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discovering games as expressive media

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  • [About]

    FreePixel looks at video games as part of the moving image culture. Games are not movies. But games use moving image tradition in their presentation. That is why FreePixel offers a critical look at games and their expressive qualities that grow from the use of the moving image.

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    [May 6th, 2012]

    Scooter on CGI

    Posted by Michael

    Via Puppetvision (which has it from the Muppet blog Tough Pigs which ultimately links to the TED talk). It is Scooter himself “I’m talking puppets vs CG.”

    He makes his point pretty clear: “puppets are the pioneers who made CG possible.” But it feels a bit like a missed opportunity to just deliver a rant against the computer-based side of things. Even the Muppets need a pinch of CG theses days. And if there is going to be a Dark Crystal 2 (and I plainly refuse to accept that is has been shelved forever) then it can be safely assumed that there will be render farms involved. Given that the Creature Shop’s own reel is heavily CG infused.

    So while one can certainly root for felt puppets, feathers, and fedoras around Ms Piggy’s voluptuous neck, Scooter somehow missed the point in the long run. It would have been more interesting to hear something about the way that CG and live puppeteering could be combined.

    [April 26th, 2012]

    Education and Machinima

    Posted by Michael

    Almost a year ago I was supposed to say something at the Machinima Expo – about teaching Machinima. It did not pan out that way (was still an enjoyable conversation though). But as I recently stumbled over the announcement of the next Expo (trailer by Tom Jantol) I collected some notes for that I decided to post them anyway.

    The Global Kids initiative working with machinima in ‘o8 (grabbed from here)

    Read more »

    [April 5th, 2012]

    What is machinima about?

    Posted by Michael

    It took a long while to come back to the blog. I was busy doing more physical computing things over here. However, I am not completely gone, yet. Recently, I was asked to write a short piece on machinima for a book and when I was thinking about a useful question the “what is machinima about?” stuck somehow with me.

    First of all, this is obviously an unfair question to ask. It is impossible to reduce any animation technique to a single “topic” or “message.” But as machinima has such a hard time to leave the gaming community, one might wonder whether this is really the confines it is restricted to.

    Mike Munson’s The Tyrant helps to clarify the question.

    Read more »

    [September 26th, 2011]

    Google went Henson

    Posted by Michael

    Celebrating Jim Henson’s birthday yesterday, Google Doodles created an interactive puppet doodle (which eventually should be available again here so head over there and play). This spawned a number of live puppeteering machinima pieces. It is a bit like a 24 hour movie project gone rogue and a great example why puppets are so valuable for machinima and real-time animation.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxaX3zzqxhA&feature=related

    So far, all the examples I have seen were live screen captures – but one can imagine some amazing work with a little bit of compositing and editing.

    [September 1st, 2011]

    Rules of Engagement

    Posted by Michael

    It is pretty clear that machinima is not interactive. It is not a game, one cannot achieve a high score or solve the problem, but receives a prefabricated performance in one way or the other. This rings true for audiences streaming their daily dose of gameplay videos on YouTube and a large part of followers of machinima. The closer one gets to the production side, the more the whole enterprise turns into an highly interactive theatrical and cinematic event. One that touches on a whole lot of live performance issues – for example on digital puppetry (and some weeks ago Sanjeev Nayak, one of my students just finished his work on a nice new version of digital puppetry using cell phones). But in-between are the murky waters of cutscenes and QTEs …. and things get muddy.

    Read more »

    [July 22nd, 2011]

    The Pixar Dream of Machinima

    Posted by Michael

    From the times when machinima flourished and folks saw it as a new possible form of commercial filmmaking, there was one myth of machinima, a kind of holy grail: to catch up with Pixar and do a kind of Toy Story x in real-time. After all, who would not like to swap with John Lasseter? The man turned himself into an CGI animation myth, like Disney did for traditional animation.

    Now we have Cars 2 and the myth has cracks.

    After watching Cars 2 I had to see Wall-E and Toy Story 3 again – just to remind me of what Pixar stands for. You cannot blame my lack of interest in all things automobile alone. The timing was off, the characters were lost, and worst of all the story was fragmented and garbled up to sheer nonsense. The result was a mediocre tale polished up by render virtuosity. What went wrong and is there a lesson to learn for machinima?

    Read more »

    [July 5th, 2011]

    Adding to the Literature list

    Posted by Michael

    Just found out that there is a new book on Art, Code, and Machine of the Demoscene out. In German only – so the real title is “Kunst, Code und Machine” – and I got to admit that I have not read it yet, only skimmed the available intro. But this one sets the scene nicely by diving into Farbrausch’s debris head on and already battles with the “real-time definition.”

    I used to point to Lassi Tasaj√§rvi’s “Demoscene, The Art of Real-time” as my default book on the demoscene. So it is good to see something else on the market.

    [June 13th, 2011]

    The Machinima Reader is available

    Posted by Michael

    It has been a long time. Epic, really. But, here it is: The Machinima Reader put together by Henry Lowood and myself and published by MIT Press.

    The reader is structured into six main sections: Reflections, Technology, Performance, Machine Cinema, Pedagogy, and Context. Here is the amazon link; and after the jump the table of contents, if any further arguments are needed:

    Read more »

    [June 3rd, 2011]

    SL machinima month

    Posted by Michael

    The Month of Machinima has kicked off in Second Life – more precisely here. Thanks to the Linden Endowment for the Arts

    I have so much catching up to do that I did not really have any idea what to expect. Well, after the jump you should find the 14 selected movies (thanks to Chantal Harvey)

    Read more »

    [May 29th, 2011]

    Sport 3D

    Posted by Michael

    A machinima related follow up on Barcelona winning the Champions League.

    Sport visualizations have been around for some time and this one of the 3 goals Barca scored yesterday is not necessarily revolutionary.

    Digging a bit deeper showed that the underlying software VRTV is coming from England and based on a mysterious Graphics Environment for Scripted Applications (GESA) engine. Originally the company (Sportflashback) used Flash but moved on to a real 3D engine to achieve better results.The business model looks very much like that of familiar machinima companies: divide in engine and content and earn your money in the long run with the content. The tricky question is: where is the content coming from?

    Creating the necessary 3D animations is the bulk of this model, I would think. The answer might be Russia. St. Petersburgh to be precise, if this older (German) article still applies.

    Another interesting detail is the interface, which is not based on game paradigms at all but instead is all buttons and menus. Well, it might be a game interface: namely that of a Fussball Manager. Could it really be a question of the content that defines the cinematic operations and functionality of a specific machinima engine?