Expressivity and the Digital Puppet

A PhD, by Ian Grant of London: Expressivity and the Digital Puppet: Mechanical, Digital and Virtual Objects in Games, Art and Performance

“… explores the interface between traditional puppetry and emerging computer technologies … digital puppetry, real-time animation … puppet/object theatre performances/installations that use original software and hardware systems”


CG Science for Artists

Feeling a need to get a basic grounding in the science / techie details behind CG art? The CG Channel has just posted part one of a series, “CG Science for Artists – Part 1: Real-Time and Offline Rendering“.

Above: illustration for the university project Real-time Rendering for Chinese Ink-and-wash Cartoons

Making the “I Win” button.

FreePixel reports that…

“Mark Riedl and myself just found out that our grant proposal for an _Assistive Artificial Intelligence to Support Creative Filmmaking in Computer Animation_ received its funding from the National Science Foundation. We have not even started the three year project and there is no web site yet – but it promises to deal with numerous machinima related issues.”

Sculptris 1.0

Sculptris is the new free clay-like modelling software which is getting an excellent reception, and it’s now in version 1.0. Still free, still no need to register! You model naturally with very simple traditional clay-sculpting tools, paint the model using easy-to-understand brushes, then export to .obj format for bringing into iClone. It’s very lightweight in using system resources, and anyone who liked the free CB Model Pro or Organica should be trying this one out. Many thanks to Dr. Tomas Pettersson in Sweden for this great little-big tool.

If you need to reduce the poly count on the .obj, there’s a new version of the free MeshLab out. Usage tutorial here.

Experimental Machinima panel discussion

Second Life’s Machiniplex will host its May forum on “Experimental Machinima” (Sunday 31st of May 2010, 9AM US Pacific Time)…

“Our special guest will be Tom Jantol, an award-winning machinima filmmaker. Tom has been making poetic and experimental machinima for many years and putting the finishing touches on his most recent film “Dear Fairy”. We hope to show “Dear Fairy” as a work in progress at the forum on Sunday. We do recommend that you use the Second Life Viewer 2 for easiest viewing as we’ll be projecting the film inside of Second Life. Claus-Dieter Schulz (“Liberty City”, “9”), along with Lainy Voom (“Push”, “The Dumb Man”), will also be on hand to discuss their own experimental work. Both directors have focused on the experimental in their work, but in very different ways than Tom Jantol. So it will be a lively conversation. The forum is open to everyone and will take place in Second Life at UCSville (our regular location) right in front of the main building.”

I’m not entirely sure they mean “9AM”, it seems an odd time? Although it seems that means it’s 8pm British time? So, if they’re based in Amsterdam(?) I guess that would make more sense. I think they need to give the exact times for each part of the world.

Source Animation thesis

An interesting new Phd thesis blog, started in February 2010, Source Animation. The general argument is that…

[real-time] “hardware rendering has reached a point where the common audience member can’t tell the difference”

His main comparison will be between 3DS Max’s Mental Ray renderer and the Source Engine. The blog has lots of examples and detailed scrutiny of various engines and their finished output, from someone who seems to be able to spot the difference between raw engine output and gaming’s “smoke and mirrors”. He’s also making two identical films, one by each method.

For model students

Just announced…

“Autodesk Education Suite for Entertainment Creation 2011 … English-language versions … are scheduled to begin shipping in June.”

“The Entertainment Suite for Education includes full versions of the following software:

* Autodesk Maya
* Autodesk 3DS Max
* Autodesk Softimage
* Autodesk MotionBuilder
* Autodesk Mudbox [ Autodesk’s equivalent to ZBrush ]”

The non-expiring suite should be around £185 in the UK, around $350 in the USA.

Understanding Machinima : call for papers

Submissions of academic essays are invited for an edited book with the working title Understanding Machinima: Essays on Filmmaking in Virtual Worlds

“We are primarily concerned with offering critical discussions of its history, theory, aesthetics, media form and social implications, as well as insights into its development and the promise of what it can become. How does machinima fit in the spectrum of media forms? […] How does machinima co-opt [the commercial] game engine to provide narrative? How may machinima, developed from the products of game and virtual world marketing, be used as an artistic tool? […] How does the open-source economy that currently defines much of global machinima relate it to broader cultural production generally? [and] Machinima as community-based practice and performance; user created content; online publishing; fan (fiction) communities; open source”

Please submit a 400 word abstract (i.e: a summary), and a short biography, via email to: understandingmachinima [at] by 30 August 2010. We expect that final essays should not exceed 7,000 words and will be due in by 30th December 2010.

Stanford Law School: videos from the ‘Play Machinima Law’ conference

I was pleased to learn that Stanford Law School held a two-day Play Machinima Law conference (April 24th-25th 2009) on the legal nuances of game-based machinima — amid a panic among corporate lawyers, which had led to take-down notices flying around YouTube.

I was off doing other stuff in early 2009, so it was useful to see that the entire proceedings are now online as video. The files that load the videos are in the little-known Quicktime .qtl format (I’ve never heard of it before, and neither has my PC — it’s probably a Mac thing?), so you may need to manually associate .qtl files with Media Player Classic (aka QuickTime Alternative) before you can launch them.

‘Lawyer meets machinima’ by TheVader74.

Artistic Innovation and Participatory Culture

A long report from The World’s Fair “Fair Use Day”, specifically the first discussion panel on “Artistic Innovation and Participatory Culture”. Which included Halo machinima series creator Chris Burke…

“Chris wants to make a living from ‘This Spartan Life’, but not yet. Game companies are supportive, but [it’s] tough to make a living, particularly in New York. Others are doing it, but [game] machinima out there is free because [creators] can’t pay legal fees. We’re in it for the long haul; he makes a living from audio.”

Free audio recording podcasts of each panel coming soon, hopefully.

Field Guide to New Media for the Performing Arts

Live Movies : A Field Guide to New Media for the Performing Arts (PDF, 12Mb. 2006) is a free 252-page ebook of theory, history, and case-studies. It should be quite useful for any university students writing essays about the blending of staged performance and interactive new media. Innovative stage-design and event-design is, of course, another area of creative production in which iClone users could deploy their talents.

Originally given away free (it was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts), the website for the book has since completely vanished from the web. It’s also not listed on Amazon U.S. or U.K. So I have to assume it’s “abandonware”, and that I can link to it at what appears to be the book’s last remaining location. If you’re interested, then grab it while you can.

Copying text from the PDF is disabled, but if students need to quote from the book in an essay then just use Microsoft OneNote thus…

Open OneNote, then: “Insert” / “Screen Clipping” / capture your paragraph as an image / then right click on the auto-inserted image, and click on “Copy Text from Picture”. The text is captured, made editable, and sent to your Windows clipboard.

If you’re interested in this book you may also be interested in Animata, free open-source software for real-time theatre animation. Judging by the videos, it’s “real-time motion capture and transfer, without the dots” (using eyesweb and Proce55ing)…

Reverse Shadow Theatre from gabor papp on Vimeo.

Those interested in the technical details behind using this sort of software for controlling shadow-play puppets might be interested in this technical paper (PDF link).


A new free film-making magazine called Fallopian, on amateur micro-budget film-makers working with machinima and anymation. Contributions to the first two issues come from academics in Manchester, Leicester, and Germany, among others.