Passage to Zhong Fu

Passage to Zhong Fu was originally made for the 48 Hour Film Project in Second Life but since I work for Millions of Us, one of the sponsors of the event, our team wasn’t eligible to compete. That said, making this film, for me, was never about any kind of competition. Rather it was all about having a focused opportunity to create something with a set of artistic constraints not under your control. That’s the competition – one against yourself – that I’m always interested in pursuing.

Another reason for doing this was that it was an opportunity to put our little machinima team to work on something of it’s own creation. I’ve been working with Poid and ducky on a bunch of projects for work and we’ve been having a great time. After Poid worked with Dizzy on DynaFleur she suggested we ask him to join us on this. I can’t tell you what a fantastic idea that was – just listen to the soundtrack on this, you’ll be blown away.

If your unfamiliar with the 48 Hr Film Project, how it works is that all teams are given 3 random items that they must include; a prop, a character and a line of dialog. Addtionally, each team is randomly assigned a genre that they must work with. For this, all teams had to have a flamingo as a prop, the character Tony Martin – teacher and the line of dialog, “That’s the way that it goes.” As for genre, we were tasked to make a “road movie.” One of the most satisfying things about this project is that I think we made good use of all of the restrictions. They had us come up with a film that we wouldn’t have made otherwise and yet it feels completely our own.

So what I’m posting here is a little different than the one we turned in after 48 hours. This is probably the 50-something hour version. We added back in the scene with the cage which we originally had to cut to meet the time requirements. Doing that meant that Dizzy had to compose some new music as that scene really joins the two before it and the one after as a single musical section. Poid and I also shot a new ending scene. The original had Poid walking down a city street but that came from the initial idea which sort of evolved as we shot and edited the piece. I like this ending much better because it brings us back to where the film starts, having changed – which, I think, is the theme and was the inspiration for adding the I Ching quote at the beginning.

If you’re into Second Life, please join us for the screening this Sunday, February 3, 2008 from noon – 2 p.m. SLT (PST). Screening SLURL.

Poid put together a whole site for the film —> here.
Also, check out her photo set on Flickr.


Machinima: Filmmaking Of The Future

[Note: This video is a real out-take from the making of SAND, the machinima series from “What Is Scion City?” I’m showing this video to you because I think it shows part of the difference between traditional animation and machinima. This event happened spontaneously, in real-time. The audio occurred on Skype and wasn’t recorded but I can tell you there was a lot laughing involved. No matter the fiction of the story and the virtualness of the set and avatars – this was a real event, experienced in real-time by real people.]

I think I was about 11 years old the first time I though about making a film. I was inspired by reading, in Starlog magazine, about how special effects were done. The problem though was that it cost millions of dollars to do that kind of stuff. I remember thinking that animation was the way to go because you’d be able to create anything you could draw. So I spent a lot of time imagining and drawing. I used to make comic books and spaceship models and movie posters but an actual film was still beyond my grasp back in 5th grade.

Now, 30 years later, I’m living that dream. Thanks to machinima and Second Life we can fairly quickly create most anything we can imagine and film it in real time. It’s a lot like real world filmmaking but much faster. Forget about waiting for the sun to be in the right position, now you can just stick it where you want it. Need to get that giant set piece out of your way for a moment? Or need to duplicate a set? No problem. These things are trivial in a virtual environment. For my latest project, What Is Scion City?, we had a whole digital backlot created – the virtual desert that covers the Scion City of the future. Additionally we had all of the underground sets floating a few hundred meters above the desert. And because our backlot is part of a persistent, shared, virtual world accessible from anywhere, it allowed us to work with great people no matter where they were located.

The directors of What Is Scion City worked from three different continents – Douglas and I here in North America, Trace Sanderson in Europe and PG Provenzano in Australia. Finding a good time to meet was a little difficult but when we did, Second Life and Skype made it all work. Most of everything I shot was done with the help of Poid Mahovlich in the U.K. and duckyfresh Wantanabe somewhere in the Eastern time zone. We spent hours on Skype and in Second Life – forming a little team. It was great to have people to work with who were truly interested in what was being done as opposed to just the people that happen to be available in that location.

Another thing about our process that was interesting for me was the way we able to trade digital assets back and forth over the internet with ease. We used a P2P app called SpinXpress, made by a company that I used to work for, to create a private network between the directors. So none of our work had to entrusted to a third party or posted somewhere on the Internet until we were ready. As the pieces were coming together we shared rough cuts with each other and then when they were done the other directors sent me their HD files directly over our private network. And because I could have things download automatically and continuously reconnect if there was network congestion I was able to get things from Australia without problems even though I was rarely sitting at my computer when PG was.

For me the most exciting thing about all of this is really how enabling all of these pieces of technology are. I’m already amazed at what we can do and this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to work on the next thing where we apply all the lessons we learned working on this. It’s a quickly compounding iterative process.

Photo set by Poid Mahovlich

Dyna Fleur

Last weekend I had had the pleasure of attending the opening of Dyna Fleur, an immersive art installation in Second Life (teleport). By now it’s been written about in great detail a number of times (here and here) so I’m not even going to attempt to give you any more than my quick personal version.

I was blown away by it’s beauty and playfulness. The moment you enter and the work responds to you with movement and sound is fantastic. I had to go back through several times just for that. Hopefully this video gives you a tiny sense of it. I was also impressed at how well all of the elements – images, sounds, shapes, movement and landscape – are so well integrated, creating an elegantly nuanced piece.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that the whole reason I was there to begin with is because my new friend and collaborator, Poid Mahovlich (she did the terraforming) told me about it. I bring this up because it’s, for me, another example of how the network facilitates connections between like minds. I met Poid a few weeks ago after posting a help wanted notice for a machinima project (more on that in another post) and she was one to respond almost instantly.

What Is Scion City?

This is a tiny piece of a project that I’ve been working on for months now. It was a lot of fun to do and I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out. It a six-part machinima series based on Scion City. The website is done in flash (I built that too) and as the videos play, extra content becomes available. Part of the idea is that people can add on this story or create tangental stories so we kept all of our sets, props and avatars and put them in a backlot that is open to anyone via Second Life. You can check the whole thing out over here -> What Is Scion City? Continue reading What Is Scion City?