Community Spotlight Interview: Pyronium3

Dramatic, emotional, and epic best describes the machinima created by one of The Sims community's top artists - Pyronium3. From the movie-like Ruska, to the dramatically humorous Dramatic Lunch, to the sorrowful I Go to Sleep - since The Sims 2, Pyronium3 has been creating amazing machinima that has attracted many fans and continues to carry his talents into The Sims 3. He's been awesome enough to take some time to answer some questions from us! See how he got his start as well as some tips on how to capture the right moment when filming.

Watch the video Sims 3 Machinima - Romance is Dead

How long have you been playing The Sims games?
Since the first Sims was released. I was barely 10 years old back then.. man, it's been a long time! I was always interested in simulation games and already loved the Simcity series, so it seemed like the perfect thing. I guess it turned out to be too!

What got you into making machinima with The Sims games?
I initially was inspired by The Sims 2 exchange to write a story. I can barely remember what that was about, but I felt the need to create and share something. I soon discovered that writing wasn't really my thing and that I wanted to present the stories I had in my mind in a visually stimulating way. So, I put together a video intro for the story I was writing. Everyone who's made machinima knows that their first piece usually doesn't really cut it, and neither did mine!
From that point on though, my interest in making these Sims films grew larger, and with it so did my knowledge of it. The best mentors are the other machinima artists out there. It's them who keep inspiring me, and it's them who motivate me too.

When we see mentions of your name, we automatically recall your piece Ruska. Which of your pieces do you feel is your signature piece?
I'm in the same boat! I think Ruska is definitely my best piece.
You'll notice that most of my movies have a heavy dramatic overtone. Ruska just screams drama! Apart from that, I'm very content with how the theme, music, and imagery flow together and create this dreamy experience. Ruska is actually my last The Sims 2 machinima, and I had also taken a long break prior to filming it. I think it's subconsciously a playing factor, and therefore, Ruska will always have a special place in my heart.
Besides Ruska, I'd say I really like Since I've met you. It's a heavier theme, and a total shocker. What I like most about it is the pace. It plays to "Map of the problematique" by Muse and that's just such an incredible track. I go to Sleep is one of my favorites as well. It's my first serious Sims 3 machinima, and I'm very happy with the way it turned out. It's mainly story driven, and comes with a big surprise of the end - which I think worked out well.

Without having your Sims do too much of the obvious (crying, for example), you seem to be one of the pros at evoking emotions that fit very well with the songs in your pieces - whether it's longing, curiosity, or sadness - what secrets are you willing to share to achieve this?
First off, you'll need to have an eye for emotions yourself. Everyone picks these subtle signs up, but not everyone manages to pinpoint them. Study the animations that you have at your disposal. Try one where the Sim is hysterically laughing, and see if there is a fraction of that animation that, if timed right, might serve to portray a completely different emotion.
Also, zoom in and slow down! Subtle signs are best seen that way, and possibly even enhanced! It's not just the way the Sims act that tells the viewer something, it's also how the camera is acting.

What factors decide what machinima you will create? Is it a song, an emotion, a time period, a theme - for example?
It's mainly the music. When I listen to a song I like, there's usually already this little film playing in my mind. The music evokes images and I then consider if I can use those as a story, and if they're executable within the Sims. From there on I listen to that track another 1000 times (I get really sick of it by the time I have to start working on the film!) and put the pieces of that story together. Once I have the foundation laid out, I think of the theme that would best suit it. Ruska, for example, feels much more romantic because of the romantic time period it's in. Dramatic Lunch fits well in the now, because any other period would have just distracted from the main theme. Since I've met you also fits the now, because it adds to the insanity of the piece. If it played in medieval times, you would simply discard those events as barbaric acts by barbaric people. .

Your machinima feels so much like real movies - are there film directors you try to emulate?
Fairly simple answer: nope!
I love watching real movies, but to be honest I can't really be bothered by who made them. I have no knowledge of the work that goes into making those real films, and because of that I can't admire/envy/disdain a director. I never visit museums for that very reason. Sure, art may be pretty to look at, but without understanding the process that eventually lead to the final piece, you can't fully appreciate something.
As I've mentioned above, it's the other machinima artists that inspire me. They do what I do, so I know exactly how impressive their work is when I see it.

Watch the video Sims 3 Machinima - Dramatic Lunch

Could you tell us how you started making your first machinima for The Sims 3 - Dramatic Lunch? What inspired you?
I really wanted to try something with The Sims 3, that was my main motivational factor. I guess because of this there wasn't any passionate part of me involved. Haha, apparently I had to access the scattered part of my brain for this, the result definitely proves that! It just suddenly struck me that I had to combine lunch with dramatic music. Eating lunch is epic, afterall. (Especially if it's good!)

Did it take a while for you to get used to The Sims 3 camera controls to start making machinima? Or was it pretty easy?
Very easy! It's pretty much identical to the way the camera is controlled in the Sims 2. The only thing that eluded me for a little while was figuring out how to make the camera roll (Shift + A/D!). It's a nice new feature that really does add way more variety in camera angles.

How long does it normally take you to complete one machinima?
It really depends on a number of factors - one of them being motivation. If I'm really stoked about a project I'm working on, I basically work on it non-stop. This way it goes pretty fast. It also depends on how much editing is required, how difficult the shots are to shoot, how long the film is, and most importantly - how many stubborn Sims you have on your team!
When you're shooting the climax scene, and one Sim suddenly starts waving and yelling and decides that he/she has to pee, you lost quite some time!

What advice can you offer to an aspiring machinima artist?
First of all you need to decide for yourself what your ambitions are. Do you want to do it just for fun? Do you want to channel ideas and emotions? Do you want to be the best? Whatever it is, it's very important you are certain. If you're not, you're not focused, and when you're not focused you easily give up.
Then it comes to learning the tech behind it all. You're working with computers here so it's going to be very technical no matter what.
- You need to know how the camera works, this applies to handling it as well as adjusting the ini files to alter its behavior.
- You also need to know how to get custom content in your game (think of animation hacks, beautification items, etc).
- You need to know the game. It's very important you know the animations. This will save you a lot of time when you're trying to find one that suits the emotion you're trying to convey.
- You need to know filming techniques. The way something is directed can make or break it. It doesn't matter how good the story is, or how pretty the scenes are.. If it's not filmed right, it isn't right.
- You need to know how to edit footage.
This might seem daunting at first, and that's probably because it is. If you want to be good at this, you need to invest a lot of time in it. But as with everything: as long as you have enough determination you can get there.
My main advice would be to watch a lot of machinima. Especially those that you personally like. Study the pieces, try to understand how the director got the shots that he did. What animations he used, when he used them, how that affected the piece.
Before that though, just make some stuff for fun. Explore the playfield, get a feel for it. If you don't understand the basics there's no point in studying machinima, since you wouldn't have anything to reference it to. Most of all: Have fun! It's not a job, it shouldn't feel like one!

Watch the video Sims 3 Machinima - I go to Sleep

Do you have any new machinima coming out soon that we should look forward to? Can you tease us with details on what it's about?
I have some ideas floating around but at the moment I'm way too busy with other stuff, so I can't work on any machinima. One of these projects is a Sims 3 World, which is nearing completion after 3 months of work. I do plan on making more machinima in the future however, and this will be with The Sims 3. I want to experiment with different ways of storytelling, so that might be something you could expect in the future.

Can you tell us a little bit about your YouTube channel? Do you run any other Sims sites you'd like to share?
I started uploading my machinima there because I wanted it to be easily accessible. I never figured it would become such a popular platform to showcase machinima! My videos have over more than half a million combined views now, and that's still mind boggling to me.
It's now basically the only place I upload my machinima to. Since they've recently had HD support for a while, I will also make sure to keep utilizing that. It's a shame my earlier work is of such low quality compared to the newer stuff, but that's just how it is. Apart from my YouTube channel there isn't really any website to mention. I do have a little blog that I started which has some informative articles about machinima filming, of which there is a link to on my YouTube page. I'm keeping it online because the information may be useful to people.
So, if you want to view my vids as soon as they're released, subscribe!

Thanks so much, Pyronium3, for taking part in our interview! Don't forget to visit his My Page and YouTube channel!