Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cinematography and Machinima

We've spent some time thinking about game aesthetics and structure, and let's now turn to the moving image outside its interactive role, whether it be in cut scenes in a game, or a film/movie/animation. We'll use the example of machinima as one form of moving image creation and capture. After we get past the setup, many of the principles of cinematography and editing are the same as for any moving image, and you can follow or break the rules as you wish. Here are the notes for today's class, so you can concentrate on the ideas and the activities.

MISE-EN-SCENE: What's in the shot




Figure Expression and Movement

LIGHTING: 3 POINT LIGHTING: key, fill, back

MACHINIMA: Environment lighting, and also lighting kits, or lights you make


Look of an image

balance of dark and light

depth of space in focus

relation of background and foreground

use of color, saturation, tone


lenses to change depth in a shot (either fixed with a telephoto or fish eye, or rack or zoom shots)



Height of the camera

Canted angles

Following shot (moving camera):PANNING, TRACKING, TILTING, CRANING

Point of view shot


ELS: landscape, crowd, building--establishing shot

LS: Standing human figure is height of screen (roughly)--character and surroundings

MLS: knees/mid-thigh up (shot Americain bc of its use in cowboy pictures)

MCU: chest up--get to see the face, gestures

CU: head

ECU: small object, part of the body



handheld, steadycam



tracking shot

whip pan

For Machinima: Space Navigator 3-d mouse

What to do with those shots!


Editing can be based on rhythm, time, space, tone, theme

"The Kuleshov Effect" With his experiment, Kuleshov learned 3 things:

1) a cut could serve a narrative function (eyeline match, flashback, what a character is thinking)

2) also it could generate an intellectual response—(metaphor, contrast, parallel)

3) emotional cut: rhythmic, tonal (increasingly dark or light0, form cut (match cut), directional cut

a single cut can function on all three levels: narrative, intellectual, emotional

Straight cut

Jump cut

Cross cut (or parallel cut)

Contrast cut

Form cut (match cut)





Synecdoche (part for a whole)

Form dissolve



Monday, March 21, 2011

Ambiguity! (Is that clear?)

Brian Sutton-Smith's chapter "Play and Ambiguity" brings a lot of things together, and raises even more questions for our exploration of play and games. As we move towards the proposal for your project, and the class bifurcates (I just love working that word in whenever I can) into clusters around games or films, we will have different interests in play and ambiguity. But before that, we'll create some of our own games together as a group in the next couple of weeks.

So, back to some key concepts. Here are William Empson's seven kinds of ambiguity, ripped from p. 298 of Sutton-Smith's chapter.

Sutton-Smith outlines seven rhetorics, seeming to want to contribute seven of something of his own (and making me anxious that my virtual subjectivity definition only has five aspects, clearly lacking a couple):

The Rhetoric of play as . . .

1. progress
2. fate
3. power
4. identity
5. imaginary
6. self
7. frivolous

We shall discuss.

And to test our ambiguity levels, here are the instructions for the surrealist game Exquisite Corpse:

Write an article and an adjective on a piece of paper, then fold it over before passing it to your neighbor. Next, write a noun, then fold and pass. Now a verb, then fold and pass. Back to the article and adjective, then do the hokey pokey. No, really fold and pass, just checking to see if you are paying attention. Finish up with a noun. Unfold the papers and read aloud.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

This is really cool


Awesome TED talk on educational systems using digital media.


Of course there is much more to the two chapters "The Definition of Play" and "The Classification of Games" from Roger Caillois's Man, Play, and Games than only what is represented by the chart (with or without banjo music!)

Paidia: "uncontrolled fantasy," "frolicsome and impulsive exuberance," "anarchic and capricious"
Ludus: "arbitrary, imperative, and purposely tedious conentions," "completely impractical," "requires an ever greater amount of effort, patience, skill, or ingenuity."


Recall our Play! workshop (see cut scenes again here)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Games and Film: Where Aesthetics Meet and Diverge

Games and Film: Where Aesthetics Meet and Diverge

From film techniques in games, as so eloquently illustrated by Chris Solis in his analysis of Super Mario 64 to the very different kinds of camera angles and spectatorship that can occur in games, it is instructive to explore these two cultural forms in relationship to each other, and to consider how they have been mutually informing, first with film's influence on games, and now with games' influence on film. We also can include the human-computer interface.

Opening shot of Welles's Touch of Evil that Solis discusses in his blog post:

Solis writes, "So why do we introduce the camera before we introduce the main character? Simply the camera is more important then Mario in this title." Does Welles's film also introduce the camera before the character?

How has this evolved in games? In film? Why?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Jessica Huber's Fairy Tale Assignment

Here is my completed Fairy Tale assignment. I explored the story of Cinderella as if the characters had Facebook pages. I found this to be quite enjoyable to put together.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Building & Machinima Workshop

There is an essential skill that is key for both building and machinima--moving the "camera" in the virtual world. We'll experiment with that, and I'll also show you some tools people have made to help streamline camera positioning. Then you'll try out your cam skills as you create a virtual sculpture and then pop some scripts into it, because that is how the real magic happens. Then we'll break into teams and shoot a little footage.

First, as an example of engaging use of machinima and also an edifiying and entertaining tutorial on the camera:

Slurl to AngryBeth's machinima tv studio with camera switcher (25 L$). You'll need basic prim movement and cam skills to use this.

Building tools on the SL wiki

Script Me, please! 3greenseggs.com autoscript generator. But if you plan on doing any real building or using scripts, you are going to have to learn the basics of lsl, Linden Scripting Language, and how scripts work, so you can figure out what is going wrong when it does, or how to tweak a script you get from a generator, from the wiki, or another source. Simon Kline runs terrific classes in Second Life (see: Kline Labs), and there are other ways to learn as well.