I was born a long time ago. A few decades later I graduated as a film and television director. After that I was spending my life waiting for a tool that would give me the luxury of avoiding the work with living creatures, and let me become a one-man film making crew.
Then came a real-time animation software and my waiting days came to an end... - Tom Jantol
Director , Cinematographer , Producer , Machinima Messenger
Q: A Creator, and a Machinima messenger among other titles. Your talents and visions transcend while mesmerizing in the process. Tell us please, what is Tom Jantol's work about?
I am one of those who believes that animation is the last magic that's left. The fact that the magic - what is just another word for unrestrained creativity - can be based on technology instead of hocus-pocus, never stops to amaze me.
The virtuality of the software environment and the characters that are based on meshes and textures, or the sky that is made of pixels and all in all: the idea that I can make my own reality out of virtuality - it is simply irresistible.
This is why I decided very early (right after graduating from film academy) to dive into animation instead of working on "real" movie productions. This is the deal I made with myself and I think I have to stick to this deal with the viewers as well; if I make animation, it must not just be a substitute for "real" movies, but it must also use its "unreality" as a dominant substance.
Q: Early on you started making animations with Valve's Source gaming engine. What started this? What drew you to Machinima? And how did you start using iClone?
After my decision of making animation, I needed some time to find the right tool for my work. I bought the HalfLife2 game, and when I first tried it out, I couldn't believe my eyes. I found everything I wanted in that powerful level-making tool; the speed, the efficiency and the beauty.
Without being aware of the existence of Machinima, I was sure that real-time engine suits me the best regarding creative thinking and movie-making ideas. The instant feedback of real-time engines and the possibility of making a scene and the final editing at the same time; the luxury of changing my mind about a scene whenever I want without days of reworking - I can't imagine I could work properly without these things any more.
After having made two movies, I realized that - because of the copyright issues of the big game engines - I actually do not own my own movies. That made me look around for a tool that offers me the same benefits as game engines do, whereas it allows me to be the owner of the movies I make - legally. About that time, I heard of the earliest version of iClone. After giving it a try, I was sure that in one iteration or two, it will be the ideal tool for me. And it turned out to be perfect.
Q:You have been a recipient to many awards. In 2011 you won "Special Acknowledgement for your movie Wizard of OS: The Fish Incident in the "I've Seen Films" festival in Italy. Where members of the Jury included Ridley Scott, and Paul Verhoeven, among other major names. Tell us a bit about this experience with quality movies made in Machinima standing side-by-side to traditional, hand made or big budget CGI movies.
Two years later I got the same award in the "I've Seen Films" festival from the same jury, for the movie "Dear Fairy". Needless to say, attending festivals is really beneficial; it is a great way to prove that the only thing that matters is actually the quality of the story itself, being told in motion pictures.
In these festivals nobody asked me about the software I had used; nobody was interested whether a movie was hand-made; whether it was made by real-time engines or no-time renderings. There were no questions about the making method of the movies or why they were made at all; people - including the jury - just enjoyed them (or not), as final products.
The most important thing for me is not to imitate big studio movies or real action movies. For that, the creators must have big studio and live action movie environments. Otherwise they are just cheap knock-offs in an animated environment.
As for the comparison: Machinima easily can stand the competition with any other kind of animation tools in the departments that really matter: creativity and originality. With "Wizard of OS: The Fish Incident" I was in competition with flawlessly made big budget animations that left the viewers cold and uninterested.
Despite my movie had its imperfections - judging by the faces I saw in the audience - all they were caring about was what was going on with my hero in the story.
It doesn't necessarily mean that my movie was better than those big budget movies; it more likely means that I really care abut my hero and it showed. People could sense that; they shared and implemented their emotions - and, to simplify it, the award was mine.
Q: In 2011 you also participated in Reallusion's 2D CrazyTalk Animation Salad Competition where you won "Best Original Character Award" with your animation 'I am not there, I did not die'. Was there any big change from animating in 3D and then in 2D?
Well, no, not really. Neither significant limitations, nor big changes. The only thing that could be considered as a "change" was that I had to discipline myself to follow the rules of 2D, which means I had to re-tune my visual thinking a bit. No 3D environment, no camera that flies however I want - no 3D luxuries.
Due to the different circumstances, I had to make up a story that can be lead and directed without the extra help of 3D goodies.
Of course, at the same time, I had to make sure to maintain the quality and the characteristics of my general work. So I came up with the musical toybox idea, where we can see the music box from the view of a steady front camera. Strictly following the rules and making a situation that doesn't allow me to break these rules: basically it is the essence of the creative process in either 2,3,4 or 5D movie making.
Q: If you could give out some advice or words of consideration to all Machinima and real-time animators there, what would you say to them?
My first, last - and any other advice in between - is: don't be something you are not. Machinima is not about any kind of imitation and not about visual hyper realism. Real-time animation is not in competition with other kinds of CGI.
It is a form by itself. It gives us enough time to think about the next scene and allows us to try different solutions, without limits. It informs us about our mistakes immediately after we made them, which is the friendliest gesture a movie making tool can offer us.
Machinima is the only thing out there that can visualize our thoughts, following the speed of our fantasies. Nothing can be more powerful than this.
Q: You invented the term "Anymation", which is used by many movie makers to describe their work. Can you tell us something about it?
Thank you for that question. Yes, "Anymation" is a term that I would like to be used as a term for mature Machinima. And much more. It is basically supposed to describe a story-centric movie making possibility, with which, as I mentioned it before, the importance of the tool and the technique is minimal.
Technologically, this term describes the framework of freedom; the creator has the liberty of choice as for the way of his work. With Anymation, there are no sharp boundaries between the movie making tools and the techniques - that's how it got its name.
Use, do, make and take any kind of methods, as long as your story frames it. Animated movie making should not be software-centric. Be good at story visualization; don't think that being a master of one certain movie making software makes you a master in movie making in general.
Socially, "Anymation" means that anybody, anywhere can make movies. About anything. We have tools to maintain that freedom of a choice. Any choice.
Q: Are there any new projects that we can look forward to from Tom Jantol?
Well, whether you look forward or not, I will do it... Seriously, yes, there are. There are many projects I'm about to work on. I'm planning on making them based on, or fully made by using iClone. (Sometimes in a marriage with Unity3D.)
I am working on a pilot for serial "Hedy and Lammar", a story of a silhouette anti-virus humanoid couple that fights viruses behind the Internet, where else. Paralelly, I am preparing my version of the Icarus story. And, of course, my everlasting project of all is to love and respect real-time movie making - in real time.