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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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  1. Blogger Cellandra | February 3, 2010 at 4:09 PM |  

    This was an amazingly well written article. I'm happy to see Chantal's creativity in action. Thanks for sharing and goodluck to you Chantal.

  2. Blogger Cellandra | February 3, 2010 at 4:11 PM |  

    This was an amazingly well written article about Chantal. I think she is a very dedicated woman and I wish her the best of luck. I only wish I had as much stamina as she does. HUGS Chantal.

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