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Stanford machinima panel recap

Zack Stern
October 29, 2006
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Thursday's WoW machinima event at Stanford showcased the winners of the World of Warcraft Summer Movie Contest. Following the screening of the best videos, Daniel Kayser of GameTrailers.com hosted a panel discussion with a few Stanford professors and other machinima luminaries. Also, Joystiq's Christopher Grant sat on the panel.

For an hour, Kayser led the group through questions about the state of machinima, its history, and its future. In general, the participants anticipated a bright, creative future for machinima, but they were uncertain how the art would change once corporations tried to exploit the style.

Matteo Bittanti, from Stanford's Humanities Lab, commented on the continuing shift of machinima from in-jokes to a general artistic tool; many of the contest winners relied on WoW jokes, but the grand prize short, The Edge of Remorse, bore no direct relation to WoW as a game. Bittanti anticipated that the balance would continue to even out, with more machinima stories unrelated to games able to find a broader audience.

Machinima's practical definition was another topic. Ezra Ferguson of Rufus Cubed Productions said that a feature-length machinima production is inevitable, especially as the game tools continue to evolve to show facial emotions and better acting. Animation director and one of the night's winners, Jun Falkenstein questioned the point at which those machinima tool updates would change the technique into a standard animated movie. Are the rough edges in machinima part of its definition?

Henry Lowood, Curator of Stanford's History of Science and Technology Collections, also stressed that accessibility and rapid production are the root of machinima. He mentioned French Democracy, a story created with The Movies that responded almost immediately to last year's riots around Paris. He said that this method of quick reaction is "a power we really have never had before."

Will machinima become regular-old animation once the results mirror other computer animation tools? Are accessibility and quick response the real root of the style?












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