WarLord's WarBlog

Machinima in Commercial Projects

by on Dec.27, 2012, under Uncategorized

This year was a high water mark in terms of using machinima in my commercial projects. It also marks the first year I have expanded the use of iClone by others on the freelance team and we did an unusual amount of pilot projects.

Over the years our work is never quite the same which is not unusual for digital freelancers but I do find myself coming back to using iClone for 30 to 60 second commercial ad previz. It seems to help sell the project to first time media advertisers. They see what they are buying. We have even worked on spec and we hardly ever do anything without a contract and down payment first but iClone reduces the budget so much that I can actually take a gamble that we are going to get the contract and payment based on the spec work. Spec work in this case means pure speculation that you will get the job and be paid. Something that is very risky when using high end tools like Studio Max, Vue or Maya due to the cost of production.

I can’t gamble with $10,000+ production costs but I can certainly take a gamble when the money invested is less than a few thousand dollars. iClone’s ease of use and ability to get a project completed quickly saves money in the budget making it possible to consider spec work. This opens yet another door for commercial opportunity.

When I first discovered iClone in 2006 I had to sneak in usage generally in still image storyboards which was a big part of the workload back then. In fact I was not able to use its output with some of my employers for many reasons but those have all been addressed over the years and the engine is being recognized for what it is. A mid-level (skill wise) animation tool that can work with high end productions. The render still needs to mature but with the lighting and effects in version 5 the render is usable in apps like After Effects and Hit Film which can composite the iClone render with high end footage. Also had good luck using iClone footage in Vegas with it’s various tools and effects.

My main uses for commercial machinima output this year were:

  • Still Image Renders for Advertising, Books and DVDs
  • Previz
  • Storyboarding
  • Shot/Camera Re-directing
  • Pilot Episodes and Movies
  • Training

Most of the iClone work is pre-viz of some sort meaning the general public never sees it but it pays just the same as taking longer to use higher end tools so… why use those expensive tools when you don’t have to? The other really big selling point on iClone is that the creative director, main unit director or principle photographer/videographer can take the project file and move things around to see the possibilities for themselves. The times I shared my project files have been real eye openers for these people. Does this mean they’ll learn the tool and cut us out? Hardly… using the tool with someone’s else file is different than creating that project file yourself and I found them to be very happy being able to move things around.  These project files were then sent back to me for corrections and polishing before being rendered in it’s final form.

I’m still a long way from making a large percentage of my freelance income with machinima but that amount keeps growing every year it seems. Also the opportunities iClone has presented such as my Beginners Guide that was published last year have made this such a busy year for us that projects had to be postponed into 2013 and one writing project will not be completed till early 2014. The upgrade of the guide to version 5 has been shelved many times because of the amazing progress and changes Reallusion has made to the iClone engine making any such attempt at quantifying obsolete before it hits the printer!

All in all it has been another wonderful year of freelance production even without the time to do a personal machinima project.  I can feel burn out coming from the workload which in turn means its time to do a private machinima project where I can do what I want to do instead of what I’m contracted to do.

Anecdotally (is that a word?) its seems machinima in general had a good year while distancing itself from the run and gun screen caps that used to define it. With studios like Chat Noir and machinimist like Underpants Man, Tom Jantol, AnimaTechnica and others it truly seems that machinima is taking a big step forward to wider acceptance as a skill and an artform.

Thanks to everyone for all the email. The load is still high but I eventually answer them all and I’m thankful for the correspondence as I learn quite a bit myself with the interaction.

Hope all of you have a happy and prosperous year in 2013!


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