Sunday 18 December 2011

More on editing

Editing on Volume 4 is going well, and we're very hopeful it'll be out before Christmas. Here's what the 18 exercises in the book cover:

Controlled Scene Length
Establishing Shots           
Fast Cuts vs Slow Cuts   
Matching Eyelines
Fade Through Black        
Fade Through White      
L Cut     
Cutting On Action           
Cutting On Shape            
Cutting On Theme          
Cut Through Sky              
Walking Into Camera     
Photo To Scene
Visual Metaphor             

Saturday 17 December 2011

Coming soon - another free book

I'm aiming to get this out by Christmas if I don't find too many typos and errors. Otherwise, it'll be available in the last week of December. As before, it'll be a free download.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Indian Culture

Here’s a great pack for adding a bit of Indian Culture to your movies in the form of a traditional Indian taxi, road signs and textures, props for your interiors and some authentic Indian costumes. There’s an intricate fireplace, privacy screen and ceiling fan for your house interiors, a road and pavement texture (along with kerbstones to separate them), plus a selection of market stalls and telephone/ power cables to dress your streets.
Both costumes (a pajami for your female characters and a kurta for the males) have pattern variations and, as usual, there’s a version of each that you can tint to any colour.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Moviestorm 1.5 is LIVE!

Moviestorm 1.5 is now available!

We promised we’d get it to you by the end of the year, and here it is. Moviestorm 1.5 - shinier, faster, and with all-new added goodness. It’ll make your hair more lustrous, help you lose weight, and wash your clothes even whiter than before. Okay, maybe not, but it will help you make films faster and better.

What's new
Moviestorm 1.5 includes a lot of new features. You can find full details in the patch notes here, along with the main bug fixes. Here are just some of the highlights:
Terrain editor: change the default mountains around the edge of the set.
Import video into the cutting room: you can now mix scenes from several different movies, or mix in external video files.
Save gestures to stock: once you’ve created a gesture for a character, you can easily use it again in other scenes or movies.
Tint the sky: gives you much more variation in the feel of your exterior sets.
Timeline grouping: group several activities together on the timeline and move them all together.
Text to speech allows you to create basic dialog without an audio file or microphone.
WebM video format gives better performance and quality on a wider range of hardware.
Dressing room user interface makes it easier to find costumes.
Screenshot button in Camera view makes it easy to create storyboards or stills.
Timeline user interface has been made clearer and easier to use.
Some Cutting Room filters now have options for different strengths of the filter.
Extra Large Set is a new stock set with the floor grid at 100m square instead of the normal 50m square.
You can now render stereoscopic 3D left and right eye views as separate renders, allowing you to re-combine them in the 3D software of you choice.
New audio filters give you better control over your sound.

Just start up Moviestorm as normal. It will automatically update the launcher (not the main program). Then when you're ready, you can update Moviestorm from the launcher when it's convenient. Be patient, it could take a while, especially if you're on a slow connection.
If you have repeated problems downloading the file, you may need to temporarily disable your virus checker.

As far as we can tell, your existing movies should work fine with 1.5. There are however, a few things to watch out for.
Mods: we've tested some mods, and we haven't found any problems, but we can't 100% guarantee that your mods will continue to work.
Video: If your movies have video files playing back on props, you should convert those videos to the WebM format; they will then play back faster and with audio. More info about WebM.
Lighting: we fixed a bug with ambient lighting which meant that it was extra bright under some circumstances. You may need to adjust the ambient lighting to compensate.
Doors: we changed the pathfinding for going through doors. In some cases, your characters may take a different route, and will walk through walls instead of being stuck..
Dance floor: the dance floor works differently and you may need to tell each dance floor to flash instead of them all flashing at the same time.
If you have problems, please check the support forums or contact support via the Web site

Wednesday 7 December 2011

Instant stills

Whenever we tell you about an upcoming release, there's always a small flurry of people who tell us they're putting their current projects on hold until the new version's out.  This time, it happened to me.

I was planning to shoot all the illustrations for the next volume of my series of filmmaking books this week. That usually involves taking about 150 images, of which maybe 60 or 70 get used. I generally do this by taking a full-screen screenshot of Moviestorm's camera view, then pasting it into Photoshop, and cropping out the area I need. It's a laborious task: even if each one only takes a few minutes, and even using macros, it all adds up. I generally allow 2-3 days to do it all.

Moviestorm 1.5 includes a new feature that's going to make a real difference to this process. In the camera view, there's now a screenshot button that exports a still. No more PRT-SCRN - flip to Photoshop - paste - save - flip back to Moviestorm every time I want an image. Just click, and the job's done. Even better, I won't have to suffer my PC running out of memory once I'm dealing with Photoshop files that have vast numbers of layers of high-def images. I reckon it's going to save me at least a day's work.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

All together, now!

This new feature for 1.5 brought a huge smile to my face.

You know when you've mostly built a scene, then you realize you need to change a few things early in the scene? You shift all the activities on the timeline and that's when you find that all your carefully set up timings are now just ever so slightly off and it's immensely frustrating to get them all back again.

With the new timeline grouping feature, you can CTRL-click on several activities at once and move them all at the same time. Voila! Your timings are preserved.  No more fiddly adjusting everything back to how it was.

That's going to be a huge time-saver.

Monday 5 December 2011

Colonel Andrew "Flash" Kennedy

So, Movember is over, but my grips are far from!  The memsahib is far too in love with ‘em (not).

Thank you to all that contributed to bring awareness to such a worthy cause – I am thrilled to say that you have helped me contribute £225 to the Movember appeal ...and in the true spirit of these things, I am proud to say that I have given my plums a good squeeze, and there is nothing to report.  As for the clacker, I leave that investigation to another day.

If you wish to get a future missive on my hirsute journey, please let me know.

Until then, toodle pip and tally ho!


Climb every mountain

The latest news on the 1.5 is that it's now in the process of final checking.  We made some fixes over the weekend, and we're just giving those a last check. Assuming all's well, we'll have it wrapped up and shipped out to you guys by the end of the week.

Among the list of new features is the terrain editor, so you're no longer constrained to flat sets.  Here's a couple of very quick examples of what you can do with it.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Movember update

And here's Andrew's completed whiskers. We'll get a proper photo done shortly to show them to you in all their magnificence!

Friday 2 December 2011

Mac users lose control

If you're a Mac user, you'll like this. In the new release of 1.5 (which should be out very, very soon now) hotkeys now use the Command key instead of Control.

Copy CMD-C
Paste CMD-V
Undo CMD-Z
Redo CMD-Y
Save CMD-S

Windows users still use CTRL, of course.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

Bombay taxi

If you've ever been to India, you'll instantly recognise this style of vehicle. Indian taxis are quite fun once you get used to the sheer terror of being driven around at high speed in heavy traffic, dodging potholes, overloaded motorcycles, pedestrians, buses, trucks, cows and elephants...  Another shot from the upcoming Indian pack.

Tuesday 29 November 2011

Monday 28 November 2011

New packs for 1.5

A very harried Amos told me earlier today that testing on 1.5 is going well, and we're aiming for a release date "very early in December".  He wouldn't commit himself any further than that, and there's only so much threatening I can do on your behalf from 5000 miles away.

He did, however, let slip that the long awaited sword fighting pack will be released "in time for Christmas", and that before that, there will be an "Indian pack" that's been ready to go for a while, just waiting on some code that's in the new release.  That will include some interior and exterior sets, plus a few costumes - acha hai!

I'll try to get the guys to snap a couple of screenshots of the new stuff when they're not so busy, and we'll post them for you here.

Monday 21 November 2011

Upcoming Pack - Construction Site

After being put on the back-burner for a while due to development of Moviestorm 1.5 and various Bonus Content assets, we are now almost ready to release a complete pack, called "Construction Site".
As you may have guessed by the name of the AddOn, this pack contains a selection of Building/ Construction props for your Moviestorm Scenes. There's a back-hoe type digger, a cement mixer, scaffolding, a skip, bricks and blocks, safety fencing and piles of sand which you can drop into your set like any other Moviestorm asset. For your characters, there's overalls for both male and female characters with an option to add high-vis waistcoats. Of course, the obligatory yellow hard hat is also included in the pack - we wouldn't want your characters to get injured...
All being well, this pack will be available in the marketplace before the end of the week, and it will be priced very competitively (in Moviestorm Points) against our previous packs.

Thursday 17 November 2011

Friday 11 November 2011

Flashy's Movember

Now, it's a little-known fact about Andrew that he's a big fan of the Harry Flashman novels. They're a series of bawdy adventures, featuring a Victorian soldier who gets into scrapes all over the world. Andrew's always had a secret hankering to emulate his hero, particularly in the matter of facial hair. So this month, he's decided to go for it.

Why? It's in a good cause. Here's Andrew's explanation.

Some people climb mountains, run marathons or bike across China. The lengths of human endeavour to support a needy cause can know no bounds when a driven individual decides to try and make a difference for a particular charity. So, those of you that know me will not be surprised to hear that I have decided to push my body to endure new lengths of suffering, all in the aid of stuff that my fellow man suffers from, but are crap at taking care of – the wife prostate and testicular cancer.

There are loads of stats about how bad the problem is, but I think Peter Griffin sums up the problem we face best ...

So, for the month of November, I am devoting my top lip to bring awareness to the importance of giving your plums a regular squeeze, and potentially allowing a suitably qualified person to go where no man has gone before, all in the name of male health. I have the full intention of growing some truly embarrassing facial hair, that Dizz will absolutely hate.

If you would like to support the cause, you can support my Movember campaign by making a donation by either:
*Donating online at:
*If you want to go old school you can write a cheque payable to 'Movember', reference my name and Registration Number 2133058 and send it to: Movember Europe, PO Box 68600, London, EC1P 1EF

If you'd like to find out more about the type of work you'd be helping to fund by supporting Movember, take a look at the Programmes We Fund section on the Movember website:

I thank you!

And here's the first photo of the new fuzz. This is Day 6. Dashed fine, what?

Please consider supporting Andrew in this worthy cause.


Tuesday 8 November 2011

Upcoming features: Autosave

At the end of last week, the QA Team were presented with the first release-candidate of Moviestorm 1.5, which now has around 1600 individual tests to pass before it’s released. During this time there will be some tweaking of features to check that they behave exactly as originally specified, and almost every aspect of the program will be pushed to its limits on various hardware platforms and different operating systems before you folks get to download and install it.
So, no news this week then? On the contrary!
You’ll notice that the landing page image at the top of this post has not three, but four buttons. That’s because we have a new, modified Autosave function, which I am now allowed to explain to you. Previously Moviestorm’s autosave feature incrementally saved project information on a “per-movie” basis, giving the user a confusing choice of time-stamped files for recovery. The new method is much simpler to use, and to explain... Moviestorm now backs up your work at a predefined time interval, completely independent to the saved file in your Projects folder. If you exit the program without saving (or experience a crash, powercut, or inquisitive child pushing the power button), Moviestorm will simply ask you if you want to continue where you left off. This means that you don’t have to worry about loading the wrong backup file (and thereby jeopardising your saved movie), as Moviestorm doesn’t go anywhere near the saved project. Dave is actually so convinced by the new system that he’s also removed the Save confirmation dialog, improving workflow that little bit further. We’re looking forward to you guys getting hold of it, it really does make a huge difference!

Monday 7 November 2011

Making Better Movies with Moviestorm - change to Volumes 3 & 4

Earlier today, I finished the first draft of Volume 3 of my series of books about using Moviestorm to help make better films. The preceding two covered camerawork and staging, and this one, originally due to be published in a few weeks, covers editing.

After re-reading it, I decided to hold that volume and publish it as Volume 4 at the end of December. Instead, I'll cover sound and lighting in Volume 3. This was originally planned for Volume 4. Fortunately, it's mostly written, so I'll be able to stay with the schedule for monthly releases, and Volume 3 will still be out in early December.

Throughout the book on editing, I kept referring to things you could do with sound and light, and several of the exercises had footnotes saying "this will be covered in more detail in Vol 4". That just felt wrong to me. It made more sense to deal with those techniques earlier in the series, and then refer back to them in the editing exercises.

More importantly, though, it also fits with my philosophy on filmmaking.

For me, the film isn't made by the director. It's not about what happens on the set. A film is made by the editor. The only time the director gets to make a film, unless they're doing the whole thing themselves, is when they release a Director's Cut - and that's not always a guarantee it'll be better than the original.

It's the editor who assembles everything, and who decides what is in the film and what isn't. It's the editor who blends the visual and the audio. It's the editor who creates the context for each shot by deciding what comes before and after. The editor can completely change a film, even to the extent of turning a horror movie into a comedy, or lacklustre documentary footage into an absorbing visual essay.

All the time I was writing this series, I felt that I wanted to start with how to create great shots, and then end with an entire volume on how to put them together into a finished movie, so that's the way it's going to be.

Thursday 3 November 2011

Update to Bonus Content: Microphone.

For this update, we’re bringing you a microphone held-prop so that your characters can perform a selection of singing, interviewing and recording animations.
Unlike microphones available in our other packs, this one has a wider selection of animations allowing your characters to sing, rap and carry the microphone from one location to another, or perform interviews in a outside-broadcast type way. Also, the microphone itself can be shown as a singing microphone, outside broadcast microphone or voice recorder, depending on your needs.
As always, the download is free if you are a paying customer of Moviestorm Complete or Moviestorm Themes – you just need to register for the license at the bottom of the following page and then all of the bonus content will be installed the next time you use Moviestorm.
(p.s. Bonus content is not currently available for Moviestorm Education users due to the lack of internet connectivity needed to regularly update the pack. However, we will be updating Moviestorm Education’s content to include all appropriate Bonus Content for a future upgrade).

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Upcoming features: WebM

As regular visitors to our forums will know, we have big plans for the next version of Moviestorm. We’ve already talked about the headline features such as the terrain editor and option for oversized set area, improved character animation, rewritten autosave feature, more flexible character creation tools, advisor system, plus improvements to the performance and stability of the program – but there’s one feature that we haven’t yet mentioned...
The way that Moviestorm handles video has been completely rewritten. We have adopted the new WebM video format developed by Google as our new standard, which offers great performance and image quality even on older hardware, plus the advantage that it’s as friendly to the Mac OS as it is to Windows – this means that most machines will playback the new movie format “out of the box”, and those that don’t will only have to do a small update for compatibility.
Another great advantage of adding this format is that the way Moviestorm handles video clips has had to be re-written. A side-effect of this is that you can now run video on Moviestorm props in the Director’s View in real-time (even on modest hardware) and with sound playing. You can also add videos in the Cutting Room that can be dragged to the timeline in the same way as your camera shots. This means that you can import footage into your Cutting Room bins and drag video clips into your movies without the need for an external editor. If you’ve previously had problems with running out of system resources on complex multi-scened projects, you can now simply render them out separately and combine the clips in an empty Movie, with almost zero overhead.
Of course, we’ve left the old video format in there for those users who have an established workflow that they don’t want to alter, but we think WebM is the way forward...

Tuesday 25 October 2011

Making Better Movies, Vol 2, coming soon

The next part of Matt's series of books will be out soon. As before, it'll be a free download.

Here's what previewers have said about it:

It proved to be useful as I was teaching Maya to some 2D animators who work on Peppa Pig. There is a marked difference in thinking for 2d animation and 3d shots, especially the use of physical depth. It saved me tearing my remaining hair out when trying to set up and explain the staging and set construction. I usually work backwards in Maya, blocking out the set/camera etc to get rough story shots, so I know how much set to build and how detailed the props/characters need to be.

The practicality of learning these techniques in Moviestorm, rather than just the theory, gives you an easier way to fix these concepts in your head. I also like the lack of 'what buttons do I press': this gives the reader more control over what they have learned and how it's implemented, and it makes the volume concise. Good solid info on staging a scene, lots of ideas and suggestions for the filmmaker, and it doesn't bog you down with extraneous info (or technical programme specific information). A really good primer for any film student, especially all crammed into 40 pages.

Andrew Segal, Carshalton College

The idea itself is very solid. If someone goes through the book and does the exercises, they're going to come out a better filmmaker, no question.

Hugh Hancock, Guerilla Showrunner

An excellent resource for both new and veteran users. The exercises are easy to follow and designed to give Moviestorm users a whole new perspective on moviemaking. By following the exercises you begin to understand the importance of staging, which will take your movie to a new level. He doesn’t just describe ways to add feeling to your movies, but shows you through the easy to follow steps. All great directors have their own style. In this book Matt gives you the keys to unlock your style. In the end, you decide which techniques work best for you.

Shirley Martin, filmmaker

The book's currently going through final editing, and should be available in early November.

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Bonus Content – Trick or Treat!

With Halloween quickly approaching, we’re bringing you a selection of props and animations to help you shock and scare your audience! There’s a tragedy/ comedy mask (always particularly unsettling when used in the correct context!), and a hockey mask that you can customise by adding your own texture. In addition to the masks, we’re also providing a set of gruesome weapons for your characters to wield, in the form of a machete, a hot poker and a plank with protruding rusty nails! We’ve also included animations for these props so your maniacal characters can intimidate even the most hardened horror aficionado.
We’ve given you the tools, now go and terrorise your virtual neighbourhood!

Wednesday 5 October 2011

Bonus Content - Pot of pills

This week’s Bonus Content item is a rather-useful pot of pills that you can use as a static prop (e.g. placed on a surface within your set), or a held prop (that your character can use). When it was first mentioned on our “possible bonus content assets” list, I started to think of possible scenarios where such a prop might be useful, and I think this particular asset is going to prove to be quite popular!
There’s essentially four main parts to this prop:

• A customisable pot that can be used as a set item
• A customisable tablet (capsule or pill) that can be used as a set item
• A held prop “pot” with animations for your characters
• A held prop “tablet” with a show/ hide command for your character to hold in his/ her hand

Basically this means that it’s a pretty flexible prop, useful as set dressing as well as getting you characters to re-enact that gritty medical drama scene.
We hope you all enjoy the latest update, and please remember that you will only get these assets as a paid subscriber. If you haven’t yet registered for the Bonus Content pack, you can do so from the Marketplace page.

Monday 3 October 2011

Machinima Mondays

Bit short notice, I know, but I'll be talking at Machinima Mondays in Second Life twice today, at 2pm & 7pm Pacific Time (5pm & 10pm EST, 10pm & 3am UK). Hope to see some of you there!

More info here.

Monday 19 September 2011

Making Better Movies with Moviestorm

A while ago, we mentioned that Matt was working on a book about using Moviestorm to help practice film techniques. It's been a background task for about six months now, but at last it's getting closer to completion.

It'll be released initially as a series of short e-books, covering basic camerawork, staging, editing, lighting, sound, and miscellaneous techniques.

Each contains 15-20 exercises designed to help you develop your filmmaking technique. Whether you use Moviestorm, other animation tools, or live action to make your movies, you'll find these a useful way to focus on specific skills. Each exercise requires you to film a short scene in several different ways so that you develop familiarity with the various approaches available to you. You may be required to work within constraints such as not being allowed to move the camera or making the scene a specific length, or the exercise may be about filming a particular piece of story.

How do you get good at telling stories with cinema? It comes down to experience, of course, and experience comes through practice. So how do you get experience in film making, when it takes so much to make even the simplest piece of film? You have to find actors and crew, there are lights and cameras to buy, writers to bully, locations to find… and there are some scenes you just can’t film at all without a crazy budget. It’s a problem filmmakers have faced for a hundred years. But now there’s a solution, in the form of Moviestorm.

You see, Moviestorm doesn’t just allow you to make finished movies if you are already an accomplished storyteller. It allows you to grow your own talent by putting in movie making hours.

As I said earlier, in the world of filmmaking, practice usually involves a lot of equipment, money and mostly time, both yours and other people's. It's hard for most people to put in the hours. It’s a lot like a pilot who hasn't got easy access to a plane. So what does he do? He books time in a simulator. Even if a trainee pilot has regular access to a plane, he still books a lot of time in a simulator because it's cheaper and safer than using a real plane. He can practice whenever it’s convenient, and by logging enough hours he improves his skills almost automatically.

The same is true of any technical ability which has some art to it. The more you do it, the better you get. It's a creative muscle memory. It's the same with creativity and mastery of your storytelling chops. The more you do it, the better you will get. Shots flow to shots in a seamless hypnotic glide, because you know what you are doing and you know exactly where to go at any one time, in the service of your story.

This excellent series of books will guide your development. In each of the carefully structured and easy to follow exercises Matt leads you through all the movie making tricks you will need, from the most common to the most difficult. It's an easy regime to follow: just read what's on the page and do it. Then do the next one, and the next, and work your way through Pretty soon you'll be flying through them and your mastery of both Moviestorm and film technique will grow.

From the foreword by Phil South

The first volume, Basic Camerawork, will be published in early October, with the remaining volumes following monthly. These will be available free through Moviestorm.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

New Bonus Content - Binoculars.

Hi Moviestormers!
The keen-eyed amongst you will have noticed a small update today when you started Moviestorm. We've added a new item to the Bonus Content AddOn pack in the form of a set of binoculars that can be used as a static prop or held prop for both male and female characters. You can get the bonus pack from the Marketplace if you are a current paid subscriber.
We're looking forward to a stream of spy, soldier and ornithology movies that feature this new prop, so please post them up to your channels as usual! Remember, there is now a dedicated thread in the forums so that you can suggest future props for us to make, so feel free to make a request or two!

Thursday 1 September 2011

Elevator - Bonus Content Update!

This week, we've added a nice elevator to the Bonus Content addon for all of your Moviestorm building interiors. The model has multiple variations; one-sided, two-sided, tintable, free-standing, part of a wall, etc. plus there's a few animations provided (such as opening/ closing the doors, pushing buttons etc.) to make it really easy to use and incorporate into your sets.
As usual, paying subscribers with the Bonus Content Addon will get the update automatically the next time they start Moviestorm (you can find out if you are eligible for the pack here.)

Wednesday 24 August 2011

Construction Assets

We're in the process of testing a few building site assets that may soon be distributed with the Bonus Content pack (unless we decide to go for a bespoke Construction Pack), to help users create construction scenes within Moviestorm (as illustrated by the image shown, kindly provided by warmanivan).
The general idea is to slowly provide quite a diverse selection of more abstract props and costumes, allowing all you Moviestormers to create content of any genre. As always, we keep a close eye on all the forum threads and support emails, along with all the other methods of communication to get a feel for what our users want us to produce next. Keep those requests coming, they are all noted, even if we don't respond immediately!

Monday 8 August 2011

Another sword fighting teaser.

The last couple of weeks have been pretty exciting here at Moviestorm Towers, with the checklist of bugs and features for the next version of Moviestorm being slowly crossed off.
One major piece of functionality that we've been promising for a while is the ability for two characters to interact with one another whilst using held props. Moviestorm uses animation blending to fill in the gaps between poses so that the characters don't "snap" from one pose to another, but when a character moves out of position and has to blend back to "Idle" all sorts of horrible things happen. Add the extra complexity of held props claiming a characters joint resources and the system often gets confused ...
Well, the times are a-changin'.
The code is now in place to support the Fantasy Swords pack (among others), meaning that held prop activities can be used to their full potential!
Ivan has been playing around with the new code for a little while without unearthing any major problems, and has even put together this stylish little teaser to hint at what's coming soon ...

Monday 1 August 2011

Bonus Content Update - ATM/ Cash Machine.

Hi Moviestormers!
There is now an update available for the Bonus Content pack that include a couple of ATM's (or cash machines, if you're from the UK) and some animations so that your characters can use them. As usual with the Bonus Content, your pack will automatically update when you next restart Moviestorm. If you haven't yet applied for your Bonus Content license, you can do so at the bottom of the following page: Bonus Content Marketplace page
Please note that trial users do not have access to the Bonus Content pack.

Friday 29 July 2011

Terrain Editor demo.

Over the last few days, Ivan has been playing around with the new Terrain Editor as part of his testing process of the development branch of the Moviestorm code, and has produced this cool little video showing how it can be used. The user interface has now been decided for this feature and the functionality is around 90% complete so it's time to move onto the other areas of improvement. Keep your eyes peeled for more updates!

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Asian Male Hairstyles.

Another update for our Bonus Content Pack will be published over the next few days, featuring some greatly needed “normal” hairstyles to use on your films characters!
We're calling these “Asian Male Hairstyles” due to the original design specifications, but we've found that they work surprisingly well on characters of all ethnicities... I've attached an image of a couple of characters to this post, so you can see what to expect.
The first of these hairstyles is morphable (you can increase the length of the fringe/ sideburns/ back), and there are colour variations for both hairstyles as usual.
If you are a paying subscriber, you can apply for your Bonus Content Pack at the bottom of this page. If you already have the pack it will update automatically when the patch is released. Bonus Content (which lasts as long as your Moviestorm subscription) is not available for trial accounts.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

New content pack coming soon: 1AD

Here's an interesting new content pack that you'll find very useful for your historical projects, Middle Eastern re-enactments, or even a desert scene on a planet far, far away...

The pack contains a selection of earthenware style pots, a useful market stall that you can fill with your Moviestorm wares, plus a costume for both the male and female characters as you can see in the following video. Keep your eyes peeled for the release of 1AD over the next week.

Friday 27 May 2011

This week's free asset - Wheelchair.

Hello Moviestormers,
We've got another great asset for you to download as part of the Bonus Content this week, in the form of a rather useful wheelchair. Characters can sit in the chair, put their feet onto the footrests, and power the wheels with their hands. You can also animate the chair (with or without a seated character) by using the same shift-drag method as animating Moviestorm cars.

As before, this object will update automatically if you already have the Bonus Content Pack, or you can get the pack with this (and the previous bonus content) from the Marketplace page (if you are a current paying customer).

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Sniper rifle now released!

As promised in yesterday's blog post, we have just launched the new sniper rifle (plus variants and animations) which you can access through the Marketplace on the main site (here).

We're hoping to update the Bonus Content pack fairly regularly, as it gives us the opportunity to publish small items that may be a little too out-of-the-ordinary to warrant a full pack release.
If you already have a license for the previous object (the smart phone) then your AddOn will automatically update the next time that you start Moviestorm.

Lastly, these items are only available to paying subscribers, so please consider upgrading if you're using an obsolete version or if you're still on your trial!

Tuesday 10 May 2011

New AddOns in production.

Moving onto the AddOns, we'll be updating the Bonus Content Pack this week to include a cool sniper rifle for all your action movies! This new gun will go very nicely with the crosshair video filters, helping you to create those secret agent scenarios. We also have a set of binoculars coming soon, and some costumes and props that will suit nomadic travellers, biblical characters and those of us who prefer looser fitting robes...
Finally, Ben's putting the finishing touches on the wheelchair (shown in the image top right) so that the characters will be able to get in and out of the chair and propel themselves around the set.

Development for Moviestorm 1.4.2.

In addition to the code changes needed to support the new sword fighting animations, there's currently development in other areas of the program that should help our users get the results that they want out of Moviestorm.
Over the last few iterations of Moviestorm, we received the occasional comment from users that it would be nice if there was an option to turn the background mountains on and off, depending on your scene. As it happens the last time that it was mentioned, we were discussing the code changes that are required for the next release and this time, the feature made it into our list. Dave is in the process off looking into a mechanism to show/ hide the background mountains, and we're aiming to get this new functionality into 1.4.2.
Also, there's going to be new elements of the UI which will help organise multiple, similar items in the Dressing Room. This means that you will be able to select a hat (for example) for your character, and then decide on which sub-object of the hat you want from a separate panel. This means that you can have 20 variations of similar hats using only one “master” thumbnail, meaning that you don't have to scroll through every variation when you dress another character.

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Where'd we go?

The UK is going into standby mode for a couple of weeks.

This weekend is Easter, so we all get a holiday on Good Friday and Easter Monday. Then we have a three-day week, and on Friday 29th the whole country gets the day off to watch the Royal Wedding. And then the first Monday in May is our traditional May Day Bank Holiday, and we all get to go back to work on Tuesday, May 3 with king-size hangovers.

Not surprisingly, as many people as possible are taking a few days off next week so that they can get eleven days off and only take three days out of their holiday allowance. As a result, everything is going to be a little quiet around the office, so don't be surprised if it takes us longer than usual to respond to support queries.

Friday 8 April 2011

New Smartphone – free for paying customers.

We are giving away a Smartphone for your Moviestorm scenes, with a collection of animations so that your characters can now call, take photos, swipe the phone's screen and other related actions! The phone also features a tintable case and four screen variations.

If you have a current Moviestorm subscription (permanent or periodically), you can download this item free. Just go to the free asset page to download it!

Monday 4 April 2011

Modding section of the site goes live!

As promised on Friday, we've been working hard on hosting our previous tutorials on the website in a new Modding section, which I can now announce as live!
In addition to the more complicated Max to Moviestorm workflow, we've also created a quick Sketch-up tutorial to make sure that we cater for everyone.
You can find the new section of the website by going to modding and we'll be updating this section very shortly to provide even more information about importing your own assets into Moviestorm.

Friday 1 April 2011

New modding tutorials coming soon!

The new website is starting to stabilize and the staff at Moviestorm Towers are beginning to get a feel for the new "engine", and how it's going to help us get more information to you, so that you can use Moviestorm to its fullest potential.

As the new engine allows any company member to create and edit pages, I thought it would be a good idea to put this to the test by means of a practical task. We're always trying to encourage our users to get into modding but it's obviously quite difficult to get started without some guidelines and tips... So, after a quick introduction on how the web interface works, we started to put together a very concise "How To" section of the website, especially dedicated to people who are trying to get their own content into Moviestorm (please see the attached image).

We're hoping to get these pages live at some point next week, and they will include tutorials on every aspect of Moviestorm Modding, from importing images, through Google Sketchup and finally some really in depth stuff for all you Max, Blender, Milkshape gurus.

For those of you who want a quick preview of the kind of stuff we'll be featuring, please take a look at the following video...

Watch this space!

Friday 25 March 2011

Paint It Black

If you head on over to you'll see that it's all rather different.

Well - some bits are different. Some bits are still in the process of change, but a lot of it has been updated to a new shiny black look. Long-term Moviestormers may even remember our very first Web site, which was black as well. I guess that means black is the new new black or something.

Let us know what you think!

Monday 14 March 2011

Moviestorm in Education - Long Road 6th Form College.

At the end of last week, Alex and I had the pleasure of going into Long Road Sixth Form College, Cambridge to show some of the L2 students how to use Moviestorm for an upcoming project that they have to complete as part of their Media Studies course.
As we had the opportunity to spend most of the day with the class, Alex introduced the students to the Set Workshop view in the first session and then we answered a few questions while they practised making their own sets within Moviestorm. We had just enough time to demonstrate the Dressing Room and Directors View before lunch, and finished the day with the Camera Workshop View and Cutting Room. The students picked up the software very quickly and were able to start assembling scenes in a very short time (despite a couple of hardware issues that we have brought back to the dev team to find solutions for), and seemed comfortable finding solutions to their problems between them when they got stuck. Seeing their progress was a testament to their computer skills, and also reinforced our beliefs that most people can get a project up and running in Moviestorm within a day, even if they are new to the software.
We'd like to thank Steven Thorne at Long Road Sixth Form College for allowing us to come in and demonstrate Moviestorm, and to the students for being so receptive. We look forward to returning and seeing your movies in a few weeks' time!

Thursday 10 March 2011

Making better movies with Moviestorm

We've written a lot on the main blog recently about how you can use Moviestorm to practice film techniques. Several people contacted us to ask whether we had any specific examples of how to do it. I’ve therefore been putting together a collection of simple exercises you can do to learn specific techniques, under the working title Making Better Movies with Moviestorm.

These exercises are all fairly adaptable. Generally, you don't need any particular packs or content: any version of Moviestorm will do. Most of them work on the same principle: take a single scene, and film it in several different ways. You can use the same scene over and over again if you want - I often use a short scene from one of Per Holmes's training DVDs, and another, slightly longer one, from a parody soap opera I was working on some years ago. This is actually a pretty good way of working, as you can focus explicitly on the one aspect you're practicing, and reuse much of what you've previously done; sets, characters, recorded dialog, and so on. You'll also develop an increasing empathy with the scene, and you'll find each take getting better and better, rather like a musician practicing the same piece over and over. When you've worked your way through several exercises, you can compare all the different versions with your first attempt, and see what you've achieved.

These exercises aren't specific only to making movies with Moviestorm. They're standard techniques that apply to all forms of film. For example, one focuses on filming a scene without moving cameras, and then filming it again but allowing the camera to move. Another requires you to shoot the same scene with and without extras. You can then take what you've learned to any other film-making medium - full CG animation, live action, or whatever. The advantage of using Moviestorm is that you can practice when it's convenient for you, and you don't need to assemble a cast and crew each time. And if you're not happy with what you've done, you can easily go back and do it again and again until you're satisfied.

Each exercise takes somewhere between an hour and an evening, depending on what's involved and how long you want to spend on it. Each one uses a standard format:
  • Technique: what you’re going to focus on
  • Purpose: why this is important
  • Preparation: what you need (typically, the type of scene that works best for this)
  • Exercise: what you do
  • Review: analysis of the two versions and how they differ
  • Followup exercises: more things you can try to develop this technique
I‘ve so far written up about half a dozen of these, with around ten more sketched out. Before I release them, however, I want to make some videos that will show what each exercise is highlighting (i.e. the same scene filmed with locked and moving cameras), and possibly create some downloadable Moviestorm movies that you can use to get going.

We’ll probably release these exercises initially through the blog, then we’ll collate them on the Web site. If there’s demand, we’ve been talking about putting them into an ebook for wider release.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Awesome exercise fellow

Sometimes, moderating the comments on Moviestorm News brings us a chuckle. Here's the best spam comment on the blog today:

"I totaly correspond with your period attendant! I look up to the stuff you office and the quality selective information you offer in your blog! Keep ready the awesome exercise fellow."

Yes! I shall keep ready my awesome exercise fellow!

Thursday 3 March 2011

Changes to subscriptions

We have replaced our payment system provider due to an unacceptable level of problems. If you are one of those who encountered billing problems, please accept our apologies.

As a result of this change, if you have one of the old-style Moviestorm recurring subscriptions (i.e. a Bronze, Silver or Gold with points every month), or a new-style recurring subscription prior to February, it will expire when it reaches its next renewal point. In order to continue using Moviestorm after this time, you will need to set up a new subscription. Sorry about this - we're not entitled to simply use your existing details to set up a new arrangement on your behalf.

Users without subscriptions, or users with a subscription in the last month will not be affected.

If you have any queries, problems with broken accounts, renewal problems, or any issues at all with the new system, please contact us on or via the support system on the Web site.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Matt's talking... again

I'm just about to record a half-hour internet radio show with Michael Cornetto of Simply Scripts. He's the man behind The Dark anthology, a horror series made in Moviestorm. He's based in Melbourne, Australia, one of the co-hosts, Pia, is in Gainesville, North Florida (a few hours drive from me), and the third guy, Don, is in Virginia, so we're doing it all via Skype.

The show, Simply Radio, is aimed primarily at scriptwriters, and we'll be talking about how Moviestorm can be useful to creative people who normally aren't involved in the film-making process. I'm not sure when it's going out, but when I do, I'll let you know.

Friday 18 February 2011

A visit to Texas

I rounded off my week with a short trip to Texas. It's quite a drive from Central Florida, so I went via Skype, which meant I could be back for lunch.

Over at the University of North Texas in Denton, James Martin teaches filmmaking (not to be confused with the James Martin who does iClone's training). He's running a new class on visual storytelling, and is getting his students to use Moviestorm as a fast, easy way to tell their stories. They asked me to come in and chat to them about it, and what makes it different to working with other animation tools or film techniques. And, of course, to get their feedback on what they like and don't like about the software.

I really enjoy working with students, and being able to pop into a university 1200 miles away without leaving my house feels magnificently futuristic. They were also amused every time my small black kitten decided to climb up the back of my chair and perch on my head. Well, James did specifically say he wanted an informal session! It's a great indicator of the way education's changing too: using technology is totally transforming the learning process in so many ways, and it's all so very different to when I was at university in the mid-1980s.

I'm really pleased that James has asked me to be one of the evaluators of their final projects. The class have agreed to let us follow their progress throughout the rest of the semester as they take their stories from initial concept to finished movie, as well as learning how to use Moviestorm. They've got some ambitious ideas, and it'll be extremely interesting to see how they meet the creative & technical challenges they've set themselves. I'm really looking forward to seeing what they make, and if they give me permission, I'll share some of it with you as we go.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

Skeletons Released into the Wild!

Well, the time has finally arrived!

A few lucky users will have already received an email with the download instructions for the Moviestorm Skeleton files.

Over the next couple of days, we'll be updating the list of video tutorials so that our pioneer modders will have all the information needed to export characters, props, animations, accessories, etc. from their chosen 3D package into Moviestorm.

As you can imagine, this is quite a scary time for us. We're hoping that this will lead to a wider modding community, of users who are able to generate their own quality content within Moviestorm, but it does kind of feel that we've opened Pandora's Box! Time will tell... Hopefully with our users' help, we will soon be able to define export processes from all the major 3D tools for content that is then useable in Moviestorm.

For those of you that applied for the skeletons, but haven't yet received an invitation, don't worry. We will arrange a second batch as soon as we can, and we won't ignore anyone.

There is also a dedicated forum to this project in the Modding Section of our message boards, and you can bet we'll be popping in from time to time to see what's happening!

Friday 11 February 2011

Skeletons Update

Just a quick note to update you keen modders on the release of the Moviestorm skeletons...

For the people that have registered their interest in joining the Beta program for the skeletons (for want of a better phrase), we sent out a short email explaining why the release has been slightly delayed. Basically, we've recorded a few tutorials using Camtasia screen grab software that show how we use the data here at Moviestorm, to try and give you guys as much of a head start as possible. We're now at the stage where all this stuff has been recorded (with nice voice-overs, explaining the processes), but the file sizes for the videos are huge (many gigabytes)! So, a little re-packing is required, then we'll get the pack put together and ready to go out, in a more manageable bundle.

For our first group of users, we already have more than enough requests. But don't let that stop you, just drop us an email at if you are interested in getting hold of the skeletons, and we'll keep your contact details on record for the next round of releases, which will hopefully become more and more user-friendly as the pioneers point out the flaws in the export processes.

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Valentine's Day pack available in app

Ben finally recovered enough to make it into work and build the patch for the Valentine's Day pack, so you can now get it directly from the Moviestorm launcher as well as from the Web site.

Just hit Get More Content when you start it up, then you can rent or buy it (or try it free for 7 days).

Monday 7 February 2011

Valentine's Day mayhem, continued

On Friday, we told you we were releasing the Valentine's Day pack in two stages.

"Unfortunately Ben, who's the mastermind for the patches, was taken ill and had to go home early before he could complete the patch creation process. Rather than have someone else take over part-way through, and risk screwing up what he'd already done, we opted to put the tested standalone version in the marketplace today, and let Ben complete the patching on Monday when he's recovered."

Of course, we assumed that Ben would be back on Monday. He's still unwell, so we're having to delay the release of the patch a little longer. In the meantime, you can still get the pack from the Marketplace.

Friday 4 February 2011

Valentine's Day mayhem

We released the Valentine's pack today. Normally we don't release on Fridays, but since Valentine's Day is only ten days away, we figured we shouldn't wait till Monday.

You'll notice from the announcement on Moviestorm News that you can only get it from the Marketplace until Monday. if you fire up Moviestorm and hit Get More Content, it won't appear. This is because of the way we package the addons. We have to make two versions of each addon pack. One's a standalone version that goes into the marketplace so you can download the pack from the Web site. This was ready yesterday as planned.

Then we make a second version of the pack which is a patch update, so you can get this directly from Moviestorm without going to the Web site to purchase it. Unlike code updates, these get flagged as optional updates, so you only get them once you've got a license to the pack. The patch then has to get tested separately to make sure it shows up in the Moviestorm launcher and installs properly. We didn't manage to get to this bit yesterday, and were planning to do it today.

Unfortunately Ben, who's the mastermind for the patches, was taken ill and had to go home early before he could complete the patch creation process. Rather than have someone else take over part-way through, and risk screwing up what he'd already done, we opted to put the tested standalone version in the marketplace today, and let Ben complete the patching on Monday when he's recovered.

Sorry for the inconvenience & any confusion - however, this way at least you can get the pack now instead of waiting.

Tuesday 1 February 2011

Beta testers needed for skeleton modding

At long last, we've got the skeleton data ready to ship out. Before we put it on general release, we're looking for 5 or 6 experienced modders to check it through and make sure it all works OK in a modding environment.

What we're asking of our beta crew is this:
  • You'll need a copy of 3DS Max 2008 (or above) with a cal3D exporter. Earlier versions of Max will not open the files.
  • You've had some experience with animating, skinning and creating meshes.
  • Don't share the actual data with anyone until we give you the go-ahead. You can release mods you make with it, though - making sure other people can use them is a critical part of the testing!
  • Talk to each other and try to sort out as much as you can before asking the dev team for help. We'll create a dedicated forum where you can discuss the skeletons, and we'll look in from time to time and give advice where it's most needed.
  • Be prepared to assist other modders when we make the data public: either help out in the forums or make some tutorials.
To register your interest in being part of the beta crew, please email Numbers will initially be very limited. We'd like initial feedback from you in the next few weeks, so if you're not going to have time to look at this any time soon, please don't take a spot that someone else could use.

Monday 31 January 2011

Bare bones...

This came in from Chris this morning.

"I have stripped the Male and Female base files to a minimum state and put them on [the server]."

They need a quick check over from Ben & Amos before we sign them off, and then we'll be able to release the Moviestorm skeletons to the modding community. With luck, that'll be some time this week, but no absolutely guarantees.

They'll be unsupported and undocumented, but we're sure that some of the more enterprising modders will find ways to make them work and do some weird and wonderful stuff with them.

Monday 24 January 2011

Bad code go away now

Some days, I get so wrapped up in Moviestorm as a movie-making tool that I forget it's a piece of software made out of hundreds of thousands of lines of hand-written code. And even once we've got those lines of code to actually do what we want them to do, that's not the same thing as making them do it efficiently. This cartoon from xkcd explains why.

So every often, we go through the code and see if we can figure out what it's actually doing. We find loads of places where it's taking two steps forward and one step back, and try to see if we can make it just take one step forward instead of doing the hokey-cokey all over the place. Here's an email Julian sent me at the end of last week which will give you an insight into what this actually entails.
Well, I've had fun this week. I did some profiling and found that there were some very odd things going on. Why, for example, were there over 160,000 bounding boxes in a particular - fairly simply - scene? Why did the performance problems and crashes only happen when I switched views? And the like...

You will be glad to know that I have answers to both of these and more. A few accidents, going back to last summer, resulted in some innocuous code being checked in. Innocent it looked. But it had the side-effect of adding multiple copies of objects to the scene when it was loaded or changed view. If you stayed in the set workshop though, you'd never see it. And in fact, I found two completely different areas of code where this was happening, leading to a seriously exponential over-allocation, gobbling of RAM, and also CPU cycles. I have removed the first offending item as it was an accident; and I have added extra bullet-proofing to stop the second happening.

Thirdly, those 160,000 boxes came about as a result of some debug code that was used to test our snapping sockets. When you stacked objects, the collision detection system got a bit confused trying to partition things and got stuck in recursive hell. The code was unused anyway, and I have removed it.

Lastly, I have made further modifications - I have speeded up some of the critical loops in the code, and also cut out a bunch of redundant work. The result is that movies load a bit faster, take significantly less memory, and render faster. We think that the performance reduction happened in the summer for release 1.4.1 - we had a few reports of sluggishness. If so, we should be nimbler now than we were then. You should see the results for the next release of the product.

Toodle pip!
If that made no sense, here's a translation for non-programmers. "Unused code made it go slow when you did stuff. Took out kludges & spaghetti and made it better."

Go Jules!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Changes to Moviestorm payment systems

Some time next week, we're planning to roll out some changes to the way our payment systems work. PayPal have changed their APIs, and so we're taking the opportunity to address some of the things that have been irritating us throughout most of 2010. We're ripping out the third party billing system we've been using, and will now be dealing directly with PayPal. You don't need a PayPal account - you can still use a credit card.

With luck, you won't notice anything particularly different, as the changes are all behind the scenes. This will give us a more secure and more reliable system that's easier for us to use and administer. This should also fix most of the billing errors you reported to us. The sequence in which you enter data will change a bit, but otherwise it's mostly the same. The screen layout will be a bit different too, but not in any significant way.

One thing that will change is since recurring payments will now be handled directly from PayPal, you'll have more options if you want to cancel your sub. You can choose to do it by going to your account on the Moviestorm site or you can go to PayPal and cancelling it there.

Tuesday 18 January 2011

We do wear suits. Sometimes.

We sent the A-team (Andrew, Amos and Alex) to London last week for BETT, the largest educational technology show in Europe. It was a huge venue, and our little stand felt a bit lost in the middle of it all.

However, as you can see, people did manage to find us. Here's Andrew being interviewed by Martin Stanford of Sky News. So it was worth wearing the suit after all.

It was a tiring week, as these things usually are, but it was good to meet with so many people working in all parts of the educational system, particularly longtime Moviestormer Iain "Iceaxe" Friar.

We were actually taken aback by how much attention we got amidst everything else that was going on. Alex and Amos gave back to back demos from start to finish, and ended up hoarse partway through the second day. All the software trials were taken, and we had to rush out half-way through the show and print more fliers. Alex summed up the event perfectly in his message back to the team afterwards: "I was astonished about the response almost as much as the potential clients were about the software." Andrew, meanwhile, excitedly texted back that he'd just been told we were the "best solution at the show".

We're looking forward to BETT 2012.

Saturday 15 January 2011


Ben found himself alone in the office yesterday. We'll let him take the story from here...

"Only one in the office on a Friday, so went to country instead. Found a video in a broken video recorder abandoned in a country garden. Has some strange footage. Warning: apparently female faeries have yet to discover clothing."

Friday 14 January 2011

Deflecting lasers

Ben's been playing around with some of the new swordfighting animations and some lasers (with hide). Add in some of the Earcom scifi sounds, and this is what you can do.

Friday 7 January 2011

Back to school

Here's a first look at some of the school-themed content we'll be showing at BETT in London this week. If you're involved in education, come along and see us at stand W23.

New items include school uniforms, the interactive whiteboard, the overhead projector, the chest of drawers, and textbooks.

Monday 3 January 2011

Prima the magical unicorn

Look what Chris did over Christmas after one too many glasses of Bailey's...