We start this week’s episode with a discussion about Reallusion’s new facial mocap system, Accuface (which Phil and Damien have already invested in), move on to a brief contest update (being run by Pink Floyd no less), and then follow this up with our film review. If you liked the Saw series of films, then this is for you – its a particularly sadistic let’s play style machinima made in The Sims 4, called I Abducted My Entire Neighborhood in The Sims 4, by Lets Game It Out… and its also just Phil’s sense of humor too! We contrast our discussion with some older references to classic machinimas, which help us to make our point about just how talented this creator is.
A truly terrifying short for some, Horror is more like an absurd dream for others. The film is made by Yang Hyunjun, released 4 June 2023. Its creator showcases some incredible scene detail, especially at the beginning of the film, but thereafter, loses a little of the pathos and credibility in the storytelling.
Our review of inspirational projects often includes work which is NOT machinima, and this week we have picked out a couple that we’re sure our followers will enjoy too… of course, interspersed with examples of great machinima projects. Not least, this includes the podcast’s Damien’s (aka Darth Angelus) Star Wars fan series, a stalwart of the Second Life machinima creator community, Tutsy NAvArAthnA, whom Tracy interviewed a couple of years back here, and the only stereoscopic machinima we’ve actually seen!
The Classics: from Star Trek to Star Wars
Firstly, a parody of the original Star Trek series, this is the latest episode of Mark Largent’s long-running Stalled Trek project. The ep is called The City of the Edge of Foreclosure (released on YT on 25 April). It is based on Harlan Ellison’s epic episode called The City on the Edge of Forever, which originally aired in 1969 should you want to look it up on IMdB. As Largent says in those importal words ‘You cannot have your fate, and Edith too’!
Damien’s Star Wars series, Heir to the Empire, is featured on SFW Magazine’s website here. The article explains Damien’s process for animating the original novel by Timothy Zahn. You can watch the whole series on his channel, or the latest episode here –
and plus, given the recent pap interest in Damien, we can confirm that he is NOT married, or at least, he’s never declared that status to us!
This is a great fun short stop-mo by Winga (released 4 May). Yes its an ad for an AI-using mobile phone image tracking stabilizer called Insta360, but definitely worth a view. The back end of the vid is an explainer of the kit and how Winga shot the film, also worth a view –
The REAL Metaverse
In this short, Mon Metaverse (released 16 Jan 2022), well-known Second Life creator and documentarian Tutsy NAvArAthna, discusses his observations on the metaverse, the promise of Second Life and the sinister ways in which some are turning the ‘digital screw’ by orchestrating our online experiences. The film features the creative work on dozens of creators (see the film credits for details). There’s an advisory warning with this but, then again, that’s the point being made (its also our featured image for this post). With Second Life having recently celebrated its 20th year, its timely to share the work too –
I knew if we waited awhile someone would share a stereoscopic machinima with us… if you recall, Tracy highlighted there were very few (if any) that had been made, a point arising from the panel discussion at the Oberhausen International Film Festival earlier this year (reported here). Well, here you go. This short has been made by the uber-talented Second Life creator Ataro Asbrink. It is called Mandala Moods 3D and is a hypnotising example of what’s possible. You will need anaglyph glasses to appreciate it of course –
This week, we’ve got a few things for you to add to your tools list and some info about things you’ll be keen to watch out for… but before you check those out, we share with you a showcase of Unreal’s MetaHuman and a rather creepy demo of tendons in Blender!
This is a creative piece, made using Unreal’s MetaHuman, that will give you goosebumps – note the very detail of the facial animation and especially the whistfulness captured in eyes of the character. You could almost see this guy opening a bank account using facial recognition tech! The short, based on a poem by Mike Antic, is called Blue Dot and has been created by Epic’s 3Lateral team in collaboration with Serbian artist Radivoje Bukvic (released 15 June) –
In this uncanny valley special demo created in Blender, Chris Jones‘ shows a ‘throwaway WIP’ – its great but if this is modelled on someone’s actual hand, well, I don’t really want to know more…
Reallusion has released free ZBrush and Character Creator plugins. Both are excellent tools for refining your animations, and the ability to link these together makes for exciting new possibilities for improving your workflow. Here’s the link to the downloads and here’s a video explainer –
The popular open world game, No Man’s Sky is now also available for Mac. This may or not make it more accessible to creators because, of course, most of the tools folks have are still only PC but nonetheless its a start!
Onwards and Upwards
Unity, in collaboration with Apple, has devised a Beta programe for creating ‘spatial experiences’, intended to support development of content for the Apple Vision Pro. You can sign up to participate here.
Unreal features a neat demo of its massively scalable procedural generation framework (PGC), which ships with version release 5.2. This looks great – the demo is called Electric Dreams, and also illustrates its amazing Substate system. Video link here –
Worth Waiting For
Blockbuster Inc., seemingly made in the mold of that well-known machinima creator studio released way back in 2005 called The Movies, has released a demo which is now on Steam (it is being developed by indie studio, Super Sly Fox). Here’s the link – the full release date is reported as being later this year.
We’re all eagerly awaiting Blender 4.0, right (due November 2023)? As part of the release, Grease Pencil 3.0 will be included in its 2D animation toolset, originally an annotation tool that has evolved to do quite a bit more. You can read the update on Blender’s develop blog here.
This week, our review is a roundup of new releases, some tools and tuts that add realism to productions and some interesting new tools announced for moviemakers everywhere, irrespective of creative engine preference.
Blender has released version 3.5, with an astonishing hair toolset. See the overview here –
UE5 editor for Fortnite has been released – UEFN is a PC application for designing, developing, and publishing games and experiences directly into Fortnite. You can see the release launch at GDC here –
Reallusion has released an astonishing range of 3D motions and characters for Actorcore, called Run For Your Life. Its not cheap but then again it may well be the only action set you ever need. Here’s a a demo reel –
Facegood’s Avatary (made in China) has released a desktop facial mocap system with some basic functionality for free. Here’s a nice little overview of what this version of it can do –
The quality of modelling continues to astound – I’m still blown away by Unreal’s Substrate materials system, although you need an epic system to render no doubt –
However, there are a few other releases that we’ll share with you this month too. Firstly, the UE Crashes course – not just any ole course, of course, but one where you can see how to animate ‘epic’ car crashes in UE5 (is that too many puns… sure it is) –
Secondly, Taichi Kobayashi has developed a stunning Cliffwood Village – a large-scale and beautifully detailed 3D model for UE5 –
Finally, William Faucher’s use of Reality Captures’ tech to create an arctic environment for UE5 is also something stunning to see. Check out his overview of the creative process here –
An interesting development is the release of what’s being badged as The Movies mark II, called Blockbuster Inc in which “You will take total control of your very own movie studio. You will be able to construct all the facilities, hire and manage all sorts of employees and stars with the aim to produce the most prolific films and TV” (Super Sly Fox, developer). Its not yet been released, but you can find the holding page on Steam here.
Big news of the month is that Moviestorm‘s long awaited previsualisation software, FirstStage (although they need a new intro vid on their YouTube channel asap), is finally out of beta with ver 32 (our cover image for this post) –
This will surely be a useful tool for all those major creative projects, whatever the final engine used may be including film, TV and video as well as 3D environment engine-based, and it is very reasonably priced at $10/month per user (non-commercial). For those with short memories, Moviestorm (its creator channel is here fyi) launched originally in 2007 at the First European Machinima Festival as I recall and became a platform that many used to create content long before the likes of Reallusion’s iClone and Source Filmmaker got a wider foothold. One of my all-time favourites made in Moviestorm was IceAxe’s (aka Iain Friar) Clockwork (2008), a retelling of that classic tale by Anthony Burgess –
What will be interesting, however, is how it will compete with the in-engine toolsets being developed along similar lines, for example, Matt Workman’s UE Cine Tracer which delivers a similar experience. Of course, there are also individual tools, such as this camera crane by Cinematography Database for UE5 –