2010 Video Capture Awards

The Xfire 2010 Video Capture Awards are now open for entries. Deadline: 22nd February 2010. Apparently it’s…

“the world’s largest gameplay video festival uniting gamers, machinima makers, and game publishers […] over 20 categories […] $25,000 in prizes”

Your videogame video footage has to be captured with the Xfire in-game video capture tool, but this appears to be wholly free. It’s nice to know there’s now a robust free alternative to FRAPS (which will probably benefit from some competition). The small print (very small) is here.

Xfire seems to make its money from serving ads alongside the videos on its website? And I’m guessing maybe from selling compiled usage reports to game companies (“X number of players uploaded X number of videos of game Y in the last three months, and none of the videos are from beyond the eighth act of the game” might be kind of useful knowledge for developers, suggesting there’s something in act eight which is stopping players from going further in the game).

There’s plenty of boy-game footage in the Best Machinima category, but many of the 450 submissions there appear to be from dim kids who idly assumed that this ‘machinima’ thing must mean either: “an unedited 30-second clip of ME! ME! ME! beating up enemies” or “record my fave pre-rendered cutscene… and upload it without any changes”. Sigh. I guess they think if they can persuade their whole school of vote for them, they’ll win the shiny new PC no matter what crap they uploaded. Maybe next year there’ll be a category for proper machinima makers? And a little education effort by Xfire, to explain to their kids what the word ‘machinima’ actually means?

Not impossible

In 2004 Lucas Martell began to make his first 6 minute animated film, just as an exercise to learn a 3D animation package (Autodesk XSI). It became a five-year $10,000 project, one that grew to involve what seems to be half the creative talent in his town in Texas, USA. It was finally completed at the end of November 2009…

Martell’s eight-part “Making of…” tutorial / podcast set is freely available here.

Zuzen: an automated machinima compiler

Automated machinima construction. Specify the style of camera shots, pacing, and the thrust of the storyline you want to retrospectively weave around the flow of visuals. Play the game, and the video you want is automatically recorded and edited. That’s the dream, anyway…

“The Zuzen framework is an intelligent tool set for assisting in the generation of machinima. With Zuzen, users that are novice cinematographers do not need to use complex movie-making tools. Rather, they only need to specify a set of high-level cinematic directives for use in filming a story and Zuzen will produce a video file that reflects their specifications. This forgoes the usual learning-curve associated with typical machinima or cinematic content creation tools.”

Don’t bother trying to get the paper via the ACM site, as it’s locked behind a paywall. But you can dig it up free in full-text form if you know how to use Google properly. It’s here (PDF link), along with more papers on semi-generative and automated cinematography. It’s all a bit theoretical at present, but such developments often seem to make it to usable applications within a year or two. For example, the speed with which seam-carving made it into Photoshop.


Picture from Brighton Film School, UK.

Have you had a video pulled from YouTube?

Made an iClone or machinima animation using pop music as background? Had it pulled from YouTube because of the music? The heavyweight U.S. civil rights organization the Electronic Frontier Foundation has just posted an article titled “YouTube’s January Fair Use Massacre“, asking you to contact them…

“If Warner Music Group took down your video, ask yourself if your video is (1) noncommercial (i.e., no commercial advertisements or YouTube Partner videos) and (2) includes substantial original material contributed by you (i.e., no verbatim copies of Warner music videos). If so, and you’d like to counternotice but are afraid of getting sued, we’d like to hear from you. We can’t promise to take every case, but neither will we stand by and watch semi-automated takedowns trample fair use.”

“while today it’s Warner Music, as more copyright owners start using the [semi-automated] Content ID tool, it’ll only get worse. Soon it may be off limits to remix anything with snippets of our shared mass media culture — music, TV, movies, jingles, commercials.”