Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Gaming’

When I was in the eighth grade, my buddies would come over almost every day after school to my parent’s apartment to play the board game, RISK.  It became a ritual and soon the topic of conversation between us, each day at lunch and recess.  In fact, one time three or four female classmates came to the apartment, pleading for us guys to give up the game and spend some time with them.  We said, “no way!”  Ah, the decisions we make!

I’ve always been a fan of games, the more complex the better.  I’ve played board games, cards, Dungeon and Dragons.  I enjoy the social interaction, the elements of fantasy.  After all these years it shouldn’t be a surprise that I would take my filmmaking experience and put it to use in video games, but it wasn’t until last year when my company, Unconventional Media produced the live action portions to the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need for Speed: Undercover” that I really began to understand the tremendous possibilities of video games and interactive storytelling.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend the Electronic Entertainment Expo, simply known as E3, at the Los Angeles Convention Center.  Presented by the Electronic Software Association, this is the event where new games and gaming inventions are unveiled each year.  The roll-out was impressive, the technology amazing.  I was in awe of the big LED televisions displaying such realistic, spot on graphics.  However, what really caught my attention this year is the amount of immersive game play devices being released.  Nintendo introduced a device, the Wii Vitality Sensor, that clips to a player’s index finger and reads their pulse into the game.  This is the same company that has been so successful with the Wii Fit, which helps a game player lose weight by bouncing on a board that feeds the movements into game play.  Basically, your movements are the game characters movements, so if the game requires your character to run or jump, then you, the player must do the same.  A hell of a workout.  Ubisoft Entertainment introduced a competitive, more serious fitness title, “Your Shape” that actually customizes the workout based on body type.

However, the Project Natal for the XBox really knocked me over.  You’ve got to watch the YouTube video attached to really understand the interactive possibilities.  You can fully immerse yourself into a virtual world.

IMG_0125

As I wrote in this blog last October, after the “E for all Expo,” the philosophy behind my company, Unconventional Media, is to deliver a fresh angle for new entertainment, incorporating movie storytelling into game play.  This seems to be a growing, exciting trend in the business, although much of it remains tied to feature film releases like “Batman,” “Watchman,” “Harry Potter,” etc..  I do admit it was fun to stand next to the original Ghostbusters Ecto-1 vehicle, parked outside to promote the Ghostbuster Video game. I believe with the immersing technology of virtual game worlds, we can create storylines to form a new kind of entertainment.  It’s like my fictional screenplay, “Press>Play” as reality.  We enter the story, virtually.

Since I’ve always enjoyed the social aspects of game play and find the solo aspects of most video games a little lonely, like playing Solitaire, you’d think I’d be a big fan of online gaming. I’m fearful that getting involved in games like “World of Warcraft” and other multi-player online activities will become such an addiction that I’ll never go outdoors again.  Hell, I won’t even play “Mafia Wars” on Facebook.  However, after viewing the EA and LucasArts upcoming release, “Star Wars: The Old Republic,” a multiplayer, online game based on the franchise, but set in a different time period, I may be hooked.

After a couple of days of the loud noises and visual attacks of E3, I had to make an escape. I sat down with some friends and played “Joan of Arc,” a good old fashioned board game.  The game takes place during the 100 year war between England and the provinces of France.  There are castles, battles, land grabs, even the plaque, but there are also alliances between players, negotiating between teams, the human element.  I miss this part of game play in video games.  Sometimes, it just feels like it’s you against the machine.  I like the social interaction. Maybe, I’m just a board game geek.  Anyone up for a game of RISK.

Read Full Post »

7thannualvesawards
Yesterday, the Visual Effects Society (VES) announced the nominees for the VES Awards and “Need for Speed:Undercover” was nominated in two categories, Outstanding Pre-Rendered Visuals in a Video Game and the one that truly reflects Unconventional Media’s work, Outstanding Real Time Visuals in a Video Game.  Directed by Joseph Hodges with cinematography by Jeff Seckendorf, Unconventional Media produced all the live action portions to the Electronic Arts release.

Much has been written about the blending of the live action and game animation (and the use of the RED camera) including Moviemaker Magazine, Moving Picture Magazine, LA Splash and American Cinematographer.

This is the 7th annual VES award ceremony recognizing outstanding visual effects in over a dozen categories of film, animation, television, commercials and video games. Comprised of more than 1,600 members in 17 countries, the Visual Effects Society is the entertainment industry’s only official trade organization representing the full breadth of visual effects practitioners including artists, technologists, model makers, educators, studio leaders, supervisors, PR/marketing specialists and producers in all areas of entertainment.

The award ceremony will take place on February 21, 2009 at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles.

Read Full Post »

I’m on the radio.  Check it out.  I join the program about five minutes into the show.

Blogtalkradio.com

Wayne Clingman is the host.  He calls his show “Indy Film Wisconsin.”  Originally, I think the idea of the program was to promote Film projects in the State of Wisonsin including their film incentives! But like so many things with the web, it has expanded.  We cover many of the ideas and issues on this site.

You can contact Wayne at:
wclingman@wi.rr.com

Read Full Post »

I’m seeing more and more “webisode” television and it reminds me of my days in Los Angeles theater.  It’s up there, not as a staged experience or to even just entertain, but as a showcase.  The creator is actually hoping someone will discover their series and put it on Network television.  It’s content for the wrong medium.

In 2002, when I co-produced the documentary series “Senior Year” with David Zeiger for PBS, I also produced a series at KCET, based on the television show for the web.  At the time, our biggest challenge was how to make the series accessible and easy to view on home computers.  I faced those same problems when I presented my political narrative webseries “Unconventional.”  These days we’re past access and viewing issues, but I still haven’t made a dime from any of my webisodes.

I continue to develop webisodes and related content.  I’ve come to believe these two things:

1) that there is too much good free entertainment on the internet to expect anyone to pay for your webseries unless you’re Joss Whedon.

Sorry, but someone sends me a link, I usually take a few moments to see what they’ve created, but not if I have to pay on my credit card or Paypal.  I even hesitate if I have to enter my email and become a “member.”

2) Unless you don’t care about the costs (and this could be because you’re putting up the webisodes hoping to eventually sell the series to television, you know as a “showcase” of your incredible talent) you’ve got to find an advertising sponsor ( see reason #1).

Now, that’s not always easy, but take some time to figure out the marketing of your work.  In a recent issue of Hollywood Reporter, IAC/InterActiveCorp CEO Barry Diller talks about the Web as being in just the early stages of its potential as an advertising medium.  He doesn’t see banner advertising having any real success and believes Video ads will be targeted and interrupt programming, as well as playing before and after the content.  I’m seeing this happen more and more.  I don’t know about you, but as a filmmaker I hate a show being interrupted when I watch it on television and I certainly will hate it on the web, especially if it is my show.  However, if that is what it takes to get the money to produce the programming, then I’ll bite my lip and shut up.

So what’s a solution.  Well, after producing the live action elements to the upcoming EA video game “Need for Speed:Undercover,” I’m convinced that it is a waste of money to make webisodes look and feel like short three-four minutes of regular television.  Instead, it needs to be a whole different form of entertainment, a mixture of interactive gaming, virtual worlds, comedy, music, etc.  The viewer needs to say, “wow, I couldn’t have seen that being done any other way.”  You’ve got to want to stay at the web site and explore.  Then the banner ad does work on the site because it is not ignored but becomes part of the experience.  You can even have a commercial, not in the content of the video, but in the interactive content.  This stuff requires a lot of thought and planning, but I’m seeing some great cross-over.  I think it’s evident on the Need for Speed and Which Road to Take sites.

We’re developing some of these ideas (still very much in development) on the PressPlayMovie site, with ChanneledObsession.com as the marketing portion.  On all these sites, things keep changing so the site becomes more interactive and worth a return visit.  You build on that.  It can’t be just a new episode of television, it’s got to be a bigger experience.

I’m very interested in any other thoughts on these ideas.

Read Full Post »

There have been some requests for more details about the live action shoot on the upcoming EA video game “Need For Speed:Undercover” that I produced.  Especially about why we chose the RED cameras.

When the director, Joseph Hodges and I met with EA to discuss the Live Action elements in the game and how to match them to the game play, they provided extensive reference footage for the visuals.  Their idea was for us to shoot it flat to be processed to match the game later in post.  Joseph comes from a strong Production Design background and he felt strongly that we could create the look with the right sets and lighting.  I introduced Joseph to my old friend and talented Director of Photography, Jeff Seckendorf.

We viewed the project like a 25 minute short film – narrative segments that intercut with the game.  We wanted to give the project the feel of a feature film, not only with the acting, but with the lighting, camera movements and lens choices.  If you visited the set and saw the size of the crew (check IMDB) and lighting package, it looked like a regular feature film production.  However, because of some of the requirements for post production, including shooting at 29.97, we didn’t have film cameras, we had the RED.

I knew very little about the RED before this shoot except that we could use all the Arri acessories and film lenses which would allow us to play with the depth of field a lot more then most HD cameras.  This was very important to Joseph and to all of us.  The other important thing to Jeff was that it shoots RAW, which is like shooting negative film – the camera only records one color setting, one gamma setting, one contrast setting.  The Red shoots an image that must be color corrected in post, exactly like negative film.

One thing I did discover in Post and it should be noted (for the sanity of your editor) is that each time you turn the camera on and off, it creates another storage file.  “Bumping” the slate before or after a take doesn’t work because there is no direct data reference so the slate marking the scene is not directly before or after a scene.  That is just one more reason I can’t recommend enough having an imaging technician on set to do data management and monitor output when using the RED cameras.

At the project’s conclusion, Unconventional Media’s creative partnership with Electronic Arts (EA) has led to a number of firsts.  Need for Speed:Undercover will incorporate visual, structural and narrative elements making it the first fully filmic video game.  It’s also the first outing for the RED One on a video game. Post-Production facility Plaster City in Los Angeles has completed over 70 RED projects, but this was the first to shoot 29.97 with multiple cameras (two were used at all times, a back up third occasionally).  “It put this project in an elite class of RED projects,” Michael Cioni, Chief Officer of Plaster City, told me.

I’m excited about exploring this creative melding of gaming and feature film. No one knows yet how far cinema in gaming can go but I think the RED camera will help lead the way.

Our D.P. Jeff Seckendorf goes into more detail about his experiences with the RED camera on the project at the forum for the Red User Group, plus an article on the shoot will appear in the October issue of American Cinematographer.  The video game will be released on all platforms,  November 18.

Read Full Post »

Earlier this year I started my own production company Unconventional Media, LLC.  I was very lucky that Director/Production Designer Joseph Hodges from “24” ask me to produce the Electronic Arts (EA) video game, “Need for Speed:Undercover“.  I produced all the Live Action segments, the car racing stuff is all animation.  The first trailers for “Need for Speed:Undercover” are out.  Be forewarned you’ll need the most recent version of Flash.

Anyway, I’m discovering this to be a rapidly growing business. I’m excited to take all my years of filmmaking and production and use it for this new media.  Returned from the Virtual World Expo last week with even more information about the future of media.  So I thought I’d start this blog to pass along the things I’ve discovered and the they relate to the skills and production things I already know.  Hey, it may even prove to be helpful to someone.  Who knows?

Read Full Post »