May 222009

heavyrainAs is my curse I gave another overview introduction presentation last week on films made with games engines aka machinima. I then ran a workshop on the production process and techniques particularly looking at dedicated machinima tools through to games engines – now my YouTube machinimas have gone past 300 000 must be doing something right for some!  But one of my key points in my intro talk was the exponential evolution of the form. It has moved away from dodgy, quick gag,  non-lip synch first person shooter ‘head-shots’ through to quality tales – emotional drama, visually entrancing alongside real character led comedy. Add to this the fact that many machys are at a quality now to rival tradtional animation (see examples below).

So all speakers referred to story, quality writing but also the importance of being true to the culture of the existing game world (more at the bottom). Here are my opening slides showing key examples, classified into my categories as to what machinima is created for:

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Aug 252008

“Make Games and Virtual Worlds at Australian Film, TV and Radio School” – OK time to wear that other hat as Director of the Laboratory for Advanced Media Production at AFTRS and plug some of the cool new courses we are delivering in 6 months time.


Discover new opportunities to express yourself in an exciting collaborative environment where film meets game worlds. Build your knowledge base on strong foundations of cinematic storytelling, gameplay and virtual environments.

I have been in this LAMP role for over three years now (wow, that long!) and the changes I have seen taking place in AFTRS, a 30 year old establishment, with a new CEO and the move to a sparkling (read: still fixing the place up!) new building are utterly transformative. This new environment has had a positive effect on the desire for Australia’s leading linear ‘story production’ establishment to also become Australia and the world’s leading trainer in cross-over, game/film worlds, is a delight to see.

A range of traditional marketing initiatives will kick-in over the next few months with roadshows, open days and printed press but no doubt the blogosphere will start to reverberate with excitement as a few ‘web 2.0 friendly’ staff trickle the news out to ‘trusting’ recipients.

There are some useful details (also copied below) from the MakeIt prospectus site about the game and virtual worlds courses, and yours truly as a lead creator in virtual worlds and other game spaces, is heavily involved designing these and others. Also other emergent cross-media forms will continue as they have done over the past 2 years at AFTRS and these include Cross-Media Storytelling, Social Media Entertainment, Episodic Drama and Participatory TV. Rather than be ‘extra’ modules though, this time they will be embedded into the many ‘heritage’ areas of the curriculum such as Directing, Screen Studies, Sound and Writing making for a truly integrated cross-media development approach. Things are changing fast here and nice to be a part of positive ‘change’.

My favourite rag SMH 🙂 also covered this shift today in its item “Sharing the Stage” and featured Peter Giles talking about the courses…

“The first of these courses will show students how to work in the virtual environments that are creating films, video games and alternate realities such as the online Second Life. The school’s director of digital media, Peter Giles, says students will look at the creation of 3-D worlds that might be shared by a film and a game. “Eventually games are going to be designed in the same virtual space as the film will be,” he says, citing James Cameron’s sci-fi movie Avatar that will be released in 3-D next year. “They’re launching the massive multi-player game prior to the feature film,” Giles says. “People will get to inhabit that world before they see the film.”

The two hundred students starting here in February will be in for the ride of their lives! Oh I have been nudged, must use the agreed marketing phrases 🙂 Here are a selection “Do you have a story in you?”, “Create Entertainment Experiences of the Future”, “Do you have a passion and talent for screen storytelling?” or “In 2009 AFTRS will deliver learning programs that match the 21st Century needs of the Austrlian screen arts and broadcast community.”

OK some ‘new’ course detail. First, Virtual Worlds…there are no direct links on the micro-site as it is a flash movie but here is a link to the other ‘web 1.0’ site course description.


This multi-disciplinary course develops the skills and understandings necessary for constructing computer generated story worlds for use in a broad range of media industries. Project work will include pre-visualisation sequences for film or TV, virtual spaces for use in massively multiplayer online games and social virtual worlds and rich environments for CG animation or machinima.
By the end of this course students will have experience::

  • Creating a range of pre-visualizations of both real and fantasy spaces
  • Exploring the strong links between real set design and virtual world design from a production and cinematographic perspective
  • Using a wide range of environmental design tools, off-the shelf virtual worlds and the various advanced techniques required for high-end production
  • Exploring spaces and tools designed particularly for multiplayer quest-based game play
  • Creative worlds designed for low end browser-based social interaction through to 3D immersive social virtual worlds
  • Finding stories and locations in game engines and creating a wide range of Machinima

Throughout this 32 week course students will work on several practical projects including a real industry brief.

  • Through lectures, demonstrations, masterclasses, and industry guest speakers students will investigate areas such as Cinematography, 3D set and landscape creation, Voice Over Scripting and Production, Lighting, Team Production, Character Animation, Game Play and Sound and Music Design.
  • This course provides opportunities to develop creative ideas and projects in a multi-disciplinary environment.
  • Pre-requisites
    • Demonstrated proficiency in one or more of the following areas:
    • Filmmaking – Such as: Production, writing, animation, cinematography, sound or music design, digital visual effects
    • Interactive Programming and/or Design – Such as: Online Coding, Interactive Design, Installation Art, Social Web 2.0 Development, Offline Scripting, Interactive Production

Course Modules

Course Modules Include:

  • Story and Machinima
    • This module explores new opportunities for storytelling using machinima (a hybrid of ‘machine’ and ‘cinema’), a technique to create movies by using video games as virtual film set.

  • Audio Worlds
    • Sound and music are important aspects of developing sophisticated story worlds and help to and immerse the participant in any virtual environment. This course explores the potential of interactive sound.

  • The Live Virtual Camera (Pre-Visualization)
    • Pre-visualization serves two primary purposes — to sell a concept and save time and money. Also pre-visualization is becoming an end in itself and the cross-over with high production value machinima is investigated.

  • World as Character
    • Understanding virtual space as being heavily linked to story and also integrated with the film story or game and social characters within it followed by machinima workshop.

  • Social Worlds
    • Designing Social Spaces require cross-over skills between town planner, web designer and psychoanalyst. These particular worlds range from cartoon cut out grids on web sites through to fully immersive photo-realistic spaces.

  • Production Project
    • The Production Project is the means for students to apply the skills, understandings and ways of working they have acquired in undertaking other Graduate Diploma units in their area of specialisation. The Production Project Module may take the form of a group or individual project or industry attachment and is intended to enable students to utilise their creativity, imagination, skills and knowledge in their area of specialisation.

  • Content Incubator
    • This unit is designed to develop the skills of brainstorming and rapid creative project development. Flexibility and adaptability in creative teamwork are a focus of this unit. Students learn to work to a brief under time pressure and develop skills in the visual, written and oral presentation of ideas.

and of course Games Design – again a link to the main site details here.


This intensive one year course enables students to develop the practical skills necessary to design games.
Game Design offers a unique mixture of practice and theory developed and taught by industry experts, mixing classwork, workshops and production opportunities in a creative multi-disciplinary environment.
Students are encouraged to build a course that fits their passions, skills and needs through a structure that allows each student to create a unique specialist pathway by a combination of core and elective subjects, including subjects from new Graduate Diplomas in Virtual Worlds, Animation Directing, Directing (Fiction and non-Fiction), and then put that into practice.

By the end of this course students will have had the opportunity to:

  • Acquire skills in designing a wide range of games and experiences
  • Initiate and lead a creative project
  • Explore the role of gameplay and narrative in game design including conflict, goals and managing uncertainty
  • Design characters and environments that effectively support the player experience
  • Experience the dynamics of single player and online communal environments
  • Experience production focused learning in a creative multi-disciplinary environment
  • Learn to incorporate cinematic storytelling into the language of gameplay

Through lectures, demonstrations, masterclasses, and industry guest speakers, students will investigate areas such as narrative space, character, performance, fundamentals of gameplay, and creative leadership necessary to design games.
Pre-requisites: Demonstrated proficiency in one or more of the following areas:

  • Computer programming
  • Fine arts
  • Digital Arts (3D/2D)
  • Interactive Design
  • Animation
  • Creative Producing
  • Game design
  • Filmmaking

Directing Concepts and Skills:

  • A practical and theoretical exploration of the key conceptual knowledge and skills required to lead creative projects

Production Workshops:

  • Work in teams to develop a short production from idea to fine cut.
  • (Shared with students from other disciplines)

Major Project

  • Work individually or in teams to create an original work. Students are encouraged to form teams with students from other disciplines, depending on the needs of the project.

Students will be required to complete 8 electives. Elective topics include:

  • Character and Performance
  • Script and Narrative Structure
  • Level Design
  • Story, Space and Performance
  • Directing Voice Performances
  • Original Property Development
  • Character Design
  • Storyboarding and Pre-visualisation
  • Acting for Animators
  • Casting Techniques and Processes
  • Content Incubator
  • Emerging Media

Modules from the Graduate Diploma: Directing (Fiction and non-Fiction), the Graduate Diploma: Animation Directing and the Graduate Diploma: Virtual Worlds

In addition, students will share Screen Studies units with other disciplines, including genre studies.

Mar 112008

Three more quick cross posts from LAMP Watercooler – yes feeling guilty already!

Bring the Love Back

We have seen a lot of videos about the changing media environment but this one nearly a year old, slipped through the net. So just been to a great business, Trans-Tasman lunch and Tony Surtees who was speaking about ‘The Conversation’ played this very cool video which reinforces my previous post. Funny and worrying for traditional advertising models at the same time.

Online ads more effective than TV ads

The block below is from Advanced TV and seems to be another brick in the wall of proof that the ‘two-way-network’ is now starting to reach an ‘advertising’ contender level of maturity as most folk are spending most of their time on the web. It has synergy with other reports from Pew and Nielsen (which we will comment more on soon) of the growing ‘creativity’ and/or sharing exhibited by Generation C’s and Millenials again drawing people away from passive media consumption.

But back on topic, last year in the UK Google showed it already had more ad revenues than one of the leading Commercial broadcasters Channel 4 while also stating that the UK population were spending more time on the web. Also with the trojan horse of DVRs (Personal Digital TV Recorders) renowned for ad skipping, methinks advertising funded broadcasters seriously need to do some R&D into new advertising models – especially as this is a portent for contextual, personalized and targeted advertising. (Oh and for those who haven’t seen it yet I embed EPIC below for the upteenth time).

NBC has released research that suggests advertising in its programmes streamed online are better liked and more recalled than advertising on TV. According to a survey conducted on 5000 users of NBCâÄôs online service âÄòNBC RewindâÄô, viewers said ads streamed online with full-length episodes were less disruptive than on television and that they had a strong desire to interact with advertising. Ads with Interactive elements were more likely to elicit higher brand recall as well as high agreement that the ads were entertaining and relevant. “NBC.comâÄôs loyal users actively navigate and curate their own experience in NBC Rewind, so there is a high level of engagement,” said Peter Naylor, senior VP, digital media sales, NBC Universal. “These research results show that when the right message is tailored to the right medium, this engaged audience really responds and our advertisers win.”

The Richest Mobile Platform Ever?

iPhone Parallels

I have been using my iPhones to do some strange things over the past months. Most of the coolest apps come from the very active community of developers already delivering some great apps via the installer application that runs on unlocked iPhones. I have remarkably run PlayStation 1, Nintendo Entertainment System, SCUMM and Gameboy emulators. I never thought I would be playing with Tomb Raider on a hand held device so soon. So it makes absolute sense that Apple finally makes this official and opens the iPhones doors to developers via its SDK programme this week. Wired has a brief article with some rumours of the likely extension-type applications that will turn the iPhone into ‘the’ most eclectic mobile device on the planet.

Four months of rumors, speculation and giddy anticipation will come to an end Thursday, as Apple prepares to reveal how it will transform one of the most-hyped devices in tech into a full-fledged platform…the SDK will be in programmers’ hands soon, and analysts and developers expect a wide variety of applications to blossom in the coming months — everything from photo-editing apps to motion-sensing games that take advantage of the device’s orientation sensor…While enterprise software may not be as sexy as movie and game apps, its inclusion could be huge for Apple’s ability to meet its goal of 10 million iPhone sales by the end of the year. By adding features like push e-mail and cultivating relationships with corporate-software vendors, Bajarin says, the iPhone could become one of the major communication platforms in business, making it much more competitive with the corporate-friendly BlackBerry.

BTW the image above is from this developer blog – thinks the iPhone could run IE on top of Windows via Parallels on iPhones OS X system sitting on Linux core, now my head hurts.

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