Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Machinexpo 2009

Last Sunday was the main event at Machinexpo 2009. This is an online machinima festival that takes place in Second Life. I had never used Second Life until a week before the event when I installed it and logged on for the first time. I had two movies showing; Cloud Angel, and Clockwork. The latter having been nominated for a jury award.
I had been booked as one of a number of guests (or so I thought) to do a Q&A with Phil "Overman" Rice and Ricky Grove who were doing a live edition of the Overcast during the event. To make sure it all worked OK I went along to the technical rehearsal the week before. Ricky and Phil were very helpful in sorting out the voicechat settings, and explaining some of the movement and camera controls that weren't so obvious to me.
The event kicked off with a keynote speech by Tracy Harwood who is the Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Creative Technologies. This was followed by the awards, which were chosen by a jury panel (I'm not sure who was on the jury).
Jury Prizes were awarded to Cafe Insomniac by Hardy Capo, Clear Skies 2 by Ian Chisholm, Push by Lainy Voom (who also won a Special Achievement in Directing Award), Shelf Life by James Spencer & Jon Shortland, and Scripted by Krrysh Spyker. I won the grand prize for Clockwork. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I was!
After the awards I had to log off for a bit to deal with some real-world responsibilities (i.e. feed the kids!), before returning for the Overcast, which I enjoyed very much (especially when I learned that machinima is coming to the Kindle...!)
I really enjoyed the whole Second Life experience; the venue was brilliantly designed, with lots of fun details built-in, and the technology itself worked very well; the media streaming and the voice chat. And it was great to "meet" so many people that I know from the various forums.
However, much as I enjoyed the whole online aspect, I continue to believe that there could be some sort of future for machinima in the real world. I enjoy meeting the real people behind the movies, and in a way Second Life goes completely the opposite way; you're meeting with avatars which are probably not that representative of their "owners" (or whatever the correct term is). However, it was fun and I'm sure I'll go along next year.
So congratulations to all the winners, and a huge thank you to the team who organised the event - it was very professionally put together!

Monday, 9 November 2009

The Atopic Interviews

While at the Atopic Film Festival in Paris recently, I had the opportunity to interview two "movers and shakers" from the French machinima scene.
Xavier Lardy and Frederick Thompson have been instrumental in making the first ever French machinima festival a reality, and it was fascinating hearing from them about the machinima scene in France.
I appreciate they time they took to speak to me because they had both had very long days!
Xavier Lardy is the webmaster of Machinima.fr. Click here to listen.
Frederick Thompson was on the creative team behind Atopic. Click here to listen.
I hope you enjoy the interviews!
(After I returned from Atopic I heard Clockwork was one of the three Audience Choice awards. The prize was to have the movie screened at La Geode. I wasn't there to see it myself, but thanks to everyone who voted!)

First Japanese Review Just In!

The other day I received my first movie review for Clockwork from Japan.

Of course I'm thrilled to receive these comments, and I think they capture the key points of the movie rather well. Don't you think?

Arigatou gozaimasu!

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Atopic Film Festival

Well, the Atopic Film Festival turned into more of an adventure for me than I was expecting...

My wife and I took the opportunity to spend a day in Paris the day before going to the festival - we had amazingly good weather and did the ususal touristy things. I also visited La Grande Arche for the first time which is definately a sight worth seeing - if you think Paris is all olde worlde architecture then you're in for a shock! La Defense is like a vision of the future.

La Grande Arche is actually a building with some amazing views to be seen from the top, and an excellent computer museum which took me back to my teenage years; they had ZX81, Commodore PET, my first Amstrad computers, Apple II etc. I also had to point out to my wife that no, that isn't a seat, it's a Cray supercomputer...
On Friday we visited the festival which was being held at the City of Science and Industry - it was a great venue which combined various family attractions, 3D cinemas, planetarium, and a decomissioned submarine called Argonaute. I'm a sucker for old technology so a visit to the sub was mandatory!

The festival started showing the movies at 12 o'clock, so off we trotted to find the cinema. It was a little hard to find because it was separate from the rest of the Atopic exhibition (where they were showing old console games, demo 3d art, and an interesting augmented reality display). The movies were being shown in sections; Creative Machinima, Alternative Machinima, Narrative Machinima, French Machinima, etc. and the running order was changed every day. My movie was being shown as part of the Narrative section.

Most of the movies that were shown were unfamiliar to me, and I got a real sense that in France they like their machinima to be art, rather than frivolous. It was interesting to watch.

We decided to take a break for the French Machinima section as we don't really speak French and I wanted to get lunch and back in time to see my movie (oh how vain!) As we left the cinema I introduced myself to some of the organisers. I had a tentative arrangement to do a recorded interview with Xavier Lardy (French machinima expert) later in the day, but there was some uncertainty as to whether he would be there as he lives 3 hours away from Paris, however Frederick Thompson was available and was happy to do an interview a bit later.

When we got back from lunch, we had just settled into our seats when there was a tap on my shoulder. It was Frederick. "It is time for the interview" he said.

"No, no." I replied, "My movie will be showing soon. We can do the interview later"

"No. The camera crew is here now. They need to interview you right now".
So, while I had been gallavanting around Paris the day before, Christophe Alonso from a French/German cultural TV channel, Arte, had been trying to get in touch with me to arrange a TV interview for a programme called Tracks.

And, as if I needed any further encouragement Frederick said that there had been a mistake in the running order of the movies which meant that my movie wasn't due to be shown for another hour or so. Perfect!

So, I go out and meet Christophe, and his crew (a woman with a camera, a man with a boom mike). They wanted some shots of me wandering around Atopic, looking at the various exibits, then it was outside to do the interview. A few shots of me walking below the shiny globe of the Geode (I think they were taking arty shots of my reflection in the chrome). The whole time I'm thinking "I'm going to be on TV, I'm going to be on TV! My, what a big camera she has!"

Then we did the interview, and I'm afraid it's all a bit of a blur. I guess I shouldn't say too much about what we discussed anyway as that'll just spoil their content, but I did give Moviestorm a mention, and also Phil Rice/Overman, Sisch, and Hugh Hancock.

And, according to Christophe I really know my art! So there!

We got back into the cinema just in time for the Narrative section. I was happy.

Later, I had arranged to meet with Frederick, and when I did Xavier had made it too, so I was able to do two audio interviews to gain a real insight into machinima in France. I'll be posting those interviews here very soon.