Nikira Naimarc is a budding machinima maker who contacted me about her first film, Jenny’s Holy Night, asking me if I’d like to watch it.
When most of us would consider entering machinima cautiously, perhaps with a piece of a few minutes duration to test the waters publicly, Nikira went for something far more ambitious. At little under 20 minutes in length, Jenny’s Holy Night easily qualifies as a mini movie. And it is a moving piece.
“It is a Christmas video, Nikira told me, when she contacted me. “It’s based on Hans Christian Andersen’s story, The Little Match Girl. We premièred in November, and I’ve had very positive feedback.”
First published in 1845, The Little Match Girl is the sad tale of a poor little girl attempting to sell matches on New Year’s Eve. Ignored by the passing people, she is too afraid to go home lest her father beats her. Instead, she sleeps in the cold, dreaming of better times – times she may never see.
For Jenny’s Holy Night, Nikira has updated the story to a modern setting and has moved it to the days leading up to Christmas, with the little girl now an orphan trying to sell little Christmas wreaths she has made to unsympathetic shoppers, concerned only with their own needs.
Made with the support of Die Villa video, who have also made available on YouTube through their channel, Jenny’s Holy Night is a poignant tale. It is a reminder that “the season of giving” can be especially hard for those who don’t have the luxury of having the money to give in order to receive what they need; that that all too easily exist unseen and outside of the excitement of the holiday season – until it is too late.
Please take the time to watch the film below, and if you appreciate it, do consider leaving a comment for Nikira here or on the film’s YouTube page.
In September 2016, I previewed a new machinima series, Future Shock, by Pryda Parx. At that point in time, the first episode had just been released, and Pryda was kind enough to allow me see the next two in the series. What I saw was intriguing in terms of story, setting and production values. Given the final episode was released just before Christmas, it seemed a good opportunity to watch the episodes back-to-back and talk a little more to Pryda about the work.
When we first discussed the series in September, Pryda told me her aim was to produce a series which could entertain, but also provoke debate on technological and social trends; to explore what the future might actually hold.
To achieve this, she presents us with a world where technology infiltrates every part of our lives. It watches over us, seemingly for our own protection, as well as providing various means personal gratification and escapism. It is also a world where everyone is defined in terms of their credit and net worth. So long as both are in good standing, then you are (reasonably) safe – not even death needs be an impediment; while if there is something about your body you don’t like or feel it lacks, you can have it modified / augmented to suit your desires. Should credit evaporate or net worth show every indication of becoming negative, however, then things can be – uncomfortable.
Thus this is a world of questionable values, both in terms of technology and the people – who may be driven by their baser elements of self: avarice, jealousy, the potential for violence. Thus this is a world of questionable morals and ethics – a fact cleverly reinforced through the use of predominantly monochrome and grey scale settings and characters.
But there is more here as well; everything appears to be run by the “state”, against whom some have rebelled, seeking sanctuary – and more – from within the technology intended to watch over them. Thus, the story is layered, which the fully arc designed to progress over a total of three series of episodes. For this, the first element of the overall arc, we follow a central character by the name of Tracy. As much enmeshed in moral ambiguity as everyone else (she is perfectly willing to betray a lover to gain credit, and potentially go further), her character is as grey as the world she lives in.
Future Shock: Tracy
By introducing us to Tracy first, Pryda effectively drops us into the middle of things. This both adds to the mystery of the series – but also makes the narrative a little hard to fully comprehend. The intent here is obviously to raise questions and encourage us to follow the story as more unfolds through the remaining two series.
“There is a complete arc,” Pryda told me. “But it will unfold slowly. The second series covers the same time period as this one, for example. But telling it from the rebels’ point of view. You get to understand more about the relationship Tracy’s boyfriend has with them, and so on. Then in the third series you discover what the state is really about.”
While the narrative might seem a little uneven in places, one thing that more certainly isn’t is the quality of the production. To put it simply, Future Shock is extraordinarily well done. Considering this is Pryda’s first foray into episodic storytelling and machinima production, it is a polished production.
“Before this I’d practice making videos in Second Life with a couple of fairy/music videos, but the story with those is minimal,” Pryda informed me. “I’ve always been creative, but my writing and drawing isn’t strong, so I have been very inspired with the idea of story telling with machinima techniques. But it has all been new territory for me, and I’ve been learning as fast as I can.”
Given that her learning curve has also encompassed GIMP, Audacity for audio, and even Blender – Future Shock is an even more remarkable debut series, and there is more than enough in these first series to engage the curiosity and leave one wanting to know more about where things are going.
Sadly, it’s going to be a while before we get to find out: the second series is currently slated for a late 2017 release. But in the meantime, you can catch up with the first series on Pryda’s You Tube channel, and I’m embedding the introductory prologue to it below.
Back in August 2015, I blogged about Reshade, a post-processing injector for games and video software available for Windows. When installed and associated with a game or application like Second Life, it can be used to overlay the screen with a wide range of shader-based effects. These can them be used in screen captures or when recording machinima, to provide “real-time” visual effects.
Since that time, Reshade has been through a couple of iterations, with version 3.0.3 appearing on October 21st. As I’ve not revisited Reshade since that 2015 article, I thought I’d provide a short overview of installation and general use of this latest version.
A quick and dirty demo video I made with Reshade 1.0, showing how it can be used used in Second Life machinima filming
Please ensure you’re logged out of Second Life when setting-up ReShade.
Go to the Reshade website and download the installer, double-click to run it.
You will be prompted to select a programme for association with Reshade:
Click Select Game and navigate to the installed folder of the viewer with which you want to use Reshade and click on the viewer EXE file.
You will be prompted to Select Rendering API:
Click on OpenGL (note this may already appear to be selected – click on it anyway). You will be asked if you want to install the shaders- make sure you do.
The shaders will be downloaded and installed in a folder in your viewer’s installation location on your computer.
The Reshade installer will report Done, and can be closed.
To associate Reshade with any other viewer you have installed on your PC, you will have to follow these instructions again. You do not necessarily have to install the shaders again (although this is easiest) – you can set any additional versions of Reshade to point to shaders already installed.
Note: the following is not intended to be an exhaustive guide to using Reshade. It is intended to get you started. The best way to gain familiarity with Reshade is to use it; should you need additional assistance, please refer to the Reshade forums. I don’t profess to be an expert in the applications, and will probably not be able to help with detailed technical support!
Reshade is available whenever you launch the viewer with which it has been associated. To access it, press SHIFT-F2. This will display the UI panel which may enter Tutorial mode, if you haven’t saved any presets.
Click the Continue button in the Reshade panel.
The preset selection bar will be highlighted. Click on the + button to the right of it to open the Name bar, and type in anything you like – this will become the name of a preset INI file, which yo can save and then select at a later date, loading all the sahder settings you have established in it.
The available shaders are loaded (and highlighted in red in the tutorial). Read the explanatory text and click continue.
The settings panel is highlighted and briefly explained. Read and click Finish.
The full Home tab will be displayed.
This comprises 5 sections:
Preset selection area (top), with + (create a new preset INI) and – (delete selected preset INI)
The shader search bar – type in all or part of a shader to display just that shader and its settings options. This also includes the Collapse / Expand toggle for opening / collapsing all shaders in the upper and lower panes of the tab
A scrollable list of available shaders. Clicking on any one of these will open it to display the activation button (1), above, and the hotkey toggle option (2), above – you can type-in any key combination you like here to automatically select the shader.
A scrollable list of settings, by shader (3), above).
The Reload button (reset everything to defaults) and Show error log buttons.
The two main panes in the tab – shader list and settings – can be adjusted by clicking on the divider between them and moving it up or down.
The installation is a marvellous work of art, deeply reflective of the thoughts expressed within the poem, and of Storm’s own circumstance and the trials she has faced. If you haven’t visited the installation, I urge you to do so before in closes in December, and while it may sound somewhat self-serving, I also offer my thoughts on the installation as well.
I have been drawn back to Invictus a number of times since then, wanting to produce a video of it for posterity. But what form should such a video take? Should it feature music, or the words of the poem itself? And if the words, should they be spoken, or presented on-screen? And if spoken, who should I look to recite them?
At the end of August, and having been reminded by several people that Morgan Freeman recited the poem in the film Invictus (and has done so elsewhere, it being a personal favourite of his), I opted to turn to the marvellous talent of Charlie Hopkinson, who is Morgan Freeman’s voice. And so it is that I offer a short film of Storm’s installation I hope you enjoy, and which encourages you to visit or re-visit Invictus in-world.
Future Shock is an ambitious and intriguing new Second Life Machinima series produced by Pryda Parx, the first episode of which was released on You Tube on September 16th, 2016.
“Future Shock is set in a dark future world where technology is designed to keep everyone safe and secure. At least that’s the way it is meant to be,” Pryda told me as we discussed the concept and the evolving series. “A place where technology dominates and where real life and virtual worlds intertwine.”
Unfolding over nine episodes, the story is told in something of a non-linear manner. Individual segments run to around 4 minutes each, unfolding part of the story, but as Pryda notes, “to get the most out of the audience will need to pause, rewind and revisit previous episodes; there are a lot of subtle connections between episodes which will not be apparent when first seen.”
This is he case with the first segment, IP Credit, in which we are given a view of what appears to be both the real and the virtual as they intertwine. We know nothing of the character(s) we see or anything about the environment or what is going on. There is clue to the immediate events we see in the episode’s tag-line, but how the scene fits with the rest of the story arc is something we’re going to have to return to and consider later.
“I wanted to make something for the interactive YouTube generation,” Pryda says of the series. “Something to entertain, but also to provoke debate on technological and social trends and to explore what the future might actually hold.”
A further striking element of the series is its presentation. Outside of the virtual realm, the world is predominantly monochrome: dark skies, dark pavements and floors, grey walls, grey people. Where colour is used, it tends to emphasise the presence of technology which, as we see as the scene unfolds, perhaps isn’t entirely benign. Dialogue is also minimal (and non-existent in the first segment, although the language can be strong when it does occur in later segments), a technique which further draws the audience into the unfolding story.
The first series has taken Pryda around a year to put together; work which unsurprisingly has required her involvement with a lot of tools – Blender for modelling, GIMP, Audacity for the distinctive audio, etc. The remaining segments will be released on YouTube at two-weekly intervals, with the last release occurring just before Christmas. There is also an introductory teaser, which can be seen here.
Nor does it end there. “There is a lot of background content and a coherent framework for world in which the story is set, ” Pryda told me. “Much of this background will play out over the two series following the first.”
So, if you’re on the look-out for a new and quite stylish sci-fi, which intertwines a number of themes in a unique style and approach, why not give Future Shock a go? The first segment is embedded below, and the series can be found on Pryda’s YouTube channel.
I’ve been following – albeit from a distance – the creative talent of young film-maker and machinima maker Radheya Jegatheva. The son of Second Life colleague and friend, Jayjay Zinfanwe (of University of Western Australia fame), Radheya has shown an extraordinary gift for story telling through video and animation.
In May I wrote about Radheya’s success – helped in part by Second Life residents – in the #MyFreoStory video competition. Now the 17-year-old’s latest work has taken no fewer that three national and international prizes.
Entitled The Tyger and created using iClone 3D animation software, is a visual / aural telling of William Blake’s classic 1794 poem, The Tyger. At the end of June it received the Best Film award at the Asiagraph Reallusion 3D International Film Competition in Taiwan. Just 24 hours later it received the Best Junior Short Film award at the Warburton Film Festival, based in Victoria, in his home country of Australia, before also gaining the Best Australian Cinema Now award at the Sydney World Film Festival.
The Tyger is very much a family affair. Radheya used iClone to create the visuals seen in the film, including the stunning tiger, seen in the still in the banner to this piece. He then enlisted the help of his father to narrate the poem over the images.
Radheya selected the poem as being symbolic of a piece of very personal family history.
“The poem is a favourite of mine,” Jayjay explained as we discussed his son’s successes. “My mum would recite it to me when I was young. Then Radheya learned from his grand-aunt that the poem was the reason my mum and dad met.”
Jayjay continued, “My mum won an oratorical competition reciting The Tyger. Her prize was the opportunity to act in a major stage drama – and my dad was acting in that same drama. So they met purely because of The Tyger.”
Nor do things end there. “We’ve been informed that Tyger, Tyger has been selected for showing at two further international film festivals,” Jayjay told me.
In August, the film will be shown at the International Festival of Animated Film for Children and Youth, which will be held in Nis, Serbia – and Rayheya’s work is the only non-European selection made by the festival organisers in the 13-17 year-old category. Then in November, it will be shown at the 6th Festival Internacional Pequeno Cineasta, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
The film has had an impact in other ways as well. Tim Heath, Chair of the Blake Society in London, contacted Radheya to say the Society would be covering the film is their newsletter. Radheya and his family have also been contacted by universities and schools from across Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Australia, stating they would like to use the film as a teaching tool in classes on literature, poetry and romanticism, as it presents a new means by which poetry can be interpreted.
This is another remarkable set of achievements for Radheya, and I’d like to take this opportunity to pass on my congratulations to him on all of his recent success, and to wish him all the best for the upcoming festivals in Serbia and Brazil.