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Last Updated: Monday, 15 October 2007, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Hot picks: Machinima
By Tracy Harwood
Manager Machinima Festival Europe 07

Screengrab from festival trailer, De Montfort University
The Festival was the first in Europe dedicated to machinima

Machinima is a medium that has come of age.

As an "emergent art", it has been around as a form of user-generated content for some ten years now: hardly emergent then.

As Friedrich Kirschner, a leading authority on Machinima, explains in his blog, it has come from subculture to a genre of its own. It is now a recognised approach to film-making, having been used by the likes of Spielberg to test special effects scenes before shooting the "real thing".

What is evident, however, is the growth and scope for machinimating following the more recent arrival of virtual environments such as Second Life. Indeed, some of my favourite films are the ones I've seen as part of my Festival Manager role.

Sharing my Top 5 machinima films is challenging as I'm relatively new to this art form and I took on the organisation of the first "European Machinima Festival" as part of my day job, which is as a senior research fellow for the Institute of Creative Technologies.


Still from Red versus Blue
Red versus Blue is one of the longest running Machinima series
One of the first pieces of Machinima I saw when we started talking about putting the Festival together.

The wry humour still strikes me - two teams of guys stuck on different sides of the fence wondering what on earth they are doing.

It's an absolute classic comedic piece as far as I'm concerned, and it has led to another 99 episodes since it began.

Made by Texas-based Rooster Teeth in Halo 2, the huge following that this organisation has generated is clear evidence of the power of word-of-mouth marketing which has now been captured by Halo developer Bungie.


Still from Duel
Duel has a surprising ending

A piece made in Second Life in minutes by the avatars acting out a fairly standard scene from a spaghetti western.

I was raised on these films, and although it is nothing like Clint Eastwood's unnamed character classic, it does resonate with me - or at least it does at the start, but it has a great twist.

What amazes me about this piece is the production time - just 1.5 hours with 14 students taking part in puppeteering their avatars and the production team alternating between the roles of actors and cameras.

Video capture program Fraps was used for post-production of the film.

As an academic, the irony for me is that I've never managed to get 14 students to work together to produce anything useful in an hour and half.

The film was nominated by our Festival judges for the Best Experimental award.


Still from cirque du machinima: cuckoo clock
The film uses some surprising sets

This is a lovely piece - a timeless classic that rewards rewatching.

I can't say it better than it has been said by Brightcove.tv - it is about an animated circus act where "everything is possible, even 3D acrobats with 2D scenery in 3D circus showing how 4D love is".

It was filmed using MotionBuilder, and post-production using DazStudio, Poser and Photoshop and was nominated by our Festival judges for the Best Experimental award.


Still from Snow witch
The Snow Witch is a narrated film

This is a classic Japanese ghost story adapted from Lafcadio Hearn's book "Yuki-Onna" (Kwaidan).

Two woodcutters, an old man and his young apprentice, Minokichi, get trapped in a snowstorm in the forest and take refuge in a hut.

That night, Minokichi is forced to make a bargain that will later be forgotten.

It is a narrated film with lots of dramatic effect. The finish is slick and of a high standard. It was filmed using The Sims 2 and Lineage 2 with post-editing using Audacity, Sqirlz, Photoshop, Sony Vegas 6 and Virtual Dub.

It was nominated for the Best Story award by the Festival judges.


Still from Edge of remorse
The film is shot in World of Warcraft

A simple story about two brothers, good versus evil, and a girl - it is not spoken but uses the power of cinematography, music and sound effects.

One reviewer captured my thoughts on this: "Voice in this film would ruin it, the music speaks very loudly in this. The music itself is full of emotion, and having only sound effects heightens the atmosphere. I probably wouldn't be shedding tears watching this if there were voices."

It is widely acknowledged as a classic within the Machinimating community.

The film was made using World of Warcraft characters and last year won the Academy of Machinima Arts and Sciences Best Direction and Best Visual Design awards.

We are showing it as a special feature at our Festival, courtesy of AMAS, who are supporting our Festival.

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