Wiz Nordberg

SmartCompany /

The new machinima film screening technology is catching attention the world over. Australians are among its leaders, and are hosting a seminar and workshop in Sydney this week.

Machinima in your own backyard

Wiz at helipad

Recently, HBO acquired the Molotov Alva series, a documentary to be shot entirely in Second Life and broadcast as an HBO special. The brainchild of film innovator Douglas Gayeton, Alva is one of the first examples of what happens when really talented people embrace virtual worlds an unleash its creative potential. The Alva series pilot appeared on the web about a year ago and amazed everybody with its cinematic style and engaging narrative.

The Alva series falls into a category of film-making called machinima, a term coined about seven years ago by Hugh Hancock when he launched machinima.com. For a while, such efforts rested in obscurity well out of the mainstream.

The idea is simple. If you watch anybody using a “game” environment such as Quake, Worlds of Warcraft or Second Life, what you see on the screen is essentially an animation. If you are knowledgeable, you can tailor what is seen on the screen to eliminate the menus and windows normally associated with the game, so that all you have left are the characters. Then, use some screen-filming technology to capture what is seen, and you have several “reels” of film that can be used in conventional editing programs such as Premier or Final Cut to produce a movie!

Some of the most notable machinima achievements worldwide are originating right here in Australia. Several noted Australian machinima directors, including Gary Hayes and Skribe Forti are making waves globally with their work and influence. This week, an innovative machinima seminar and workshop, The Virtual Story, will be held in Sydney. And of course, our own effort, SLCN, is the first “television network” to broadcast regular machinima programming live from Second Life.

The HBO acquisition is a signal that maturity in this new medium is finally on the horizon. The technology is improving so rapidly that in less than two years, the capability to produce high-end animated films using machinima techniques will be available to anyone. Many would argue that the day has already arrived, though until now nothing has taken the medium into the mainstream. HBO’s actions will probably raise the awareness among the film and television talent community. As more and more talented people embrace the medium, new businesses will emerge that focus entirely on creating such animated entertainment.

Fortunately, it looks like a few of the big opportunities will originate right here in Australia.

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