About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

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July 06, 2005

Podcasting for the XBox 360?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

So, the next generation XBox360 is going to have all sorts of cool multimedia abilities and its connectivity through XBox Live is being heavily touted (XBox360 Fact Sheet).

So, will Microsoft dare permit podcasting to the XBox? If they do, which artists will they allow to try to reach this market? How might podcasting be integrated with games? I think of the faux-radio stations in Grand Theft Auto, as a very basic example.

Dare we imagine the possibities for broadcatching video content, say for example, machinima? Doesn't it make sense to deliver machinima film festivals to gamers who would subscribe?

How forward thinking is Microsoft?


What better way to deliver short video reviews of upcoming XBox titles? Of course, Microsoft could simply use it as some sort of advertising channel, but why not let known, responsible outlets have access to provide podcasts/broadcatch for their independent reviews?

Imagine a Penny Arcade feed - why not?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Games | Machinima

June 24, 2005

Window Into a Virtual World

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Posted by Ernest Miller

New World Notes reports something extremely cool coming from Linden Lab: live video from Second Life, the most innovative virtual world out there (Links of the Week!: An SL Simulcast and a Movie Trailer...). Très très cool! Go to the Second Life homepage and click on the television set labeled "live video." Be prepared for loud music that I couldn't figure out how to turn off. It is, literally, a window into a virtual world. How long will it be before we hear the cry: "I Want My Second Life TV!"?

Reuben Steiger, who works on Second Life at Linden Lab, explains the reasoning behind this very amazing innovation (Video From a Virtual World).

Second Life is a 3-D virtual world that is 100% created by its 32,000 residents. The challenge this presents us at Linden Lab is that all the action that takes place in Second Life is very compelling; whenver we sit down and show it to someone, their mind is summarily blown and they very often sign up for an account. The problem is a chicken and the egg one -- showing Second Life in person isn't scalable and screenshots just don't do it justice. You really need to see avatars flying around, building amazing creations, chatting with eachother in order to get it. The energy of that experience is what sells Second Life -- the raw, unedited magic, but until recently we couldn't bottle the magic.
He says this is profound. It is. Read the whole thing.

When are we going to get a "Best of Video," Reuben? How long do you think it will take before members of Second Life demand the right to broadcast out on their own? Will Cory Doctorow's book signing be carried on Second Life TV? I can't wait to see what happens with this.

Very exciting, innovative stuff.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Culture | Games | Internet | Machinima

November 03, 2004


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Posted by Ernest Miller

Gizmodo snarkily coins the term "toychinima" to descripe home movies made with lip-synching toys (Talking G.I. Joe with Lip Sync):

Soon we'll have dozens of dolls that can play back pre-scripted recordings and facial movements and kids will use them to make home movies, which the internet awesome-watchers will herald as a "revolution in proletarian filmmaking" and give it a name like 'toychinima.'
Well, why not? Just imagine a remake of Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Machinima

August 31, 2004

City of Heroes and Machinima

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Posted by Ernest Miller

If you haven't noticed, I'm a big fan of machinima. So, I'm excited when companies promote and support its creation. In this case, the superhero-themed MMORPG City of Heroes is sponsoring a short film contest (City of Heroes: Film Festival Contest). The films don't have to be machinima, but they can be and I'm sure many of them will be.

Attention all you budding Raimis, Spielbergs and Jacksons! The time has come to show us what you’re made of! The chance to demonstrate your cinematic skills by creating a City of Heroes short film has arrived. We proudly invite you to participate in our first ever Paragon City Film Festival!

Using game footage, animation, live action or whatever you can dream up, show us the city through the eyes of your hero or team. Take us on flights of daring; show us spectacular battles, heroic rescues or zany antics. Be the ultimate CoH film director by exhibiting your editing skills, creating your own exciting story, adding captions, music, voiceovers—be creative, for the sky is the limit (just make sure nothing in your film infringes any patent, copyright, trademark or other intellectual property right, or any privacy, publicity or publishing rights of any third party, or is libelous, obscene or otherwise contrary to law!).

They even have instructions on how to record action from the game if you want to make machinima (How to Demorecord).

Unfortunately, copyright is, of course, a major concern for those who sponsor these contests:

Due to copyright music laws, if you’re going to “score” your cinematic masterpiece, you MUST do so with the musical pieces located here:

Feel free to combine music selections and/or splice them if you wish, but you may NOT add your own or use music created by someone else. For this same reason, you may record your own voiceover but copyrighted sound bytes from television programs, movies, etc are strictly prohibited. Film entries that violate intellectual property laws will be automatically disqualified from the contest!

If you manage to survive the copyright gauntlet, there is (among other prizes) a nifty bonus:
Not only that, but the winning movies will be featured on the game disc included in the Special DVD Edition of City of Heroes, being released this holiday season.
One of the interesting features of this contest is that there are two categories: action and comedy. Drama remains underdeveloped, mostly because of the difficulties in using machinima to render complex emotional states in virtual actors, but I think a good machinima comedy (*cough*RedvsBlue*cough*) can be and is as good as anything on broadcast television or in theaters.

via Joystiq

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Games | Machinima

Oddworld Creative Director on the Possibilities of Machinima

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Posted by Ernest Miller

In an interview with ground-breaking Oddworld creative director Lorne Lanning, VFX World explores how processing power is changing digital animation (Oddworld’s ‘Real’ Reel World). Of particular interest (read the whole thing for more) is this bit on machinima, something I've been touting for some time:

The Machinima Movement

One of the most interesting developments Lanning cites is Machinima, which he characterizes as a kind of virtual filmmaking environment. “Machinima is not as much a technology as a genre of game engines producing linear footage. I'm sure that — just like virtual reality — there will be people claiming that they own it. However, no one does.”

To illustrate how Machinima might apply to his company, Lanning offers, “Let's say Oddworld wanted to do a 90-minute, direct-to-DVD movie. If we wanted to do it with pre-rendered CG, we’d probably be looking at a $30 million-dollar budget, even with very aggressive economics. If instead we went the Machinima route, and ported it to the PC and took advantage of 2MB RAM for texture mapping instead of 64MB, then we could do 90 minutes for $6 million. And what would come out of that would be far more epic than anyone would expect. We could generate enough quality for HD.

“This also lends itself to producing a series. If the first 90-minute piece using Machinima cost us $6 million, the second one becomes a serial. It’s like having the sets built for a TV show. And the sound cues are in the sampler for the audio guys. We know what this show is, and now we’re running episode after episode. For the first one you're paying to build all the databases. The second one is derivative. In 10 years, it will be the same database, except it will be realtime, and it will be used for film.” (More information about Machinima can be found at [link and emphasis in original]

Coming soon to a broadcatcher near you.

The Slashdot post where I found this article has some very informative links as well (Lorne Lanning On Real-Time CG & Machinima).

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Machinima

August 06, 2004

Internet Archive Game Videos Section Now Available

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Woohoo! Lots of Machinima, speed runs and other goodies! Go, enjoy!

Internet Archive: Game Videos Archive

Note: This isn't the Videogame Archive, this is the Game Video archive. A new art form of which I am a fan.

via GameWag

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Games | Machinima

June 29, 2004

The INDUCE Act and the Right to Prepare Derivative Works

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The INDUCE Act makes it a crime to induce copyright infringement in very broad terms. Most of the commentary on the Act and what technologies, creativity and innovation it threatens have focused on two types of infringement, those of the right of reproduction (the right to make copies) and the right of public distribution. We should remember, however, that there are other exclusive rights that can be infringed. The intersection of the INDUCE Act with these other exclusive rights will create an even broader swath of technology and acts that Hollywood will have an effective veto over. Let's consider one of these other rights and the technologies that might be affected.

According to 17 USC 106, the second exclusive right is the right "to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work."

Hmmm, I would imagine that it will be much easier for Hollywood to go after websites that promote fan fiction. Computer game companies that do not like modding can go after websites that teach people how to mod computer games. Websites that encourage or promote Machinima are in deep trouble. Things like remix "construction sets" would probably also be under legal threat, even if they didn't contain any unauthorized material. Certain editing technologies like the ClearPlay DVD player, which allows parents to skip offensive portions of a DVD, would certainly be more threatened than they are now. See, Liberals, Conservatives Favor Different Kinds of Censorship. Third-party annotations? Well, those are right out. Heck, it might be that a parody would be illegal because it encourages the creation of derivative satires. Anything that encourages you to change, edit, or manipulate copyrighted content would likely be forced to incorporate DRM else the technology provider be sued.

Just imagine if SCO, the company that wants to stop open source, had INDUCE in its arsenal. Linux, which never had much of a process (until recently) to ensure that submitted code was clean of adverse copyrights, would be toast. And how long before SourceForge and O'Reilly get C&D letters?

Now Hollywood might not win all these potential lawsuits, assuming the defense can afford to go all the way through trial and risk having a jury look askance at what they're doing, but how heavy will the threat of litigation weigh on those who encourage creation?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Copyright | Culture | INDUCE Act | Machinima

June 19, 2004

Volokh on the Future of Virtual Pr0n

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Posted by Ernest Miller

UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh poses an interesting hypothetical this afternoon regarding the future of pornography (Guess who'll be in porn movies in a decade or two?):

Within about ten years, there will probably be software that can merge people's photographs and voices with movies that depict someone else. ... But, practically, the most common use of this would probably be for pornography. Consumers would buy the program; get ordinary, nonpornographic photographs of celebrities or of acquaintances; merge the photograph with a pornographic movie; and then be able to watch pornography that "stars" whomever it is they lust after. ... if I were the sort of person whom either acquaintances or strangers would like to merge into a porn movie -- even one they'd only watch by themselves -- I wouldn't be at all pleased by this technology. Even if they watch the movie in the privacy of their own homes, there'd still be something mighty icky about them watching pictures that show me having sex.

I've actually written something along the same lines back in 2002 on LawMeme (The Future of Virtual Kiddie Pr0n and Other Notes on Ashcroft v. Free Speech). I think my example of virtual child pornography is even more disturbing and icky than celebrity porn.

However, I have to disagree with Prof. Volokh. As someone who is (peripherally) involved in the Machinima community, I believe that although pornography will be quite prevalent so will many other legitimate uses. The tools available to the pornographer will be the tools available to the budding film student. I think we are going to see many more non-pornographic uses than not. Yes, people will make pornography, but they will also download comedic scripts and the images of their favorite comedians.

Heck, it may become a significant art form with those who make the script suggesting several actors (or synthespians) for a particular role, but leaving the final "casting" decisions up to the consumer. Why pay for actors if you can direct the script and have the consumers add in the actors that they want later?

In any case, there better be significant legitimate uses, otherwise you are going to have a lot of explaining to do when your spouse/significant other stumbles across the program on your converged media center.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Freedom of Expression | Machinima

May 27, 2004

Marketing Media@Home

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Earlier today Slashdot linked to an article about whether distributed rendering for CGI movies, such as the hilarious Shrek 2, makes any sense (Rendering Shrek@Home?). The article that sparked the /. discussion was on Download Aborted!: Can I Help to Render Shrek 3?.

For a number of technical reasons, this is probably not a very viable idea (see the comments on /. and the original piece for the reasons why). However, on BoingBoing, Cory Doctorow has transformed the original concept into a much better one: SHREK@HOME: blue-sky proposal for the future of film production:

Ultimately, the largest expense in an Internet marketplace where anything is available always anywhere is marketing: the more choice, the more expensive influencing choice becomes.

So a social SHREK@HOME could engage its audience not just for their cycles, but for their evangelism. We see glimmers of that in some machinima projects, like Red v Blue or in Flash-shorts like Homestar Runner, a clubbish sense of ownership by its fans that turn them into relentless marketers of the net-art. [emphasis in original]

As they say, read the whole thing.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Machinima

February 26, 2004

Machinima and Games in Law School

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Cardozo Law Professor Susan Crawford gives me an excuse to talk about one of my favorite topics - machinima (Susan Crawford Blog :: Machinima). For those who are unaware, machinima is a media form in which creators use pre-existing 3D engines (typically game engines, such as Unreal) to create new video works. Basically, machinima is a cheap and easy way to make animated movies.

Apparently, Crawford is planning something called "Property Law: The Video Game" and had the whole machinima concept introduced to a bunch of law professors. "Property Law: The Video Game" actually is an intriguing concept. I don't know what Crawford has planned but it will be interesting to see, as we already have property law videogames out there, in a sense, such as EverQuest. Certainly there are both implicit and explicit (not to mention intriguing) notions of property law in games like There and Second Life. Interested in more examples? Check out Virtual Worlds Review. Property Law: The Video Game is worth keeping an eye on, I think.

Back to machinima, however. Honestly, I'm not quite sure how useful this video form will be in law schools. Law is primarily and will, hopefully, remain textual for quite some time. Who wants to watch a video of a document? Sure, you could make machinima reenactments of accidents or crime scenes, but that is fairly trivial. Although ... I do think back to the final exam for one of my torts classes and remember the horrible accident involving Macy's Parade Balloons that was the hypothetical to be analyzed. It would have been very cool to have a machinima version of the accident instead of the paragraphs. Of course, professors will seldom have the desire, time or resources to create such things (many barely have the time to write the traditional page-long hypothetical).

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Games | Machinima

November 15, 2003

Second Life and Machinima

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Thanks to the new Second Life license, discussed here (New IP Rules for Second Life), there has been a request by a director of machinima to "film" in the world of Second Life. Permission has, of course, been granted.


Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Culture | Games | Machinima | The State of Play