Thursday, August 25, 2011


If you'd like to download a copy of the syllabus, click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Xtranormal Project: What's due Tuesday

Here is a brief article on Xtranormal from Fast Company magazine:

Here is a Beginner's Guide to using Xtranormal:

And here are some Xtranormal shorts I'll show in class:

Geico commercials made in Xtranormal

"What's A Meme" by jtoeman

Pickup Line Fail
by: dweed

Orchestral Percussionist
by: mconradd


On Tuesday, a printed-out copy of a script for an Xtranormal short is due. We'll work on executing the short in class. The script should be roughly three double-spaced pages. For screenplays, in general one page of script equals one minute of screen time – the finished short should run about three minutes in length.

Write the script out in the form of a play, including some notes on gestures the characters make, like so:

How's the weather?

(Shrugs) I don't know. You tell me.

(Frowns) I asked you first.

You are constrained, by the format of Xtranormal, to a dialogue between two characters. One thing that makes dialogue interesting is when each character has a distinct personality, and a distinct speaking style. The pre-recorded voices of Xtranormal have a similarly flat affect, but word choice in dialogue can still give the characters distinct personalities. For instance, the following exchange sets up two characters with very different temperaments:

My head is like, totally foggy, man. It's like, I don't know if up is up, or up is down. You know what I mean?

I do have some inkling of what you're trying to say, despite the vague and muddled manner in which you've chosen to vocalize it.

As an exercise to help get you thinking about the different personalities of your characters, in addition to the script itself, you must also write a one-paragraph "Bio" of each character. What is their background? Their style? Their outlook on life? You should choose Xtranormal characters that somehow reflect, in their character design, the type of personality you want them to project.


Your dialogue will probably have more impact on an audience if it builds to some culmination or punchline, and if there is some suspense as to what the outcome will be. The cliche is that drama is driven by conflict (though "conflict" can be more subtle than a straight-ahead battle between two people).

The scene I showed from "Inception" is really an exposition scene -- explaining the fictional parameters of the movie's world. But it's built with a little shock at the end, when Ariadne's character is surprised to learn she's in the dream. It gives the scene a little punch at the end -- a sense of climax that gives the scene a feeling of closure, rather than just letting things trail off into the next scene.

Here are a few types of dialogue, which might help give you a structure for giving your scene a bit of an "arc," with a sense of resolution or closure at the end.


This is the most direct form of conflict: one character is arguing with another. The suspense that's built into this is: who will win the argument? Another element of suspense might be: who is actually right (the person who wins the argument, after all, might just win by being a better bully, and not actually by being right)?


One character is trying to convince another character of something. If the character being persuaded is skeptical, this provides some conflict (though not as direct a conflict as a full-blown argument). Suspense arises from the question: will the skeptic be persuaded, or resist all the way to the end?


One character trying to learn a secret from another character. The suspense can come both from wondering if the interrogated character is going to give in, and what the nature of the secret itself is. The classic example of this would be the interrogation of a suspect in a police drama, but it could be as small-scale as a mother suspecting their kid did something naughty, and trying to figure out what it was.


The flip side of one character hiding something from another is one character deliberately revealing something to another. The suspense here tends not to be whether the confessing character will reveal something, since the character is willingly opening up -- it's more suspense toward what the nature of the confession will be, and what the reaction will be of the person being confessed to.


One character lies to another. Some suspense comes from whether the character being lied to will end up believing or disbelieving the lie. If the liar is telling a particularly extravagant tall tale, there can be suspense in wondering how far the liar will push it.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Welcome to the blog for the "Intro to Digital Entertainment " class at Sierra Nevada College. As the blurb in the catalog says:

This course will introduce students to a variety of current software to produce digital media associated with the entertainment field. The course will introduce concepts and methods of animation, simulated environments, and gaming. A variety of Digital Entertainment venues will be explored, that may include film, video, television, commercials, virtual environments, special effects, computer generated imagery and animation.

Next class, we'll be going to to create some animations using pre-built animated characters. Please sign up for a free account before next class, so we don't have to burn class time getting you set up. You can sign up for an account here.

Also, for next class, prepare a 5-10 minute presentation on a video game or virtual experience you enjoy.

Address these questions:

  1. What is the basic goal of the game/exerience?
  2. Give a short description of the world of the game/experience.
  3. What type or genre of game/experience is it? (examples: platform game, puzzle game, first person shooter…)
  4. Who is the audience for the game/experience?
  5. Describe the interface of the game/experience, and the mechanics of game play/interactivity.
  6. Discuss the design of the game/experience. How does the style of the characters/environment add to the experience of the game?
  7. What is the element of the game/experience that makes it “special” – better than other examples of its genre?

Please feel free to bring any visual aids – screenshots, or the game/experience itself – to incorporate into your presentation.