That sweet looking video above what you're reading is a Call of Duty 4 machinima titled "Splintered Edge," made by one Michael Barnes. X-Play's Anthony Rogers took a few minutes to chat with Mr. Barnes about his extremely polished and cinematic creation, and what it's like to make a digital movie. Hit the break for the full interview.
First off, do you work alone on these projects? How many people were involved in “Splintered Edge?”
A grand total of one, just me. Aside from the music and sounds which came from actual movies.
What kind of work do you do for a living when you aren’t creating machinima films? Do you find it difficult to make time for your filmmaking?
I just go to college, nothing particularly special. It does become a bit difficult dividing up time for homework and doing videos and such- usually videos come out on top, and most of the time my grades reflect it. I guess it's all for the best though.
“Splintered Edge” is close to nine minutes in length. How long did it take you to complete this project?
About two weeks altogether, working from about half a hour to a hour a night. One of the main problems was multiplayer keeping me off task.
In your video’s description you mention how you’d like everyone to know that every sound in your film had been added in post, mainly because you wanted a higher quality sound and a unique sound. Can you tell us a little about the sound design aspect of this film?
The sound design side of it was completely out of my hands, I did mostly editing and mixing- almost all the sounds came from the movie The Kingdom. It basically degenerated down to me cutting up clips into individual sounds, or having to remix a few things here and there to get them as close to perfect (like a machine gun burst being to long or too short, and me making it shorter or longer). Also adding some extra bass hits to the explosions for a more meatier sound. I know, I sound like a bit of hack- but I find it marginally impressive. That was by far the main thing I wanted this video to be was unique, since most of the viewers have played this mission to death. Down to the color correction: (as much as I loved the blue hues it had) I wanted it to seem like the complete opposite of what everyone was expecting, but also keeping it interesting and coherent for those who've never played the game.
From “A Few Good G Men” to “Red vs Blue,” machinima has grown by leaps and bounds in the last few years. How long have you been creating machinima and what are some of the machinima films that inspired you?
I remember my first attempt at machinima was for the first Call of Duty game: I went in and filmed a few scenes in single player and edited them over some trailers for Band of Brothers. So about four years, I guess. The biggest inspiration came from a CoD movie Call to Arms: Episode 2. It was the first time I've ever seen a good movie made from a game and it just made me try harder and harder to get up to that caliber.
Speaking of films, do you think machinima has evolved to a point where it can be considered a viable filmmaking medium? Or do you think it is destined be critically lauded and financially disappointing like “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?”
I don't think it's at the point of making huge box office dollars- if anything it would be a limited market. Most movie-goers would expect Pixar level animation with "CGI" type films. I'm not saying that some of these games that come out aren't visually or plot-wise up to snuff- because they are: it's just that the average person wouldn't really get into it. I know when I show friends or family members (who haven't really gotten into gaming) my videos, they give me this "what the hell is this?" look, or they have no idea what I did to it. Of course, that's just my opinion.
You’ve also recently released a film called “The Sins of Our Fathers.” During that film you effectively used a very interesting piece of music. How did you come around the idea of using a Beach Boys song in your film?
I just wanted an oldies track playing over the radio, mostly inspired by the movie Behind Enemy Lines where pop culture is a bit late in getting over to
While we doubt that Brian Wilson is a machinima fan, your pieces have been watched by hundreds of thousands of people and must have caught the eye of people whose work you’ve borrowed from. Has anyone from Infinity Ward or Activision reached out to you?
I've gotten a few emails from some of the people at Infinity Ward, thus far all positive. IW seems to be filled with some of the most extremely encouraging and kind people around, which just inspires me to do more of these.
What is it about Call of Duty 4 that inspires you to create these films? Have you ever used or considered creating a film using Halo 3 or another any other recent games?
One of the first things that hit me was how visually beautiful it is, especially for a game where you run around pumping people full of lead. Every nook and cranny seems to have a lovingly applied layer of depth that most games fail to achieve. Not only that but I love the characters: each one really seems to be living and breathing- not just from the way they talk, but also the motion capture animations which makes everything seem so life-like. I haven't really given any thought to doing any other new games as of yet: one big reason is my computer is three years old and is really feeling its age on some of these next-gen games. Another is as of right now I don't own any consoles, so I'm up the creek with some of these console exclusives. But when I do find another game that really hits me like CoD4 has, then I guess you'll find a video of it with my name stamped on it.