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Sunday, November 15, 2009

iClone not allowed in 48 hour machinima event?

Based on the first-hand experience of codewarrior, as outlined in this thread on Reallusion, the use of iClone was not allowed in the recent 48 hour machinima event.

Normally, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself that not everyone thinks iClone is machinima. It's like a mantra. Breathe in - breathe out - not everyone thinks - blah blah blah. However - there is a big difference this time, as MovieStorm WAS allowed in the event. Usually, when iClone isn't an accepted format, neither is MovieStorm.

Anyone who is familiar with both MovieStorm and iClone knows that the programs have some pretty solid similarities. Both are non-game platforms. Why would iClone be excluded from such a prestigious machinima event? I was enthusiastic about this event - I had even considered participating.

I know that we can't dictate to contest runners how to set up their rules and criteria, but I would really like to hear an explanation as to why iClone was summarily dismissed in the 48 hour machinima competition, and MovieStorm embraced to the point that one of the top-award winning movies was made with MovieStorm (a well-deserved win, I might add, lest some think I'm casting doubt as to the validity of that decision).

I find this very disheartening at a time when I was feeling confident and upbeat about the progress the machinima community has made in general at embracing the varying platform choices available.

In my opinion, excluding iClone isolates its users. I have enjoyed the cross-pollination of iC and MS users - on TMUnderground we see users of both programs assisting each other on projects, supporting each others work, and enjoying each others movies. The choice made by the organizers of the 48 hour project only serves to create a rift where there wasn't one. At least at past events, iCloners and MovieStormers could console each other when we were excluded from competitions.

It's absolutely mind-boggling to me and I am thoroughly disappointed with this decision.


Killian said...

Yes, it does somewhat beggar belief.

There is, to the untrained eye, bugger all difference between MS and IC, so why the (seemingly arbitrary) line drawn to prevent IC movies being included?

Maybe someone ought to ask the organisers for their reasoning behind the decision...

Overman said...

My understanding is that it comes down to this: the makers of Moviestorm fought hard to get themselves included (before 2 years ago they were excluded too). The makers of iClone (and/or its users) have made no such appeal as far as I know. I have a feeling if they had at the same time Moviestorm was doing so, iClone would have been included too. But nobody asked.

That aside, the 48HFP Machinima was originally established as a Virtual World equivalent to the real 48HFP. As such, I'm not sure Moviestorm ever SHOULD have been included in that particular competition, and same goes for iClone and for other wholly single-player movie-making experiences like The Sims, etc. None of those platforms are multiplayer virtual worlds by any stretch of the imagination, and the production process is radically different when one DOES have to rely on multi-player in-engine interaction to get the job done. While I think matching up finished product in a standard festival is completely fair game (it's film vs. film), I don't think it's a level playing field when under that kind of time pressure. I know some will disagree with me on that, but it's just my opinion.

What I would love to see is a separate but parallel 48HFP Machinima contest which caters to what I'll call the "machinima animation" platforms like MS / iClone / and so on. And then continue to have the virtual worlds version as is. Assuming there would be enough interested parties to fill a two-threaded competition, of course.

CodeWarrior said...

Hi Overman! Nice to see you again. You were on the jury for the judging of this contest.

I noticed with interest this blog entry you made about the contest:

I think it's particularly interesting that at the time, you flatly stated that both MovieStorm and iClone would be allowed to enter.

Does your current post here indicate that you've changed your mind?

Cathy said...

This is troubling and I agree with Dulci - it isolates iClone users. But as iClone evolves it really does seem to be traveling in a trajectory away from what is considered standard machinima and more towards what is considered 3D animation, albeit 'real time'. At the same time, so is MS... so I don't know what to make of this. It could be simply what Phil said - Reallusion didn't fight for the right to participate and so was left out.

Animize said...

I sent a note regarding these concerns to the organizers of the 48MFF. Thank you all for raising your voice & sharing your thoughts. I've asked that they address the omission since many of you would have liked to compete. There are so many festivals and contests to submit your animations to that I believe everyone can find a good fit to share their work in a competitive spirit. We'll see what they have to say and I hope we can encourage them to open the competition to iClone users next time. In the meantime, checkout where you can get info about nearly every upcoming and ongoing festival where animation is widely accepted regardless of software used to create. I'll share any response I receive here and on the Reallusion forum.
Keep rockn!
John Martin - Reallusion

Norrie said...

While I agree that disallowing iClone, while a Moviestorm films gains so many plaudits, may seem unfair, I think it's worth taking a step back and taking the broader view that things change very quickly.

In this case, I suspect the organisers may have got it wrong. Not by disallowing iClone, but by allowing Moviestorm.

I am in no doubt that it is easier to present a polished product to this particular event using either of the above, than any virtual world collaboration could do.

In this specific instance, it wasn't a level playing field. But, I think it's worth bearing in mind that even the most experienced people are still "new" to a medium that changes so rapidly.

Having read the OP on the iClone forum, it seems to me that the kick off event was fairly informal (the week before the thread was created), so it's hard to get a grasp on definitive answers.

I hope this doesn't turn into an Us Vs Them situation, it's my guess that neither will be eligible next year.

Overman said...

@codewarrior - Hi and thanks for your comment. First, I just want to clarify my role: I was one of the jurors asked to assign awards to films entered into the contest, I had no say in the admission process or allowed engines stuff. I didn't even have any direct knowledge of all the engines which were included / excluded until after the event was over. That just wasn't part of my job, or any part of our discussions as jurors.

I've not changed my mind. What I said in my blog post is that if Moviestorm is now approved, then that opens the door for iClone. And logically, that is absolutely the case - or should be. I do believe that if Moviestorm is an allowed tool, it is only logical that iClone should be allowed as well. I still feel that way, and that was me making what seemed a very logical assumption - but I'm not a decision maker on that, or even involved in the discussion.

However... it is only logical to allow iClone if Moviestorm is allowed... and I question whether it was logical to allow Moviestorm in the first place. I do NOT question the legitimacy of the wins both this year and last year by Moviestorm films, not one single bit. Those entries adhered to the rules in their form at that time, and they won fair and square. However, I do think that some consideration of whether that decision to include Moviestorm (or any wholly single-player machinima engine) was necessarily the best thing to do. If anything, they did so without revising their guidelines enough to eliminate a fundamental inconsistency, effectively stating Moviestorm = virtual world machinima tool. Moviestorm is many things - among which, my favorite tool of choice right now - but a virtual world platform it is not.

Norrie is right, there is zero basis for Us vs. Them here. iClone getting denied in the wake of Moviestorm's approval was an oversight, not an act of malice. The truth is, based on the "virtual world" component so central to the definition of what this contest is... I think Moviestorm, iClone, ZenCub3d, The Movies, and The Sims games should all be banned - even though those are very much machinima.

What's at stake here isn't whether those programs/games qualify as machinima, but whether they fit the virtual world oriented machinima definition used by this particular competition. Those programs make a product one can accurately label "machinima" under the modern definition, they just aren't virtual world machinima tools. Those of you who have made both kinds (as I have) know for a fact the stark differences in production process for each kind.

Throwing them out in the cold, however, would be gross overkill, and would also deny the 48HFP organization access to some really great films that can be made in those platforms. Put the scripted animation softwares against one another, in their own thread of the contest, and keep the multiplayer machinima grouped together as well. That's what I'd do if it were me. It's not a piss-and-moan about the outcome, but rather a sober acknowledgment of some significant differences in process. And quite frankly, if they don't do that, Norrie is probably right - it's more likely that all the scripted platforms will be banned, not the door opened wider to the excluded ones.

WarLord said...

I respect the decision of the organizers while certainly not agreeing with it for all the reasons already stated in previous posts.

It seems to me that most times when a product is singled out from the mainstream it is because that product is moving on its own course away from that mainstream.

I believe iClone and MS are moving away from the canned machinima crowd and more into their own sphere of influence anyway.

Nothing wrong with any animation tool that allows us everyday folks to tell a story... good or bad notwithstanding.

Russell Boyd said...

Congrats to Team Clark, a good film and deserves the best film prize.

If this competition, is based around live shooting with real actors as is the case with virtual worlds, then it is odd that Moviestorm is allowed.

And for the record I do consider iClone and MS to be great machinima engines, they are just not virtual worlds.

HatHead said...

The contest should be called 'the 48 World Virtual World Movie Contest' as machinima is much broader than online, multi-player engines. (And from a collaborative standpoint, most certainly teams used other electronic communication channels such as email, instant messaging, etc during production)

However, if Movestorm is accepted and iClone is not, this disparity casts the pale shadow of favouritism over the contest - a quick way to have bad press and bad feelings dominate the event.

Richard Grove said...

From reading the thread here and doing some research, it seems to me that it's obvious that the exclusion of iClone is an mistake (an "oversight" as Phil called it) that the organizers probably regret considering the bad PR it's reaping.

It's a bit confusing to me, the whole multi-player / single-player machinima issue is here though. If the 48hr organizers want to be fair and re-create the same conditions in machinima as they do in live action, why not limit the film submissions to machinima teams and avoid the platform issues all together? Meaning you can't submit a film as a single creator, but only as a team. And you have to let them know the members of the team beforehand. Then it shouldn't make a difference which engine you use.

Or is the "level playing field" not possible with single vs multiplayer machinima pipeline?

Overman said...

@Ricky - I do think there are issues with the playing field being level, yes. Filming a scene with multiple actors requires coordinated effort between multiple people (often in different timezones). If you're filming in Moviestorm or iClone, there's no direct coordination required (or even possible) during filming, unless you were to use some kind of web conferencing - the benefits of which would be minimal. The timeline can be scrubbed backward to tweak animations or costumes or add props after the fact in Moviestorm or other animation platforms like that, whereas virtual worlds are limited to what can be captured live with Fraps. Put simply, virtual world filming has a lot more in common with real world filming process... with no time travel possible.

Absent the 48 hour time limit, those things don't have to be big issues because one has time for all the takes in the world. But crammed into that timeframe, I think the advantage of one person being able to sit down at one PC and control the world (vs. multiple people on multiple PCs having to choreograph real action with no "pause" button) is a gigantic one.

Lainy Voom said...

I don't agree

"I think the advantage of one person being able to sit down at one PC and control the world"

That is exactly how I film in SL, I can puppet at least 8 avatars using a lite viewer, no co-ordinating with others required. The only thing I need "actors" for in SL is facial expression recording or because they already come with unique identities (ie good costumes and skins). I can set up a scene and then run things over and over hundreds of times until it's as I want it without others having to hang around waiting. Animations are easily added. Avatars in SL can simply be puppets, you don't need to have a real person behind them in order to film them. In that respect it is not that different than Moviestorm. People film "real" avatars in SL because they like filming real people, interacting, but it is not essential to do it that way at all.

Overman said...

@Lainy - You should write up a tutorial (or do a video tutorial) on the tech involved to pull off scripted multi-actor machinima in Second Life, or maybe set up an in-world demonstration. (Since it's scripted, it could be set up to just run in a loop perhaps? So people could come visit any time.) I had no idea that what you describe is possible. It doesn't appear to be a very well known tech; I don't think any of the 48HFP entering teams used that tech to choreograph their scenes, but maybe I'm wrong?

Actually, I can't think of a single multi-actor (esp. dialogue-driven) movie in Second Life that I've seen that didn't appear to be 90% human-driven. Can you point me to an example movie so I can see it in action? This interests me very much, and may directly affect some big production decisions laying before me right now. Thanks!

Lainy Voom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

My statement about iClone at the Machinima 48HFP kickoff was due to a misunderstanding of last year's rules for the Machinima 48HFP. I was under the impression that iClone was not an acceptable platform last year, but in fact it was.

I'm very sorry for this mistake.

For what it's worth, iClone was accepted in the 2008 Machinima 48HFP and would have been accepted in the 2009 Machinima 48HFP. It will also be accepted in the 2010 Machinima 48HFP.

As you say, we are all one Machinima community, and the more games and platforms represented, the better next year's Machinima 48HFP will be.

Again, sorry for the confusion I caused.

Best regards,

Chantal Harvey

Machinima Producer
48 Hour Film Project

Dulci said...

Thank you so much for the gracious & encouraging reply Chantal! It's great to hear that iClone will be included again next year :)

bllius said...

Now if only Google Sketchup and Warehouse models were allowed.

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