In this episode, Phil introduces the Machiniplex [Remastered] Collection, a curated selection of machinimas from the early years. Machiniplex was a site created to host classic machinimas at the point that Machinima [dot] com began to assert its energies over the community as a corporate entity. The site was a community endeavour, with both Ricky and Phil playing a pivitol role in managing the project to preserve the original content the community had contributed to the early original Machinima website… until such time as it ran its course. In this ep, Phil and Ricky reminisce about the origins of Machiniplex and its contributors.
To celebrate the release of the curated collection, we have each selected a film we recall with particular fondness and discuss its significance. Phil has remastered each of the films using AI, not always a perfect process, so we also discuss his approach and techniques in bringing the original works up to 4K standard.
We encourage machinima fans everywhere to check out these films, not only were they brilliant in their day but in terms of storytelling, remain some of our favourite creative works against which we often draw comparisons when reviewing latest films.
YouTube Version of this Episode
Show Notes & Links
Blahbalicious by Wendigo and Avatar, 1997 –
BOT by Digital Yoke, 2005? –
Edge of Remorse by Riot Films, 2006 –
The Snow Witch by Britannica Dreams, 2006 –
Phil’s trailer for the Machiniplex [Remastered] Channel –
Go to the Machiniplex [Remastered] Collection on Phil’s Vimeo channel here – website https://bit.ly/machiniplex or access the playlist here –
This week, we highlight three excellent Unreal storytelling projects, and some other interesting storymaking development projects we think you’ll find just as intriguing.
Brave Creatures, released on 2 March, is one of the most inventive and magical stories made using Unreal Engine we’ve seen and it’s not been set on an alien planet full of freakish monsters and travellers in space suits. The creative team, Studio Pallanza (none other than Academy award-winning VFX artist, Adam Valdez) was awarded a Mega Grant to bring this project to life, and it has done a truly outstanding job of it. It will surely be the basis of a new children’s series? Here’s the link –
and if you want to hear Adam discuss the work, check out Jae Salina’s interview with him here –
Promise with Dr. (English version), released on 17 Feb by TT Studio, is another magical story, albeit with a completely different aesthetic. Great editing and storytelling, do check this out too –
Miika is an award-winning film by Ugandan director, Nsiimenta Shevon, released on 27 Feb. This is powerful and disturbing, as only tales of African conflict can be. Beautifully animated by Solomon Jagwe, here’s the link –
Storymaking in Other Ways
This is not a film or an animation, but a fascinating insight into the storymaking possibilities of interactive chatbots and animated robots. In this ‘show and tell’ presentation at SXSW 2023 by Disney Parks’ chair of Experiences and Products Josh D’Amaro, Tinker Bell (Peter Pan’s sidekick) is shown as an animated chatbot in a box and a roller-skating child-like robot is emoted using mocap. These are Disney’s ‘greeters’ of the future, embedded with storytelling capabilities through the design process. What is particularly interesting is that, at least for me, the usual uncanny valley effect had somehow disappeared – what do you think?
In our next selection, MidJourney has been used to conflate two very different yet seemingly complementary storyworlds into a series of bizarre images, one being Star Wars and the other being the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. This work, called Star Wars by MidJourney, by AI Visionary Art, was published on 18 Feb and somehow converts the grotesque and nonsensical creatures into a familiar canon (for some, Damien) –
And finally this week, we share an overview of an InWorld AI driven adventure game called Origins (our feature image for this post), animated using Unreal’s Metahuman characters and presented in the style of a film noir (or rather, a neo-noir). This is vaguely reminiscent of some of those very early games that inspired a lot of machinima creators back in the earliest days, Max Payne for those with long memories. InWorld AI has described its approach as the future of NPCs, but its also their DNA too. The chatbot and naturalistic style interface is a really interesting development for storymaking and storytelling and we’re definitely looking forward to seeing what creators do with this kind of creative platform in future. Check this out –
That’s it for this post, thanks for reading and do share with us anything you spot that you think we should be reviewing on the podcast.
March was another astonishing month in the world of AI genies with the release of exponentially powerful updates (GPT4 released 14 March; Baidu released Ernie Bot on 16 March), new services and APIs. It is not surprising that by the end of the month, Musk-oil is being poured over the ‘troubling waters’ – will it work now the genie is out of the bottle? Its anyone’s guess and certainly it seems a bit of trickery is the only way to get it back into the bottle at this stage.
More importantly, and with immediate effect, the US Copyright Office issued a statement on 16 March in relation to the IP issues that have been hot on many lips for several months now: registrations pertaining to copyright are about the processes of human creativity, where the role of generative AI is simply seen as a toolset under current legal copyright registration guidance. Thus, for example, in the case of Zarya of the Dawn (refer our comments in the Feb 2023 Tech Update), whilst the graphic novel contains original concepts that are attributable to the author, the use of images generated by AI (in the case of Zarya, MidJourney) are not copyrightable. The statement also makes it clear that each copyright registration case will be viewed on its own merit which is surely going to make for a growing backlog of cases in the coming months. It requires detailed clarification of how generative AI is used by human creators in each copyright case to help with the evaluation processes.
The statement also highlights that an inquiry into copyright and generative AIs will be undertaken across agencies later in 2023, where it will seek general public and legal input to evaluate how the law should apply to the use of copyrighted works in “AI training and the resulting treatment of outputs”. Read the full statement here. So, for now at least, the main legal framework in the US remains one of human copyright, where it will be important to keep detailed notes about how creators generated (engineered) content from AIs, as well as adapted and used the outputs, irrespective of the tools used. This will no doubt be a very interesting debate to follow, quite possibly leading to new ways of classifying content generated by AIs… and through which some suggest AIs as autonomous entities with rights could become recognized. It is clear in the statement, for example, that the US Copyright Office recognizes that machines can create (and hallucinate).
The complex issues of the dataset creation and AI training processes will underpin much of the legal stances taken and a paper released at the beginning of Feb 2023 could become one of the defining pieces of research that undermines it all. The research extracted near exact copyrighted images of identified people from a diffusion model, suggesting that it can lead to privacy violations. See a review here and for the full paper go here.
In the meantime, more creative platforms used to showcase creative work are introducing tagging systems to help identify AI generated content – #NoAI, #CreatedWithAI. Sketchfab joined the list at the end of Feb with its update here, with updates relating to its own re-use of such content through its licensing system coming into effect on 23 March.
Nvidia’s progressive march with AI genies needs an AI to keep up with it! Here’s my attempt to review the last month of releases relevant to the world of machinima and virtual production.
In February, we highlighted ControlNet as a means to focus on specific aspects of image generation and this month, on 8 March, Nvidia released the opposite which takes the outline of an image and infills it, called Prismer. You can find the description and code on its NVlabs GitHub page here.
Alongside the portfolio of generative AI tools Nvidia has launched in recent months, with the advent of OpenAI’s GPT4 in March, Nvidia is expanding its tools for creating 3D content –
It is also providing an advanced means to search its already massive database of unclassified 3D objects, integrating with its previously launched Omniverse DeepSearch AI librarian –
It released its cloud-based Picasso generative AI service at GTC23 on 23 March, which is a means to create copyright cleared images, videos and 3D applications. A cloud service is of course a really great idea because who can afford to keep up with the graphics cards prices? The focus for this is enterprise level, however, which no doubt means its not targeting indies at this stage but then again, does it need to when indies are already using DALL-E, Stable Diffusion, MidJourney, etc. Here’s a link to the launch video and here is a link to the wait list –
A procedural content generator for creating alleyways has been released by Difffuse Studios in the Blender Marketplace, link here and see the video demo here –
We spotted a useful social thread that highlights how to create consistent characters in Midjourney, by Nick St Pierre, using seeds –
and you can see the result of the approach in his example of an aging girl here –
JSFilmz created an interesting character animation using MidJourney5 (which released on 17 March) with advanced character detail features. This really shows its potential alongside animation toolsets such as Character Creator and Metahumans –
Runway’s Gen-2 text-to-video platform launched on 20 March, with higher fidelity and consistency in the outputs than its previous version (which was actually video-to-video output). Here’s a link to the sign-up and website, which includes an outline of the workflow. Here’s the demo –
Gen-2 is also our feature image for this blog post, illustrating the stylization process stage which looks great.
Wonder Dynamics launched on 9 March as a new tool for automating CG animations from characters that you can upload to its cloud service, giving creators the ability to tell stories without all the technical paraphenalia (mmm?). The toolset is being heralded as a means to democratize VFX and it is impressive to see that Aaron Sims Creative are providing some free assets to use with this and even more so to see none other than Steven Spielberg on the Advisory Board. Here’s the demo reel, although so far we’ve not found anyone that’s given it a full trial (its in closed beta at the moment) and shared their overview –
Finally for this month, we close this post with Disney’s Aaron Blaise and his video response to Corridor Crew’s use of generative AI to create a ‘new’ anime workflow, which we commented on last month here. We love his open-minded response to their approach. Check out the video here –
In this episode, Tracy talks to John Gaeta about his interests in machinima and real time filmmaking, The Matrix Awakens Experience, the influence of the bullet time shot, building the metaverse, future of storytelling in immersive environments, the potential of NFTs and his advice for indie creators.