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Video Games Star in Films

April 26, 2010 — The hero of the next movie you watch may have started in video games. On Friday, April 30, University of Utah students will screen short animated films they made with 3-D video game production software for a class on “machinima,” or machine cinema.

Although most of the movies use characters and settings from video games, one student film – “Everyday Apocalypse” – is a mix of live-action and animation. The movie is about a person who is seemingly unfazed by scary video game creatures, gunfights, explosions and warfare as he goes about an otherwise regular workday.

The public and news media are invited to the fourth annual Machinima Festival from 3:15 p.m. to 5 p.m. MDT in the Utah Museum of Fine Arts’ Dumke Auditorium, 410 Campus Center Drive. It is sponsored by the University of Utah’s School of Computing and the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program.

“With machinima, you can produce animated movies much more quickly than you can with traditional computer animation techniques,” says Robert Kessler, a computer science professor who teaches the machinima class. “Machinima is an excellent vehicle for computer science students and film students to use their strengths together from their various disciplines to make movies. That to me is the strongest part of this.”

Machinima Fest ’10 will have an eclectic mix of films: a crime story about revenge, an Edgar Allan Poe tale, a Greek myth, a silent western comedy and many others. Student films will be judged by a panel of experts from the university, Disney Interactive Studios, Smart Bomb Interactive and the Sundance Institute.

The University of Utah has long been at the forefront of computer graphics and animation. Its video game design program was recently ranked in the nation’s top 50 by the Princeton Review. Beginning in fall, the Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program will offer an executive master’s degree in video game development, art and production.

The U is currently building a team of experts in digital media for the USTAR (Utah Science, Technology and Research) initiative – a long-term, state-funded effort to strengthen technological research and stimulate economic development in Utah. With an emphasis in computer game technology, this Digital Media Institute will be a research center for the university’s colleges of engineering, fine arts and architecture. The institute will also collaborate with Utah computer gaming studios to promote entrepreneurship by licensing university technology to spin-off companies.

In addition to “Everyday Apocalypse, a list of Machinima Fest ’10 films is here:

Examples of U of U Machinima films, including some not being screened on April 30:

Some other films from the U’s current machinima class are at this link (caution, some contain language that may be offensive):

The university machinima page on YouTube is:

University of Utah Entertainment Arts and Engineering Program: