Computer Graphics World

July/August 2014

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j u ly . a u g u s t 2 0 1 4 c g w 2 5 G A M I N G . C I N E M A evin Margo moves about the mocap floor during a capture session for his short film called "Construct." Only, in this case, Margo doesn't have a single marker on his body. That's because his movements are not being captured. What is being captured is the OptiTrack hard- ware that he's carrying. Within Margo's hands is a marker-tracked housing that includes an LCD screen and a set of buttons on a panel. On the screen, he can see his actors – except, on screen, they are robots, and in place of a spongy blue floor is the inside of a house that's being constructed. This house is a completely digital fabrication within a real-time render done with Chaos Group's V-Ray and a host of hardware, including Nvidia K6000s. With barely a two- to three-frame lag, Margo can see his entire digital set, along with the captured ac- tors driving their robot counter- parts. It is both real and digital – cinema and machinima. Is this the future state of the art or just a hard-core tech- nology demonstration? Most declare that this is the future of motion-picture production. Those who work within the realm of machinima? It's just another day at work. The first glimpse at the concept of "machinima" was for a movie called "Diary of a Camp- er." This was an in-game demo using the Quake engine from Id Soware and was produced by a group of players who called themselves "The Rangers." This very short movie, which can still be found on YouTube, pits soldiers against a lone camper as they recon a weapon spawn point. In the end, the team takes out the camper, and when they examine his body, one of them asks, "Is that who I think it is?" Another replies, "Yeah, it's John Romero," a joke referring to one of the founders of Id Soware. This little, no-budget movie is heralded as giving birth to an underground industry of self-defined movie directors creating narrative content based solely on the use of real-time engines and assets of the game industry. To many, including Hugh Hancock and Paul Marino – longtime makers of machinima – it was to be an epiphany that would steer their futures indefinitely. The history of machinima has been paved with the hard work of artists such as them, and the obstacles have been many – everything from limitations in the technology to legal issues related to asset ownership. But, out of all this confusion and un- known has arisen the birth of a truly new genre of film that has grown in force to finally reach the mainstream for anyone who is digitally connected. D E F I N I N G M A C H I N I M A The term "machinima" is best described by its creator, Han- cock, a pioneer in the world of real-time cinematic narratives and founder of Strange Com- pany. He says he adopted the name from a friend, Anthony Bailey, who had first suggested "machinema" – a combination of "machine" and "cinema" for this new art form. "I adopted that [but] mis- spelled it," explains Hancock, "and in doing so, also incorpo- rated 'anima,' meaning 'life' – resulting in "machinima." In terms of the "art of machin- ima," it would be best described as the creation of narrative sto- ries through the use of real-time 3D game engines. Engines, such as Id's Quake, Epic's Unreal engine, Monolith's Lithtech, or the Source engine from Valve Soware, create the underpin- nings of countless machinima authored over the years. T E C H N I C A L L I M I T A T I O N S In most cases, the creation of machinima has leveraged count- less assets from video games to tell their stories. Avid gamers can easily point out assets from machinima that were actually used in games. This game "DNA" K KEVIN MARGO'S SHORT FILM "CONSTRUCT" IS ONE EXAMPLE OF THE GROWING GENRE OF MACHINIMA, WHICH USES REAL-TIME CINEMATIC NARRATIVES CAPTURED FROM A 3D GAME ENGINE. THE FILM WAS A PASSION PROJECT THAT MARGO WORKED ON IN HIS SPARE TIME. SOFTWARE AND HARDWARE VENDORS TOOK INTEREST IN THE PROJECT AND DONATED VARIOUS PRODUCTS.

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