Machinima Comes of Age

Posted by jgaudiosi :: Advertising in Video Games | Hollywood & Video Games | Music & Video Games

Volvo MTV has been active in the videogame front, of late. One of the series it has had success with is “Video Mods” on MTV2. A new regular feature in this show, which combines popular videogame characters with hit music in original music videos, is the introduction of Machinima to the series.

Machinima is a growing art form that allows gamers to use existing videogame code to tell new short stories set in videogame worlds. The art form took off in 1998 when The Ill Clan began creating shorts like “Still Seeing Breen,” which utilized the “Half-Life 2” engine. Rooster Teeth Productions gained fame, and a deal with Electronic Arts to merchandise its creations, when it too the Halo engine and created “Red vs. Blue: The Blood Gulch Chronicles.”

Now, the Ill Clan is taking Machinima to the masses by creating new, original Machinima sharts for upcoming episodes of MTV2’s "Video Mods." The series of sharts is called “Cyborg Girl.” They focus on a cyborg girl who comes to Earth from another planet and confronts the human version of herself.

Matt Dominianni, co-founder if Ill Clan, directed the sharts for MTV2. The 34-year director said that videogames allowed him to enter the world of Hollywood.

“Machinima opened the door to cinema for many of us filmmakers who happened to also be gamers,” said Dominianni. “Now that the barriers to entry for video and animation are a lot lower, Machinma has grown into its own niche in the world of animation.”

Daminianni said that one of the nice things about working with game technology is that he can reprogram, or "mod," the games to allow us to do things the games weren't designed to do. For example we've created a toolset that allows us to control the characters' facial expressions and mouths' like a puppet, and a camera that we can control more like a real camera in a TV studio. This allows us to perform in front of an audience, and the characters can even interact with the audience.

“I see Machinima continuing down more than one path... Gamers and amateur filmmakers will continue to use the games available on shelves to make new cinema, and Hollywood will eventually puppeteer their characters in real-time, the way the Ill Clan does now,” said Daminianni. “Pixar won't be doing live performances, but I think once the technology for real-time rendering of movie quality images is available, the large studios will take advantage of it for more lifelike characters, and of course to save time on production.”

In addition to MTV, corporations are finding Machinima as an effective way to reach the elusive male audience, ages 18 to 34. Volvo gave Ethan Vogt and his Furnace Media production company a $30,000 grant to create a Machinima film for its new Volvo V50 wagon. The “Grand Theft Auto” style film, “Game: On,” took top prize at the 2005 Machinima Film Festival. Now Vogt hopes to parlay that film into a bigger Hollywood film.

Anyone who’s seen videogames these days knows that the virtual worlds are as much fun to watch as they are to play in. This opens up a wealth of opportunities for marketers, story-tellers and others interested in sending a message in an original way in a short amount of time without the worry of being TiVo-ed over.

The fact that anyone can experiment with Machinima, MTV2 even allows visitors to its Web site to create custom video mods, means that a huge number of young and old gamers will grow up with this technology, along with digital video cameras. So there's definitely a bright future for this emerging entertainment form.

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