n. An animated short or movie created entirely on a personal computer and "filmed" in real-time using computer graphics rendering software or computer game technology.
A digital Walt Disney who wants to make a machinima film will start with a game engine, the software that generates the virtual 3-D environment in which a game like Quake II is played. This is not unusual because some game developers have made parts of their software publicly accessible, allowing players to modify a game. For instance, one might put a terrorist's head on an opponent's body.

But machinima directors go a step further, discarding the game's out-of-the-box elements in favor of their own characters, scenery, story line and dialogue. What remains is the game's underlying animation technology, which is really a stage on which an alien Amberson or a cartoon cat person could cavort. More than one person can use the same virtual space simultaneously, each one guiding his character through a scene while speaking its lines. A designated cinematographer chooses camera angles, adjusts the lighting and records the action.

This is animation as improvised performance, and some of the best machinima films have the feel of live theater as enacted by cartoon puppets. It is also easy to create extended sequences. But the bottom line is the bottom line: compared to a computer-generated animated film like the critically acclaimed "Toy Story" or the box-office bomb "Final Fantasy," it costs next to nothing to produce a full-length machinima feature.
—Matthew Mirapaul, “Computer Games as the Tools for Digital Filmmakers,” The New York Times, July 22, 2002
The Machinima style of animation is one of the biggest things to hit amateur filmmaking in the past 20 years. Machinima uses graphical techniques originally developed for computer games to generate its visuals. Student filmmakers with their own PC can create feature-length epics that would require millions of dollars to make using traditional computer generated imagery techniques.
—Poppy Masselos, “Our house,” Courier Mail, May 23, 2000
1999 (earliest)
Are there any low-poly editors around who would like to join me in a project that I am working on? This project is a film, using a technique called Machinima (basically like making a film using a game engine) — check out for more details on Machinima.
—President Skroob,, October 22, 1999
Machinima is a blend of machine and cinema. The cinema connection is clear, but why "machine"? Computers are machines, of course, so that's an obvious influence. On a more subtle level, the software that creates machinima's scenes, lighting, and actors is called an "engine" (see the usage in the first citation).

The word machinima is a curious blend because that second i seems to have been plucked out of thin air. I suppose the coiner of the word wanted to avoid ugly constructions such as machine-ema and machin-ema, and they were concerned about possible pronunciation problems with machinema (some people might be tempted to say muh.SHEEN.muh). Not that the pronunciation of machinima is all that obvious. For example, the author of the above New York Times article says the pronunciation is "ma-SHIN-i-ma." Correcting for the small errors (it should be "muh-SHIN-uh-muh; we've got to honor the schwa!), that seems like a reasonable alternative. I guess it depends on whether you want to emphasize the "machine" part or the "cinema" part.

I also received the following note via e-mail:
"Machinima" was spelled slightly differently when first-born. The first use of the term, as "machinema", appeared in an e-mail sent by Anthony Bailey on the 'q2demos' mailing list on 1998.01.05. I am he.

Here is the quote from the mail in question. It also happened to go on to make the rationale for coining a new term explicit:

> I think with a new tool-set and a greater awareness of the skills
> required to make a good piece of machinema[*] we can expect to see
> some truly adventurous stuff being made. Fine and fun as they can be,
> slapstick and B-movie action horror are just the start of what *could*
> be done with this new medium. If I was a film student with some
> technical savvie, I'd be beginning to look at using this stuff as an
> alternative to or prototype for an expensive real-world production.
> [*]Machinema… yes, sorry, it's a bit of a contrived term… but what
> in general *are* we going to call these pieces of cinema that are made
> using 3D engines? Not only is "Quake movie" an ugly and confusing
> term, it's also fast going to become outdated as other technologies
> become relevant. (c: Any ideas?

I chose "machinema" to rhyme with cinema. I used "machine" as a base only because I didn't find an easy pun with "engine" in it. I spelled it with the 'e' because it made it look a bit like cinema. I don't believe it to be the best coining in the world, and I apologise for that - I didn't know the term was going to get widespread.

The word began to be used fairly regularly on the mailing list in question and gradually in other related for a, but that was about all. So far as I know, it's first "public" appearance is in an article I wrote for GameSpy Industry's Quake portal site, published on 1999.04.02.

Towards the end of that year, a friend called Hugh Hancock needed a term to sum up what his machinima production outfit Strange Company were doing and used "machinima" for that purpose on their web site. We talked about it shortly after and agreed his switch of the 'e' to an 'i' was an improvement - this emphasised the 'animation' connection, and made it less easy to get confused about pronounciation. Anyway, since he registered it as a domain name and does machinima for a living, even asking me for an opinion was very kind. (c: