Sunday, April 6, 2008

Thirty's a crowd

I've been shooting a fight scene today set in a nightclub. As well as the two protagonists and a couple of bystanders who get involved, I needed a whole bunch of extras. There's a band, a couple of bouncers, and a load of clubbers, some sitting around, some drinking, and some dancing. For the first time, I found myself wishing I was shooting in an MMOG instead of using a script-based machinima tool. It would be so much easier to find 30 people, tell them what I want them to do, and let them run their dance animations. Instead, I'm having to script every one of those extras myself. Setting up the basic actions takes quite a lot of time, but then having to put all the reactions in and get all of them rushing for the door is really time-consuming, and really tedious.

One way of looking at it is that if I were to shoot the scene with lots of people, it would probably take three or four hours to get it right. That's 100+ man-hours. And if I later decide to reshoot, that would be a logistical nightmare, and I don't even want to think of the continuity problems. This way it'll take me a couple of solid days to get the scene, which is way fewer man-hours all told, and I know I can come back and tweak the lighting and the cameras later if I need to.

But that doesn't stop me wanting a tool for controlling crowds and some AI for my extras so I can get the whole scene done in half the time. Then maybe I can realistically aim for getting real crowds like this...

Hmmm... maybe I should hack Total War and change the soldiers into nightclubbers and turn their combat animations into dance animations... on second thoughts, maybe not! It's a damn shame the rumours a few years back of a freeware version of Massive never came to anything. It's rather too expensive for me.


Hugh said...

"wishing I was shooting in an MMOG instead of using a script-based machinima tool"

Heh - it'd be less fun if you were doing it, I reckon.

"OK, now everyone dance. No, dance. Stop that. Please don't dance up there. No, Ub3rk1lz0r, you can't spam Consecrate, no matter how much you think it looks like disco lights. Who the hell are they? Oh, fuck, Horde, OK, everyone fi - ... ... Resplsktnx."

Matt Kelland said...

Well, yeah, you got a point there, Hugh. My sole experience of shooting in a multi-player environment was on a private server and we were all in the same room. Not the same as shooting in WoW or SL at all!

And yes, we did waste a lot of time shooting each other and pissing about. (Nearly as much time as we wasted drinking beer, probably.) But we had a hell of a lot of fun, because the process was mostly under control, and we blasted through the scenes pretty rapidly.

I guess what I was pipe-dreaming of was a huge room full of semi-professional machinimactors* on a private server, with a nice AD or two to back me up and do the crowd control, just like filming on a set with a few dozen real extras.

*It's a horrible word, I know. I just thought I'd try it out in print and see how bad it looks.

Kate said...

Hope we get to see this scene Matt.
I agree, a machinimactor, sounds like somebody to call when your toilet is blocked. Machinimateers? Like puppeteers but with longer beards and more lager.