Thursday, 29 March 2007

Less is more - except when it isn't

Machinima is a very cartoony art form. However much we improve the graphics - and let's face it, modern game engines have pretty awesomely realistic characters - everything's hugely exaggerated. If we want to show a character being sad, or angry, their performance in a game is usually as melodramatic and hammy as something out of Victorian vaudeville. Or silent movies, come to that. It's not even first year drama school acting.

I'd like Moviestorm to deliver much more subtle performance. You can say so much with a nod, a slight flick of the eye, or a tiny body movement. I'm not just thinking of Sergio Leone movies here (though I will confess that Leone is a bit of an influence on me). I'm thinking of real drama. Many years ago, Michael Caine gave a masterclass for the BBC on how to do a section of Educating Rita. It was fascinating - with just a few minor facial movements, he turned a good performance into a superb one. (I really wish they'd show that again - it was a classic bit of television.) As a result, we have a load of little body animations in, which don't seem to do much, but which should add up to a lot when it comes to characterisation. As Caine pointed out, there's a world of difference between acting for the theatre and acting for the camera. In the theatre, the guy in the back of the circle has to be able to see what you're doing: in a film, they stick a camera in your face and capture every tiny little movement. You don't need to be histrionic to be emotional.

On the other hand, unless you're right up close, all these little animations are meaningless. Tiny little facial twitches don't show up in long shot, so you do need a range of more melodramatic gestures. This kinda makes sense when you think back to my opening para here: games tend not to use close-ups, so they only have the big hammy gestures you can recognise at a distance. Which means we need to have the big exaggerated gestures too... you just have to make sure that you don't use them when you're in close-up.

1 comment:

John said...

Hi - I absolutely agree with this, it's one of the reasons I more or less quit working with WoW machinima. I just wasn't satisfied with the melodrama ...

I'm so glad you're working on this!

Can't wait to see the beta ...