Whether you like to admit it or not, the 3dmm community is dying a painful, agonizing death. While many are constantly in denial, claiming that the community is as active as ever, they are blatantly wrong. The issues, however, are not the commonly known statements that people use to proclaim the impending death of the community. The problem isn't the fact that people prefer discussing which Britney Spears song is better or masturbation techniques than making a movie. The problem isn't bandwidth limitations and the downfall of free web servers. The problem is far more simple, lying in the core of the community. The problem are the movies.
The community has existed for many years, dating as far back as 1996. In it's 5 years, it would seem logical that it'd evolve into a place where excellent, complex movies are made more frequently. Alas, that is not the case.
Let's think about what the 3dmm community is. In a nutshell, it's a gathering place where people discuss and release movies, while also using it for other unrelated purposes. The community dynamics have changed with the years. While originally the community consisted of separate, popular sites, mostly all focusing on the same aspects, now it consists of a very limited amount of sites, each of them being somehow specialized. 3dmm.com is the main site, acting as the gathering point for most 3dmmers. Most 3dmmers are young. Community members are usually 13-16 years old. There are a limited number of people who are already past their teenage years, and people who are still looking at stepping that road.
Of course, wth the community being a place cluttered with teenagers, most of what's discussed there is borderline retarded. And thus, most people are borderline retarded. And THUS, most movies are borderline retarded.
I left the bulletin boards a while ago, because of the overall immaturity witnessed there. I think this has been extremely positive, because you see things from another perspective once you're outside. And once you're outside, you realize how poor in quality the community is. I'm typing this long, disjointed rant to try and half-show what directors need to do to save this community from its poor standards.
Directing abilities in the community are painfully lacking. Most people in the community lack vision, and put little thought into what they're doing.
Take Tony Teulan, for example. You'd think a person studying film, a person that considers himself a cinema fan would be able to craft a film with cinema-like ideas. That would not be the case. While Tony might be a decent writer (as the semi-interesting "Escape & Sacrifice" proved), he's a truly hideous director. His movie was lambasted because of it's animation, but that isn't what people should have been focusing on. The cinematography is. While it isn't fully reasonable to expect Teulan to make excellent, poetic images with 3d movie maker, he, as an aspiring director, should focus on that aspect instead of relying on contrived angles, sloppy editing, and a lack of visual flare in general. The movie seems more like a filmed play than an actual film, wasting the perfect opportunity of using the cinematic language to support it's story.
One of the main haters of this movie was Will Maltby. He had quite a following when he criticized the movie, mostly because of his reputation as a top director. In reality, however, he's considerably worse than Teulan. Let's look at the 2 aspects for which he's been part of the reason the community has remained as an abomination.
The first, and probably most harmful trend this guy introduced to the community were "short movies". These short movies were basically "comedies", in which a person would get brutally killed in a cartoonish trend and make "funny sounds". This brand of immature humor quickly spread across the community. Maltby's site, 3dmm.co.uk, gave excellent ratings to these shorts films, which became increasingly shorter. His were of a reasonable lenght for a short. Those made by others were barely even shorts, and looked like they were made by a retarded chimpanzee with a hand tied behind it's back. Shorts became the standard of the community, and everyone was in love with them. Furthermore, 3dmm.co.uk often gave bad grades to long, ambitious movies (such as the aforementioned Escape & Sacrifice) because they were "boring". Boring. Now, judging by Maltby's real movie standards (calling the Fifth Element a great movie, considering Black Hawk Down one of the best movies ever), it's not entirely unreasonable to suggest that he has attention deficit disorder, and that his opinion on anything artistic is about as reasonable and justified as that of a 10-year-old boy. But the damage is done. Nowadays, very few people actually work on real movies, instead focusing on making the next Sniper movie that'll be instantly forgettable.
The other trend this guy was a part of (not originated) was the traditional action movie trend. Maltby was always a firm believer that movies don't need a plot, well-developed characters, or even an iota of intelligence or thought put to them. Instead, all movies needed were to be shiny and have smooth angles. He certainly achieved his goal with Diabolical Delightenment, an action-comedy movie which can only be described as an abomination. This "movie", consisting of a bunch of random, idiotic, senseless action scenes with smooth camera angles, was acclaimed by everyone and it's ridiculous cartoon style, with little to no use of visual poetry, was copied by everyone and their mother. And many others came. Aaarnishoz, a horrible, atmosphere-less, thrill-less action film with no sense of framing whatsoever. Ragtag Group Of Rebels, a semi-decent movie only a little less idiotic than DD. Which is not to say that this is all Maltby's fault. Even before, the community had movies such as Action Joe 2 and Desperado 2, moronic action films with no sense of style, no story, no characters, no thrills, simply nothing of worth. DD, however, was the last straw, which equalled nothing more than directorial masturbation, a brainless twit showing off his new tricks.
These are both people that at least have achieved *something*, as mediocre as it is. Now take someone like Jeff Ching, for example. This man qualifies as the extreme example of how inefficient the 3dmm community is at harvesting and pushing out talent. As far as I know, Jeff Ching has released 4 movies. I've seen 3 of them (the more recent ones), plus an unfinished version of his current work, and I can safely say that this man has no talent whatsoever. If by some reason I'm mistaken, then this talent hasn't come out to the open by the community's help. In the time he's been in the community, he has achieved absolutely nothing in movies. His movies range from the unwatchable to the pain-inducing. A good director, he isn't. Jeff Ching has no visual style. At all. He practically hasn't improved his 3dmm abilities in 3 years. A good writer, he isn't. His movie The Horny And The Dead received some positive remarks from people saying its drama was efficient. These people are probably mentally retarded. Childish humor and hideous attempts at drama and character development don't equal good writing. Now, Jeff is an exception.... In the directing area, that is. His improvement has been so non-existent that it baffles me. Most other directors manage to somewhat improve their animation skills. But their cinematic eye is still dead, and they are still hideous writers. So, while one could say Jeff Ching is the worst 3dmmer in existence, he's not really that far away from the quality standard, if you think about it in terms other than what looks more shiny and detailed.
So, to answer our original question: Why are 3dmm movies so horribly bad? Many reasons. Most of them were already mentioned by this point, but let me refer to them more clearly.
Lack of good writing skills: This is, of course, one of the main faults in 3dmm movies. Seeing as almost everyone in the community thinks up their own idea for a movie, the failure of a movie's story can be attributed solely to the person directing it, unlike in the real world, where a movie's idiotic story can sometimes be salvaged by a competent director. In 3dmm, we'll assume that anyone that thinks up an idiotic story is probably not going to be an artistic genius that'll create a masterpiece. Most people don't even write scripts. If you think about it, you can probably count the amount of movies with solid plots with your hand. Some of Ben Williams's movies. The NUTS series (arguably). Geg Strnad's FF movie. Some of Qaz/Tuna's movies. That's about it. Almost every single other movie seems to be the spontaneous work of a 12-year-old boy, which it probably is. If people can't even have decent movie ideas, then there's no way a truly brilliant movie will come out of the community.
Lack of cinematic vision: This is, in fact, the single greatest problem the community has. While generally a good plot is required to have a good movie, sometimes a movie with a weak script can be elevated to greatness by it's directing. The problem in 3dmm, of course, is that hardly ANYONE knows how to direct. If you look at most 3dmm movies, even those that are widely acclaimed as being excellently directed, the use of visual imagery is practically non-existent. Everyone simply does the scenes from the angle that's easier for them, without putting any thought to what the image in itself is trying to convey. Creating a visual experience in 3dmm should be easier than in real life. In real life, a movie is a moving photograph of things that are already there, which you can construct and light to a certain extent. In 3dmm, you construct the whole thing. You, as the director, decide where and when things are going to be. Not to mention that lacking the limitations of a real camera, you can create scenes that simply wouldn't be possible if filmed in real life. So many opportunities, but they're wasted. Wasted on crap. Take a look at the oh-so-great directorial feats achieved in 3dmm. DD, a bunch of senseless camera masturbation with no sense of logic. Just zoom in, zoom out, that's it. Bodily Functions, an erratic display of "cute" creatures and animation that is truly, not impressive. What about framing? Is there anyone that actually puts some thought into how their picture is framed? 5 years and most people STILL use the standard "person in the middle of the vertical frame, view from the side" angle. If that's not it, then it's thoughtless, unnecessary camera panning, zooming, or switching. Movies should have visually impressive scenes, scenes that, with a single unbroken angle, can be moving works of art. Yet people still don't do it. And it's the community's fault. How are newbies going to learn when all people tell them is "your movie has no moving cameras, you suck"? Don't expect anyone to create a visual masterpiece if you continually praise them for the wrong reasons. No moving cameras? Not important. A movie can be visually incredible without the excessive use of stylistic resources in order to try and seem more cutting edge. A movie can be visually impressive by simply showing it's story through images, focusing on the visuals to showcase it's point, rather than music or dialogue. Film, or movies, are a visual medium. The visuals are the most important aspect, with the dialogue and music complementing it. A drama shouldn't rely on sad cues to tell the audience that it's a sad moment. Nor should it rely on a character expressing his feelings for the audience to understand what the character feels. Too hard in 3dmm? No. Bullshit. It can be done. It will be done.
Now, I'm not suggesting everyone in the community is a genius at heart who can create perfect movies. No. But think about Hollywood. Even horrible, talentless directors can ocassionally make something that's at least good to look at. Most 3dmm movies aren't good to look at. Most 3dmm movies are an abortion. Next time you're doing a movie, think about what you're doing. Think about WHY you're making the scene this way. Think about WHY you want to save a few minutes of your time instead of putting effort into your movie, which will become a hackjob.
Lack of originality: The 3dmm community, as mentioned before, consists mostly of teenagers. Now, just as when you were a child and you'd play with your toys, sometimes recreating stuff you had previously seen on TV and movies, 3dmm is used by teenagers to recreate things they see in sources other than their own imagination. That is a problem. Think about the many game adaptations done in 3dmm. Resident Evil. Half Life. Movie adaptations, such as The Matrix. The problem here is that people don't want to show an original story or an original movie. They want to replicate something they've seen because it's "cool". Now, I'm not opposed to making something that's not your idea. I am doing a book adaptation, and there are people that direct movies written by others. But do it if you're trying to make some sort of interpretation on it, as opposed to just trying to recreate something to it's faithful details.
There is, of course, another aspect in originality, which is being repetitive. Many directors do something original, and then proceed to milk all they can out of the idea until their movies become repetitive garbage. Take Adrian Pikios, for example. Yes, Bodily Functions was a "revolutionary" movie (it's really not very good), and the NUTS series was very good (that one actually is pretty good), but he has proceeded to recycle and reuse the characters whenever he can, making the ultra-bad "Showdown" and the upcoming "Redwampa Vs. Pikios". If a director has a fetish with movie characters, it'd be best if they don't sneak into all of his work and absolutely corrupt it. Or Ben Williams, for a more interesting example. Yes, the whole "trite narrated movie with a surprise ending" gimmick worked well... at first. Now it's old, and one has to doubt if he can do anything else.
Try to make movies that are YOURS. Even if you're adapting something, or directing from someone else's scripts, don't just make a copy of something. Just don't do exactly what the script says, without adding your own visual ideas. Movies should be YOUR movies, either in a visual form or in a written form.
Waste of time: Most movies nowadays are short. Short and stupid. These movies are a waste of time, especially if they're released. If you're making a movie like this one solely to practice your animation talent, then by god, just keep it in your hard drive. Other time wasters are talk shows. These are not real movies. These are sloppy excuses for TV shows, with the notable difference that you're fully staging the whole thing, ruining all sort of spontaneous comedy or entertainment factor.
I've already dedicated a fair amount of time at slagging and destroying every single 3dmm movie ever, complaining about their overall mediocrity and the director's zoom or character fetishes. That isn't particularly useful. Now comes the constructive part of this long, boring read. How can you make a good movie?
Let's be honest. Some people have talent, and some don't. Some people use this program because they feel that they want to be directors in the future. Some people use this program simply as a hobby. And some people just shouldn't be using this program, because they are talentless idiots.
There's a first one, a first "prevention" procedure, that will prevent your movie from sucking from the beginning. Don't make a show. Don't make a chain movie. Don't make a wrestling movie. Don't make ANYTHING that isn't an actual movie. Or it'll be a brainless, worthless piece of cack.
Let's focus on the person that uses this program as a fun hobby. I'm going to assume, just for the sake of being more organized, that if you use this program as a hobby, you're probably going to be directing either a comedy or an action movie, but nothing that's intellectually serious. How do you start?
Write a script. A real script. Not a collection of jokes. Not a 2-page description of several random action scenes. Write a goddamn script, something that has at least *some* intelligence put to it. Flaming pieces of dogcrap like P.A.M and DD have made people believe it's "ok" to make random, idiotic pieces of crap that consist of nothing more than a bunch of poorly connected action sequences with no tension whatsoever. Or idiotic, random comedies that consist of making strange sounds. No. No, no, no, no, no. Write something that at least makes sense. It's not that hard, really. It's not that hard to make an action movie that actually has interesting characters and a decent plot. It's not that hard to have a movie with a well developed protagonist and a well developed antagonist. In fact, go ahead and use that retarded "3 act structure" type of screenplay if you want to. Just write something coherent, something that doesn't insult the audience with its sheer lack of intelligence.
After you have your script done, plan the movie. Always plan your movie first. Don't just start the movie without a clear idea of what your first image is going to be. Know how you're going to make this. Draw it, if you want. In stick figures, if you want. Just have a clear idea of what it is that you're going to do.
Frame your scenes well. There's nothing more hideous in a movie than the traditional angles that everyone uses. Be original. Evoke feelings with the pictures in your movie. A single frame of the movie should work in itself, just as all of them should work as a whole. If what you're doing is an action movie, then use camera angles and movement that emphasize the action, not that hamper it. There are so many action movies made that just completely ignore this easy, basic rules, having a bunch of overly repetitive, un-cinematic camera angles.
Finally, choose music that fits the movie's atmosphere and themes. FITS. The music isn't supposed to be what guides the scene. The visuals are. Don't just pick a song that you want to set the atmosphere. This is particularly obvious in dramas. Don't use sad cues to indicate the audience that it's their time to cry. Don't. That's cheap and amateurish.
Once you're done, you'll probably have a decent action / comedy. Of course, it's harder with comedy because perhaps, you're simply not a funny individual. Still, this movie probably won't be nothing to be too proud of, but if it's just a hobby, then you shouldn't have a problem with that, you worthless jackass.
Now let's go to more complicated movies. Let's say you're using this program because you either A) want to be a serious movie director, or B) Want to make a serious movie. Those are obviously harder, and not any moron can do them.
Let's start off with the basics: The script. I already discussed basic action / comedy scripts in previous paragraphs. Now, this doesn't mean that if you're gonna make a serious movie, it can't be an action or a comedy. It can, but what i'll focus on with "serious" is drama. These tips are perfectly useful if you want to make a serious action / comedy, however.
First of all, is your script about anything? Is your movie trying to teach or to show something? Is it just your ideas and beliefs showcased through a story with metaphorical meanings? I'm not saying every single movie needs to be about something, but the viewer should at least get something out of it, something other than the classic "entertainment". Sure, there are entertaining movies. But they fade from memory faster and faster. Serious films will stay in your mind for a long while. You have 2 choices: You either try and say something through your movie, or try and make the audience feel something through your movie. The average horror movie isn't really going to teach an audience about the meaning of life and death. What it can do, however, is leave the audience unsettled, disturb the viewer and make him ponder what he's just seen. A drama, however, works better when you try to tell something. If not, it'll seem more like a cheap attempt at making the audience cry.
If your script is, indeed, about something, is this something too cliché? It is something obvious like "crime never pays" or "a single action can change everyone" or "drugs will kill you"? Or is it something original? Does it reflect your beliefs? If not, it'll seem fake, because you'd basically be lying while making the movie. Furthermore, are these ideas expressed in a logical form? Or are they betraying the logic of the movie?
Then there's the less deep aspect of the screenplay, which are the story and characters. Create characters that act like human beings. Create characters that don't betray their personalities. If you want your character to change, show the change, instead of suddenly making him act out of character. Your characters need to have reasons, motivations, beliefs, they need to be alive. They can't simply be puppets used to advance the plot. The plot needs to advance the characters.
Is the plot reasonable? Are there aspects of the plot that just don't make any sense? Be careful with the way you make your plot points, particularly in drama. A scene that makes no sense is annoying, particularly because it reveals what the director was trying to do with it, namely: being shamelessly manipulative. Don't add action scenes out of nowhere. Don't have characters dying out of nowhere. Don't try to make the audience cry. Just tell them your story, and if it's good enough, the emotions will come automatically.
Now start your movie. How are you going to make this movie, visually? There are many different things to consider. The type of directing approach. The type of colors and scenery. The type of aspect ratio. Everything. Work in a way that's confortable for you, but that isn't just confortable because it saves you time and you don't have to think. Explaining how to make a movie visually good is hard in words, so let's see some examples.
Alternate Vlarion 3
This scene, for instance, is an abomination. All of the action is centered into the classic, boring, trite "characters in the middle of the frame" standard. Everything happens within the same angle and frame, but not because it is trying to convey something. It's not a technique used as a way of showing how small or how centered these characters are against the world. No. It's just lazy filmmaking, a sad attempt at not doing different versions of the scene for dynamism's sake.
Alternate Vlarion 3
Here's another example from the same movie. Notice the way the characters are. Again, this scene is a waste. The magnitude of what could be a perfect, epic battle is wasted by horrible angles and an overall lack of tension. These movie constantly features these same angles, putting all the characters in the same frame, for minutes at a time, effectively killing any tension whatsoever. It's hard to get worse than this...
... but it's possible. Look at this. This is a hideous, horribly constructed scene. It looks like a cheap piece of crap downloaded from a scene website. Where's the feeling? Where's the emotion? Where's ANYTHING? This is bad, bad, bad. It showcases the standard "characters from the side" type of movie, where a scene is repeatedly used, the only purpose being that the director didn't want to make it again. Other movies that show this include the horrendous "Bongo Adventures" series.
I'm not entirely sure who did this, because it's a scene from some sort of compilation movie, but it's an abortion. Look at that. A single character walking sideways?!? How outstanding. Even hideous movies like Wrestlemania know how to make a character entrance.
This movie gets praised a lot, but it really isn't anything to be too giddy about. Look at this scene, for instance. The action is limited and occurs in a specific place. Meanwhile, almost half of the scene is wasted in a black background. The movie features alot of scenes like this, with little use of multiple action or better choreography.
Now, this is way better. This screenshot doesn't do this one justice, but as you can see, 2 things are happening simultaneously. This scene would have been improved if half of it wasn't wasted on a black background, however. This movie has scenes of excellence and scenes of mediocrity. This scene works best at showing the chaos that's happening inside, as opposed to many of the other scenes, which, by focusing on a single event, make the event seem of a lesser magniture than what it is.
This scene is just a little above mediocrity, but it shows activity. Look at the 3 characters. There's one character that the camera wants you to focus on, another character far away, and another character running at the frame's limit, almost out of sight. Showcases more depth than most movies, and it's years, years old.
An excellent directing feat by Jason Ruiz, sadly unreleased. Look at this frame. In a single shot, this tells you more about the character than all the dialogue he has. The eyes, the camera looking from below, the photograph in the background. This scene is a perfect arrangement of elements. The movie has other scenes of these sort, such as scenes where you can see in the background that characters that have nothing to do with the story notice the development, as opposed to just standing there blandly. Definitely one of the more "alive" movies I've seen. The color scheme is also interesting, seeing as most of the colors are somewhat similar (brown to red, red to yellow). The only color that seems notable is the money.
One of the masters of idiotic, brainless movies, Jimmy Pozin, is also one of the few that actually has a good eye. Look at the depth in the scene. It's brilliant eyecandy and photography, so to speak.
Dead Heart In A Dead World
This scene, in the moment it happens, shows you exactly the intentions of the character. That, combined with the stark black and white color scheme, makes for one of the only well directed movies I've made.
I think that it's now obvious what I meant by using a visual language to show your story. Everything, from the color of the scene, to the way the camera is facing, to the zooming in or out, to the speed of the scene, sets the mood for the movie. If you can't succesfully handle these elements, your movie will probably suck.
Which doesn't mean you need to try all of this. Many movies fail miserably because the director tries to constantly do things that he just can't. Take Jeff Ching. He's an inept animator. So, for no reason should he try moving cameras. If he just said "Ok, I suck, but I'm gonna work with what I can do well" instead of trying to keep up with the community, his skills might improve in the areas that he's competent at.
Then there's the sound. Picking music is a very tricky thing. Seeing as this is 3dmm, you probably pick the music before you do the movie, seeing as no one's going to compose it for you. But do NOT make a scene solely constructed around music. Music should support the visuals. Movies aren't a long music video. Pick songs that fit the movie. This is pretty obvious, but there are some fucktards that just don't know it. Don't pick songs with singing in scenes that have dialogue. Don't clutter a movie with your favorite band's songs just because you like them. And finally, do NOT steal from other people. There's nothing more unoriginal than using Matrix music nowadays. Doing so is branding the word "imbecile" on your forehead. Furthermore, there's the use of sound effects. To raise the atmosphere of the movie, the sound effects need to create the illusion that these cartoons are real, that what you're hearing is really a wave splashing against a rock, and not a digitalized sound. Use sounds aptly. Don't repeat the same sounds all the time. Don't
Acting is another important, yet sadly overlooked aspect. For most people, acting is the hardest aspect in making a movie, because it's the one the director has the least control in, unless he/she does the voices by him/herself. Send the movie to people so that they insert the voices themselves. Select people that you KNOW can act. Do not just fill a movie up with every single person that volunteers. In the old days, having a voice cast was unusual. Nowadays, it's routine. Still, most people don't know how to milk a succesful cast. Make them repeat, if necessary. Drop them, if necessary. Do the voices yourself, if necessary, but don't overlook the acting, because badly-acted characters will make the audience lose some of their interest in the story.
And finally, editing. Sometimes it's hard to get rid of scenes you worked on, but sometimes you've got to admit that your movie is simply full of useless scenes that need to be redone. Don't make movies with long scenes that have multiple angles in them. That'll make editing extremely more difficult. Keep it simple, 2 angles per scene. That should be enough for you to freely change any aspects later.
And watch real movies. Please. Don't take your inspiration from the insipid crap that gets released in the community. Take it from real movies. Go watch 2001. Go watch Citizen Kane. Go watch Apocalypse Now. Go watch Seven Samurai. Go watch SOMETHING that'll show you the greatness and beauty of cinematic language.
So, I think we can write down that the 9 basic requirements for your serious movie to be competent are:
1) An intelligent, original plot that succesfully conveys feelings and ideas in a way that doesn't try and manipulate the audience.
2) Well developed characters that act logically and reinforce the ideas and feelings that the movie tries to convey.
3) Direction that focuses on using the cinematic language in moderate, but not excessive ways, trying to show the feelings and emotions from the story through images, rather than through words and music.
4) Original style and ideas from the director that are applied into the movie, but not excessively or constantly. Elements that refer to the director's previous work, but don't make it a copy of it.
5) Tight pace, only allowing scenes that are trying to either advance the plot or express the ideas in the movie, either obviously or below the surface.
6) Acting that helps support the emotions and details of the story and characters, while at the same time not seeming overly staged.
7) Music that helps support the atmosphere of the movie, yet not being the prime way of evoking feelings from the audience.
9) Well placed sound that suits the movie, without setting too much attention on itself.
8) Abandon of excessive trickery and focus on brainless eye-candy and animation.
I'm sure a lot of people will disagree with this document. There are, of course, the ones that I shamelessly insult throughout the course of the manifesto, but those are to be expected. After all, no one appreciates being called a talentless retard. More importantly, however, are all that aren't mentioned here. All of those that will immediately start screaming and hollering about how 3dmm is just a kid's program, a hobby that serves for creating short little pieces of fluff that will entertain other teenagers. But that's no excuse. It is possible to craft a hollow, entertaining movie that isn't an insult to the audience and a mediocre piece of work. It is possible to make an action movie that stands as an excellent film. Not everything needs to be full of small little details. It just needs to convey its story through visuals, and be supported by music and words, if necessary.
So, go ahead and criticize all you want about the exaggerated comments here, about how I'm a psychotic, pretentious hermit who thinks anything other than high art is absolutely worthless. Do so, if you please. But I'm sure at least a few of you will read this and understand what I mean. I'm sure some will think "this is perfectly valid, I should pay more attention to these things when I'm making my movies". I'm sure some will think that this way of thinking, this way of assuring your movie is better, is the key to the salvation of the community, as opposed to complaining about the newbies and critizing the lack of sites. And that, my friends, is enough.