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Chieftain
Joined
Dec 31, 2023
Messages
9
Hello everyone,

long-time lurker here, and a huge fan of SMAC since ye olden days - from before the turn of the century. Never stopped playing it, although my free time (what is that anyway?) reduced considerably since the 90s ':)

Our favorite game is turning 25 this year (February 9th to be precise) so I prepared a little birthday present in the form of a short film.

Here's a trailer:


The short film will premiere on 2024-02-09.

But that's not all! I'm calling it a short film, but it's actually the first in a planned series. I had so much fun making this, I couldn't stop at just one :) It'll take me quite some time to make another one, as family & work commitments are sometimes at odds with my time-consuming creative endeavors :D

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who worked on Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (and Alien Crossfire). Also, big thanks to the SMAC fan fiction community for two and a half decades of wonderful stories.

I hope my contribution entertains you and makes you want to play just one more turn. After all, the drones need you, they look up to you.
 

Dear fellow SMAC-ers, happy 25th anniversary of our favorite game!

As announced, here's the full short, culmination of months of hard work. I hope you'll enjoy it - yes, even you, fans of Miriam - and catch the multitude of references, some are pretty obvious, others are very subtle ;)

This sets up the context for the series. Next film in the series... When it's done (hint: I'm already modeling sets and props, it's bigger in every way so it'll take a while). But rest assured, Zak will be back :)
 

Dear fellow SMAC-ers, happy 25th anniversary of our favorite game!

As announced, here's the full short, culmination of months of hard work. I hope you'll enjoy it - yes, even you, fans of Miriam - and catch the multitude of references, some are pretty obvious, others are very subtle ;)

This sets up the context for the series. Next film in the series... When it's done (hint: I'm already modeling sets and props, it's bigger in every way so it'll take a while). But rest assured, Zak will be back :)

This is remarkable.. well done good sir! @The_J check this SMAC film out! I love how it starts with the Civ1 intro!!!!
 
This is remarkable.. well done good sir! @The_J check this SMAC film out! I love how it starts with the Civ1 intro!!!!
Thank you!

There's such a natural transition between Civ series and SMAC that I simply had to honor that in the series. Plus, I always adored Civ I / Civ IV intro, it was a pleasure reimagining it for the series.
 
Hello everyone,

long-time lurker here, and a huge fan of SMAC since ye olden days - from before the turn of the century. Never stopped playing it, although my free time (what is that anyway?) reduced considerably since the 90s ':)

Our favorite game is turning 25 this year (February 9th to be precise) so I prepared a little birthday present in the form of a short film.

Here's a trailer:


The short film will premiere on 2024-02-09.

But that's not all! I'm calling it a short film, but it's actually the first in a planned series. I had so much fun making this, I couldn't stop at just one :) It'll take me quite some time to make another one, as family & work commitments are sometimes at odds with my time-consuming creative endeavors :D

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who worked on Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (and Alien Crossfire). Also, big thanks to the SMAC fan fiction community for two and a half decades of wonderful stories.

I hope my contribution entertains you and makes you want to play just one more turn. After all, the drones need you, they look up to you.
This is very very cool, thank you!!
 
Amazing work, thank you for creating this! As someone who loves SMAC and still looks to it for inspiration as a designer, it makes me very happy to see such quality content, featuring my favorite Zakharov no less. If there is a continuation (with the understanding that life really gets in the way), I'll be very excited to see it.
 
Amazing work, thank you for creating this! As someone who loves SMAC and still looks to it for inspiration as a designer, it makes me very happy to see such quality content, featuring my favorite Zakharov no less. If there is a continuation (with the understanding that life really gets in the way), I'll be very excited to see it.
Thank you so much!

I hope to close at least the first of several story arcs, however long it takes. But yeah, the life gets in the way part is something to be wary of.
 
Can you tell more about the voice acting in this piece? Even the brief "destroy the bridge" phrase in Russian is clearly spoken by a non-native, but Zakharov's voice is excellent and very similar to the Nesterov's with both the pronunciation of the words and the cadence, so I'm curious to hear about the behind the scenes.
 
Can you tell more about the voice acting in this piece? Even the brief "destroy the bridge" phrase in Russian is clearly spoken by a non-native, but Zakharov's voice is excellent and very similar to the Nesterov's with both the pronunciation of the words and the cadence, so I'm curious to hear about the behind the scenes.
Sure, I love talking about the process! There were three methods, but I've used only two in the final film.

1) I can do a very good Zak impression - both in tone and cadence - plus as a native speaker of a Slavic language I have a natural accent. When I started the project this was how I planned to bring Zak to life. I actually recorded all the lines and used them as a placeholder for editing. My unmodified voice is not featured in the final film.

2) I love messing with tech, so while working on the film, I started dabbling with some of the new breed of text-to-speech programs. Out of curiosity I cleaned up Zak's lines from the game to make a voice model out of them, and... Wow! This was the way to go. Majority of the lines in the film are achieved this way.

3) While I was working on the film, machine learning was making leaps and bounds. When I was nearing the end of production, it turned out that voice transfer (and very good quality voice transfer, at that) is finally a thing. I trained another model for this purpose, and ran it through the voice over I recorded. It's used very sparingly in this film because method 2 worked so well, but this is probably the way to go in the future. It's much more flexible than method 2 when it comes to directing. I can get any emotional cue I wish (I just need to act it out), something that's hard to achieve via method 2, though - as I learned - to a limited degree still possible.

I'll have to do a fresh review of all the new methods before doing the voice acting for the next film. Exciting times!

I should probably make some behind the scenes videos :)
 
Sure, I love talking about the process! There were three methods, but I've used only two in the final film.

1) I can do a very good Zak impression - both in tone and cadence - plus as a native speaker of a Slavic language I have a natural accent. When I started the project this was how I planned to bring Zak to life. I actually recorded all the lines and used them as a placeholder for editing. My unmodified voice is not featured in the final film.

2) I love messing with tech, so while working on the film, I started dabbling with some of the new breed of text-to-speech programs. Out of curiosity I cleaned up Zak's lines from the game to make a voice model out of them, and... Wow! This was the way to go. Majority of the lines in the film are achieved this way.

3) While I was working on the film, machine learning was making leaps and bounds. When I was nearing the end of production, it turned out that voice transfer (and very good quality voice transfer, at that) is finally a thing. I trained another model for this purpose, and ran it through the voice over I recorded. It's used very sparingly in this film because method 2 worked so well, but this is probably the way to go in the future. It's much more flexible than method 2 when it comes to directing. I can get any emotional cue I wish (I just need to act it out), something that's hard to achieve via method 2, though - as I learned - to a limited degree still possible.

I'll have to do a fresh review of all the new methods before doing the voice acting for the next film. Exciting times!

I should probably make some behind the scenes videos :)
Wow.. that's amazing.. and kinda scary too lol!
 
Wow.. that's amazing.. and kinda scary too lol!
Oh, it sure is scary. If used for nefarious purposes, the repercussions could be terrible. I'm optimistic that we'll adapt and learn to live with it because there's no choice; the genie is out of the bottle.

On the other hand, in creative work, the possibilities are endless. In the VFX industry, we have been at the forefront of machine learning for quite a while, but even from that vantage point, the speed at which this tech is evolving recently is staggering.
 
Fascinating, I heard last year from some coworkers that AI voice models were getting good and I guess this is an excellent display of them in action. The movie's Zakharov sounded absolutely like himself. What's even more impressive, it's not like there's a huge amount of material to work with. As memorable as SMAC voice line were, it's not a lot of dialogue. I'd guesstimate about 20 quotes per leader with the average quote being about half a minute when read, so our favorite leaders of UNS Unity likely get about ten minutes of spoken lines, which really isn't a lot.

Also super interesting that you'd done his lines at some point - myself, I also recorded some Zakharov lines for a different purpose years ago because I can do his accent reasonably well so he's the only character I could hope to imitate, though my impression is by no means good.
 
Fascinating, I heard last year from some coworkers that AI voice models were getting good and I guess this is an excellent display of them in action. The movie's Zakharov sounded absolutely like himself. What's even more impressive, it's not like there's a huge amount of material to work with. As memorable as SMAC voice line were, it's not a lot of dialogue. I'd guesstimate about 20 quotes per leader with the average quote being about half a minute when read, so our favorite leaders of UNS Unity likely get about ten minutes of spoken lines, which really isn't a lot.

Also super interesting that you'd done his lines at some point - myself, I also recorded some Zakharov lines for a different purpose years ago because I can do his accent reasonably well so he's the only character I could hope to imitate, though my impression is by no means good.
Oh yeah, the models are really getting there. Some wrangling is still necessary for cinematic/storytelling purposes, where you want to achieve a specific direction, but it's all very much usable. The voice transfer route is especially interesting (except for its potential misuse outside the creative field).

If I recall correctly, there were altogether only about 7 or so minutes of Zakharov's quotes, but - as you noticed - it worked quite nicely.

I'm definitely excited about the possibilities for future installments :)
 
Your visual VFX work is utterly EPIC too mate.. I struggled to work out what was real (if anything was lol) and what was computer generated lol! I thought the boy on the box and the girl doing ballet were real but when the girl spoke I realised she was not.. mind blown lol
That's the nicest compliment, especially as character work in entirety (particularly animation) has a tendency to turn into quite an uphill battle, what with all the details one has to keep track of ;D Lots of that ahead.
 
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