Confirming early reports from last week, Sony just announced a machinima tool for use in PlayStation Home, the virtual world for its PS3 videogame console. Dubbed the “Living Room Stage Set” and selling for $4.99 in the PlayStation Home Mall starting today, it’s basically a virtual studio in a box, albeit one missing a key element.
The kit comes with an empty shooting stage that can be dressed as desired, ringed by a lighting system with customizable controls and multiple cameras for viewing the action with different angles and camera shots. There’s a backdrop that can be loaded with pre-set scenery (a beach, a cityscape, etc.) that also functions as a green screen, which you can use to composite your own video footage during the editing process. But here’s the catch: the Stage Set doesn’t come with internal recording tools or an editor.
Hugh Hancock, who helped coin the term “machinima” and wrote a book on the subject, is tentatively interested: “[It seems] pretty comprehensive for a simple machinima tool, the lighting system in particular,” he told me by e-mail. “I’ll definitely be firing up my PS3 and experimenting.” Phil Rice, who created the viral machinima hit “Male Restroom Etiquette“, seemed even more enthused: “I’m not sure machinima has ever had such powerful control over dynamic lighting when combined with such an easy-to-use interface,” he e-mailed me. “That, and the generally very nice-looking graphics engine, seems a big pro.”
On the con side, both were concerned by the Stage Set’s lack of an internal video capture/editing system. Sony’s demo video promises how-to tutorials for that part of the process, but until then, machinima newbies will need to fend for themselves. As Rice put it, “I think insisting on this additional step and hardware purchase greatly reduces their potential participation level, versus a model where movies can be created and shared all within Home.”
Presumably, Sony can address this drawback in later iterations, but that remains to be seen. It would be exciting if the Living Room Stage Set evolved into a full-fledged machinima platform. For now, though, it’s at least a fun kit for would-be machinimators who already own a PlayStation 3.