Saturday, August 27, 2005

Virtually on Film

Staying in a gaming vibe for ... well, whenever the hell I get bored with it, Alice at Wonderland: leads us to this: mapping famous scenes and sets from movies using Unreal Tournament build engine.

Two notes off this -- from a film-making standpoint, there are several software packages that allow one to storyboard your shots. You actually build your set/location in the software, and then you can literally move your camera around, see where you'll wind up smacking into walls, etc. The problem unfortunately is that graphically they're all pretty much crap. They give you, as far as I can tell, very little advantage over pencil storyboards and a good DP. (if someone's used these and loved them, I'd love to hear the story) If some bright young fella licensed the Unreal Engine and smacked it together with the camera gizmos in such software -- essentially took the rough edges of machinima/in game moviemaking and ported it back out to rl movie-making, they may be able to make a nice little splash.

(Now that I'm in theory taking some time off, I want to try to crack the filmmaking in Sims 2. That seems like a good half-step. Although Molyneux's The Movies looks fascinating)

Second, a quick build of rl locations for instructional purposes becomes even more viable. The military's already using commercially available games for training. If a new student at a particularly maze-like campus, like say MIT (which I believe has one building with the third longest series of continuous corridors in the world, right behind the Kremlin and the Pentagon) had that campus available as a 3-D game map, how helpful would that be for incoming freshmen?

... Although the majority of the readers here aren't gamers like I am, but a few of you will know what I mean: if you were to somehow transport me physically to WoW and drop me in Khaz Modan or Ogrimmar, I could run to the bank, pick up my dry cleaning and be bac k at the inn before you could finish grunting "Stop touching meeee!"



It sounds neat, but I'm lazy. I wouldn't do anything like that until I could scan in the building plans, or run a robot down the actual corridor with a camera and build the map without any actual effort... of course such a program wouldn't be tough to make now that I think about it.

But then, you spend a lot of time in WoW by the sounds of it. How long do you think you'd spend in a virtual MIT corridor learning your way around? I wouldn't have shown up at uni for a single day if there weren't girls there. Then again a virtual tour might work but how's that better than a video tour other than you get to pick which order you go in, which can also be done well with a video tour split into segments. You'd need to include the MIT grounds in a Quake level or something to have a decent effect on the knowledge of the students, and then they'd all be mad that they didn't find guns lying where "they're supposed to be."

The first idea is good though, as long as it's easy enough for someone without the geek gene to use.

Rogers said...

Ah, but the video tour isn't interactive. You learn much faster if you can explore, make mistakes and then self-correct those mistakes. You could also build the virtual tour faster than a video tour -- branched video, having had friends who shot it for games and instructionals, is a BEAR of a time-eater in production and editing.

Your point about the virtual storyboarding is quite true. What's frustratgin is that, there's this tech over here and then this creative communtiy who needs tech over there and people rarely cross between.

The only person I know, personally, who storyboards on computers nonstop is Dean Devlin. He's got a beautiful little stripped-down pod doing it, because he's figure dout how to do it on all commercially available home-computer powered software.

moses said...

Think Full Spectrum Warrior was modified for commercial release. Originally a training tool used by the Army. Won't get into the whole video games cause violence but apparently someone thinks it'll make you better at it.

Kira said...

Doesn't have to be violent. The "serious games" scene is burgeoning, especially in areas like education, health, and disaster response.

I worked at a company that builds "serious MMOGs," 3D, online, multiplayer simulations. We had a recreation of Egypt -- Sphinx, pyramids, tombs -- intended as an educational space.

An Army project involved building an Iraqi city for soldiers to practice peacekeeping operations and cultural awareness, training that soldiers repeatedly say they don't get enough of (we tested it with the real deal, members of the 82nd Airborne with in-country tours under their belt).

Another project simulated the aftermath of a terrorist attack, for training EMTs and hospital personnel. It involved dozens of casualties and modeled the actual emergency room of a local hospital as well as vehicles and decontamination equipment.

This training in a live environment is logistically difficult, hugely expensive, and usually done once a year at most. Simulations like these, which can be repeated cheaply and accessed by the participants remotely, can be a helpful adjunct to the live sessions.

Stephen graves said...

There was a guy in my uni who mapped our halls of residence into... Quake, I think was the big game back then. And then ran around OUR ROOMS killing zombies. That was just creepy.

Thomas said...

John, have you considered staging something in WOW w/fellow players in your guild, then capturing it? kinda like..

Rogers said...

I am actually currently guildless anyway -- and although I dig the Red vs. Blus style of in game stuff, I'd like to see the mechanics actually evolve to the next step.

Rogers said...

and at least he's not chicken. LEEEEEROY!!!!

Anonymous said...

FYI, Rogers.

Darius Kazemi said...

Actually, at WPI, in 2002, the Game Development Club made a game called The Gompei Equation, which played like Myst in standalone Flash application and took place entirely on campus. The whole point of the game was you'd run around campus doing stupid errandy puzzles and learn your way around in the process.

Tom said...

At Manchester University (UK) CompSci we did indeed build a Quake map of the department :-)

Nick said...

nitpickery: My understanding was that the Pentagon doesn't make the top three in terms of largest underground tunnel system. On of the bits of lore passed around Columbia was that we were third after MIT and the Kremlin (this may of course be apocryphal, it's hard to tell access as students are no longer allowed down there after the tunnel's use in the student riots in the late sixties)

As for using game engines to model of real world sites, the architects that built the current site of my department at the University of Cambridge produced a model using Quake 2 of the design before construction began to solicit feedback. So you wouldn't think it's be a huge jump from that to other applications. Especially considering that that was five years ago now.

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