Tuesday 19 November 2013

Education: A Cinematic Approach to Filmmaking with Moviestorm

Here at Moviestorm we are delighted to bring you a case study by Gerry Paquette, Game Development Professor at Algonquin College, Ottawa, Canada.

Mr Paquette discovered Moviestorm after searching for an filmmaking alternative for his students.
Here, he tells of his journey with Moviestorm and the effects it has had on his class, education and learning. 

Video game cutscenes and cinematics are staged within computer generated environments populated by virtual actors whose performances are recorded using simulated lights and cameras. 

As experienced gamers, my students are inherently aware of this fact making it hard for them to justify all time and effort required in learning how to operate standard digital video.   

My efforts to resolve this inadequacy lead me to consider using machinima and further research along these lines eventually led me to Moviestorm - a tool which removes all these hurdles making machinima accessible to all.

My students took to Moviestorm quite readily thanks to its game-like features.


Popular features


One of the most popular modules was the Dressing Room where they quickly figured out how to create virtual representations of themselves and their classmates often with hilarious results as they pushed the various parameters for eyes, ears, and noses to their limits. 

Navigating within the Set Workshop and Directors View was equally intuitive through the use of the WASD keys commonly used in games. 

Female students, in particular, seemed to appreciate the Sims-like interface used to control a characters movements and interactions with the set or other characters.

As an educator, one Moviestorm feature that I greatly appreciate is how it imbeds the classic “rule of thirds” composition guidelines into the user interface. 
 Rather than simulate real camera controls such as tilt, dolly, and pan, Moviestorm presents users with compositional lines attached to the characters which facilitates the placement of their bodies and eye levels within a picture plane that is subtly divided into thirds. 

Reflecting real-world limitations


A few students did experience some frustration when they realized that Moviestorm did not provide complete freedom in the manipulation of objects and characters which they are accustomed to having when working with regular 3D modeling and animation software. 

However, I found that these virtual world constraints to be a great benefit as they reflect the real-world limitations that need to be overcome when making movies.

There’s a lot of trickery involved in making the audience believe what in what is presented to them on the screen and many of the techniques developed for film are equally effective in Moviestorm.


Student examples 


The illusions of a character falling into a bottomless pit, for example, can be created in both worlds through the use of a green screen. One of my students needed to make his character appear as if he had been shrunk down to the size of an action figure. 

Just as in real filmmaking, the way he found to accomplish visual effect was to place the character onto a wooden floor and surround him with oversized desk props such as a lamp and computer.

Working with virtual sets, rather expansive 3D environments, is also useful in terms of screen direction.
Since most sets feature just 3 walls, it’s practically impossible to place your camera in such a way that will break the 180-degree rule which must be adhered to diligently in order to keep the audience oriented in a scene.


Thanks to this new approach, I’m finally able to see cinematic results in the work produced by my students.

There’s nothing so rewarding for me then to cut them loose for their final assignment and watch as the group together to create engaging movies featuring gun fights, bank robberies, car chases, alien encounters, and even cast themselves as the struggling protagonists in a zombie apocalypse. 

The time and effort they put into these movies, often going above and well beyond my requirements, clearly demonstrate just how powerful a tool like Moviestorm can be in enabling learners.


Read this and other education case studies on the Moviestorm website at http://www.moviestorm.co.uk/hub/teaching/teaching_case_studies

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