The Changing Economics of Animation

by Jimmy Akin

in Economics, Film and TV, Science Fiction, Technology

Chamallaron Longtime readers of the blog know that I have interests in technology and economics and in how the former is impacting the latter.

One of the ways it is doing so is changing the world of entertainment. In times past, as it has been said, freedom of the press belonged to those who owned a press–presses being expensive things that most people didn't have. But with the Internet, everyone can have the equivalent of a press if they want it, and the blogosphere is radically changing things.

So are electronic publishing and print-on-demand services.

Something similar is happening in the world of film. Now ordinary folks can make films on the cheap and distribute them in ways that would never have been possible before. Like the fan-produced film I blogged last year, The Hunt For Gollum.

New technology is also affecting the world of animation. Not only is traditional animation being impacted by computer generated animation at the studio level, it's also being impacted as the level of ordinary folks, with people using machinima to produce series like Red vs. Blue.

Machinima (a Japanese-esque variation on the word "machine") commonly involves taking the cgi-producing graphics engine of a video game and re-purposing it to serve as the cgi-engine for the user's own videos. In other words, you're hijacking a game's graphics capabilities to make your own movies.

The premier example of this is the afore-mentioned Red vs. Blue, which is often hilarious but which also often involves bad language (so be warned).

Machinima typically involves using a technology in a way other than what it was designed for, but that's not the only way technology is impacting animation by ordinary people.

"So what does all this have to do with Kara Thrace?" you are asking.

Well, we are now at the dawn of text-to-animation services, such as those offered by XtraNormal.Com, where their slogan is, "If you can type, you can make movies."

With their service, you type in a script, with stage directions that their software can make sense of, and it produces a short CGI movie that you can upload to YouTube or whatever.

I've been tempted to try it myself, but . . . y'know . . . stuff.

And the technology is still at a primitive stage. . . . So Far. (Expect this to change radically and rapidly. Y'know, within our lifetimes type stuff.)

This hasn't stopped YouTube user HighlandsTechno (or people connected to him) from using the service to produce a series of Galactica-related videos.

Some of these involve people from their web board (wherever it is), who ask questions of Ron Moore in the wake of the Galactica finale (which makes this a surprise bonus post on the finale, yay!)

For some reason (not quite sure why, but not trying too hard to guess, either), Ron Moore is depicted in these videos as a clown. Go figure.

(BTW, "Ron"'s responses aren't authentic, either. They're what the creators suppose his responses might be–commedically.)

One video is by ChamallaExtract/Mo, who asks "Ron" some questions regarding Kara Thrace.

I find myself much in agreement with him. Like him, I don't need a technical explanation of how everything that happened with her, but I would like a little more clarity regarding what happened.

Specifically: I don't mind her suddenly disappearing after her angelic nature had been revealed (angels do things like that), but when did she actually become an angel?

Was it when her ship blew up over the gas giant? If so, why did we find her body (which should have been blown into itty-bitty pieces) on Old Earth? Was it when she returned from the dead and met Lee in the season 3 finale? Had she always been angel, the whole time we knew the character? Was she an angel appearing in the form of a pigeon to Lee in the series finale flashbacks? What about her apparent human (Colonial marine) mother and apparent angelic (struggling musician) father?

And how shocking is it that Baltar would find Kara's blood on her dog tags when Kara herself provided those dog tags to Baltar? What does that prove?

I'm not looking for full, detailed explanations but for . . . something Moore.

Anyway, here's the video:

Also, there are similar videos telling the story of the making of the series.They also include adolescent jokes and bad language so, y'know, viewer beware.

And that's how animation is changing.

Amazing how far we've come technologically, and how far we haven't. 

What are your thoughts?

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Nick May 25, 2010 at 11:28 pm

It’s something new and old, new in the way and old in the thing. Advancement of technology and its use by the public has almost always existed throughout the ages. But way this advancement and use is has changed, is new, a la the Internet.

Foxfier May 26, 2010 at 12:16 am

Ooh, music videos, too.
Ignore subject matter and music, watch the skill in the crafting.

italian reader May 26, 2010 at 6:39 am

The clown character reminds me of Darph Bobo from “Tripping the Rift”… maybe a quotation?

Devin Rose May 26, 2010 at 6:46 am

I got a big kick out of one of the xtranormal movies on Calvinist evangelization that I made one myself regarding the canon of Scripture:
These videos are very cool. One on the King James Only Bible was interesting as well.

JohnE May 26, 2010 at 7:40 am

“Make your own plot, and answer your own questions.”
That’s funny. That pretty much sums up the Kara Thrace story from other board posts I’ve read. It’s like modern art where you put a dot on the wall and everyone comments on its deep and various meanings. Whatever. It’s as though Ron Moore said, “I’ve left too many loose ends; Here, YOU tie them up, or not, I have a clown dance to do.”

Lee May 26, 2010 at 11:33 am

Here is one of the finest examples of Machinima.

Foxfier May 26, 2010 at 2:56 pm

Ooh, Oxhorn, too….

Adam D May 27, 2010 at 4:11 am

I’m also quite interested in how technology is developing along these lines. One thing I’d like to see happen is a mash-up between live-acted stage production and effects-driven Hollywood style storytelling. I’m envisioning something where people go out to see a movie on a big screen, like X-Men 20. But at the bottom of the big screen they can also see all the actors in motion capture suits and a team of technical wizards to effect set changes, and special effects timings and a director to choreograph them all. So actors are acting, but the product you came for is a live computer rendering of their performance, their voices attached. And maybe there’d be a live orchestra. Kinda expensive affair with high ticket prices I guess. But I like the idea that it could bring some real spontaneity and live acting to our dominant art form of the (3d!) movie.

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