The coke taste of machinima

I’m sure by now we all are familiar with what machinima is, or at least have seen it’s most popular representative, red vs. blue. If not, go take a look. This new coke spot from the brilliant dudes smith and foulkes(responsible for Honda ‘hate somethin’ and the motorala movie rabbit) over at nexus is interesting. It lives somewhere between the category of machinima and animation. It isn’t machinima simply because it obviously wasn’t created with an actual game engine, which is basically the definition of machinima, but it borrows the characteristics and quirks of game play from most of todays more popular games, specifically grand theft auto. What’s interesting is that those characteristics were utilized in a way that made the piece stylish just by familiarity and connecting with the viewer through something they know. That is, assuming the viewer has played or at least knows what grand theft auto is. Doing this surely places a large mass of people in the dark who will see this and just see it as some odd looking computer animation of some dude breaking his stereotype. A pretty weak concept by itself. But take that concept and mix it with the context of what it is, and it’s pretty clever. People play these games to do things they normally would never do, things they shouldn’t do. Like driving around a city stealing cars and killing people. It’s funny that everyone in the spot ‘perceives’ this guy as that character… the character we make him. But of course, he isn’t, because he’s drinking coke today. As should you. It’s obviously targeting the generation of video gamers, who I’m sure is a large target market for coke. So maybe it’s brilliant? Who knows, only cokes sales can tell that. All this add can do is make some gamers out there smile because they understand, while the older people are oblivious and make the mistake of choosing pepsi next time they are faced with the choice. Oh, the thought!

Machinima makes me scratch my head. There is a whole community out there doing it, like it’s some big thing. I saw some people do a presentation on it at a MOVE conference last year. Yeah, Red vs Blue is good, and one of a kind. But I’m just not sure if it can carry itself further than just a clever gimick. Do you think? Does it hold value further than that? It wasn’t machinima that sparked this commercial, I don’t think… I think it’s just the shear popularity of the game grand theft auto. A common formula. If something breaks stride and is innovative in one industry, take it and adapt it to another industry, and the innovation continues.

Anyway, enough about that. Technically and creatively it’s really well done. The modeling and texturing is the perfect mix of video game characteristics with out the faults of low polygon counts, chunky motion and lifeless features. But I’m wondering, if those aspects of it were there, would it have made it better? Poking fun at machinima, and ridding any gap between the association of this to a video game. An old professor of mine quoted Mr. Miagi with, ‘a grape walk down left side of street on sidewalk, safe. Walk down right side of street on sidewalk, safe. Walk down middle of street, squish!’ or something like that. Is this in the middle? Maybe they should have done it machinima. I actually think I would have liked that better. You? Now I’m contradicting myself.

It’s also interesting how the end scene is pretty familiar to the psyop coke factory piece. Oh, and this coke campaign is nuts! So many spots…

I coulda just said, hey look at this, it’s awesome!



Sir Monkey

Great write up!

I do find this to be a very clever solution. It looks as though Coke has created a new direction with their brand. After viewing this and the Psyops spot, “Happiness Factory”, they are definitely creating an image campaign that is based around the concept of happy, surreal and fun, also both spots take place in this crazy, grandiose environment.

If that is the case, Coke has done a great job creating, “happiness” between the two spots.

As for the gaming comment, to speak to the demographic, I imagine they are targeting that exact audience. As it is younger people drink more soda than adults. Even if they weren’t targeting the younger audience, by now, whether you are young or old, smart or dumb, a good portion of the american population knows what Grand Theft Auto is. Grand Theft Auto was making headlines for many months on the news and also in congress.

Again, great write up and great campaign from Coke. Some VERY strong work.


Smith & Foulkes are quite possibly my favorite direction/animation team in the universe. Everything they do is brimming with cleverness and a fanatical attention to detail.


Machinima is not a gimmick, its a movement. And will be more so as games move even further in their popularity and animation technology filters into the populace (thus, relying more upon tech than talent). Its not about craft but about numbers. Unfortunately, most people in animation and motion graphics are too entrenched to see the evolution that’s taking place. There’ll always be After Effects and Maya, but why bother when I can use World of Warcraft to tell my story?


Machinima is hard to understand and predict, and I’ve had some association with it. As DeftCommunication said, it’s more than you give it credit for. But is it as much as he gives it credit for? I’ve lived through way too many overhyped ‘next things’ to even raise an eyebrow until it shows more.

For one thing, machinima is still a lot of work. Presently the tools are rudimentary for telling a story. If you look at Bells and Spurs


That’s machinima done in Second Life. What you’re looking at is actors playing their avatars, timing their gestures to the scene. I actually met one of the ‘actors’ in-game as she was on the way to her ‘scene’ in full costume–very strange.

Since most games still use chat text and voice for expression rather than gesture and facial expression, acting is very limited. It had to have been grueling for the crew and the director (who was one of the workers at Linden Labs, maker of Second Life).

This next weekend I’m going to peek in to a conference session with Bedazzle and other machinima companies (yes there are ‘comapanies’ doing this) at the Second Life Community Convention and see what they think the deal is.


At I feel they did a really good job with machinima.


Nice write up tread, great insight into the world of motion. Machinima makes me scratch my head too. I also like how they make them look like “video game” dudes like you say, low poly e.t.c, really good observation!


don, you are miss-quoting me. I never said I liked how they look like video game dudes because they are low poly. In fact it’s the exact opposite, and was merely proposing the question that if they were low poly, closer looking to how the game actually looks, would it have been a better result.


that lonely island skit is GREAT. my problem with machinima lately has been its arbitrariness. too much like: ‘i’m doing this in a video game and you should be entertained enough by that fact to overlook bad writing.’ that skit was just hilarious tho… ‘i’m glad i wore these pants today…’


You also have to think about all the countless game commercials on tv that require a certain amount of “actual game footage” per spot. Vice City and Grand Theft Auto certainly have had huge television campaigns, not to mention all of EA’s sports titles, etc. Those commercials may be many people’s actual exposure to the look of current video games.The commercial is actually playing off of the conventions of commercials, more than anything else, and poking fun at the whole “I’d like to teach the world to sing… ” campaigns of yesteryear. Remember those?


Closer and closer, now here, the video game “look” finds it’s way to the t.v. screen. I think this ad hit the nail on the head for the male teen gaming coke drinking demographic.
About Machinima, what about some kids shows that are on T.V. using realtime “game type” engines, (i.e. motionbuilder, and brainstorm) used to create virtual backdrops for live-action shows like Nick Jr.’s ‘Lazytown’ or PBSKids ‘It’s A Big Big World’. These shows are using realtime technology for virtual backdrops. The characters unlike Machinima are puppetes or real people.
I look forward to the evolution of Machinima and what it will bring television/film and the new techniques to create this realtime media. I know this commercial used non-realtime techniques to get the look of GTA but it does show us that this look can be palletable on TV.

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