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November 26, 2005



Unlocking instructions here:



Unlocking instructions here:


chris anderson


Thanks, but those are the same as the ones on the gamefaqs.com site. For some reason, they don't seem to unlock all the costumes and sets. Maybe we're doing something wrong...


Nat Dykeman

While not actually machinima, I do want to share with you an animated short film, made on a home PC that is tearing up the film festival circuit.

Beyond relating to your "Pixar in every home" comment, the director/animator is also Art and Visual Design Director for Cyan, Inc.


Hope you like it.

Cardozo Bozo

Clearly the next thing that needs to be integrated here is something like Logitech's 'Video Effects.' It uses a webcam to watch your facial expressions then then map them to an avatar, so your avatar smiles when you do. It'll be a while before it can see and replicat a subtle eye-brow arching, but it will steadily improve.

Not sure how to put a direct link in, so if you just go the Logitech homepage, use the Products pulldown menu to go to Webcams --> Video Effects.


Chris wrote: The problem with standard machinima based on first-person-shooter game engines is that you're painting with an incredibly limited palette, both in terms of the characters and settings and in what you can do with them.

I disagree. It's not that the tools available in FPS's like HL2 or Doom3 are more limited, but rather that most users either don't have the ability to use them at those levels or can't justify the time to create that content. There's a reason videogame production costs are going up.

There's nothing stopping me from taking real CAD geometry and mapping it onto game assets, either as normalmaps or perhaps "relief" maps (link). Nothing stopping people from creating other high-quality assets like character models, animations, and skins; the tools are readily available. So the pallete isn't limited, it's just that working at those levels is extremely time-consuming and such an effort is difficult - at present - to justify.

That's what a product like "The Movies" is really offering: ease of use. It's paint-by-numbers compared to creating paint from raw materials. Games like Half-Life 2 and Doom3 provide amazing opportunities for indy filmmakers (here's one example I outlined for some B-movie filmmakers over a year ago: link). Give it time. A few Long Tail niches will be fusing soon enough and when that happens there will be sufficient incentive for creators to put in the effort.


Cardozo wrote: It uses a webcam to watch your facial expressions then then map them to an avatar, so your avatar smiles when you do.

I've not been following HL2 closely, but last I read (prior to game release) the built-in facial system is automated. Type in the words, the mouth moves appropriately; and supposedly this was going to work on-the-fly in online multiplayer, but I don't know if that's actually the case.

That automation was the primary reason I was looking forward to HL2 (I'm a long-time amateur filmmaker and machinima fan) and debating between it and Doom3's dynamic lighting. Just not enough time to explore all the possibilities.

chris anderson


What you're describing falls into what I would call the modding category, which requires far more sophistication than simple machinima. The advantage of machinima is tha it lowers the barrier to entry by letting you use pre-built videogame assets rather than building your sets and actor models. Modding strikes me as something else entirely.


Machinima was born of modding, Chris; both the practice and the term. Just because someone has made it easier to create it using bundled content doesn't change what it is. From the aspect of creating "machinima", they're all the same.

Within the product design community there is often discussion about creating photorealistic images from CAD files. The end product is called a "rendering". Simple enough. Now to produce this rendering, people typically do one of the following three things:

1) use the built-in CAD renderer which is simple and typically produces unconvincing but passable results
2) export out to an "easy" rendering package that has higher-quality than the built-in, but not many options so to ensure consistent quality and ease of use
3) export to a highend package like Maya or Max with an overwhelming number of options and flexibility to create the best output

In all three cases, the end product is still a "rendering". Yet no one ever says Maya has a "limited pallete". Or suggests that it be called something other than a "rendering".

Anyone can use the built-in level tools in a FPS to create completely custom backdrops. Just because a game level uses science-fiction themed textures with skulls doesn't mean one can't take a digital picture of the living room wall and use that instead. It's really easy to do which is why there are so many game levels floating around.

As for characters, they're more difficult to create, but there is a surprising variety of them available free to download on sites like Polycount. Or just download some skins (of which there are hundreds or thousands - probably more than what you'll find in "The Movies").

So on those two counts there is likely more variety than in "The Movies".

The real limitation would be in the animations available. People may not find just the right pose or wave of the hand for a FPS game character. On the other hand, one might not find it in "The Movies" either. I don't have "The Movies", but from watching the videos I can already see how people are limited in their options. Watching different characters do the exact same kind of walk/run/skulk makes me wonder how easy it would be to create new animations for upload (but then would the video suddenly be "modding" instead of "machinima"?).

Machinima, like rendering, has varying options for it's creation.. The options might be:

1) use a machinima-creation product like "The Movies" to easily create passable product
2) use one of the newer videogames with relatively simple built-in machinima tools - both level editors and file converters - to create near-"Luxo Jr." level video
3) Use one of the older videogames that requires downloading or creating tools but which is now open-source allowing for complete customization of the engine

The resulting video is "machinima" for all of them.

Lastly, the lower barrier to entry" you claim is relative. For those in the West with money to burn, "The Movies" probably does lower the barrier. For someone in the developing world running a Pentium II PC, it's not even an option (even if they get a cracked version). However, they do have the option to get the open source Quake 3 video game and the free tools and a wealth of freely available content and create a video. And when I see it online, I'll be watching a "machinima". Not a "mod".

david bailey

"Lower the barrier to entry" ... WILCO!

We liked this idea so much(*) that we went away and created a "home user" machinima package with a view to having 1 million teenagers able to make their own digital animated movie with drama, facial expresssions, close-ups, interactive characters and interactive props. It is early days yet, but we released a public beta version a week or so ago, and movies made in it can be seen on youtube (search: moviestorm) or on our own site www.moviestorm.co.uk

Our view at Short Fuze Ltd is that the issue is about releasing the movie making talent, and not about belabouring the poor user with advanced but incredibly complex video effects or rendering features. In almost every case we investigated, the game actively gets in the way of movie making and story telling. So we went down the pure moviemaking route from scratch.

There is still much to do to really make animation and digital moviemaking accessible to the average teenager, but we feel (and our users say) that we are getting closer than anyone else has so far. It has been taken up by some surprisingly talented people, and we are growing our library of art, sound and characters daily.

We felt that it was asking way too much for people to have to "h4ck" their game engines, and that movies made in game engines always suffer "taint" from the original game brand. In some cases even releasing a movie from a game like "the movies" is a breach of the EULA. We addressed this by ensuring that any movies made in Moviestorm are the (c) of the movie maker, and by developing a way for people to share assets.

It is not often that blog posts are so clear as to an opportunity and the main issues that create a barrier to significant public uptake. It is even rarer that the solution goes into production. Thanks for highlighting the issue!


(*) sorry - we already published our business plan in June 2005 and had raised finance by the time this blog was posted in November 8-)


I've been thinking of trying to do a real theater piece using "the movies" sandbox mode. I've been considering a very good translation of "The Suppliants" by Aeschylus (~465 BC). My idea was to try and do it cooperatively, so different people could add say different audio or dialog or action and upload it. If we could "recombine" different game files, it might be very interesting. It would be a kind of slow motion MUD, like chess by mail.

Is this currently possible? Is the mod community sufficiently advanced to build simple stages and props for this? Is "The Movies" sandbox mode the right engine to begin with?


gifts for her

We can also provide free Machinima servers for all source games including all HL2mods, COD4, BF2 and L4D (soon ;P) - just PM me on the forum at coltsplayground.net and i'll set it up.

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The Long Tail by Chris Anderson

Notes and sources for the book

FREE was available in all digital forms--ebook, web book, and audiobook--for free shortly after the hardcover was published on July 7th. The ebook and web book were free for a limited time and limited to certain geographic regions as determined by each national publisher; the unabridged MP3 audiobook (get zip file here) will remain free forever, available in all regions.

Order the hardcover now!