were explored. Like talking about how it is done at seminars like books on machinima like merchandising.

The feedback loop between trying something out and seeing the result is so much shorter. This is true of the day to day production and of the turnaround on entire projects. Techniques like real time puppeteering fuel spontaneity. The immediacy of machinima is a very powerful substance.

The best way to learn filmmaking is to do it. The budgets for conventional films these days have become so bloated filmmakers just don’t get the same amount of practice. Starting out in the black and white era Alfred Hitchcock Made fifty films in his career. The ones he is most famous for are the ones in his later years.

With less time taken up by development and the raising of production money the turnaround for machinima is much faster. There is much less of a gap between having an idea and seeing how it actually looks on the screen. And straight away you can see if it works for the audience.

“Do what you like.
And If the audience doesn’t like it get off”

– Noel Coward

It’s not just the speed of production. It’s very much about the attitude people making machinima bring to what they do. Machinima is propelled by the same sense of hands on discovery that drives the video game modding community.

Skills and practices drawn from conventional filmmaking can be applied but this must be done with care. With Main stream filmmaking you get development hell. There are so many people you have to convince that what you are doing will be successful. This environment rarely produces things that have not been seen before. Machinima seems to be in a position where it can avoid much of this at least for a while.

With conventional film making there can be a strange gap between the filmmakers and the audience, the “demographic” as they are sometimes called. With machinima it is much more fluid. There can be a conversation between the audience and the filmmakers even during production via blogs and forums. This doesn’t mean that the work has been modified for the lowest common denominator it’s more like an overture before the main event.

Fans of machinima are not looking for photorealism. The spectrum of kinds of machinima being made is quite broad. From popular entertainment to extremely conceptual art pieces. So broad that a vigorous debate continues to attempt to define machinima.

The 2006 Machinima Film Festival in New York ran for two days. The quality of entries had grown since previous years. Most entries ran for less than ten minutes. Two had a running time of more than an hour. Short titles rule at the moment. The most successful films at a festival of mostly short films are gag driven. A single clever concept well delivered with a strong punch line.

It’s like Machinima is in the first few microseconds after its big bang. The particles are basic but very powerful. I expect that over the next few years we will see more long form productions as serious machinima makers settle in for the long haul.

There is an opportunity to, refine is the wrong word, to bring this new medium to a state where it can be produced for a return of revenue that allows the machinima makers to continue to deliver to there audience something fresh and original in a sustainable way without outside interference in the creative process."
Download the pdf here

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Machiniplex Premiere: "Folie a Duex", This Sunday, 1PM on Skype

(Note: I had written a long post on Peter Rasmussen, but it was lost somehow in the Blogger software. I'll attempt to re-construct and post as soon as I can. Peter's recent death has saddened us all. My condolences to his relatives and friends)

Machiniplex.com is hosting a Premiere for the film "Folie a Duex", an Antics Machinima directed by Tony Bannan. The film is currently showing at his website, Ammo Previz, and will be posted on the Machiniplex site on Saturday. On Sunday, March 16th at 1PM (Pacific Time) we will host a Q&A with the director on Skype. If you don't have me listed as a contact, search for "rickygrove" and I'll send you my contact details. The Q&A session will be a voice chat, but we'll also have a text chat going at the same time.

Bloodspell DVD + Supplements Coming Out Next Week

From director Hugh Hancock's "Bloodspell Development Updates" blog today:

OK, we've finally heard back from Bioware and EA.

Good news: we'll be releasing something you can burn as a DVD, next week.

Bad news: We won't be able to release a physical DVD.

EA have gotten back to us and refused our request to distribute via DVD. Obviously, this is one of the major problems with producing a Machinima film using someone else's Intellectual "Property", in today's rather screwed up legal system. I'll have some more detail on what our plans were and what happened next week.

But we have the ISOs (disk images) ready to go, so here's what we're going to do:

1) We'll upload both the ISOs, hopefully to both the Internet Archive and a Bittorrent server. You can burn these in a standard DVD writer as a DVD you can watch on television. We'll also upload disk and inlay artwork for you.
2) We'll also produce a DivX version of both DVDs, for those of you who want to listen to the commentaries but don't want to download 5 Gb of ISO.
3) Finally, we'll upload all the documentaries we produced to Blip.tv, for your streaming viewing pleasure. They'll also be on both the ISO and the DivX, but there's a lot less downloading involved in watching them on Blip.

So, it's coming, at last - the final chapter in the BloodSpell saga.

Bloodspell, if you don't already know, is a wonderful feature length film (adapted from the original 14 part series released in 2006), which premiered here at Machiniplex back in the Fall of 2007. Since then, Hugh and other members of Strange Company have been working hard to release a DVD of the film itself and a second DVD of supplemental material (four hours of documentaries, etc). In addition to all of the work involved in simply producing a high quality DVD (and believe me it's a lot of work), Hugh had his fingers crossed that Bioware and EA games would ok the release of the DVD under creative commons. Bioware, it seems, was very much for the idea, but EA Games (who recently acquired Bioware) apparently decided that they did not want Strange Company to release a physical DVD of Bloodspell (and the supplements disc).

Hugh's simple (and gracious) announcement probably hides enormous frustration with EA. I fail to understand their caution in not allowing an actual physical DVD. I don't have much empathy for giant corporate paranoia. EA has a pretty poor history as a company (claims of labor abuse, hostile takeovers, scorched earth acquisitions of smaller game companies, etc and etc) and their recent efforts re-make their corporate image (while gobbling up smaller companies) has had mixed success.

My question is this: when will a game company step up and set an example/precedent in supporting Machinima filmmakers like Hugh and his crew at Strange Company? I mean, come on, Hugh has a stellar reputation both as a filmmaker and a Machinima promoter. I'm hard-pressed to think of an a person and a company that would play fair with EA in any business dealings. What a missed opportunity for EA to promote their attempts to rehabilitate their business image. Certainly Hugh and Strange Company are going to abide by any legal contract that EA would create, why not seize the opportunity and negotiate something that would allow for a release of an actual physical DVD that would benefit both sides? It's disappointing that they would hold back on making a significant effort to support Hugh's efforts (and the Machinima community in turn).

If EA wants to shed their image as an indifferent and machiavellian company, now is certainly the time. By fully supporting filmmakers like Hugh Hancock and establishing a legal precedent for Machinima DVD distribution, EA could have gotten the corporate herd moving in the right direction. I think the community would applaud such an effort.

My congratulations to Hugh and Strange Company for all of their hard work in creating the DVDs and for sticking with it to release them to the Machinima community and the general public. Bravo!

Quick notes: I have one last article still in the can for our Bloodspell premiere at Machiniplex. I created a "Scene Breakdown" for one of the climactic scenes near the end of the film just before Jared confronts the Master for the last time. I hope to put the finishing touches on that article and release it in time for the DVD image release next week. Should be of interest as it features excellent directorial commentary by Hugh and Paul (who plays the Master) along with a comparison of the animatic for the scene.

Also, I'd like to recommend a free image burning software for use when you have the Bloodspell ISO and want to burn it to a DVD. I've been using Img Burn for several years and it's a stable program that works very well.

Note: This blog post was revised slightly from it's original version due to a misunderstanding about some of the facts surrounding the dvd release. Thanks to Hugh for setting me straight.