Help me Re-define the Definition of Machinima!

April 4, 2010 at 7:55 pm (Home, Machinima)


C'mon Wikipedia, you can do better than that!

So I’m sitting here in an open-air coffee place on one of the first warm days of the season being a negative fart and probably putting everyone around me in a bad mood. So, what’s my problem? The above definition of machinima is too specific! I think this definition doesn’t grasp the large-scale image, the “what could be” of machinima. So what if we looked at this from a different approach and re-defined the definition to include something more broad? Could we include the idea of global in the definition? Keep reading– I have an exercise for everyone at the end.. I hope we can get some good responses going!

No Limits

There is no genre of film or television more global than animation. Animation can be applied to any visual media form. It can tell a story, sell a business, be used in an ad campaign. It’s the one of the only features of the virtual world that can be meshed into the real world, as you can literally export it out of the game and broadcast it without limitations.  What does this mean? Making machinima does not have to be for only those in the Virtual World! You can do a cute little machinima for a small business on your street corner or maybe something structured for a large corporation wanting to show the uses of its new product. Thinking about machinima as only available to those in Second Life or other gaming environments ONLY limits us!

When Animation first started, it was geared at children ages 9 and below. In recent years, it has been geared towards adults. How often have you seen professional animation attributed to something as trivial as cough medicine or even tampons? Next time you watch TV, watch out for this. Animation really is everywhere!

The Animation Industry is not Recession Proof

Traditional 3D Animation doesn’t look too positive in this state of the economy. Animation (as in anything NOT machinima) is a time consuming process. It’s one of the most labor-intensive industries in the world. It involves thousands of background images and rendering of objects that call for teams of people. Much of this work is outsourced to companies in lower-wage countries, who are able to deliver under the time deadlines. Many renown animation companies are closing their doors and going bankrupt (to name a few: A.D. Vision, Gaenon, and Central Park Media). In the past , when industries were failing, they had to look for alternative ways of doing things.

Is Machinima the solution?

As animation gets better, the necessity to build an infrastructure to support animation’s resource requirements has made quality animation an expensive endeavor. Demands are unpredictable and small companies can generally respond to a customer’s project faster.  Increasingly, budgets are decreasing and people are impatient with project deadlines. Here’s how machinima can help the animation industry’s woes:

* Machinima is cheaper! Earlier this year I did some research on how much it would cost to do courtroom animations using machinima. Courtroom animations are used in trials by key witnesses to illustrate what happened, as it would be impossible to recreate the scenario (especially where a person was severely injured/killed).

The average cost for a traditional animation firm for a :30-1min courtroom video was about $7000USD.  The cost for machinima? LESS than half that amount!

* Machinima is faster! Since many of the objects in the environment are already pre-built and pre-rendered, everything is ready to go for your disposal. The average machinima team is roughly 4-5 people: The machinimatographer, the builder, the scripter, the avatar creator, and the actors/puppeteers.

Best of all, Second Life just released their terms of service regarding machinima. The overall thoughts of Linden Lab? They have a non-issue with IP rights– you are free to distribute, sell, etc. as you please as long as you get permissions from locations and avatars in the scene. Easy!! And a lot of bricks off us machinimatographers’ backs!

Ok, what’s next?

Let’s start making more great stuff! For the narrative filmmakers out there, contact me to talk about the various grants available to animation artists (yes, machinima falls into the category of animation). There’s an ecosystem of local arts agencies, financial support, tax breaks, and broadcast quotas that bolster your animation efforts. Right now, I think what we are lacking is ambitious business professionals willing to take this medium to a new level and reach out to clients BEYOND Second Life! We need professionals to take a big leap and produce more machinima for the big leagues. There’s a renown quote I like, “Walt Disney didn’t achieve his whimsical empire by being the greatest animator ever. He did so by assembling the greatest animation team ever.”

So now, I want to ask everyone reading this to do an exercise for me and comment below. If you could re-define the definition of machinima for the sake of the English language and people’s well being, what would you re-define it as??


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