What is Machinima?

What is Machinima?

Machinima is essentially machine cinema. Computer graphics have been used in cinema for many years. More recently we’ve see entire films made with computer graphics. Companies like Pixar have pioneered this new form of cinema. machinima takes the computer revolution a step further, bringing film making itself into the home.

“A digital Walt Disney who wants to make a machinima film will start with a game engine, the software that generates the virtual 3-D environment in which a game like Quake II is played. This is not unusual because some game developers have made parts of their software publicly accessible, allowing players to modify a game. For instance, one might put a terrorist’s head on an opponent’s body.

But machinima directors go a step further, discarding the game’s out-of-the-box elements in favor of their own characters, scenery, story line and dialogue. What remains is the game’s underlying animation technology, which is really a stage on which an alien Amberson or a cartoon cat person could cavort. More than one person can use the same virtual space simultaneously, each one guiding his character through a scene while speaking its lines. A designated cinematographer chooses camera angles, adjusts the lighting and records the action. This is animation as improvised performance, and some of the best machinima films have the feel of live theater as enacted by cartoon puppets. It is also easy to create extended sequences. But the bottom line is the bottom line: compared to a computer-generated animated film like the critically acclaimed “Toy Story” or the box-office bomb “Final Fantasy,” it costs next to nothing to produce a full-length machinima feature.”

—Matthew Mirapaul, “Computer Games as the Tools for Digital Filmmakers,” The New York Times, July 22, 2002