how-hiGh, a fellow Style member, and virtual friend of mine, decided to interview none other than the legendary Zaknafein, for the new upcoming ZMXTV website.
Source: ZMXTV.com (Links to mentioned movies and streams available)
First of all please tell us about your first Counter-Strike experience, first gaming video ever seen and why you decided to make movies by yourself.
I have played CS since beta 3.0. I remember going to a raggedy gaming club playing CS on LAN with other local gamers. You remember when the AWM could shoot straight noscope? I do.
In early 2003 I got broadband and started looking at CS media. The first video I ever saw was an animation of CS , which I thought was very cool but I thought it would be even cooler to get real footage. Like many newcomers to gaming videos, I assumed the only way to do it was filming the screen with a camera.
Then I saw my first CS movie Ocrana. It was really fun. I loved the action and the music put together and immediately started looking for more movies, and at the time there was not a very big scene for CS movies so most movies were scattered or on SoGamed. Then I saw MindTrekÖand it blew me away. It was so awesome, especially because it was synced, which most movies at the time wasnít. I thought it was really cool and immediately wanted to try it myself. I got in contact with Hesesses (MindTrek, ObS, SK.Believe), who at the time was trying to create a team called gamingmovies.net (gm.net), which I joined. Weíve been trying to create a website for 10 years now, haha. Anyway, I joined the team by writing reviews of movies such as Frag or Die and X-Pec, and when I joined he taught me some tricks in recording CSÖand so it began. Hesesses is a great guy, by the way, and he is major influence in my work. I finally got to meet him in person in summer 2011 in Helsinki.
How do you like that moviemaking period of early 2000′s? As we can see a lot of things has changedÖDo you miss that feel?
Oh god yes. I think 2002-2004 was the golden age of CS movies. You might think Iím biased because I made movies back then too, and most likely I am. Nonetheless, I feel that movies made in early 2000s had a very different quality compared to what we see today. The gaming movie scene was new, so moviemakers were exploring techniques and ideas as they made their movies. As a result, many movies had new features or qualities we hadnít seen before. If you look at the early movies in a timeline, you can see a range of milestones coming out, such as first CS movie trailer ( Oslo by Storm trailer, 2002 ), first allstar fragmovie ( Frag or Die, 2002), first matrix-spin ( NiceOne, 2002), first use of moving HLTV cams ( MindTrek, 2002 ) and so on and so forth. New releases were exciting and innovative. Iíd like to think of myself as being the first to play a certain emotional atmosphere with eoLithic (2003), though I cannot be the judge of that.
There were also more people generally interested in CS back then, with more people following tournaments like CPL, so the interest for movies were higher. These days the quality of CS movies has declined drastically. New releases are no longer exciting unless a trailer has hyped up the release. By now nearly every trick has been done and it is very hard to come up with new things. As a result most CS movies today look the same. If you read comments and reviews of movies today you will find a lot of comments about fps, graphics, or some other technical crap, which I think is stupid. Another thing is that in the early 2000s hardly anyone knew how to make CS movies and therefore moviemakers were few, and the ones that existed were quite determined due to the hard work of making a movie. Today there are guides and helpers coming out of the woodwork, so any newcomer can learn how to do a movie with effects in hours. Iíve noticed a large increase in posts with the words similar to ďI made this in four hoursĒ. I donít understand why people think that is meant to impress us, because that just tells me that not much effort has been put into it. In 2005 the scene started declining, and after Iíd say around 2007 it has really gone downhill. There are exceptions of course, for example CS101, EvE, Lollipops, Pink Panther to name a few, but the vast majority of movies these days are absolute crap.
So yes, I really miss the old days of CS movies, but I donít think we will ever get it back. Itís a question of what state the community is in now, and with so much information out there to help people making movies it is inevitable that the quality is going to decline. These days innovation and creative thinking is the cornerstone of a good movie, because technical aspects are hardly important. Most movies will have good quality, editing and effects, but few ideas.
Is it important to get positive feedback from the community or do you just feel happy because YOU like the outcome?
Well, at the end of the day the most important thing is that you yourself are happy with your work. It doesnít matter what other people think as long as you like what you have made. That, however, does not mean that if you share your work with others you should ignore comments that do not confirm your own thoughts. Getting positive feedback only is never going to happen. When you make a movie you are inevitably biased. Itís your own work so of course you will think it better than what others think. If you rated your own movie 8/10 then realistically the public will think itís a 6/10 movie.
I think feedback from the community is very important, but very many moviemakers are overly sensitive to feedback. Obviously constructive feedback is best, but even if you ask for it you will always get comments like ďgoodĒ or ďit sucksĒ or ďdidnít likeĒ, with a complete absence of constructive feedback. If you want to be a good moviemaker it is important to not get defensive. I remember in 2003 in SoGamed a moviemaker got extremely defensive when people made a few negative comments about his movie, and when he got so angry people didnít like him anymore and his movie declined in popularity. Iím not going to mention who it is because in later years heís is proven to be a very nice guy. You have to take to heart all the comments you get, and there will be many bad ones. There will always be bad ones. What matters is what you learn from the feedback. After all, if you decided to put your movie on the internet, then you are asking for feedback, and you canít expect only golden sunshine comments.
So yeah, what matters most is what you think, but feedback is very important.
Have you ever thought about making your real life career in professional video production?
Yes, several times. I always concluded no. The reason why is because making movies professionally means you often have to give up some rights of creativity. If you were a professional, you would often be making a movie for someone else under pay. This means they are heavily involved in the process, which may limit your innovative progress. If you stay an amateur you can make whatever you want without anyone looking over your shoulder. Of course, if you have a passion then most likely your vision of a movie can easily become reality, so Iím not trying to discourage anyone out there who want to go pro. In fact I know some old CS moviemakers who now work in the movie industry, and they seem very happy. We canít all be directorís, though.
When I made movies I never charged money, because that would mean the employer would have a say in the production. Iíve been offered money a few times but always declined, though when I made Astralis I was given two mousepads as a thank you. I just donít like people looking over my shoulder at my work, which I think is a quality that makes me personally unsuitable for professional work, but Iím sure not everyone is bothered by that. If you want to go professional then such a flaw needs to go. Iíve even said no to free joint projects with other people, such as working with Shaguar, Malice and seb_vrstl, because I didnít like the idea of people deciding what I had to edit.
Now ďeoLithicĒ appears as a truly legendary movie, how long did it take to create it? Could you tell the story about the creation of it, and maybe any fun facts?
Well, it all started in the summer of 2003. Myself, Riner and another person had banded together to create a group called MovieMakers (MM). We had noticed that there were hardly any movie teams out there and we thought making one would attract a lot of attention. And it did. We gatherered quite a few members, though in retrospect the quality was somewhat lacking. I remember the first movie we made and it was just a blur of grotesque graphics. As our members was largely inactive or inexperienced, except Riner who was focused on Quake movies, and the other members were new, I was the leader of the group. Over time I made some movies under the MM banner, most notably Eyeless
Then one day Styla, the manager of eoLithic, came knocking. He asked us to make a movie for eoLithic, which has recently disbanded. As the leader I was given the charge to make the movie.
The movie itself took about 2 months to make and it involved me working nearly every day. While Styla was very nice, I had to do all the work, including collecting. I had to manually find all the demos of eoL I could, which in some cases was very hard and in retrospect I did miss a few ones. I ended up finding about 100 demos from various sites and asking several people. eoL did send me a couple ineye demos, and I ended up using just one (I think itís in the intro, Knoxville DEagles someone through the dd2 door). I also had to track down photos and videos and ask permission to use them. I remember asking Hesesses for footage from MindTrek and he forwarded me to the MindTrek organiser. After the release he told me ďwhy didnít you ask me for footage? I had itĒ, when thatís exactly what I had done haha.
When the movie was finished there was a bit of trouble. Styla liked the movie, but Naikon and Knoxville didnít. The two of them were representing eoL, I guess, because none of the others were around (though later I heard they liked it, especially Luke, Xeqtr and Element). Naikon and Knoxville called the movie ecoLithic and complained about too many eco rounds. I was very defensive, being a young upcoming moviemaker, and I said it didnít matter because it was entertaining, which it was. However, in retrospect the movie does have too many eco frags, but at the time I was blinded by that. As any moviemaker knows, making major changes to a movie after itís done is a major pain in the ass, and I said Iíd rather not change all of the eco footage due to all the hard work I had already done. As a result, eoLithic decided to remove themselves from the movie. A reviewer at SoGamed suggested to rename the movie ďeoLithic TributeĒ to make it more unofficial, which I did (though it only says eoLithic in the movie still). Luckily, the movie was a huge success and after the release offers kept flowing in to myself and MovieMakers.
A fun note is that the movie was supposed to have a blooper section at the end. However, as the movie has a somewhat sad and slow atmosphere to it I felt it was inappropriate, so the blooper reel was released separately as eoLithic Bloopers.
Sort of personal question: Do you regret your time wasted on moviemaking and such stuff back in the days, or is it worth it in general?
What a strange question, I donít see it as a waste at all. Doing amateur moviemaking, even gaming moviemaking, has given me lots of skills in editing, which has also furthered my general movie knowledge. Now I see movies and think ďI can do thatĒ, for example. More than anything, though, I feel that having had the moviemaking experience has furthered my innovation. As far as movies go, I feel I have a creative sense. I can listen to a song and imagine a movie as it is played that matches the music. I certainly couldnít do that before.
Skills aside, doing moviemaking back in the day made me meet a whole lot of great people that I still stay in touch with it, and I still reminisce about the old days. Iím quite a nostalgic person.
Ok, back to reality: Nowadays many moviemakers tend to commercialize their production. Do you like this trend at all? Have you ever got any kind of reward for your moviemaking work?
As I already mentioned the most I have ever been paid for a movie is two mousepads. I have done a couple of movies outside of gaming where Iíve been paid though, like travel movies and the like, but thatís different because they usually have already made the footage and all I have to do is put it together. For gaming movies, though, I feel it wasnít appropriate to ask for money. I donít agree with the tendency to commercialise gaming movie production. It should stay on an amateur basis so that the amateur experience is preserved. Obviously if you are asked by a TV show to make a gaming movie for them to use, thatís different as it is an opportunity, but the internet release of gaming movies should stay amateur in my opinion. Paying to watch it or paying to make it takes the soul out of the effort in my opinion. Getting paid means you do it for the money, not because you wanted to and had ideas. Keeping it on an amateur level increases creativity, in my opinion.
When I was the leader of MovieMakers, one of the key rules I enforced was that all moviemaking was free. This attracted a lot of people as other moviemakers had started charging for it, and I was hoping to turn this trend around by offering free services. It worked until I left the group in late 2003 and when MRZ took over as leader the first thing he did was change the policy and started charging money for movies. MovieMakers for me died that day.
Do you follow the moviemaking scene in these latter days? What is your general rating of it, do you see it degrading or evolving?
I follow it still, yes, but not as actively. On Style people still submit their work and itís a great portal for watching new releases. I only sometimes watch submitted movies, and usually the really good ones stand out and you hear about them somehow. For the most part, movies these days are technically good, but they lack something. They lack attraction. Movies these days look good, may have good content, and sometimes even be innovative, but very very few have that little extra that makes you actually want to sit down and watch it.
Has moviemaking devolved? Yes and no. Technically it has evolved, but from a quality perspective it has devolved. During the last five years there have been very few movies worth mentioning. Without looking anything up, the ones I can think of are EvE, CS101, Lollipops, Pink Panther . There are a few others too that I canít think of right now, but Iíd say that during the last five years or so (at least) Iíve seen maybe 1-2 really good CS movies per year. If you extent it to all gaming movies, maybe a few more. Quality is on the decrease.
There is lots of speculation about the future of Counter-Strike: Upcoming CS:GO and CS:Promod, 1.6 dying etc. Could you express your opinion on that?
To be perfectly honest I donít follow the CS scene very much anymore. I can tell I am out of touch when I watch an allstar video from 2011 and hardly recognise any players. I did hear about the new CS coming out, though, and it looked pretty cool. I really doubt it is going to be a hit, though. I wouldnít say CS 1.6 is dead, but as far as I can tell activity is decreasing. Lately Iíve noticed a decrease in clan movies and an increase in ďPlayer & friendsĒ movies, which to me says that CS has become much more relaxed. People probably play a lot more with their friends for fun, rather than competitively. That doesnít bother me at all, though; in fact it sounds a lot more fun. But like I said I am somewhat out of touch, so perhaps my perspective is way off.
Lastly some final words, what could you recommend for all young and eager newcomers to moviemaking scene?
If anyone reading this want to become a moviemaker, or is having trouble getting ahead in moviemaking, then I say donít despair. Moviemaking is really, really fun, but if you want to put your work on the internet you have to be prepared for sometimes very harsh feedback (they might even mention your mother!). It is inevitable that you will love you work more than everyone else will. But as long as you like making movies, then thatís really all that matters. I would recommend trying out new things now and then, for example try to learn one new trick for every movie you make. That way you progress, and one day you will look back at your first movie and think ďwowÖthat is really shit!Ē Speaking of which, please take copies of your work. What you really DONíT want is to have your PC crash and you lose all your work. Iíve been there. Other than that, all I can really say is best of luck, and keep it up.