Dance, Voldo, Dance
A Machinima Music Video
by Chris Brandt
-- SUPPORTERS --
Special thanks to James Garfield and Shynkz for mirroring, and keeping this thing alive. Additional thanks to Jaxon at MilkandCookies.com, Ben at SegaFan, David Barzelay (2004 Managing Editor of The Slant), and to my three lonely financial benefactors, Andrew P., Eric H., and Ashley N.
-- ORIGINAL VERSION --
Please go VOTE for this video on MilkandCookies.com.
MIRROR 1 - MilkandCookies.com
-- TECHNICAL DETAILS --
MIRROR 2 - Fugly.com
MIRROR 3 - Guzer.com
GAME : Soul Calibur
PLATFORM : Dreamcast
RECORDING DEVICE : Sony DV Camcorder
EDITING EQUIPMENT : iMovie on a Macintosh
-- HISTORICAL RECOLLECTIONS --
-- FINAL VERSION --
The choreographed moves in this recording are all actual game play; no programming was done. "Soul Calibur" is a game in which two combatants battle to the death using their weapons of choice. It's common in this style of fighting game for each character to have multiple costumes, and this is why there are two equally freaky Voldos dancing with each other. Over a week's worth of full-time training and performance went into this production, which sparked more than one comment of "you need a job" (a phrase I'm not all that unused to hearing).
The Inception - 2002
It was February, and after wrapping up a successful weekend attending the Alternative Press Expo in San Francisco, Jesse Reklaw and I retired to the El Sobrante residence of Landry and Eric for a bit of alcohol drinking, music listening, and videogame playing. Jesse doesn't really play videogames, too often, so when confronted with the bizzare manual mechanics involved in the crazy fighting moves in Soul Calibur, Jesse tended to find a very simple repetitive motion of thumb or finger that would result in the quirkiest movements the game characters could muster. I was playing with him, and tried to mimic his moves, thus beginning a freestyle improptu dance of sorts. When Ludacris's "Move B*tch" started pumping through the stereo speakers, I noticed that the time interval for all of Voldo's moves were the same, and could be repeated to the beat of the music. Jesse caught on, and when both Voldo's began showing some rhythm, everybody in the room was overcome with unstoppable laughter.
Upon my return to Los Angeles, I could not stop thinking about the potential for a full length choreography. I put it on my list of things to do.
That September, after attending another small press gathering in Los Angeles, a group of friends, including Jesse, gathered at my apartment for a bit of alcoholic winding down. Somehow, the subject of what Jesse and I had done in February came up, but nobody seemed to be getting it from just the telling, so we plugged in the Dreamcast, and entertain the others in the group with our new dancing game. We "danced" to the original Ludacris, plus some James Brown, Prince, and Nelly. I recorded a bit of it onto VHS. Everyone seemed to enjoy the homoerotic overtones of Voldo's moves, and my desire to create something more formal from the whole morass was invigorated.
The Creation - 2002
After a fruitless October, I decided that I may not have the funds to create my short film or spec commercials, but I could certainly afford to make my Voldo video. The trouble was I didn't have a capable dance partner, other than my roommate, Msr. M. (he prefers to remain anonymous), and he wanted nothing to do with it. The description itself didn't "wow" him, and he wasn't keen on having to learn a five minute routine of moves for a character he didn't even like playing (Yoshimitsu was his character). So, I worked out a short solo routine, maybe fifteen or thirty seconds, and had him watch while I played it out. He got it; he saw the potential, and was willing to work with me. The only stipulation was it would have to fit around his drinking habit. So, after a day of figuring out all of the moves, I was ready for Msr. M. He helped with some choreographing on the second day, for a few of the moves which necessitated an exact distance between the Voldos in order to pull them off without hitting each other. Choreography was completed on the second day, and the next five days were spent in agonizing controller manipulation. We each had our notes in front of us. I used them to refer back to after each take; Msr. M. didn't even watch the screen, reading directly from my notes (which I guess speaks to the strength of the choreography...he essentially played it blind!) Each day we only had about five hours of play before Msr. M. was too drunk to continue. Ah, the majesty of creation and art! At least he never puked on the controller. Throughout the first four days, we listened to the music played back from CD on a Playstation 2 (the audio from the PS2 was plugged into the television), as I counted out the beat: 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4. At some point I tried an 8 beat count, and I can't recall which was used for the final version. Anyhow, on the fifth day, we realized the music was actually getting in the way, and my counting out the beat was distracting myself, so...
...I recorded myself counting out the beat for the length of the song, and we played that back without music. After only a few takes using this method, we came out with the two versions that are used in the video.
The next day, I imported it from DV to the Mac at Protean Image Group, and worked on editing it through the night. I believe I went in at 10 a.m., and worked on the video until 7 a.m. the following morning. In this time, I ended up with two versions: the one making the rounds on the internet; and this more "video-y" version, (35 mb) which uses many more editing tricks and non-gameplay clips.
The Explosion - 2004
It came at an extremely inopportune time. In mid-July, I was busily preparing a twenty-one page comic to submit to publishers at Comicon in San Diego, and just happened to do a not-too-routine check of my website traffic. It was the third day in a row of a growing tidal wave of traffic; in three days I'd had more hits to my site than I normally got in a year. Over the next two days I kept a close eye on it, and it became quickly apparent that if I kept it on my own server, I would not be able to afford the cost of the extra traffic. I put out a call for help, and within a few hours, had the help of David Garfield and Shynkz, both of whom sacrificed their monthly traffic quotas (I think both of their sites were shut down within a day) to keep the video alive until Milkandcookies.com and Theslant.com picked it up (this was pre-Youtube days, kids).
So, how did it awaken from it's year and a half long slumber? Just a day or two before the server assault began, Brody Condon had shown the video at a gaming/machinima (a term I'd never heard of before researching the origin of my traffic growth) conference in Australia. Brody had seen it through Eddo Stern, who'd been shown it by a friend of his, a college friend of mine, Aaron Braskin.
The last few months of 2004 seemed to hold some promise of fame, if not fortune, through the video. I was initially contacted by the booking agent for Martin Sargent's "Unscrewed" on G4TechTV, to have the video shown and myself be interviewed. However, after a bit of back and forth in trying to figure out if they could get clearance from Nelly or Namco, they ended up just not following through with me.
A few weeks later, I was contacted by an editor of MTV.com about doing some sort of machinima for their new gaming section. Again, some emails back and forth, and I slowly became a non-entity for them, as well. It's pretty clear that once commercial interest is involved in these fair-use-of-copyright-challenging endeavors, they become less feasible. According to this MTV.com editor, when he contacted Namco about using Tekken characters to do the same thing I'd done with the Soul Calibur character, the person he spoke with laughed in his face (or as much "in his face" as she could over the phone).
The Culmination - 2005
Finally, in January, I got a call from a rights-clearance person working for Microsoft. Microsoft was creating webpages with hip content to promote their new search engine; I was never really clear on how it was all supposed to work, but they were offering me money for use of the Voldo video, so it didn't matter too much to me. I told the guy about my pervious problems with rights-clearance, but he insisted that it being Microsoft, and the level of free publicity the companies would garner, might get them to think twice about allowing their copyrighted material to be used for a commercial venture.
However, a month later he called to let me know that Nelly's people had gotten back to him, and it would cost $100,000 to use the song that was currently attached; we agreed that a sound-alike (a song that sounds like the original, but is off by enough notes to not infringe upon the copyright...kind of like replacing all of the nouns and pronouns in "Moby Dick", and releasing it as your own novel), or something original with the same beat. We were still waiting to hear back from Namco. I immediately called the guy doing the music for my short film, Tana Rusitanonta, as he'd expressed interest in doing his own music for Voldo (even envisioning a freestyle DJ mix, where two people would dance with the characters, while a DJ spun fresh beats). However, before he'd even returned my call, the MS rep called back to let me know that he'd just heard back from Namco, too, and they would never-ever-ever allow anyone under any circumstances to use their characters outside of the game they were in, nor would they mix their own characters into other games.
So...that's that. Except Tana and I did work on putting together the new music, which is presented for you, loyal reader, below. Thanks for your interest.
The Ultimate Final Version
With music created by Tana Rusitanonta