• Animating Book Covers with Machinima

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    So sorry for the lack of posts here recently, I've been up to my ears reviewing a new 3d animation software called IClone. You see, I've been involved in something called "machinima" (machine + cinema) for the last few years. Machinima is a kind-of poor man's Pixar animation. We can't afford the cost of creating top of the line 3d animation like "Shrek" and so we use PC Games as our tools and shoot our movies inside of the games. It's got an underground following that's slowly breaking out into the mainstream with shows like the History channel using the PC game "Rome" to illustrate a documentary on famous battles. MTV has been using machinima to do all kinds of spots. The game companies are starting to get behind this form of filmmaking by providing all kinds of free tools to create films inside of their games. And one game in particular (The Movies) has as part of playing the game, the ability to create your own films.

    Anyway, I've been doing mostly sound and acting for several films over the last year. When the opportunity to review this new software came up, I jumped on it. I've spent the better part of the last month learning the software and creating three short films as part of the learning process. I think that you can best understand how a creative tool works by actually creating something with it. That way when you are in the middle of production you can easily see what works and what doesn't with the program. IClone is basically a beginner's program for 3d animation and modelling. And it's pretty good, too.

    So what does this have to do with books? Well, I decided to try the sister program to IClone which is called "Crazy Talk". This program let's you animate in 3d any digital image. So, when I was looking around for something to animate, I happen to look at a recent vintage paperback I'd picked up called "Hell Cat". There was a juicy picture of a femme-fatale on the cover. It suddenly occured to me that I could animate the face of the woman and have speak a sentence or two of dialogue. After a week or so of experimenting, I actually created a short film showing this animated cover. I also found several B&W pictures of mobsters in a Mafia history book that was in the free box at the Iliad Bookshop and animated one of them as well.

    What's so interesting about both of these programs is that they stimulate my imagination and give me ideas about how to use book covers and book illustrations as sources for characters and backgrounds in machinima filmmaking. Imagine taking a Durer drawing and using it as the basis for a short film; or a Schiele painting; or an old Children's illustrated tale. Stitching the illustrations together and adding dialogue or sound effects would be a fascinating experiment. All of this is possible for a beginner like me using these two programs.

    Here are the two short films I created to accompany my IClone review:

    Hell Cat

    The Mobster


    and the final short film I created with IClone is here:

    The Skip Heller Show

    If you are interested in learning more about machinima head over to this site:

    Machinima Premiere

    Some recent IClone films can be seen here:
    You Tube Iclone
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