Thursday 29 November 2007

Machinima with Moviestorm

I recently came across a very impressive piece of software for making Machinima. It’s still in Beta at the moment, and it’s free, so I’ve spent a bit of time looking at it and seeing how it works.

For those of you who don’t know, machinima is a form of animated cinema, which is produced in computer games or virtual worlds. In some case the animated characters are ‘played’ by avatars and in others the characters are figures within a virtual world which are controlled by a ‘producer’.

Moviestorm offers the second of these two options, so once you have downloaded it from the Moviestorm site, you no longer need an internet connection and you can work alone or with a group to produce your machinima project.

The software is pretty impressive and can enable you to do many things. You can;
  • create stage sets and characters,
  • place the characters on the set
  • get them to move and interact with each other and various props
  • place cameras around the set to film the action from different places
  • create and record a script for your characters
  • lip-sync the animated characters with the recorded dialogue
  • cut, edit and render your final movie in a format which can easily be distributed on the web or CD.

So this is pretty much all you need to get started creating machinima movies.

So why do this with students?
The learning potential of the software is huge, even if you don’t ever get your students to a stage where they can produce their own movies.
  • You can get them to create characters and change them to practice language of description
  • You can use it to practice a whole range of clothing, colours and textures
  • You can get them to create a set and place things to practice prepositions of place
  • You can create your own movies to demonstrate a whole range of prepositions of movement, various tenses
  • You can add dialogue to the movies to demonstrate functional and intercommunicative language
Personally I feel though that the software is ideal for project work. You can get your students working together in groups on their own machinima projects. They can right a screen play and a script it. Record themselves and lip-sync to the animated characters, decide on and create their own scenes and stage sets. Even the act of learning ho to use the software would make for an excellent project. There is an online forum where users of the software can exchange ideas and help each other.

You would probably need to run the project over the space of a few weeks or even months and be sure to specify to students before they begin how you intend to evaluate their work on the project. I’m sure that most students would find this a motivating and creative way to practice language.

What I liked about it
  • It’s free, not too difficult to learn and doesn’t involve any programming skill.
  • Once you’ve downloaded it you don’t need an internet connection to use it
  • The tool set is great and you can make the animated characters do a whole range of things and film them from loads of different angles
  • It’s fun to use and learn and easy enough so that you can install the software and produce a short clip within an hour
  • Any films you produce with the software are your own property and you have the right to sell and distribute them!!

What I wasn’t so sure about
  • It’s a big download (almost 200Mb) so you’ll either need a good connection or a lot of patience to download it.
  • There are expansion packs with more stage sets, props and characters but you have to pay for these (not that you really need them)
  • There’s no MAC version and you need a pretty good graphics card and a lot of RAM for it to run easily

On the whole I think this is really one to watch. As more people start using it and the forum / user community builds up I think this will turn into an excellent resource.

If you want to find out more about Machinima have a look at a few of these links.
The home of machinima and probably one of the biggest collection of machinima films and links.

Machinima and education
An interesting article from Futurelab on the uses and benefits of including machinima in education
A site designed to help machinima creators within the virtual world of Second life to upload and share their creations.
Here’s a widegt from their site that shows some of the arts machinima being created in SL

More information and a definition from Wikipedia

I hope you enjoy the software and I would love to hear comments from anyone who gets their students working with it.


twak said...

Great words! You can find an extra-beta mac version of moviestorm

Johnnie Ingram said...

Thanks for this excellent post, Nik. I'm glad you found Moviestorm so useful! If I may, I'll just offer a couple of corrections and updates on what you've said here.

Many of our content packs are currently available for free, although this won't be the case forever. We also have a version of Moviestorm for the Mac, which is currently in open beta testing.

Best of luck with your Moviestorm experiences in the classroom. If you hit any problems, be sure to come visit us at the Moviestorm forums and we'll give whatever help we can. We'd also love to hear how you get on, too - please keep us posted!


Johnnie Ingram
Technical Author
Short Fuze Ltd / Moviestorm

Nik Peachey said...

Thanks for the up date. It's great to hear that Moviestorm is providing a MAC version too. I might try that out as my MAC has a bit more muscle. Thanks for such a great tool.


Anonymous said...

Greetings Nik:

Here are some direct links for convenience:

Windows download (XP/Vista)

Vista installation troubleshooting (tip, have the latest Java)

MacOS download (Intel only, PowerPC version coming soon)

Free add-on packs (win/mac, scroll past the few premium ones)

Support Forum

PDF manuals


Kind Regards

Tari Akpodiete
Manager, Community and Communications

Nik Peachey said...

Many thanks to you both for the additional information. I haven't had the time yet to try out your Mac version, but I did download some of the additional packs of clothes scenes and expressions etc that i found on the site. Hope to have some time to produce some materials with them soon.



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