Monday, 27 August 2012

Visions Beyond The City

(click to enlarge)

Here is a machinima that I think is especially well done.
I don't know the filmmaker personally - Neodog1 on YouTube and Shaman Nitely in Second Life - but saw the link posted on SLUniverse.
'Visions Beyond the City' opens with a slow and delicate camera track of Hangers Liquides cityscape, where incidentally, much of my own 'Rapture' and Shaman-inspired 'FWD: Evolution' were filmed.  And, like my own treatment of Hangers Liquides for machinima purposes, Shaman Nitely has also subject his raw footage to extensive colour correction. He really does make it look fabulous for film.
I have in mind a future blog-post discussing colour correction in machinima, mainly arising out of conversations with Tutsy Navarathna regarding use of the 'Fast Color Corrector', the 'Three-Way Color Corrector' and the 'Brightness & Contrast' effects. Not a tutorial on their specific usage as such but more a discussion on the importance of colour correction in filmmaking and the role these effects play. I think 'Curves' is pretty well known  and is already being used extensively by the SL Photoshop photography community.
Tutsy's recent MachinimUWA V winning 'The Last Syllable of Recorded Time' is probably one of the best examples of colour correction in machinima that I know of, especially when watched in 1080. Its beautiful and delicate colour palette has been noted by Larkworthy Antfarm, Iono Allen and others besides myself.
The protagonist voiceover for 'Visions Beyond the City', kicking in at just after ten seconds, reveals beyond doubt that Shaman Nitely is English! But more...the voice is strangely reminiscent of someone and it took me a few minutes before I could put my finger on it! The voiceover sounds uncannily like the English 'Reservoir Dogs' actor, Tim Roth! And, that is a good thing! I mean it as a compliment; I like it - it is cool, gritty and real.
The film uses quite a number of lens flares, most usually in an appropriate manner such as the nicely executed tracking of the exhaust valves of the air-vehicles. It has to be said that although I often like the look of lens flares aesthetically, I have personally mostly weaned myself off them - especially since being chastised by a college lecturer for their use in 'Rapture'. Lens flares do have a part to play, but judiciously and prudently, in my and some others' opinions. For the most part, 'Visions Beyond The City' uses lens flares within those boundaries.
Many of the post-production effects are very well handled indeed, and the background sound effects add a further dimension and realism to each scene.
I especially enjoyed the character studies as the camera pans the inner city and latches onto the denizens. That, and the use of the Plague Doctor avatar, brought to mind  'MetaSex' which, incredibly, now has over 4,500 YouTube views and 47 comments.
The voice track that kicks in around 5:11 sounds like a old-timer working class Londoner, and could in fact be a member of my own family on my father's side! The "vision" sequence which starts soon after is very well done, both technically and artistically.
'Visions Beyond The City' presents the traditional dark sci-fi feel in a stylish and stylised manner. It has so much to commend it and is certainly one of the most all-round polished and enjoyable machinima I have had the pleasure of watching this year.
Please take the time to watch Shaman Nitely's 'Visions Beyond the City'...

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Sir Yes Sir!

"Today, you people are no longer maggots."
- Gunnery Sergeant Hartman
Phillip Sidek & I have at least two things in common...1) we both moreorless "live" in IM while logged into SL and 2) whenever we manage to escape the IM hellhole, we are almost always actively involved in some creative act or other.
Phillip of course is a prolific and popular glamour photographer who has carved out for himself a personal and instantly recognisable style.
Phillip & I have been talking about doing something together for some while now - and in fact have done a few things - just not any that we'd planned!
On Saturday we met up, chatted and decided to do something quick, spontaneous and fun...
...this was the result "Phillip Sidek - Sir Yes Sir!"

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Holy Desecration!

"Cover me, when I sleep
Cover me, when I breathe
You throw your pearls before the swine
Make the Monkey blind!"
Ecco Simia - Before & After
In a terrible act of desecration reminiscent of the Taliban's destruction of the Buddha's of Bamiyan in 2001, a 80 year old Spanish Roman Catholic lady has been caught vandalising an important historic and scientific fresco.
Ecco Simia ("Behold the Monkey") by Elias Garcia Martinez depicts a half-human half-simian face and is widely believed to be one of the earliest technical drawings of evolutionary theory.
The unnamed elderly lady splattered the Ecco Simia with white matt paint and then attempted to distort the face to make it look more "religious and saintly".
Alarmed Spanish cultural officials report that the lady was variously shouting, "the Voices made me do it!", "God made me do it!" and "my Priest made me do it!" while blood flowed from the palms of her hands. 
We sincerely hope she gets all the help she needs.
Click here for further information on the sad and distressing story.

Saturday, 18 August 2012


"Each generation wants new symbols, new people, new names. They want to divorce themselves from their predecessors."

Allow me to introduce you to DOLL COCO avatars and items by Cocoro Lemon.
DOLL COCO items are rigged mesh. Be aware that the avatar bones are in different positions from standard Second Life avatars. As such, DOLL COCO items cannot be used on standard avatars.
The good news, however, is that the basic DOLL COCO avatar shape, required alpha layers and mesh components are free to group members. The avatar is available in snow and cacao colouring.
Once you have assembled the free basic avatar, you can start creating your individual COCO DOLL look by purchasing a doll head, clothing, shoes and so on.
The look and style is individual and interesting, and it has to be said, somewhat eccentric.
We love it.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Pixie Darkling

"Remember, a powerful enemy now festers within you.- The Darkness (2007)
I thought this a fun thing for when still feeling creative but just a bit too tired for anything too strenuous.
It is a free 'Dress Up Doll' game created by Liran Szeiman and Marc BorrĂ¡s with the idea that "we like darkness and we know you love it too".
You'll find the game here with the facility to save a JPG of your creation to your hard drive.
Once saved, I touched up in Photoshop but nothing especially clever.
Grateful hat tip to SLUniverse for the original link.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Slugs and Snails and Puppy-Dogs' Tails

And what more appropriate place to go take a few snaps than the 'Happy Mood' parcel on the (*^-^*) HPMD region.
HPMD is a great place for snapshots but be aware that it is a 'General' rated region. Also, because of the heavy use of 32bit alpha textures and sculpties on certain parts of the region, filming here can be problematic - you can turn the camera and the fps will plummet like a brick! But nevertheless, it is a gorgeous region and worth taking the time to visit.
Thanks, Slug Daddy!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

MachinimUWA V Results

The votes have been counted and the results are in....

For the third time in a row, Tutsy Navarathna wins the prestigious MachinimUWA contest - this time for his beautifully moving 'The Last Syllable of Record Time'.
'The Last Syllable' is arguably Tutsy's finest machinima to date - it is a brilliant synthesis of sound and vision; the colour palette of a true artist.
Congratulations on this marvellous achievement!
Additionally, Tutsy was also awarded the 'CinemaPop Award of Excellence in Film Direction' and Violette Naidoo's poster for 'The Last Syllable(pictured above) took 1st place in the UWA Machinima Poster Contest.
2nd Place was taken by a machinima I have been raving about since first seeing it - Natascha Randt and Karima Hoisan's 'Seek Wisdom'. A stunning work. Congrats to both.
3rd Place was jointly awarded to Tikaf Viper for 'run RAM' and a number of others.
I am pleased to say that these three films are those I highlighted only yesterday as standing out for me and which I felt would win an award. Now, why oh why didn't I enter the Audience Participation again this year!
For myself, I was pleased to have been awarded a 'CinemaPop Award of Excellence in Film Narrative 2012'.
For a complete list of the MachinimUWA winners, visit the UWA site (link not available at time of this writing).
Congrats to all winners and thanks to UWA for staging the contest.
Here are a collection of pics I took at the Award Ceremony...
(click to enlarge)

Saturday, 4 August 2012

UWA 3D & UWA V Grand Finale: $L1.3 Million Prize Pool

Tomorrow is the Grand Finale of this year's UWA 3D Art and Machinima competitions.
There have been ninety 3D Art entries (click here for details) and fifty-one machinima entries (click here for details). The standard is high in both categories.
The total prize pool is L$1,300,000 of which L$785,000 (approx. $3,400 USD) is for the machinima contest, split as follows:
·        1st Prize - L$140,000
·        2nd Prize - L$120,000
·        3rd Prize - L$100,000
·        4th Prize - L$70,000
·        5th Prize - L$55,000
·        6th to 10th Special Awards @ L$30,000 each
·        UWA Special Prize - L$100,000
·       Audience Participation Prize: Three prizes totalling L$20,000
·        Machinima Poster Prize: Three prizes totalling L$20,000
Very healthy!
Last year I came 2nd in the Audience Participation contest - a competition to predict the Top 10 machinima as would finally be decided by the judges. I didn't enter this contest this year for a number of reasons - but mainly time related.
My personal tips for a prize this year would be:
·        Tutsy Navarathna's 'The Syllable of Recorded Time'
·        Natascha Randt and Karima Hoisan's 'Seek Wisdom'
·        Tikaf Viper's 'run RAM' (embedded below)
Now, it has to be said - I have not watched all the entries! But of those I have watched, these three stood out for me.
One thing that did occur to me while watching some of the entries was that, even more than last year, there were quite a number of films that *conceptually* were really very interesting. However, in my opinion the filmmaking/camera/editing was not able to do justice to the original concept. This is simply a matter of "technique and practice" and so I assume we'll see more rounded and polished machinima from these entrants in future years.
Having written the above, it would now be cowardice to avoid saying where I believe my own entry - 'Fwd: Evolution' - falls. Despite many encouraging and enthusiastic comments about this movie - including a dedicated thread on SLUniverse, no less -  having seen some of the other entries, I am unable to rank it in the Top 5. However, of those I have watched, I was in fact able to rank it in the Top 10. We'll see tomorrow!
The Grande Finale ceremony starts at 6am SLT, Sunday. But arrive in plenty of time to secure a place - it is strictly a 'first come, first served' affair!
There are three entrances:
Good luck to all, and give me a call if you see me!
Pixie xx

Tikaf Viper's 'run RAM'...