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Sam Goldwater and "Monad" Premiere

Yesterdays "Monad" Premiere was not as well attended as previous events, but the conversation with Sam Goldwater, the director, was lively and informative. Sam is an articulate and refreshingly candid person who answered questions for an hour and a half before we all retired to Hathead's dance party.

That's Sam on the right under that hat.

We are working on trying to record some of the Q&A session so that people who couldn't make the event can listen to at least some of conversation. For now, let me recap some of the main talking points.

-"Monad" is a final project for one of Sam's college classes. Although he had conceived of the film a year or so ago, he delayed working on the film until a month before the project was due. He was actually composing some music up to 5am on the day he was to submit the work. We talked a bit about the benefits from such "concentrated" work; the accidents that work out in your favor, quick decisions leading to subconscious connections in content and the build up of isolation/passion in your work.

-We all enjoyed the irony of being in a large virtual world as virtual characters watching a film employing virtual characters and telling a story critical of the very activities we were participating in.

-Sam wanted to make a realistic "character" driven film that was distinctly different from typical machinima stories of guns and vehicles and violence. He took many digital photos of the city he lived in (Middlesex? in England), esp at night, and composited them into the shots he filmed in HL2.



-Careful attention to detail gave the film a life of it's own. Sam spent considerable time working on the depth of field shots (see the first bar scene) which took a lot of time to work out in After Effects. He also worked hard on finding the right combinations of HL2 animations (you can layer them to produce variations), a sort of "trial by error" method that produced impressive results.

-Sam was also quick to point out that the sound and the sound mix were not as well done as other parts of the film; he simply didn't have the time, he said. Also, the opening shots that were meant to establish a virtual funeral were not well crafted and resulted in some confusion about what was going on in the story. I'm hoping at some point Sam will consider re-shooting these scenes as it would start the film more clearly.


-Much was made of the effectiveness of the story and the empathy Sam created with his characters. I pointed out two scenes I thought were remarkable: one was the scene right after the protagonist has painted stencils on the wall and remarks to his girlfriend "Do you miss the stars?" - the camera pans up to the sky which is subtly replaced by a spaceship flying in a void; the image becomes something on a computer screen and we realize the game is "Eve" thus re-enforcing the theme of confused realities (games/real life). The second scene comes earlier where the guy (why can't I remember his name?) meets the girl in an internet game bar. The subtle animations and beautifully crafted shots really create a reality all their own; one that is convincing and compelling.

-While Sam was a bit disappointed with the acting of his female lead (Sarah Speak), many of us felt that her work was excellent and wondered why Sam was frustrated. It turned out that Sam wanted certain aspects of the characters personality to come out in performance, but felt he didn't get it and so perhaps missed what the actress actually did in the performance. My respect for Sam here really went up as he was willing to concede that he may have missed something in Sarah's work. I'd also like to say that Dan Jackson, the male lead, was equally as good. And despite a few popping "p's", the recordings were excellent.

-And finally Sam told us that he had received very good feedback on the film and was going to start work on his first really "team" effort for his next, longer film. He hopes to license the rights to make the film from Valve (a notion most of us were not sanguine about) and conceded that they might have to switch to another engine (CryEngine in Far Cry 2 looks fantastic, Sam said) if Valve is uninterested.


Of course, we all retired to the dance floor at the end and let Hathead do his DJ thang. The music was wonderful and HH really has a feel for creating a fun, party atmosphere. Even Sam was dancing away! I love the chat during this time as it's more informal and chaotic. What fun!

My thanks to everyone who attended. Special thanks to Sam for making such a great film and for coming into SL to talk about it with such candor. And also to Hathead, whose continuing support for the Machiniplex Premiere's is much appreciated.

"Monad" by Sam Goldwater is currently streaming at Machiniplex.com. There is also a high quality 800x600 wmv download link just below the main movie screen.

Machiniplex Premiere: "Monad" by Sam Goldwater, Sunday, May 25th, 12PM Pacific Time


Machiniplex is proud to announce another Machinima Premiere this Sunday, May 25th at 12PM (Pacific Time). We will be presenting Sam Goldwater's film "Monad" at Hathead's Lounge in Second Life. Sam's previous films, the experimental "Dead Dogma" and "Robes" are both beautifully crafted films using the Half Life 2 SDK. While both of these films are excellent, I think Sam has surpassed himself with "Monad". I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say that "Monad" has some of the best character animation I've ever seen in a machinima film.



"Monad" is a tweaked love story between two very different people. The backdrop is any urban city where young people are disenfranchised and have become obsessive gamers. When a young woman gamer starts a passionate affair with a man who is committed to freeing himself from the contstraints of society, an unexpected tragedy ensues.

The set design and style of the film is beautiful and poetic. The acting is excellent. And the entire film comes together in a way that serves a sad and moving story. I really like this film.


We will show the film at around 12:15PM (Pacific Time) and then have a Q&A with director Sam Goldwater. I'm looking forward to discussing the film with Sam. Especially his faceposer work and custom set designs.

Details on how to attend the Premiere in Second Life

Hathead's Lounge slurl (web address to take you to Second Life location):

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


If you have never used Second Life, you can download their FREE software and give it a try. There will be plenty of people on hand at the event to help you figure out the interface and move around.

http://www.secondlife.com

We will be communicating primarily via voice chat, so if you want to talk you'll need a mic/headphone combination. They are pretty cheap now and you can find them at most electronics/computer stores. My favorite brand is Sennheiser.

However, you can communicate your questions or comments via text chat as well, so it's not necessary to have a headphone/mic to attend the Premiere.

Oh, and if you think of it, drop a few linden dollars in the cup for Hathead.

See you there!

"Iron Sky" New Collaborative Movie

Intriguing post on boingboing.net today regarding a collaborative live-action/animated film called "Iron Sky". The teaser is really something:




This creative commons licensed film is being produced/created by the same crew that developed the "Star Wreck" collaborative film a few years ago. The idea is to become part of the beta group for the new film and collaborate with them by filling in work that needs to be done. Their blog site has more information and the site where you can sign up is wreckamovie.com

I'm sure gonna join. What an interesting project!

Machiniplex Bulletin Board 01

I've always enjoyed the posts at Shattered Keyboard and Overman's site where they occasionally feature a huge collection of links. Using this idea, I've decided to create the first of what will be several "Bulletin Board" entries for Machiniplex. The difference will be that it won't be just links, but media, pictures and short announcements that don't necessarily need a full post.

Here we go....


The Wizard of OS Premiere

Overhead shot of the OS Premiere.

Last Sunday's "Wizard of OS: The Fish Incident" premiere went very well. Tom Jantol (director of OS) and I spoke for an hour or so and then fielded questions from the audience, which consisted of around 20+ people, including several Second Lifers who just came because the event looked interesting. It took a bit for Tom and I to warm up, but once we zoned in together the conversation was wide-ranging. Everything from Tom's favorite author, a surprising G.K. Chesteron, to Tom's frank statement that he has no trouble with film technique, it's the story that is hard work. We discussed his "anymation" idea and the various programs Tom used to create OS. Motionbuilder, Sony Vegas, Moho (now Anime Studio) and Poser are his main tools. He indicated he spent "too much money" on some live motion shots that he brought into the scene. Tom was keen to let everyone know that the live motion scenes were not composited, but rather painted on surfaces as video textures using Motionbuilder.

Tom and his mysterious Butoh avatar

After the Q&A we were able to lure Tom on to the dancing floor and once he figured out how to activate the dancing animations that Hathead had built in, Tom was twirling around and having a ball. It's interesting to me how conversation changes while people's avatars are dancing; very different from when every one is just sitting or standing around. People seem to loosen up while dancing. At any rate, after thanking Hathead for setting up the event and once again letting us use his island for our event, I had to head out to an appointment and left Tom dancing and chatting away. You know, for someone who's worried about his English, he didn't seem to care once he got his rhythm down. Thank you, Tom.

-Two New Members of Machiniplex-

I've asked Damien Valentine and Tom Jantol to become members of Machiniplex. They have both accepted and will be blogging here starting in May. Both of them are well-known members of the machinima community, but aren't heard enough in my opinion. Damien has directed over a half a dozen Star Wars related machinima and has been active in supporting Machiniplex from it's inception. Tom is a Croatian nut case who's "anymation" ideas are becoming increasingly popular. He promises to write some controversial stuff. Good. That's what our Machiniplex blog needs. I welcome them both.

-Bitfilm Machinima Nominees-

Overman has a list of the Bitfilm Machinima Nominees and, boy howdy, is it a hot line-up. Machiniplex is proud to have hosted Leo's "The Beast",Tobia's"Among Fables and Men" and Lainey's "The Dumb Man", all three of which are imaginative and wonderful films. Watching the other entries, I was particularly struck by Egils Mednis's "The Ship". A simply beautiful film. Hard to believe it was created in the Unreal Game engine. My congratulations to all of the nominees.

-Recent Machinima Program Updates-

Antics has updated their machinima/previz software to 3.1 in the last week. The main adjustment is in adding the ability to import the free Google Sketch-up format (.skp) directly in to and Antics scene. Antics 3.1 can now search the Google Warehouse while inside of Antics and download just about anything available. This is a huge step up in available content. Also, a recent tutorial there shows how to animate your Google Warehouse character using some simple techniques. Antics also has a new blog, which looks to be an excellent way of staying up on developments with this excellent program.

Moviestorm has a significant update to their popular (and free) program. Version 1.04 has many improvements, most notably a new interface, a gesture previewer and improved shadows for furniture. There are also many fixes for known issues like footsliding at the end of a walk cycle. The forum at Moviestorm is very lively and supportive.

Iclone is preparing to launch a significant upgrade this summer (July). IClone 3.0 should be a major improvement over previous version. In-scene motion editing, sky and terrain editing, new timeline, real-time vehicle control and many enhancements make this version of IClone the most interesting version yet. There's a good "First Look" video on Youtube and an IClone Blog that has screenshots and updates. This version of IClone should be a big one.

-Overman's ZS forum is the place to be-

I thought I had given up on forums last year, but increasingly Overman's (Phil Rice) forums are becoming a new hang out. Not only are there interesting people posting, but many new faces are showing up and offering content and commentary that is inspiring. With Phil ramping up plans for 52 weeks of content on his Youtube.com channel (Phil has to be the hardest working man in machinima, eh?) and with some interesting new (ahem...) developments with his Overcast podcast, I think that z-studios.com is going to be the place to be. What a guy!

-"Louis Revenge" a new film from Andre Pesch-

After working with Andre on "The Days After" a few years ago, I've been a huge fan of his work. His new film "Louis Revenge" is not quite as accomplished as "The Days After", but it sure is a beautiful film to look at and the story is just right for a short film. Andre, if you're listening: I want to work with you again!


-Amorphous Blob's Experimental Machinima Film Exhibition-

Our own Nefarious Guy (Mr. Harrison Heller of "Clockwork") has created an interesting page for a recent class project, which is an exhibition for experimental machinima. Mr. Heller profiles 6
experimental films and comments on each. His goal is to raise awareness of the film experiment in machinima. Well worth your time to stop by his site and see what he's created.

-3d World Magazine-

Despite it's hefty price-tag in the US ($15), I've become addicted to 3d World Magazine. The new issue, #104, has an article on the current state of machinima. Unfortunately, it takes a month or so to show up in Los Angeles magazine stores, so I have to make do with issue #103, which is a hum-dinger. If you don't know about this magazine, it adds a DVD of tutorials, free programs, demo programs and animated films with each issue. Issue #103 came with a special DVD which had 50 of what is, in the magazine's opinion, to be the best short animated films of the last decade or so. I've only made my way through half of the films and they are astoundingly good. It's an expensive magazine (comparatively), but for what you get it's worth every penny.

-Creepy CGI Animation-

Boingboing.net featured this interactive CGI of a young Asian woman recently and it just creeps me out. Apparently, it's flash-based, but darned if I can see how they've made it so life like. And what's with the strange blood-shot eyes? Eeeuuuwww...

-Interview with Alex Sandri, Maya Artist-

I am a staff writer for Renderosity.com this year and recently interviewed an extremely talented Maya artist, Alex Sandri. He is a very popular, but somewhat secretive, artist at the site. After an extended email interview, I've come to wish I could go to Thailand where he lives and spend time with him. Be sure to look through his gallery if you want to be blown away. This guy is good!

-Masters of Russian Animation-

I finally splurged and bought the entire "Masters of Russian Animation" Collection on DVD. What a collection of masterpieces. I've only just finished Disc one. The gem of this first disc is Mikhail Aldashin's, "Kele" (1988), a masterful abstracted story of a flute-playing monster and the two young girls who encounter him. The character movement, the style and the story are remarkable.


-Muxtape - Mix Tape Site-

And finally, although it's not animation related, if you like putting together music mix tapes for your friends, head over to Muxtape.com and set up an account. With a wonderful minimalist design, you can upload mp3's of 12 pieces of music (or spoken word) and create your own mixtape. Phil Rice has an excellent one up. Mine is not to shabby either.