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Filmmaker Toolbox: Machinima, Moviestorm, and Myst

Independent filmmakers, visual artists, and composers are starting to use machinima more and more in serious artistic pursuits. Machinima, animation using video game engines, has matured considerably in the last few years to something for Fanboys of Quake and World of Warcraft to a viable way of making an affordable feature length animated film.There are several machinima software options available to the aspiring machinima filmmaker. As a musician that wanted to make an opera using machinima, I found that Moviestorm, a UK-based machinima platform, was easy to use and affordable. Below you can see a rough cut of Baby Machine from Libertaria: The Virtual Opera.

 
As you can see from the clip, I was able to create a quick sci-fi machinima scene without too much of a learning curve. Some Moviestorm animators have made great headway in making incredible original mods and new animations for the characters. One of the drawbacks of Moviestorm is that initially you are limited by the options available with the sets you purchase. 

Moviestorm machinima and traditional video game machinima rely on "real time" animation. In other words, instead of animating the characters frame by frame by hand, you "direct" virtual puppets (or actors). You set up parameters and give them directions like "Sit on chair" or "scratch your nose". The puppet then acts out the actions. The more animations and parameters available the better which is why it is suggested that machinima MS animators learn modding (making their own puppets and animations) or buy 3rd party software. I was lucky enough to have Lucinda McNary on my Libertaria animation team from Two Moon Graphics. She created incredible mods for the project and has done so for many other indie filmmakers.


For those that want more control over their animation but don't really want to spend the money or time learning Maya, you can use a program called Poser. It is much more complicated than Moviestorm but less difficult than Maya. Once again you can rely on 3rd party software if you are short on time. 


I have to mention one more program that I love to use. Bryce was the original program for the video game "Myst".


Bryce is an excellent program that creates convincing virtual landscapes. I use Bryce to create complex textures that I then use on primitives in Moviestorm and Poser. I have created some stunning artwork using the programs in tandem. 


If you are an independent filmmaker, visual artist, or musician that wants to find an affordable and easy-to-learn way to create convincing animations for your projects, you need to check out machinima. Read more about MACHINIMA in the articles below! And don't forget to comment!
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