Sunday, August 07, 2005

"The Xbox Auteurs" - New York Times

This New York Times Magazine story (free registration required) explores "machima," --videos made using video game engines to create your own virtual worlds. Latching onto the resources of the games makes it easy to make your short or movie. Just plan out your script using the characters in the game and lay your own audio track. Instant movie set and actors.....

From the story:
To quickly create a gritty-looking city, Dellario and his colleague -- ILL Clan's co-founder, Matt Dominianni -- hired a local artist to build a generic-looking urban intersection inside the game. To customize it, Dominianni went onto Google, found snapshots of a few seedy stores (an adult bookstore, a tattoo parlor and a furniture outlet) and digitally pasted them onto the front of the buildings. Then they went to a site called Turbo-Squid, a sort of Amazon for virtual in-game items, and for $45 bought a van that could be plunked down inside the game. When I arrived, they were browsing the site and contemplating buying a few women. ''My God, look at this one,'' Dellario marveled, as he clicked open a picture of an eerily realistic 3-D brunette named Masha. ''I'm going to marry this woman. They've finally broken through to total reality.''
Of course it's not necessarily easier than working with real actors:
The problem is, the Sims 2 has turned out to be incredibly difficult to shoot with. When the Rooster Teeth gang uses Halo for machinima, the characters are mere puppets and can be posed any way the creators want. But in the Sims 2, the little virtual characters have artificial intelligence and free will. When you're playing, you do not control all the action: the fun is in putting your Sims in interesting social situations, then standing back and watching what they'll do. When Rooster Teeth's Matt Hullum builds a virtual set and puts the ''Strangerhood'' characters in place for a shoot, he's never quite sure what will happen. To shoot a scene in which two men wake up in bed together, Hullum had to spend hours playing with the two characters -- who are nominally heterosexual -- forcing them into repeated conversations until they eventually became such good friends they were willing to share a bed. Shooting machinima with Sims is thus maddeningly like using actual, human stars: they're stubborn; they stage hissy fits and stomp off to their trailers.
The story is worth registering for...thought provoking.

(Link from one of Mike Stagg's grand emails)

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