She goes by the name of Pooky Amsterdam in the popular Second Life online service.  She’s arguably the premier machinima artist working with the Second Life platform, and now she’s created a series of ads for a new mobile app for encrypted messaging called YouThisMe.  Her company, PookyMedia, specializes in producing high quality visuals for commercials and presentations for companies that don’t necessarily have the budget for traditional video or animation production.  Sometimes built-in limitations can work to your advantage, though, and Pooky’s work demonstrates this pretty clearly.

I interviewed Pooky Amsterdam about the project, and here’s what happened:

Gene Turnbow: How many people does it take to produce one of these spots?  How many people are wearing multiple hats?

Pooky Amsterdam: It takes a team of about 4 – 5 people without the voice over artists and I wear multiple hats as producer, writer and getting the assets and animations together, The set manager also wears a couple of hats as does the director. The sound people pretty much just do sound though on occasion the director will have something better or more targeted and we use that.

Gene Turnbow: These newest offerings from Pookymedia have the highest quality animation yet. Second Life characters use a very simple animation rig – was it difficult getting all the elements to perform and line up correctly?

Pooky Amsterdam: It is always somewhat challenging, and takes a really big understanding of this rig and of the limitations to also know where the strengths are. Hopefully we make it look easy, in truth it isn’t.

Gene Turnbow: Did you get custom motion capture animation done for these?  Especially the fight scenes, this looks like custom mocap.

Pooky Amsterdam: No, but there is mocap in the animations for sure – we did use custom mocap for the latest episode of our machinima series Time Travelers – Baby Universe.

Gene Turnbow:  So these are incorporated from mocap libraries you have, I see.

Pooky Amsterdam: Yes, and also mocap animation sequences that were obtained for these commercials.  Actually we did have some custom animations in these for some of the phone activation stuff but not mocap for picking up the phone for example.  But yes, some of it was custom.

Gene Turnbow: Do you start with a storyboard, and who provides it, them, or you?

Pooky Amsterdam:  We start with discussion on concept and then work very very closely with the client for approval on what comes next. We have them sign off on the script which is fairly detailed. Then we take screen shots – in some cases we do show it as a storyboard as we need to get approval for the look and feel of everything from the avatars, costuming, environment and of course all of their product assets that are replicated virtually. Once they approve we move on them.

Gene Turnbow: When did you realize that Second Life it was powerful enough to make it a commercially viable production medium? What was that tipping point?

Pooky Amsterdam: Beer Break was a short film we did in 2009.  It was one of our first and it was to show the commercial aspect that machinima could be.

It has taken quite a while for it to be fully realized, and it is so much more so with the YouThisMe  commercials.  So to answer the question,  immediately I realized it was a viable platform – and one that could immerse the potential customer into a greater appreciation, identification and enjoyment of said product.  Beer Break  was to also be the first of a series which would have a surfing island where people could come from all over the world to virtually surf and socialize under the brand beer umbrella.

With the advancement of the Occulus Rift, its ensuing applications and growth in use,  “playing” or being inside a branded environment becomes even more of a possibility.

Any time you get to have a serious conversation with somebody named Pooky, it’s a win.  Have a look at the work she’s done, and watch for the new stuff.  I think she’s really on to something here.

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Gene Turnbow
Gene Turnbow

President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., radio personality and station manager of Part writer, part animator, part musician, part illustrator, part programmer, part entrepreneur – all geek.