Machinima

Here’s an interesting trend: using video games to create animated digital films. It’s called "Machinima." In one technique, the 3-D animation tools built into games to allow users to extend the games (e.g., create new characters) are used to generate new 3-D films. Of course, it can be more complicated than this: the Machinima FAQ outlines other strategies in layperson’s terms.

BusinessWeek has a short, interesting article on Machinima ("France: Thousands of Young Spielbergs") that describes one social commentary Machinima film (The French Democracy), noting that it got over one million hits in November. It also quotes Paul Marino, executive director of the Academy of Machinima Arts & Sciences as saying: "This is to the films what blogs are to the written media."

If you want to check out more Machinima films, try the 2005 Machinima Film Festival or Machinima.com (try "download" if "watch" doesn’t work).

Machinima is yet another example of how users want to create derivative works from digital media and how powerful a capability that can be—if intellectual property rights owners don’t prohibit it. Since the first Machinima movie was created in 1996, it appears that the video game industry has not moved to squash this movement, and, needless to say, it has thrived. However, this state of affairs may simply reflect Machinima’s low profile: A recent Wired News article, which notes that Machinima has been employed in commercials and music videos, indicates that Doug Lombardi, Director of Marketing at Valve (a video game software company), feels that: "As the films become commercially viable, machinima filmmakers are going to butt up against copyright law."


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