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"Production Process" will be the Focus of the Forum with Chat Noir this Sunday, February 28th

 Our February forum will focus on the the "Production Process" with Chat Noir filmmakers Sherwin Liu and Kate Lee this Sunday (February 28th) at 10:30AM to 12PM (Pacific Time) in Second Life. If you have spent any time watching Chat Noir's excellent machinima you may notice that the production quality of their work is top notch. From working with The Movies to Moviestorm they have shown how attention to detail makes a difference in the stories they are trying to tell.

Come to the Machiniplex forum and find out how they create their films. Share your ideas with everyone and lets figure out how we can help each other improve our filmmaking. Voice chat will be the focus, although we'll be running a simultaneous text chat.

Highly recommended that you spend some time watching their films at their YouTube archive (I'm particularly fond of the "Into the Shadow" 40's noir series).

We'll be meeting at 1030AM in Second Life at the Academy Portucalis. Bring and open mind and don't be afraid to comment or ask questions.

Second Life Slurl:


February 28th Mplex Forum with Kate Lee & Sherwin Liu of Chat Noir Studio

The Machiniplex forum will be held on Sunday, February 28th in Second Life with special guests Kate Lee and Sherwin Liu, who combine to form Chat Noir Studio. Over the last several years, they have produced unique hand-crafted machinima with high production values and unusually well written stories. Their recent "Death in Venice" film was nominated for a jury prize at last years MachinExpo.

Kate and Sherwin began making machinima films around 2006 using Lionhead's The Movies as their platform. Their work on such films as "Dignity of Men" showed the community that they were serious about the quality of their film work. Despite the difficulty of working in The Movies, they created such a charged atmosphere and made such important moral points that this particular film became an example of how machinima can overcome it's inherent limitations and become an art form.

Another interesting and accomplished film created in The Movies was the 3-part "Into the Shadow" series, a 40's noir style packed with almost existential crises for most of the characters. What Kate and Sherwin do with the low-rent content of The Movies is simply wonderful. Sherwin's music compositions for the series is superb. I think this series makes a great case for the art that can come from limitations.

Recently, Chat Noir has moved to Moviestorm to create their films, which has allowed them more room to expand their film aesthetic and develop more sophisticated cinematography and character animation. "Death in Venice" is simply one of the best machinima films ever made. Acting, sound work, cinematography and especially the Graham Greene-style story are all first rate.

Currently, Kate and Sherwin are at work on an ambitious new film titled "Incubus" which is being shot in Moviestorm again. You can read their production diary here and follow their very smart and interesting studio blog here. Their main film archive is at their YouTube page. Vimeo also has several high quality versions of their films.

We are delighted that Kate and Sherwin will join us for the Mplex forum on Sunday, February 28th from 1030AM to 12PM (Pacific Time) in Second Life.

The Machiniplex forums are a series of open monthly meetings which center around important filmmakers, films and tools for the Machinima community. We will discuss production ideas, how Chat Noir develops their scripts and anything else that comes up.

Second Life

This month we are meeting at the Academy Portucalis, an organization that furthers education in SL and throughout the world. Here is brief they sent us about their organization:

About Academy Portucalis.

Academy Portucalis is owned by 
Marga Ferrer and M2life Paravane. At present, the Academy is a school reference in SL, either in the national Portuguese or other nationalities, over the years at work and the merit of their instructors and trainees and has a leading position with regard to education in SL. The Academy works with training in RL from various institutions of higher education Portuguese, accompanied by institutions of the same level of education in other countries (including Spain, Brazil, Argentina and the United States of America). They were also presented papers at international conferences, with publication in specialized journals with referees, who "shoot" the Academy for a landing in international education.
We hope that all stakeholders (trainers, trainees, friends, curious) to collaborate and continue, as always, to enrich Portucalis! 

We'd like to thank Marga Ferrer and M2Life Paravane for their support in making this location available to us. 

Here is the SLURL: 

Second Life is a free and open virtual world. I if you are interested you can download their software and learn more here

If you need to convert the time of the event to your time zone, here is a good time converter. Remember the event time zone is Pacific Time (Los Angeles). 

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Chantal Harvey's JOY OF MUSIC Premiere

We were very pleased with the Premiere of machinima filmmaker Chantal Harvey's new film, JOY OF MUSIC, this last Sunday. With a wide variety of people in attendance at Pooky Amsterdam's StudioDome in Second Life, the screening was well received and the Q&A afterwards covered both the origin of the film and it's production history. This was exactly the kind of event we were hoping for. Our sincere thanks to Chantal and to all who attended for making this Premiere something special.

JOY OF MUSIC is the pilot for a series that Chantal will be making for both children and adults. The script is an adaptation of a Madcow Cosmos story and was shot on a very fast shooting schedule (3 hours) at the IBM2 sim in Second Life. Chantal's background in TV helped her keep the shoot organized and efficient, although I can imagine it must have been chaotic at times with actors falling off of the set at one point.

Chantal filmed from a detailed shot list of over 70 shots. She also went in for closer shots in case she needed them in the edit. The shoot seemed very much like live action or theater to me (the original set is now gone) and working with so many excellent actors/crew was something that Chantal said she loved most about filming in Second Life. The ability to create new sets was one of the prime reasons she chooses to use SL as a medium for her imagination.

Production moved quickly on the film with Chantal spending about a week (as I recall) on the editing in Premiere Pro CS3. We talked quite a bit about her choice to edit simply with direct cuts and little or no moving camera. "It's better to move your characters and not the camera" is a lesson she has learned from her professional work. Something many beginning machinima filmmakers would do well to learn, IMO. 

The audio work on the film was done by Lorin Tone and it was superb; really made the film stand out for me (I'm partial to sound work since I do so much sound myself). And Judi Newall played the boy in real time on set. She was also present at the Premiere and provided some excellent and interesting commentary on the production process. Thank you for coming, Judi. 

While JOY OF MUSIC hangs together as a whole, one of the most enjoyable aspects of the film is the superb voice over by Lauren Weyland. I was amazed to learn that the entire narration was done in one take. You couldn't ask for a better performance especially since the narration had the feel of a parent tucking in their child at bedtime and telling them a fantastic story they made up on the spot. Fresh, charming, vital and full of fun (but not lacking in seriousness when those moments come), I was so glad to hear that Chantal hardly did any cutting to the narration as it was strong on the first take. 

Narration like Lauren's (in addition to being well recorded, thank God) is not easy to find in a lot of machinima as it has none of the style of, say, a Pixar or Disney film narration: assured, clean and almost omniscient narrators who speak with the smoothness and ease that many years of work have gifted them with. No, this narration is rough around the edges just as if it were being told on the schoolyard or in a cafe. A real person telling a fantastic story with a moral. The simple honesty of the acting matches the style and story of the film perfectly. Can't praise Lauren's work more highly. And pretty much everyone at the Premiere felt the same way. 

A lot of the discussion with Chantal centered around Second Life movie making. She uses Fraps to capture footage shot using primarily the main camera controls of the SL interface. Captured in HD 1080p, she edits in Premiere and encodes in H264 codec.  We spoke briefly about setting up a live tutorial on SL moviemaking at some point this year in Second Life. Once we have a better idea of time/date, I'll announce it here at mplex. 

There was some talk of the future of Second Life and machinima. Attendees pointed out that there has been a lot of interest in machinima from Linden Labs in the last year. Perhaps some efforts at making avatars more expressive in the future will be the result. Let's hope so. 

And that reminds me that several people in the audience pointed out how difficult it must have been to work with avatars who have a limited range of expression. Chantal said she "liked the limitation" as it presented a challenge which she felt made her more creative. Something machinimators should keep in mind as they work within the limitations of their chosen game/software. 

Although she was mum on future episodes of the JOY OF MUSIC, she hopes to complete them this year and perhaps sell them to the BBC, which she feels doesn't have enough creative children's programming. We certainly wish her luck and will be reporting on any future episodes that are released. 

Remember that Chantal's Machinima Festival is coming up fast. The MaMachinima International Festival is on Feb 20th and it is unique in that there are no prizes or contests; just machinima films and discussion. What a wonderful idea. I urge everyone to attend. More info at MaMachinima.eu

PS special thanks to Phil Rice for promotion and encoding on the mplex site. 

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