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DEAD ROAD - OUT NOW ON VIMEO


Bunky Snowbear
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DEAD ROAD is the story of a terminally-ill woman and her doctor seeking salvation in an apocalyptic world.

 

Filmed opportunistically over 19 months on a budget of 5000L, the film was only made possible with the dedication and enthusiansm of a few good SL friends and the blessings of the owners of the sims that form the backdrops to the film.

DEAD ROAD is inspired by recent grindhouse revivalist films such as Planet Terror, Deathproof, Dusk till Dawn (Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez), classic exploitation cinema such as Mad Max (George Miller) and gritty road/apocalypse movies such as Wild at Heart (David Lynch) and The Road (John Hillcoat). The film uses traditional live action camera techniques and devices in an attempt to emulate the feel of one of my favourite genres.

The biggest challenge was how to convey such a story in the shortest possible time without it feeling too rushed. The film could have easily ran for over an hour but that would have tested the patience of most web viewers, most of who only have the attention span for watching a cat fall into a swimming pool. The timing needed to be snappy but just the right length to allow the story, atmosphere and characters to soak in without resulting in viewer boredom. Another challenge (or experiment) was to see if I could generate an emotional response from viewers through sympathy with the main characters.

One of the pleasures of making machinima is to watch a film develop organically. For me, I find it best to come up with a rough idea of how you want it to looks but to keep an open mind and let all the pieces fall into place while filming. Some of my favourite shots were completely unplanned, an animation or prop that a friend tries out that just fits the bill perfectly. More often than not, the finished product turns out better than expected.

From this project I hope DEAD ROAD inspires budding film makers and machinimists alike to realise the great potential Second Life has to offer as a vehicle for story telling. While I haven’t much experience with other virtual worlds, Second Life offers almost infinite camera positioning and motion, seamless environmental controls and a costume and prop department the envy of any film maker. And the best thing is if you can’t find a prop or costume, you can simply make one. All this, virtually for free without leaving the comfort of your house. It surprises me that film students are not embracing Second Life as a way to make a pitch, story board or even turn their entire films into reality.

A few other points...

 

  • Dead Road was filmed using Xfire screen capture with Phoenix Viewer. Post production was done using Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5. Old programs, but effective.
  • The 640px format is only due to hardware limitations and my current connection speed. The low quality capture format was neccessary to reduce lag, along with shooting most of the action sequences on a low inworld graphics setting. Not my ideal scenario but I make do with what I have.
  • Voice has not been used as in my opinion, without professional voice actors, unconvincing voice can diminish the overall effect and quality of a film. It was either professional voice actors (unaffordable) or no voice at all. For the most part, Second Life is voiceless, so reading subtitles is apt and easy for Second Lifers. Like other Cinema Minima films, subtitles are kept to a bare minimum and I try to let the action and music convey the story. Most viewers don't need everything spelled out to them.
  • I decided not to obsess over the HD smoothness or realism that some machinimists favour. For this story, it is the composition of shots, the lighting, the costumes, the characters and the sounds that drive the story. I am also a observer of the "Uncanny Valley" effect, whereby the more realistic an imitation of a real person or place is, the less aesthetically pleasing it can become. Just my personal taste. The overall effect of my priorities lends a feel more like a cartoon or traditional animation, which I am pleased with.

Some may take issue with the unauthorised use of music in the film. Current laws around copyright and fair use are flaky and have loopholes, but regardless I stand by my passionate beliefs that...

 

  • provided a user is not making a single cent from the unauthorised use of music, there is nothing “stolen”
  • music only remains “alive” if it is played. Music will only make money if it is “alive” (played), not sitting forgotten in an archive somewhere
  • all the music used was from my personal collection which I obtained using my hard earned money
  • all the artists I hold in the highest regard and have giving due credit
  • Without the unauthorised use of music by not for profit film makers, there would be far less creative output and popular culture would be poorer for it
  • If licence holders were truly serious about unauthorised use of music (which they are to varying degrees under different circumstances) and if current laws favoured all their demands (they don’t), video sharing sites such as YouTube would have to remove around 80-90% of their content.
  • I can't afford a composer and backing bands/orchestras, and I don't have a spare $500,000 to pay for the rights.
  • You wouldn't be watching much machinima without it, and I wouldn't be making it. In my opinion the world is a better place with machinima.

These are just my personal opinions. You are welcome to disagree.

 

So I hope you enjoy the film and it inspires or informs your own creative ideas. Please share it with your friends if you do! More Cinema Minima Films from Second Life can be viewed HERE

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