Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pursuing Improvement

The UWA entries are almost in the can. With thirty submissions already, it is a good showing -- and a perfect place to look for hints on how you can improve YOUR machinima.

I noted growth among the veteran filmmakers -- smoother flow, interesting (and new) effects seemed to lead the kudos list. This is a perfect time to pick your favorites, not for the UWA viewers tournament -- but for yourself. Was it the theme or the story that drew you in? The smooth camera work and interesting angles?  After you FIND your favorites try discerning why they won your personal contest. See how improving your skills in that area will improve your work overall.

There were also some notable (at least to me) reoccurring areas that many folks could choose to work on, and I do not remove myself from that list. So let's look at those problem spots. They are NOT new ones *wink*, which tells me we need to keep reminding ourselves.

And of course if you are completely happy with your work and wouldn't change a thing? Well congrats and get back to filming!

EDITING:  Editing is my favorite part of the process. I can get lost for hours amid the film clips, filters and transitions. Getting the timing "just right" (always a personal preference) can give one an outstanding creative high. Unlike chocolate, no calories are involved.

Is less more? Not always, but TIGHT is usually better. You don't need ten seconds of a mountain sunset view to get your point across. Three will likely do it. OR have another scene superimposed to add some interest.

A well-known game producer has had to go back and cut the fat from the current project. It was painful, but the team found that they actually had a much better product with LESS. If you are asked to tell your story in about 4:30 minutes, see if you can't actually do that. I bet you can.

Watch the FLOW of your film to see if the viewer can understand what you are trying to say without getting bored and going out for tea. 

ANIMATIONS: Getting our virtual bodies to move as we would like is tricky in Second Life where most of these films were made. Hands IN bodies rather than ON hips is not a good thing. Elbows hitting inside legs (a common occurrence for long armed Chic) is just as bad.

You have some choices to fix this -- perhaps four.  You can move the pose balls around in a couples animation (or adjust the individual placement menus within furniture or props) so that the people fit. 

Sometimes though your actors aren't anywhere near the proportions the animations were design for. You can find another animation, resize your avatars a bit to make the animations fit OR shoot from a different angle.

SMOOTH CAMS:   I read once when I was just starting in machinima that you shouldn't have too many camera movements. If you think about it, they are rarely seen in TV and movies. The article said that they made your viewers dizzy.

Now I don't know about the DIZZY part of the equation, but they could certainly make your film seem BUSY.  And jerky cams definitely pull your audience away from the flow of the film.

There are two fixes for this. One, you can do the zoom and pan within your editing software. This is often the easiest (and sometimes the best) choice.  Two, you can turn on Camera Position Smoothing. In Firestorm this feature is on an easy to adjust slider in Phototools (a button) on the Cam tab.

At the bottom of the panel you will see a Cam. Smoothing slider. The default is 1. I usually use around 50 or so (you don't need to be careful as it isn't that fussy). Note how SMOOOOOOTH your mouse moves things! Be sure and turn it back to the default when you are finished.

If  you don't have a viewer with easy access to this feature, you can set the number via the DEBUG panel. 

HORN TOOTING:  Now this is a person prejudice but I am going to add it in here. I do have an issue with GIANT announcements at the beginning of the film -- ones with the filmmaker's name in five inch high letters. The intros that go on for 30 seconds are also not good in my book. If you make a good film, folks WILL know. If you do not -- well you probably don't want them remembering - LOL. Sorry, couldn't help that.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I think I have made some improvement in the last year although some of my early films are still noteworthy -- at least in my book. I have improved the flow at times and due to the availability of better props, wearables and animations my production values have remained high. I have definitely improved my voiceovers (all those tutorials helped with that) with the one in Folding Time being my best to date.

I marvel at some of the effects folks accomplish but in the end I am a simple gal and a simple filmmaker. If you look at my first notable work, Shades of Gray and compare it to my last, Bookends -- you can see that things haven't changed too much for me. My tools are of higher quality, but my methods and focus are pretty much the same.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Kudos Well Deserved

Vilvi Rae & Iono Allen  films were chosen for screening at the Veteran's Film Festival at the Australian War Memorial. These exceptionally made machinima were prize winners in the last UWA contest. 

* No Man's Land


Sunday, October 25, 2015

One Week for UWA

We are getting down to the wire in the UWA contest. Many of the top award winners in the past have presented their works. The field is still small. I am the only one so far who has entered more than one film, and my second (while apparently better in many minds *wink*) wasn't really planned.

These are my unedited thoughts :D.   I am a big girl now and I answer only to myself.


There are a few more folks that may have entries; I am watching for them. But looking at the current entries I am still a bit confused. Tutsy's film will likely win. Not only is it intricately presented, but there is that "he always wins" thing in the minds of some judges. That isn't a bad thing. It means that he has repeatedly given us exceptional work.  I doubt too many judges would "not" vote for his film simply because that makes them look less than -- well let's say aware. 

This is not a new scenario -- and indeed it is a fair thing to honor past accomplishments. That is how some politicos stay in office so long. Do a good job; reap the rewards and oftentimes deservedly so.

Even though there are fewer entries this season there are some exceptional works. This is not a clear cut year for me though. Sometimes it is SO obvious (perhaps only to me) who the winners will be that making my list is a breeze. Not so much this year.

I wonder how much themes are weighted in the deciding process. Some have been well thought out, others I have a hard time finding the reference to "Pursue Impossible". Production values? While I am a big proponent of pretty, I find that one of my favorites had no windlight or shadows or high class mesh -- it made up for it with heart.

Then there are the technical issues. Most folks wouldn't notice but as a filmmaker I have an issue with hands going through bodies and poses that really don't fit. It draws my attention and takes me away from the film. I am sure that I am in the minority here; many people would never notice. But still, those film-making choices shift my enthusiasm some.

We didn't see too many films that needed "snipping" in that too long on the same frame way. That made me happy. There are some that lost my attention at the beginning. You know what happens then? They drop off my list.

And there is a VERY GOOD POINT there -- one that I don't always remember or perhaps simply don't worry about in my artistic pursuits. You really have only about thirty seconds to convince someone that they want to continue watching. Maybe a little more on a good day. So make your first impression count. If you have a twenty second this-is-my-brand-and-I-can-do-Flash intro? You have almost always lost me. I want to see your vision or a hint of it. I want to know what the film is about and if I should stick around and spend my time  watching.

Just my opinions for what they are worth.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Judging Not Judgment

Less than two weeks before UWA closes for entries. I suspect there will be a slight flutter towards the end; it usually happens.

Simplistically it would seem easier to judge this year -- with fewer entries and all. But I am not so sure that is true.  Ghost Race is a bit of a wild card.  A bit like pitting apples and oranges against each other, it is difficult to judge how it will fit into the mix. The playing field isn't the least bit level. Will that have folks moving it down in the listing when they vote? Very difficult to say.

Tutsy's Death of Death entry was masterfully produced and edited. I am not sure that I "liked" it in the basic sense of that concept, but I certainly appreciated the skill it represents. I especially applauded his creativity in cleverly sidestepping  the  "made for the UWA ..." obligatory text. I was actually afraid that some people would not enter with that mandatory addition. And indeed, some may have chosen not to.

The gals across the ocean presented a masterful work this time out. Their films are always interesting and inventive but this one seemed -- well, "smoother" is the word that comes best to mind. It flowed in a very pleasing manner leading the viewer onward in the viewing journey.

Another film that caught my eye was the Wright Brothers film.  No shadows or fancy windlight, no frills at all really, but the cartoonesce depiction was filled with heart, told the story well in an entertaining manner and kept viewer interest  -- at least mine.

There are so many things to look at when judging a work. Concept, depiction, cinematography, editing --- it is indeed a long list. I haven't decided if I will send in my guesses this year. Some years, in my mind anyway, the choices are clear.

This year (so far anyway) not so much.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


As promised I will be hanging around the fountain at LEA28 this Sunday between noon and one SLT. If you want to chat about machinima, ask questions or just play in the water -- stop by.  

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Bookends Filmed at Cafe Society

As I was finishing up Bookends, I had to smile at myself.

I am sure that most folks will assume that I built the set at the Art Farm "for" Bookends. In actually the plot came after the set.

When I entered my bid for a quarter sim area for six weeks I promised to make a film using the set. I planned a very brief film. Then after a miss-start with a day's worth of shooting discarded, I found my rhythm. The short film turned longer, a wider theme came into play and I entered the result into the UWA contest.

As the shooting schedule progressed, I added criteria; I decided to film in each area of the set. In reaching for that goal, the film began to tell its own story. The vintage automobile took on a staring role,  becoming an anchor point throughout time.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Filming - Overlays - Happy Accidents

I spent a few hours filming today over at Cafe Society. I have a lot (a LOT) of footage to sift through. In the middle of the shot list (well honestly there is NEVER a shot list for me except a vague plan in my head) a friend arrived in corporeal form and I needed to pause for a couple of hours.

In the real world of course we can't do that. I remember way too many times when shots were taken at sunset with fingers crossed. They almost always worked out.  Still, I did not want to lose my light so I left myself on, asked my actor to do the same and told him I would call him if and when he needed to move. I frequently ask friends to plunk themselves down on  pose balls and get on with their day.

As five o'clock rolled around I felt I had the story, it was time to call it a day, pack up and hope for the best. Sometimes I spend awhile shooting, sometimes I am done in five minutes. It all depends on my mood. For whatever reason I was in a "savoring" mood today and took my time. I hope it works out well.

Before I closed my viewer for the day  I took a screenshot with the windlight setting JUST in case I needed some additional footage.

And, a happy surprised greeted me as I closed down the SKY panel, a beautifully lit nighttime shot (the lead photo) with exactly the same placement as one I had taken a few minutes earlier. These can fade into one another using an overlay and transition. OR they could turn out to be useful somewhere else.

Whenever serendipity hands you a present it is wise to take advantage, nod and whisper "thank you".

Monday, October 5, 2015

Filming Day One

I started filming today.

I have a plan for the most part. I even made voiceover files for the central part of the film. As usual my original plan grew and morphed into something else. It will undoubtedly do that a few more times before I am finished.

I shot footage a Cafe Society LEA28 and The Gray Child (photo above) at LEA15. I encourage you to take a spin around the art sims as there are some really beautiful builds this round.  

And don't forget you have until the end of the month if you want to submit a film to UWA.


Thursday, October 1, 2015


There is a new prop over at Cafe Society. It was just too much fun to keep to myself.

If you have ever put together furniture out of a box, then this one's for you.  Be sure and OK the attachment connections in this animation.

Just derender if it is in the way or your shot.