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Machinimation Nation

Do-it-yourself machinima animators are using video-game technology to engineer low-cost, high-octane productions

4 min read

Back in the 1970s, I had a hippie film teacher in middle school. It was the best class ever. We ran around campus wielding 8-millimeter cameras. I made a movie by cutting out magazine photos and doing stop-motion animation. My friend made a live action version of the 1968 film Herbie the Love Bug using our teacher's beat-up yellow Volkswagen.

Those films are long gone, but the spirit of do-it-yourself innovation is more alive than ever. After a decade of experimentation, gamers are finding their groove with machinima (machine + animation)--homemade animation created with video-game software tools. With free editing and development programs distributed with the game disc or online, anyone can cheaply and quickly create short films and freely distribute them on the Net. It's like having Pixar in a box. The work has run the gamut from the sublime to the sub-lame, but now it's finally tipping into the mainstream. There are machinima festivals, machinima books, even machinima-inspired TV commercials.

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Deep Learning Could Bring the Concert Experience Home

The century-old quest for truly realistic sound production is finally paying off

12 min read
Image containing multiple aspects such as instruments and left and right open hands.
Stuart Bradford

Now that recorded sound has become ubiquitous, we hardly think about it. From our smartphones, smart speakers, TVs, radios, disc players, and car sound systems, it’s an enduring and enjoyable presence in our lives. In 2017, a survey by the polling firm Nielsen suggested that some 90 percent of the U.S. population listens to music regularly and that, on average, they do so 32 hours per week.

Behind this free-flowing pleasure are enormous industries applying technology to the long-standing goal of reproducing sound with the greatest possible realism. From Edison’s phonograph and the horn speakers of the 1880s, successive generations of engineers in pursuit of this ideal invented and exploited countless technologies: triode vacuum tubes, dynamic loudspeakers, magnetic phonograph cartridges, solid-state amplifier circuits in scores of different topologies, electrostatic speakers, optical discs, stereo, and surround sound. And over the past five decades, digital technologies, like audio compression and streaming, have transformed the music industry.

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