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Monday, November 01, 2004

MACHINIMA RETURNS TO SECOND LIFE (WITH A VENGEANCE!)

The perils of the singles scene in Second Life, illustrated in "Bloody Mary", an engaging (and very M-rated) machinima from Pierce Portocarrero. Click here to watch-- then click below, to read more on the art and science behind the gory wackiness.

With its ironic tone and witty editing, Pierce Portocarrero's represents a significant leap in artistry for SL machinima (two of the most notable, as in here and here, are stylish marriage videos), and that may have to do with how Pierce came to Second Life.

"Six months ago during the interactive media festival known as South by SouthWest," he tells me, "I attended a lecture by the guys who created the online machinima series Red vs Blue. I returned home to [the West coast]heavily inspired with machinimation dreams. To help prove my thoughts were in the right place, Destiny gave me a wink. Flashing on my computer when I returned from Austin was a Yahoo message from a friend who I had lost contact with over the years: SL resident Nephilaine Protagonist."

Nephilaine's a top in-world fashion designer-- and the creator of second montage linked above. "Earlier in life," Pierce continues, "she introduced me to sushi during my [Southern] community college years. During our reunion, she first showed me this new on-line world. My machinima career began that evening."

His experience with filmmaking, however, began even earlier. "I've been using the video camera to impress girls since I first found them attractive in junior high," he says. "After high school, I became a local celebrity by producing a dirt track racing sports show called 'Thunder in the Swamp'. Then came a year of film school before changing majors. I found it easy transitioning these skills into Second Life."

A transition he describes with metaphors appropriate to the mind behind "Bloody Mary". "I've cut my wrists on traditional animation," says Portocarrero. "It's dead to me. It lacks the spontaneity found in reality since all shots must be planned extensively. Shooting in SL is much more like an evening at the race track, except you don't have to worry about the camera being out of focus during the ten car pile up."

Previous to this, Portocarrero has shot in-world music videas and an unpublished commercial for Nephilaine's Pixel Dolls fashion line. So "Bloody Mary", he says, represents "a beginning attempt at telling a story using SL." Working a little like an online Haskell Wexler, Portocarrero shot footage of an actual, unstaged party, then figured out how to shape it in the cutting room. "It started out as purely a mental exercise," he says. "Could I take a random event in Second Life and spontaneously through the magic of editing convey a narrative? During this instance we got lucky."

Of course, he had ways of enhancing that luck. "As the piece began to take shape, I made the decision to cheat just a little, to better tell the story. Luckily, one of my great friends Neil Protagonist specializes in effects. Together we created the gore using a combination of tools like Photoshop, After Effects, and Digital Fusion. We simply just composited graphics over the live video captured. My girlfriend brilliantly suggested I use title cards similar to the type used in silent movies. Then she feverishly hand drew them all out."

Unlike the music for most machinima, the catchily hip song accompanying "Bloody Mary" does not involve an, uh, liberal interpretation of existing copyright law. "The piece needed an excellent musical track to unify all of the shots," he says. "However, I wanted fellow Second Lifers to enjoy the short without the nightmare of the RIAA stealing my soul. We settled on using music protected by Creative Commons. It gives the artist a little exposure and I can sleep soundly at night. After a quick search on the Web, the track 'Cold Marble' by Clyde Federal immediately become the only possible choice."

Portocarrero bestows enormous credit on the residents, for his efforts. "It's their work and love which inspired the creation of 'Bloody Mary'. Together they all have created this absurd, insane, and utterly beautiful new world. I just want to be around to film their genius."

He'll also be around to execute even more ambitious plans. "Eventually by the end of next year," says Portocarrero, "I intend on directing the first feature film in Second Life. In the meantime, I plan on honing my skills by trying to capture a small amount of the creativity which can be found everywhere in SL. I am certain the machinima movement will in time produce a Stanley Kubrick. He won't be me, but perhaps I could become its Ed Wood."

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