By lance weiler, February 15th, 2008

Christy Dena is one of the most knowledgeable people I know working in the cross-media arena. Having studied the topic for years, she is at the forefront of a new emerging form of entertainment.  Christy has written a comprehensive essay on the topic for the Feb 2008 issue (vol 14, no 1) of Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies (which is available in hardcopy and online).  In addition she has created an amazing online augmentation to the article – a free minisite that details a number of interesting ARG (alternate reality games) in great detail.  Well worth the visit for anyone looking for an overview.

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Posted in arg audience case study cross-media crowdsourced gaming user-gen

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

  • DIY list #4 is a collaborative documentary project to create a feature film about copyright in the digital age. The film entitled, Basement Tapes is a crowdsourced… read more
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    Today’s guest is Cory Doctorow. Cory is an accomplished science fiction author, blogger and internet activist. In addition he is co-editor of the popular… read more
By lance weiler, December 13th, 2007

M dot Strange reports – So I was lucky enough to be summoned to make an animated music video for one of my favorite bands “Mindless Self Indulgence” I used Cinema 4d 9.1 w/Cactus Dans tools, and After Effects 6.5.

I thought I would out together a little thang documenting my work on the Mindless Self Indulgence music video “Animal” There’s a ton of music video making-of’s out there but since I’m bored waiting for 3d renders to finish I’ll add one more to the mix.

So this is my process….

The sonG – The first thing I do is listen to the song over and over and just see where the sound takes you… If nothing really jumps out…if scenes don’t start building themselves in my head I’ll go read the lyrics and see if that does something for me… The title can also do thing for you… For this song I just kinda had an idea about the singer being chased around a weird city by a bunch of strange animals. So I listened to the song and drew up some totally photorealistic storyboards.

Storyboard Example

After doing the rough boards I had an idea of what I was going to have to model for the video. I had to model, texture and rig the four members of the band. Now I’m not trying to impress anyone with my modeling abilities. There’s no use in creating a multimillion polygon model if you can get the same effect with a 10,000 polygon one. When I’m designing characters for a project like this I just try to create very simple iconic figures with strong silouettes. Since my roots are with 8-bit video game graphics I approach building a 3d model like I’m creating pixel art except I use 3d primitive cubes in place of pixels. This leads to the 8-bit/lego-ish look of the models. So I always trying to use as few polys as possible with my models. I run my 3d app and render clients (cinema 4d) on Windows XP 32bit so I’m prone to out of memory errors which suCK really bad. So I try to keep the characters low poly so I have a lot of free polys to use for the ridiculous backgrounds I like using. So a simply designed cool looking character animated in a funky fashion in front of complex backgrounds.

Non textured Model

So after modeling all the characters and adding temporary textures to the them I hand them off to my old media friend Sean Boyles so he can hand paint the textures. He uses the colors and designs from my temp texturing but applies it by hand with Bodypaint 3d. This adds enough imperfection to the model to make it look less like it came off an assembly line.

Textured Model before my modifications

Once the models are textured I’m free to add joints, skin and rig them. Since all the bodies have the same geometry and only the heads are different it was a fairly quick job. I think I did it all in one sitting in the cafe before my laptop battery died. I use the excellent Cactus Dan plugins for adding joints, skinning and rigging. The Cactus Dan plugins make the process much easier and faster. So I just created a skeleton for one model and copied it over to the others. I use the joint mirroring and auto-skinning to speed up the process and the C4dIK plugin’s make rigging a snap. So once they’re all ready to animate I put them in cool poses and just make sure they look right together.

My evil 8-bit Lego MSI peeps

Since I only had less than two weeks to make this video I didn’t have time to create new sets and backgrounds so I just used some sets from my animated feature film “We are the Strange” I built an entire world in 3d for that film so I guess its like my own private backlot I’m shooting on now ^^ So once I have the time consuming modeling and rigging out of the way I revisit the storyboard. I add in new scenes that came to mind while in 3d land and then scan in my crappy drawings so I can create the animatic.

Animatic SnippeT

I use the shot times from the animatic as a guide for the 3d animation. Also by looking at my animatic I know exactly which shots and which parts of the song will require lip sync. I had a few people helping me out with this video project and since lip sync is SOOOOO fun ^^ I asked my friend DemonicBunny if he would do the honors. Like the character “Pasteur” in WATS I wanted the lip sync to be created in MAriopaint. So this would be a 2d pixel animated mouth pasted onto a 3d animated character. So I sent him the sound files for the clips that needed lip sync and a reference image for the style/shape mouth I was looking for. In a few days he sent me the adobe illustrator sequence files I needed for the mouth.

Mouth shapes made in Mariopaint for lip sync

Since I didn’t need to do any lip sync I could instead just focus on the character animation. I’m already familiar with the band and they’re performances but I went ahead and got some reference videos from youtube of the band performing the song “Animal” The singer is always the center of attention in a performance so the singer would be the focus of the character animation in this video. By looking at the animatic I figured out which shots would require synchronized animation and music. I went ahead and animated the Jimmy model synced up to the song in empty scenes for all the shots I needed. My composition contain many layers… I start with the coolest stuff first and than add on top of that. So for this video I had to make sure that the singers animation was entertaining enough on its own before worrying about anything else. I then animated all the shots that needed Jimmy to perform and slapped the lip sync animation on. So the scene’s looked like this.

Animation Test

At this point I’m already past the one week mark so I didn’t have time to keyframe animate the rest of the band for every shot. Well what does a band do anyway? They play right? So I utilized a little procedural animation to get them to play for me. Cinema 4d has an excellent Xpresso scripting module so all I had to do was parent the instruments to the models bones, set up the proper set driven/driver relationships then add use a noise generator to drive the rotation on the models spine. After tweaking with the setting for a few minutes to get they’re movments roughly synced to the music I had this.

Simple Xpresso setup for procedural animation

So now all I had to do was drop my band in a scene and they doing they’re thang. Once I had the singers and the bands performance animations down I could focus on the other character animation in the video. This includes the singer running around getting captured by giant monsters and flying around with his fiery fairy wings. Once all the 3d was animated I set it off to render and waited. Well thats what I’m doing now…waiting for 3d renders. I never do any of my skies in 3d, I prefer to composite them in After Effects. Since Cinema 4d generates After Effects project files with 3d light and camera information it makes this really easy as well. So once all the 3d is rendered I’ll drop in the skies and proceed to color correct and stylize the shots to my liking.


Then once all the shots are rendered out of After Effects all I have to do is replace the animatic shots with the final ones and hand the 1080p version of the video over to the band ^^ I don’t know when the band will make the video available online but be sure to check it out when it is. Here’s a little teaser video I put up for the music video.

Music Video TeaseR

And two other video that are pertinent to this making-of post…

MAking of Part 1

Making-of Part 2


M dot Strange is a mixed media animator from San Jose, Ca. He recently singlehandedly completed an 88 minute animated film entitled “We are the Strange” which made its world premiere in January of this year at the Sundance Film Festival. A reviewer that saw the film M dot made in his bedroom with 9 PC’s over the course of 3 years said “it looked like something Hollywood would make for 70 million” He has recently been featured in the NY Times, ABC World News , and his youtube videos have been viewed over a million times.

Find out more about M dot Strange and his work

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Posted in BTS News arg audio case study community design digital downloads directing discussion distro diy doc dvd education interview legal mobile production program remix resource roundtable scripting sharing sites tech update vidsocial

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

  • INTERVIEW: The Future of the Internet Video Business, with Fred Seibert
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By lance weiler, October 26th, 2007


This past week, we concluded our latest cinema ARG experiment entitled HOPE IS MISSING. The design of HIM is covered in an article that I wrote for the current issue of filmmaker magazine. This post will focus on the results of the experiment. A more detailed case study surrounding the cinema ARG will be released later in Nov.

Layers of interactivity
HOPE IS MISSING consisted of four web films that were loaded with hidden clues. The videos were released on stage6, myspace and xbox. By design we wanted to make the ARG (alternate reality game) accessible. In order to do so we created layers of interactivity that allowed viewers to go as deep into the experience as they wanted.

The Layers:
1. just watch the videos
2. read the forums
3. dig for clues
4. capture and share clues
5. create their own worlds – blogs, wikis, forums, and chat rooms

Audience members became collaborators
Viewers were encouraged to share information with each other. They began to pull the clues from the videos and post them. They spent hours combing through the videos looking for clues and then decoding the various codes that they found within them.

2yy6xeg.jpg 105odub.jpg

We received thousands of screen grabs via email as players sent their tips to the game’s main character Richard Chambers

Certain players even pulled audio from the videos and processed it to pull out hidden clues that were either backward masked or hidden within certain frequencies.

The game spreads
The game was designed to be a meme of sorts where the game-play would encourage the spread of its media. Players created their own remixes which unlocked hidden clues. These mixes along with the four episodes began turning up in various blogs, social networking profile pages, and video sharing sites.

In addition players started their own blogs, wikis, forums and chat rooms surrounding the game. On a given night it was common for there to be multiple chat rooms going with people discussing theories and sharing clues.

Secret Screenings
As the game unfolded we started to introduce clues that lead players to a number of secret screenings of HEAD TRAUMA. The screenings were held as mobile drive-ins thanks to collaboration with In some cases players drove over a hundred miles to attend the screenings.

The numbers so far:

Over 2 million 2.5 million views across myspace, stage 6, xbox and other sites as of 11.7.07

Average play time of 8 hours based on an end game poll of 350 players – in some cases the hardcore players logged close to 40 hours.

It is hard to gauge the total amount of players of the game but based on page views to the multitude of hidden sites and media we estimate that there were close to 20,000 heavy players.

Over 4,000 emails from players

Over 500 phone calls to the Hope is Missing hotline


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Posted in BTS arg audience community experiment gaming remix theatrical vidsocial web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

By lance weiler, October 3rd, 2007

This past weekend Arin Crumley of Four Eyed Monsters and myself did a panel about all things DIY called “Fast Forward – Filmmakers Seize Control.” The Vancouver International Film Festival held a special one week forum around the art and craft of filmmaking. Brian Chirls of FEM was kind of enough to man the camera – he had done a viral marketing panel earlier in the week.

Big thanks to the FEM crew for documenting the panel. I certainly hope this trend continues where people record these discussions and share them with wider audiences. If you happen to have a discussion that you’d like to share please send them our way.

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Posted in arg audience biz case study community deals digital downloads distro diy event festivals gaming panel vid web 2.0

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

  • IFP filmmaker conference links and media
    A number of panels and interviews from last week’s IFP Filmmaker Conference have surfaced online. The following is a collection of media and links. Scott Kirsner from CinemaTech talks with Brett Gaylor, a Montreal-based filmmaker who is exploring new ways that large groups can collaborate on documentaries. Shot at the 2007 IFP Filmmaker Conference in New York. The Four Eyed… read more
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  • BTS The Road to Park City – Home from Park City
    Tom Quinn reports – I flew home to Philly on Saturday and brought a wicked cold with me so am behind on this post, but we had some great news this weekend: The New Year Parade took the Grand Jury Prize for Best Narrative at Slamdance 2008!! We couldn’t be more thrilled or humbled. Some terrific reviews went up this… read more
By lance weiler, August 11th, 2007


Producing a feature-length motion picture is a daunting task. All the more so if you do it without the support of a major studio using money you have raised yourself. But according to independent filmmaker Lance Weiler, “the real struggle” comes after the film is completed. Distributing a theatrical feature — and doing so profitably — poses an even greater challenge. As Weiler put it during a recent interview with Knowledge@Wharton, “making the film is easy in comparison.”

Knowledge@Wharton the business journal of the Wharton School has an article and interview about the HT cinema ARG entitled “The Movies Meet Web 2.0″ To view the article click here.

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Posted in News arg audience biz experiment interview promotion remix user-gen

lance weiler is the founder of the WorkBook Project and also a story architect of film, tv and games. He's written and directed two feature films THE LAST BROADCAST and HEAD TRAUMA. He's currently developing a number of transmedia projects

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