Looking further out, Lucasfilm's Industrial Light & Magic special-effects house is developing Zviz, an in-house machinima app for pre-visualization. In an interview with trade journal VFX World, ILM R&D Director Steve Sullivan describes Zviz features that make a machinima buff's thumbs itchy: simultaneous multiple takes and shots in memory, lenses, real-time game-engine lighting and physics, free-floating camera or dollies and cranes, in-world sketching and asset annotation, flipbooks of facial expressions, three-point editing, audio ... . "We have an internal system working now," says Sullivan; Lucasfilm is using it for the new Clone Wars animated series. "We have no plans to market it now, but it needs to be consumer friendly. ... The target audience was also 12-year-old kids. George [Lucas] wanted a system that could teach people how to make movies: something that changes how things are done."

But all these platforms are proprietary and, in some cases, vaporous. Ideally, the world-killer machinima app should be free or open-source - and in the long term, it must be cross-platform, or every generation of machinima will eventually get pushed off the pier of history into the sad sea of abandonware. In linking to a report on the January 2007 "New Media and Social Memory" meeting, futurist and science fiction writer Bruce Sterling remarked, "If you're not thinking of your art in machine-agnostic terms, you are not an artist and shouldn't declare yourself to be one; you are a hobbyist and a slave of the hardware."

Meanwhile, Activision released one much-needed Movies expansion (Stunts & Effects) in mid-2006, and a Macintosh version in January 2007. Otherwise the game is basically dormant and likely to remain so, inasmuch as Microsoft bought Lionhead Studios in April 2006.

Alex Chan has not yet submitted another film to the Movies site. (Under the handle "Koulamata," he had posted three prior machinima learning projects before "French Democracy," but he later removed them all.) Other players still upload nearly 100 movies daily. A few are ambitious, such as "Dark September," about 9/11. But it's fair to say the community has not grown politically active, let alone radical.

The media perceived "Democracy" as the harbinger of a new, powerful vector for social commentary. This may yet prove true, but if so, it will take time. Today's diverse machinima communities aren't notably political; the political class remains ignorant of the form; and as long as the publishers own everything through their grasping EULAs, dangerous legal issues overshadow everything.

Copyright problems aside, it's hard to envision a machinima movement with political clout. What is the usual fate of a political work produced outside the existing power structure? Such works aren't inherently, inevitably marginalized, but history shows that's the way to bet. "The French Democracy" is to machinima as, say, Democracy Now is to American television. They are both commentators in the wilderness, exiled by systemic pressures that have no technical fix.

In the online magazine PopMatters, Josh Lee wrote, "'The French Democracy' won't win any awards at Cannes, but it covers [its] political and psychic territory with an immediacy that's as moving as it is alarming. It seems a little strange, though, that while ten years is plenty of time for there to be waves of simpler, cheaper filmmaking tools, it is not long enough to have any effect on the issues that filmmakers need to bring to the public's attention."

Allen Varney designed the PARANOIA paper-and-dice roleplaying game (2004 edition) and has contributed to computer games from Sony Online, Origin, Interplay and Looking Glass.

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