Unlike megacorporations, the main cost of R&D in a mom & pop machinima outift is time, patience and self-belief.
Self-belief? How is that a cost? Well we're finding that around 10% of the things we try work out, and that can be very wearing and momentum sapping.
There gets a point when we just have to make a film with whatever we have, but then we would just like to try something else..and that pushes whatever we are doing a little further.
Another tax on our self-belief reserves, is that the more we find out the less we realise we know.
Aussie documentary maker Shelley Matulick's profile claims that making machninima is
dead cheap and brain dead easywhich I think is her way of encouraging beginners just to get started and try filming. Then once the bug hits you can choose how complicated you make your film-making.
Yes, we are choosing to make our filming experience complex. Multiple engines, editing tools, all these things take time to learn, and sometimes don't really work out.
So what drives the continual search for something new, something seemingly better?
Maybe, for us, there is as much excitement in the discovery as there is in the filming. The 10% of things that do work seem to generate the momentum to strive for the next unknown. There is a freedom in not knowing, that thrilling peek around the next corner.
If we were working for someone else, we would have to justify every moment spent trotting up paths that lead nowhere.
This is play, serious play at times, but play all the same. The kind of non directed internally motivated play of the toddler in the sand-pit.
Sometimes we bawl with frustration, with sand in mouth and eyes, other times a beautiful sandcastle seems to appear with hardly any effort.
I get the same kind of pleasure in seeing a pleasingly composed film shot as I did, with sun on bare legs, raking patterns in the sand and watching the movement and interaction as each picture blended into the next.
A post by Michael on Free Pixel asks the question
Is there some benefit from using the more wooden, game-like, often standardized characters with default skeletons, limited control mechanisms that try to look kind of realistic in some way? Is it worth to enter the uncanny valley when the performances are so “off” and difficult but obviously want to be taken seriously?
In a sense it's a question that has already been answered by all kinds of animated films, but it's very valid to consider the question afresh for machinima.
To divert for a moment, Dr Nemesis questions whether defining a branch of Machinima as Anymation poses a threat to some, that it may lay game created work open to unwelcome comparisons with expensively created CGI.
I think that there is a link between these two debates, and a question which can link both...should the context of a piece of film (artwork) be considered part of the work? Or should it be somehow possible to extract the context and view the creations is some sort of pure abstraction?
It's hard to imagine a film viewer naive enough never to have come across a video game, so is it impossible to take the context of machnima away? Is it only when a film so far transcends the aesthetic of the engine that this becomes an issue...and if that happens does it matter any longer?
In most realms of creative endeavour, the more educated the viewer, the richer the experience they gain from interacting with a particular piece of art.
I found myself thinking about Cornelia Parker's "Feather that went to the Top of Everest"
A photographic image, beautiful in itself, but made so much more arresting when the viewer knows that the feather is from the jacket worn by the first woman to climb Everest.
Each person who comes to a piece of film has their own unique relationship with the context of the piece. I'm not sure there can be any definitive answer as to why use video puppets instead of filmed actors, or how individuals react to that.
It seems to me that it is enough for the creator to make film which resonates with their own experiences and to allow the viewer to approach that from whatever angle they are able.
The context is always part of the experience, and is different for everyone.
I (Kate) was recently interviewed by a georgia Tech research student Jenifer Vandagriff, who was interested in researching women's experience within machinima.
One of the questions I struggled to answer was 'how many different engines / tools do you use?
The rate of turn over seems..almost worrying at times. Whilst some love their engine, and their whole experience of animated film-making is an in depth study of one branch of Machinima, here at Pineapple we seem to skip through tools at speed, attempting to learn only what seems necesssary for a particular project.
This isn't always possible of course.
Also it is not unknown for both of us to create a range of assets for a movie, only to have them discarded when it becomes necessary to substitute another film making program due to some technical difficulty or an inability to create the look we were after. I guess this is part of the natural waste of an evolutionary process.
Anyway, without giving too much away the female half of Pineapple has been researching ways of creating dust storms and sand dunes, whilst the male half has been battling with camel bones.
I think my answer to number of tools may have been a vague 'ten plus', but now I realise we have pursued more programs than that simply in order to animate a camel, and if we can't the camel to look sufficiently camel like, she may even suffer the indignity of being 'written out', so that's ten plus tools for an item that may, in the end never get used.
The female half of Pineapple has a forlorn hope that at some point she may be able to make a film completely with tools she already knows how to use. Well we all have to dream.
Attack of the Killer Raspberries from Pineapple Pictures on Vimeo.
Pineapple have been tinkering around the edges of using CGI animation, thinking of this as another option in the Anymation tool-belt.
When Kate accidently created gigantic flying raspberries she could not resist....
Chard is a vegetable, whereas rhubarb , whilst technically speaking also a vegetable, is more commonly eaten sweetened..often with custard.
They taste different, but look..similar.
Avocado is a fruit..but most people eat it as a vegetable. Mango is definitely a fruit.
Since changing our shopping habits and receiving a weekly organic delivery I have, on several occasions, set out to make..shall we say rhubarb and custard..and then need to make some sort of last minute diversion towards chard in white sauce once I realised my mistake.
This kind of rethink isn't always easy to accomodate, especially if I then have to find something else to do with the custard, and for some strange reason my family objects to chunks of avocado being included in a fruit kebab.
Size is deifnitely an issue when it comes to recognition for me, and I have been subjected to supermarket standardisation over a long period of time. It makes finding a small ridged cucumber in a bunch of courgettes quite a challenge, especially if the cook is expecting to put something vaguely meal-like on the table in a short period of time.
How do I tell the difference between grapefruit or an orange if either can be somewhere betwen huge and tiny, and both can have very similar skin colour and texture?
I have never had to make these decisions before. Either we grew something, so unless something went terribly awry, the name on the seed packet was a big clue, or we bought it..and it came with a label stuck on the packaging.
This week, I was very impressed with the Martin brothers film HypoHeretic which has been linked to on many Machninifeed blogs
I do not know the history, or the background and yet this film both puzzled me, and made me laugh in delight.
The mix between second life and iclone was so well managed that I was unable to distinguish what was made with each engine, and had to resort to reading the blurb to find out.
This strikes me as a great example of Anymation at work, though I would have to speak to the creators to discover if they favour that terminology. The mix was wonderfully unexpected in any case.
I'm glad I didn't know, when I started making machinima, just how much focus it would take to progress. How many engines, tools I would need to learn, how many dead ends there would be.
I am reminded of Alice's conversation with the red queen, after she had run as fast as she could, and discovered she had not moved an inch
`Well, in OUR country,' said Alice, still panting a little, `you'd generally get to somewhere else -- if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.'
`A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. `Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'
In machinima of course, like on the moving walkways in an airport terminal, everyone is moving along right at the same time.
This can lead to a queasy kind of stationary sea-sickness, of rush, and speed and movement and yet the mile posts seem to stay stubbornly in the same place.
Recently I've been rewatching classic musicals that I have seen at previous points in my life..West Side Story being the most recent. I am becoming aware just how much I study sets rather than action. I love the music, the colour, the dancing but my eyes are usually on the background and the costumes.
This tendency reaches towards the ridiculous when watching sport on tv. My eyes slide past the movement, to the setting. I get bored with football because the background never seems to change. After noticing which way the mower cut the grass, and unless there is any unexpected weather, nothing happens for ninety minutes.
I spend tennis matches wondering about the stand carpentry. Swimming races are a little more interesting because of the ripples and reflections on the water.
I guess it's quite possible I am missing some vital signs of progress, I do seem focus on odd things :)