Monday, May 30, 2005

Morpheus put to rest

"So, what did you get up to on the weekend?"
"Me? Oh, I raced through the Matrix trying to defuse terrorist bombs then watched as Morpheus was killed by an assassin. How about you?"
"Just Episode 3 again."

You all know who Morpheus is. Let's not kid ourselves. Well, he's dead. That's right, dead. Shot by an assassin in the Multi-user game "The Matrix: Online"

You can view the animatic trailer for the "episode" here.

MTV.com - Games - News

It's an interesting outcome, but not one that was necessarily a surprise. The idea is that the game's creators run monthly "events" to help drive the ongoing narrative in the game. The players then have the opportunity to get involved or let it wash past their endeavours as background. Either way, the characters feel the effects in their ongoing gameplay.

I did exactly the same sort of thing in a Live Action Camarilla campaign almost ten years ago and I got chided for forcing players to follow a storyline. These guys do it and they're innovative. I tell ya, there's no justice.
:-p

By the way, let's not kid ourselves here. In the great tradition of comic book heroes it's only a matter of time before we get a "Morpheus Reborn" or Morpheus Ressurected" event.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Who needs EBay?

Here's the state of video production as it stands. A guy can create a pretty slick video commercial and let the world see it, all to sell a car for "$200 ONO." That's the power of technology.

"I'm Tim! I drive an Aries!" - Windows Media

When Star Wars meets politics



While we're at it, did you know that according to Uncle George the United States is the Empire? Ouch! That's enough to get him thrown out of the patriotic American Hollywood director's guild.

Courtesy Evil Pundit of Doom

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Let's talk TV!

Far too much information to try and describe it in any detail here.

First up Mark Pesce from the Australian School of Film and Television runs through some thoughts on the future of TV.

Mindjack - Redefining Television
Mindjack - Piracy is Good? | Part 1: Hyperdistribution
Mindjack - Piracy is Good? | Part 2: The New Laws of Television
Mindjack - Piracy is Good? | Post Script: The Swarm Manifesto

Followed up is a four page article on the future of TV from Steven Levy, Senior Editor of Newsweek.

MSNBC - Television Reloaded

Of course, with all this potential content out there for an audience to watch how does a regular Joe filter out the good from the bad? Well it seems that BitTorrent is making a move to bring you a search engine to work with their P2P software.

Wired News - Next For BitTorrent: Search

Nothing horribly new in any of it, but some interesting commentary.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Hail storm... Hits Brisbane... Hits the very spot!

Cyclone... Hits Expo... Hits the very spot.
Cyclone... Hits Expo... Destroys the f#$@ing lot!!
Took 200 years to build and fifteen minutes to destroy...
Cyclone Hits Expo - Choo Dikka Dikka

It's almost twenty years since Brisbane band Choo Dikka Dikka wrote this song in protest over the resumption of low income properties to build Expo 88. Last night it almost felt like it was talking about us.

Before I go any further, please remember that Brisbane is NOT like where a lot of you are from. I don't believe we've ever, even in the coldest winter, had snow. It is, however, a sub-tropical climate and therefore we do get some pretty heavy storms.

Last night the area around where I work was inundated with hail. Not huge, golf ball sized hail, but rather about the size of peas or marbles. It was so intense that we wound up in what looked like a snow storm.

user posted image

user posted image
Copyright ABC

Please note that these are by no means the best photos.

Of course, being Queensland, everyone thought they'd go out and treat it like a snowstorm, something most of the people here have probably never seen before in their lives.

user posted image
Copyright Courier Mail
user posted image
Copyright ABC

The downside to all this is that our radio and TV studios here were inundated with water. Not the area where I work, but downstairs had to be shut down with all the water flowing in. The TV studios, Master Control and Presentation were shut down as a precaution so the news had to come out of Sydney.

So what did I do? Grabbed a video camera and started shooting. Not all of this is my footage. It's a mix of what I shot on a PD-150 and what was shot by a news cameraman on Betacam SX.

ABC News - WMV Broadband
ABC News - WMV Dial-up
ABC News - Real Broadband
ABC News - Real Dial-up

Brisbane mops up after surprise storm - ABC News

Final word. Yesterday was, otherwise, a picture perfect day. Beautiful, sunny day with not a cloud in the sky. We'd been warned there was a likelihood of "Thundery Showers" in the afternoon, however it seems that just before things turned nasty there was a glitch in the Bureau of Meteorology's radar. No one knew it was coming until it was too late.

It's another picture perfect day outside. Apparantly there's more storms due for tonight. I'm sure there's a lesson in all that, but that's for another time. All I know is that I had study to do last night and when I got home there was no power. I think it's time to use the "hailstorm ate my homework" excuse when I get to class today.

DV - Hard or Soft Light?

The Rev. John Jackman explains what "hard" and "soft" light is and how and when you should use each one.

"Another thing to keep in mind is that this is not an either-or decision, but sometimes a both-and option. When lighting a set, you may need the principal sources to be hard lights to reach across the required area. However, when you move the camera in for a close-up, the lighting must be optimized for the face, not for the entire room. That's when you might bring in a soft bank to punch up the lighting on the face, even though in a master shot of the whole set, the subject's face is lighted by hard light."

DV - Hard or Soft Light?

As always, reading articles at DV requires free registration.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Wired News: The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth

Hurray for the BBC! Would that we could emulate them in some of their endeavours.

"In 2003, when the BBC switched off the encryption on its satellite feeds, allowing anyone who bought a receiver (including the French and Belgians) to watch free satellite TV, the studios went nuts, saying that they would lose licensing revenue from continental Europe.

Hollywood swore it would boycott the BBC: No movies for you!

The BBC stood fast -- after all, anyone with a camera can be a filmmaker, but to be the BBC, you need 29,000 employees and 78 years of history -- and when the studios' fiscal year wrapped up, they came, hats in hand, to the BBC, asking if they couldn't please have some of the money they were accustomed to for satellite licensing.

The greatest irony here is that it takes a publicly-funded broadcaster from a cozy liberal democracy to teach America's lumbering, anti-competitive Hollywood dinosaurs what a real, competitive offering looks like."

Wired News: The Beeb Shall Inherit the Earth

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Goodbye Hunter S. - John Cusack

With thanks to Patrick, who in turn picked it up from someone else. The power of the network in action...

John Cusack posts his thoughts on the wake of the late Hunter S. Thompson, including several quotes the Doc had scribbled on his walls at his Aspen home (red "Armed Compound"). Patrick's favourite seems to be the Fran├žois Villion quote.

In my own country
I am in a far off land
I am strong yet have
No force or power
I win yet remain a loser
At break of day I say goodnight
When I lie down I have a great fear of falling


However I have to say I'm more taken by Hunter's own commentary on the power of Politics, sent to Cusack on a T-Shirt.

'Politics is the art of controlling your environment.' That is one of the key things I learned in these years, and I learned it the hard way. Anybody who thinks that 'it doesn't matter who's President' has never been Drafted and sent off to fight and die in a vicious, stupid War on the other side of the World -- or been beaten and gassed by Police for trespassing on public property -- or been hounded by the IRS for purely political reasons -- or locked up in the Cook County Jail with a broken nose and no phone access and twelve perverts wanting to stomp your ass in the shower. That is when it matters who is President or Governor or Police Chief. That is when you will wish you had voted.

Amen.

The Huffington Post | Goodbye Hunter S.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Fanfilms - The right of reply

A few days ago I posted a link to an article appearing over at C-Net about LucasFilm and their treatment of Fan Fiction. Well, from FanFilms.com, the host of the majority of the Star Wars Fan films available on the internet, here comes their reply to that article.
TheForce.Net - Fan Films - Editorial: CNet Article Just Plain Wrong

LucasFilm has not shut down general fan fiction sites as the article claimed (TFN would be the first on the list). Mr. Jenkins has mixed 'slash' and general fan fiction on his conclusions of LucasFilm's gender bias. Slash fiction is only a sub-category of fan fiction. And yes, it is discouraged but not for gender reasons.

The author makes some good points regarding the original article and its assertion regarding gender bias, but says nothing regarding the discrepancy between creation of narrative through film or text, and creating narrative in a game. That said, things are not as dire as the original article's interview subject, Henry Jenkins the director of the Comparative Media Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, makes out. If it were we wouldn't have the chance to even see films like Revelations getting made and that would be a real pity.

A quick point!

Just as "lol" is NOT punctuation *, EDITING YOUR FOOTAGE AT 24 fps WILL NOT MAKE IT LOOK LIKE FRICKIN' FILM!!!

If you shot it in 50i or 60i DEAL WITH THE FACT THAT YOU'RE SHOOTING ON VIDEO!!!!!

Play with the levels, the contrast, the chroma saturation, the Gamma curve, the interlacing, whatever, but just changing your footage so it cuts out frames is only wrecking what you shot, not creating some sort of quick-fix aesthetic alternative.

Ahem. Sorry. I'll go back to what I was doing now. Where's that can of Coke? I don't feel like I have enough caffeine in my system yet.




* Thanks to Patrick for that one.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

DHTML roundup : Lifehacker

I'd love the time to implement some of these into my blog, but I just can't give them the time they'd need. Hopefully someone else can use them.

DHTML roundup : Lifehacker

In particular I love the Docking Boxes and the News Feed implementation they give, and the SVG Text Replace.

'Star Wars' and the fracas over fan films - CNET News.com

On the topic of interaction and drama...

The release of two big Star Wars films recently has brought up the topic of fan fiction. Two big Star Wars films? Damn straight!

Beating Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith to the audience by a month was a little production that took two years of weekends, a planet-wide group of volunteers and a fair amount of contra deals to get visual effects work done. If you haven't downloaded and watched Star Wars - Revelations yet, strike up the download quota and get to it! (It's just shy of 250Mb)

Anyway, I digress. While I was on leave last week CNet ran an interesting interview with the director of the Comparative Media Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Henry Jenkins, on Lucasfilm's handling (or mis-handling) of fan created fiction. It's worth a read.

'Star Wars' and the fracas over fan films - CNET News.com

"As human beings, stories matter to us. We want to tell stories about great heroes. This is something Lucas understands very well. He likes to talk about Joseph Campbell and that tradition of heroes that emerged through the folklore or the mythological process. For thousands and thousands of years human beings have told stories about their shared heroes.

So the need to tell those stories, and to connect those stories didn't disappear just because we decided we were going to privatize storytelling in our country, commercialize it, turn it into a commodity and put it in the hands of massive corporations. People still want to connect to those stories, they still want to tell them and they still want to imagine possibilities that the primary storytellers never thought of.

And that's the way to think of fan creativity in general. It's a creativity that's basic human nature, it's something that's gone on for thousands of years. What's shifted is not that people want to tell stories about heroes. What's shifted is that we now have corporations who believe they can own those heroes lock, stock and barrel, and prevent anyone else from telling their stories.


Compare that to the way Lucasfilm handled its creation of the Massive Multi-player Online game Star Wars Galaxies.

"So the idea was, (present) the ideas while they were still being conceived, get feedback from consumers, build in consumer investment, turn a lot of the game over to consumers once it was out there and being played and build a community around the game. Again, it's like what game companies do with their consumer base, but it's not what movie companies do with their consumer base.

So if you're a "Star Wars" fan, you're being treated very differently depending on whether you're a gamer or a "Star Wars" filmmaker or a "Star Wars" fan fiction writer.

To me, Lucas is interesting in embodying the contradictions of where modern companies are. Where it's one franchise across media, and you're a fan of the franchise, your level of engagement is regulated to different degrees depending on which section of Lucas is dealing with you. Because even though it's an integrated company, in a way, these different parts of the company work with differing ideas and logics."

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

AFTRS Interactive T.V. Seminar - Thoughts

The lights were on! Then off! Then on again! At times I thought I was going to have an epileptic fit.

Welcome to the Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts and the AFTRS' seminar on Producing Interactive Television. Matt and I arrived well before time (if only to get out of the offfice) in anticipation of listening to industry experts talk about a subject that we will be working on in the near future. With ABC2 up and running and with continued support for Broadband and expansion into mobile platforms, it makes sense to see what others have already done and how they got there.
Gary Hayes
BBCi Producer

In particular, we were interested in listening to Gary Hayes, former Senior Producer for BBC Interactive. Gary has been responsible for;
  • The BBC's first broadcast interactive TV service, "Digital Text" (an enhanced version of teletext.")
  • The BBC's first live internet documentary, "The Musical Nomad."
  • The BBC's first Broadband TV non-linear TV Documentary, "X-Creatures."
  • Enhanced TV programs such as "Top of the Pops," "BBC Navigator," and "Travel Show."
If you have an interest in Interactive Television, I suggest visiting his site. It's full of interesting information on the subject.

Gary's lecture ran through the history of Interactive TV in the BBC ranging back to early pilot videos from the mid 90's, back when all this stuff was more proposal than practical. Well, between the videos and the lecture the lights were flicking on and off like a strobe. A small issue really.

Of particular interest was realising just how far behind Australia is when it comes to this stuff, particularly in regards to the ubiquity of the technology. At the moment the only thing we have close in audience penetration to the U.S. market's Tivo is Foxtel's new iQ PDR. That's great for the few that actually use Foxtel pay TV, and the even fewer that will fork out the extra money to get an iQ, but the rest of us seem stuck in a 1950's TV methodology.

The problem is, it seems that the most popular interactivity enhancement, other than multi-channel sports, was the karaoke function for Top Of The Pops. Hardly inspiring stuff, but the punters obviously loved crooning along to the Spice Girls.


Gary answers some questions after the seminar

It was definitely interesting to see the development of this stuff, particularly the early pilots with hosts standing on psychedelic backgrounds pointing to a range of beveled butons on the screen saying "Press this button to vote for your favourite song!" Still, I'm not sure that's what I'd signed up for.

Even the recent stuff, such as the quite excellently conceived "X-creatures," while a lot of fun to watch and play with, wasn't quite what I had in mind for interactive TV. Maybe my expectations were in the wrong place.

It doesn't help that when it comes to this stuff the BBC is working with a budget that dwarfs anything we could reasonably conceive of, not to mention a national population of 150 million with a wide integration of digital interactive set top boxes. Things here in Australian kind of have to take a different bent.

The nice thing that did come out of the whole discussion was the future technologies, including Television over broadband lines like ADSL. Companies like Microsoft and Google have already positioned themselves to hit that market hard through products like the Media Center PC, or Google reinventing its search engine to find and download media clips on demand. As Gary pointed out, this also means that if you put up your home made video, fanfilm or coverage of your three year old's birthday party, everyone on the network becomes a broadcaster as well as a consumer, something that frightens television outlets to no small extent. Unlike the internet in general, TV companies are already finding high quality, high resolution content available for people to download, legally or illegally, from the internet. That brings up all sorts of DRM questions, not to mention where you fit advertisers into the equation. "Within the program itself" seems to be the standard answer.

The Seminar in action!

Next up were Nathan Mayfield and Tracey Robertson from Brisbane based production company "Hoodlum Entertainment." These are the people that brought us Australia's first "Multi-platform" drama, "Fat Cow Motel."

Fat Cow is interesting because it attacks interactivity from a different direction, one that many people consider means it's not really interactive TV (hence the "Multi-platform drama" tag). Instead of letting people play director or writer with the action on screen, several different elements are combined to give a greater sense of presence in the narrative world. This means that people could check out the website and get clues to the ongoing mysteries, listen to "voicemail messages" from the different characters, "intercept" email messages, etc. By doing so over a number of available platforms the audience were able to become fully immersed in the world of "Fat Cow." The Producers even went to the trouble of creating fake video clips that were then played on Rage and news stories that helped create a sense of reality for the drama. My immediate response? "Yeah, that's what Blair Witch did to promote the movie before Sundance." Anyway, when I asked whether they thought they'd get into user-generated narrative interactivity, the answer was a profound No! The basic thought is, and I have to agree with them, that TV production just isn't set up to allow for that sort of interactivity when it comes to drama. Unless you're doing something cheap and simple like SBS' "Going Home" the options for creating open ended dramas just isn't practical. Besides, when you're broadcasting and asking your audience to vote for alternative endings you immediately alienate the percentage of the audience that didn't vote for that outcome.

By this stage, Matt had had enough and took off, leaving me to ponder the intricacies of what's interactive and what's just sending out and receiving SMS messages.


Tracey Robertson and Nathan Mayfield
Hoodlum Entertainment


Answers? Perhaps that style of interactive drama just isn't where it's at. Perhaps we need to be thinking about different delivery methods, such as broadband or TV IP. Maybe interactive drama just doesn't suit a naturally linear product like TV. Maybe for people to really make changes to the ongoing narrative requires a fully immersive environment where actions cause an immediate effect rather than having to wait for it to download. Maybe television doesn't enter into the equation.

Anyway, it was definitely worth the $30 the ABC forked out for me to get along to. I would have been interested to then go on and attend the Interactive Writing Design course being held, except that it runs 5 days and costs $450. I don't think I could quite swing that one too.

Another Federal Budget!

Well, while today was spent watching Federal Treasurer Peter Costello fielding questions about whether he'll be challenging for the Party leadership (and out on his ass) before next year's budget, the evening seems to be full of one thing: Tax Cuts! While it's true that neither mine nor Ellen's salaries are likely to be dropping in the near future, I'm still holding my opinion until after people like ACOSS and Greenpeace get their hands on it and inevitably tear it apart. The fun bit is watching the small groups, people you've never heard of before, voice their displeasure at some tidbit in order to get their heads on the telly.

And we'll no doubt be there, doing our bit to fill out their five seconds of fame.

Costello Slashes Tax, Revamps Welfare - ABC Online

BTW, the Avid/Profile problem got sorted out and I'm feeling a lot happier now. I also partook of the Interactive TV seminar. A report is forthcoming, although probably not tonight.

Monday, May 09, 2005

I'm tired - Time to vent!

Most of this is driven by frustration and technology and so won't be of interest to anyone. However, I find myself stuck here at work for another hour and I need to scream at something. The computer doesn't seem to mind, although the keys are starting to take a pounding.

It's approaching quarter to 8 at night. In fifteen minutes I will have been at work for 12 hours. Why? Because someone did a fix on the damn Profile and now the Avid won't talk to it...

Explain.

To get our content off the Avid editing system we use down to Sydney we need to record the video output to a hard disk based recorder called a "Profile" by a company called Grass Valley. Because we're sharing limited resources with the lovely people in Television we have to make use of a semi-automated system from within Avid called the "Digital Cut." This tool allows you to machine control a record deck, usually a tape machine, and make a frame accurate copy. We have the system set up to record to Profile.

Problem.

While I was away last week there were all sorts of issues with the Profile. The practical upshot of all this tomfoolery is that now the Profile starts recording a second after the Avid starts playing. This means we crash into our bulletins a second into the opening titles, and leave a second of black at the end. This is not acceptable.

I'd noticed the issue while I was away and thought it was happening on the transfer between us and Sydney. A half hour before I was due to head home this afternoon I discovered it was at our end. The two guys that usually deal with this equipment weren't available so I've spent all afternoon with one of the other Techs chasing our tail trying to get the thing to work.

Prize for most frustrating element?

About an hour into the fix we managed to get it working. Perfectly. We had no idea how. Again, unacceptable. The tech heads downstairs to restart the system so we can try and figure out what's causing the issue. We haven't had it working the same since. Now to get content into Profile we need to record manually through an esoteric process that only I know. That means that after I leave here sometime after 8:30 I have to get up and be here for a 6am start to help out the morning shift. Hopefully one of the Techs that know what's what will be able to fix it tomorrow.

I hope so. I'm off to that Interactive TV seminar I mentioned and the last thing I want is to be too shagged out to take it all in. Even worse would be being alert for the Fat Cow Motel people and losing focus when the interesting BBC stuff is on.

Let's top it off with a cherry and whipped cream.

I have to get more involved with my University subject, in particular the tutorial exercise so I can start getting a handle on my final assignment, due in on the 8th June. What's that I hear you say? That's a month away. Did I mention that Ellen and I take over our house on the 2nd June and move on the 4th, 5th and 6th? Just what I need on the weekend before it's due.

Sigh! All vented for now although I don't feel like I've used anywhere near enough vitriol. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have a post on the seminar and the Profile/Avid experience will all be a distant memory.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Because the 1000th hit deserves to look at something ridiculous...

The link says it all.
Jennifer Lopez wants to be American president.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Maybe I could do both at the same time, so hard that I vomit. Seems like an appropriate response really.

Counting Down to 1000!

In the next day or so this site will have attracted 1000 hits. I know it's not very impressive in the grand scheme of things, but it means a lot to me. Thanks to those few that have visited, and to those that just passed through I hope you found something of interest.

Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy

It's weird how a movie can affect you in ways you never thought possible. That's what just happened to me while watching "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy." As a long time fan of the radio series and the book, I was looking forward to seeing what they'd done with the movie, especially after the disappointment of the TV series. I most certainly wasn't let down. It held just enough that was word for word from the original script and just enough that was new to keep it interesting.

But that's not the point.

The thing that struck me was the unexpected wave of emotion that rolled over me during the opening sequence. I could feel tears start to well in my eyes in delight at what I was seeing, and to this point I'm still not sure why. Possibly it was the cleverness of the Dolphin elements, possibly it was the realisation that twenty years of imagination was being put on a screen, and perhaps there was a bit of sadness at knowing that Douglas Adams, the brilliant mind behind it all, is not with us to bask in the glory of this accomplishment. The opening titles sequence, where Adams in credited for his part in the writing of the screenplay, certainly drove this home to me.

Highlights? Many and varied. Mos Dev as Ford, Alan Rickman as marvin, guest spots by Simon Jones, the wonderful bureaucratic drudgery of the Vogons, Eddie the Shipboard Computer and Stephen Fry as the Book. However the real highlight for me was the Magrathean Showroom floor in all its glory. It was the kind of visual experience that just couldn't have been brought to realisation a few years ago. Again, I felt a wave of sadness that Douglas Adams couldn't have seen it and revelled in the visualisation of his work.

Anyway, if you've heard about it and never known what all the fuss was about, grab a Pan-Galactic GargleBlaster, get to a cinema near you and see it!

Monday, May 02, 2005

Weekend game action!

Big ups to the organising crew at The BIG Weekend games convention here in the lovely city of Brisbane. Well, O.K., maybe not so much for the organisation, especially as I was able to sneak in and fill out a roster spot for someone who couldn't make it along without causing so much as an upturned eyebrow. But then, that's the kind of people we are here in BrisVegas.

The deal was as such. Some buds of mine had organised a five man (sorry Helga) team to do the rounds, lovingly known as "Team Hypnofrog!" My buddy Brad made up team stickers and everything (one of the benefits of working for a print company. That and getting your basketball team paid for apparantly). A week out from the long weekend in question, one of the guys had to pull out due to unforseen work commitments, so I get the call.

I wound up doing two games;

A systemless scenario called "Omega Vector" by Dave Swanson, and "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi - An Infinities Tale" by my bud Colin.

First up, Omaga Vector. The group was a government organisation, given the task of coordinating the response should a biological attack occur on Australian soil. Of course, that's exactly what happened and it was up to us to deal with it. Run in a condensed timeframe such that a day and a half's action took place in three hours, Dave seemed to be a pretty cluey guy who ran the game with a light touch, letting us really get into our characters. I'll be interested to see what he has in store for the future.

Second was Col's Star Wars game. A work emergency meant I had to slip back on the Sunday night to play, which meant I got stuck with four unknowns. All in all, considering the tone of the game, they turned out to be not too bad, albeit a little too keen to press on regardless. The basic premise was this. What would have happened if Mara Jade, from the extended Star Wars universe, had been on Jabba's Sail Barge at the moment when Luke started his attack to free him and his friends from the Sarlacc? Well, apparantly if you're me playing Luke Skywalker you botch a Force roll while attempting to jump onto the sail barge, slip and fall straight into the Pit of Carkoon. Oh well. At least Col had Lando Calrissian on standby for me to jump into.

In the end, without Luke there, Leia gets seriously injured on Endor, Vader gets killed by the Emperor in aggravation, and while Lando manages to destroy the Death Star, the Emperor escapes to continue his reign. Mara, without Luke to bring her back to the light side, winds up as the next Sith apprentice. But that was just our outcome. Every group that played had a different story.

Anyway, the practical upshot of all this is that I've been thinking more and more about the part Role Playing games play in user-based narrative. Take the Star Wars game as an example. There's no way anyone would plot the hero to trip and fall to his certain doom halfway through the dramatic battle. A good thing? A bad thing? Definitely a memorable thing.

I got into a discussion with Dave from Omega Vector, Helga and Steve where we touched on this sort of thing. Dave mentioned that he was wanting to organise a real time game for next year. That got me thinking about a site I'd discovered years before. I'd never been back, but the premise had always stayed with me.

Dogma 99 is a group of Live Action Role Play enthusiasts and artists that look at moving LARP in a new direction, similar to the more widely known film movement Dogme 95. The signatories follow what they call "the Manifesto" and aim to create and run at least one LARP event that follows the following rules.

1. It is forbidden to create action by writing it into the past history of a character or the event.
2. There shall be no "main plot". (The story of the event must be made for each players character, not the whole).
3. No character shall only be a supporting part.
4. All secrecy is forbidden. (Any participant who so desires shall in advance be shown all documents that pertain to the event).
5. After the event has begun, the playwrights are not allowed to influence it. (Any use of staging and ad hoc organiser roles is forbidden).
6. Superficial action is forbidden. (The playwrights may not in any way plan or encourage the use or threat of violence as part of the event)
7. LARPs inspired by table-top role-playing games are not accepted.
8. No object shall be used to represent another object. (all things shall be what they appear to be)
9. Game mechanics are forbidden. (rules to simulate for instance the use of violence or supernatural abilities are not permitted)
10. The playwrights shall be held accountable for the whole of their work.

Furthermore, I swear to regard myself as an artist, and any LARP I write as my "work". I stand open for criticism and wholesale slaughter of my works, and promise to apologise to my players for all that is imperfect in the LARPs I write. My highest goal is to develop the art and medium of live-action role-playing. This, I promise, will be done through all means available, and at the expense of good taste, all conventions and all popularity amongst the so-called LARPers.

For those of us brought up in the world of Tabletop games and the crapulescence that is "The Camarilla" these rules seem strange and even antithetical. However, it looks as if these guys were embracing the notion of user-generated narrative at a time when I honestly didn't believe a game could run without a half a dozen pre-arranged plot elements, characters with monstrous plot hooks to get them involved, constant supervision by the organiser (namely, me) and some form of game mechanics to cover combat situations.

Saturday night's discussion took me back there in search of a game I'd seen on the site. Called Europa, the game involves approximately 80 people playing the parts of refugees, prison guards and bureaucrats in an alternate reality where the Nordic countries are torn apart by war and ethnic tension. The characters play their parts in a facility created to represent a refugee complex and runs, non-stop, for five days. There's no need for rules, because the laws of reality hold sway. You eat when you eat, you sleep when (or if) you sleep, and you fight by raising your fists to another person. Again, it all sounds strange and perhaps a little dangerous, but in theory, and I guess inpractice, with the right people it works. This sort of massive event has me thinking and it's just possible that I've come up with an idea for a Project should I go on to do my Masters.

The only problem with Dogma 99 is that it seems as if the site hasn't been touched in years. I feel like I have to get in touch with someone there to find out what's been happening, even if it's to discover that they realised that the world just isn't quite ready yet for what they had to offer.

Game on. More to come.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

DV - Light For The Eyes

When it comes to lighting, there's an underappreciated element that can make or break the ability for the audience to connect with your on-screen subject.

It's the small reflection, or glint, of light in the eyes that can sell an actor's performance. Usually it occurs naturally with a standard lighting setup, however if your drama lighting doesn't allow for a standard key light, the Rev. John Jackman runs through some of the ways you can make it happen for you.

DV - Light For The Eyes
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