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Lecture | Art of Machinima, The Garage Innovators November 6, 2006

Posted by Lee Cherry in Uncategorized.
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Hal Meeks makes a great comparison to the early innovators working out of their garage (Apple, HP, Disney, et. al.) to the new animators creating content from non-traditional applications. He may not know that he’s really hinting at is basic “Long Tail” economics theory but I won’t go on about that soap box… (read the book).

So where are we now? Animation/video that is found online can be prolific and viral… A great example is that we have StrongBad coming to market.

What’s so unique about StrongBad:

  • Made in Parent’s Basement
  • Money is made on merchandise
  • Marketing is word of mouth via the internet

Traditionally, entry into animation production is that it is too hard. Animation takes too long… well we can now things like Red vs. Blue.

But wait, I have this idea for a movie! – Dracula’s Guest

Key points to note:

  • Strong characterization Easily identifiable characters (Mickey Mouse)
  • The Audience is in on the Joke (Strongbad/Red vs. Blue gaming/internet culture)
  • Voice Acting is critical, perhaps more important than polished animation

What do we make of this?

It’s possible to get stuff like Star Wars PowerPoint! Is this animation (argue yes it is, a parody of what is essentially a storyboarding tool, PowerPoint) but does it really tell a story? Steamboat Willie told a great story, still does! and is a foundation example for animation. So does this… and possibly a great many other animation/videos found online without a large, major corporation backing it…

This greatly shows that economy has a place. Everything doesn’t have to be big to work, which is in favor of animators (time/labor intensive) and potential audience (cartoons work great on the ipod).

Digital media is now reached commodity state. YTMND is communal digital media jokes, reflected/refracted/remixed with a rapidity that is quite amazing. It is almost like a bed of coral that grows and grows. It demonstrates in a tangible way what “visual literacy” really means, what a literacy beyond text could look like.

Digital Media is folk art for today. What we create is a part of us, no matter what the material. (Just as long as their is a story )


Hal MeeksHal Meeks – www.halmeeks.net
Tinkerer, dabbler, musician and storyteller with a short attention span. BA in Speech Communications from North Carolina State University. Spent time shooting short films, shown at the NC Museum of Art. Worked for 5 years for a video production company doing a bit of everything; musician, editor, cameraman, lighting, scripting. Got a Commodore 64 and wrote a paint program in horrible spaghetti code. Bought an Amiga and stole time on a friend’s Mac. Went to work for NC State’s Information Technology Division, immersed himself in computers and how they could be used in storytelling and teaching. For the last 15 years, has worked with faculty to develop innovative uses of digital media in teaching, including BioMovies, Wolfcast, streaming media, mobile media and digitally enhanced collaborativework spaces. Currently in the Art and Design Master’s program at NCSU.


1. Animation/New Media Lecture « Advanced Media Lab - November 6, 2006

[…] Animation and the Art of Machinima [ Read more… ] […]

2. hal meeks - June 7, 2007

Hi Lee,

The “Long Tail” is one of those “well duh” ideas that makes a great article, but maybe not as much a book. Of course I am aware of it — Janis Ian of all people clued me into the dilemma of artists that have small, devoted fan bases that could be completely supported by web-based sales, if not for the fact that the recording industry owns her content, so older content sits in the can because there isn’t enough market for it to be released on CD.

This points to one of the problems with “long tail” theory, which is while it makes sense on paper, there are many other factors that prevent it from truly changing distribution of media and the relationship between artists and their potential audience. Existing belief in the “big hit” crushes small films – not just because of the upfront costs of distribution, but also of audience expectation. Around the edges though, in the places that are marginalized, “long tail” has been happening for years. Pearl Jam was signed not because some record exec “discovered” them, but because of a self-published cassette that was massively duplicated and distributed around the world (particularly europe). The whole punk/hardcore scene thrives in the cheap.fast.outofcontrol space, because there is no money to be made. It is not stylish music, doesn’t have a super-big audience, but people manage to find their audience just the same.


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