Monthly Archives: January 2023

Contests Update: Jan 2023

Tracy Harwood Blog January 30, 2023 Leave a reply

This week’s #MondayMotivation gives you a selection of more projects to take a look at, these are from recent contests and challenges that have been taking place across different platforms.

Unreal Short Film Challenge: Australia & NZ

This is an annual contest that provides two weeks of training on Unreal, followed by eight weeks in which to create a film. We reviewed some of the films emanating from last year’s challenge and this contest resulted in some equally stunning films. Here’s the highlights reel –

But do check out the films too. Two we particularly loved are narrated, which is not a method we see used all that often in shorts these days. This one is Revolver and Heckler’s Black Wing –

and this one of a solo dancer is beautifully done, by Adam Walker Film, called vQsv –

This one mixed 3D and 2D, mentored by Spectre Studios, who’s 2020 Roborovski we shared a couple of months ago, is also very well done – Robo Ramen, by UTS Animal Logic Academy –

There are numerous other to check on Unreal’s channel too, link here.

KitBash3D: Mission to Minerva

Another time delimited contest, KitBash3D launched a free asset pack, its Mission to Minerva, and 40 days later, 32,000 entries from 174 countries answered the call to ‘create a new Galaxy’. Films were made using Blender and Unreal for the ‘in-motion’ category, and another category of concept artwork just required stills. What an astonishing feat to go through all those entries and select just a few winners! Here’s the sizzle reel –

In-motion winners compilation –

and here’s the winner, Secret Moon by Orencloud. This is stunning to say the least and we’ll be reviewing this as part of our February podcast film review too –

In the meantime, KitBash3D’s Mission to Minerva world kit is stil available as a free download, you can access it here.

Second Life Showcase

Not a contest as such, but we wanted to share a site that’s produced by a group of SL Video Creators, aimed at inspiring residents to create. Each month, they select the best films and share them on their website – check it out in the link here

SLVideoGroup website screencap

MacInnes Studios Dance Challenge

Following hot on the heels of the outcome of the Mood Scene challenge, John MacInnes launched a TikTok challenge to create an avatar dancer. TikTok is an interesting choice for video sharing for machinima, and its one we’ll be commenting on more over the coming weeks. This contest was won by a virtual Freddie Mercury, created by Jean Campos (feature image) –

Runners up were Pooky Amsterdam, Bruschi Bruschmann, Alex Sura and Sergey Vereschagin.

S3 E62 Film Review: So I tried to Take a Holiday… (Jan 2023)

Tracy Harwood Podcast Episodes January 26, 2023 Leave a reply

This week, Damien selects a Star Wars short by @Bombastic , released 5 Nov 2022, made with LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga game. This is a totally zany edit of a let’s play improv performance, by a creator who clearly has every detail of the SW Canon nailed to his bucket and spade… if only you can keep up with the camera. But maybe we’re just a bunch of old fogies?



YouTube Version of this Episode

Show Notes & Links

So I Tried to Take a Holiday by Bombastic, released 5 Nov 2022 –

Projects Update (Jan 2023)

Tracy Harwood Blog January 23, 2023 Leave a reply

This week, we have some more interesting project updates to share with you.

Recognition

We were thrilled to hear that Sam Crane’s GTA Online version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been recognized, being shortlisted for an award for innovation at the The Stage Awards 2023 – we love that they spelled Auto incorrectly too (Audio)! Awards are announced on 30 January and hopefully Sam (aka Rustic Mascara) will keep us posted on his Twitter feed during the event. All the best, Sam! You can still find the performance on YouTube, link here –

Unreal

Using Unreal Engine, this short is another example of how beautiful this toolset is. This short by The Blender Bender team (Thomas Thielemann and Alexander Korabelnikov), released 26 Sept 2022, was inspired by David Attenborough’s Our Planet series, and with an even more stark message than the original series –

Also using Unreal Engine, we were interested to see that Sava Zivkovic, who’s film Irradiation we reviewed back in October 2021, is working on a new project, this one called Beckoning. He’s also just been awarded an Epic Megagrant to support development of the project – well deserved for sure. Here’s the link to the trailer for the new project – must say, very much looking forward to seeing the finished work.

Not Unreal but seriously unreal, this is an ‘insane battle’ scene demonstrating the astonishing simulation capability of the Epic Battle Simulator 2 engine. This one, SPECIAL FORCES ARE LANDING ON THE ISLAND OCCUPIED BY SAURON, was released 5 November 2022, by the Battle Simulator Center team –

Virtual Production

A short film, called Goliath by DonBittersil (screencap is our featured image for this post), has showcased virtual production tools using Unreal Engine, having been shot at LA’s Orbital Virtual Studios. For those advancing from purely screen based production techniques, this is an interesting insight into scaled-up processes – check out the film and the ‘making of’ videos here –

You may remember we shared Jackson Wang’s beautifully choreographed music video called Cruel a few weeks back, well this is another one from his Magic Man album, using virtual production techniques. Its also a stunning example of his creative work and the usefulness of the VP process –

Avant Garde?

An interesting article appeared on MUBI’s website about a cutscene collective, called Total Refusal. This team of gamers do what machinima creators have done for 25+ years, that is, use the game for some other creative purpose. Its nice to see that MUBI is keeping up with the times of course, and they would certainly do well to follow our friends at the Milan Machinima Film Festival to keep up to date with this particular ‘Avant Garde’ scene format. In the meantime, this is an example of Total’s Refusal’s creative works, a trailer for Hardly Working (RDR2) –

S3 E61 Film Review: INTERLOPER: Half Life 2’s Greatest Unsolved Mystery (Jan 2023)

Tracy Harwood Podcast Episodes January 19, 2023 Leave a reply

This week, Phil has selected a couple of films by @Anomidae, INTERLOPER: Half Life 2’s Greatest Unsolved Mystery (released 25 Oct 2022) and Interloper 2 The Source Engine’s Deepening Mystery (released 20 Nov 2022). These are astonishingly well done conspiracy documentaries, examining the strange phenomenon of the periodic appearance of alien-like grafitti in a little explored area of Half Life 2. The documentaries are so well done that even after we discussed them at length, Phil remains unconvinced its a hoax! What do you think?



YouTube Version of This Episode

Show Notes and Links

INTERLOPER: Half Life 2’s Greatest Unsolved Mystery by Anomidae, released 25 October 2022

Interloper 2 The Source Engine’s Deepening Mystery, released 20 Nov 2022

Kardavshev’s theory, article in Science Focus

War of the Worlds radio play, ready by Orson Wells, reviewed in Smithsonian Magazine online here and recording link below to the complete broadcast –

Tech Update 2 (Jan 2023)

Tracy Harwood Blog January 16, 2023 Leave a reply

This week, we highlight some character development tools, NeRFs, NFTs and environments for machinima and virtual production.

Characters

Beginning with the awe-inspiring toolset of Unreal Engine’s MetaHumans, the organization has released a FREE three-hours long online course for beginners on real-time animating with Faceware Analyzer and Retargeter tools. Here’s a taster of what you can expect –

A creator we’ve featured a number of times (his tutorials are awesome), JSFILMZ (our feature image) has posted a taster of MetaHuman’s Live Drive from Facegood, which launched in December. The demo shows straight from camera to Unreal but what’s amazing is the price for the head-mounted hardware of <$500! This obviously isn’t free but its good value compared to some of the other facial tracking hardware on the market, and Jae compares those to give you an overview of what you get for the money. The Facegood software itself, Avatary, is free though, which produces some impressive animations. Check out Jae’s introductory overview below, and then pick up his tutorials on each of the components he discusses on his channel –

Move.ai has launched its iPhone beta application for free markerless mocap (requires two phones). Ultimately, this isn’t going to be free to use so make the most of the beta sign-up opportunity – the official launch takes place in March 2023 and their main target in the first instance is professional studios, which will put this out of reach for many indies. This article gives you a quick overview (by 80.lv), and this short video explainer introduces their store –

And finally, on characters this month, we highlight Inworld AI. This organization is creating interactive conversational characters that can be exported and shared across various platforms, either as avatars or the underlying chatbot (think smart NPCs). Some of you may recall John Gaeta mentioned this in our interview with him last year, and since then, Inworld has become part of the Walt Disney Company’s Accelerator Programme, been awarded an Epic MegaGrant and raised a pot of money from investors. The application of the software is vast – everything from games to marketing, as well as machinima and virtual productions too… and that’s because of how the characters can be moulded. Inworld states: ‘When crafting your character’s brain, you are able to use the Studio to tailor many elements of cognition and behavior, such as goals and motivations, manners of speech, memories and knowledge, and voice‘. Inworld released a nice tutorial in December, link below. Its definitely one to try out –

NeRFing Around

We found a nice short on Neural Radiance Fields (aka NeRFs) by Corridor Crew, using the Luma AI app, which is truly stunning for recreating realistic anything. They highlight some of the key challenges, and present a very interesting test with a chrome ball – surely it is never going to possible to create this kind of object with dynamic reflections and all…? Check it out here –

As Corridor Crew states, this is clearly one of the next big tech things in image capture for CGI.

NFTs

The fluid waters of NFTs continues to muddy. This article (by NFT Now) highlights some of the recent class action law suits being brought against creator platforms, suggesting that the markets are being artificially inflated by celebrity endorsers, although this is surely true for so many other products too? Its more an argument about the nature of the endorsement process and the stake in the investment that the endorser has that’s the issue here seemingly. One of the main challenges here is the fundemantal role of community in NFTs, which is always going to mean there is a very fine line on ‘insider trading’. Its also interesting to note that IP owners are now becoming more actively involved in this nascent space. Once again, whenever the legals get involved, everyday creatives are the losers, so whilst some of the actions highlighted are less directly relevant, the outcomes of the legal disputes ultimately will be, so we’ll keep tracking this.

Environments

Finally, we want to highlight a couple of environments for you.

Firstly, Half Life Alyx has a new mod, courtesy of Corey Laddo! Corey has created a mod that allows you to view the game in the role of Alyx Vance. Its designed to be a free of charge for owners of the game, and provides a 4-5 hour experience for ‘average players’. Great if you want to shoot content from a first person perspective. You can support Corey on his Patreon account, should you want to give him something for his effort. Download the mod from Steam here. Meantime, here’s a taster for you –

Secondly, Damien shared a new sandbox environment that will be launching soon (well, we think it will since its apparently been in dev since 2012), called Outerra World by Microprose. This looks amazing, and will allow you create any kind of realistic 1:1 scale terrain simulation, which you can share and navigate using any asset that the community creates and shares too. Here’s the link to the Steam page (to add your details to the waitlist).

If you have comments or thoughts on any of the techs this week, do go ahead and comment.