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It has been nearly five years since I wrapped my mind around a machinima project. It took some digging into my memory to rediscover the knowledge it takes. It helped to have a goal, shamelessly capitalistic as it was. 3D modeling, texturing and animating has been consuming my years since the last time I finished a machinima project. Until now:

The bike is a product of our store in SL. Winter and I wanted to showcase the animations in action, so we decided to steal the time away from production and delve back into the world of machinima as a marketing and information tool. We made two clips to showcase the bike’s variety of configurations. Here is the other version:

We both agree that it was fun to revisit machinima. We were worried that it might be difficult to get back into, but it turns out it’s just like riding a bike. :P

What an Expo!

Hello, reader. Long time no see! It was quite a fun Sunday, Nov. 9th, I spent at the MachinExpo 2008 in Second Life (SL).

Sol Bartz and the AwardHere’s Sol Bartz standing near the MachinExpo 2008 Award (click image for full size).

Lots of machinima folks I admire and respect were in attendance while the design and layout of the exhibits, theaters and stages was top notch! Wherever I roamed it was apparent that Phil Rice, Ingrid Moon, Damien Valentine and Ricky Grove worked hard and put a lot of thought into their project. They gave their time, talents and energy to the community yet again and as far as I’m concerned put down yet another successful stepping stone in machinima’s path.

Preparing to hand out the awardsPreparing to hand out the awards (click image for full size).

Attendees watching the awards ceremonyAttendees watching the awards ceremony (click image for full size).

My congratulations go out to the award recipients and finalists. All well deserved! It was a great chance for me to watch movies with other machinimators from around the globe. The organization of the film reels was varied and well thought out. Entertainment was easy to find no matter what theater I visited.

Some of the award recipientsSome of the award recipients (click the image to see everyone). Leo Lucien-Bay won the jury award for Beast (not shown); Ian Chisolm won for Clear Skies; Michelle Pettit-Mee won for The Snow Witch; Thuyen Nguyen won for An Unfair War; J. Rojas won for Turbulence and the Ill Clan won for Tiny Nation.

The panel on Women in Machinima was quite thought provoking and fun. It was good to see that exchange. I must apologize for babbling on in text with questions and comments during the panel. Didn’t mean to be disruptive :)

The Women in Machinima panel membersThe Women in Machinima panel members (click image to see everyone).

Having been to plenty of large gatherings in SL, I can say without a doubt that technically the MachinExpo was one of the smoothest run events I’ve been to. During the day I took a few looks at the stats and clocked up to 65 avatars using the simulator (a square of virtual environment that users and objects inhabit). There could have been even more at times; I wasn’t that wrapped up in the numbers. My curiosity as I looked around the grounds was with the people to lag ratio. Some examples of lag are when you tell your avatar to do something or you try to move your view around and the overloaded system takes its time responding to your request — or freezes up completely. Usually when that many avatars are in one place SL’s performance can noticeably deteriorate. The expo didn’t suffer much lag for me at all.

Sol Bartz (Phil “Overman” Rice) and gToon Jun (Ricky Grove).Sol Bartz (Phil “Overman” Rice) and gToon Jun (Ricky Grove) holding an Overcast in SL (click image for full size).

So much for my digression into geekhood. I also wanted to mention that I saw Lainy Voom doing some excellent building at the expo during the days I would visit prior to the occasion. I always saw Phil’s avatar Sol Bartz there working diligently to construct the grand exhibits and walkways and theaters. And Michelle Pettit-Mee’s t-shirt designs for the event were a sight to see! Everything was perfect, you guys and gals!

For a complete list of the award recipients, the panelists, the films and show reels, please visit the MachinExpo site. And, I am very sorry I don’t know the name of the person(s) who owns Jamville and supplied the land for the expo, but they must also be thanked and commended.

And finally: rest in peace, Antics! Maybe someday you can rise again!

The band reunites

Hi, folks! Long time no see. First off, this post ain’t about machinima, so if you’re seeing this on the machinifeed let me apologize now and say no animations to be found here.

I have put together a video of my recently reunited band called Slick City. We have been playing the local club scene again after about a five year break and were once again invited to perform at the Big Bear Lake Antique Car Club’s annual street dance. I took my cheap little video camera along to document our show. It’s definitely not HD! So I will also beg your pardon now for that. :)

Slick City came about in 1998 as the house band for the local bowling alley. The theme was ’50s and ’60s rock and roll, so I learned many doo-wop songs - some that were hits before I was even born. We played there almost every weekend for over two years. The original configuration was, Terry Copley, Steve Johnson, Scott Arnett and your’s truly. We became known for our four-part harmonies and ability to share the job of lead singer between us.

Scott dropped out about a year and a half into the house band gig, and we filled the hole he left with quite a few talented local performers. The original configuration reunited every year for the car club’s street dance, that is up until 2004. Around that time Steve and Terry formed a jazz band with Mike Weins called Catz in the Hatz and have been going strong for many years now.

Scotty’s still not back with Slick City, but Mike Weins has stepped up and joined in. Here is the (relatively) new Slick City playing the street dance on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2008. Again, sorry for the poor video and audio quality.

Slick City plays the street dance, 2008 from Fling Films on Vimeo.

I am not a good blogger! For me writing one is like pulling toes off of a fly’s leg: tedious and damn near impossible! But now I have the distinct pleasure of writing that my first real machinima collaboration, Morning Run Amok, won the Gold for Best Comedy and Silver for Best Sound Design at the Online Machinima Film Festival award ceremony last Saturday.

The best comedy gold took me by complete surprise because MRA was up against some awesome movies. But the sound design award was not a surprise to me whatsoever. Ricky Grove did top notch magic on the sound and Phil “Overman” Rice created a wonderful and inspiring musical score. I was so pleased to see their work rewarded by their peers.

Thank you to everyone who voted for MRA. It was such a fun project for me!

And thank you to the cast of my friends and family. Adam Albert, you gave me more than I asked for and nearly hyperventilated for your role. CJ Ambrosia, you let me run with your outtake and made it something fun and funny! Lisa Segien, your acting is the tops, girl. And you shined at the mic. David McElhinney, I miss you out there in Texas. I need to hear your jokes more regularly. Oh man! Love you, mean it! Chief Wilson, you made it fun! Ricky Grove, your talent and generosity really made my year! Phil Rice… Overman! My gosh, I can’t thank you enough for taking me under your wing and trusting me with your musical talent. Anna Berlin, you were awesome. Lori Highland-Fox, see I told you you could do it. And you did it great! JC Smith, Aunt Jeannie, you are a natural! Aaron Shelton, great job and thanks for letting me use your laugh. Gina Davis, thanks so much for playing along. You are one cool actor! Ingrid Moon, you were invaluable! And I still can’t get over how you managed to take only one line! Terry Copley, You’re my VO rock! It was great working with you again. See you at the next gig, old friend. Roxi Rhinestone, cousin you made it look easy; thanks!

These awards go out to you all! Here’s to the next project!

It’s always good to be nervous at an event like the Online Machinima Film Festival, especially if you’re one of the presenters! But even if you’re not involved in the workings of such a gathering, not being a bit nervous means that it isn’t fun and exciting for you. The OMFF was both for me, and more!

A view from the podium

It was an honor to be in a place where so many of my heroes had come together digitally to celebrate the art of making animated movies. You “Anymation” folks are such talented geniuses doing something mostly for the love of it while using both your brains’ left and right hemispheres to tackle technical issues on the road to making art.

FLeeF and the ever elegant Stormy Harker!

Ok gushing mode is off. I had yet another blast taking part in yet another machinima related endeavor. I can’t thank Michelle Pettit-Mee (Stormy Harker) and Hathead Rickenbacker enough for inviting me to be a presenter at such an auspicious occasion. They did a wonderful job - a tough one they made look so easy (I guess gush mode wasn’t off after all). Wytchwhisper Sadofsky and Rakos Ivanova were great to work with.

Ceedj Beaumont performs

CJ Ambrosia (Ceedj Beaumont) and Hathead played great sets of music, and of course Hugh (Cairmen Pye) Hancock was the guy I leaned on the whole time. Without him up there with me my avatar would have been a quivering bowl of goo topped with prim hair, held up by a pair of overpriced prim shoes!

Congratulations to all the nominees and trophy winners! Here’s to next year!

As I dust off and start to perform my original compositions in Second Life to a potentially larger audience than they have ever had in the past, I get an email from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) announcing their call to action to sign their newly crafted Bill of Rights for Songwriters and Composers.

My initial reaction to the bill was, “Rah, rah, sis boom bah! You go girl!” But as it sank in I began to wonder just exactly what it was changing; what was it improving on?

I have plenty of questions I won’t go into here, but the one thing it still doesn’t address is my longstanding confusion about when money is not involved in any way with the release of my recorded version of a popular song.

The way I have always understood the traditional process to be is as follows:
• I record a song someone else wrote, of which a previous version has already been published. In this example I record it without their prior knowledge or consent.
• I write a letter of intent to the person who holds the rights to the song, or their representative (Which 9 times out of 10 seems to be the Harry Fox agency), stating my intention to burn and sell X number of copies of the song on CD. In the letter I offer to PRE-pay a reasonable percentage of royalties to the rights holder in anticipation of my own profits on the sales.
• Now according to what I understand I am covered legally and can proceed to publish the CD - even if I haven’t received a response to my letter.

Well my question has to do with the interpretation of the law: If I make money on the covered version, the original artist gets a cut. But what if I give away my version by allowing free downloads of the mp3 or by having it included in a music video being freely distributed on YouTube? I make nothing, so there is no cut to give to the songwriter. Can the rights holder demand money when none is changing hands?

Now, I have asked myself how I would feel if someone covered a song of mine and threw it out on YouTube, but I have no frame of reference to answer. I have never written a song that anyone has bought - let alone bought a million copies of. So, if someone had done that, I would be shocked and most likely flattered. There is no way in hell I could know how, for example, Paul McCartney would feel if he’d heard a version of one of his songs posted for free in a video on YouTube.

I asked my question in an email to ASCAP many months ago but haven’t received a reply. Legally I don’t know what to do because I have recorded a cover I want to make a machinima of and of course post it as usual for fun and no profit. I had essentially forgotten about the project until this Bill of Rights notice came today in the mail. Don’t know if I want to sign the petition for it. Still have to think about what it really accomplishes in this rapidly changing music landscape - for me as a songwriter or against me.

Some time in the early years of his life Illinois born John Charles Carter decided to change his name. An imposingly tall figure with a ruggedly chiseled face, he made being a leading man on the big screen look as easy as breathing on a clear day. As I write this the world is mourning his death. Would that have been the case had he not dubbed himself Charlton Heston? Maybe.

Maybe it would have been John Carter who got the chance to recite some of the most memorable movie lines ever.

“Soylent Green is people!” he might have shouted as Det. Thorn to a crowded theater from his 2-dimensional stage.

“Let my people go!” a sandal clad John could have demanded as Moses from the Egyptian ruler.

“Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” Carter playing astronaut Taylor may have growled.

Maybe John Carter would have done just as well as Charlton Heston did in the acting business, but how many men named Charlton have you known — or will probably meet — in your life? Had I not been enthralled by so many of his performances I still would have respected him at least for choosing such an uncommon handle for himself. It was a risky gamble I wouldn’t have taken. I think it paid off in spades for Mr. Carter.

As a boy growing up in LA’s San Fernando Valley I was carried along on so many fantastic trips by Heston’s sheer strength in front of a camera. He was the original blockbuster magnet. Every look given from his characters’ faces would make me want to know why they happened and what was going to happen next.

I saw “Soylent Green” on its public premier night in a Hollywood theater; I had never seen an audience cheer so loudly for light and shadows being cast on a silvery backdrop. Had Heston actually been there we would have all tried to carry him out on a blanket of humans. I bet it was the same reaction in theaters when “Ben Hur” premiered; of course, I can only guess because Hur was released in the same year I was born.

I read a bio of him recently. It was undoubtedly written by some modern Hollywood-type because it had to end with a line about how Heston was spending his later life advocating “right-wing” causes. Like it fucking matters what the man’s personal beliefs were. Like it fucking matters what any person playing pretend for a living in La-La-Land thinks about politics. One would have to be very full of themselves or think very little of their audience to place so much emphasis on the assumed power of one’s own celebrity.

I would probably NOT want to waste one minute hanging out with most of the actors I can’t get enough of on the big screen. Yet, that doesn’t even enter into my respect for their on-screen talents.

No, I do not think Heston was perfect or a greater soul than any of the unsung heroes I’ve personally known in my life; however, even though he’s quoted as saying, “The Internet is for lonely people. People should live.” I think in Heston’s case I might have enjoyed his company. He had class. He was a man of his generation, a family man, married to one woman since 1944, put the work before his persona, never missed an opportunity to praise the writers and directors he worked with while crediting them for his success. I would imagine it must be a gargantuan undertaking to retain even the slightest amount of humility while knowing there is hardly a corner of the planet that doesn’t know the name Charlton Heston.

Thank you, Mr. Blockbuster, for so many years of fun and escape you gave me. Rest now and live on forever.

Building Gitmo

I’ve been working with documentary filmmaker Nonny de la Pena in Second Life (TM) helping, along with other builders, to construct her Gone Gitmo interactive virtual experience.

My Real Life (TM) schedule has been so hectic that I was only able to make the Camp Delta long term maximum security detention barracks. I worked in a modular fashion so that whoever finishes the camp can lengthen or shorten the building as their needs require.

Here are some shots of my work in progress:

The structure ready to go.

Close in shot

The cell’s interior

Taken from actual photos

Each set of cells facing one another is a linked chunk which can be duplicated and moved down to extend as need be. Judging from the original photos, the buildings are quite long, but prim limits might necessitate a very scaled down facsimile.

As you may or may not know (or care) I am hopelessly addicted to building things in Second Life (TM) — and it’s no laughing matter for me since I’m supposed to be shooting machinima in the darned place!

The target date for the Gone Gitmo exhibit opening is rapidly approaching. If you’re interested in the project, you’ll find more info at Nonny’s web site.

As I began writing this blurb about my presentation at the American Film Institute’s Digital Content Lab production cycle orientation I learned that Arthur C. Clarke had died at age 90. What would the state of today’s technology have been like without the imagination of Clarke? I shudder to think. There went a mind well shared! He brought real life to science fiction and science fiction to real life - and what a long life he had! I will consider myself very fortunate if I could someday look into the mirror for just one morning and see a man of 90 smiling back. Wow! That just made me think of Dr. Dave Bowman sitting in the white room near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Now to the AFI news: this coming Thursday afternoon, March 20th, I will have the distinct pleasure of presenting a machinima demonstration using Moviestorm to a group of folks starting their production cycle at the Digital Content Lab in Hollywood. You really must read about AFI’s DCL at their site for the best explanation of its purpose. This blog post just couldn’t do justice to the work people will be putting into finding and nurturing the next latest & greatest things in mass media.

My fifteen minutes of fame (literally) will consist of me making a quick machinima movie using Moviestorm before an audience made up of mostly those uninitiated in the ways of Anymation, and then trying to answer any questions which may be tossed my way. My part has nothing specific to do with any of the DCL’s new projects being started (at least not that I know of). It’s billed as simply an after-lunch diversion for the group as part of their day filled with “Go here,” “Meet them,” “Do this,” “Learn that,” activities.

Thank you to AFI’s Lisa Osborne and the folks at Short Fuze for inviting me to participate.

I don’t know whether I should ask you, dear reader, to wish me luck or tell me to break a leg. Actually, I’ll appreciate either.

Just came down from 30,000 feet and boy are my avatar’s arms tired!

Hathead Rickenbacker’s Second Life Sky Tower Lounge was the place to be tonight. Hathead was generous enough to host the well-attended Online Machinima Film Festival’s Pre-awards Cocktail Party where we danced, chatted, and listened to live performances by guitarist Ceedj Beaumont (PEDS’ CJ Ambrosia) and Hathead himself at the grand piano.

I got to meet some machinimators I’d only heard of before now, which is always an honor and a treat for me. My thanks go out to Hathead and Stormy Harker (Michelle Pettit-Mee) for pulling off such an enchanting evening. Here are some pictures I took of the event.

Ceedj in the spotlight

From the dancefloor

The maestro on stage

The party from outside

See you all (And more) back in Second Life for the official OMFF Awards Ceremony on May 10th!

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