Queries: Ray Koefoed (Episode 3)
So here we are! Another Queries! This time I have one of my personal favorite internet people. Most of you probably don’t know, but for a long time, I wanted to make machinima for a career. Obviously, once I found out I had no talent for it, it didn’t work out. But when I was still in that beautiful wide eyed haze of believing I could meld my two greatest interests: video games and film, Ray Koefoed was one of the people I really looked up to. Ray was someone who could meld great, catchy music with some of the most quality Source machinima of the time. If I could tell my thirteen year old self that someday I would get to talk to Ray Koefoed, I probably wouldn’t be here, because thirteen year old me would have died of a heart attack.
Daniel Lamplugh: Today, I have machinima creator, musician, and a guy who really cares about his pizza being on time, Ray Koefoed.
Ray Koefoed: Thanks Daniel, for referring to me using such a word as musician, not for telling people I deliver pizza, haha.
DL: Now, you got your start in machinima in the 2000’s, at what some (myself included) consider the peak of machinima creation, especially in the Source engine. What drew you into machinima?
RK: I believe it was about 2003, playing Dark Age of Camelot with friends who I made in my time playing that game. We had all been part of the same guild for probably about a year, playing and chatting together, but the guild was beginning to break up and people were starting to go their separate ways. One of my friends had joined a much more serious, end-game type of guild and had recorded a video of them blazing through a tough dungeon.
This was before YouTube, and before video streaming was at all practical, so he sent it as an upload to some of us friends from our guild. Of course it was a small, low resolution video from that time, but the way he had edited the footage and put it to music really stirred my creativity. That video was the spark that ignited my passion for machinima.
He set me up with information and tools for capturing and creating such videos. Once I got started on my own ideas and projects my perception of simply playing video games was completely altered. They turned into virtual stages for potential videos. The first thing I did was create a video to essentially say goodbye to my game life and friends in that world, as my reason for even being in the game world started shifting to a whole new brand of passion which I knew I would have to take to other games.
At that time I started capturing and editing a lot of videos, using music I loved and video games of the time such as Unreal Tournament, but never backed any of them up. I simply shared them with some friends then deleted and started a new one. It was my new favorite hobby for sure.
Anyway, long story short.. It was that first machinima video I ever saw that drew me into creating machinima, before machinima was even a word, haha.
DL: Did you have any extended contact, or was there some collaborative/mutual sentiment with other machinima creators of the era (Ross Scott, Xanatos and the Janus Syndicate, DasBoSchitt)? What was the zeitgeist of that time like?
RK: I am familiar with those people you mention. Back in “the old days” I think we all gathered and hung out at the Facepunch Studios Garry’s Mod forum. I know I have directly spoke some with Xanatos. I think we had even discussed an idea for a possible collaboration that never even began to become anything. I also seem to remember some congratulations being shared between Ross Scott and I on a machinima contest we both participated in (though it very well may have just been me congratulating him), and I am thinking at some point I had some sort of communication with DasBoSchitt, and maybe even used a tiny clip of his in one failed show I tried to start as a Machinima series. You have to forgive me though, since I have an old person memory now, haha.
I believe before YouTube became big that us particular machinima type people seemed to all be enthusiastic hobbyist who existed thanks to Half-Life 2 and the great access and tools that Valve gave us for the Source engine, and rightfully so. If nothing else, it is certainly the thing all of us had in common back then.
DL: What about Source machinima now? With the advent of Source Film Maker, and the added intricacy of Source machinima now, it seems like the Garry’s Mod based work that used to be considered above average quality for what we used to watch probably wouldn’t fare to well with the current audience. It’s like trying to re-release Creature from the Black Lagoon up against Pacific Rim almost (okay, maybe that’s a bit hyperbolic, but hopefully you catch my drift). Do you like the direction Source machinima has taken? Do you feel like the new tools and accessibility might alienate some of the older machinima producers, like yourself?
RK: I have nothing but love for SFM. Hell, it is yet another free tool for the Source engine that Valve has given us. What’s not to like about that? Better yet, why don’t any other game companies give us such great things? Yes, it has a significant learning curve, but there is no shortage of tutorials out there. I found it far easier to learn and use than my old fashion way of creating machinima which combined tools from the Source Developer Kit (SDK) with Garry’s Mod. That took a very intricate knowledge of the folders and in-game commands at the time, where as SFM has all of those tools, a precise timeline and manipulation tools all built in like a premium 3D animation program.
I wish that everything made with the Source engine (old and new) could be perfectly integrated into SFM easily, but the same problem seems to exist in Gmod too (last time I checked). There seems to be ways to work around the compatibility problems through various steps involving recompiling maps and models and such, so it is my understanding that it can be done. From what I have researched it seems like a tougher task than anything I have ever learned to do in the engine. I can’t be angry at Gmod or Valve for not making everything old and new from every Source game perfectly compatible with their current version, of course, but naturally I wish it could be.
Back to the point. I do not believe that people who create with Gmod should feel like they are competing with people creating in SFM, or visa-versa. I personally like watching videos created in either, as they are usually different atmospheres and moods. If I want to see something ridiculously funny that involves silly memes and big headed ragdolls being flapped around then I will be searching for videos made in Gmod, and I do because I like those DasBoSchitt kind of videos. On the other hand, it is no wonder that many of the more artistic Source machinima directors have moved on to SFM.
To conclude this too long of an answer. There seems no reason why anyone would even have to choose between them. When I want to fool around with an idea for making a video, or just fool around in Source, more often than not I will go into Gmod and goof around with animating a ragdoll with the Henry’s Animation Tool (HAT), rather than trying to set anything up in SFM. I think a good example of someone like this who has been more active than I have in machinima making in the past couple years is my friend Mendelevius.
DL: When you started making machinima, did you think your videos would become as popular as they ended up?
RK: To be honest, I have never thought any of my videos were very popular. I know it probably sounds like a humble act, but it isn’t. Maybe it is foolish of me, but I have never seen my few videos having a few hundred thousand views, or a couple million in a case or two as truly fitting into the popular group of anything on YouTube, as I think of the word “popular” in terms of numbers compared to anything in any way viral on there. Perhaps that is a bad perspective on my part though, and I should consider how liked they are in comparison to a lot of videos with many millions of views, but it all seems a superficial game that I try to keep my brain away from. I think I felt more popular before YouTube, when I was posting videos directly to Machinima’s website then linking them on Facepunch Studio forums, simply because my threads were usually followed by quite a few comments which kept it on the first page of that particular forum for about a week or so. Compared to later when Machinima posted them on YouTube and may or may not have feature them for a couple hours.
DL: As far as popularity, what is the weirdest experience you’ve had in your “fifteen minutes of fame”? Did Eric Wolpaw or Gabe Newell ever contact you and say “great videos, man” or anything?
RK: No, I have never been contacted by Gabe Newell, but Garry (Garry’s Mod, Garry) did give me a nice comment once in those old days. I seem to remember countering it with a greater compliment and thanks for his creating Gmod.
DL: You have said before that you were originally making machinima videos with borrowed audio, but after a while, you started making videos with your own music. When you started, did you imagine them as music videos, or did you imagine your music more as a score for a video narrative?
RK: I probably would have been happy for years simply making music videos for songs I liked. When YouTube decided to crack the whip on the music copyright thing I felt I was left with no other choice but to do something different or besides this hobby that I had grown to love and was just starting to get good at, or make my own music. After all, making music videos was what I wanted to do. Story writing is one form of art which has never interested me, though I imagine I would have liked to try to voice act for one. Never the less, I chose to try and create my own music. I knew they had to be real songs, not just ambient sound during a visual presentation. Not that the old “Silent Movie” thing isn’t appealing to me, but in the Gmod machinima medium of that time I wanted to do things with a more modern appeal.
DL: Among the music world, who were some of your major influences? I know you have mentioned Marilyn Manson and Industrial artists as some, but any others you’d like to share.
RK: That is almost embarrassing to try and answer, since I myself am not even sure most of the time. For the record, I haven’t cared for any Manson album after The Golden Age of Grotesque. Personal opinion, no offense intended.
I have, and have had so many influences in this department. I know for sure that I have a very strange taste when it comes to music though. If you can hear it on your radio then I probably don’t like it. That is not to say my taste isn’t broad.
I like everything from Combichrist to Empire of the Sun. From Sopor Aeternus to Slipknot. From Cradle of Filth to Blue October, or pretty much anything that is considered Pop in Germany it sometimes seems for some odd reason, haha. I like music in somber, minor keys with dark industrial tones and distorted sounds some days, but hopefull, melodic, simple and peaceful atmosphere on others.
The problem has always been that I only ever really love a few subtle attributes of the music style of any music I have ever discovered. Maybe a song or two by any particular artist, at best. Maybe that is what really drove me to work on music myself. To try to create “that song” that I would want to hear if I was me. If that makes sense. I know I have a long way to go to get there still. I have to accept the fact that no one will ever be able to embody my moods and emotions that vary from day to day into one track of music though. I do the best I can, when I try to.
DL: On the flipside, who influenced your machinima? Is there anyone in your group of peers that influenced your machinima videos?
RK: Other than that first machinima video I saw that influenced me to the path, I really don’t think I have ever really been influenced by other peoples machinima. Inspired, yes. Motivated, yes, but visually I think I have always been inspired more by movies or artistic music videos. Now that I am thinking about it, I think perhaps trying to create machinima in itself has always kind of been my “poor man’s” way of creating some kind of Hollywood magic myself, if that makes sense.
DL: Now, you used to be a partner with Machinima.com. In recent years, they seem to have shifted their focus away from actual machinima videos to general gaming. How do you feel about the change in their programming? Do you feel it kind of betrays the name/history of the site, or do you think that they have ownership of that title despite their programming?
RK: I haven’t looked at their channel for over a year now I think. Not since the last video I posted with them anyway. I don’t have any kind of educated and/or opinionated thoughts regarding Machinima.com, and I will never regret the joy of being part of what seemed a new form of art blossoming in those days gone by.
The only way I can think to answer this question, that really seems relevant would be to ask you this. When should have “Mtv” stopped referring to their channel as “Music Television”? Think what you will of that response, haha.
DL: You don’t seem to do much machinima or music anymore. Are you working on anything right now? Or have you shifted focus?
RK: I really don’t have much of anything to show for this past year, sorry to say. I do wish to keep making music, as it is my primary artistic interest, and I do hope to eventually get back in to creating machinima videos (in one form or another). When? I don’t know. I am always messing around with starting to begin music projects. I know if I followed through with any one song, and if it were to turn out well enough to want to really show off to people that some machinima video would likely follow. I am just struggling to get in gear. I will just blame the fact that this year has been my 40th year of life, with the stereotypical crisis that entails, if anyone will just accept that excuse.
DL: Lastly, do you have any concept for a video that you never got to produce that you might want to share with us, so we can imagine in our mind’s eye the greatness that would be “the best Koefoed video the world never knew”?
RK: My mind is full of such videos, and I would want to share them. Hopefully I will share at least “the best Koefoed video the world never knew” one day. If not, I guess I will have to hope one I already created will suffice for anyone interested, now or in the future.
DL: I do believe that’s everything. Thank you so much Ray for taking your time to answer my questions.
RK: Thank you, Daniel.