Heart of Darkness… not quite

I have acted in a few small film productions, and I thought that was great fun; being in front of the camera, listening to the director, acting in character, being someone else. It didn’t even seem like work. I am certain it’s much tougher for the like of Tom Cruise, and Brad Pitt. Working on million dollar movies must be demanding…In working on this Machinima production, I have gain a new appreciation for how much work goes on behind the camera, and in the editing room. This was a great exercise, not only for appreciating the creativity and hard work that goes into these small productions, but it really made me think about how much must go into a serious big film production. No wonder they cost millions to produce.

Storyboard and Script

We put our team together and like all good teams we assigned tasks. We survey the team for strengths, weaknesses and willingness, and dolled out the assignments. My assignment; creative leader, storyboard, script, animation capture. I presented an idea to the team, and no one had any objections, so we were off. Now the work begins. I started with the storyboard.

This was the right place to start, but it was much tougher than I had thought it would be. I was thinking cinematically, with an unlimited budget, and the sky was the limit. There was several close up shots, tight details, lots of animation, fly by’s , etc… you name it I was doing it. Draft one was done. Now, execution… in Second Life… ok…

Draft Two: simplify. There are limitations on animation, camera control, file sizes… back to the storyboard. I went into Second Life and played with some of the controls. I got used to the camera view, and the camera controls, and realized that I was going to be able to do more than I had originally thought. I scouted locations, tested camera angles, and felt like a real director. I impressed the heck out of a young lady with long blue hair and a beautiful tail, when I told her I was shooting film. No I know why Brad gets all the chicks.

All off lot locations had been secured, and our production designer was building the set and props, so now it was script time. This was probably the easiest part of the endeavor. Since we are spoofing, or honoring a classic television program from the 1960’s and 70’s, the script was pretty straight forward. The original has a format and hook that defined the program. But you’ll have to wait for the big You Tube premiere to know what it is.


I would imagine machinima film making is very similar to real film making. The crew built the set, set up the props, the macinimatographer set up the shot, and the talent stood around looking good, waiting for their 20 seconds on screen. We were lucky to land two fabulous actors: Kram Sidran and Twinky. Both look great, act even better, and are wonderful to work with. We worked for most of a day, shooting, checking the shots, and shooting some more. It was a great exercise.

Because of some animation limitations in Second Life, an entire sequence had to be created using Flash. This allowed for more extensive animation and control. It also allowed for us to use text, and other graphics in sort of a multimedia machinima mashup of technologies and platforms. Voice over was recorded using Garage Band, and music was grabbed off ITunes in an MP3 format.

The total size of all the footage caught measure just over a Gigabyte, so I am currently loading it onto an FTP server so our editor can get at the files and bring it all together. We’ll see.


Mogue Underwood, Virtual World Productions.


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