In my 6th 48 Hour Competition for Machinima this month, I won 6 awards - Best Film, Best Writing, Best Directing, Best Sound Design and Best Use of both Prop and Line of Dialog.

If you have never heard of a 48 Hour Film Project, it’s quite a fun excuse for people who make films to get together and spend a weekend making films. There are some simple rules:

- each team is assigned a film genre drawn from a hat

- all teams must use several common elements including a specific character, prop, and line of dialog

- the teams have 48 hours to write, film, edit and submit a completed short film between 4 to 7 minutes

There are a lot more details than that but you get the idea. This year, the common elements were a character named Pat Runyan (male or female) who is a politician, the line of dialog “You just don’t get it do you?” and the prop dice.

There were ten teams entered this year. The full set of entries can be viewed at and will also be available on the 48 Hour Film Project website. As a ‘city’ winner, my entry will also be screened at the annual Filmapalooza, and if hell freezes over and the planets align could potentially be eligible for the grand prize whatever it is this year – in prior years the top 12 entries were screened at the Cannes festival!

So during the kickoff, my team drew the Thriller/Suspense genre from the hat, and away we (I) went.

I pretty much did the entire submission on my own this year. I wasn’t sure I would even be able to enter and didn’t want to get a team all fired up if I had to withdraw at the last minute. In the end I had the time to enter, and I am certainly glad I did so now! My friend Susan helped me by recording the one or two lines of dialog I needed other than my own.

My original plan was to use Unity 3D, but in the end I went with iClone because my idea for the script involved a lot of facial closeups, camera switching and eye contact, and I know how to do those things well with iClone.

I don’t want to spoil the story for you if you haven’t watched it yet, but once I had the basic idea in my head, the rest was straightforward. The first thing I did was to write the script, reading it out loud frequently to get the flow and rhythm and also to time out four minutes worth of dialog.

With the script written, I worked backwards from the time limit we were given and laid out an iClone scene of the proper length with the characters I needed. I positioned them and animated their basic actions by puppeteering each character in realtime for the entire four minute plus segment and recording the actions using iClones MixMoves feature. I did just basic animation at that point, essentially puppeteering between several different idle movements for each character.

Next, I placed about ten different cameras in the scene, basically a medium shot and a close up shot for each character as well as an extreme close up for Pat and a couple of other cameras for the end shots.

Next, I recorded the audio and seperated it into phrases that are thought and phrases that are spoken. The thought narrative that occurs during the entire film is essentially the audio master track, so I imported that into iClone, and used it to know where to import the spoken phrases as audio clips into the characters. This makes them automatically move their lips correctly.

Once all of the audio was in place, I proceeded through the entire timeline setting the points at which the cameras switch from one view to another to coincide with the main points in the script. After that, one pass through the timeline for each of the characters telling their character when to strategically look at or look away from another character, again to coincide with highlights in the script, all with the aim of adding suspense.

It was about then that I exported a draft and sent it in early Sunday morning about five hours before the close of the contest. I’m really glad I did that too because I got bogged down in some technical problems involving the dice and was not able to submit a more polished version in time. Apparently though, my efforts were good enough to garner five awards, including the triple crown of Best Film, Best Writing and Best Directing.

The version you see here has been modified from what I was able to submit. I follow a tradition when I do these of creating a “Directors Cut” which is basically a version with a bit of extra work done on it so it is what I think I should have been able to do in the time allotted if everything had gone perfectly.

So I hope you enjoy.. “A Dicey Deal”

One thought on ““A Dicey Deal” – 48 Hours and 6 Awards

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